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What Google Has In Store For The Mobile Web

What Google Has In Store For The Mobile Web


http://readwrite.com/2014/12/05/google-mobile-web-android-apple-ios8
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Playing catch-up with Apple, finally bringing its A-game.
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The 15 Best Browser Extensions to Improve Your Social Media Marketing

This post originally published on September 22, 2014. We’ve updated it here with new extensions, images, and a Product Hunt collection.

There are a few actions I perform over and over again as I work through my social media marketing plan. Do you know the feeling? You click on the same few buttons or type in the same URL.

And then, one day, someone shows you a browser extension that completely rocks your world for the better.

I’d love to share some of those world-rocking browser extensions with you today. There’re several great options out there to supercharge your browser and streamline the tasks you keep coming back to.

Got a favorite browser extension that you use for social media marketing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

The Best Browser Extensions for Social Media

What a fun opportunity it’s been to experiment with and test drive a number of amazing social media browser extensions. There are so many great ones out there, I’ve split the post into a couple sections here:

15 favorite Safari, Firefox, and Chrome extensions The top picks from the Buffer community Our Product Hunt collection of browser extensions

Enjoy!

15 Best Safari, Firefox, and Chrome Extensions for Social Media Marketers 1. Buffer – Quick and easy sharing to social media

The Buffer extension lets you share to your connected profiles from any website, blogpost, or page. The extension grabs the page title as well as any associated photos. Power users can even go a step further and highlight text within the article to right-click on any image and share that image directly.

The extension also comes with goodies while you’re browsing Twitter and Facebook with built-in buttons for buffering to your queues and scheduling reshares.

(Other helpful sharing extensions: Shareaholic, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social.)

Available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari

2. Giphy – Fun animated GIFs to enhance your updates

With Twitter and Pinterest now supporting GIFs and other social media sites like Google+ and Tumblr enjoying great engagement with them, it’s become increasingly handy to have a pitch-perfect GIF at the ready to express how you’re feeling in your update, reply, or comment. The Giphy extension lets you search through the huge Giphy.com archives and grab a shortened URL of the GIF you choose.

Available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari

3. Pocket / Instapaper / Evernote – Curating amazing content to share

Read-it-later extensions are a super time saver. Pocket, Instapaper, and Evernote let you save a blogpost or article to read later, and you can do so with a single button click via the extension.

Available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari

4. Instagram for Chrome – Instagram photos right in your browser

One of the best ways to manage your Instagram feed from a computer, the Instagram for Chrome extension lets you browse your feed and your friends, like and comment on photos, receive desktop notifications, and even drill down into details like filters. The experience is as close to the official Instagram app as you can get, and it’s a hugely helpful resource for brands who wish to manage their Instagram feed without reaching for the phone (or even a browser tab).

Available on Chrome

5. Bitly – Create, share, and track shortened links

Bitly’s browser extension has all the standard features you’d expect from a link shortener: custom shortening, analytics, and easy copy-and-share buttons. Bitly takes things one step further even and lets you add shortened links to bundles so you can keep organized with a series of similar links. Another cool feature: The Bitly extension can notify you when your link reaches a predetermined (by you) number of views.

Available on Chrome, Firefox

6. Riffle – Complete info on any Twitter user

This browser extension adds a whole new layer of info to your Twitter stream. Click on any Riffle icon or Twitter username, and the extension opens up a display of that user’s data, including other social accounts, Twitter statistics, most-used hashtags and categories, top mentions, top URLs, and much more.

(Also check out Rapportive and Vibe for similar functionality, including some neat inbox integrations.)

Available on Chrome

7. Window Resizer – Check your tweets, posts, and updates on any screen size

Chances are that not everyone will be viewing your social media updates on the same size screen as you. Marketing for mobile devices has brought about a lot of change! In this case, an extension like Window Resizer can be super helpful for seeing your updates from others’ perspectives. The extension comes with preset sizes that mimic iPhone, tablet, and desktops, and you can completely customize the sizes and order of the various options.

Available on Chrome

8. Ritetag – Instant analysis of the hashtags you tweet

Ritetag is one of our favorite hashtag tools, and their extension brings across their neat color-coded hashtag guide right into the Twitter editor. Ritetag provides direct feedback on the popularity and strength of the hashtags you use. Green is good, blue is poor, and red is overused.

(Bonus cool thing: The extension works within Buffer!)

Available on Chrome and Firefox

9. Social Analytics – Quick view of share stats on any page

Visit a blogpost and click the Social Analytics browser icon to see at-a-glance how many social shares the post received. Social Analytics shows Facebook likes, shares, and comments, plus Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest stats. It could be super helpful for tracking the spread of your own content or for investigating someone else’s.

Available on Chrome

10. Awesome Screenshot – Capture, annotate, and share your screen

Screenshots can be a helpful, useful visual for sharing on social media. Awesome Screenshot brings this functionality into the browser. You can take a screenshot, annotate, and download or share immediately.

Available on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

Note: Thanks to Karmi in the comments for pointing out that Awesome Screenshot comes with a disclaimer about potential malware. You can check out an alternate screen capture extension like Clipular.

11. Feedly Mini – Save RSS feeds of any site you’re on

Part of sharing great content on social media is sourcing great content. Feedly is one of our favorite places to keep an eye on stories worth sharing, and the Feedly extension makes it easy to add new sites to your RSS lists to keep an eye on. The Feedly Mini extension adds a small icon to each page, and when you click the icon, you can add a feed directly or even share the page to your social accounts.

Available on Chrome

12. Klout – Social media influence score

Klout calculates an influence score based on your interactions and popularity across all your various social media channels. The Klout extension is the quickest, easiest way to view this score—for instance, right in the Twitter stream next to anyone’s username. Klout has also expanded into social media sharing, and the extension allows you to share easily from any website.

Available on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

13. Pin It button – Share directly to Pinterest

Sharing to Pinterest is made infinitely easier with the Pinterest extension, which lets you Pin any image you find online to your Pinterest board. Clicking the extension opens up a window of all images that appear on the page, and you can choose which one(s) to share. Also, while browsing a page, you’ll see a Pinterest button overlay whenever you mouse over an image.

Available on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

14. CircleCount – Instant Google+ analysis

With the CircleCount extension, you can inspect any profile or page on Google+ and see a snapshot of comments, reshares, and +1s per post as well as follower graphs. If you drill down to a specific Google+ post, the CircleCount extension lets you view ripples, add to your favorites (via the CircleCount website), and add to a shared circle.

Available on Chrome

15. Social Fixer for Facebook – A fully customized Facebook experience

This extension allows for huge amounts of customization for the way you view Facebook. Here’s a small sampling of what you can edit:

Tabbed news feeds Feed filters (e.g., remove political posts) Hide posts you’ve already read Thumbnail previews

This just scratches the surface. Check out the Social Fixer homepage for even more ideas on what you can edit.

Available on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

Top picks from the Buffer community Color Picker – Identify the precise color of anything you see in your browser (also: Eye Dropper) Extensity – An extension for managing your extensions (yodawg) Google Drive – Quickly access all your stored files Any.do – Manage your to-do list from anywhere Swayy Smart Share – Share and discover engaging content Goodbits – Easily add content to your next email newsletter Panda – Discover huge amounts of interesting, entertaining content Snip.ly – Link shortening and custom CTAs Web Boost – Faster web browsing Dropbox – Find and store all your files Silver Bird – Custom Twitter timeline tool HashPlug – Add Twitter search results to Google pages tl;dr – Summarize web articles into short synopses Pinterest Tab – Beautiful Pinterest image on every new tab 1Password – Complete password management (also: LastPass) Share As Image – Create beautiful, shareable images on any page Discoverly – Social media contact info The Browser Extension Collection on Product Hunt

I get so much joy out of hanging out on Product Hunt, exploring the cool tools and apps that people have built. One amazing feature of Product Hunt is their collections—bundles of top products under a common theme.

I put together a quick collection of some of the top browser extensions mentioned here in this post:

Over to you: Which extensions do you use?

I’ve got a few favorite ones for social media marketing (Buffer and Pocket) and a few that I rely on for a faster, more fun browsing experience (AdBlock and Dewey bookmarks). There are so many amazing ones out there. Which ones are your favorites?

Which do you use in your browser?

I’d be keen to hear what you’ve got working for you! Feel free to drop a note here in the comments.

Image sources: Markus Spiske

The post The 15 Best Browser Extensions to Improve Your Social Media Marketing appeared first on Social.

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The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them)

I’m a bit embarrassed to share my early Pinterest Pins.

But here they are anyway.

A pin loaded with hashtags, a really odd-sized image, an image with a one-word description, a Pin with no description at all.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes with Pinterest, both in the Pins I’ve created and in the strategies and plans I’ve set forth.

And I’ve come to discover that Pinterest is wholly unique from Twitter and Facebook, and that I’ve had things quite wrong from the start.

All these mistakes have been a wonderful opportunity to learn. I’m grateful for the chance to keep improving my Pinterest strategy, and I’d love to share with you all my mistakes and the new perspectives I’ve gained from researching and experimenting with the best ways to Pin on Pinterest.

What we’ve learned about Pinterest marketing Optimal timing matters less, given Pinterest’s long shelf life Followers don’t matter (as much) Pinterest isn’t a social network like Facebook and Twitter Pinterest is brand-centric

When were gearing up to launch Buffer for Pinterest, I had the great chance to dive deep into Pinterest marketing.

And I brought way too much hubris along with me.

Writing for a social media blog, I think I naturally assumed that all this Pinterest marketing would come intuitively, that the tactics I had learned elsewhere could be copied over to Pinterest without skipping a beat.

I was wrong.

Pinterest has a couple of wonderful phrases that encapsulate a lot of what’s special and unique about the site.

Your most coveted audiences are planning the future.

Take advantage of the world’s largest, most actionable focus group.

It’s unique phrases like these, along with the unique perspectives, that have helped me get my focus on the right track when it comes to Pinterest marketing. Along the way, here are some of the many mistakes I have made.

Why optimal timing on Pinterest matters less Mistake #1: I was keen to find the best time to post on Pinterest

We love to dig up studies on optimal timing at Buffer as we’ve found it to be a key component to the boost in reach for tweets, Facebook posts, and more.

I assumed the same would be true of Pinterest as well.

And while there is a bit of data about the best time to post on Pinterest, optimal timing is not the most useful strategy for Pinterest marketing.

This is due in large part to Pinterest’s Smart Feed, an algorithm-based feed where content turns up based on high-quality Pins and related Pins, not on ideal timing.

In this way, Pins enjoy a much longer shelf life than the typical social media update. With a well-written, keyword-rich description, a Pin’s traffic can resemble that of an evergreen blog post, with views and repins happening well into the future.

Piquora ran a study analyzing the half-life of Pins and discovered that:

40% of the clicks happen within the first day. 70% of the clicks happen within first 2 days. 30% of clicks happen all the way through 30 days and beyond.

The key, Piqora CEO Sharad Verma explained to Venturebeat, is that Pinterest doesn’t share Twitter and Facebook’s emphasis on immediacy. Pinterest visitors browse and search the network in a way that makes it as much like a search engine as a social network.

“In the world of Google, 70 percent of searches are long-tail, composed of four or more words,” Verma says. “Our hypothesis is that the same thing is happening on Pinterest … searching and Pinterest categories resurface the old pins.”

I’ve found this to be the case with a lot of the Pins on the Buffer account.

When looking at the Pinterest stats for our Pins, it’s clear that some of our top-performing Pins have been around for quite some time and continue to gain traffic and engagement.

One of our top post impressions for the past month (over 1,100 views) was a graphic we made for a Peg Fitzpatrick guest post. The post and graphic were shared on April 21. The 1,100 views occurred starting one week later, and they appear as if they’ll continue on well into the future!

Looking at our top posts overall from the past 30 days, four of the top seven posts (more than half) were Pinned prior to the data range—some as much as one year ago!

So ideal timing—whether it’s the day of the week or the time of day—appears to matter less than a well-optimized Pin.

Courtney shared a great list of tips to optimize your Pin descriptions to capture that all-important long-term search traffic.

Make sure all your content has rich, Pinnable, and well-captioned images. Make sure your pins link to a useful and relevant website. Move keywords toward the front of board names and Pin descriptions to make them easy to find. Optimize your headlines and image fields: Buffer pulls in the article’s headline as your Pin’s default description. Pinterest pulls in an image’s caption. (If there is no caption, it pulls alt text instead, and failing that, meta title). Add advice, instructions or how-tos when you can – informative Pins are up to 30% more engaging than other Pins! Prioritize clarity over cleverness in your Pinterest text. Try for a description of between 200 and 310 characters. According to Dan Zarrella, who researched 11,000 pins, that’s the most repinned and commented-upon description range.

And beyond optimal timing, I’ve also been pondering what exactly the effect of frequency has on Pinning. Is there an optimal frequency for Pinterest? Does optimal frequency matter?

Like optimal timing, my sense is that optimal frequency might take a backseat to well-written Pin descriptions and high-quality, well-optimized visuals. The takeaway here could be: It’s not when you Pin or how often you Pin, it’s what you Pin and how well.

Followers is not a key metric on Pinterest Mistake #2: I focused too much on Pinterest followers

Followers are one of social media’s most touted metrics. Follower count is a big deal to a lot of people (brands and businesses, too) on Twitter and Facebook.

On Pinterest?

It just doesn’t matter as much.

Followers on Pinterest do not make for a significant factor in any key way other than social proof. Whereas on other networks where a large following means a larger megaphone, Pins don’t circulate in the same way on Pinterest.

Again it goes back to Pinterest’s Smart Feed, which places Pins on your homepage according to an algorithm, keyed to your personal Pinterest history and keywords. Followers isn’t taken into account.

The Pin Junkie blog has some great context to the way Smart Feed works:

Instead of seeing pins in chronological order from pinners you follow, Pinterest has introduced algorithms and filters to present pins to you based on three factors:

1.  The highest quality pins from people you follow
2.  Related pins based on what you pin
3.  Interests you’re following

As a result, people are more likely to discover your pins from a search on Pinterest, rather than strictly from pins in their feed.

An algorithm-based home feed? Sounds a bit like Facebook, right? Well again there’s a key difference here between Facebook’s News Feed algorithm and Pinterest’s Smart Feed.

Your Pins can be seen by those who don’t follow you, without your having to pay for increased reach.

(On Facebook, if you’d like your post to appear in the feed of someone who’s yet to like your page, you’ll need to use Facebook Ads.)

And also, following on Pinterest can be quite a misnomer. Users can follow users. Users can also follow individual boards. This removes the following power from the person and places it on the content.

How Pinterest Differs From Twitter and Facebook Mistake #3: I thought Pinterest was a social network, just like all the others

Technically-speaking, Pinterest is a social network, as its users connect with one another and share as part of a community. That being said, it’s not a social network in the same sense of a Twitter or a Facebook.

Tailwind CEO Daniel Maloney has a great way of putting it from a very high-level.

Twitter is mostly about what I’m doing.

Facebook is about who I am.

Pinterest is about who I want to be.

There’s a fundamental difference there, in the way that each of those networks is used. To a certain degree, the difference is based in time. Twitter and Facebook deal with the present—what I’m doing now, who I am today.

Pinterest is focused on the future.

In this way, Pinterest is more like a Pocket or an Evernote, tools that help you save ideas and articles for a future date.

We can see this in action in the way that users like Stephen Vian have pinned boards for woodworking, or how Anna Zubarev has pinned Blogging Strategies. On our Buffer account, too, we’ve built several boards that are focused on the things that we hope to achieve or to reference later.

Buffer book club Travel Social media tips

There’s an evergreen quality to all of this content, where we can refer to our boards long into the future and continue to find valuable, useful information that we’ve stashed away until the time is right.

People plan on Pinterest. And that in and of itself makes Pinterest unique compared to its social media peers.

The foundation of Pinterest was built by brands Mistake #4: I assumed brands came late to Pinterest

Did you know: Two-thirds of Pinterest content is pinned by brands.

Brands were the original power Pinners.

Users have come along to repin and spread these Pins virally, adding them to boards and collections of future-oriented wishes or dreams.

It’s always been about the brands on Pinterest.

This is a significant perspective change for me as it differs again from so many other social networks. Social media channels often build their large user bases first, then brands and businesses join later to see how they can best fit in.

Pinterest was brand-focused from the beginning, and brands remain the integral ingredient in the quality, visual content that gets pinned most often.

We can see a bit of the paradigm difference here by comparing Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook added Pages onto its existing network of social connections (people, basically), and it’s now trying to figure out the best way to balance the needs of the individual people—status updates, friend news, birthdays, babies, etc.—with the needs of the businesses—getting their content seen in the News Feed.

Pinterest has had brands involved all along. With two out of every three Pins coming from brands, much of the highly visual, Pinnable content originates from brands and spreads through individuals.

Take a look here at the most popular Pinned posts from last year (more here also).

Conclusion

Again I find myself coming back to the pair of Pinterest quotes that do such a great job of setting the expectation for how to view and plan for Pinterest marketing.

Your most coveted audiences are planning the future.

Take advantage of the world’s largest, most actionable focus group.

With this in mind, it helps to focus my strategy a bit more. Pinterest is future-focused, in a way that Facebook and Twitter are not. Our usual strategies of optimal timing might be a bit off here, and we have a chance to optimize descriptions and keywords instead.

What have you found to be key to your Pinterest strategies? Does any of this info resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image sources: Pablo, UnSplash, IconFinder, Pinterest

The post The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them) appeared first on Social.

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The Biggest Social Media Science Study: What 4.8 Million Tweets Say About the Best Time to Tweet

Imagine removing all guesswork when you schedule your tweets, knowing the times that work for maximum clicks and maximum engagement.

As someone who shares frequently to social media, this info would be fantastic to have! We’re always eager to dig up new research into social media best practices—things like length and frequency and timing.

The timing element, in particular, feels like one where we’d love to dig deeper. And we just so happen to have a host of data on this from the 2 million users who have signed up for Buffer!

With a big hand from our data team, we analyzed over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles, pulling the stats on how clicks and engagement and timing occur throughout the day and in different time zones. We’d love to share with you what we found!

The best time to tweet: Our 4.8 million-tweet research study Our key learnings

Wow, we learned so much looking at the awesome stats from those who use Buffer! Here were some of the takeaways we came up with. I’d love to hear what catches your eye, too!

Early mornings are the best time to tweet in order to get clicks. Evenings and late at night are the best time, on average, for total engagement with your tweets In some cases, the most popular times to post are opposite of the best times to post. Popular times and best times to tweet differ across time zones. The most popular time to tweet: Noon to 1:00 p.m.

We’ve taken the data from all tweets sent through Buffer to find the most popular times for posting to Twitter. Looking at all tweets sent across all major time zones, here is an overview of the most popular times to tweet.

Noon to 1:00 p.m. local time, on average for each time zone, is the most popular time to tweet The highest volume of tweets occurs between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., peaking between noon and 1:00 p.m. The fewest tweets are sent between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.

Here’s the chart for the most popular times worldwide, taken from an average of 10 major time zones (the times represent local time).

Here is the graph for the most popular times to tweet in each of the four major U.S. time zones. 

(We normalized the data to account for daylight’s savings in the U.S. as well.)

Here are the charts for the major time zones in Europe and Africa.

(Note: The London (GMT) time zone used to be the default time zone for new Buffer users, so our data for GMT is not as clean as we would like it to be. We’ve omitted any takeaways for GMT from the research results here.)

Here are the charts for the major time zones in Asia and Australia.

It’s interesting to see how the most popular time to tweet varies across the time zones. We’ve shared Buffer’s 10 most popular time zones in the charts above. Here’s a list of each most popular hour for the 10 major time zones.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 9:00 a.m. Denver (Mountain Time): noon Chicago (Central Time): noon New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): noon Madrid, Rome, Paris, etc. (Central European): 4:00 p.m. Cape Town, Cairo, Helsinki, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m. Sydney (Australian Eastern): 10:00 p.m. Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 8:00 a.m. Tokyo (Japan Time): 2:00 a.m. Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon

For any clarification on this or the other research throughout this article, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get right back to you.

Takeaways & thoughts:

The most popular time to post could be due to a number of factors: This is when most people have access to Twitter (perhaps at a work computer), this is when online audiences are most likely to be connected (see Burrito Principle), etc. Should you post during the most popular times? That’s one possibility. Also, you may find success posting at non-peak times, when the volume of tweets is lower. If you have a large international audience on Twitter, you may wish to locate the particular part of the world where they’re from, and adjust your schedule accordingly. You can find the times when your audience may be online with tools like Followerwonk and Crowdfire. The best times to tweet to get more clicks

We were excited to dig into the specific metrics for each of these tweets, too, in hopes of coming up with some recommendations and best practices to test out for your Twitter strategy.

First up, the best time to tweet for clicks.

Looking at the data, we found the following trends for maximizing your chance to get more clicks:

Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most clicks on average The highest number of clicks per tweet occurs between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. The fewest clicks per tweet happen in the morning (when tweet volume is particularly high), between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m..

The data in the below chart is the worldwide average, calculated for the local time in each time zone. So the peak at the 2:00 a.m. hour would hold true as the overall top time no matter which time zone you’re in—2:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, New York, Cape Town, Hong Kong, etc.

For the specifics on each of the best time to tweet for clicks in each of the major time zones in Buffer, here’s a breakdown.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. (Pacific Time): 2:00 a.m. Denver (Mountain Time): 7:00 p.m. Chicago (Central Time): 2:00 a.m. New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, etc. (Eastern Time): 11:00 p.m. Madrid, Rome, Paris, Berlin, etc. (Central European): 2:00 a.m. Cape Town, Cairo, Istanbul, etc. (Eastern European): 8:00 p.m. Sydney (Australian Eastern): 2:00 a.m. Hong Kong (Hong Kong Time): 5:00 a.m. Shanghai, Taipei, etc. (China Time): noon Tokyo (Japan Time): 8:00 a.m.

Takeaways & thoughts:

Clicks was far and away the largest engagement metric that we tracked in this study (compared to retweets, replies, and favorites). Some of the recommended best times for individual time zones show that non-peak hours are the top time to tweet for clicks. This data may reflect some particularly high-achieving posts—some outliers—that bring up the average when the volume of tweets is lowest. Still, it’d be a great one to test for your profile to see what results you get. One neat thing to keep in mind is that a non-peak hour in, say, Los Angeles may correspond to a peak hour in London or Paris. The worldwide audience is definitely one to consider when finding the best time to tweet. The best times for overall engagement with your tweet

We define engagement as clicks plus retweets, favorites, and replies. When looking at all these interactions together, we found the following trends for maximizing your chance to get the most engagement on your tweets:

Tweets sent between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. earn the most total engagement on average The highest amount of engagement per tweet occurs between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., peaking between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. The smallest amount of engagement happens during traditional work hours, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Takeaways & thoughts:

The best times to tweet for engagement are quite the inverse of the most popular times to tweet. (The late-night infomercial effect—tweet when fewer people are tweeting—seems to be the case here.) The best times for retweets and favorites on your tweets

Adding together two of the most common engagement metrics, we found some interesting trends for maximizing the retweets and favorites on your tweets, especially for those with a U.S. audience.

Looking at 1.1 million tweets from U.S. Buffer users from January through March 2015, here were some of the notable takeaways we found:

Tweets sent at the 9:00 p.m. hour in the U.S. earn the most retweets and favorites on average The highest number of retweets and favorites occurs between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., peaking between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. The lowest retweet-favorite engagement happens at 3:00 a.m.

(Interesting to note, the takeaways from this data compared to the worldwide engagement data differ slightly for a couple reasons: 1) clicks represent a huge portion of overall engagement, and 2) the worldwide vs. US datasets vary.)

We’d love to make it easy for you to share these results with your audience, your friends, your clients—anyone you think might benefit from them.

>> Download every chart from this post (.zip) <<

The methodology for our research

We studied all tweets ever sent through Buffer—4.8 million tweets since October 2010!

Based on this sample set, we looked at the number of clicks per tweet, favorites per tweet, retweets per tweet, and replies per tweet, in accordance with the time of day that the tweet was posted to Twitter.

Further, we segmented the results according to time zones, based on the assumption that the learnings might be more actionable if they could be specific to exactly where you live and work.

We had an interesting opportunity to consider whether median or average would be the better metric to use for our insights. It turns out that so many tweets in the dataset receive minimal engagement that the median was often zero. For this reason, we chose to display the average.

Over to you: What are your takeaways?

We’re so grateful for the chance to dig into the stats from the many tweets that people choose to share with Buffer. The data is super insightful, both for sharing with others and for impacting our own social media marketing plans!

What did you notice from the stats here?

Did any of the results surprise you or get you thinking about your plans in a different way?

I’d love to hear your take on this! Feel free to share any thoughts at all in the comments!

Image sources: IconFinder, Blurgrounds, Death to the Stock Photo, UnSplash

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New Features in OSE's Spam Score & the Mozscape API

Posted by randfish

This week, we launched a feature inside Open Site Explorer that I'm very excited about - the Spam Score Histogram, found by clicking on the "spam analysis" tab:

The histogram is particularly useful for visualizing the distribution of potentially spammy links that show up in a site's link profile. Above, for example, we're looking at Moz.com, with a strong distribution of sites that have 0-5 spam flags. According to our research, that means the vast majority of those sites are unlikely to be penalized or banned by Google.

For more detail on Moz's Spam Score, check out the original blog post and my Whiteboard Friday.

The new histogram view lets us do nice comparisons like these:

Houzz.com has a very large list of sketchy-looking sites linking to them (many seem to be very thin content sites from China, curiously).

Competitor (well, sort-of-competitor), Porch.com, has a much smaller link profile with a very different distribution. Their link profile looks even healthier than Moz's to me!

But, the new spam score histogram isn't the only new feature. We've also got a new power available to API users - the ability to query data from the previous index. If you want to know what a previous Domain Authority score looked like, or how many links we reported to a page in our last index, you can now do so using the Moz API. If you want to get started, check out the documentation here, or get in touch directly with Chris Airola (email chris.airola at moz.com), who manages paid API accounts and loves to help.

Many thanks to the Research Tools and Big Data teams at Moz, who've worked to make this possible. I'm happy to answer questions and will try to be in the comments here frequently. I wish you good spam exploring my friends!


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Can You Rank in Google Without Links? New Data Says Slim Chance

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

For years now, we've heard the drumbeat from Google that marketers should stop focusing on building links. While it's accepted wisdom that you should avoid manipulative link building to rank higher in search results, the popular narrative would have us believe that external links aren't important in Google's ranking algorithms at all, and that link building can be safely ignored.

Is there any truth to this?

To find out, we mined new information from our upcoming biannual ranking correlation study, conducted by Moz's scientist, Dr. Matthew Peters.

https://moz.com/learn/seo/external-link

Moz's study examined the top 50 Google search results for approximately 15,000 keywords. This allowed us to examine not only what factors correlate with higher search rankings, but also how frequently those characteristics are seen.

At this point I must insert the usual caveat that correlation is not causation. Simply because a feature is strongly related to high rankings, this doesn't prove or disprove that Google actually uses it in its algorithm. That said, it sure is a hint!

The relationship between external links and rankings

When we look at what the study found about links, we find a strong relationship.

The correlation between higher rankings and the number of linking websites (root domains) sits at .30. This number seems small, but it's actually one of the highest correlations the study found. (Smaller correlations are also not surprising—with over 200 ranking signals, Google specifically designed their algorithm so that one factor doesn't dominate the others.)

Even more telling is the number of websites we found in the top results that had external backlinks, or rather, the lack thereof.

Out of the top results, a full 99.2% of all websites had at least one external link. (The remaining .8% is well within the margin of error expected between Mozscape and Google's own link index.) The study found almost no websites ranking for competitive search phrases that didn't have at least a single external link pointing at them, and most had significantly more links.

In other words, if you're looking for a site that ranks well with no external links, be prepared to look for a very long time.

That said, the study did find numerous examples where individual pages ranked just fine without specific external links, as long as the website itself had external links pointing at it. For example, consider when The New York Times publishes a new page. Because it's new, it has no external links yet. But because The New York Times' website itself has tons of external links, it's possible for the new page to rank.

In all, 77.8% of individual pages in the top results had at least one external link from another site, which means 22.2% of individual pages ranked with no external links.

What the data says about links and Google rankings

There are a number of conclusions you can reasonably draw from these numbers.

1. External links are almost always present for competitive searches

If you want to rank for anything that's even remotely competitive, the chances of finding a website ranking without external links is very rare indeed.

2. It's possible to rank individual pages without links

As long as your website itself is linked externally, it appears more than possible to rank individual pages on your site, even if those pages themselves don't have external links. That said, there's a strong relationship between links to a page, and that pages performance in search—so it's much better if the page actually does have external links.

To put this in layman's terms, if a lot of people link to your website homepage, it's possible for other pages to rank as well, but it's even better if those pages also have external links pointing at them.

Although not examined in this study, it's likely most of the pages without external links at least had internal links pointing at them. While not as strong as an external link, internal links remain a decent way to pass authority, relevancy and popularity signals to pages on the same site.

3. More links correlate with higher rankings

It seems obvious, but the study confirmed the long-standing correlation between higher rankings and the number of external links found from unique websites.

Indeed, out of all the data points the ranking correlation study looked at, the number of unique websites linking to a page was one of the highest correlated relationships we found.

4. When can you rank without links?

Despite the fact that we found almost no websites ranking without external links, it is still possible?

Absolutely, but there's a catch.

The 15,000 keyword phrases used in this study were, for the most part, competitive. This means that lots of other people and websites are trying to rank for the same term. Think of phrases like "Galaxy s6" and "New York car insurance."

Non-competitive phrases, by their nature, are much easier to rank for. So if you want your website to rank without obtaining any backlinks, you might succeed by targeting more obscure phrases like "Oregon beekeeper ballet emporium" or "Batman flux platypus." These phrases have much lower competition, and by default, much lower traffic (and in many cases, none.)

There are other edge cases where it's possible to rank without links, such as when the user is searching for your website specifically, or when you offer something very unique that can't be found anywhere else. Even in these cases, it helps tremendously to actually have links pointing at you.

Proceed with caution

There's good reason people believe link building is dead, as readers of this blog know well. For readers less familiar with this concept, or those newer to SEO...

A link isn't always a link.

In the past 10 years, after people spammed the heck out of link building to gain higher rankings, Google began cracking down in a serious way starting in 2012. First with its Penguin algorithm, then by de-indexing several link networks, and then by cracking down on guest blogging.

Today, even slight deviations from Google's guidelines on manipulative links can land webmasters in penalty jail.

The web is filled with links. Billions of them. Many are built by robots, some are paid for by advertisers, some are good old fashioned editorial links. The challenge for Google is to separate the good from the bad in its ranking algorithm.

When Google finds a link pointing at your website, it can choose to do one of 3 things:

Count it in its ranking algorithm Ignore it - or not give it any weight in boosting your rankings Penalize you - if it thinks the link is manipulative

In fact, most people would be surprised to learn how many links don't actually help you to rank, or can actually hurt. To play within Google's good graces, it's best to understand Google's guidelines on manipulative link building, and knowing what types of links to avoid.

The safest link building is simply link earning, and to get your content in front of the right people.

But trying to rank in Google without any links at all?

Fuhgeddaboudit.

Photo Credit: Geographically Accurate Paris Metro Map by Nojhan under Creative Common License


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60+ Fantastic Email Newsletters to Read and Share

It seems like there’s more great stuff to read today than ever before.

And still, finding the good stuff that’s just right for you or your brand can take a lot of time, according to this survey by Vertical Response:

When you’re sifting through the whole internet, it can help to have a guide. What if could open your inbox every day to find new, relevant, curated articles that you’d be thrilled to share to social media?

We’ve written before about the rise of high-quality niche newsletters, a format that’s flourished over the past few years.

As our choices get more plentiful, diverse experts and fans across a wide spectrum of topics are sharing the best content they discover. This includes our friends at Read This Thing, who curate one fantastic piece of journalism a day.

The Read This Thing team shared with us their giant list of 60+ must-know newsletters in areas including news, tech, arts & entertainment, self-improvement and general interestingness (my personal favorite category).

Read on to discover your next great content curation source!

General news newsletters 1. The Skimm

“theSkimm is the daily e-mail newsletter that gives you everything you need to start your day. We do the reading for you — across subject lines and party lines — and break it down with fresh editorial content.”

2. Politico Playbook

“Veteran journalist Mike Allen combs the Internet, TV and newspapers to cook up a hearty dish of whats happening in politics.”

3. The Daily Beast

All the news you could want.

4. ReadThisThing

One fantastic piece of journalism each weekday. (They’re the ones who made this list)

5. The Daily Water Cooler

“A free, quick, and splendid email newsletter chock-full of news + humor delivered every weekday morning to make sure you’re never left behind in a conversation.”

6. NY Times: What We’re Reading

Get recommendations from New York Times reporters and editors, highlighting great stories from around the web. Twice per week.

7. NextDraft

A quick, entertaining look at the day’s best stories, from the top of the news, to the very bottom.

8. Muck Rack Daily

“A digest of journalism on Twitter, written by journalists, delivered to your inbox daily”

Tech newsletters 9. Mattermark

“A hand-curated newsletter compiled daily to bring you first-person accounts of entrepreneurship, investment and other insightful reflections from the startup ecosystem.”

10. SaaS Weekly

“A weekly email of useful links for people interested in SaaS businesses.”

11. HackerNewsletter

12. Netted

A daily newsletter from the Webbies team introducing you to the best sites, apps and connected products.

13. Real Future

“Every weekday, Fusion’s Alexis Madrigal delivers five tidbits from the past and future. Wearable computers, drones, biohacking, geoengineering, rockets, digital mapping, coercive feedback loops, autonomous everything, representing the Internet in art, synthetic biology, machine logic, weapons, artificial life, the future of work, corporate surveillance, and more.”

14. StartupDigest

“The personalized insider newsletter for all things startup around the world.”

15. Product Hunt

“Get a summary of the best new products, every day.”

16. Ask Leo

“Each week I publish The Ask Leo! Newsletter where you can find more answers tips and tricks to make your technology “just work”!”

17. Charged

“The top tech news, insights, long reads and the best of the internet, delivered to your inbox every weekend.”

Marketing newsletters 18. Buffer

“Actionable social media advice. Delivered daily.”

19. Community.is

“A weekly newsletter by Loyal designed to define, educate & inspire anyone who puts people at the center of their work.”

20. Campaign Monitor

An awesome monthly newsletter with tips and tricks for email.

21. Seth Godin

Interesting thoughts from a famous entrepreneur.

Design newsletters 22. Sidebar

“Sidebar is a list of the 5 best design links of the day. But unlike a regular linkblog, it’s collaborative and manually curated by a couple great editors.”

23. UX Design Weekly

“A hand picked list of the best user experience design links every week. Curated by Kenny Chen and published every Friday.”

24. Smashing Magazine

“We love useful stuff, and we love quality writing, that’s why we send out an editorial email newsletter twice a month with useful tips, tricks and resources for designers and developers — thoroughly collected, written and edited by us exclusively for our readers.”

25. The Pastry Box Project

“Sugar For The Mind:” One thought every day, from people shaping the web.

Photography newsletters 26. Unsplash

Get 10 free, hi-res photos delivered to your inbox every 10 days.

27. Death to the Stock Photo

A fresh pack of creative photos in your inbox each month, with awesome stories to match.

28. Exposure Weekly Selects

Incredible photo essays delivered weekly.

 Sports newsletters 29. The Slurve

“We send the best baseball writing, all the essential news for each team, and a few original insights directly to your inbox each day during the season and frequently in the offseason.”

30. Casual Spectator

“Casual Spectator is a super-simple newsletter about sports. We make following sports easy and help you have better conversations with co-workers, family and friends.”

Food, beverage and events newsletters 31. Good Beer Hunting

A newsletter featuring all the best beer.

32. The Fetch

“We curate the best events, news, cool jobs and must-reads in one place.”
Mostly focused on these cities: New York — San Francisco — Los Angeles — London — Berlin — Melbourne — Sydney — Brisbane — Auckland

33. NoshOn.It

The best recipes and cooking tips delivered to your inbox.

34. Garagiste

Garagiste is a wine store that only sells wine via email newsletter. It’s weird and awesome.

35. Tasting Table

The latest trends in the categories of dining, wine, cocktails, cooking and food travel.

General interesting-ness newsletters 36. Brain Pickings  

“The week’s most unmissable articles across creativity, psychology, art, science, design, philosophy, and other facets of our search for meaning.”

37. Lefsetz Letter

Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

38. Improbable Research

“Research that makes people laugh and then think.”

39. Ann Friedman Weekly

“My weekly newsletter is full of great things to read (some but not all of which were written by me) and GIFs and the occasional product endorsement. It arrives in your inbox on Fridays, just when you’ve run out of internet for the week.”

40. Wait But Why

It’s pretty hard to describe Wait But Why, but it’s awesome. Here’s how Fast Company describes it: “sometimes humorous, almost always profound, long-form explainer site”

41. This Is True

“This is True is a weekly e-mail newsletter which reports on bizarre-but-true news items from legitimate news outlets from around the world.”

42. Austin Kleon newsletter

“Every week I send out new art, writing, and interesting links. It’s free. No spam. Unsubscribe whenever you want.”

43. Today in Tabs

“Your daily digest of the worst (and occasionally best) in tabs.” This newsletter has been called as been called “the high school cafeteria of New York media”

44. The Li.st

Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol send this email a few times each week, spreading the word about awesome things being done and made by women.

45. Now I Know

Dan Lewis’s daily email with one really interesting fact per day.

46. MediaREDEF

Jason Hirschhorn’s MediaREDEF is a curated interest mix of media+tech+pop content via free daily newsletter.

47. Hardly Working

“It’s in my head. I’m sharing it with you. Read, Eat, Covet, Meet. Just one of each; randomness guaranteed.”

48. Very Short List

“VSL is a delightful e-mail that shares cultural gems from a different curator every day.”

49. Milkshake

“A free email dedicated to finding the good in everything — companies, causes, people, places and products giving back and making a difference.”

50. Brain Food

More from the popular blog Farnam Street:“Each Sunday I send out my weekly digest about new posts, books I’m reading, and interesting things I find across the web on subjects like art, history, science, philosophy, psychology, and human misjudgment. It’s basically brain food.”

51. The Ed’s Up

A weekly newsletter of writing and links from science writer Ed Yong, whose blog Not Exactly Rocket Science is hosted by National Geographic.

52. Links I would gchat you if we were friends

A daily newsletter by The Washington Post‘s Caitlin Dewey that rounds up the day’s Internet chatter (often about social media, digital and internet culture, and other fun stuff)

53. Sunday New York Times Digest A weekly roundup of the most interesting links and quotes from the Sunday New York Times. Self-improvement newsletters 54. Greatist

Top health tips, workout ideas, delicious recipes, and more.

55. SealFit

Get super intense life tips from a super intense Navy Seal.

56. Further

“Further is a once-a-week email newsletter that helps you maximize your purpose, performance, and potential. You’ll get the best hand-picked tips, trends, stories, and science that enhance your health, wealth, and wisdom — without the noise and fluff.”

57. Remotive

“A weekly newsletter on Remote Tips & Jobs sent to 7,000+ Remote Workers”

58. Heretic

“A daily newsletter about entrepreneurship, the art of the start and doing the work by Pascal Finette. It’s raw, unfiltered and opinionated.”

59. Think Clearly

A handwritten newsletter! “Think Clearly is a practice for hatching your visions and making them come true. It all begins with a blank page. And coffee.”

60. The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris Guillebeau has visited every country in the world. Now he shares unconventional strategies and stories on life, work, and travel.

61. Life Edited

“Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.”

Share your favorite newsletter!

Thanks to Read This Thing for putting Buffer on their list, and for allowing us to syndicate this handy list!

 What newsletters are missing from this resource? We’d love to hear your favorite and find even more great stuff to read and share!

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What $5 Per Day Will Buy You on Facebook Ads

If you want get your posts seen on Facebook, one of the most common bits of wisdom you’ll hear is this:

Pay for reach with Facebook ads. 

Paid advertising on Facebook seems to be one of the most immediate ways to impact the reach of your content. Though it’s not without its questions. How well does it work? What kind of engagement do you get?

And what can you expect for your hard-earned money?

We’ve been testing Facebook ads a bit with Buffer’s Facebook strategy, looking to see exactly what’s possible on a small budget. I’m happy to share our findings with you. Here’s what we found $5 per day will buy you on Facebook Ads.

What $5 Per Day Will Buy You on Facebook

I’d love to jump right to our findings here, then get into the specifics below. We tried three different types of Facebook Ads, each designed with a different objective in mind.

Here are our results: 

Page Likes – $0.57 per like Clicks to the Buffer for Business landing page – $4.01 per click Boosted post – $6.35 per additional 1,000 people reached

When we view this in terms of how much $5 per day will buy you, these are the numbers:

Page Likes – 9 likes per day Clicks to the Buffer homepage – 1 per day Boosted post – 787 new people reached

How does this jive with your experience on Facebook Ads? 

I’ll be happy to share the specifics of what we tried and how we tried it (and how you can test this for yourself, too.)

One final thought before moving ahead, it might be useful to see how our experience compares to Facebook Ads benchmarks overall. Matthew Kammerer shared an overview of social media advertising in a guest post at the Buffer blog, including the following chart of helpful Facebook benchmarks.

Since we find ourselves in the technology space at Buffer, we can compare to the industry benchmarks in this chart.

Average clickthrough rate: 0.2%

Ours: 0.95%

Average cost per click: $0.20

Ours: $0.97

Average cost per 1,000 impressions: $0.38

Ours: $6.35

A lot of our experience here didn’t quite match up to the benchmarks, likely for a number of factors like this being my first dive into Facebook Ads (lots to learn!) and my not spending the time to truly optimize the campaigns.

Like all the experiments we run and share here, your mileage may vary. And we’d love to hear your experience and results!

How to Set Up a Facebook Ads Campaign

All of Facebook’s ad campaigns run through the Facebook Ads tool, which you can access via a direct link at facebook.com/ads, or by clicking “Manage Ads” in the drop-down menu on your Facebook account, or by clicking any of the CTAs on your Facebook page.

With Facebook, you have many different ways of approaching an ad campaign. These ways can typically fall within three categories of benefits:

Interaction: Your ad and content right on the homepage allows users to interact with it like they do any other piece of social content. Reach: Expand your reach to new potential customers who can interact with your content by commenting, liking, favoriting, retweeting, etc. Followers: Brands also report a notable increase in followers through these social advertising options, since brand visibility increases significantly.

For small budgets, you’re likely to get the most bang for your buck with boosting reach. Moz found that $1 per day can grow you audience by 4,000 people (this didn’t quite match our experience, though it’s well worth trying).

Once you’re into the Ads manager, you can navigate with the menu on the left-hand side of the page. To get started with your first ad, click the green button in the top-right corner of the page.

When you click to create a Facebook Ad, you’ll go to a page where you choose the objective for your campaign. There are 10 options here for what you might want to achieve:

Boost your posts (more on this below) Promote your page (more on this next) Send people to your website (more on this below) Increase conversions on your website Get installs of your app Increase engagement in your app Reach people near your business Raise attendance at your event Get people to claim your offer Get video views

I won’t get into the specifics of all these as we only tested the top three, but there are some really great resources out there—like this post from Noah Kagan—if you’re interested in learning more about Facebook Ads in their entirety.

How to Set Up a Campaign for Facebook Page Likes

1. Choose the second option from the Create an Ad list: Promote Your Page.

2. At the next screen, select the page you’d like to promote.

3. Choose who will be shown your ad.

The audience can be customized based on all the following demographics:

Location, starting with a country, state, city, zip code, or address, and refining even further with a mile radius Age Gender Languages Interests – Facebook looks at a person’s interests, activity, the Pages they like, and closely related topics Behaviors – Things like purchase behavior and intent, as well as device usage Connections – Choose to show the ad to all people, just those connected to Buffer, or those not connected to Buffer

In addition, with the Connections setting, you can choose advanced targeting, which lets you include or exclude people who are connected to certain pages, apps, or events.

How we chose an audience for the Buffer ad

Facebook recommends narrowing your reach in a targeted way in order to maximize the impact of your ad. We went quite narrow with this experiment, choosing the following audience demographics:

Location: United States Interests: Social media Excluded: People who already like Buffer Age: 18-65+ Language: English (US)

This gave us an estimated reach of up to 3,200 people out of 14 million. The 3,200 people are how many we could expect to be online any given day and potentially see our ad.

4. Choose how much you want to spend.

5. Choose an image to create the ad.

You can pick from your library, search, or upload a new one. If you’re able to upload multiple images, you can create multiple ad variations that will run within your campaign, giving you a sort of A/B test to see what works best.

The recommended image size is 1,200 pixels wide by 444 pixels tall.

6. Write the text and the headline.

For the text, you get 90 characters to share a quick message that will appear above your image.

For the headline (which is hidden beneath an Advanced Options toggle), you can use an alternative to your page name, which is shown by default. Headlines can be 25 characters long.

How we wrote the text and headline

We left the page title the same (“Buffer”), although it’s possible we could have tried something like Buffer – Social Media or Buffer App.

For the text, we aimed for a descriptive headline that would help people understand what it is they’d be getting from us. Since we targeted people with an interest in social media, it also made sense to make the message match the audience.

The Best Tips and Tools for Sharing to Social Media

Here’s how the ad looked:

How to Set Up a Campaign for Boosted Posts

1. Choose the first option from the Create an Ad list: Boost Your Posts.

2. At the next screen, select the page you’d like to use. Then select the post you’d like to promote.

3. Choose who will be shown your ad.

You have the same options here as you did in the Page Likes campaign mentioned above.

How we chose an audience for the Buffer ad

For this experiment, we went with a quite targeted demographic: younger San Francisco people with an interest in technology.

Location: A 50-mile radius from San Francisco Interests: Technology Excluded: People who already like Buffer Age: 21-40 Language: English (US) and (UK)

This led to a great and targeted group of up to 2,800 people per day who might be served our ad.

4. Choose how much you want to spend.

5. Review your post.

In this section, you can see a preview of your post as it will appear in the News Feed on desktop and on mobile as well as in the right column of desktop screens. You can turn any of these views off so that the ad won’t be shown there.

How we chose what to display

Facebook offers some helpful views of what your ad might look like in various places. The three main spots:

The News Feed on desktop The News Feed on mobile The right column on desktop

When it came to boost this post, it seemed to us that the best placement was likely to be in the News Feed instead of the sidebar.

When the content moved to the sidebar, the headline was truncated and the description was truncated. The text itself was harder to see. Ultimately, it just wasn’t intended to be in the sidebar; it was meant for the News Feed.

How to Set Up a Campaign for Clicks to Your Website

1. Choose the third option from the Create an Ad list: Send people to your website.

2. At the next screen, type in the URL where you’d like to send traffic.

3. Choose who will be shown your ad.

How we chose an audience for the Buffer ad

For this ad, we went a slightly different route with our audience selection. We chose to target a specific audience—our MailChimp subscribers—using Facebook’s custom audiences.

To create a custom audience, we chose the option from the audience selection portion of our Facebook ad.

Here, you can choose to create the custom audience from a base of three options:

Customer list (like an email list, for instance) Website traffic App activity

We chose to use a customer list for our audience segment. We exported our subscribers from MailChimp and imported into Facebook. Our list of 39,000 names returned 23,900 Facebook users.

We then further segmented the list into specific demographics for location, age, and language. We didn’t quite feel the need to segment for interests since everyone of these folks seemed to be interested in Buffer just by subscribing!

4. Choose how much you want to spend.

5. Choose how you want the ad to look.

Depending on the visuals you’d like to associate with your ad, you can choose to either show one image with your ad or show a gallery of five images that people can scroll to view.

6. Connect your ad to a Facebook page.

This allows the ad to appear in the News Feed as if it came from a page, while the ad itself still goes to your chosen URL.

7. Write a headline.

You get 25 characters max.

8. Write description text.

You get 90 characters max.

9. Choose button text from Facebook’s list of options.

Shop Now Book Now Learn More Sign Up Download

10. Add more text to the Advanced Settings for your link.

11. Choose where the ad will be placed.

In addition to the options above for News Feed and right column, this particular type of ad also includes an option for appearing on Facebook’s audience network, which includes third-party mobile apps.

How we chose what to display

We went with an ad for our Buffer for Business landing page, hoping to encourage any current Buffer newsletter subscribers to take a closer look at our business plan.

The ad itself, well, I’m sure I have lots of room for improvement here!

Reflecting back now, I can see that the headline lacks any information about what it is that Buffer does. There’s no benefit there for the user. The image is from PlaceIt, which does great stuff helping get screenshots and app images that look smooth.

If I were to do it again, I’d likely follow a lot of the advice here in Noah Kagan’s post about Facebook ads.

1. Headline: Give away something for free
2. Text: Social proof showing why the reader should care
3. News Feed Link Description: Give call to action for them to get benefit

For example:

Over to you

I feel like we’re quite early on with learning best practices for Facebook Ads at Buffer. I’d love to get any insight you have in this area and hear any tips you might be willing to share!

Overall, the cost of advertising on Facebook seems like it could be most helpful to us in terms of boosted posts as we were able to get more than 750 new people to check out our content for only $5.00.

What has been the best success you’ve found with Facebook Ads?

Image sources: IconFinder, Unsplash, Pablo

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How Can You Create Pinnable Content If You’re Not a Visual Brand?

As we’ve started to dig in on the best way to connect with our audience on Pinterest, we came across an interesting question: How can we best create visual content for Pinners to Pin?

We’re not in one of the top niches for Pinning: food and drink, crafts, home decor.

How can we make sure that every blog post we write is as Pinnable as possible?

It’s been a fun experiment to see what’s worked. I’ll be happy to share with you some ...

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Inverse Document Frequency and the Importance of Uniqueness

Posted by EricEnge

In my last column, I wrote about how to use term frequency analysis in evaluating your content vs. the competition's. Term frequency (TF) is only one part of the TF-IDF approach to information retrieval. The other part is inverse document frequency (IDF), which is what I plan to discuss today.

Today's post will use an explanation of how IDF works to show you the importance of creating content that has true uniqueness. There are reputation and visibility reasons for doing this, and it's great for users, but there are also SEO benefits.

If you wonder why I am focusing on TF-IDF, consider these words from a Google article from August 2014: "This is the idea of the famous TF-IDF, long used to index web pages." While the way that Google may apply these concepts is far more than the simple TF-IDF models I am discussing, we can still learn a lot from understanding the basics of how they work.

What is inverse document frequency?

In simple terms, it's a measure of the rareness of a term. Conceptually, we start by measuring document frequency. It's easiest to illustrate with an example, as follows:

In this example, we see that the word "a" appears in every document in the document set. What this tells us is that it provides no value in telling the documents apart. It's in everything.

Now look at the word "mobilegeddon." It appears in 1,000 of the documents, or one thousandth of one percent of them. Clearly, this phrase provides a great deal more differentiation for the documents that contain them.

Document frequency measures commonness, and we prefer to measure rareness. The classic way that this is done is with a formula that looks like this:

For each term we are looking at, we take the total number of documents in the document set and divide it by the number of documents containing our term. This gives us more of a measure of rareness. However, we don't want the resulting calculation to say that the word "mobilegeddon" is 1,000 times more important in distinguishing a document than the word "boat," as that is too big of a scaling factor.

This is the reason we take the Log Base 10 of the result, to dampen that calculation. For those of you who are not mathematicians, you can loosely think of the Log Base 10 of a number as being a count of the number of zeros - i.e., the Log Base 10 of 1,000,000 is 6, and the log base 10 of 1,000 is 3. So instead of saying that the word "mobilegeddon" is 1,000 times more important, this type of calculation suggests it's three times more important, which is more in line with what makes sense from a search engine perspective.

With this in mind, here are the IDF values for the terms we looked at before:

Now you can see that we are providing the highest score to the term that is the rarest.

What does the concept of IDF teach us?

Think about IDF as a measure of uniqueness. It helps search engines identify what it is that makes a given document special. This needs to be much more sophisticated than how often you use a given search term (e.g. keyword density).

Think of it this way: If you are one of 6.78 million web sites that comes up for the search query "super bowl 2015," you are dealing with a crowded playing field. Your chances of ranking for this term based on the quality of your content are pretty much zero.

Overall link authority and other signals will be the only way you can rank for a term that competitive. If you are a new site on the landscape, well, perhaps you should chase something else.

That leaves us with the question of what you should target. How about something unique? Even the addition of a simple word like "predictions"—changing our phrase to "super bowl 2015 predictions"—reduces this playing field to 17,800 results.

Clearly, this is dramatically less competitive already. Slicing into this further, the phrase "super bowl 2015 predictions and odds" returns only 26 pages in Google. See where this is going?

What IDF teaches us is the importance of uniqueness in the content we create. Yes, it will not pay nearly as much money to you as it would if you rank for the big head term, but if your business is a new entrant into a very crowded space, you are not going to rank for the big head term anyway

If you can pick out a smaller number of terms with much less competition and create content around those needs, you can start to rank for these terms and get money flowing into your business. This is because you are making your content more unique by using rarer combinations of terms (leveraging what IDF teaches us).

Summary

People who do keyword analysis are often wired to pursue the major head terms directly, simply based on the available keyword search volume. The result from this approach can, in fact, be pretty dismal.

Understanding how inverse document frequency works helps us understand the importance of standing out. Creating content that brings unique angles to the table is often a very potent way to get your SEO strategy kick-started.

Of course, the reasons for creating content that is highly differentiated and unique go far beyond SEO. This is good for your users, and it's good for your reputation, visibility, AND also your SEO.


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I Can't Drive 155: Meta Descriptions in 2015

Posted by Dr-Pete

For years now, we (and many others) have been recommending keeping your Meta Descriptions shorter than about 155-160 characters. For months, people have been sending me examples of search snippets that clearly broke that rule, like this one (on a search for “hummingbird food”):

For the record, this one clocks in at 317 characters (counting spaces). So, I set out to discover if these long descriptions were exceptions to the rule, or if we need to change the rules. I collected the search snippets across the MozCast 10K, which resulted in 92,669 snippets. All of the data in this post was collected on April 13, 2015.

The Basic Data

The minimum snippet length was zero characters. There were 69 zero-length snippets, but most of these were the new generation of answer box, that appears organic but doesn't have a snippet. To put it another way, these were misidentified as organic by my code. The other 0-length snippets were local one-boxes that appeared as organic but had no snippet, such as this one for "chichen itza":

These zero-length snippets were removed from further analysis, but considering that they only accounted for 0.07% of the total data, they didn't really impact the conclusions either way. The shortest legitimate, non-zero snippet was 7 characters long, on a search for "geek and sundry", and appears to have come directly from the site's meta description:

The maximum snippet length that day (this is a highly dynamic situation) was 372 characters. The winner appeared on a search for "benefits of apple cider vinegar":

The average length of all of the snippets in our data set (not counting zero-length snippets) was 143.5 characters, and the median length was 152 characters. Of course, this can be misleading, since some snippets are shorter than the limit and others are being artificially truncated by Google. So, let's dig a bit deeper.

The Bigger Picture

To get a better idea of the big picture, let's take a look at the display length of all 92,600 snippets (with non-zero length), split into 20-character buckets (0-20, 21-40, etc.):

Most of the snippets (62.1%) cut off as expected, right in the 141-160 character bucket. Of course, some snippets were shorter than that, and didn't need to be cut off, and some broke the rules. About 1% (1,010) of the snippets in our data set measured 200 or more characters. That's not a huge number, but it's enough to take seriously.

That 141-160 character bucket is dwarfing everything else, so let's zoom in a bit on the cut-off range, and just look at snippets in the 120-200 character range (in this case, by 5-character bins):

Zooming in, the bulk of the snippets are displaying at lengths between about 146-165 characters. There are plenty of exceptions to the 155-160 character guideline, but for the most part, they do seem to be exceptions.

Finally, let's zoom in on the rule-breakers. This is the distribution of snippets displaying 191+ characters, bucketed in 10-character bins (191-200, 201-210, etc.):

Please note that the Y-axis scale is much smaller than in the previous 2 graphs, but there is a pretty solid spread, with a decent chunk of snippets displaying more than 300 characters.

Without looking at every original meta description tag, it's very difficult to tell exactly how many snippets have been truncated by Google, but we do have a proxy. Snippets that have been truncated end in an ellipsis (...), which rarely appears at the end of a natural description. In this data set, more than half of all snippets (52.8%) ended in an ellipsis, so we're still seeing a lot of meta descriptions being cut off.

I should add that, unlike titles/headlines, it isn't clear whether Google is cutting off snippets by pixel width or character count, since that cut-off is done on the server-side. In most cases, Google will cut before the end of the second line, but sometimes they cut well before this, which could suggest a character-based limit. They also cut off at whole words, which can make the numbers a bit tougher to interpret.

The Cutting Room Floor

There's another difficulty with telling exactly how many meta descriptions Google has modified – some edits are minor, and some are major. One minor edit is when Google adds some additional information to a snippet, such as a date at the beginning. Here's an example (from a search for "chicken pox"):

With the date (and minus the ellipsis), this snippet is 164 characters long, which suggests Google isn't counting the added text against the length limit. What's interesting is that the rest comes directly from the meta description on the site, except that the site's description starts with "Chickenpox." and Google has removed that keyword. As a human, I'd say this matches the meta description, but a bot has a very hard time telling a minor edit from a complete rewrite.

Another minor rewrite occurs in snippets that start with search result counts:

Here, we're at 172 characters (with spaces and minus the ellipsis), and Google has even let this snippet roll over to a third line. So, again, it seems like the added information at the beginning isn't counting against the length limit.

All told, 11.6% of the snippets in our data set had some kind of Google-generated data, so this type of minor rewrite is pretty common. Even if Google honors most of your meta description, you may see small edits.

Let's look at our big winner, the 372-character description. Here's what we saw in the snippet:

Jan 26, 2015 - Health• Diabetes Prevention: Multiple studies have shown a correlation between apple cider vinegar and lower blood sugar levels. ... • Weight Loss: Consuming apple cider vinegar can help you feel more full, which can help you eat less. ... • Lower Cholesterol: ... • Detox: ... • Digestive Aid: ... • Itchy or Sunburned Skin: ... • Energy Boost:1 more items

So, what about the meta description? Here's what we actually see in the tag:

Were you aware of all the uses of apple cider vinegar? From cleansing to healing, to preventing diabetes, ACV is a pantry staple you need in your home.

That's a bit more than just a couple of edits. So, what's happening here? Well, there's a clue on that same page, where we see yet another rule-breaking snippet:

You might be wondering why this snippet is any more interesting than the other one. If you could see the top of the SERP, you'd know why, because it looks something like this:

Google is automatically extracting list-style data from these pages to fuel the expansion of the Knowledge Graph. In one case, that data is replacing a snippet and going directly into an answer box, but they're performing the same translation even for some other snippets on the page.

So, does every 2nd-generation answer box yield long snippets? After 3 hours of inadvisable mySQL queries, I can tell you that the answer is a resounding "probably not". You can have 2nd-gen answer boxes without long snippets and you can have long snippets without 2nd-gen answer boxes, but there does appear to be a connection between long snippets and Knowledge Graph in some cases.

One interesting connection is that Google has begun bolding keywords that seem like answers to the query (and not just synonyms for the query). Below is an example from a search for "mono symptoms". There's an answer box for this query, but the snippet below is not from the site in the answer box:

Notice the bolded words – "fatigue", "sore throat", "fever", "headache", "rash". These aren't synonyms for the search phrase; these are actual symptoms of mono. This data isn't coming from the meta description, but from a bulleted list on the target page. Again, it appears that Google is trying to use the snippet to answer a question, and has gone well beyond just matching keywords.

Just for fun, let's look at one more, where there's no clear connection to the Knowledge Graph. Here's a snippet from a search for "sons of anarchy season 4":

This page has no answer box, and the information extracted is odd at best. The snippet bears little or no resemblance to the site's meta description. The number string at the beginning comes out of a rating widget, and some of the text isn't even clearly available on the page. This seems to be an example of Google acknowledging IMDb as a high-authority site and desperately trying to match any text they can to the query, resulting in a Frankenstein's snippet.

The Final Verdict

If all of this seems confusing, that's probably because it is. Google is taking a lot more liberties with snippets these days, both to better match queries, to add details they feel are important, or to help build and support the Knowledge Graph.

So, let's get back to the original question – is it time to revise the 155(ish) character guideline? My gut feeling is: not yet. To begin with, the vast majority of snippets are still falling in that 145-165 character range. In addition, the exceptions to the rule are not only atypical situations, but in most cases those long snippets don't seem to represent the original meta description. In other words, even if Google does grant you extra characters, they probably won't be the extra characters you asked for in the first place.

Many people have asked: "How do I make sure that Google shows my meta description as is?" I'm afraid the answer is: "You don't." If this is very important to you, I would recommend keeping your description below the 155-character limit, and making sure that it's a good match to your target keyword concepts. I suspect Google is going to take more liberties with snippets over time, and we're going to have to let go of our obsession with having total control over the SERPs.


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The Twitch Phenomenon: Why Live Streaming Is Worth Your Time

Posted by troy.evans

It's safe to say that streaming video content online is quickly becoming the most accessible way to consume entertainment. The way we enjoy our favorite movies and television shows has been increasingly shifting towards uninterrupted (and possibly unhealthy) periods of ‘binge watching'. Easy and affordable alternatives like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go offer the option to forego traditional cable services altogether.

Portlandia, "One Moore Episode"

As the online video streaming movement grows, the concept of live streaming is also gaining popularity, and both these trends make a convincing case for considering a video-based content strategy to reach your target market. By far the best example of this is Amazon's newest acquisition, Twitch.tv.

What is Twitch.tv?

Unless you happen to be an online gamer or addicted to TechCrunch, you may not have had much experience with the site. It is a platform for gamers to broadcast their gameplay live online while others watch and actively participate with chat.

If you haven't heard about the site's boast-worthy statistics you may be wondering why you should even care. You're not wrong to be skeptical; gamers watching other gamers play games online most likely has nothing to do with your business or marketing.

However, the conclusions that can be drawn from Twitch.tv's annual reports about the future of online and video marketing are worth some level of consideration and provide some evidence that live video streaming could be the next big channel for engaging with your audience.

Why should you care?

Here is a quick breakdown of Twitch.tv's engagement from their 2014 report.

Pretty amazing stats when you consider that they launched in 2011. Even when you take into account that the main demographic of users are web-savvy online gamers, those numbers are impressive.

This statistic from their 2013 report, though, is what I find most interesting. Incredibly rapid engagement growth from 2012 on top of an unbelievable average user time on site (106 minutes watched each day). From a marketing perspective, this is what I consider to be a big opportunity.

The following chart shows the average time on site for other top social media sites. To come anywhere near the numbers from Twitch, it would require a significant number of repeat visits (20+ average) at these rates:

Since these two reports are not directly comparable, I thought it was valuable to translate some data gathered using Google's DoubleClick Ad Planner from back in 2011 to show some sort of comparison. (Granted, these have been converted from unique visitors' monthly time spent on Facebook (15.55 hours) and YouTube (5.83 hours). (source)

Now, you might be thinking that these statistics are not all that surprising for a site focused on live experiences. After all, we've known for some time now that a live broadcast will often produce a significant increase in viewership. By virtue of its unpredictability alone a larger audience is something to be expected. And let's be honest, it's one of the main reasons why TV news is so interesting.

How can I win with live streaming?

Entertainment is by far the most common live stream focus. Gaming, sports, music, tv shows, news, and events are found often, but there are also channels for technology, education, and even religion. There are also plenty of live animal streams. Mostly puppies and kittens, but also wildlife streams that might make good communities for environmentally focused marketing goals.

Coming up with creative ways to implement live-stream content into your marketing strategy might be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible, and you might just be surprised with the results. Keep in mind that the scope of your broadcast can start out small (just like any other content strategy), and the content of your feed could be just about anything that can be translated into a video format. Even this post could be converted into a live stream as a simple discussion. For the most part, all you need is a webcam and a good microphone. To get started, take a look at these options for producing live stream content for your business.

Youtube.com

YouTube is probably the easiest and most well-known platform to use for integrating live stream content. It offers solutions to quickly set up a live stream through your channel as long as it is verified and in good standing. There is a live chat feature that can be disabled if you so choose, although most live streams really do go well with an engaging live chat. YouTube is the perfect place to start up a live stream project at little to no cost. You most likely already have a channel and an audience to which you can start broadcasting.

Livestream.com

Another option worth considering is Livestream.com, which is great for broadcasting any kind of live event. For the most part, I have seen high quality productions on this site. Consider this one if you already have a video-based content strategy and a sizable following that is eager to consume your broadcasts.

Ustream.tv

This site is a bit different in that it offers solutions for a variety of high-quality live streaming options, even production services and a video advertising platform focused on lead generation. There is a variety of content with categories like sports, gaming, news, music, and general entertainment. Ustream has a wider range of content than livestream; you will find streams for technology, education, religion and even wildlife here, among others. Ustream also offers a basic ad-supported broadcasting option which would be perfect for an organization that is just starting to develop live stream content.

Notice how Ustream has no qualms with adverts!

Streaming through Twitter

If you are already using Twitter for your online marketing strategy, you should consider using something like Periscope or Meerkat to develop live-streaming engagement with your followers. These services are also a great way to kickstart the use of Twitter in your marketing arsenal and start to build a following if you haven't done so already.

You can give exclusive previews of products, how-to tutorials, a quick tour of your facilities, or show off your services. And, of course, you will have the potential to respond in real time to feedback from viewers. At the moment, both Periscope and Meerkat can only be used on iPhones, but Meerkat is developing an Android version.

Focused streaming sites

Let's not forget about the more focused platforms. Online communities that are ready and willing to engage with live streams do already exist outside the realm of gaming. They are worth exploring if you are working to promote something relevant to your customers interests.

Picarto.tv is for artists and graphic designers to show others how they do those amazing Photoshop things they do.

Chew.tv is a platform for DJs to play live sets to other DJs and music lovers.

Livecoding.tv is fairly new but given the nature of programmers there are almost always a few live streams on. This is a great place for newcomers and seasoned programmers to learn about coding by watching the experts in action.

Talktochef.com is a really cool site that lets people engage directly with experienced chefs. If you have anything to do with the food industry, there is likely value to be gained from using this site.

Cookstream.tv is also just getting started, but seems like a promising venue for those within the food industry.

Not ready to start live streaming? You can still gain insights by participating!

Even if you're not ready to live stream your own content, you can find value by doing a little live stream research or even getting involved in a relevant broadcast. Here are some things to think about during your search:

Get insights into popular topics just by scanning for high viewer count streams. If you market for or create content about anything related to animals, you might consider producing some blog posts about eagles; for some reason people seem to like watching them, as I found a number of eagle nest live feeds, some with over a thousands viewers at a time.
Take advantage of relevant live streams that receive significant viewers and get ideas for creating similar content in any form. Topics that resonate with viewers on live streams will most likely be easily translated into pre-recorded video or written content. If I were marketing for anything related to billiards, for example, I would check out the Accu-Stats On Location channel at Ustream that have over a thousand followers and had achieved over 250,000 views. Just from watching a few minutes I noticed that while they stream a live pool and billiards tournament they are also constantly raffling off prizes. A great idea for some social media content might be to create raffle targeting people who are interested in pool and billiards.
Listen to what viewers are saying on relevant streams. Broadcasters provide great insight as to what sort of content you could be creating but the viewers do as well. Part of the beauty of live streaming is that the viewers are constantly engaging via live chat while they watch. This provides a great way to get direct insight about your target audience. Chatting with viewers can provide a direct line to potential customers. Just make sure to follow the channel rules and avoid blatant promotional spam. Live streams also offer opportunities for outreach to their broadcasters. Just as popular industry bloggers make great influencers, so do broadcasters. You could try to get in touch with a broadcaster to discuss some form of collaboration; this would likely work in the same manner as a collaboration with an industry blogger. Start researching & streaming

I like to think of online marketers as masters of the interwebs, and as such I feel it's important to be at least aware of (if not knowledgeable about) every realm. It may not be as popular outside of the gaming space, but I anticipate the near future will bring live streaming growth in other focused markets. As this content becomes more prevalent, the applications toward online marketing will become more and more obvious. By learning how to navigate and identify relevant live stream communities you will be ready to get involved and apply them to your marketing efforts, whether that means starting up a broadcast of your own or collaborating with existing broadcasters.

Lastly, and there may not be much in this on a marketing level but I thought it was well worth sharing: Definitely one of my favorite streams so far, if this doesn't convince you that live streaming (and Animal Planet) is awesome, nothing will...


Live video by Animal Planet L!ve


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How to Create Boring-Industry Content that Gets Shared

Posted by ronell-smith

If you think creating content for boring industries is tough, try creating content for an expensive product that'll be sold in a so-called boring industry. Such was the problem faced by Mike Jackson, head of sales for a large Denver-based company that was debuting a line of new high-end products for the fishing industry in 2009.

After years of pestering the executives of his traditional, non-flashy company to create a line of products that could be sold to anglers looking to buy premium items, he finally had his wish: a product so expensive only a small percentage of anglers could afford them.

What looked like being boxed into a corner was actually part of the plan.

When asked how he could ever put his neck on the line for a product he'd find tough to sell and even tougher to market, he revealed his brilliant plan.

"I don't need to sell one million of [these products] a year," he said. "All I need to do is sell a few hundred thousand, which won't be hard. And as far as marketing, that's easy: I'm ignoring the folks who'll buy the items. I'm targeting professional anglers, the folks the buyers are influenced by. If the pros, the influencers, talk about and use the products, people will buy them."

Such was my first introduction to how it's often wise to ignore who'll buy the product in favor of marketing to those who'll help you market and sell the product.

These influencers are a sweet spot in product marketing and they are largely ignored by many brands

Looking at content for boring industries all wrong

A few months back, I received a message in Google Plus that really piqued my interest: "What's the best way to create content for my boring business? Just kidding. No one will read it, nor share information from a painter anyway."

I went from being dismayed to disheartened. Dismayed because the business owner hadn't yet found a way to connect with his prospects through meaningful content. Disheartened because he seemed to have given up trying.

You can successfully create content for boring industries. Doing so requires nothing out of the ordinary from what you'd normally do to create content for any industry. That's the good news.

The bad news: Creating successful content for boring industries requires you think beyond content and SEO, focusing heavily on content strategy and outreach.

Successfully creating content for boring industries—or any industry, for that matter—comes down to who'll share it and who'll link to it, not who'll read it, a point nicely summed up in this tweet:

I just don't understand the mindset of 'build content --> build links to it'. Identify link opps FIRST, then create content to service them.
— Jon Cooper (@PointBlankSEO) April 7, 2015

So when businesses struggle with creating content for their respective industries, the culprits are typically easy to find:

They lack clarity on who they are creating content for (e.g., content strategy, personas) There are no specific goals (e.g., traffic, links, conversions, etc.) assigned regarding the content, so measuring its effectiveness is impossible They're stuck in neutral thinking viral content is the only option, while ignoring the value of content amplification (e.g., PR/outreach)

Alone, these three elements are bad; taken together, though, they spell doom for your brand.

If you lack clarity on who you're creating content for, the best you can hope for is that sometimes you'll create and share information members of your audience find useful, but you likely won't be able to reach or engage them with the needed frequency to make content marketing successful.

Goals, or lack thereof, are the real bugaboo of content creation. The problem is even worse for boring industries, where the pressure is on to deliver a content vehicle that meets the threshold of interest to simply gain attention, much less, earn engagement.

For all the hype about viral content, it's dismaying that so few marketers aren't being honest on the topic: it's typically hard to create, impossible to predict and typically has very, very little connection to conversions for most businesses.

What I've found is that businesses, regardless of category, struggle to create worthwhile content, leading me to believe there is no boring industry content, only content that's boring.

"Whenever we label content as 'boring,' we're really admitting we have no idea how to approach marketing something," says Builtvisible's Richard Baxter.

Now that we know what the impediments are to producing content for any industry, including boring industries, it's time to tackle the solution.

Develop a link earning mindset

There are lots of article on the web regarding how to create content for boring industries, some of which have appeared on this very blog.

But, to my mind, the one issue they all suffer from is they all focus on what content should be created, not (a) what content is worthy of promotion, (b) how to identify those who could help with promotion, and (c) how to earn links from boring industry content. (Remember, much of the content that's read is never shared; much of what's shared is never read in its entirety; and some of the most linked-to content is neither heavily shared nor heavily read.)

This is why content creators in boring industries should scrap their notions of having the most-read and most-shared content, shifting their focus to creating content that can earn links in addition to generating traffic and social signals to the site.

After all, links and conversions are the main priorities for most businesses sharing content online, including so-called local businesses.

(Image courtesy of the 2014 Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Survey)

If you're ready to create link-earning, traffic-generating content for your boring-industry business follow the tips from the fictitious example of RZ's Auto Repair, a Dallas, Texas, automobile shop.

With the Dallas-Forth Worth market being large and competitive, RZ's has narrowed their speciality to storm repair, mainly hail damage, which is huge in the area. Even with the narrowed focus, however, they still have stiff competition from the major players in the vertical, including MAACO.

What the brand does have in its favor, however, is a solid website and a strong freelance copywriter to help produce content.

Remember, those three problems we mentioned above—lack of goals, lack of clarity and lack of focus on amplification—we'll now put them to good use to drive our main objectives of traffic, links and conversions.

Setting the right goals

For RZ, this is easy: He needs sales, business (e.g., qualified leads and conversions), but he knows he must be patient since using paid media is not in the cards.

Therefore, he sits down with his partner, and they come up with what seems like the top five workable, important goals:

Increased traffic on the website - He's noticed that when traffic increases, so does his business. More phone calls - If they get a customer on the phone, the chances of closing the sale are around 75%. One blog per week on the site - The more often he blogs, the more web traffic, visits and phone calls increase. Links from some of the businesses in the area - He's no dummy. He knows the importance of links, which are that much better when they come from a large company that could send him business. Develop relationships with small and midsize non-competing businesses in the area for cross promotions, events and the like. Know the audience

(image source)

Too many businesses create cute blogs that might generate traffic but do nothing for sales. RZ isn't falling for this trap. He's all about identifying the audience who's likely to do business with him.

Luckily, his secretary is a meticulous record keeper, allowing him to build a reasonable profile of his target persona based on past clients.

21-35 years old Drives a truck that's less than fours years old Has an income of $45,000-$59,000 Employed by a corporation with greater than 500 employees Active on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter Consumes most of their information online Typically referred by a friend or a co-worker

This information will prove invaluable as he goes about creating content. Most important, these nuggets create a clearer picture of how he should go about looking for people and/or businesses to amplify his content.

PR and outreach: Your amplification engines

Armed with his goals and the knowledge of his audience, RZ can now focus on outreach for amplification, thinking along the lines of...

Who/what influences his core audience? What could he offer them by way of content to earn their help? What content would they find valuable enough to share and link to? What challenges do they face that he could help them with? How could his brand set itself apart from any other business looking for help from these potential outreach partners? Putting it all together

Being the savvy businessperson he is, RZ pulls his small staff together and they put their thinking caps on.

Late spring through early fall is prime hail storm season in Dallas. The season accounts for 80 percent of his yearly business. (The other 20% is fender benders.) Also, they realize, many of the storms happen in the late afternoon/early evening, when people are on their way home from work and are stuck in traffic, or when they duck into the grocery store or hit the gym after work.

What's more, says one of the staffers, often a huge group of clients will come at once, owing to having been parked in the same lot when a storm hits.

Eureka!

(image source)

That's when RZ bolts out of his chair with the idea that could put his business on the map: Let's create content for businesses getting a high volume of after-work traffic—sit-down restaurants, gyms, grocery stores, etc.

The businesses would be offering something of value to their customers, who'll learn about precautions to take in the event of a hail storm, and RZ would have willing amplifiers for his content.

Content is only as boring as your outlook

First—and this is a fatal mistake too many content creators make—RZ visits the handful of local businesses he'd like to partner with. The key here, however, is he smartly makes them aware that he's done his homework and is eager to help their patrons while making them aware of his service.

This is an integral part of outreach: there must be a clear benefit to the would-be benefactor.

After RZ learns that several of the businesses are amenable to sharing his business's helpful information, he takes the next step and asks what form the content should take. For now, all he can get them to promote is a glossy one-sheeter, "How To Protect Your Vehicle Against Extensive Hail Damage," that the biggest gym in the area will promote via a small display at the check-in in return for a 10% coupon for customers.

Three of the five others he talked to also agreed to promote the one-sheeter, though each said they'd be willing to promote other content investments provided they added value for their customers.

The untold truth about creating content for boring industries

When business owners reach out to me about putting together a content strategy for their boring brand, I make two things clear from the start:

There are no boring brands. Those two words are a cop out. No matter what industry you serve, there are hoards of people who use the products or services who are quite smitten. What they see as boring, I see as an opportunity.

In almost every case, they want to discuss some of another big content piece that's sure to draw eyes, engagement, and that maybe even leads to a few links. Sure, I say, if you have tons of money to spend.

(Amazing piece of interactive content created by BuiltVisible)

Assuming you don't have money to burn, and you want a plan you can replicate easily over time, try what I call the 1-2-1 approach for monthly blog content:

1: A strong piece of local content (goal: organic reach, topical relevance, local SEO)
2: Two pieces of evergreen content (goal: traffic)
1: A link-worthy asset (goal: links)

This plan is not very hard at all to pull off, provided you have your ear to the street in the local market; have done your keyword research, identifying several long-tail keywords you have the ability to rank for; and you're willing to continue with outreach.

What it does is allow the brand to create content with enough frequency to attain significance with the search engines, while also developing the habit of sharing, promoting and amplifying content as well. For example, all of the posts would be shared on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook. (Don't sleep on paid promotion via Facebook.)

Also, for the link-worthy asset, there would be outreach in advance of its creation, then amplification, and continued promotion from the company and those who've agreed to support the content.

Create a winning trifecta: Outreach, promotion and amplification

To RZ's credit, he didn't dawdle, getting right to work creating worthwhile content via the 1-2-1 method:

1: "The Worst Places in Dallas to be When a Hail Storm Hits"
2: "Can Hail Damage Cause Structural Damage to Your Car?" and "Should You Buy a Car Damaged by Hail?"
1: "Big as Hail!" contest

This contest idea came from the owner of a large local gym. RZ's will give $500 to the local homeowner who sends in the largest piece of hail, as judged by Facebook fans, during the season. In return, the gym will promote the contest at its multiple locations, link to the content promotion page on RZ's website, and share images of its fans holding large pieces of hail via social media.

What does the gym get in return: A catchy slogan (e.g., it's similar to "big as hell," popular gym parlance) to market around during the hail season.

It's a win-win for everyone involved, especially RZ.

He gets a link, but most important he realizes how to create content to nail each one of his goals. You can do the same. All it takes is a change in mindset. Away from content creation. Toward outreach, promote and amplify.

Summary

While the story of RZ's entirely fictional, it is based on techniques I've used with other small and midsize businesses. The keys, I've found, are to get away from thinking about your industry/brand as being boring, even if it is, and marshal the resources to find the audience who'll benefit from from your content and, most important, identify the influencers who'll promote and amplify it.

What are your thoughts?


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Search Trends: Are Compound Queries the start of the Shift to Data-Driven Search?

Posted by Tom-Anthony

The Web is an ever-diminishing aspect of our online lives. We increasingly use apps, wearables, smart assistants (Google Now, Siri, Cortana), smart watches, and smart TVs for searches, and none of these are returning 10 blue links. In fact, we usually don't end up on a website at all.

Apps are the natural successor, and an increasing amount of time spent optimising search is going to be spent focusing on apps. However, whilst app search is going to be very important, I don't think it is where the trend stops.

This post is about where I think the trends take us—towards what I am calling "Data-Driven Search". Along the way I am going to highlight another phenomenon: "Compound Queries". I believe these changes will dramatically alter the way search and SEO work over the next 1-3 years, and it is important we begin now to think about how that future could look.

App indexing is just the beginning

With App Indexing Google is moving beyond the bounds of the web-search paradigm which made them famous. On Android, we are now seeing blue links which are not to web pages but are deep links to open specific pages within apps:


This is interesting in and of itself, but it is also part of a larger pattern which began with things like the answer box and knowledge graph. With these, we saw that Google was shifting away from sending you somewhere else but was starting to provide the answer you were looking for right there in the SERPs. App Indexing is the next step, which moves Google from simply providing answers to enabling actions—allow you to do things.

App Indexing is going to be around for a while—but here I want to focus on this trend towards providing answers and enabling actions.

Notable technology trends

Google's mission is to build the "ultimate assistant"—something that anticipates your needs and facilitates fulfilling them. Google Now is just the beginning of what they are dreaming of.

So many of the projects and technologies that Google, and their competitors, are working on are converging with the trend towards "answers and actions", and I think this is going to lead to a really interesting evolution in searches—namely what I am calling "Data-Driven Search".

Let's look at some of the contributing technologies.

Compound queries: query revisions & chained queries

There is a lot of talk about conversational search at the moment, and it is fascinating for many reasons, but in this instance I am mostly interested in two specific facets:

Query revision Chained queries

The current model for multiple queries looks like this:

You do one query (e.g. "recipe books") and then, after looking at the results of that search, you have a better sense of exactly what it is you are looking for and so you refine your query and run another search (e.g. "vegetarian recipe books"). Notice that you do two distinct searches—with the second one mostly completely separate from the first.

Conversational search is moving us towards a new model which looks more like this, which I'm calling the Compound Query model:

In this instance, after evaluating the results I got, I don't make a new query but instead a Query Revision which relates back to that initial query. After searching "recipe books", I might follow up with "just show me the vegetarian ones". You can already do this with conversational search:

Example of a "Query Revision"—one type of Compound Query

Currently, we only see this intent revision model working in conversational search, but I expect we will see it migrate into desktop search as well. There will be a new generation of searchers who won't have been "trained" to search in the unnatural and stilted keyword-oriented that we have. They'll be used to conversational search on their phones and will apply the same patterns on desktop machines. I suspect we'll also see other changes to desktop-based search which will merge in other aspects of how conversational search results are presented. There are also other companies working on radical new interfaces, such as Scinet by Etsimo (their interface is quite radical, but the problems it solves and addresses are ones Google will likely also be working on).

So many SEO paradigms don't begin to apply in this scenario; things like keyword research and rankings are not compatible with a query model that has multiple phases.

This new query model has a second application, namely Chained Queries, where you perform an initial query, and then on receiving a response you perform a second query on the same topic (the classic example is "How tall is Justin Bieber?" followed by "How old is he?"—the second query is dependent upon the first):

Example of a Chained Query—the second type of Compound Query

It might be that in the case of chained queries, the latter queries could be converted to be standalone queries, such that they don't muddy the SEO waters quite as much as as queries that have revisions. However, I'm not sure that this necessarily stands true, because every query in a chain adds context that makes it much easier for Google to accurately determine your intent in later queries.

If you are not convinced, consider that in the example above, as is often the case in examples (such as the Justin Bieber example), it is usually clear from the formulation that this is explicitly a chained query. However—there are chained queries where it is not necessarily clear that the current query is chained to the previous. To illustrate this, I've borrowed an example which Behshad Behzadi, Director of Conversational Search at Google, showed at SMX Munich last month:

Example of a "hidden" Chained Query—it is not explicit that the last search refers to the previous one.

If you didn't see the first search for "pictures of mario" before the second and third examples, it might not be immediately obvious that the second "pictures of mario" query has taken into account the previous search. There are bound to be far more subtle examples than this.

New interfaces

The days of all Google searches coming solely via a desktop-based web browser are already long since dead, but mobile users using voice search are just the start of the change—there is an ongoing divergence of interfaces. I'm focusing here on the output interfaces—i.e., how we consume the results from a search on a specific device.

The primary device category that springs to mind is that of wearables and smart watches, which have a variety of ways in which they communicate with their users:

Compact screens—devices like the Apple Watch and Microsoft Band have compact form factor screens, which allow for visual results, but not in the same format as days gone by—a list of web links won't be helpful. Audio—with Siri, Google Now, and Cortana all becoming available via wearable interfaces (that pair to smart phones) users can also consume results as voice. Vibrations—the Apple Watch can give users directions using vibrations to signal left and right turns without needing to look or listen to the device. Getting directions already covers a number of searches, but you could imagine this also being useful for various yes/no queries (e.g. "is my train on time?").

Each of these methods is incompatible with the old "title & snippet" method that made up the 10 blue links, but furthermore they are also all different from one another.

What is clear is that there is going to need to be an increase in the forms in which search engines can respond to an identical query, with responses being adaptive to the way in which the user will consume their result.

We will also see queries where the query may be "handed off" to another device: imagine me doing a search for a location on my phone and then using my watch to give me direction. Apple already has "Handover"which does this in various contexts, and I expect we'll see the concept taken further.

This is related to Google increasingly providing us with encapsulated answers, rather than links to websites—especially true on wearables and smart devices. The interesting phenomenon here is that these answers don't specify a specific layout, like a webpage does. The data and the layout are separated.

Which leads us to...

Cards

Made popular by Google Now, cards are prevalent in both iOS and Android, as well as on social platforms. They are a growing facet of the mobile experience:

Cards provide small units of information in an accessible chunk, often with a link to dig deeper by flipping a card over or by linking through to an app.

Cards exactly fit into the paradigm above—they are more concerned with the data you will see and less so about the way in which you will see it. The same cards look different in different places.

Furthermore, we are entering a point where you can now do more and more from a card, rather than it leading you into an app to do more. You can response to messages, reply to tweets, like and re-share, and all sorts of things all from cards, without opening an app; I highly recommend this blog post which explores this phenomenon.

It seems likely we'll see Google Now (and mobile search as it becomes more like Google Now) allowing you to do more and more right from cards themselves—many of these things will be actions facilitated by other parties (by way of APIs of schema.org actions). In this way Google will become a "junction box" sitting between us and third parties who provide services; they'll find an API/service provider and return us a snippet of data showing us options and then enable us to pass back data representing our response to the relevant API.

Shared screens

The next piece of the puzzle is "shared screens", which covers several things. This starts with Google Chromecast, which has popularised the ability to "throw" things from one screen to another. At home, any guests I have over who join my wifi are able to "throw" a YouTube video from their mobile phone to my TV via the Chromecast. The same is true for people in the meeting rooms at Distilled offices and in a variety of other public spaces.

I can natively throw a variety of things: photos, YouTube videos, movies on Netflix etc., etc. How long until that includes searches? How long until I can throw the results of a search on an iPad on to the TV to show my wife the holiday options I'm looking at? Sure we can do that by sharing the whole screen now, but how long until, like photos of YouTube videos, the search results I throw to the TV take on a new layout that is suitable for that larger screen?

You can immediately see how this links back to the concept of cards and interfaces outlined above; I'm moving data from screen to screen, and between devices that provide different interfaces.

These concepts are all very related to the concept of "fluid mobility" that Microsoft recently presented in their Productivity Future Vision released in February this year.

An evolution of this is if we reach the point that some people have envisioned, whereby many offices workers, who don't require huge computational power, no longer have computers at their desks. Instead their desks just house dumb terminals: a display, keyboard and mouse which connect to the phone in their pockets which provides the processing power.

In this scenario, it becomes even more usual for people to be switching interfaces "mid task" (including searches)—you do a search at your desk at work (powered by your phone), then continue to review the results on the train home on the phone itself before browsing further on your TV at home.

Email structured markup

This deserves a quick mention—it is another data point in the trend of "enabling action". It doesn't seem to be common knowledge that you can use structured markup and schema.org markup in emails, which works in both Gmail and Google Inbox.

Editor's note: Stay tuned for more on this in tomorrow's post!

The main concepts they introduce are "highlights" and "actions"—sound familiar? You can define actions that become buttons in emails allowing people to confirm, save, review, RSVP, etc. with a single click right in the email.

Currently, you have to apply to Google for them to whitelist emails you send out in order for them to mark the emails up, but I expect we'll see this rolling out more and more. It may not seem directly search-related but if you're building the "ultimate personal assistant", then merging products like Google Now and Google Inbox would be a good place to start.

The rise of data-driven search

There is a common theme running through all of the above technologies and trends, namely data:

We are increasingly requesting from Search Engines snippets of data, rather than links to strictly formatted web content We are increasingly being provided the option for direct action without going to an app/website/whatever by providing a snippet of data with our response/request

I think in the next 2 years small payloads of data will be the new currency of Google. Web search won't go away anytime soon, but large parts of it will be subsumed into the data driven paradigm. Projects like Knowledge Vault, which aims to dislodge the Freebase/Wikipedia (i.e. manually curated) powered Knowledge Graph by pulling facts directly from the text of all pages on the web, will mean mining the web for parcels of data become feasible at scale. This will mean that Google knows where to look for specific bits of data and can extract and return this data directly to the user.

How all this might change the way users and search engines interact:

The move towards compound queries will mean it becomes more natural for people to use Google to "interact" with data in an iterative process; Google won't just send us to a set of data somewhere else but will help us sift through it all. Shared screens will mean that search results will need to be increasingly device agnostic. The next generation of technologies such as Apple Handover and Google Chromecast will mean we increasingly pass results between devices where they may take on a new layout. Cards will be one part of making that possible by ensuring that results can rendered in various formats. Users will become more and more accustomed to interacting with sets of cards. The focus on actions will mean that Google plugs directly into APIs such that they can connect users with third party backends and enable that right there in their interface. What we should be doing

I don't have a good answer to this—which is exactly why we need to talk about it more.

Firstly, what is obvious is that lots of the old facets of technical SEO are already breaking down. For example, as I mentioned above, things like keyword research and rankings don't fit well with the conversational search model where compound queries are prevalent. This will only become more and more the case as we go further down the rabbit hole. We need to educate clients and work out what new metrics help us establish how Google perceive us.

Secondly, I can't escape the feeling that APIs are not only going to increase further in importance, but also become more "mainstream". Think how over the years ownership of company websites started in the technical departments and migrated to marketing teams—I think we could see a similar pattern with more core teams being involved in APIs. If Google wants to connect to APIs to retrieve data and help users do things, then more teams within a business are going to want to weigh in on what it can do.

APIs might seem out of the reach and unnecessary for many businesses (exactly as websites used to...), but structured markup and schema.org are like a "lite API"—enabling programmatic access to your data and even now to actions available via your website. This will provide a nice stepping stone where needed (and might even be sufficient).

Lastly, if this vision of things does play out, then much of our search behaviour could be imagined to be a sophisticated take on faceted navigation—we do an initial search and then sift through and refine the data we get back to drill down to the exact morsels we were looking for. I could envision "Query Revision" queries where the initial search happens within Google's index ("science fiction books") but subsequent searches happen in someone else's, for example Amazon's, "index" ('show me just those with 5 stars and more than 10 reviews that were released in the last 5 years').

If that is the case, then what I will be doing is ensuring that Distilled's clients have a thorough and accurate "indexes" with plenty of supplementary information that users could find useful. A few years ago we started worrying about ensuring our clients' websites have plenty of unique content, and this would see us worrying about ensuring they have a thorough "index" for their product/service. We should be doing that already, but suddenly it isn't going to be just a conversion factor, but a ranking factor too (following the same trend as many other signals, in that regard)

Discussion

Please jump in the comments, or tweet me at @TomAnthonySEO, with your thoughts. I am sure many of the details for how I have envisioned this may not be perfectly accurate, but directionally I'm confident and I want to hear from others with their ideas.


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Got 60 Seconds? Learn Something New in These 25 Short & Sweet SlideShares About Social Media

Slide decks exist somewhere near the intersection of visual content and written content, a hybrid form of information and consumption perfect for bite-sized bits of learning.

If you’ve not got time to read through a 2,000-word article, you might have a moment to flip through a SlideShare.

We’ve been excited to experiment with the process of building slide decks around the Buffer content we have here on the blog, and in the course of doing so, we discovered a trove of wonderfully succinct and visual slide decks all about our favorite topic: social media.

We’ve collected a great group of 25 here—the first handful from our top Buffer posts and another handful from the amazing selection on SlideShare. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite!


A quick note in praise of SlideShare

With our main marketing focus on creating useful content via the Buffer Social blog, I’ve been a bit slow to experiment and fully explore other ways to provide content in a helpful way to you. I’d love to improve here. And SlideShare has been a huge source of encouragement.

Get this: Our most popular SlideShares match or exceed the traffic we get on our most popular blog posts.

In our case, we’re very grateful that popular Buffer blog posts can get 75,000 to 100,000 views.

Our popular SlideShares can go just as big—or bigger!

Frequency Guide – 205,000 views If Don Draper Tweeted – 74,000 views Social Media Strategy – 73,000 views Twitter Science – 64,000 views

If you’ve yet to explore SlideShare as a potential source of views and exposure, I’d highly encourage you to do so. (I’d be happy to write more detail in a post on the topic later on!)

Okay, now on with the SlideShares!

1. The Complete Guide to Social Media Frequency

One of our most popular posts on the blog also became the most popular SlideShare to date on our Buffer account. We were fortunate to find some really great research on the topic of how often you should post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. It’s all here.

My favorite slide:

2. The 10 Best Copywriting Formulas for Social Media Updates

Based on our big list of copywriting formulas (over 25 formulas made it into the original post), this slide deck covers a quick overview of the top formulas we see on social. There’s some really great subtle framing at play here, with things like Before – After – Bridge and AIDA that make it easy to get your message across.


My favorite slide:

3. The Science of Twitter

We had the great opportunity to partner with Twitter on a webinar last summer. The topic (one of our favorites): The science of creating must-click content on Twitter. 

Courtney and Twitter’s Jimmy Hang shared all sorts of tips on the best words to use, the ideal timing, and the top strategies for Twitter success.

My favorite slide:

4. Instagram 101

We’ve been really excited to explore different ways to grow the Buffer Instagram account, and before we dove in headfirst there, we spent some time researching and writing (and creating SlideShares) about the best strategies and stats. This SlideShare lays a good foundation for businesses looking to get started on Instagram.

My favorite slide:

5. How Much Time Does a Good Social Strategy Take?

Time-saving tips and techniques are one of my favorite ways to experiment with marketing. It seems that coming up with a solid social media strategy is one key way to make sure you’re spending your time online in the best way possible. We collected a number of tips here in this SlideShare overview for those looking to refine their social strategy.

My favorite slide:

6. The Burrito Principle & Beyond

I’ll admit it’s hard to resist the cleverness of a name like The Burrito Principle (thanks, Darian!).  Coined phrases like this make marketing ideas all the easier to grasp. We collected a handful of favorite ones in this slide deck.

(The burrito principle, by the way, is explained on Slide #4.)

My favorite slide:

7. The Science of Social Media Headlines

Courtney pulled in some amazing research into the psychology and science behind why we click on certain headlines. She identified 8 ways to write a social media headline that people will love, including things like curiosity, surprise, negatives, and more.

My favorite slide (a bit of an inside joke about the proliferation of great content—and a good headline to boot!):

8. 91 Free Twitter Tools

I just really love tools posts, and I had a blast trying out hundreds of free Twitter tools to compile this list for you. If you think it might be worth a quick browse, I’d hope that maybe a name or two might pique your interest enough to give it a try. Some of my best tool discoveries started out that way!

My favorite slide:

9. Power Words – 189 Words That Convert

I tend to notice specific words that cause me to click or pay attention. And it seems there are certain words that catch the eye of not just me but many, many others. These so-called “power words” can be great additions to the text in your social media updates or headlines. Here’s a great big list of them.

My favorite slide:

10. Headline Formulas

As mentioned above, there’s a certain psychology to writing headlines that get noticed. There are also certain formulas that tend to work really well. This list compiles several of the most popular ones used in blog posts and social media updates.

My favorite slide:

11. 20 Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin & Pinterest Features You Didn’t Know Existed

(via HubSpot)

What I love about this slide deck is that it includes the good kind of FOMO—helpful social media features that could significantly impact my workflow. It’s great to learn about these hidden features like Facebook polls and Twitter collages and exciting to brainstorm ways to put them to good use.

My favorite slide:

12. Psychology Hacks to Boost your Marketing

(via Moving Targets)

Psychology is near and dear to us on the Buffer marketing team, so we’re always keen for articles and slides on the topic. This set of psychology tips from Moving Targets covers a huge variety of different tactics that would be fun to experiment with on social media updates and more.

My favorite slide:

13. Seven Habits of Highly Effective Digital Marketers

(via Digital Annexe)

A riff of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this slide deck takes a high-level view of ways to help organize and plan ahead your social media strategy. 

My favorite slide:

14. How to Choose the Perfect Stock Photo

(via IMPACT Branding & Design)

This is a very fun and entertaining slide deck all about stock photos. The advice comes in handy for anyone who’s searched around free photo sites for the perfect image to add to a blog post or include in a social media update.

My favorite slide:

15. 6 Snapchat Hacks Too Easy To Ignore

(via Gary Vaynerchuk)

Are you on Snapchat? Gary Vaynerchuk highly recommends it (he’s found a lot of success there, and the app has huge reach!). Here are six easy ways to make the most of Snapchat for your brand.

My favorite slide:

16. 5 Critical Rules for Writing Compelling Copy

(via Henneke Duistermaat)

One of my favorite sources for writing inspiration, Henneke lays out five simple-to-follow rules that will improve the copy you write for tweets, updates, and calls-to-action.

My favorite slide:

17. 4 Tactics to Build Word Of Mouth

(via ReferralCandy)

Word of mouth can be huge on social media. It’s often how things spread fast and how people feel comfortable making purchases or joining up with brands. Referral Candy’s slide deck on word of mouth strategies covers four essential parts of the formula, with detailed tips on each technique.

My favorite slide:

18. Social Media for Time-Strapped Entrepreneurs

(via We Are Social)

Working effectively and efficiently (see slide below) is key for those of us social media marketers who manage social in addition to wearing many other hats. This deck from We Are Social looks at ways to ensure that your time is well spent on social media, including ways to plan ahead and strategies to make the most of every minute.

My favorite slide:

19. Sharing Content On Social Media More Than Once: The Total Guide

(via CoSchedule)

Do you share your content more than once on social media? It’s one of our top social media tips as we’ve seen tons of additional engagement by mentioning blog posts more than once and finding new ways to share old content. CoSchedule is a source of inspiration for us on this topic, and their slide deck guide to sharing is chock full of good information on exactly how best to share content on social.

My favorite slide:

20. Finding Your Brand’s Voice

(via from Distilled)

When thinking about your social media strategy, voice and tone are two huge considerations to make as you’re getting started. One of the best sources out there for advice on brand voice is Distilled’s articles on the topic, which have been repurposed here in slide deck form.

My favorite slide:

21. The Secret of Success on Facebook

(via Peter Minkjan)

Catchy title! This guide from Peter Minkian includes examples of Facebook pages who have seen enormous engagement on their Facebook posts as well as analysis and research on viral content and what makes things spread.

My favorite slide:

22. 5 YouTube Marketing Lessons from Unlikely Sources

(via Brian Honigman)

Video marketing has become big business of late, particularly as a way to get more interaction on Facebook. YouTube remains a huge channel also for those looking to build a video platform and share video content. The tips in this slide deck from Brian Honigman offer some actionable ways to get more out of your YouTube marketing by cross-promoting and remixing content in new ways.

My favorite slide:

23. 7 Proven Strategies to Maximize Twitter for Your Business

(via Dave Kerpen)

This slide deck from Likeable Media and Social Media Today provides a great overview of some quick-win strategies on Twitter. For example, reply to everyone (see slide below)—80 percent of customer service queries go unanswered. Lots more great ideas to implement throughout the slide deck.

My favorite slide:

24. 19 Simple Twitter Retweet Tips

(via Shéa Bennett)

Retweets seem to be a favorite metric on Twitter, and for good reason: retweeting gets your content in front of a brand new, potentially huge audience. The tips in this deck make a lot of sense for those looking for more retweets, and they also work really well for anyone looking to boost engagement in general—more clicks, more favorites, more replies.

My favorite slide:

25. 10 Reasons Why Twitter is Content Marketing’s Best Friend

(via Mark Schaefer)

As a content person, I really love this deck from Mark Schaefer as it reaffirms the power of social media for helping to spread content. Twitter in particular is a powerful platform for sharing links and growing an audience, and Mark lays things out clearly here.

My favorite slide:

Over to you

Do you have a favorite SlideShare that isn’t on the list here?

I’d love to know which ones you enjoy and if you picked up any good tips from the ones in this post. We’re excited to push ahead with creating more slide decks based on Buffer content also, and it’d be so great to have any input from you on what would be most helpful!

Image sources: Startup Stock Photos, Pablo, IconFinder

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How Google May Use Searcher, Usage, & Clickstream Behavior to Impact Rankings - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A recent patent from Google suggests a new kind of influence in the rankings that has immense implications for marketers. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses what it says, what that means, and adds a twist of his own to get us thinking about where Google might be heading.

For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week let's chat about some things that Google is learning about web searchers and web surfers that may be impacting the rankings.

I was pretty psyched to see a patent a few weeks ago that had been granted actually to Google, so filed a while before that. That patent came from Navneet Panda who, as many in the SEO space may remember, is also the engineer for whom Panda, the Panda Update from Google, is named after. Bill Slawski did a great analysis of the patent on his website, and you can check that out, along with some of the other patent diagrams themselves. Patents can be a little confusing and weird, especially the language, but this one had some surprising clarity to it and some potentially obvious applications for web marketers too.

Deciphering searcher intent

So, in this case, Googlebot here -- I've anthropomorphized him, my Googlebot there, nicely -- is thinking about the queries that are being performed in Google search engine and basically saying, "Huh, if I see lots of people searching for things like 'find email address,' 'email address tool,' 'email finder,' and then I also see a lot of search queries similar to those but with an additional branded element, like 'VoilaNorbert email tool' or 'Norbert email finder' or 'how to find email Norbert,' or even things like 'email site:voilanorbert.com,'" Googlebot might actually say, "Hmm, lots of searchers who look for these kinds of queries seem to be also looking for this particular brand."

You can imagine this in tons and tons of ways. Lots of people searching for restaurants also search for Yelp. Lots of people searching for hotels also add in queries like "Trip Advisor." Lots of people searching for homes to buy also add in Zillow. These brands that essentially get known and combined and perform very well in these non-branded searches, one of the ways that Google might be thinking about that is because they see a lot of branded search that includes the unbranded words around that site.

Google's site quality patent

In Panda's site quality patent -- and Navneet Panda wasn't the only author on this patent, but one of the ones we recognize -- what's described is essentially that this algorithm, well not algorithm, very simplistic equation. I'm sure much more than simplistic than what Google's actually using if they are actually using this. Remember, when it comes to patents, they usually way oversimplify that type of stuff because they don't want to get exactly what they're doing out there in the public. But they have this equation that looks like this: Number of unique searchers for the brand or keyword X -- so essentially, this is kind of a searches, searchers. They're trying to identify only unique quantities of people doing it, looking at things like IP address and device and location and all of that to try and identify just the unique people who are performing this -- divided by the number of unique searches for the non-branded version.

So branded divided by non-branded equals some sort of site quality score for keyword X. If a lot more people are performing a search for "Trip Advisor + California vacations" than are performing searches for just "California vacations," then the site quality score for Trip Advisor when it comes to the keyword "California vacations" might be quite high.

You can imagine that if we take another brand -- let's say a brand that folks are less familiar with, WhereToGoInTheWorld.com -- and there's very, very few searches for that brand plus "California vacations," and there's lots of searches for the unbranded version, the site quality score for WhereToGoInTheWorld.com is going to be much lower. I don't even think that's a real website, but regardless.

Rand's theory

Now, I want to add one more wrinkle on to this. I think one of the things that struck me as being almost obvious but not literally mentioned in this specific patent was my theory that this also applies to clickstream data. You can see this happening obviously already in personalization, personalized search, but I think it might be happening in non-personalized search as well, and that is essentially through Android and through Chrome, which I've drawn these lovely logos just for you. Google knows basically where everyone goes on the web and what everyone does on the web. They see this performance.

So they can look and see the clickstream for a lot of people's process is a searcher goes and searches for "find email address tool," and then they find this resource from Distilled and Distilled mentions Rob Ousbey's account -- I think it was from Rob Ousbey that that original resource came out -- and they follow him and then they follow me and they see that I tweeted about VoilaNorbert. Voila, they make it to VoilaNorbert.com's website, where their search ends. They're no longer looking for this information. They've now found a source that sort of answers their desire, their intent. Google might go, "Huh, you know, why not just rank this? Why rank this one when we could just put this there? Because this seems to be the thing that is answering the searcher's problem. It's taking care of their issue."

So what does this mean for us?

This is tough for marketers. I think both of these, the query formatting and the potential clickstream uses, suggest a world in which building up your brand association and building up the stream of traffic to your website that's solving a problem not just for searchers, but for potential searchers and people with that issue, whether they search or not, is part of SEO. I think that's going to mean that things like branding and things like attracting traffic from other sources, from social, from email, from content, from direct, from offline, and word-of-mouth, that all of those things are going to become part of the SEO equation. If we don't do those things well, in the long term, we might do great SEO, kind of classic, old-school keywords and links and crawl and rankings SEO and miss out on this important piece that's on the rise.

I'm looking forward to some great comments and your theories as well. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics

Posted by kristihines

If you don't know what Google Analytics is, haven't installed it on your website, or have installed it but never look at your data, then this post is for you. While it's hard for many to believe, there are still websites that are not using Google Analytics (or any analytics, for that matter) to measure their traffic. In this post, we're going to look at Google Analytics from the absolute beginner's point of view. Why you need it, how to get it, how to use it, and workarounds to common problems.

Why every website owner needs Google Analytics

Do you have a blog? Do you have a static website? If the answer is yes, whether they are for personal or business use, then you need Google Analytics. Here are just a few of the many questions about your website that you can answer using Google Analytics.

How many people visit my website? Where do my visitors live? Do I need a mobile-friendly website? What websites send traffic to my website? What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website? Which pages on my website are the most popular? How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers? Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website? How can I improve my website's speed? What blog content do my visitors like the most?

There are many, many additional questions that Google Analytics can answer, but these are the ones that are most important for most website owners. Now let's look at how you can get Google Analytics on your website.

How to install Google Analytics

First, you need a Google Analytics account. If you have a primary Google account that you use for other services like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google+, or YouTube, then you should set up your Google Analytics using that Google account. Or you will need to create a new one.

This should be a Google account you plan to keep forever and that only you have access to. You can always grant access to your Google Analytics to other people down the road, but you don't want someone else to have full control over it.

Big tip: don't let your anyone (your web designer, web developer, web host, SEO person, etc.) create your website's Google Analytics account under their own Google account so they can "manage" it for you. If you and this person part ways, they will take your Google Analytics data with them, and you will have to start all over.

Set up your account and property

Once you have a Google account, you can go to Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics.

After you click the Sign Up button, you will fill out information for your website.

Google Analytics offers hierarchies to organize your account. You can have up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account. You can have up to 50 website properties under one Google Analytics account. You can have up to 25 views under one website property.

Here are a few scenarios.

SCENARIO 1: If you have one website, you only need one Google Analytics account with one website property. SCENARIO 2: If you have two websites, such as one for your business and one for your personal use, you might want to create two accounts, naming one "123Business" and one "Personal". Then you will set up your business website under the 123Business account and your personal website under your Personal account. SCENARIO 3: If you have several businesses, but less than 50, and each of them has one website, you might want to put them all under a Business account. Then have a Personal account for your personal websites. SCENARIO 4: If you have several businesses and each of them has dozens of websites, for a total of more than 50 websites, you might want to put each business under its own account, such as 123Business account, 124Business account, and so on.

There are no right or wrong ways to set up your Google Analytics account—it's just a matter of how you want to organize your sites. You can always rename your accounts or properties down the road. Note that you can't move a property (website) from one Google Analytics account to another—you would have to set up a new property under the new account and lose the historical data you collected from the original property.

For the absolute beginner's guide, we're going to assume you have one website and only need one view (the default, all data view. The setup would look something like this.

Beneath this, you will have the option to configure where your Google Analytics data can be shared.

Install your tracking code

Once you are finished, you will click the Get Tracking ID button. You will get a popup of the Google Analytics terms and conditions, which you have to agree to. Then you will get your Google Analytics code.

This must be installed on every page on your website. The installation will depend on what type of website you have. For example, I have a WordPress website on my own domain using the Genesis Framework. This framework has a specific area to add header and footer scripts to my website.

Alternatively, if you have a WordPress on your own domain, you can use the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to install your code easily no matter what theme or framework you are using.

If you have a website built with HTML files, you will add the tracking code before the </head> tag on each of your pages. You can do this by using a text editor program (such as TextEdit for Mac or Notepad for Windows) and then uploading the file to your web host using an FTP program (such as FileZilla).

If you have a Shopify e-commerce store, you will go to your Online Store settings and paste in your tracking code where specified.

If you have a blog on Tumblr, you will go to your blog, click the Edit Theme button at the top right of your blog, and then enter just the Google Analytics ID in your settings.

As you can see, the installation of Google Analytics varies based on the platform you use (content management system, website builder, e-commerce software, etc.), the theme you use, and the plugins you use. You should be able to find easy instructions to install Google Analytics on any website by doing a web search for your platform + how to install Google Analytics.

Set up goals

After you install your tracking code on your website, you will want to configure a small (but very useful) setting in your website's profile on Google Analytics. This is your Goals setting. You can find it by clicking on the Admin link at the top of your Google Analytics and then clicking on Goals under your website's View column.

Goals will tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website. For example, if you have a website where you generate leads through a contact form, you will want to find (or create) a thank you page that visitors end upon once they have submitted their contact information. Or, if you have a website where you sell products, you will want to find (or create) a final thank you or confirmation page for visitors to land upon once they have completed a purchase.

That URL will likely look something like this.

http://123business.com/thank-you http://123business.com/thank-you/ http://123business.com/thank-you.html

In Google Analytics, you will click on the New Goal button.

You will choose the Custom option (unless one of the other options are more applicable to your website) and click the Next Step button.

You will name your goal something you will remember, select Destination, and then click the Next Step button.

You will enter your thank you or confirmation page's URL after the .com of your website in the Destination field and change the drop-down to "Begins with".

You will then toggle the value and enter a specific dollar value for that conversion (if applicable) and click Create Goal to complete the setup.

If you have other similar goals / conversions you would like to track on your website, you can follow these steps again. You can create up to 20 goals on your website. Be sure that the ones you create are highly important to your business. These goals (for most businesses) include lead form submissions, email list sign ups, and purchase completions. Depending on your website and its purpose, your goals may vary.

Note that this is the simplest of all conversion tracking in Google Analytics. You can review the documentation in Google Analytics support to learn more about setting up goal tracking.

Set up site search

Another thing you can set up really quickly that will give you valuable data down the road is Site Search. This is for any website with a search box on it, like the search box at the top of the Moz Blog.

First, run a search on your website. Then keep the tab open. You will need the URL momentarily.

Go to your Google Analytics Admin menu again, and in the View column, click on View Settings.

Scroll down until you see Site Settings and toggle it to On.

Look back at your URL for your search results. Enter the query parameter (usually s or q) and click Save. On Moz, for example, the query parameter is q.

This will allow Google Analytics to track any searches made on your website so you can learn more about what your visitors are looking for on specific pages.

Add additional accounts and properties

If you want to add a new Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Account column, and clicking the Create New Account link.

Likewise, if you want to add a new website under your Google Analytics account, you can do so by going to your Admin menu, clicking on the drop-down under the Property column, and clicking the Create New Property link.

Then you will continue through all of the above-mentioned steps.

Once you've installed Google Analytics on your website(s), set up your goals, and set up site search(es), you should wait about 24 hours for it to start getting data. Then you will be able to start viewing your data.

How to view Google Analytics data

Once you start getting in Google Analytics data, you can start learning about your website traffic. Each time you log in to Google Analytics, you will be taken to your Audience Overview report. Alternatively, if you have more than one website, you will be taken to your list of websites to choose from, and then taken to the Audience Overview report for that website. This is the first of over 50 reports that are available to you in Google Analytics. You can also access these reports by clicking on the Reporting link at the top.

Standard report features

Most of the standard reports within Google Analytics will look similar to this. At the top right, you can click on the drop-down arrow next to your website to switch to different websites within all of your Google Analytics accounts. Or you can click the Home link at the top.

In the report at the top right, you can click on the dates to change the date range of the data you are viewing. You can also check the Compare box to compare your data from one date range (such as this month) to a previous date range (such as last month) to view your data.

You can hover over a variety of areas on your Google Analytics reports to get more information. For example, in the Audience Overview, hovering over the line on the graph will give you the number of sessions for a particular day. Hovering over the metrics beneath the graph will tell you what each one means.

Beneath the main metrics, you will see reports that you can switch through to see the top ten languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, services providers, and screen resolutions of your visitors.

You can click the full report link on each to see the full reports. Or you can click on any of the top ten links to see more details. For example, clicking on the United States in Countries will take you to the full Location report, focused in on visitors from states within the US.

In this view, you can hover over each state to see the number of visitors from that state. You can scroll down to the table and hover over each column name to learn more about each metric.

You can also click on the name of each state to see visitors from cities within the state. Effectively, any time you see a clickable link or a ? next to something, you can click on it or hover over it to learn more. The deeper you dive into your analytics, the more interesting information you will find.

Types of Google Analytics reports

Speaking of reports, here is quick summary of what you will find in each of the standard Google Analytics reporting sections, accessible in the left sidebar.

Everything in (parenthesis) is a specific report or set of reports within the following sections that you can refer to.

Audience reports

These reports tell you everything you want to know about your visitors. In them, you will find detailed reports for your visitors' age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location) and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).

Acquisition reports

These reports will tell you everything you want to know about what drove visitors to your website (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium).

You can learn everything about traffic from social networks (Social). You can also connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization)

Behavior reports

These reports will tell you everything you want to know about your content. Particularly, the top pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages).

If you set up Site Search, you will be able to see what terms are searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages they are searched upon (Site Search > Pages).

You can also learn how fast your website loads (Site Speed) as well as find specific suggestions from Google on how to make your website faster (Site Speed > Speed Suggestions).

Conversions

If you set up Goals within your Google Analytics, you can see how many conversions your website has received (Goals > Overview) and what URLs they happened upon (Goals > Goal URLs). You can also see the path that visitors took to complete the conversion (Goals > Reverse Goal Path).

Speaking of goals and conversions, most of the tables within Google Analytics standard reports will tie specific data to your conversions. For example, you can see the number of conversions made by visitors from California in the Audience > Geo > Location report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors from Facebook in the Acquisitions > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors who landed on specific pages in the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report.

If you have multiple goals, you can use the dropdown at the top of that section of data to switch to the goal you want to view or all of your goals if you prefer.

Shortcuts and emails

While you won't need every report within Google Analytics, you should explore them all to see what they have to offer. When you find some that you want to visit again and again, use the Shortcut link at the top of the report to add them to the Shortcuts in your left sidebar for faster access.

Or, use the email button to have them emailed to you (or others on your team) on a regular basis.

If you choose to send emails to someone outside of your organization, be sure to regularly check your emails by going to your Admin menu and clicking on the Scheduled Emails box under the View column to ensure only people working with your company are getting your data.

Answers to common questions about Google Analytics

Got a few questions? Here are some of the common ones that come up with Google Analytics.

How do I share my Google Analytics data with someone?

You don't have to give your Google account information over to someone who needs access to your Google Analytics data. You just need to go to your Admin menu and under the Account, Property (website) or View you want someone to see, click the User Management menu.

From there, you can add the email address of anyone you would like to view your Google Analytics data and choose the permissions you would like them to have.

I don't like viewing the reports in Google Analytics. Can someone just summarize the data for me?

Yes! Quill Engage is a service that will take your Google Analytics data and summarize it in an easy-to-read report for you. Best of all, it's free for up to ten profiles (websites).

I have a dozen websites, and I don't want to check each of their Google Analytics on a daily basis. What do I do?

You have two options in this scenario. You start by going to the Home screen of Google Analytics. There, you will find a listing of all your websites and an overview of the top metrics—sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

You can also try business dashboard solutions like Cyfe. For $19 a month, you can create unlimited dashboards with unlimited widgets, including a large selection of data from Google Analytics, alongside data from your social media networks, keyword rankings, Moz stats, and more.

This solution significantly cuts down on the time spent looking at analytics across the board for your entire business.

Google Analytics says that 90%+ of my organic keywords are (not provided). Where can I find that information?

(not provided) is Google's way of protecting search engine user's privacy by hiding the keywords they use to discover your website in search results. Tools like Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console, free), Authority Lab's Now Provided Reports (paid), and Hittail (paid) can all help you uncover some of those keywords.

They won't be linked to your conversions or other Google Analytics data, but at least you will have some clue what keywords searchers are using to find your website.

How do I use Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments?

If you're ready to move to the next level in Google Analytics, Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments are the way to go.

Custom Reports (under the Customization menu at the top) allow you to create reports that look similar to the standard Google Analytics reports with the metrics you want to view.

Dashboards allow you to view your Google Analytics data in a dashboard format. You can access them at the top of the left sidebar.

Segments allow you to view all of your Google Analytics data based on a specific dimension, such as all of your Google Analytics data based on visitors from the United States. You can also use them to compare up to four segments of data, such as United States versus United Kingdom traffic, search versus social traffic, mobile versus desktop traffic, and more. You can access Segments in each of your reports.

The nice part about these is that you don't have to create them from scratch. You can start by using pre-defined Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments from the Google Solutions Gallery.

There, you will find lots of Custom Reports, Dashboards, Segments, and other solutions that you can import into your Google Analytics and edit to fit your needs. Edit Custom Reports with the Edit button at the top.

Edit Dashboards using the Add Widget or Customize Dashboard buttons at the top.

Edit Segments by clicking the Action button inside the Segments selector box and choosing Edit.

Or, when you have applied Segments to your reports, use the drop-down arrow at the top right to find the Edit option.

As you get used to editing Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments, you will get more familiar with the way each works so you can create new ones on your own.

In conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this beginner's introduction to Google Analytics for beginners. If you're a beginner and have a burning questions, please ask in the comments. I'll be happy to help!


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The Colossus Update: Waking The Giant

Posted by Dr-Pete

Yesterday morning, we woke up to a historically massive temperature spike on MozCast, after an unusually quiet weekend. The 10-day weather looked like this:

That's 101.8°F, one of the hottest verified days on record, second only to a series of unconfirmed spikes in June of 2013. For reference, the first Penguin update clocked in at 93.1°.

Unfortunately, trying to determine how the algorithm changed from looking at individual keywords (even thousands of them) is more art than science, and even the art is more often Ms. Johnson's Kindergarten class than Picasso. Sometimes, though, we catch a break and spot something.

The First Clue: HTTPS

When you watch enough SERPs, you start to realize that change is normal. So, the trick is to find the queries that changed a lot on the day in question but are historically quiet. Looking at a few of these, I noticed some apparent shake-ups in HTTP vs. HTTPS (secure) URLs. So, the question becomes: are these anecdotes, or do they represent a pattern?

I dove in and looked at how many URLs for our 10,000 page-1 SERPs were HTTPS over the past few days, and I saw this:

On the morning of June 17, HTTPS URLs on page 1 jumped from 16.9% to 18.4% (a 9.9% day-over-day increase), after trending up for a few days. This represents the total real-estate occupied by HTTPS URLs, but how did rankings fare? Here are the average rankings across all HTTPS results:

HTTPS URLs also seem to have gotten a rankings boost – dropping (with "dropping" being a positive thing) from an average of 2.96 to 2.79 in the space of 24 hours.

Seems pretty convincing, right? Here's the problem: rankings don't just change because Google changes the algorithm. We are, collectively, changing the web every minute of the day. Often, those changes are just background noise (and there's a lot of noise), but sometimes a giant awakens.

The Second Clue: Wikipedia

Anecdotally, I noticed that some Wikipedia URLs seemed to be flipping from HTTP to HTTPS. I ran a quick count, and this wasn't just a fluke. It turns out that Wikipedia started switching their entire site to HTTPS around June 12 (hat tip to Jan Dunlop). This change is expected to take a couple of weeks.

It's just one site, though, right? Well, historically, this one site is the #1 largest land-holder across the SERP real-estate we track, with over 5% of the total page-1 URLs in our tracking data (5.19% as of June 17). Wikipedia is a giant, and its movements can shake the entire web.

So, how do we tease this apart? If Wikipedia's URLs had simply flipped from HTTP to HTTPS, we should see a pretty standard pattern of shake-up. Those URLs would look to have changed, but the SERPS around them would be quiet. So, I ran an analysis of what the temperature would've been if we ignored the protocol (treating HTTP/HTTPS as the same). While slightly lower, that temperature was still a scorching 96.6°F.

Is it possible that Wikipedia moving to HTTPS also made the site eligible for a rankings boost from previous algorithm updates, thus disrupting page 1 without any code changes on Google's end? Yes, it is possible – even a relatively small rankings boost for Wikipedia from the original HTTPS algorithm update could have a broad impact.

The Third Clue: Google?

So far, Google has only said that this was not a Panda update. There have been rumors that the HTTPS update would get a boost, as recently as SMX Advanced earlier this month, but no timeline was given for when that might happen.

Is it possible that Wikipedia's publicly announced switch finally gave Google the confidence to boost the HTTPS signal? Again, yes, it's possible, but we can only speculate at this point.

My gut feeling is that this was more than just a waking giant, even as powerful of a SERP force as Wikipedia has become. We should know more as their HTTPS roll-out continues and their index settles down. In the meantime, I think we can expect Google to become increasingly serious about HTTPS, even if what we saw yesterday turns out not to have been an algorithm update.

In the meantime, I'm going to melodramatically name this "The Colossus Update" because, well, it sounds cool. If this indeed was an algorithm update, I'm sure Google would prefer something sensible, like "HTTPS Update 2" or "Securageddon" (sorry, Gary).

Update from Google: Gary Illyes said that he's not aware of an HTTPS update (via Twitter):

No comment on other updates, or the potential impact of a Wikipedia change. I feel strongly that there is an HTTPS connection in the data, but as I said – that doesn't necessarily mean the algorithm changed.


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10 Proven Tactics To Grow Instagram Followers and Engagement

It’s an exciting time to get to know Instagram. The popular photo-sharing app is fun, simple and growing—Instagram has more than 300 million users and sky-high user engagement levels.

And for marketers, it’s an especially interesting time. The company just announced that it will open its feed to all advertisers and begin testing a “Shop now” button that allows users to click on a link to buy a product advertised.

With such brand-friendly features on the way, it seems like marketers might be more keen than ever to get acquainted with Instagram for their business. I know we are at Buffer!

Lately we’ve been sharing, liking and commenting more on Buffer’s Instagram account, and it’s been so much fun. Since Instagram is still relatively new to us, we thought it would be fun to research some ways to grow a following there.

Read on to find out the 10 best tactics (with tools and examples!) we uncovered that could help you grow a bigger, relevant audience on Instagram.

Top 10 Instagram Growth Tactics  1. Post consistently (at least once a day)

Social media analytics tool Quintly analyzed over 5000 profiles in early 2015 to learn that the average Instagram account posts once per day.

More intriguing: Accounts with the highest number of fans tend to post a bit more than that–up to 2 or 3 photos per day on average. This data might allow us to say that “more successful” accounts tend to post with a higher frequency.

Instagram is one of the last social media networks with no algorithm that chooses what you see, which means there’s no drop-off in engagement for posting more—provided you can keep up the quality of your posts. So post consistently, as much as you can with high quality!

2. Study and load up on quality hashtags

We’ve explored hashtags a lot on the blog, but it seems that nowhere on social media are they quite as important as on Instagram. The right hashtags can expose your image to a large and targeted audience, and Instagram users don’t seem to get hashtag fatigue in the same way they might on other networks.

In other words, hashtags could be your best bet for growing a fast following on Instagram.

Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, and many power users max out this ability.

Check out how many hashtags our recent Bufferchat guest Jeff Sieh used on a post of his:

I was lucky enough to sit down with @suebzimmerman on a recent episode of the Manly Pinterest Tips Show and talk with her about the power of leveraging @Instagram for business. Some topics discussed… •  Personal vs Business content •  Hashtag Strategies •  Cross-Promotion •  Connecting with Influencers •  And much more! Sue is always high energy, entertaining, and educational.  I always enjoy learning from her.  I think you will too! Click on the link in bio to watch/listen! ▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃▃ #Pinterest #marketing #socialmedia#business #entrepreneuer, #socialmediamarketing #podcasts #ManlyPinterestTips #pinterest #socialmedia #marketing #smm #interview #SocialMediaMarketing #bestpractices #business #socialmediatips  #Pinterestformen #tipsonPinterest #Pinteresttips #pinterestforbusiness #instagood #podcasting #podcast #marketing #business #smallbusiness #socialmediatools #smmtools #instacool #contentmarketing #new #instagramtips

A photo posted by Jeff Sieh (@jeffsieh) on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:28am PDT

A TrackMaven study discovered that interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.  

Which hashtags to use? Check out the top 100 hashtags from Websta here. (You can also use Websta to search relevant keywords and find popular accounts.)

One method I use a lot is to adda couple of relevant and obvious hashtags to my photo before posting it. Then I’ll click through to search those hashtags and scroll through other, similar photos that share my hashtag to see what other tags those users have added that I might add, too. Then I go back to my photo and edit it to add all the additional relevant hashtags I’ve found. 

You can do this process in a more formalized way by searching and recording hashtags relevant to your brand, in a similar way you might do keyword research for a blog post.

3. Follow and like similar accounts

In addition to adding hashtags to your post, use the ability to search hashtags to find likeminded friends.

One intriguing tactic to grow an Instagram following starts here and goes even further. It’s called the “follow like like like,”  as described in Austin Allred’s The Hacker’s Guide to User Acquisition.

In this process, you search a specific, relevant hashtag and choose a few of the top pictures you find. Follow those accounts, then go to each of their photo feeds and like three of their recent photos.

“This shows the user that not only did someone who is kind of like them follow them, but they also dug a little bit and really liked what they found.”

Here are the results Austin saw with this tactic:

“When we did this, the follow-back percentage approached 25%. Meaning for every four people we followed, one would follow us back…By the end of the week we had 10,000 followers. In one week. Each photo was getting over 100 likes, and other people were being tagged in each of the photos by their friends.”

Need some extra help here? Apps like Pixifly, Banjo and Instaround allow you to see what Instagram users in your area are posting so you can follow and engage with your local or broader community.

4. Ask users to “tag a friend”

I recently got a great Instagram tip from some new local friends who helped me out with marketing a non-profit food tasting event. They shared a food photo from a past event and asked their 11,000 followers to comment and tag a friend they wanted to attend with.

The response was awesome, and exposed our event to a lot of people who wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise: I’ve seen this tactic work well for lots more than events, too.

5. Use the right filters

All those filters Instagram gives you to use aren’t just fun—choosing the right ones can actually lead to more views and engagement.

Researchers from Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs analyzed millions of photos and corresponding data on how frequently they were viewed and commented upon to determine that filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on than unfiltered ones.

What kind of filter works best? After examining five different types, researchers found that the top filters to increase chances of views and comments are those that create:

higher exposure warm temperatures higher contrast

Higher exposure was the most tied to more views, and warmth had the biggest correlation with comments. 

Two types of filters had negative correlations: Saturation correlated to slightly lower views, and age effects led to lower comments.

Curalate has a great infographic with even more specific pointers on optimizing the look of your image for greater engagement:

6. Host a photo contest

Instagram hashtags make it easy for to collect photos from followers around a theme, and many brands have had success and fun using this capability to host photo contests.

Here’s an example of Instagram itself hosting a photo contest, asking users to recreate an iconic image and share it with the hashtag #recreatedclassic.  Instagram has a great blog post with some tips for getting your photo contest off on the best foot, and Social Media Examiner has an awesome primer on all kinds of Instagram contests.

7. Add some emojis

Emoji are becoming a universal method of expression—Instagram reports that nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two. I know I’m drawn to them in posts and I’ve noticed some folks are even adding to their user names for a bit of extra pop.

Anthony Thompson explains over at PostPlanner how he earned 3x Instagram growth by calling on emojis to ignite engagement in both posts and comments—smart.

He uses this adorable example from Sue Zimmerman to prove his point:

8. Cross-promote

Make sure your existing fans know you’re on Instagram through cross-promotion. Instagram makes it simple to share your images to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare, which could be a great tactic to get some extra exposure.

You can also try embedding Instagram photos in your blog posts (see the bottom of this post for an example) or adding an Instagram feed to your Facebook page for some additional discovery. Here’s a look atBuffer’s Facebook page with an added Instagram feed:  

9. Try video, too

Instagram allows users to upload videos of up to 15 seconds, and not too many of us art taking advantage of this just yet. An April 2015 study from Locowise found that only about 10% of all posts on Instagram are videos right now, but they’re getting 18% of all comments. There’s still plenty of room for you to focus on video and be one of the first!

10. Share the love

In our quest to grow our followers, it’s always helpful to remember what really matters in all of this: The friends we’ll talk to, the relationships we’ll create and the fun we’ll have.

An easy way to keep this principle central is to spend a bit of time each day just hanging out and enjoying Instagram. You might respond to comments, like photos, follow some new friends, and comment on awesome posts. If the “follow like like like” strategy above tells us anything, it’s that time spent showing and sharing the love can pay off in new followers. It also creates a better social media experience for everyone.

One last tactic: How to add a link?

One of the challenges of marketing on Instagram (and possibly a part of its joy for users) is that you can’t quite add links for your viewers to click.

If you want to send your followers to a specific link, though, it seems that it’s becoming common practice to change the link in your Instagram profile and add the comment “link in bio” to a corresponding photo.

You can also try an easy-to-remember shortened URL, or use this tip from Buffer follower belovednewo: She adds the link to the “location” area in order to keep from having to change out her bio link. Neat hack!

Wrapping it up: Anatomy of a perfect post

We’ve gone over quite a lot of tactics to remember and try! The kind folks at Made Freshly combined lots of these tips for growing a following into this fun infographic:

  

How will you measure all your new growth? Check out our post Know What’s Working on Social Media: 19 Free Social Media Analytics Tools to learn about Iconosquare, Collecto and other Instagram analytics tool to help you measure your performance.

What are your Instagram experiences?

We’d love to keep the conversation going—both in the comments here and on Instagram, of course! Lots of awesome friends shared their top tips for marketing on the photo social network, and we’d love to hear yours, too! Add your thoughts below!

  We’re working on a blog post about Instagram tactics and we’d love your help! What are your top tips for getting more followers and engagement? We’re excited to learn from you! #instagram #marketing #socialmedia #socialmediamarketing   A photo posted by Buffer (@buffer) on Jun 5, 2015 at 10:23am PDT

The post 10 Proven Tactics To Grow Instagram Followers and Engagement appeared first on Social.

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Is Brand a Google Ranking Factor? - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A frequently asked question in the SEO world is whether or not branding plays a part in Google's ranking algorithm. There's a short answer with a big asterisk, and in today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what you need to know.

For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I'm going to try and answer a question that plagues a lot of marketers, a lot of SEOs and that we ask very frequently. That is: Is brand or branding a ranking factor in Google search engine?

Look, I think, to be fair, to be honest, that the technical answer to this question is no. However, I think when people say brand is powerful for SEO, that is a true statement. We're going to try and reconcile these two things. How can brand not be a ranking factor and yet be a powerful influencer of higher rankings in SEO? What's going to go on there?

What is a ranking factor, anyway?

Well, I'll tell you. So when folks say ranking factor, they're referring to something very technical, very specific, and that is an algorithmic input that Google measures directly and uses to determine rank position in their algorithm.

Okay, guess what? Brand almost certainly is not this.

Google doesn't try and go out and say, "How well known is Coca-Cola versus Pepsi versus 7 Up versus Sprite versus Jones Cola? Hey, let's rank Coca-Cola a little higher because they seem to have greater brand awareness, brand affinity than Pepsi." That is not something that Google will try and do. That's not something that's in their algorithm.

However, a big however, many things that are in Google's ranking algorithm correlate very well with brands.

Those things are probably used by Google in both direct and indirect ways.

So when you see sites that have done a great job of branding and also have good SEO best practices on them, you'll notice kind of a correlation, like boy, it sure does seem like the brands have been performing better and better in Google's rankings over the last four, five, or six years. I think this is due to two trends. One of those trends is that Google's algorithmic inputs have started favoring things that brands are better at and that what I'd call generic sites or non-branded sites, or businesses that have not invested in brand affinity have not done well.

Those things are things like links, where Google is rewarding better links rather than just more links. They're things around user and usage data, which Google previously didn't use a whole lot of signals around that. Same story with user experience. Same story with things like pogo sticking, which is probably one of the ways that they're measuring some of that stuff.

If we were to scatter plot it, we'd probably see something like this, where the better your brand performs as a brand, the higher and better it tends to perform in the rankings of Google search engine.

How does brand correlate to ranking signals?

Now, how is it that these brand signals that I'm talking about correlate more directly to ranking signals? Like why does this impact and influence? I think if we understand that, we can understand why we need to invest in brand and branding and where to invest in it as it relates to the web marketing kinds of things that we do for SEO.

One very clearly and very frankly is links. So when we talk about the links that Google wants to measure, wants to count today, those are organic, editorially earned links. They're not manipulative. They weren't bought. They tend not to be cajoled, they're earned.

Because of that, one of the best ways that folks have been earning links is to get people to come to their website and then have some fraction, some percentage of those folks naturally link to them without having to do any extra effort. It's basically like, “Hey, you made this great piece of content or this great product or great service or great data. Therefore, I'm going to reference it." Granted, that's a small percentage of people. There's still only maybe two or three out of a hundred folks who might visit your website on the Internet who actually have the power or ability to link to you because they control content on the web as opposed to just social sharing.

But when that happens, in a lot of cases folks go and they say, "Hmm, yeah, this content's good, but I've never heard of this brand before. I'm not sure if I should recommend it. It looks good, but I don't know them." Versus, "Oh, I love these folks. This is like one of my favorite companies or brands or products or experiences, and this content is great. I am totally going to link to it." Because that happens, even if that difference is small, even if the percent goes from 1% to 2%, well now, guess what? For every hundred visits, you're earning twice the links of your non-branded competitor.

Social signals

These are pretty much exactly the same thing. Folks who visit content, who have experiences with a company, with a product, or with a service, if they're familiar and comfortable with the brand, if they want to evangelize that brand, then guess what? You're going to get more social sharing per visit, per exposure than you would ordinarily, and that's going to lead to a cycle of more social sharing which leads to visits which probably leads to links.

User and usage data

It's also true that brand is going to impact user and usage data. So one of the most interesting patents, which we'll probably be talking about in a future Whiteboard Friday, was brought up recently by Bill Slowsky and looked at user and usage data. It was just granted to Google in the last month. It talked about how Google would look at the patterns of where web visitors would go and what their search experiences would be like. It would potentially say, "Hey, Google would like to reward sites that are getting organic traffic, not just from search, but traffic of all kinds on a particular topic."

So if it turns out that lots of people who are researching a vacation to Costa Rica end up going to Oyster.com, well, Google might say, "Hey, you know what? We've seen this pattern over and over again. Let's boost Oyster.com's rankings because it seems like people who look for this kind of content end up on this site. Not necessarily directly through us, through Google. They might end up on it through social media, through organic web links, through direct visits, through e-mail marketing, whatever it is."

When you're unbranded, one of the few ways that you can get traffic is through unbranded search. Search is one of those few channels that does drive traffic, or historically anyway did drive traffic to a lot of non-branded, less branded sites. Brands tend to earn traffic from a wide variety of sources. If you can start earning traffic from lots of sources and have the retention and the experience to drive people back again and again, well, probably you're going to benefit from some of these potential algorithmic shifts and future looking directions that Google's got.

Click-through rates

Same story a little bit when it comes to click-through rate. Now, we know from experience and testing that click-through rate is or appears to have a very direct impact on rankings. If lots of people are performing a search and they click on your website in position number four or five, and they're not clicking on position one, two, or three, you can bet that you're going to be moving up those rankings very, very quickly.

Granted there is some manipulative services out there that try and automate this. Some of them work for a little while. Most of them get shut down pretty quick. I wouldn't recommend investing in those. But I do recommend investing in brand, because when you have a recognizable brand, searchers are going to come here and they're going to go, "Oh, that one, maybe I haven't heard of it. That one, I've heard of it. That one, I haven't heard of it."

Guess what they're clicking on? The one they're already familiar with. The one they have a positive association with already. This is the power of brand advertising, and I think it's one of the big reasons why you've seen case studies from folks like Seer Interactive, talking about how a radio ad campaign or a billboard ad campaign seemed to have a positive lift in their SEO work as well. This phenomenon is going to mean that you're benefiting from every searcher who looks for something, even if you rank further down, if you're the better known brand.

So is brand a ranking factor? No, it's not. Is brand something that positively impacts SEO? Almost certainly in every niche, yes, it is.

All right. Looking forward to some great comments. I'll try and jump in there and answer any questions that I can. If you have experiences you want to share, we'd love to hear from you. Hopefully, we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Moz Local Dashboard Updates

Posted by NoamC

Today, we're excited to announce some new features and changes to the Moz Local dashboard. We've updated your dashboard to make it easier to manage and gauge the performance of your local search listings.

New and improved dashboard

We spent a lot of time listening to customer feedback and finding areas where we weren't being as clear as we ought to. We've made great strides in improving Moz Local's dashboard (details below) to give you a lot more information at a glance.

Geo Reporting

Our newest reporting view, geo reporting, shows you the relative strength of locations based on geography. The deeper the blue, the stronger the listings in that region. You can look at your scores broken down by state, or zoom in to see the score breakdown by county. Move your mouse over a region to see your average score there.

Scores on the dashboard

We're more clearly surfacing the scores for each of your locations right in our dashboard. Now you can see each location's individual score immediately.

Exporting reports

Use the new drop-down at the upper-right corner to download Moz Local reports in CSV format, so that you can access your historical listing data offline and use it to generate your own reports and visualizations.

Search cheat sheet

If you want to take your search game to the next level, why not start with your Moz Local dashboard? A handy link next to the search bar shows you all the ways you can find what you're looking for.

We're still actively addressing feedback and making improvements to Moz Local over time, and you can let us know what we're missing in the comments below.

We hope that our latest updates will make your Moz Local experience better. But you don't have to take my word for it; head on over to Moz Local to see our new and improved dashboard and reporting experience today!


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The MozCon 2015 Agenda Has Arrived!

Posted by EricaMcGillivray

We're super-thrilled to say that it's finally here: the MozCon 2015 Agenda. We have an outstanding lineup this year featuring topics ranging from technical SEO and email marketing to content strategy and digging into your creative side. All of our speakers are already gearing up to deliver top-notch and actionable tips. And if you still need your ticket:

Buy your ticket now!

If you have any questions about the schedule, we'd love to hear 'em. Feel free to ask in the comments.

MozCon 2015 Agenda Monday

8:00-9:00am
Breakfast

9:00-9:20am
Welcome to MozCon 2015! with Rand Fishkin

MozCon 2015 is here. Rand brings in the fun, recaps where our industry's been, and talks a bit about the future.

Husband of Geraldine. Founder of Moz. Presenter of Whiteboard Friday. Writer of blog posts. Sender of tweets.

9:20-10:05am
How to Make Your Marketing Match Your Reality with Dana DiTomaso

Too often, the tone and promises of marketing don't match those of the business itself. Dana will help you bring your brand identity together, both in-store and online, whether at a conference, on the radio, or in a meeting.

Dana DiTomaso likes to impart wisdom to help you turn a lot of marketing bullshit into real strategies to grow your business. After 10+ years, she's (almost) seen it all. It's true, Dana will meet with you and teach you the ways of the digital world, but she is also a fan of the random fact. Kick Point often celebrates "Watershed Wednesday" because of Dana's diverse work and education background. In her spare time, Dana drinks tea and yells at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

10:05-10:25am
AM Break

10:25-11:25am
How To Do Content Strategy (Probably) with Kristina Halvorson

Put 10 people in a room and ask them to define “content strategy,” and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. Kristina will share her own tried-and-true approach!

Kristina Halvorson is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy. She is the founder of Brain Traffic, the coauthor of Content Strategy for the Web, and the founder of the Confab content strategy conferences.

11:25-12:10pm
An SEO's Guide to the Insane World of Content with Matthew Brown

Find yourself arguing whether or not SEO is just great content? Matthew will talk through a strategic and tactical journey of content strategy from an SEO's viewpoint and leave you with new tools and tactics.

Matthew Brown is on the Product Strategy and Design team at Moz, where he spends equal time on new products and staying out of the way. He enjoys bourbon and working on his upcoming novel, "Fifty Shades of Ginger" (look for it in 2019). Follow him at @MatthewJBrown for his special brand of hot takes.

12:10-1:40pm
Lunch

1:40-2:00pm
Delightful Remarketing: How You Can Do It with Duane Brown

By focusing on the differences between remarketing and creating delightful remarketing, Duane will help you grow the revenue and profit for your brand.

Duane Brown is a digital marketer with 10 years' experience having lived and worked in five cities across three continents. He's currently at Unbounce. When not working, you can find Duane traveling to some far-flung location around the world to eat food and soak up the culture.

2:00-2:20pm
The Perfect Pair: Using PPC Data to Influence SEO with Stephanie Wallace

PPC is an easy testing ground for your SEO. Stephanie will explain how to better integrate them and leverage campaign data to influence SEO strategies.

Stephanie Wallace is Director of SEO at Nebo, a digital agency in Atlanta. She helps clients navigate the ever-changing world of SEO by understanding their audience and creating a digital experience that both the user and Google can appreciate.

2:20-2:40pm
Tracking Beyond the Pageview with Adrian Vender

Typical engagement analytics don’t tell the full story of how people interact with your website. Adrian will show you how to use Google Tag Manager to turbocharge your content tracking and custom reports.

Adrian Vender is the Director of Analytics at IMI and a general enthusiast of coding and digital marketing. He’s also a life-long drummer and lover of music.

2:40-3:00pm
PM Break

3:00-3:35pm
Too Busy to Do Good Work with Marta Turek

Don't let your work suffer from being busy. Instead, let Marta show you the tactics to clean up your PPC processes to finally get more strategic.

Marta Turek holds seven years of experience in digital advertising, specializing in lead generation, and paid search marketing. Developing digital strategies and telling stories through data is what rocks her boat. She's currently at ROI·DNA.

3:35-4:10pm
Online Personalization that Actually Works with Cara Harshman

Personalizing your marketing may be a daunting idea right now, but after Cara breaks it down, you’ll realize why embracing it early will be transformative, highly lucrative, addicting, and not creepy.

Cara Harshman tells stories at Optimizely. She was the second marketer to join and is now a Content Marketing Manager+Blog Editor. In 2012, she (openly) ghost-wrote A/B Testing the book, on behalf of the co-founders.

4:10-4:55pm
Ultimate Search and Social Mashup: Expertly Curate Owned Audience Cookie Pools with Marty Weintraub

Stay relevant, marketers! Learn to mine merged search and social data to build audience-based cookie pools for performance marketers to exploit.

Marty is Founder of aimClear®. He was honored three years straight as a "Top 25 Most Influential PPC Expert”; was 2013 "US Search Personality of the Year”; is an acclaimed author; and fixture on the international digital marketing conference speaking circuit.

7:00-10:00pm
Monday Night #MozCrawl

We’re having a pub crawl on Monday, official stops coming soon. You’ll be able to explore some of our favorite haunts and make some new friends. Go at your own pace, and visit the stops in any order. Spread across seven bars, each stop is sponsored by a trusted partner and one by us. You must bring your MozCon badge—for free drinks and light appetizers—and your US ID or passport. See you there!

Tuesday

8:00-9:00am
Breakfast

9:00-9:45am
Surviving Google: SEO in 2020 with Pete Meyers

Organic results are disappearing, replaced by Knowledge Graph, direct answers, new ad hybrids, and more. How can SEOs be ready for Google in five years?

Dr. Pete Meyers is Marketing Scientist for Moz, where he works on product research and data-driven content. He has spent the past three years building research tools to monitor Google, including the MozCast project, and he curates the Google Algorithm History.

9:45-10:30am
Become a Mobile SEO Superhero with Cindy Krum

With Google's algorithm mobile change, Cindy will walk you through the changes, what they mean for your site and its rankings, and what you should be focusing on going forward.

Cindy Krum is the CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, LLC, and author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are. She brings fresh and creative ideas to her clients, and regularly speaks at US and international digital marketing events.

10:30-10:50am
AM Break

10:50-11:25am
Digital Analytics: People, Process, Platform with Adam Singer

In a data-driven world, Adam will pull you back to think again about your analytics, best practices, and how you report.

Adam Singer is Analytics Advocate at Google, startup adviser, investor, and blogger. He previously was director for a global consulting team and has provided digital strategy for brands in a variety of industries including marketing, technology, healthcare, and more.

11:25-12:00pm
How to Better Sell SEO to the C-Suite with Purna Virji

Whether you need more resources, trust, or buy-in, Purna will share practical tips for focusing on Profit & Loss and better communicating SEO planning, forecasting, and strategizing.

Purna Virji is the founder and CEO of Purview Marketing, a boutique consulting firm helping companies of all sizes grow via search and content marketing. Purna is an avid traveler and speaks six languages (and can swear in 17!).

12:00-12:35pm
Drive More Conversions with Lifecycle Email Campaigns with Tamara Gielen

Triggered emails can be powerful marketing. Tamara will lead you through data-driven decision making to improve your campaigns and connect with customers.

Based near Brussels, Belgium, Tamara Gielen is one of the world's leading experts in email marketing with over 14 years of experience managing email marketing programs for international corporations.

12:35-2:05pm
Lunch

2:05-2:40pm
Reaching Critical Mass: 150 Active Members with Rich Millington

Imagine you could create and rejuvenate a successful community whenever you like? Richard Millington will take you through a step by step action plan to reach critical mass.

Richard Millington is the Founder of FeverBee, a community consultancy, and the author of Buzzing Communities.

2:40-3:25pm
Dark Search and Social—Run Rabbit Run! with Marshall Simmonds

With data from 112 publishers with 164+ billion page views, Marshall will dive into the challenges of tracking social and search campaigns. He'll focus on history's lessons and what’s happening with direct and mobile traffic in an app-heavy world.

Marshall Simmonds is the Founder of Define Media Group, the enterprise audience development company specializing in strategic search and social marketing. Define works with many of the most influential brands and networks in the world.

3:25-3:45pm
PM Break

3:45-4:20pm
Back to the Future with Local Search with Mary Bowling

Google's model of our world now mirrors the physical world better than it ever has before. Learn how to meld the online and offline actions of your business for optimal Local Search success.

Mary Bowling's been concentrating on helping businesses succeed with Local SEO since she got into this crazy biz in 2003. She's a consultant at Optimized!, a partner at Ignitor Digital, a partner in LocalU, and a trainer and blogger for Search Engine News.

4:20-5:05pm
The Time to Do the Web Right Is Incredibly Short with Wil Reynolds

In "web time," competitive advantage can be lost in an instant, speed matters. Wil shares how keep on the pulse of competitor agility and how to get things done to stay ahead of them.

Wil Reynolds - Director of Strategy, Seer Interactive - founded Seer with a focus on doing great things for its clients, team, and the community. His passion for driving and analyzing the impact that a site's traffic has on the company's bottom line has shaped SEO and digital marketing industries. Wil also actively supports the Covenant House.

7:00pm-10:00pm
MozCon Ignite at Benaroya Hall

We're thrilled to announce the addition of a networking and Ignite-style event for attendees on Tuesday night. Join us to meet—and—greet your fellow community members and hear them talk about their passion projects. Leave that notebook in your hotel and settle into some fun. Enjoy light appetizers and a couple of drinks on us.

Want to speak at (or just learn more about) this event? We are accepting pitches through Sunday, May 17, at 5pm PST!

Wednesday

8:30-9:30am
Breakfast

9:30-10:15am
Marketing Innovations: Creative PR, Content, and SEO Strategies with Lexi Mills

Lexi shows you how to apply strategies used in emerging markets to grow the success of your PR, SEO, and content work from bathrooms to rock bands.

Lexi Mills is a PR SEO specialist, with over eight years experience working with both small firms and big brands. She has designed and implemented integrated PR, SEO, content, and social campaigns in the UK, Europe, and USA for B2B and B2C clients. She's currently at DynamoPR.

10:15-10:50am
Upside Down and Inside Out with Mig Reyes

Mig shares how to shake up your marketing projects by looking at your work through a lens of experiments and creativity.

Mig Reyes is a traditionally trained graphic designer who escaped advertising agency life, cut his teeth at the T-shirt powerhouse known as Threadless, and now helps lead branding, marketing and even a bit of product work at Basecamp.

10:50-11:10am
AM Break

11:10-11:30am
Get Hired to Do SEO with Ruth Burr Reedy

You dream in SEO—but all the SEO job descriptions require something you don't have! Ruth Burr Reedy will teach you how to show employers you know your stuff, by building your personal brand with real-life examples of your SEO prowess.

Ruth Burr Reedy is the head of on-site SEO for BigWing Interactive, a full-service digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City, OK. At BigWing she manages a team doing on-site, technical and local SEO. Ruth has been working in SEO since 2006.

11:30-11:50am
Rocking Your CRO Efforts with Radical Redesigns with Chris Dayley

Too often we have design blinders on when running A/B tests, focusing only on things like button text. Chris will help you break through to find dramatic gains in your CRO efforts.

Chris Dayley is a digital marketing expert and owner of Dayley Conversion. His company provides full-service A/B testing for businesses, including design, development, and test execution.

11:50-12:10pm
Parole, Parole, Parole: Practical, Modern Keyword and Topical Research with Gianluca Fiorelli

Just using Keyword Planner and Google Suggest is a waste time. Gianluca will show you how keyword and topical research is more about culture, not guessing, and explore unusual sources and seldom used tool features to make your research more effective.

Moz Associate, official blogger for Stateofdigital.com and well-known International SEO and Inbound Strategist, Gianluca Fiorelli works in the Digital Marketing industry, but he still believes that he that he knows nothing.

12:10-1:40pm
Lunch

1:40-2:15pm
The Psychology of Social Media with Courtney Seiter

Courtney dives into the science of why people post, share, and build relationships on social media and how to create an even more irresistible social media experience for your audience.

Courtney Seiter examines social media and workplace culture at Buffer, and her writing has been published at TIME, Fast Company, Lifehacker, Inc., and more. She lives in Nashville, where she is a founder of Girls to the Moon, a leadership camp for girls.

2:15-2:50pm
Astoundingly Useful Applications of Facebook Search for Marketers with David Mihm

Facebook has long neglected its potential as a local search giant, and as a result, its Graph Search product is an afterthought for too many marketers. David showcases Graph-powered insights for small-business marketers—with utility well beyond Facebook.

David Mihm has created and promoted search-friendly websites for clients of all sizes since the early 2000’s. David co-founded GetListed.org, which he sold to Moz in November 2012. He now serves as Moz's Director of Local Search Strategy.

2:50-3:10pm
PM Break

3:10-3:45pm
(Check back soon; we're still finalizing the details of this session!)

3:45-4:30pm
Onsite SEO in 2015: An Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Marketer with Rand Fishkin

SEO has come full circle as on-page SEO has returned to the forefront. Rand will share how and why on-site SEO is so important and show off uncommon tactics with powerful potential.

Husband of Geraldine. Founder of Moz. Presenter of Whiteboard Friday. Writer of blog posts. Sender of tweets.

7:00pm-12:00am Wednesday Night Bash at the Garage

Do you love singing "I Love Rock n' Roll"? How about bowling in some fancy shoes? Or are you a pool shark? Our after-party has a little something for everyone.

Chill with the new friends you've made, catch up with your old friends, and get to know the people you've only ever met online. We'll provide heavy appetizers and plenty of beverages. This year's assortment includes the MozCow Mule Mocktail, as well as well liquor, beer, house wine, soft drinks, and of course, plenty of our friend H2O.

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The Secret Reach of Your Twitter Replies, Plus All Our Latest Stats and Strategies on Social Media

Sometimes looking through your social media statistics can reveal some fun surprises.

This was the case for us this month at Buffer.

I looked a little closer into the stats from all of our tweets, including all the amazing replies by our support heroes. There’s some amazing hidden virality to these tweets! And there’s a great opportunity here to delight your customers and further your brand’s reach at the same time.

Continue reading to see how this played out for us recently, along ...

The post The Secret Reach of Your Twitter Replies, Plus All Our Latest Stats and Strategies on Social Media appeared first on Social.

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How Much Has Link Building Changed in Recent Years?

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

I get asked this question a lot. It's mainly asked by people who are considering buying my link building book and want to know whether it's still up to date. This is understandable given that the first edition was published in February 2013 and our industry has a deserved reputation for always changing.

I find myself giving the same answer, even though I've been asked it probably dozens of times in the last two years—"not that much". I don't think this is solely due to the book itself standing the test of time, although I'll happily take a bit of credit for that :) I think it's more a sign of our industry as a whole not changing as much as we'd like to think.

I started to question myself and if I was right and honestly, it's one of the reasons it has taken me over two years to release the second edition of the book.

So I posed this question to a group of friends not so long ago, some via email and some via a Facebook group. I was expecting to be called out by many of them because my position was that in reality, it hasn't actually changed that much. The thing is, many of them agreed and the conversations ended with a pretty long thread with lots of insights. In this post, I'd like to share some of them, share what my position is and talk about what actually has changed.

My personal view

Link building hasn't changed as much we think it has.

The core principles of link building haven't changed. The signals around link building have changed, but mainly around new machine learning developments that have indirectly affected what we do. One thing that has definitely changed is the mindset of SEOs (and now clients) towards link building.

I think the last big change to link building came in April 2012 when Penguin rolled out. This genuinely did change our industry and put to bed a few techniques that should never have worked so well in the first place.

Since then, we've seen some things change, but the core principles haven't changed if you want to build a business that will be around for years to come and not run the risk of being hit by a link related Google update. For me, these principles are quite simple:

You need to deserve links - either an asset you create or your product You need to put this asset in front of a relevant audience who have the ability to share it You need consistency - one new asset every year is unlikely to cut it Anything that scales is at risk

For me, the move towards user data driving search results + machine learning has been the biggest change we've seen in recent years and it's still going.

Let's dive a bit deeper into all of this and I'll talk about how this relates to link building.

The typical mindset for building links has changed

I think that most SEOs are coming round to the idea that you can't get away with building low quality links any more, not if you want to build a sustainable, long-term business. Spammy link building still works in the short-term and I think it always will, but it's much harder than it used to be to sustain websites that are built on spam. The approach is more "churn and burn" and spammers are happy to churn through lots of domains and just make a small profit on each one before moving onto another.

For everyone else, it's all about the long-term and not putting client websites at risk.

This has led to many SEOs embracing different forms of link building and generally starting to use content as an asset when it comes to attracting links. A big part of me feels that it was actually Penguin in 2012 that drove the rise of content marketing amongst SEOs, but that's a post for another day…! For today though, this goes some way towards explain the trend we see below.

Slowly but surely, I'm seeing clients come to my company already knowing that low quality link building isn't what they want. It's taken a few years after Penguin for it to filter down to client / business owner level, but it's definitely happening. This is a good thing but unfortunately, the main reason for this is that most of them have been burnt in the past by SEO companies who have built low quality links without giving thought to building good quality ones too.

I have no doubt that it's this change in mindset which has led to trends like this:

The thing is, I don't think this was by choice.

Let's be honest. A lot of us used the kind of link building tactics that Google no longer like because they worked. I don't think many SEOs were under the illusion that it was genuinely high quality stuff, but it worked and it was far less risky to do than it is today. Unless you were super-spammy, the low-quality links just worked.

Fast forward to a post-Penguin world, things are far more risky. For me, it's because of this that we see the trends like the above. As an industry, we had the easiest link building methods taken away from us and we're left with fewer options. One of the main options is content marketing which, if you do it right, can lead to good quality links and importantly, the types of links you won't be removing in the future. Get it wrong and you'll lose budget and lose the trust if your boss or client in the power of content when it comes to link building.

There are still plenty of other methods to build links and sometimes we can forget this. Just look at this epic list from Jon Cooper. Even with this many tactics still available to us, it's hard work. Way harder than it used to be.

My summary here is that as an industry, our mindset has shifted but it certainly wasn't a voluntary shift. If the tactics that Penguin targeted still worked today, we'd still be using them.

A few other opinions...

"I definitely think too many people want the next easy win. As someone surfing the edge of what Google is bringing our way, here's my general take—SEO, in broad strokes, is changing a lot, *but* any given change is more and more niche and impacts fewer people. What we're seeing isn't radical, sweeping changes that impact everyone, but a sort of modularization of SEO, where we each have to be aware of what impacts our given industries, verticals, etc."

- Dr. Pete

"I don't feel that techniques for acquiring links have changed that much. You can either earn them through content and outreach or you can just buy them. What has changed is the awareness of "link building" outside of the SEO community. This makes link building / content marketing much harder when pitching to journalists and even more difficult when pitching to bloggers.

"Link building has to be more integrated with other channels and struggles to work in its own environment unless supported by brand, PR and social. Having other channels supporting your link development efforts also creates greater search signals and more opportunity to reach a bigger audience which will drive a greater ROI."

- Carl Hendy

"SEO has grown up in terms of more mature staff and SEOs becoming more ingrained into businesses so there is a smarter (less pressure) approach. At the same time, SEO has become more integrated into marketing and has made marketing teams and decision makers more intelligent in strategies and not pushing for the quick win. I'm also seeing that companies who used to rely on SEO and building links have gone through IPOs and the need to build 1000s of links per quarter has rightly reduced."

- Danny Denhard

Signals that surround link building have changed

There is no question about this one in my mind. I actually wrote about this last year in my previous blog post where I talked about signals such as anchor text and deep links changing over time.

Many of the people I asked felt the same, here are some quotes from them, split out by the types of signal.

Domain level link metrics

"I think domain level links have become increasingly important compared with page level factors, i.e. you can get a whole site ranking well off the back of one insanely strong page, even with sub-optimal PageRank flow from that page to the rest of the site."

- Phil Nottingham

I'd agree with Phil here and this is what I was getting at in my previous post on how I feel "deep links" will matter less over time. It's not just about domain level links here, it's just as much about the additional signals available for Google to use (more on that later).

Anchor text

I've never liked anchor text as a link signal. I mean, who actually uses exact match commercial keywords as anchor text on the web?

SEOs. :)

Sure there will be natural links like this, but honestly, I struggle with the idea that it took Google so long to start turning down the dial on commercial anchor text as a ranking signal. They are starting to turn it down though, slowly but surely. Don't get me wrong, it still matters and it still works. But like pure link spam, the barrier is a lot more lower now in terms what of constitutes too much.

Rand feels that they matter more than we'd expect and I'd mostly agree with this statement:

"Exact match anchor text links still have more power than you'd expect—I think Google still hasn't perfectly sorted what is "brand" or "branded query" from generics (i.e. they want to start ranking a new startup like meldhome.com for "Meld" if the site/brand gets popular, but they can't quite tell the difference between that and https://moz.com/learn/seo/redirection getting a few manipulative links that say "redirect")"

- Rand Fishkin

What I do struggle with though, is that Google still haven't figured this out and that short-term, commercial anchor text spam is still so effective. Even for a short burst of time.

"I don't think link building as a concept has changed loads—but I think links as a signal have, mainly because of filters and penalties but I don't see anywhere near the same level of impact from coverage anymore, even against 18 months ago."

- Paul Rogers

New signals have been introduced

It isn't just about established signals changing though, there are new signals too and I personally feel that this is where we've seen the most change in Google algorithms in recent years—going all the way back to Panda in 2011.

With Panda, we saw a new level of machine learning where it almost felt like Google had found a way of incorporating human reaction / feelings into their algorithms. They could then run this against a website and answer questions like the ones included in this post. Things such as:

"Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?" "Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?" "Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?"

It is a touch scary that Google was able to run machine learning against answers to questions like this and write an algorithm to predict the answers for any given page on the web. They have though and this was four years ago now.

Since then, they've made various moves to utilize machine learning and AI to build out new products and improve their search results. For me, this was one of the biggest and went pretty unnoticed by our industry. Well, until Hummingbird came along I feel pretty sure that we have Ray Kurzweil to thank for at least some of that.

"There seems to be more weight on theme/topic related to sites, though it's hard to tell if this is mostly link based or more user/usage data based. Google is doing a good job of ranking sites and pages that don't earn the most links but do provide the most relevant/best answer. I have a feeling they use some combination of signals to say "people who perform searches like this seem to eventually wind up on this website—let's rank it." One of my favorite examples is the Audubon Society ranking for all sorts of birding-related searches with very poor keyword targeting, not great links, etc. I think user behavior patterns are stronger in the algo than they've ever been."

- Rand Fishkin

Leading on from what Rand has said, it's becoming more and more common to see search results that just don't make sense if you look at the link metrics—but are a good result.

For me, the move towards user data driving search results + machine learning advanced has been the biggest change we've seen in recent years and it's still going.

Edit: since drafting this post, Tom Anthony released this excellent blog post on his views on the future of search and the shift to data-driven results. I'd recommend reading that as it approaches this whole area from a different perspective and I feel that an off-shoot of what Tom is talking about is the impact on link building.

You may be asking at this point, what does machine learning have to do with link building?

Everything. Because as strong as links are as a ranking signal, Google want more signals and user signals are far, far harder to manipulate than established link signals. Yes it can be done—I've seen it happen. There have even been a few public tests done. But it's very hard to scale and I'd venture a guess that only the top 1% of spammers are capable of doing it, let alone maintaining it for a long period of time. When I think about the process for manipulation here, I actually think we go a step beyond spammers towards hackers and more cut and dry illegal activity.

For link building, this means that traditional methods of manipulating signals are going to become less and less effective as these user signals become stronger. For us as link builders, it means we can't keep searching for that silver bullet or the next method of scaling link building just for an easy win. The fact is that scalable link building is always going to be at risk from penalization from Google—I don't really want to live a life where I'm always worried about my clients being hit by the next update. Even if Google doesn't catch up with a certain method, machine learning and user data mean that these methods may naturally become less effective and cost efficient over time.

There are of course other things such as social signals that have come into play. I certainly don't feel like these are a strong ranking factor yet, but with deals like this one between Google and Twitter being signed, I wouldn't be surprised if that ever-growing dataset is used at some point in organic results. The one advantage that Twitter has over Google is it's breaking news freshness. Twitter is still way quicker at breaking news than Google is—140 characters in a tweet is far quicker than Google News! Google know this which is why I feel they've pulled this partnership back into existence after a couple of years apart.

There is another important point to remember here and it's nicely summarised by Dr. Pete:

"At the same time, as new signals are introduced, these are layers not replacements. People hear social signals or user signals or authorship and want it to be the link-killer, because they already fucked up link-building, but these are just layers on top of on-page and links and all of the other layers. As each layer is added, it can verify the layers that came before it and what you need isn't the magic signal but a combination of signals that generally matches what Google expects to see from real, strong entities. So, links still matter, but they matter in concert with other things, which basically means it's getting more complicated and, frankly, a bit harder. Of course, on one wants to hear that."

- Dr. Pete

The core principles have not changed

This is the crux of everything for me. With all the changes listed above, the key is that the core principles around link building haven't changed. I could even argue that Penguin didn't change the core principles because the techniques that Penguin targeted should never have worked in the first place. I won't argue this too much though because even Google advised website owners to build directory links at one time.

You need an asset

You need to give someone a reason to link to you. Many won't do it out of the goodness of their heart! One of the most effective ways to do this is to develop a content asset and use this as your reason to make people care. Once you've made someone care, they're more likely to share the content or link to it from somewhere.

You need to promote that asset to the right audience

I really dislike the stance that some marketers take when it comes to content promotion—build great content and links will come.

No. Sorry but for the vast majority of us, that's simply not true. The exceptions are people that sky dive from space or have huge existing audiences to leverage.

You simply have to spend time promoting your content or your asset for it to get shares and links. It is hard work and sometimes you can spend a long time on it and get little return, but it's important to keep working at until you're at a point where you have two things:

A big enough audience where you can almost guarantee at least some traffic to your new content along with some shares Enough strong relationships with relevant websites who you can speak to when new content is published and stand a good chance of them linking to it

Getting to this point is hard—but that's kind of the point. There are various hacks you can use along the way but it will take time to get right.

You need consistency

Leading on from the previous point. It takes time and hard work to get links to your content—the types of links that stand the test of time and you're not going to be removing in 12 months time anyway! This means that you need to keep pushing content out and getting better each and every time. This isn't to say you should just churn content out for the sake of it, far from it. I am saying that with each piece of content you create, you will learn to do at least one thing better the next time. Try to give yourself the leverage to do this.

Anything scalable is at risk

Scalable link building is exactly what Google has been trying to crack down on for the last few years. Penguin was the biggest move and hit some of the most scalable tactics we had at our disposal. When you scale something, you often lose some level of quality, which is exactly what Google doesn't want when it comes to links. If you're still relying on tactics that could fall into the scalable category, I think you need to be very careful and just look at the trend in the types of links Google has been penalizing to understand why.

The part Google plays in this

To finish up, I want to briefly talk about the part that Google plays in all of this and shaping the future they want for the web.

I've always tried to steer clear of arguments involving the idea that Google is actively pushing FUD into the community. I've preferred to concentrate more on things I can actually influence and change with my clients rather than what Google is telling us all to do.

However, for the purposes of this post, I want to talk about it.

"General paranoia has increased. My bet is there are some companies out there carrying out zero specific linkbuilding activity through worry."

- Dan Barker

Dan's point is a very fair one and just a day or two after reading this in an email, I came across a page related to a client's target audience that said:

"We are not publishing guest posts on SITE NAME any more. All previous guest posts are now deleted. For more information, see www.mattcutts.com/blog/guest-blogging/".

I've reworded this as to not reveal the name of the site, but you get the point.

This is silly. Honestly, so silly. They are a good site, publish good content, and had good editorial standards. Yet they have ignored all of their own policies, hard work, and objectives to follow a blog post from Matt. I'm 100% confident that it wasn't sites like this one that Matt was talking about in this blog post.

This is, of course, from the publishers' angle rather than the link builders' angle, but it does go to show the effect that statements from Google can have. Google know this so it does make sense for them to push out messages that make their jobs easier and suit their own objectives—why wouldn't they? In a similar way, what did they do when they were struggling to classify at scale which links are bad vs. good and they didn't have a big enough web spam team? They got us to do it for them :)

I'm mostly joking here, but you see the point.

The most recent infamous mobilegeddon update, discussed here by Dr. Pete is another example of Google pushing out messages that ultimately scared a lot of people into action. Although to be fair, I think that despite the apparent small impact so far, the broad message from Google is a very serious one.

Because of this, I think we need to remember that Google does have their own agenda and many shareholders to keep happy. I'm not in the camp of believing everything that Google puts out is FUD, but I'm much more sensitive and questioning of the messages now than I've ever been.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the comments.


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You Have $100 to Spend on Social Media Marketing. Here’s One Way to Spend It.

How big is your marketing budget?

I’ve heard of companies that spend millions on marketing. I’ve heard of others who spend zero (we skew toward the zero side at Buffer).

Regardless of how much you spend, you aim to spend it well. That’s why a hypothetical situation like the one here—what would you do with $100 to spend on social media marketing?—can be an extremely valuable exercise.

I have some ideas on what I’d do with the $100, ways to wring the most value ...

The post You Have $100 to Spend on Social Media Marketing. Here’s One Way to Spend It. appeared first on Social.

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Search Trends: Are Compound Queries the Start of the Shift to Data-Driven Search?

Posted by Tom-Anthony

The Web is an ever-diminishing aspect of our online lives. We increasingly use apps, wearables, smart assistants (Google Now, Siri, Cortana), smart watches, and smart TVs for searches, and none of these are returning 10 blue links. In fact, we usually don't end up on a website at all.

Apps are the natural successor, and an increasing amount of time spent optimising search is going to be spent focusing on apps. However, whilst app search is going to be very important, I don't think it is where the trend stops.

This post is about where I think the trends take us—towards what I am calling "Data-Driven Search". Along the way I am going to highlight another phenomenon: "Compound Queries". I believe these changes will dramatically alter the way search and SEO work over the next 1-3 years, and it is important we begin now to think about how that future could look.

App indexing is just the beginning

With App Indexing Google is moving beyond the bounds of the web-search paradigm which made them famous. On Android, we are now seeing blue links which are not to web pages but are deep links to open specific pages within apps:


This is interesting in and of itself, but it is also part of a larger pattern which began with things like the answer box and knowledge graph. With these, we saw that Google was shifting away from sending you somewhere else but was starting to provide the answer you were looking for right there in the SERPs. App Indexing is the next step, which moves Google from simply providing answers to enabling actions—allow you to do things.

App Indexing is going to be around for a while—but here I want to focus on this trend towards providing answers and enabling actions.

Notable technology trends

Google's mission is to build the "ultimate assistant"—something that anticipates your needs and facilitates fulfilling them. Google Now is just the beginning of what they are dreaming of.

So many of the projects and technologies that Google, and their competitors, are working on are converging with the trend towards "answers and actions", and I think this is going to lead to a really interesting evolution in searches—namely what I am calling "Data-Driven Search".

Let's look at some of the contributing technologies.

Compound queries: query revisions & chained queries

There is a lot of talk about conversational search at the moment, and it is fascinating for many reasons, but in this instance I am mostly interested in two specific facets:

Query revision Chained queries

The current model for multiple queries looks like this:

You do one query (e.g. "recipe books") and then, after looking at the results of that search, you have a better sense of exactly what it is you are looking for and so you refine your query and run another search (e.g. "vegetarian recipe books"). Notice that you do two distinct searches—with the second one mostly completely separate from the first.

Conversational search is moving us towards a new model which looks more like this, which I'm calling the Compound Query model:

In this instance, after evaluating the results I got, I don't make a new query but instead a Query Revision which relates back to that initial query. After searching "recipe books", I might follow up with "just show me the vegetarian ones". You can already do this with conversational search:

Example of a "Query Revision"—one type of Compound Query

Currently, we only see this intent revision model working in conversational search, but I expect we will see it migrate into desktop search as well. There will be a new generation of searchers who won't have been "trained" to search in the unnatural and stilted keyword-oriented that we have. They'll be used to conversational search on their phones and will apply the same patterns on desktop machines. I suspect we'll also see other changes to desktop-based search which will merge in other aspects of how conversational search results are presented. There are also other companies working on radical new interfaces, such as Scinet by Etsimo (their interface is quite radical, but the problems it solves and addresses are ones Google will likely also be working on).

So many SEO paradigms don't begin to apply in this scenario; things like keyword research and rankings are not compatible with a query model that has multiple phases.

This new query model has a second application, namely Chained Queries, where you perform an initial query, and then on receiving a response you perform a second query on the same topic (the classic example is "How tall is Justin Bieber?" followed by "How old is he?"—the second query is dependent upon the first):

Example of a Chained Query—the second type of Compound Query

It might be that in the case of chained queries, the latter queries could be converted to be standalone queries, such that they don't muddy the SEO waters quite as much as as queries that have revisions. However, I'm not sure that this necessarily stands true, because every query in a chain adds context that makes it much easier for Google to accurately determine your intent in later queries.

If you are not convinced, consider that in the example above, as is often the case in examples (such as the Justin Bieber example), it is usually clear from the formulation that this is explicitly a chained query. However—there are chained queries where it is not necessarily clear that the current query is chained to the previous. To illustrate this, I've borrowed an example which Behshad Behzadi, Director of Conversational Search at Google, showed at SMX Munich last month:

Example of a "hidden" Chained Query—it is not explicit that the last search refers to the previous one.

If you didn't see the first search for "pictures of mario" before the second and third examples, it might not be immediately obvious that the second "pictures of mario" query has taken into account the previous search. There are bound to be far more subtle examples than this.

New interfaces

The days of all Google searches coming solely via a desktop-based web browser are already long since dead, but mobile users using voice search are just the start of the change—there is an ongoing divergence of interfaces. I'm focusing here on the output interfaces—i.e., how we consume the results from a search on a specific device.

The primary device category that springs to mind is that of wearables and smart watches, which have a variety of ways in which they communicate with their users:

Compact screens—devices like the Apple Watch and Microsoft Band have compact form factor screens, which allow for visual results, but not in the same format as days gone by—a list of web links won't be helpful. Audio—with Siri, Google Now, and Cortana all becoming available via wearable interfaces (that pair to smart phones) users can also consume results as voice. Vibrations—the Apple Watch can give users directions using vibrations to signal left and right turns without needing to look or listen to the device. Getting directions already covers a number of searches, but you could imagine this also being useful for various yes/no queries (e.g. "is my train on time?").

Each of these methods is incompatible with the old "title & snippet" method that made up the 10 blue links, but furthermore they are also all different from one another.

What is clear is that there is going to need to be an increase in the forms in which search engines can respond to an identical query, with responses being adaptive to the way in which the user will consume their result.

We will also see queries where the query may be "handed off" to another device: imagine me doing a search for a location on my phone and then using my watch to give me direction. Apple already has "Handover"which does this in various contexts, and I expect we'll see the concept taken further.

This is related to Google increasingly providing us with encapsulated answers, rather than links to websites—especially true on wearables and smart devices. The interesting phenomenon here is that these answers don't specify a specific layout, like a webpage does. The data and the layout are separated.

Which leads us to...

Cards

Made popular by Google Now, cards are prevalent in both iOS and Android, as well as on social platforms. They are a growing facet of the mobile experience:

Cards provide small units of information in an accessible chunk, often with a link to dig deeper by flipping a card over or by linking through to an app.

Cards exactly fit into the paradigm above—they are more concerned with the data you will see and less so about the way in which you will see it. The same cards look different in different places.

Furthermore, we are entering a point where you can now do more and more from a card, rather than it leading you into an app to do more. You can response to messages, reply to tweets, like and re-share, and all sorts of things all from cards, without opening an app; I highly recommend this blog post which explores this phenomenon.

It seems likely we'll see Google Now (and mobile search as it becomes more like Google Now) allowing you to do more and more right from cards themselves—many of these things will be actions facilitated by other parties (by way of APIs of schema.org actions). In this way Google will become a "junction box" sitting between us and third parties who provide services; they'll find an API/service provider and return us a snippet of data showing us options and then enable us to pass back data representing our response to the relevant API.

Shared screens

The next piece of the puzzle is "shared screens", which covers several things. This starts with Google Chromecast, which has popularised the ability to "throw" things from one screen to another. At home, any guests I have over who join my wifi are able to "throw" a YouTube video from their mobile phone to my TV via the Chromecast. The same is true for people in the meeting rooms at Distilled offices and in a variety of other public spaces.

I can natively throw a variety of things: photos, YouTube videos, movies on Netflix etc., etc. How long until that includes searches? How long until I can throw the results of a search on an iPad on to the TV to show my wife the holiday options I'm looking at? Sure we can do that by sharing the whole screen now, but how long until, like photos of YouTube videos, the search results I throw to the TV take on a new layout that is suitable for that larger screen?

You can immediately see how this links back to the concept of cards and interfaces outlined above; I'm moving data from screen to screen, and between devices that provide different interfaces.

These concepts are all very related to the concept of "fluid mobility" that Microsoft recently presented in their Productivity Future Vision released in February this year.

An evolution of this is if we reach the point that some people have envisioned, whereby many offices workers, who don't require huge computational power, no longer have computers at their desks. Instead their desks just house dumb terminals: a display, keyboard and mouse which connect to the phone in their pockets which provides the processing power.

In this scenario, it becomes even more usual for people to be switching interfaces "mid task" (including searches)—you do a search at your desk at work (powered by your phone), then continue to review the results on the train home on the phone itself before browsing further on your TV at home.

Email structured markup

This deserves a quick mention—it is another data point in the trend of "enabling action". It doesn't seem to be common knowledge that you can use structured markup and schema.org markup in emails, which works in both Gmail and Google Inbox.

Editor's note: Stay tuned for more on this in tomorrow's post!

The main concepts they introduce are "highlights" and "actions"—sound familiar? You can define actions that become buttons in emails allowing people to confirm, save, review, RSVP, etc. with a single click right in the email.

Currently, you have to apply to Google for them to whitelist emails you send out in order for them to mark the emails up, but I expect we'll see this rolling out more and more. It may not seem directly search-related but if you're building the "ultimate personal assistant", then merging products like Google Now and Google Inbox would be a good place to start.

The rise of data-driven search

There is a common theme running through all of the above technologies and trends, namely data:

We are increasingly requesting from Search Engines snippets of data, rather than links to strictly formatted web content We are increasingly being provided the option for direct action without going to an app/website/whatever by providing a snippet of data with our response/request

I think in the next 2 years small payloads of data will be the new currency of Google. Web search won't go away anytime soon, but large parts of it will be subsumed into the data driven paradigm. Projects like Knowledge Vault, which aims to dislodge the Freebase/Wikipedia (i.e. manually curated) powered Knowledge Graph by pulling facts directly from the text of all pages on the web, will mean mining the web for parcels of data become feasible at scale. This will mean that Google knows where to look for specific bits of data and can extract and return this data directly to the user.

How all this might change the way users and search engines interact:

The move towards compound queries will mean it becomes more natural for people to use Google to "interact" with data in an iterative process; Google won't just send us to a set of data somewhere else but will help us sift through it all. Shared screens will mean that search results will need to be increasingly device agnostic. The next generation of technologies such as Apple Handover and Google Chromecast will mean we increasingly pass results between devices where they may take on a new layout. Cards will be one part of making that possible by ensuring that results can rendered in various formats. Users will become more and more accustomed to interacting with sets of cards. The focus on actions will mean that Google plugs directly into APIs such that they can connect users with third party backends and enable that right there in their interface. What we should be doing

I don't have a good answer to this—which is exactly why we need to talk about it more.

Firstly, what is obvious is that lots of the old facets of technical SEO are already breaking down. For example, as I mentioned above, things like keyword research and rankings don't fit well with the conversational search model where compound queries are prevalent. This will only become more and more the case as we go further down the rabbit hole. We need to educate clients and work out what new metrics help us establish how Google perceive us.

Secondly, I can't escape the feeling that APIs are not only going to increase further in importance, but also become more "mainstream". Think how over the years ownership of company websites started in the technical departments and migrated to marketing teams—I think we could see a similar pattern with more core teams being involved in APIs. If Google wants to connect to APIs to retrieve data and help users do things, then more teams within a business are going to want to weigh in on what it can do.

APIs might seem out of the reach and unnecessary for many businesses (exactly as websites used to...), but structured markup and schema.org are like a "lite API"—enabling programmatic access to your data and even now to actions available via your website. This will provide a nice stepping stone where needed (and might even be sufficient).

Lastly, if this vision of things does play out, then much of our search behaviour could be imagined to be a sophisticated take on faceted navigation—we do an initial search and then sift through and refine the data we get back to drill down to the exact morsels we were looking for. I could envision "Query Revision" queries where the initial search happens within Google's index ("science fiction books") but subsequent searches happen in someone else's, for example Amazon's, "index" ('show me just those with 5 stars and more than 10 reviews that were released in the last 5 years').

If that is the case, then what I will be doing is ensuring that Distilled's clients have a thorough and accurate "indexes" with plenty of supplementary information that users could find useful. A few years ago we started worrying about ensuring our clients' websites have plenty of unique content, and this would see us worrying about ensuring they have a thorough "index" for their product/service. We should be doing that already, but suddenly it isn't going to be just a conversion factor, but a ranking factor too (following the same trend as many other signals, in that regard)

Discussion

Please jump in the comments, or tweet me at @TomAnthonySEO, with your thoughts. I am sure many of the details for how I have envisioned this may not be perfectly accurate, but directionally I'm confident and I want to hear from others with their ideas.


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