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Here's Our Podcast On How We Got Started With Online Marketing

Here's Our Podcast On How We Got Started With Online Marketing | Raul L Cruz | Scoop.it
Listen to our new Podcast where we talk about how we got started with Internet Marketing and online business. #podcast #internetmarketing #startup #success #personaldevelopment
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How to Broadcast With YouTube Live

Have you heard of YouTube Live? Want to learn how to use it? YouTube Live will stream video from your webcam or desktop, letting you host webinars, broadcast vlogs, and more in real time. In this article, you'll discover how to broadcast video using YouTube Live. #1: Access Your YouTube Live Dashboard To broadcast live [...]

This post How to Broadcast With YouTube Live first appeared on .
- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

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11 Growth-Hacking Tactics That Require Zero Technical Skills

The term “hacking” sounds like technical voodoo that's beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

The reality is, the term “growth hacking” has kind of been ruined by people who don't understand it.

I mean, even the word “hack” isn't quite accurate in describing what most growth hackers do.

In the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, I laid out in full detail how growth hacking works.

If you want to get the skinny on what growth hacking is (and isn't), that would be a good place to start.

This particular article is directed at those non-techies who don't want to spend all day staring at a computer screen.

Because here's the thing: Growth hacking isn't just about coding, sneaky techniques, and secret plugins.

It doesn't take an advanced engineering degree or high-tech computer skills to implement growth hacking tricks.

Whether or not you're schooled in “growth hacking” techniques, I think you'll be surprised by what you read below. To be completely honest, growth hacking is more about common sense, management, leadership, and innovative thinking than being able to write a line of code.

With the following eleven tactics, you can be well on your way to wearing a growth hacker badge.

1. Solicit outside contribution

Wait a second. You thought we were talking about “growth,” right?

So, what's this about soliciting outside contribution?

This.

In value-based management, operational decisions serve as the foundation for the rest of the business.

The more you can cut back on your operational expenses, the faster you can grow.

Content-focused websites, such as blogs, allow you to solicit free contributions from other bloggers in order to grow your content and subscriber base.

Content aggregators and user-generated content sites profit from this strategy as well.

What does this mean?

Several things:

It means getting people in your organization to buy into your growth vision. A growth hacker is essentially a person who's obsessed with growth and can get others to join in the fun. It means getting user-generated content. User-generated content is a marketer's dream come true. It has all the value of great content without much work. It's scalable and powerful.

Launched in 2005, The Huffington Post used free aggregated and contributed content to transform itself into a multi-million dollar media empire by the time it was acquired by AOL in 2011.

Lower operating expenses lead to higher profits, which puts your business in a better position to continue expanding. Even in business, liquid capital rules everything.

If you can legally get free resources for your business such as manpower, products, or supplies, take advantage of it.

2. Crowdsource busywork

When it comes to the tasks you do have to pay for, instead of hiring a new employee, consider crowdsourcing.

Services such as TopCoder and Amazon's Mechanical Turk are excellent crowdsourcing resources that can get jobs done faster and cheaper than traditional full-time employees.

And it's not just for work; some companies have found success crowdsourcing ideas too. Toyota is famous for its employee suggestion program, and Starbucks found success asking customers to help come up with new ideas.

Over 150,000 ideas were submitted in a five-year period, and over 2 million votes were cast on My Starbucks ideas during the program.

The long-term benefits of crowdsourcing R&D ideas have helped keep Starbucks relevant in a tough market.

Of course, not everything can be crowdsourced.

But when you crowdsource more stuff, you're creating a tribe of growth movers, people who can help you do what you want to do: grow the business.

3. Hire a solid team

You do eventually need to hire in order to maintain the growth acquired through growth hacking. Finding the right employees at the right price means scouting the right markets.

Here's the most recent map of unemployment in the United States.

Areas like the southwest may be good places to find skilled workers to hire. If you're not located in the area, consider a virtual team.

Remote work is growing across the board in every level of every industry. Here are some statistics about remote workers in the U.S.

By expanding your search to include remote employees, you can get better talent cheaper and optimize your staff for future growth.

4. Constantly post links

Backlinks are the backbone of any solid SEO strategy.

They act as breadcrumbs to lead people back to your website from anywhere around the web.

They're also a part of search engine algorithms and are a factor in determining your site's visibility for search terms.

Brands that have online success often achieve it using backlinks. Snack Nation used relevant backlinks through contextual keywords to raise organic search traffic over 300% within a few months.

SEO certainly isn't the only growth-hacking method out there, but it's an important one if you want to create sustainable growth.

5. Hire a PR agency

Sometimes, it's a good idea to just hire a professional PR firm.

Getting your name out there is an important part of growth hacking, and PR firms specialize in amplifying messages throughout mainstream media, social media, online forums, events, and more.

In fact, with online marketing automation taking over the industry, PR and communications-related jobs are projected to outgrow the job market over the next few years.

Online content marketing has become so popular that websites like The Huffington Post often host more content marketing editorials than actual journalistic reporting.

PR people even outnumber journalists these days by a three-to-one ratio.

The public relations industry has more influence, generates more revenue, and attracts more practitioners than the rest of the media combined.

Trust in the power of the dark side, and hire a professional PR agency to help you meet your growth goals.

PR agencies aren't in conflict with growth-hacking principles. They work in concert with them by allowing you to build greater brand presence.

6. Implement analytics

No growth hacking or any other business implementation works without proper analytics to quantify its success.

Growth hacking is synonymous with obsessed-with-metrics.

Anyone with a website should at least be familiar with analytics, which look like this:

Knowing who your customers are, where they come from, why they're here, what they bought, and what they enjoyed about the experience are all important factors to ensure you can replicate the experience and encourage growth.

In the case of marketing automation (which is essentially what growth hacking is), there are seven important KPIs indicated by marketers in a recent survey:

Focusing on raising these metrics can help optimize the customer base you have to increase ROI.

Growth hacking requires a solid structure in place that can eventually be sustained, even if individual efforts aren't.

7. Automate everything

Automation is the key to growing as quickly as possible.

And growth hacking is all about growing as quickly as possible.

Act-on, developer of a popular marketing automation platform, touts case studies such as Adaptive Computing, a company that was able to increase sales by $150,000 in the first month after implementing their platform.

This isn't just a one-off case-as many as 29% of companies realize financial benefits within only three months of automation implementation.

Of course, implementing marketing automation is easier said than done. Staff need to be trained on new processes, and there's a period when everyone gets used to new policies and procedures.

Lack of time and lack of budget are the reasons most often cited by companies for why marketing automation isn't implemented. Don't let this deter you.

Investing in technology makes difficult processes simpler and repeatable while maintaining quality. This is how growth happens.

8. Scout the competition

Uber not only disrupted the taxi industry but revolutionized the entire transportation industry, creating a two-sided marketplace.

Facing heavy competition from Lyft and the rest of the industry it revolutionized, the company started looking at ways to optimize the driver experience to maintain its lead.

Now, the average driver is spending much more time actually driving and earning more per shift, incentivizing them not to jump ship and go to a competitor.

Uber's operating costs remain well below that of most other forms of public transportation, but the company still keeps an eye on the competition to ensure it maintains its competitive advantage.

Most growth hackers can only dream of replicating the once-in-a-lifetime success of Uber.

9. Reward customers

There's no better way to attract business than to compensate customers for being customers.

Rewards programs make customers 85% more loyal, increasing retention rates by 5% and overall profits by up to 95%.

Since the cost of keeping a customer is often much less than the cost of acquiring one, it's important for your growth to sustain returning business.

10. Build exclusivity

When Facebook was first created, MySpace already existed. There's no reason anyone should have joined the social network, but over a billion people did over the past decade because the company created an air of exclusivity.

Once the buzz was created and a solid user base existed, the company was able to sustain high levels of growth, adding nearly 800,000 users per day during its peak growth period in 2011.

By that point, Facebook was more focused on connecting its API to as many website and app login services as possible to offer incentive for its exclusivity.

This same growth hack can be applied to your business without needing to code the next Facebook.

11. Hustle and grind

Want to know my secret sauce to growth hacking?

Hustle.

I didn't title my new book Hustle that way for no reason.

Hustling is the key to growth.

At the end of the day, many small businesses fail, especially in the first four years when more than half of businesses shutter.

The difference between failure and success is your hustle and grind. Those willing to put in the effort will reap the rewards.

Not all growth hacking is marketing, and not all marketing is online. Sometimes you need to get a street team out there to get the word out about your business.

While online data analytics, focused targeting, and measurability make online marketing attractive to many businesses, there's value in old-fashioned viral marketing that built businesses older than the Internet.

Although you may have a ton of automated work happening through a computer, you can't rest on your laurels.

Instead, continue feeding an insatiable hunger for growth.

Conclusion

Growth hacking sounds like it's complicated, but it's more common sense than anything else.

It's not that companies like Uber and Facebook are doing something nobody else is doing. It's that they continued doing multiple things at a faster pace to demolish the competition.

If you're focused and use the right tools, growth hacking is within your reach even if you're not technically inclined.

Startups have historically seen anywhere from 300-2,000% increases in business, scaling during the digital age like never before, using growth hacking techniques.

What growth hacking techniques have you used successfully in your business?

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11 Growth-Hacking Tactics That Require Zero Technical Skills

The term “hacking” sounds like technical voodoo that's beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

The reality is, the term “growth hacking” has kind of been ruined by people who don't understand it.

I mean, even the word “hack” isn't quite accurate in describing what most growth hackers do.

In the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, I laid out in full detail how growth hacking works.

If you want to get the skinny on what growth hacking is (and isn't), that would be a good place to start.

This particular article is directed at those non-techies who don't want to spend all day staring at a computer screen.

Because here's the thing: Growth hacking isn't just about coding, sneaky techniques, and secret plugins.

It doesn't take an advanced engineering degree or high-tech computer skills to implement growth hacking tricks.

Whether or not you're schooled in “growth hacking” techniques, I think you'll be surprised by what you read below. To be completely honest, growth hacking is more about common sense, management, leadership, and innovative thinking than being able to write a line of code.

With the following eleven tactics, you can be well on your way to wearing a growth hacker badge.

1. Solicit outside contribution

Wait a second. You thought we were talking about “growth,” right?

So, what's this about soliciting outside contribution?

This.

In value-based management, operational decisions serve as the foundation for the rest of the business.

The more you can cut back on your operational expenses, the faster you can grow.

Content-focused websites, such as blogs, allow you to solicit free contributions from other bloggers in order to grow your content and subscriber base.

Content aggregators and user-generated content sites profit from this strategy as well.

What does this mean?

Several things:

It means getting people in your organization to buy into your growth vision. A growth hacker is essentially a person who's obsessed with growth and can get others to join in the fun. It means getting user-generated content. User-generated content is a marketer's dream come true. It has all the value of great content without much work. It's scalable and powerful.

Launched in 2005, The Huffington Post used free aggregated and contributed content to transform itself into a multi-million dollar media empire by the time it was acquired by AOL in 2011.

Lower operating expenses lead to higher profits, which puts your business in a better position to continue expanding. Even in business, liquid capital rules everything.

If you can legally get free resources for your business such as manpower, products, or supplies, take advantage of it.

2. Crowdsource busywork

When it comes to the tasks you do have to pay for, instead of hiring a new employee, consider crowdsourcing.

Services such as TopCoder and Amazon's Mechanical Turk are excellent crowdsourcing resources that can get jobs done faster and cheaper than traditional full-time employees.

And it's not just for work; some companies have found success crowdsourcing ideas too. Toyota is famous for its employee suggestion program, and Starbucks found success asking customers to help come up with new ideas.

Over 150,000 ideas were submitted in a five-year period, and over 2 million votes were cast on My Starbucks ideas during the program.

The long-term benefits of crowdsourcing R&D ideas have helped keep Starbucks relevant in a tough market.

Of course, not everything can be crowdsourced.

But when you crowdsource more stuff, you're creating a tribe of growth movers, people who can help you do what you want to do: grow the business.

3. Hire a solid team

You do eventually need to hire in order to maintain the growth acquired through growth hacking. Finding the right employees at the right price means scouting the right markets.

Here's the most recent map of unemployment in the United States.

Areas like the southwest may be good places to find skilled workers to hire. If you're not located in the area, consider a virtual team.

Remote work is growing across the board in every level of every industry. Here are some statistics about remote workers in the U.S.

By expanding your search to include remote employees, you can get better talent cheaper and optimize your staff for future growth.

4. Constantly post links

Backlinks are the backbone of any solid SEO strategy.

They act as breadcrumbs to lead people back to your website from anywhere around the web.

They're also a part of search engine algorithms and are a factor in determining your site's visibility for search terms.

Brands that have online success often achieve it using backlinks. Snack Nation used relevant backlinks through contextual keywords to raise organic search traffic over 300% within a few months.

SEO certainly isn't the only growth-hacking method out there, but it's an important one if you want to create sustainable growth.

5. Hire a PR agency

Sometimes, it's a good idea to just hire a professional PR firm.

Getting your name out there is an important part of growth hacking, and PR firms specialize in amplifying messages throughout mainstream media, social media, online forums, events, and more.

In fact, with online marketing automation taking over the industry, PR and communications-related jobs are projected to outgrow the job market over the next few years.

Online content marketing has become so popular that websites like The Huffington Post often host more content marketing editorials than actual journalistic reporting.

PR people even outnumber journalists these days by a three-to-one ratio.

The public relations industry has more influence, generates more revenue, and attracts more practitioners than the rest of the media combined.

Trust in the power of the dark side, and hire a professional PR agency to help you meet your growth goals.

PR agencies aren't in conflict with growth-hacking principles. They work in concert with them by allowing you to build greater brand presence.

6. Implement analytics

No growth hacking or any other business implementation works without proper analytics to quantify its success.

Growth hacking is synonymous with obsessed-with-metrics.

Anyone with a website should at least be familiar with analytics, which look like this:

Knowing who your customers are, where they come from, why they're here, what they bought, and what they enjoyed about the experience are all important factors to ensure you can replicate the experience and encourage growth.

In the case of marketing automation (which is essentially what growth hacking is), there are seven important KPIs indicated by marketers in a recent survey:

Focusing on raising these metrics can help optimize the customer base you have to increase ROI.

Growth hacking requires a solid structure in place that can eventually be sustained, even if individual efforts aren't.

7. Automate everything

Automation is the key to growing as quickly as possible.

And growth hacking is all about growing as quickly as possible.

Act-on, developer of a popular marketing automation platform, touts case studies such as Adaptive Computing, a company that was able to increase sales by $150,000 in the first month after implementing their platform.

This isn't just a one-off case-as many as 29% of companies realize financial benefits within only three months of automation implementation.

Of course, implementing marketing automation is easier said than done. Staff need to be trained on new processes, and there's a period when everyone gets used to new policies and procedures.

Lack of time and lack of budget are the reasons most often cited by companies for why marketing automation isn't implemented. Don't let this deter you.

Investing in technology makes difficult processes simpler and repeatable while maintaining quality. This is how growth happens.

8. Scout the competition

Uber not only disrupted the taxi industry but revolutionized the entire transportation industry, creating a two-sided marketplace.

Facing heavy competition from Lyft and the rest of the industry it revolutionized, the company started looking at ways to optimize the driver experience to maintain its lead.

Now, the average driver is spending much more time actually driving and earning more per shift, incentivizing them not to jump ship and go to a competitor.

Uber's operating costs remain well below that of most other forms of public transportation, but the company still keeps an eye on the competition to ensure it maintains its competitive advantage.

Most growth hackers can only dream of replicating the once-in-a-lifetime success of Uber.

9. Reward customers

There's no better way to attract business than to compensate customers for being customers.

Rewards programs make customers 85% more loyal, increasing retention rates by 5% and overall profits by up to 95%.

Since the cost of keeping a customer is often much less than the cost of acquiring one, it's important for your growth to sustain returning business.

10. Build exclusivity

When Facebook was first created, MySpace already existed. There's no reason anyone should have joined the social network, but over a billion people did over the past decade because the company created an air of exclusivity.

Once the buzz was created and a solid user base existed, the company was able to sustain high levels of growth, adding nearly 800,000 users per day during its peak growth period in 2011.

By that point, Facebook was more focused on connecting its API to as many website and app login services as possible to offer incentive for its exclusivity.

This same growth hack can be applied to your business without needing to code the next Facebook.

11. Hustle and grind

Want to know my secret sauce to growth hacking?

Hustle.

I didn't title my new book Hustle that way for no reason.

Hustling is the key to growth.

At the end of the day, many small businesses fail, especially in the first four years when more than half of businesses shutter.

The difference between failure and success is your hustle and grind. Those willing to put in the effort will reap the rewards.

Not all growth hacking is marketing, and not all marketing is online. Sometimes you need to get a street team out there to get the word out about your business.

While online data analytics, focused targeting, and measurability make online marketing attractive to many businesses, there's value in old-fashioned viral marketing that built businesses older than the Internet.

Although you may have a ton of automated work happening through a computer, you can't rest on your laurels.

Instead, continue feeding an insatiable hunger for growth.

Conclusion

Growth hacking sounds like it's complicated, but it's more common sense than anything else.

It's not that companies like Uber and Facebook are doing something nobody else is doing. It's that they continued doing multiple things at a faster pace to demolish the competition.

If you're focused and use the right tools, growth hacking is within your reach even if you're not technically inclined.

Startups have historically seen anywhere from 300-2,000% increases in business, scaling during the digital age like never before, using growth hacking techniques.

What growth hacking techniques have you used successfully in your business?

more...
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How to Make Yourself Write an Entire Blog Article Every Single Day

Blogging is an essential part of my business, and I can tell you firsthand how difficult it can be.

Believe me. I've been doing it for more than 10 years.

Everyone recommends a blog to gain traffic, but maintaining consistent blogging is difficult.

Here's what happens.

You get all jazzed up about starting a blog. You rush out the gates with reckless abandon, writing on familiar to you topics with energy and verve.

A few weeks go by, and nice things happen to your website traffic and conversions.

And then you start to realize that writing is hard work.

Wow. It's freaking hard work.

And so you skip a day.

And a week.

And then you struggle to come up with topics, so you skip a few more days.

You kind of “forget” about blogging and feel guilty about it.

Your blog goes dormant, and you curse yourself every day for it.

Sound familiar? It happens to a lot of people. For all the craze over content marketing, there sure are a lot of people who fell off the wagon a long time ago.

I get that. I understand. It's tough work. It's grueling at times. It's thankless. It's challenging.

And to write an article every single day, day in and day out, year after year? Sounds impossible.

It's not. And I'm going to tell you how and why.

Here's what you need to know about what it takes to write a blog post every day. 

1. Read more than you write

Yep. I mean that.

I know that reading takes time (and writing does too), but I have a good reason telling you to do this.

The key to writing is reading. The more you read, the more prepared you are to write. Just to write this post, I read over a dozen articles about blogging to make sure I cover every angle and gather supporting data.

For example, most blog articles are shared without even being read, especially on social media. Even when we do read them, we mostly do a quick scan.

Here's a graph of how time spent reading an article correlates to its social activity.

Sometimes a headline and a snippet are enough to satisfy a reader, which is why these elements are so important for SEO purposes.

The content itself can make a difference in whether or not an article is read, especially with branded content. Brands that blog with a purpose have consistently higher ROIs and perform better in every KPI.

To be sure you're creating valuable content instead of just parroting what everyone else is saying, it's important to continue reading.

I'm an expert in content marketing and SEO, but I still read Search Engine Journal, SEOMoz, and other industry publications because even I can't keep up with everything on my own.

Blogging is a community, and contributing as part of it means you'll need to read other blogs.

2. Look for inspiration from other bloggers

Since you're already reading, take inspiration from what other bloggers are doing. Crowdsourcing ideas is a great way to brainstorm. Starbucks, for example, recently found success with its My Starbucks Ideas program.

There are tons of blogs on every topic, and here's a list of 50 top blogs for every topic imaginable.

See what the greats are writing about. Follow a successful blogger like Chris Brogan to find trends in his writing style. You can even research his site on SEMRush to learn what keywords and landing pages are successful.

By looking externally for ideas, you'll broaden your blogging horizons, and brainstorming blog topics for yourself will become much easier.

3. Get out and experience life

Like any other business, your blogs will only be successful if they satisfy a need.

The only way to know what people need is to be a person yourself and go out to experience life like everyone else.

For most businesses, content marketing is a relatively new, experimental concept. In a recent survey, only 8% of B2B companies stated they had a sophisticated content marketing program.

Until you find your sweet spot, you'll need to experiment a bit to see what your niche truly is. Tackling the same topic from different perspectives makes content creation much easier and more streamlined.

4. Aim for two a day

About one blog post every other day is the bare minimum to attract a decent, sustainable traffic flow to your blog.

One blog post per day is a great start, but ideally, you'd want to publish multiple posts per day.

If you can write two blog posts a day, you can quickly build a one-month editorial calendar and schedule enough posts in advance to take a few days off while still publishing that pre-written content on your blog.

The more content on your site, the lower your bounce rates will be, as people will be able to navigate your archives instead of just reading one post and leaving.

5. Make everything else routine

Like I said, there's a lot more involved in blogging than just writing posts.

Here are a few common problems faced by B2B marketers when generating leads, which blogging is a component of.

Understanding, analyzing, and running all these operational components is vital to maintaining any successful business, and it has to be routine in a blogger's life.

When you're routinely pitching stories, creating outlines, and researching, the actual act of writing for your blog becomes much easier.

And as I explain exhaustively in my blogging guides, quantifying the success of a blogging initiative requires quantifiable metrics and KPIs that allow you to set and measure goals.

It's much easier to write when everything is running like clockwork and you are not running around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to put out fires.

6. Create an editorial calendar

Most major publications, like Rolling Stone or People, use editorial calendars to determine what content to publish.

An editorial calendar is great for your blogging efforts too.

Like a director's storyboard, an editorial calendar gives you an outline to work with and the ability to know at a glance where you're at and what's publishing soon.

Here's an example of a basic editorial calendar:

With an editorial calendar in place, instead of being in a constant race to come up with new ideas, you'll be working ahead, making your blog run much more smoothly and giving you time to correct any issues or changes that may come up along the way.

7. Solicit pitches

You don't have to do all the blogging yourself. Sometimes it's nice to offer a different perspective, whether from internal team members or external bloggers.

Many bloggers are happy to guest-post on someone else's site in exchange for a backlink to their site. By collecting posts from a variety of other bloggers, you'll greatly amplify the reach of your blog through the power of their networks.

Every post published on your blog is extra content, even if it's not written by you.

If you prefer to keep your name on every post, there's always the option of hiring a ghostwriter, who can be found through a simple Google search or Craigslist ad.

8. Respond to client/reader questions

A simple way to produce more content is to write long-form answers to reader questions in a Dear Abby advice columnist format.

Quora, Yahoo Answers, Ask Jeeves, and Siri all became popular because of the ability of users to ask and receive answers.

Recent research from Twitter shows customers prefer companies that actually respond quickly to their concerns on the microblogging site.

If you think of your readers as customers (which you should if blogging is part of your business), you should be catering to their needs, personalizing their experience, and responding to complaints and questions.

If you've established yourself as an expert on a certain subject matter, which will be clear from your previous content, people will see you as a trusted resource and ask questions in the comment section.

You can answer in the comments or, if a longer response is required, create a whole new blog post to respond, backlinking to the original question as a resource.

9. Make it a habit

People are creatures of habit, and we appreciate when things are kept consistent. When you make blogging a habit, keeping it up won't be a problem.

How do you build a habit?

It's pretty simple, actually.

Start with a reminder of the task you need to do. An editorial calendar works great for this. Follow a routine to complete that task. Give yourself a reward. Rinse and repeat.

It looks like this:

Why does this habit-building process matter?

It matters because blogging matters.

The biggest revenue-generating tactic in blogging is marketing and advertising, which is seeing steady spending from last year to this year:

If you can provide a steady stream of content, you'll earn a sustainable income through blogging, but it has to be a habit.

The idea of Ernest Hemingway spending his days drinking and being a playboy while putting out awesome writing is nothing more than a fantasy and a caricature of the great writer.

Hemingway was good. He made it look easy.

But writing a post a day isn't about lolling around and waiting for your muse to strike.

Working writers are working writers because they work. They force themselves to work. And then that force develops into a habit, which makes them writing machines.

Once blogging becomes a habit, you'll often find yourself writing four or five posts a day instead of just one. You get faster over time, and things get easier as you go along.

Conclusion

The fear of not being able to come up with topics to blog about is a mental wall that exists only in your head.

Thousands of people earn a steady first or second income through blogging despite the fact that coming up with relevant things to say about relevant topics on a consistent basis is a challenge.

More content equals more opportunity for backlinks, high SEO rankings, and more sustained organic traffic.

By involving external resources, continuously researching, and employing solid business practices, you can turn your blog into a daily content mill that generates revenue.

What tactics do you use to overcome writer's block and continue creating every day?

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Top 35 Blogging Ideas That Are Guaranteed to Be Popular

Blogging with a purpose increases market share, consumer engagement, revenue growth, and ROI. Of course, you want to do that.

I mean, just look at this:

But a lot of people I know are still stuck on the fundamental question:

What do we blog about?

For brands, the question is easy enough to answer.

You need to understand: 1) what you're selling, 2) to whom you want to sell, and 3) what blog topics are relevant to both.

For individuals or other organizations who want to start a blog to monetize, the question can be a bit trickier.

About a year ago, I came up with an idea. I wanted to show you how to generate $100,000 a month from a new blog.

I picked a topic and have been making progress toward that goal.

But what if you haven't picked a topic yet?

That's why I wrote this article. A great blog has to start with a topic.

These are the types of articles, topics, and approaches that have demonstrated massive success in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

1. Listicles

Marketers have a love/hate relationship with listicles.

They're among the most popular articles online, used by Buzzfeed, defended by the NY Times, and even discussed at this year's SXSW tech conference.

Some people think listicles lack quality. And that could be true for some of them. Listicles, like any form of content marketing, have their pros and cons.

But let's face it, people love to read listicles. It's not just a trend. It's scientifically proven!

That's why the article you're reading right now is a listicle.

2. How-tos

People generally hate reading instruction manuals. When was the last time you snuggled up with a glass of wine and the instruction manual to your toaster?

How do people figure out how to do stuff?

They Google it.

WikiHow became insanely popular based on how-to articles alone.

You might be surprised to see the kind of things people are Googling.

If you can find your niche audience, cater to their curiosities, and give them some helpful answers, you can't help but create a popular blog.

3. Politics

Politics are popular during every election year. Whether national or local, find a political topic to discuss, and join this conversation.

Politics can be dicey, however. People tend to get really polarized around political topics, so be prepared to handle some controversy.

4. Bacon

Everyone loves bacon.

Huffington Post is one of the most popular blogs online, and it has an entire archive of bacon articles.

It's not a trend going away soon, so get on board.

5. Recipes

Recipes are a great way to draw traffic to your blog.

There's always a new diet fad, e.g., today's Whole30 is yesterday's Atkins, so there's always new recipes to be discovered.

6. Beginner guides

Before you can convince someone that you know the advanced stuff, start with 101 beginner guides.

My own beginner guides have been very popular.

Everyone has to start somewhere. Beginner guides are often the way bloggers build organic search traffic at the start, and they can even be done using infographics like this guide to Sharepoint.

7. Ultimate guides

Subject matter experts, on the other hand, are always seeking out the most credible ultimate guides for their areas of expertise.

The term “ultimate guide,” however, is a bit overused. You can use some alternate terms if you want, such as these from Business Casual Copywriting:

Essential Guide Complete Guide Uncensored Guide Last Guide to ____ You'll Ever Need

If you're an expert on something, creating an ultimate guide is an ultimately awesome way to do some ultimately popular blogging. 

8. Frequently asked questions

Be warned that posting answers to frequently asked questions online won't stop people from asking anyway.

They do, however, serve as a resource for people, and they are often featured on e-commerce websites-but overlooked on blogs. FAQs are blogging gold in any age.

Google's algorithm uses FAQs, questions, and other popular topics as part of its Knowledge Graph. If you're lucky, you might score a top spot in this coveted place.

9. Interviews

The best way to set yourself apart from the ocean of bloggers is to gain insight from industry experts.

Whether it's with people on your team or from other companies in the industry, set up interviews on websites like helpareporter.com to gain valuable knowledge from a professional.

10. Personal stories

While personal stories may not be the keyword-filled anchor pieces you want, they're still valuable additions to any blog.

Through sharing personal stories, you give readers a chance to relate to your business on a personal level, which helps build brand affinity.

11. Charity and activism

Any type of charitable actions, events, or activism you support should be blogged about.

Crowdfunding sites such as KickStarter, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, and the like appeal to the good in people, and showing you're active in these communities can build your readership. Even an occasional Change.org petition can help the brand image.

12. People features

Featuring select people-customers, professionals, authorities, leaders, etc.,-is a great way to add personality to your blog and create a sense of connection.

One of the most popular blogs doing this today is Humans of New York.

Occasionally featuring a real person-including photos, quotes, and other personal information-is a great way to produce strong engagement with your audience.

13. Product reviews

Not only are product reviews a trusted resource online that will draw traffic, but they are also a revenue stream for bloggers.

If you want to monetize your blog instantly, this is a smart move.

By linking to product pages through affiliate links like Amazon Affiliates, you can monetize a blog almost entirely on product reviews. Make sure you go niche, since this provides the greatest platform for credibility and expertise.

14. Sourced news

A great way to get media attention is to report on any type of sourced news. Long before the Internet, newspapers ruled the roost, and sourced news is still appreciated by news junkies.

With the right type of curation, selection, and commentary, this is a niche you can dominate.

15. Gifs and memes

It wasn't just listicles that made Buzzfeed so popular.

Memes and gifs are widely used on the site too.

Gifs give people the experience of a video and usually provide a ton of entertainment.

16. Myth-debunking

Every industry has facts and fiction, which is why shows like Mythbusters got so popular.

We love learning what we've been doing or thinking wrong this whole time, so popular bloggers debunk myths.

17. Virtual reality

VR is a growing industry that's only going to continue getting larger as time goes on.

Analysts predict it'll reach $3 billion in investments by the end of 2016, so jumping on the bandwagon now could drive early adopter traffic.

18. Internet of things

Smart and connected devices are everywhere these days, and IoT experts blogging about IoT topics draw readers.

If you choose an IoT niche, you'll have to prove your mastery of the subject matter. The niche is full of people who know what's up.

19. Automation

For B2B businesses, automation is the buzzword of the day, so any posts regarding ways to automate something is Internet gold.

Automation, of course, is broad. You'll need to select a type of automation in order to drive truly valuable traffic.

20. Troubleshooting guides

I'm always on the lookout for reliable troubleshooting tips.

Troubleshooting guides speak to the pain many content seekers are looking to eliminate. They want to solve a problem, which is exactly what a successful troubleshooting guide will do.

21. Contests

A great way to draw interest in a blog while rewarding readers is by holding a contest.

Contests once got a bad rap as being scammy or cheap, but they are on their way back as a valuable traffic-driving technique.

24. Advice

Both Lifehacker and Lifehack rose to prominence by featuring valuable advice to readers on just about every subject.

Life advice, regardless of the subject matter, is a valued commodity.

25. Productivity tips

People want to do more faster and are always on the lookout for tools, technology, or tips to help them get more done. Productivity tips are the bread and butter of many online blogs.

26. Travel

No matter how connected we get, travel will always be a popular topic for online searches.

With 126 million passports in circulation in the U.S. today, you know people are traveling-or at least they want to.

We all want to travel somewhere exotic and new. Any advice on how to do it cheaply is always appreciated.

27. History

History lessons are a great way to fill a blog with useful information.

Long-time bloggers often get caught up on current events, so occasional forays into history help create consistent content.

28. Funny stories

There will always be a place for humor in this world.

Posts that make people laugh get shared on social networks. There's a reason why Buzzfeed, The Onion, Clickhole, and BoredPanda are among the world's most popular websites.

29. Parenting tips

There will always be parents around, and any parenting tips are appreciated.

Blogging moms have conferences and conventions around the country, teaching people to follow in their footsteps and growing a sustainable industry.

Dad bloggers are also coming into their own as popular and respected places of information.

30. Upcoming events

You can always tell when an event is coming up by the buzz in the blogosphere. Whether it's global events like the Olympics or local events like a concert or book-reading, events saturate many of the most popular online searches.

31. Internet stars

Partnering with and featuring the biggest Internet stars helps grow your following, so many content creators are partnering up in order to stay competitive. If you don't know who PewDiePie and The Fine Bros are, it's time to do some homework.

32. Tech support

Companies that offer technology services, hardware, or software will often include technical support within their blogs.

Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have extensive knowledge bases online, and they're only growing along with everyone else's.

33. Gift ideas

Right about now, blogs around the Internet are preparing holiday gift guides to help guide consumers to the right presents to buy for their colleagues, friends, and family during the holiday season.

Affiliate links can help create revenue for these cornerstone articles.

34. Best-ofs

The best ____ of 2016, the 2000s, this century, and of all time are all great articles to read.

WatchMojo built an entire business on top 10 lists, and many others are following suit. Including best-of lists focused on everything within your industry is a great way to draw reader attention.

35. Respond to readers

People have always been interested in getting advice from publications, whether it's from old-school advice columnists such as Ann Landers or new-school ones such as Dan Savage.

Responding to readers makes you a real person having a real conversation and allows you to address individual concerns to prove you care.

Conclusion

Popular topics come and go.

You might pick a technique today only to find it went into disfavor the next day. That's part of the excitement and drama of blogging. You'll deal with it, pick up your traffic, and move on.

The topics, techniques, and tactics listed above are virtually guaranteed to make you the world's most popular blogger.

Maybe you've got all the traffic you need. Maybe you have the audience you want. Maybe you're content.

But if you want to see some improvement, it couldn't hurt to try a few of these.

What blogging ideas will you be using that have the promise to be popular?

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5 Ways Your Fans Can Help Optimize Your Site for Conversions

I've been watching Facebook closely for a long time.

I've tested hundreds of ad iterations.

I've worked hard to build organic reach for myself and my clients.

Here's what I've concluded: Facebook is awesome. But it's also tricky.

Why? Because the algorithm is constantly shifting, forcing marketers to up their game, readjust their techniques, and reorient their strategies.

Here's the thing. If you have a social presence for your business, Facebook has decided that your organic reach needs to shrink.

Again.

You know, of course, that this isn't the first time the social giant tweaked its algorithm.

In June, Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management for News Feed at Facebook, shared a post that detailed how Facebook was updating the news feed.

The core of the update is to prioritize posts that come from friends and family while reducing the onslaught of content from businesses and other publishers. Facebook wants users to see more posts from actual people, not businesses doing marketing.

The gist of the algorithm remains the same.

But the variability is increasing. Mosseri explained:

It will vary a lot by publisher mostly based on how much of their referral traffic or their reach is based on people who actually share their content directly…

If you've got strong engagement from your audience and they're shouting your name from the rooftops as they share your content, or generate content around your brand, you'll be far less impacted by the update.

But most of the businesses I work with aren't enjoying that level of stellar engagement.

This is what it boils down to. If you want to improve your reach and engagement, you'll need to find ways to leverage user-generated content (UGC) since that's what friends and family will see first.

What I want to communicate is pretty simple: User-generated content is one of the most effective forms of content marketing available today.

User-generated content is the future of content marketing.

UGC will act as dynamite to your social media presence, accelerate your onsite content efforts, increase engagement, boost conversions, and build up a wall of defense against any algorithm the world throws your way.

Let's talk about where the rubber meets the road-your fans helping your site become a conversion-generating machine.

Why you should put your money into user-generated content

There are a lot of benefits to UGC, and those benefits can be significant. And that's primarily because you're not limited to social media when it comes to working with customers to acquire and leverage it-though that's where a bulk of your gains can come into play.

Consider for a moment that more than half of the adult users on Facebook have around 200 people in their immediate networks, according to Pew Research.

That social network graph looks something like this:

If the algorithm wants all those people to see content from their connections first, it's in your best interest to get your audience producing or creating content about you.

And that's not just for the sake of a little (or even big) boost in visibility.

Consumers fully admit they find branded information from their peers trustworthy-85% of consumers, to be exact.

That's because the vast majority of them find that kind of content to be helpful when they make a decision about whether or not to make a purchase.

Nielsen's study on this subject showed that 92% of consumers trust content and the opinions of their peers over any other kind of advertising.

UGC also has influence over that trust, according to data shared by Yotpo:

UGC is the best way to beat an algorithm that wants to topple and bury your promotions amid pictures of babies, beards, and breakfast platters.

But you're not limited to Facebook in leveraging it.

With variations in engagement time across different social channels, you can see where there are opportunities to use user-generated content to drive up engagement as well as increase consumer trust.

Some brands are having a lot of success on other social channels and digital properties with UGC.

Below are a couple of examples of brands that leverage UGC using different channels.

A touch of wanderlust

National Geographic asked users to capture unforgettable people, places, and experiences that have impacted their lives from their travels around the world. The hashtag campaign (#wanderlustcontest) brought in tens of thousands of submissions branded to NatGeo.

And, of course, among those public submissions were some truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring photos people were all too happy to continue sharing.

Ignite user creativity

Nissan's luxury car brand, Infiniti, ran a campaign promoting its Q30 model, aiming to leverage the content of its fans to help promote the vehicle. The New Heights contest had users print out a marker card that would display the vehicle in 3D when used with their mobile app.

Fans were encouraged to show off the vehicle in unexpected places by snapping pictures and sharing them with a branded hashtag via different social channels.

These two great examples of building campaigns and visibility from user-generated content had a couple of things in common:

They both revolved around contests. While this is a good way to encourage action among your followers, it's not always necessary to give something away in order to source user-generated content. These two campaigns were actively asking their fans to provide the content.

This aspect-the asking-is the most important part you need to remember.

Why? Because the majority of brands simply don't ask. If you don't ask for it, you won't get it.

It's just that simple.

So, what's the simplest and most effective way to get UGC?

Ask your users to provide it.

If you want UGC, ask your followers to provide it

Brands don't want to be pushy, but with UGC, you've got to approach it like you approach a call to action (CTA).

With a CTA, you're telling your audience explicitly what you want them to do. It's been proven time and again that without a clear call to action, you lose conversions.

But only about 16% of brands take the same approach with UGC, expressing to fans just what kind of content they want to see. Without that kind of direction, consumers aren't sure what's okay to share.

In fact, 50% of consumers want brands to tell them what they should include when creating and sharing content.

You don't need to give away a luxury or big-ticket item when you make the ask, but you do need to ask.

Don't sit and wait for your fans to provide you with gold.

Here are some of the best ways you can start sourcing and leveraging user-generated content for your brand and social channels.

1. Curate user-generated content with Yotpo

I've long felt that Yotpo is an impressive platform for sourcing reviews, engaging customers, and utilizing customer feedback to promote growth.

Now, it's even better than ever.

Yotpo has stepped up its game with the recent launch of the Yotpo Curation tool.

This tool allows you to collect relevant Instagram photos from fans and influencers, displaying them on a single dashboard.

From there, you can tag products and handle rights management (including engagement with the original user to say thanks), inject the photos into your product pages, and even sell from your timeline.

This simplifies the tedium of trying to manually source user-generated images and lets you quickly benefit from the social proof tied to UGC.

In one survey conducted by Yotpo, 77% of consumers admitted they preferred to see consumer photos over professional shots:

That's a clear indication of what you should have on your product pages.

Imagine the impact of having quality reviews alongside images showing off your products being used by actual customers.

It would provide a significant lift in conversions when you consider that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site displaying user reviews. A study conducted by Reevoo showed that reviews alone, without any other UGC, lift sales by 18%.

The Yotpo tool turns your customers into brand ambassadors right on your product pages, plus you can create your own shoppable Instagram galleries or post that UGC to other social channels.

2. Build a community

When I talk about building a community, I'm referring to a gathering of people. Literal people in online gatherings.

You may view your social channels as individual and separate communities, but they're really not. At least not without some kind of organization.

There are a lot of ways to build communities, e.g., Facebook groups, subreddits on Reddit.com, or communities built into your website.

A community you create and manage can give your fans a sense of belonging and make them feel connected to your brand. They'll share a mix of personal content as well as content related to the brand as they engage with one another.

Through this engagement, you'll see things like images, videos, and testimonials crop up that are ripe for the picking.

That user-generated content feeds back into the community, encouraging others to generate more of it, and it helps anchor prospective customers who were on the fence about making a purchase.

Giant Vapes is one of the largest online retailers of e-liquid for electronic cigarettes. It also operates a Facebook community, roughly 25,000 members strong. Members regularly share the products they've purchased, industry news, their opinions about interactions with the company, praise over shipping and deals, and more.

3. Give them customization and unique experiences

Customization provides your fans and customers with a sense of real ownership. They'll naturally want to share with their friends and family what they've created, and you can play on that desire by asking them to do so.

Whether it's a customized piece of clothing, a bag, or a vehicle, customization often leads to some great user-generated content.

And sometimes you don't even have to ask.

Scores of people got excited about the announcement of Nintendo's Super Mario Maker. Players create their own Mario levels to play on their own or share with the community. Fans, new and old, went crazy when it launched, and YouTube was flooded with the creations of streamers, generating a lot of visibility for the brand and the game.

This video has almost 12 million views to date.

In the same vein of creating unique experiences, Hello Games is seeing images and videos of their game No Man's Sky showing up all over the web, including a subreddit devoted to the game (a user-created community).

No Man's Sky features a universe boasting over 10 quintillion procedurally (randomly) generated planets, each with creatures and alien plant life different from the last. That guarantees unique content, and fans have been quick to share images and videos of their discoveries since its recent launch.

When you give your audience something they've never experienced before and the chance to create something unique they feel they own, they're more likely to share that experience far and wide. That builds a lot of trust and provides a lift in conversions.

4. The UGC contest

I touched on contests above with a couple of examples, but in recommending this approach, I wanted to add one more because of the success of the campaign.

Back in 2014, Starbucks invited fans to decorate their white cups with customized art. Fans were asked to submit the images through Twitter with the #whitecupcontest hashtag for a chance to win. There were thousands of entries, and, of course, a constant stream of buzz that drove customers to their local stores.

.@Starbucks doodle on your cappuccino #WhiteCupContest http://t.co/37P0ZBZcqd pic.twitter.com/uQv3L3n3Rf

- damoward (@damoward) September 6, 2014

I'm mentioning this contest specifically because it pulls in elements from my last point: let users customize and do something unique.

You don't have to have a multi-million dollar budget to add customization to your product line.

Sometimes, you just need to give your customers a blank canvas and set their creativity free.

5. Use videos on product pages

Yotpo can strap a rocket onto your conversions with user-generated images, but don't let the rocket run out of fuel.

If you can get your fans and customers generating videos of your products in use, those should be added to your product pages as well.

Explainer videos are great, but there's nothing that sells a product faster than a video showing real, happy customers, who are 100% satisfied with their purchase.

Here are some quick stats that show how effective product videos really are:

90% of users admit that seeing a video about a product helps them make a purchase decision 36% of customers trust video ads; imagine the trust you gain from earned media 64% of visitors are more likely to buy a product after watching a video online Product videos can increase conversions by as much as 20% Conclusion

Aside from those five tips, it goes without saying that you should absolutely be using product reviews on your website and social channels such as Facebook.

Leverage that social proof, and find creative ways to team up with your customers.

A large portion of your audience are happy to create and share content for you-they just need to know what you're looking for.

Tell them how to help, inspire them to get creative, and watch your conversions climb steadily as your collection of UGC grows.

Are you using user-generated content right now to build trust with your audience and increase your brand's visibility? What techniques are you using, and what's the most successful?

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9 Psychological Insights I Use When Designing a Pricing Page

Let me be upfront with you.

I'm not a web designer.

I work with some amazing web designers. I know a few things about web design. But when it comes right down to it, I'm not a designer.

What am I? I'm a marketer.

Why am I talking about designing a web page, specifically a pricing page?

Here's why. Web design and marketing overlap. A lot.

When you get into a discussion about web design, you can't help but talk about psychology. And when the page being designed is a pricing page, psychology plays a huge role.

What kind of psychology? Customer psychology.

Customer psychology is the study of the way people think, act, decide, and make purchases.

It has everything to do with motivation, mind tricks, color, placement, filtering, eye tracking studies, and, yes, web design.

That's why I'm confident in my ability to design a great pricing page.

I constantly A/B-test my pages to make sure I'm choosing the most optimal design, and most of the design choices you see throughout my web properties is based on simple psychological principles.

Psychology is common in marketing and design, regardless of the industry. Look at a casino, for example.

Every inch of that building, from the carpet and floor designs to the signs and turns was designed to psychologically keep people in the building spending money, not focusing on time and outside responsibilities.

Web design is the same way. And when it comes to the pricing page, these psychological principles are extremely important.

Here are a few of the tactics I use when designing pricing pages-one of the most important steps in your conversion funnel. 

1. Devalue money in the viewer's eyes

Since we're on the subject of Las Vegas… Another trick casino owners use is the idea of mentally devaluing money.

When you step up to a table, they exchange your money for chips.

Why? There are several reasons. One is that it makes it easier for dealers to count, but it also detaches people from the value of their money. It's easier to gamble away two chips than $2,000.

A lot of people are in debt, and, while it's great that you run a business, you need to get people to stop thinking about their bills.

The average user who looks at your pricing page might have in the back of their mind their consumer credit card debt.

Maybe you're not running a casino. How do you get people to stop thinking about their debt problems and instead focus on the value of your product, regardless of the price?

Let me give you an example.

Cornell researchers recently partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to research this concept of devaluing money on restaurant menus. Two different study groups were given two different menus, one with a dollar sign next to the pricing and one without.

The group given the menus without the dollar sign spent more money. Why? Because they weren't put off by the high $ price.

One example I've shown elsewhere is this pricing page. Notice the small dollar signs?

That's not a mistake.

The same thing is happening here:

The dollar sign serves as a trigger to remind people of the value of money. What they should be thinking about is the value of your product.

A simple removal or minimization of the dollar sign will make your pricing page more compelling, more powerful, and more psychologically potent.

2. Color-coordinate everything

Research from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health indicates colors are perceived in different ways by different people based on experiences, genetics, context, and other factors.

Still, there are brands of every kind that use specific colors within their logos.

If you're at the beginning stage of building your company, choose a color scheme that matches the emotion you're trying to evoke.

There was a time when Geocities ruled the web and websites commonly looked as though they were drawn by crayons. Thankfully, we've progressed, so basic black text on a white background is considered standard for text (with a few exceptions).

Headers and buttons, however, can vary greatly. Amazon uses a yellow color for the “Add to Cart” button on its pricing pages.

Walmart uses a red-orange.

Best Buy utilizes bright blue and yellow for different options.

Whatever you choose, make sure it speaks to your brand and is consistent all the way through to avoid confusing customers at a crucial step.

3. Size matters

Size does matter when designing a pricing page.

Here's the simple truth. You want people to see the important parts first because that's what needs to stick with them the longest.

Let me go back to this pricing page to show what I mean:

What's the first thing you look at when you see this page?

Probably the center column, focusing on the “Growth” package at $400 a month.

Why? Because it pops with a vivid blue against a very light gray backdrop.

Plus, it's bigger than the others. Size is important. It's also centrally located.

All of these are key differentiating features that psychologically emphasize the importance and superiority of that plan.

Where exactly does size matter?

Headlines Call-to-action buttons Price boxes (as pictured above)

As explained in Psychology in Action, larger fonts make messages enter our brains faster as we don't have to struggle to see them.

This split-second difference of time and attention puts the page into a logical and cohesive, Feng Shui-like, order for browsers.

4. Limited time offers

If someone thinks their time to act is limited, they're more likely to take action quickly rather than delay it.

Several studies have looked at how limited time offers affect our brains. Sites such as eBay and Groupon have practically built empires on the concept.

Essentially, it boils down to supply and demand.

When you create scarcity, the perceived value of an item goes up. It's called a theory of psychological reactance, which explains why we hate to miss out on a golden opportunity when presented with it.

You've probably heard of fear of missing out, or FOMO, right? Same idea, different angle.

Amazon uses this technique to great effect with constant inventory reminders on every item: “Only 10 left in stock – order soon.”

It's a great call to action.

Even though we know one of the world's largest fulfillment centers will definitely replenish its supplies of literally everything, will it happen soon enough? Can we wait and will it be more expensive next time?

Dr. Eldar Shafir, from Princeton, and Dr. Sendhil Mullainathan, from Harvard, explored how people's minds work when they feel they're lacking something. The perception of scarcity leads them to make mistakes or bad financial decisions, spending more money than they should.

Psychology Today's author Shahram Heshmat notes,

Scarcity orients the mind automatically and powerfully toward unfulfilled needs.

It also motivates us to prioritize our choices, e.g., we're more frugal with toothpaste when the tube is close to empty, and we rush to purchase a product or service to obtain a deal.

5. Discounts and VIP membership

People love feeling like they belong. Costco, Sam's Club, and AAA are just a few of the memberships you can get these days to feel like you're part of a country club.

Everyone wants to be a VIP, so offering VIP membership bonuses and discounts encourages customers to keep spending money at your business. Instead of buying just one roll of paper towels, you can subscribe and save.

Or buy 10 and get one free.

These promotions increase clicks because, as Ian Newby-Clark explains in Psychology Today,

We are social creatures who yearn to be included. We want to be a part of the group and strive for goals set for us.

It's like a drug: belonging to something bigger than yourself provides a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.

Marketing Profs has a great article describing how the inclusion of fans into a community motivates them to support a brand both as customers and ambassadors. I suggest you take a look at it as it's a great read.

As psychologists point out, our social identity is defined by the groups we belong to. This is why Xbox and PlayStation fans, for example, are so prone to debating their platform's superiority.

The NFL, along with all other major sports organization in America, uses this psychological principle to its advantage.

Fans show up sporting their team's colors and mascot costumes because it makes them feel like they belong.

Above: Seattle Seahawks fans surround a Cleveland Browns fan Sunday, Nov. 30, 2003, at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

6. Offer tiered pricing

As Talia Wolf points out,

Tiered pricing opens the door to all sorts of psychological techniques.

Hyperbolic discounting occurs when different pricing models provide different benefits, allowing us to personalize our shopping experience. Dropbox employs this technique:

Choice-supportive pricing, anchoring effect, and the decoy effect can also be employed to your advantage. With tiered pricing, anything is possible.

Amazon has about a dozen varieties of Prime combined with rewards cards, affiliate bounties, and subscription services to give you payment options beyond just “cash or credit.”

Tiered pricing is becoming even more popular these days with the growth of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model.

By subscribing for longer terms, people know they can often save money and thus seek out these types of deals.

Rational choice theory is a framework to model social and economic behavior. It states individual actors choose the option that maximizes their interests and provides the greatest benefit.

A tiered pricing model provides customers with purchasing options that are all, ultimately, with you.

7. Doorbusters work

Retail has long utilized doorbusters to get people in the doors. These savings are responsible for Black Friday leaking further into Thanksgiving every year. Once you have people in the door to buy a low-priced item, you can upsell them better, more expensive products.

Any pricing page should also have a “recommended” and “similar” section. These personalized offers help lead consumers to buy the right item for them, increasing trust in your e-commerce brand along with the ROI.

It should be noted, however, you should avoid the classic bait-and-switch scam that will get you in trouble with the FTC and ruin the reputation of both you and your brand.

It's also worth mentioning that many analysts think Black Friday is about more than just the doorbusters.

Professor Jane Thomas at Winthrop University says:

It's more of a tradition than anything else. People ritualistically line up at brick-and-mortar stores the Friday after Thanksgiving while a growing number wait for Cyber Monday the following week online.

There's also a psychological difference in the way we perceive prices such as $13.99 vs $14.00. The item priced at $13.99 is more likely to sell because even though it's only a penny short, it's $13 and change instead of $14.

Although consumers initially hit a website looking for a cheap deal on SEO services, soon they realize they're also missing social media, video, CRO, PPC, and many other aspects of marketing.

They want more.

That's the value of the doorbuster.

The initial doorbuster brings them to you for a killer deal. You get them in and then convert them to buy more stuff.

8. Get smaller yeses first

Much like with the doorbuster sale, you want to lead people by convincing them to agree to smaller things before hitting them with the big ask.

Zendesk does a great job of leading customers through smaller yeses first:

While the option is there to buy, Zendesk wants you to try the free version first because they're confident you'll come back as a paying subscriber once you've experienced the platform.

Who doesn't like free stuff?

By convincing customers to say yes to the smaller ask first, you make saying yes to the bigger ask much easier.

It's all part of the psychology of negotiation,

explains Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD.

Making the pie bigger for everyone increases the maximally efficient outcome 79% of the time.

You don't have to necessarily give out anything for free either. As explained above, even month-to-month subscriptions are a smaller ask than a year-long contract, so providing different levels of the same offer will do the trick.

9. Provide choices

As explained above, offering both payment and product choices is a great way to improve revenue on pricing pages.

A customer is buying a TV, do they need a warranty? Cables? A stand or mount? A DVD Player, home stereo system, or Chromecast?

Give people options for bundles, add-ons, and other available sizes, colors, and brands. But don't give them so many options that they get overloaded.

In 2000, researchers S.S. Inyengar and M.R. Leper conducted a study allowing supermarket shoppers to sample the different flavors of jam available for purchase. The test compared the impact of having 24 jam flavors to choose from versus having only 6.

Only 3% of those who sampled the 24 flavors went on to purchase the jam, compared to 30% who sampled only 6 flavors.

Too many options will inhibit your customers' ability to make a clear decision.

Conclusion

Psychology is important in web design and marketing. How people perceive a brand is directly impacted by the appearance of every landing page, including the pricing, checkout, and confirmation pages.

By A/B-testing different versions of those pages, while implementing the psychological principles discussed above, you'll be able to optimize conversions and revenue streams from your online marketing.

What psychological techniques help you design your web properties?

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Who needs software vulnerabilities when you can find lame passwords?

Most criminals don't need to target software to infiltrate a network and get at sensitive data: getting credentials will do the job just fine.
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Google Local Business Cards or Posts about to roll out to 'thousands' of SMBs

Search feature will soon be broadly accessible to local businesses and their agencies. The post Google Local Business Cards or Posts about to roll out to 'thousands' of SMBs appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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11 Personal Brand Building Hacks That Will Earn You More Customers Within Two Weeks

If you run an online business, you are probably aware that building a strong personal brand is one of the most powerful tools in your entrepreneurial arsenal.

While most entrepreneurs understand the power behind effective branding, very few understand how to effectively execute and build a reputable personal brand.

If that's you, don't worry.

With a few simple tweaks and hacks, you can ramp up the power behind your brand and build a bigger fanbase than you ever thought possible in a few short weeks.

Here's how.

1. Use professional profile photos

If you want to be taken seriously in the online world, you need to present yourself with an air of professionalism.

I know it may be tempting to use that cute avatar as your profile picture, but it comes off as adolescent and unprofessional.

Invest the time and money into a professional picture, and it will be worth its weight in gold for your personal brand.

Make sure you smile. Why? Because a smile can build trustworthiness.

Here's how MedicalDaily.com summed up the research on this subject:

Psychologists specializing in facial expressions are still unsure as to whether a human smile is a tool used for communication or an involuntary expression that conveys our emotional state. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön and the Toulouse School of Economics have confirmed that putting on an honest smile that is genuine can influence people to cooperate with you by perceiving you as trustworthy.

The professional photo I use on this blog is simple and effective. Shirt. Suit. Tie. And…smile!

In the photo above, I'm wearing a suit. That helps, of course, but it's not absolutely necessary. To look professional in a photo, you don't need to be wearing a business suit.

By “professional photos,” I mean the quality and subject of the photo.

I was browsing LinkedIn recently and came across a guy I know to be really professional. He does top-notch work and is the president of his own company.

But his profile photo doesn't shout professional! In fact, it's kind of hard to figure out what's going on in his picture. The quality and subject of the photo don't speak to his professionalism.

Isn't there a place for fun photos? Sure, but make sure you're using them in the right place and at the right time.

I've discovered that fun or casual photos can grab people's attention-like this one on my blog NeilPatel.com.

Here are a few key things to remember:

When it comes to your profile photo (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), make sure it's a headshot. No one else needs to be in the picture-no kids, pets, or significant others. Smile. Don't wear sunglasses. Wear something that's appropriate to your job and position. If possible, use the photo services of a professional. Use a high-quality photo. Pixelated headshots aren't effective.

Look, you don't need to be a good-looking person to have a really high-quality headshot that brings in the leads. All you need is a sharp, crisp, professional photo of your face.

2. Present content authentically

We live in an era of frauds and fakes. If you are not intentional about your presentation, even high quality information may be disregarded or come off as disingenuous.

Whenever you write an article or record a video, speak or write authentically, from the heart. Don't worry about what people will think.

Whether you swear like a sailor or are as clean-cut as they come, whether you are reserved and quiet or as intense as a Navy SEAL instructor, use your own personality and style whenever you share your message.

People will appreciate the authenticity. Your polarizing nature will create more loyal customers and fans than you can imagine.

3. Create and share killer content on a regular basis

The world is so full of new and exciting content that it's easy to get left behind (even with an established brand) unless you are regularly creating and marketing high quality content.

A guy like Brian Dean has a strong personal brand:

He needs to be publishing really great content on a regular basis in order to generate leads for his business.

As expected, his content is always top-notch:

Whether you are creating YouTube videos, podcasts, or blog posts, you need to keep your head in the game and crank out killer content on a regular basis.

What's “killer” content? Here are a few pointers:

Well researched-back up your claims with data. Unique-don't repeat what everyone else is saying. Longform-lengthy content gets more social shares, more backlinks, and higher search engine results. Genuinely useful-solve problems; relieve pain; provide answers. Grammatically correct. 4. Stay consistent on social media

The average person in the Western world spends around 3 hours on social media each day.

If you don't build and maintain a high profile social presence, your brand will suffer a slow but certain demise.

Gary Vaynerchuk's social media presence is on point. He's always publishing content, and it's always good.

Social media is so prevalent in our modern culture that it's become an absolute necessity for any aspiring entrepreneur to master the art of social media branding.

How do you remain consistent on social media? Here is a schedule you can follow:

Twitter: 5 times a day

LinkedIn: 1 time a day

Google+: 1 time a day

Facebook: 2 times a day

Branding isn't complicated. It's simply a matter of deciding what your jam is, knowing it, and being all about it, everywhere you are.

5. Tell a compelling story

People love stories-it's part of our DNA.

We have a neurological response to storytelling:

The effect of a story is so powerful that it's impossible to ignore.

James Clear, a popular blogger, explains his take on stories:

In the end, my work ends up being one-part storytelling, one-part academic research, one-part personal experiment. It's a colorful blend of inspirational stories, academic science, hard-earned wisdom.

His stories are now part of his personal brand. He uses storytelling to introduce the lessons he teaches on his blog.

A story? About a tough job? And the Tour de France? Yes, please.

And while the days of listening intently to tribal leaders tell tales of struggle and victory while huddled around a campfire on the savanna are over, we still connect with stories in the same way we did thousands of years ago.

If you want to effectively build your personal brand, you have to center everything around a story.

And not just any story, your story.

One of the quickest ways to grow your brand and your business is figuring out how you can craft and share your story in a way that's as relatable and authentic as possible.

6. Be intentional in positioning yourself

How do you want to be known in your niche?

Are you the friendly expert? The sarcastic a-hole? The mentor full of tough love?

Think about people with strong and recognizable personal brands such as Tucker Max (the sarcastic a-hole), Tim Ferriss (the friendly expert), or Garrett White (the tough love mentor).

All of them decided how they wanted to position themselves within their niches and then built their brands around that.

If you want to succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavors, you'll do the same.

You have to own it. Stick with it. You're building an identity.

Maybe Tucker Max likes his identity. Maybe he doesn't. But he made the bed, and now he has to lie in it.

Selena Soo positions herself as a publicity and business strategist for experts, authors, and coaches:

Every email, webinar, ad, and update is focused on that one point.

Brendon Burchard is a passionate coach who has positioned himself using the “Live. Love. Matter.” slogan. His positioning has allowed him to create a powerful presence that people don't forget.

7. Host hangouts and reply to comments

One of the quickest and most efficient ways to grow your personal brand is to connect with your audience.

Whether you are responding to comments on your blog, hosting weekly AMA Hangouts, or annual live meetups, getting involved with your audience and building rapport will put you on the fast track to a massive and recognizable personal brand.

8. Create a recognizable logo

The human brain processes logos in around 13 milliseconds, faster than the blink of an eye. I bet you recognize these logos:

A recognizable and high quality logo is essential to your visual marketing and personal brand.

Think about brands like Pepsi, Amazon, Google, and PayPal.

All of them have established strong logos people instantly recognize. Whether you love them or hate them, you cannot look at the Pepsi logo or see the colorful letters of Google without immediately acknowledging the brand:

Use the power of the human brain to your advantage, and craft a high quality logo that will increase your recognition.

A personal brand logo creates a visual hook for people to pair with your brand. If you are trying to brand yourself using only a title, your name, or a slogan, it won't be as effective.

The human brain uses a variety of sensory inputs to create a lasting memory-sound, motion, color, smell, and imagery.

By creating a colorful and unique logo, you'll be able to develop visual imagery that sticks in people's minds.

Think about Jimmy Fallon for a moment. He has a strong personal brand and uses his circular logo and blue moon imagery to reinforce this in people's minds:

Rachael Ray, the celebrity cook, has a fun, light, and memorable logo featuring her name:

9. Create a brand tag line

Another great way to build your brand recognition is to create a powerful and easy to remember tagline or mission statement.

“Open happiness.”

“Stay fresh.”

“The few, the proud, the ____.”

“Let's go places.”

Even without me telling you the brand names, you've probably recognized the brands of Coca-Cola, Subway, the U.S. Marines, and Toyota.

Brands try to harness a feeling, an emotion. That's why a brand that makes automobiles can have a tagline with a visceral and deep-seated impact.

That's the power of a well-written tagline.

Even in a so-called “boring” industry, Microsoft tries to be inspirational.

A personal brand has even greater potential for inspiration and motivation.

10. Start a podcast

If most of your work is centered around the written word, starting a podcast is a fantastic way to build a stronger online personality and establish a more powerful brand.

Podcasts are a rawer and unfiltered medium for sharing information, and if you can grow them and market them well enough, they can also be a fantastic strategy for monetizing your brand.

11. Start speaking at events

One of the best ways to establish authority of your personal brand is to speak at events or conferences:

Although speaking at TEDx or The World Domination Summit may feel out of your reach right now, start with smaller gigs, and build from there.

Getting up in front of a live audience, while being vulnerable and not having the ability to edit mistakes or correct your speeches, is a powerful way to build more authenticity into your brand.

Speaking takes practice. Many people are afraid of public speaking, but I think everyone should try it at least once.

Who knows? You may find that it's something you love and are good at!

Conclusion

You're now equipped with 11 powerful tips. These hacks work.

If you are willing to take action, you can grow your personal brand at an obscene rate, earning more customers and building a loyal following quicker than you ever thought possible.

It will take hard work and sacrifice on your part, but I promise that if you do what you need to do and use these 11 tips, your brand and your business will never be the same.

A personal brand is a powerful thing. How have you used your personal brand to gain more clients and customers?

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Analyzing and Cleaning Hijacked Google SEO Spam Results

Blackhat SEO spam comes in many forms, and one of the most nefarious is hijacked search results. This happens when search engines crawl and display unwanted content in the title and description of infected web pages. The negative impact to the infected website cannot be understated. This harms the website's reputation with visitors and will...

The post Analyzing and Cleaning Hijacked Google SEO Spam Results appeared first on Sucuri Blog.

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How to Connect With Traditional Media Influencers

Are you seen as an expert in your industry? Want to develop relationships with the media to become a go-to expert? To explore what marketers need to know to connect with traditional media influencers, I interview Josh Elledge. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social [...]

This post How to Connect With Traditional Media Influencers first appeared on .
- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

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4 Free Digital Marketing Opportunities Most Marketers Are Missing

Digital marketing.

To some, it's merely another fancy buzzword. To others, it's the backbone of their entire business.

In my life, digital marketing is almost everything I do.

For most entrepreneurs, however, it is a highly underutilized and misunderstood tool.

Most people think digital marketing has to be an expensive endeavor that takes thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to see any success with.

This is simply not the case.

There are a number of free tools and opportunities within digital marketing that most entrepreneurs are missing.

Here are just a few of them to help get you started. 

1. Use the power of blog commenting to build links

Blog commenting has become a practice synonymous with spammers and sleazy online marketers.

Because of this, most entrepreneurs do not take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Despite the negative connotation, blog comments are a fantastic way to promote your business and build a very natural link profile.

It's only when blog commenting is used improperly (like in the image below) that it's damaging to your Google ranking and personal reputation:

So, how can you use the power of blog commenting to market your content in an authentic, natural, and non-spammy way?

The first and most important step is finding the right blogs to comment on.

The best way to do this is simply to use blogs you regularly read or blogs that show up in your social media feed.

This practice ensures that you are posting on sites relevant to your niche.

It also increases the authenticity of your comments since you are an actual reader and probably have gained real value from the content you are commenting on.

However, if you already comment on your favorite blogs on a regular basis and are looking to expand your reach, there are other ways to find places to comment.

An easy way to do this is to utilize the Google Search Console and Advanced Search Operators.

Let's say you are running an online fitness clothing store for women.

You could enter any of the following search operators into Google:

Women's athletic wear “comments” Women's athletic style “leave a reply” Women's athletic clothing “leave a comment”

For example:

The search operators you are using clearly specify to Google that you only want search results that have the option to comment on the page.

After you've compiled a list of potential blogs to comment on, you can check their Ahrefs ranks to determine whether or not they are worth your time.

Now that you are done with the easy work of finding high quality blogs to comment on, it's time for the hard stuff.

And that's getting your comment approved.

This basically comes down to writing a non-spammy comment that still includes a link to your site.

Since most high-quality blogs have a pretty heavy moderation policy, this is not an easy task.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

Always fill the name field with your name-not the name of your site. Comments that have URLs in the name field are deleted most of the time. Leave the website field blank. Since you are going to include a link in the body of your comment, leaving the website field blank will help improve the odds of your comment passing the moderator. The best way to comment is to pick a relevant point from the blog content and then expand on it in an authentic and genuine way.

Take a look at some of the examples below to see the right way to do this:

2. Don't overlook press releases

I know, I know.

“What the heck, Neil? Press releases?! We are in the 21st century here!”

And I get it.

But press releases, when used properly, can actually be a pretty fantastic tool.

If you time the article right, a press release can generate a load of views and shares for your content.

When you have a large number of people, especially journalists, reviewing your content, it is more likely that your work will be picked up by major publications.

This can be a pivotal component of getting your content to go viral.

Press releases can also help your link-building campaigns in a big way, but you have to be intentional about the content.

Here are a few of the benefits, if you can ignore the not-quite-accurate benefits of “rankings” and “links.”

Links and rankings do happen, but only indirectly.

If a journalist or blogger sees your press release and decides to cover your content or include it as a part of a major story, the keywords you'd use would be key.

Make sure your content is filled with keywords you want to rank for.

This way, if a journalist takes a quote from your work, you'll be able to build up links to help boost your rankings.

The most important thing to keep in mind when running a press release, however, is your message.

Unlike with a regular blog post or YouTube video, when you run a press release, you and your content are now in the spotlight.

If you have any incongruency in your messaging, any incorrect data, or serious errors within your release, the PR will do more harm than good.

With a press release, you are shouting your message from a mountaintop.

Make sure you are shouting the right message.

While press releases are typically very expensive endeavors, costing anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, there are tools online that let you generate press coverage for free.

Here are a few of the best:

24-7PressRelease.com PRLog.org IdeaMarketers.com

There are certainly drawbacks to press releases.

They do not directly improve SEO; they are difficult to track; and if you make a mistake, you can do more damage to your brand than good.

However, if you know your way around, you can actually market your content quite effectively using free press release sources.

Just make sure you consider the pros and cons before filing for a release.

3. Get on Google+

With the prevalence of social media in today's marketplace, it surprises me that more businesses do not take advantage of the Google+ platform.

Google+ is a fantastic free way to market yourself, your business, and your content.

Getting started on Google+ is simple.

Because I've already written extensively on how to use Google+ for your marketing campaigns, I'll give you only a brief synopsis in this article.

The first step is to claim authorship with your personal Google+ profile.

Basically, this makes it easier for readers to identify your content, and it will allow you to position yourself as an authority within your niche.

Here's how you can do this as simply as possible, courtesy of Social Media Examiner:

Once you've linked your content to your Google+ account, it's time to start utilizing the power of the Google+ apps.

The first thing I recommend is using the +1'd Content app.

This allows people to recommend a website or a post. It will increase your click-through rate and will allow people to share and comment on content outside of Google+.

Next, you need to set up YouTube integration with your Google+ account:

Source: youtubecreator.blogspot.com

Let me share a little statistic with you.

People spend almost 6 billion hours-a month (!)-consuming YouTube content.

By integrating your Google+ and YouTube accounts, you will expand your reach on both platforms simultaneously and increase the number of eyes viewing and sharing your content.

And finally…

The big one.

Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts is by far one of my favorite marketing tools.

If you have any degree of authority within your niche, running regular Google hangouts is one of the fastest ways to engage your audience and improve your sales.

When people get to interact with you in a raw and unedited form, they tend to connect with you on a deeper level.

This will build engagement with your audience, transforming them from casual readers to raving fans.

Using a Google Hangout to host a webinar is also a great way to boost sales, especially whenever you are releasing a new product.

However, be warned.

If you are using webinars solely to promote new products, users will leave, and you will damage your online reputation.

You need to offer massive value while hosting webinars before you even mention a new product.

4. Do link outreach (the right way)

When digital and content marketing first started to take off, the tactic of link outreach became very common.

Link outreach basically looked something like this:

And the thing is…

…this used to work.

However, in the modern business world, the above strategy will probably have a 1-3% success rate, likely with lower tier websites and blogs.

But.

The core strategy of connecting with other influencers and having them promote your content (either by replacing a broken link or just sharing it outright) still works.

If you do it the right way.

What is the “right” way?

Focusing on relationships first and link building second.

Here is the deal.

A lot of Internet marketers are a pain in the butt.

They are constantly seeking to gain value from other people-those they have no relationship with-and rarely offer anything in return.

If you want to stand out from this crowd and actually succeed in your link-building efforts, you need to try a different approach.

The first step is to find companies you want a link from in the first place.

I once again recommend you select blogs and websites you are already familiar with and read on a regular basis.

But if you've already worn out all potential opportunities with your “regulars,” you can try another approach (shout-out to Ryan Stewart of Ahrefs.com for introducing me to this).

If you want to find great places to get potential links, then fire up Google, and input one or more of the following searches:

[Your keyword] + “Top posts of the week” [Your keyword] + “Friday link roundup” [Your keyword] + “Best posts of the week”

This will allow you to find blogs and websites already curating great content.

Trust me: it's a lot easier to get a link from one of these resources than from a blogger who only promotes their own content.

Now that you've found the blog you want to get a link from, it's time to connect.

This does not mean you immediately email them, asking for a link to your content.

The first step you need to take is to start following the blog/website/influencer on social media.

Once you are following them, drop them a line with something simple:

Hey, this is so-and-so. I read your piece on XYZ and really enjoyed it! Keep up the great work!

Once you have broken the ice and made the first contact on social media, start commenting on their posts and on their blog.

Do this for about a week, continuing the conversation you started above, if at all possible.

Once you've established good rapport and the influencer is aware of you, it's time to ask for the link.

While this tactic works great for broken links, it works even better if the blogger regularly posts a “Best of the web” article or something similar.

You will end up getting more traffic from a weekly roundup than you would from a broken link.

And, if your content is good, you may end up getting a repeat “customer” who will continue linking to your company for months or years to come.

Conclusion

Digital marketing can be a lot simpler (and less expensive) than people think.

But you have to be willing to take an “outside the box” approach to it.

Equipped with the above four tips and tricks, you'll be able to market your company more quickly and effectively than ever before.

None of the advice I've given here is easy, but it's simple and doable.

Take the time to educate yourself on these four opportunities, and learn how to capitalize on them to grow your business.

And invest your time in uncovering the wealth of other free digital marketing opportunities available in today's marketplace.

You may be surprised at how effectively you can market your company and your content without a big budget.

What is your favorite free digital marketing opportunity?

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The Only Checklist You Need for Launching Your Startup's Website

Ah, website launches.

Love 'em or hate 'em, they are something every business needs to do.

I've been through a ton of website launches, so it's kind of a ho-hum process now.

But even if I go into a website launch with a nonchalant attitude, something usually happens-something unexpected.

In one website launch, the webmaster forgot to turn off the disallow on the robots.txt In another website redesign, the developers forgot to add the subdomain to 200k pages. In another website redesign, the developers accidentally used the wrong footer for all 1.1m pages.

I could go on and on.

Here's the thing-website launches are important. And more often than not, there's something wonky that happens. These wonky surprises can destroy your SEO and cause your entire website to flounder from the start.

Even if you're fairly experienced with the process and have built multiple sites, launching a new website can still be overwhelming and stressful.

There are a lot of components involved in a website launch, and there's a lot of potential for hiccups along the way.

Overlooking even a few subtle elements can have disastrous consequences.

What if there are blatant typos? Or what if your visitors get the dreaded “page not found” error?

It's going to be a poor reflection on your company and could send would-be customers running.

The bottom line is that no one is perfect, and even the top professionals can overlook a few details.

What I've learned from launching multiple sites is that it's crucial to follow a formula that forces me to leave no stone unturned. This way I can cover myself and ensure that the entire process goes off without a hitch.

The best way to accomplish this is to follow a checklist and work your way through it step by step.

Here is the only checklist you need for launching your startup's website.

Layout

First things first. You'll want to cover the basics in terms of web design to ensure your site looks great and is easily navigable.

Visitors should have a seamless experience without needing to think too much about how to get where they need to go.

Here are things to attend to at this stage:

Your homepage includes your business's logo. The logo is appealing and professional. Visitors should be aware of the product or service you're selling upon landing on your site. Images are optimally positioned. Images can be viewed on mobile devices. Compatibility

Today's Internet users access websites from a variety of devices and browsers.

In particular, the use of mobile devices has become increasingly common: 80% of people are using smartphones, and 47% are using tablets.

That's why it's crucial to avoid fundamental glitches that can create compatibility issues.

Make sure that:

your site is compatible with all major browsers, including Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc. your site is fully optimized for mobile users. There are multiple ways to create a mobile-friendly site, but responsive web design (RWD) is regarded as one of the most effective techniques. you've optimized cascading style sheets (CSS) across your site. all coding has been done correctly, and there are no glitches that can ruin the user experience. Functionality

It should go without saying, but users expect a fluid experience.

Any glitches or malfunctions can increase your bounce rate, and it'll be much more difficult to nurture leads.

With 55% of visitors spending fewer than 15 seconds on a website, you need to cover all the bases and optimize your site's functionality to keep your visitors browsing and minimize your bounce rate.

Make sure that:

You've corrected any issues that could potentially slow down your site's load time. There are no broken links. There are no 404 redirects. All internal links point to the intended page. All external links are working correctly and point to authoritative, relevant sites. You're not linking to resources that offer no value. Links open in a new tab. (It can be annoying for users when they lose their place because a separate tab isn't opened after they click on a link). You've set up a favicon icon so that users can easily identify your site when they bookmark it. (This is crucial for proper branding). You've optimized navigation by adding pages either to the top or to the sidebar so that users can quickly find what they're looking for. You've added a search bar to expedite the search. Your site isn't clogged with annoying ads or popups. Popups can be closed with ease. Site speed

Time is of the essence when your website is loading.

The longer it takes your site to load, the higher your abandonment rate will be. If it takes longer than three seconds to load, you've already lost 40% of your visitors.

That's no good.

Here are just a few other eye-opening stats. A one-second delay in page load time yields:

11% fewer page views A 16% decrease in customer satisfaction A 7% loss in conversions

That's why I can't stress enough just how crucial it is to check the speed of your site and do whatever it takes to optimize it. Ideally, you'll be able to get your loading time under three seconds.

Here are some specific things to look into:

You've checked the speed of your website using the Pingdom Website Speed Test. This will let you know the precise speed and provide you with some performance insights to indicate problem areas. You're using high-quality servers capable of keeping up with heavy website traffic at times. You've enabled browser caching. You're not using an excessive number of images, videos, or other media that could potentially slow down your site. You're not going overboard on plugins. (These can make your site sluggish). You've ensured that above-the-fold content loads quickly. (This should be a priority over below-the-fold because it doesn't matter all that much if below-the-fold content takes a few seconds longer).

This should cover the basics, but you can get a lot more ideas about speeding up your website by checking out this resource.

Content

It's been said time and time again-content is king.

Content is arguably the lifeblood of your website. Any lack of professionalism or mediocre quality will hurt you in the long run.

Providing A+ content is important not only for maximizing average session duration but also for your overall conversion rate.

That's why you need to be borderline obsessive about dotting your i's and crossing your t's in this department.

Make sure that:

You've used a light background with dark fonts to make text easily readable. You've thoroughly proofread every landing page, blog post, etc. You've corrected every single spelling and grammatical error. You've created engaging and captivating titles. You've broken up content into digestible chunks by incorporating H1s, H2s, H3s, and bullet points. You haven't used massive blocks of text that are ugly and difficult to read. You've given proper attribution to external sources you've cited. You have plenty of visuals to make your content appealing to the eye. (46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies).

Images are high-definition and professional in appearance. You're not infringing upon any copyrights with your images. Images are correctly formatted and can be viewed on any device. You've added videos where appropriate. Videos are correctly formatted and viewable on any device. Downloadable content, such as whitepapers, e-books and slideshows, are working properly. You've added your business's contact information in a visible area. Visitors can find answers to FAQs. Pricing information can be easily found. There are calls to action in relevant locations. You've added social share buttons. You've implemented SEO

Understanding and implementing the fundamentals of on-site SEO is incredibly important.

This is your ticket to getting found in search engines and driving a consistent stream of organic traffic to your site.

When it comes to SEO, a lot of elements need to be covered.

You've created an XML sitemap. You've performed keyword research to identify which keyword phrases to target in your content. You have chosen longtail keywords so that you have a legitimate chance of outranking the competition.

You've peppered those keywords throughout your content but without keyword stuffing. You've incorporated targeted keywords into your URL. You've included targeted keywords in your meta description, titles, and headers. You've added relevant tags to your content. Alt tags have been added to images. Tags have been added to videos. URLs are brief and user-friendly. (They're not long and ugly.) Meta descriptions are a maximum of 160 characters. This ensures they're not truncated in search results. Meta descriptions are engaging and summarize what your content is all about. You've set up internal and external links. You've practiced hyperlink optimization where links don't contain your targeted keywords. (Targeted keywords in hyperlinks can result in penalties from Google). Analytics

Right from the get-go, you need to be diligent about keeping tabs on your traffic.

You want to be able to analyze visitor behavior, ways you are acquiring your traffic, length of time visitors are staying on your site, your bounce rate, and so on.

Doing so is essential for spotting patterns and trends and ultimately making key adjustments to optimize conversions.

That's why I recommend setting up some type of analytics platform when launching your startup's website.

I think that Google Analytics is sufficient for generating the basic data needed for most startups, especially during the initial stages.

However, you may also want to utilize a more comprehensive platform such as Crazy Egg so that you can visually see where your visitors are clicking. One of my companies, Kissmetrics, is another helpful tool for better interpreting your data.

Here are some essential analytics-related steps to cover:

You've properly inserted your analytics code into your website. You've checked to make sure that it's set up correctly with no formatting/coding issues. You've set up conversion goals. You've set up e-commerce tracking. You've set up event tracking. You've linked Google Analytics and AdWords if applicable. Security

Did you know that “the number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2015 totaled 781?”

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, “this represents the second highest year on record since the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) began tracking breaches in 2005.”

Website security is no joke, especially for companies in the business sector, health/medical industry, and banking/financial/credit sector because these industries have reported the highest number of data breaches on average.

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the catalyst for the majority of cyber attacks was hacking.

It's important to remember that no one is completely exempt from an attack. If it can happen to big name companies like Sony and Target, it can definitely happen to a small startup.

I'm not trying to freak you out, but website security has never been more essential than today.

If your data is ever compromised, it can quickly open a can of worms. It can tarnish your reputation, lead to costly downtime, and even result in costly penalties from the government.

Some specific points you'll want to check off include the following:

You're running your site on a secure host. You have a business continuity plan in the event of system downtime. You've made sure that your website is properly backed up in case of data loss. Your site utilizes a secure login system. All passwords are stored in a secure location. You've made it so that users are denied entry after a certain number of login attempts. You can use a WordPress plugin like Login LockDown for this. You haven't shared login information with unwanted third parties. You've instructed team members to not share sensitive information through unprotected channels such as unencrypted email. Login pages are fully encrypted. You've protected your site against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. This is a common type of attack that hackers use. Although it's nearly impossible to prevent these types of attacks altogether, utilizing a Cloud mitigation provider can help dramatically. You've implemented a secure payment processing system that will protect financial information of your customers. You've created a plan to continually test your website security. Conclusion

This checklist should serve as a way to foolproof the process of launching your startup's website. By having a systematized sequence of steps to follow, you'll know for sure you're not missing any important details.

Once it's actually time to launch, you can rest easy, knowing your visitors will have the best experience possible.

Your site will load quickly and have plenty of aesthetic appeal; visitors will be able to navigate your site with ease; and security won't be an issue.

When it's all said and done, you can keep visitors on your site longer, efficiently move them through the sales funnel, and, most importantly, maximize your conversion rate.

Which elements do you think are the most important to address when launching a new website?

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11 Growth-Hacking Tactics That Require Zero Technical Skills

The term “hacking” sounds like technical voodoo that's beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

The reality is, the term “growth hacking” has kind of been ruined by people who don't understand it.

I mean, even the word “hack” isn't quite accurate in describing what most growth hackers do.

In the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, I laid out in full detail how growth hacking works.

If you want to get the skinny on what growth hacking is (and isn't), that would be a good place to start.

This particular article is directed at those non-techies who don't want to spend all day staring at a computer screen.

Because here's the thing: Growth hacking isn't just about coding, sneaky techniques, and secret plugins.

It doesn't take an advanced engineering degree or high-tech computer skills to implement growth hacking tricks.

Whether or not you're schooled in “growth hacking” techniques, I think you'll be surprised by what you read below. To be completely honest, growth hacking is more about common sense, management, leadership, and innovative thinking than being able to write a line of code.

With the following eleven tactics, you can be well on your way to wearing a growth hacker badge.

1. Solicit outside contribution

Wait a second. You thought we were talking about “growth,” right?

So, what's this about soliciting outside contribution?

This.

In value-based management, operational decisions serve as the foundation for the rest of the business.

The more you can cut back on your operational expenses, the faster you can grow.

Content-focused websites, such as blogs, allow you to solicit free contributions from other bloggers in order to grow your content and subscriber base.

Content aggregators and user-generated content sites profit from this strategy as well.

What does this mean?

Several things:

It means getting people in your organization to buy into your growth vision. A growth hacker is essentially a person who's obsessed with growth and can get others to join in the fun. It means getting user-generated content. User-generated content is a marketer's dream come true. It has all the value of great content without much work. It's scalable and powerful.

Launched in 2005, The Huffington Post used free aggregated and contributed content to transform itself into a multi-million dollar media empire by the time it was acquired by AOL in 2011.

Lower operating expenses lead to higher profits, which puts your business in a better position to continue expanding. Even in business, liquid capital rules everything.

If you can legally get free resources for your business such as manpower, products, or supplies, take advantage of it.

2. Crowdsource busywork

When it comes to the tasks you do have to pay for, instead of hiring a new employee, consider crowdsourcing.

Services such as TopCoder and Amazon's Mechanical Turk are excellent crowdsourcing resources that can get jobs done faster and cheaper than traditional full-time employees.

And it's not just for work; some companies have found success crowdsourcing ideas too. Toyota is famous for its employee suggestion program, and Starbucks found success asking customers to help come up with new ideas.

Over 150,000 ideas were submitted in a five-year period, and over 2 million votes were cast on My Starbucks ideas during the program.

The long-term benefits of crowdsourcing R&D ideas have helped keep Starbucks relevant in a tough market.

Of course, not everything can be crowdsourced.

But when you crowdsource more stuff, you're creating a tribe of growth movers, people who can help you do what you want to do: grow the business.

3. Hire a solid team

You do eventually need to hire in order to maintain the growth acquired through growth hacking. Finding the right employees at the right price means scouting the right markets.

Here's the most recent map of unemployment in the United States.

Areas like the southwest may be good places to find skilled workers to hire. If you're not located in the area, consider a virtual team.

Remote work is growing across the board in every level of every industry. Here are some statistics about remote workers in the U.S.

By expanding your search to include remote employees, you can get better talent cheaper and optimize your staff for future growth.

4. Constantly post links

Backlinks are the backbone of any solid SEO strategy.

They act as breadcrumbs to lead people back to your website from anywhere around the web.

They're also a part of search engine algorithms and are a factor in determining your site's visibility for search terms.

Brands that have online success often achieve it using backlinks. Snack Nation used relevant backlinks through contextual keywords to raise organic search traffic over 300% within a few months.

SEO certainly isn't the only growth-hacking method out there, but it's an important one if you want to create sustainable growth.

5. Hire a PR agency

Sometimes, it's a good idea to just hire a professional PR firm.

Getting your name out there is an important part of growth hacking, and PR firms specialize in amplifying messages throughout mainstream media, social media, online forums, events, and more.

In fact, with online marketing automation taking over the industry, PR and communications-related jobs are projected to outgrow the job market over the next few years.

Online content marketing has become so popular that websites like The Huffington Post often host more content marketing editorials than actual journalistic reporting.

PR people even outnumber journalists these days by a three-to-one ratio.

The public relations industry has more influence, generates more revenue, and attracts more practitioners than the rest of the media combined.

Trust in the power of the dark side, and hire a professional PR agency to help you meet your growth goals.

PR agencies aren't in conflict with growth-hacking principles. They work in concert with them by allowing you to build greater brand presence.

6. Implement analytics

No growth hacking or any other business implementation works without proper analytics to quantify its success.

Growth hacking is synonymous with obsessed-with-metrics.

Anyone with a website should at least be familiar with analytics, which look like this:

Knowing who your customers are, where they come from, why they're here, what they bought, and what they enjoyed about the experience are all important factors to ensure you can replicate the experience and encourage growth.

In the case of marketing automation (which is essentially what growth hacking is), there are seven important KPIs indicated by marketers in a recent survey:

Focusing on raising these metrics can help optimize the customer base you have to increase ROI.

Growth hacking requires a solid structure in place that can eventually be sustained, even if individual efforts aren't.

7. Automate everything

Automation is the key to growing as quickly as possible.

And growth hacking is all about growing as quickly as possible.

Act-on, developer of a popular marketing automation platform, touts case studies such as Adaptive Computing, a company that was able to increase sales by $150,000 in the first month after implementing their platform.

This isn't just a one-off case-as many as 29% of companies realize financial benefits within only three months of automation implementation.

Of course, implementing marketing automation is easier said than done. Staff need to be trained on new processes, and there's a period when everyone gets used to new policies and procedures.

Lack of time and lack of budget are the reasons most often cited by companies for why marketing automation isn't implemented. Don't let this deter you.

Investing in technology makes difficult processes simpler and repeatable while maintaining quality. This is how growth happens.

8. Scout the competition

Uber not only disrupted the taxi industry but revolutionized the entire transportation industry, creating a two-sided marketplace.

Facing heavy competition from Lyft and the rest of the industry it revolutionized, the company started looking at ways to optimize the driver experience to maintain its lead.

Now, the average driver is spending much more time actually driving and earning more per shift, incentivizing them not to jump ship and go to a competitor.

Uber's operating costs remain well below that of most other forms of public transportation, but the company still keeps an eye on the competition to ensure it maintains its competitive advantage.

Most growth hackers can only dream of replicating the once-in-a-lifetime success of Uber.

9. Reward customers

There's no better way to attract business than to compensate customers for being customers.

Rewards programs make customers 85% more loyal, increasing retention rates by 5% and overall profits by up to 95%.

Since the cost of keeping a customer is often much less than the cost of acquiring one, it's important for your growth to sustain returning business.

10. Build exclusivity

When Facebook was first created, MySpace already existed. There's no reason anyone should have joined the social network, but over a billion people did over the past decade because the company created an air of exclusivity.

Once the buzz was created and a solid user base existed, the company was able to sustain high levels of growth, adding nearly 800,000 users per day during its peak growth period in 2011.

By that point, Facebook was more focused on connecting its API to as many website and app login services as possible to offer incentive for its exclusivity.

This same growth hack can be applied to your business without needing to code the next Facebook.

11. Hustle and grind

Want to know my secret sauce to growth hacking?

Hustle.

I didn't title my new book Hustle that way for no reason.

Hustling is the key to growth.

At the end of the day, many small businesses fail, especially in the first four years when more than half of businesses shutter.

The difference between failure and success is your hustle and grind. Those willing to put in the effort will reap the rewards.

Not all growth hacking is marketing, and not all marketing is online. Sometimes you need to get a street team out there to get the word out about your business.

While online data analytics, focused targeting, and measurability make online marketing attractive to many businesses, there's value in old-fashioned viral marketing that built businesses older than the Internet.

Although you may have a ton of automated work happening through a computer, you can't rest on your laurels.

Instead, continue feeding an insatiable hunger for growth.

Conclusion

Growth hacking sounds like it's complicated, but it's more common sense than anything else.

It's not that companies like Uber and Facebook are doing something nobody else is doing. It's that they continued doing multiple things at a faster pace to demolish the competition.

If you're focused and use the right tools, growth hacking is within your reach even if you're not technically inclined.

Startups have historically seen anywhere from 300-2,000% increases in business, scaling during the digital age like never before, using growth hacking techniques.

What growth hacking techniques have you used successfully in your business?

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The 9 Digital Marketing Skills in High Demand Right Now

Digital marketing is one of the most lucrative industries in the modern world.

I'm not saying that just because I happen to be in that industry.

I'm saying that because it's true.

With just a laptop and Internet connection, there is really no limit to what you can accomplish and how much money you can make through digital marketing.

Personally, I've worked on nearly every continent. (We're not counting Antarctica, okay?) I've worked at cruising altitudes of 36,000 feet. I've worked on holidays. I've worked on the beach.

And the results? They speak for themselves.

You can reach millions of people around the world with your message or product in a matter of hours.

To get an idea of how quickly digital marketing is growing, check out the graphic below:

This puts digital marketing skills in high demand for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

It's not just entrepreneurs who need digital marketing chops. With the right digital marketing skill set, you can become one of the most valuable members of a company within a very short period of time.

Whether you work in an established business, a startup, or as a solopreneur, digital marketing skills are absolutely essential.

Sure, it's tough to master every aspect of digital marketing-it's a big pond.

Thankfully, there are dozens of sub-skills in the digital marketing world. You can choose where you want to go deep.

Whether you are more creative or analytical, a team player or a lone wolf, there are jobs within digital marketing for you.

But what are the most important skills you need to be cultivating if you want to make a living (or a fortune) in digital marketing?

Here is a list of the nine most in demand digital marketing skills in 2016.

1. SEO specialist

It should come as little surprise that SEO is the skill at the top of this list.

You're thinking, “C'mon, Neil. It's 2016. SEO is kind of defunct, right?”

Some people like to believe that SEO is dead, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

SEO is just as important now as it's ever been, if not more so.

But there is far more to SEO than just getting your website to show up for certain search queries.

Due to the changes in Google's search algorithm, SEO practices are changing.

Businesses are beginning to understand the importance of white-hat marketing techniques, such as content marketing and guest blogging, which are becoming a critical part of SEO success.

Because of all of the changes within the world of SEO, hiring a dedicated team of SEO experts has become darn near a necessity.

Companies need a person or a group who can keep up with the rapidly evolving world of SEO.

They need people who understand the importance of providing value to the customer in addition to the technical side of things.

If you want to land a high-paying job within the digital marketing world, learn SEO and watch the offers roll in.

However, I should warn you.

SEO is not easy.

It's something that evolves on a regular basis and requires a genuine interest to stay on top of the almost constant changes to the search algorithms and best practices.

2. PPC executive/specialist

Another skill that's currently in high demand is PPC marketing.

There are a number of businesses generating high amounts of revenue who want to expand their reach through paid advertising.

The problem is, they don't know how to properly allocate that money to ensure that it generates a high ROI.

That's where PPC marketing comes in.

The ultimate goal of PPC is to help a company's website reach rank #1 within Google by bringing in high quality, targeted traffic.

In theory, this sounds incredibly simple.

But in practice, this is one of the most difficult marketing jobs in the world.

You have to have a strong grasp of math, marketing strategy, and analytics.

You also need to know Google Analytics and AdWords like the back of your hand.

And then, you need to be able to develop campaigns that are providing measurable results to your clients, analyze those campaigns, and report on them.

PPC is incredibly complicated, important, and high investment/risk.

Which is why it's also one of the best paying marketing jobs on the modern market.

If you can effectively show companies that you know how to bring in targeted traffic through PPC for the lowest cost possible, you'll be able to generate massive amounts of revenue for years to come.

3. Social media expert

Social media is one of the single most powerful tools in the modern marketing world.

Over the past decade, social media has been growing faster than the Internet!

And it isn't slowing down.

Nearly one-third of the population is currently using some type of social media platform.

It shouldn't surprise you that companies are looking to capitalize on this unique marketing opportunity.

However, most companies, even many tech companies, simply have no understanding of how to leverage the different social platforms to achieve their goals.

This makes social media marketing an invaluable skill set to learn and cultivate.

And the thing is, there is a lot more to social media marketing than just promoting content on Facebook.

If you want to set yourself apart from the crowd, you need to master each platform.

This means understanding the best times of day to post, the types of posts that generate the most user engagement, and the ways to use each platform to achieve specific goals.

And once you understand the basics of social media marketing, you need to understand how to leverage paid social media marketing.

You need to develop an understanding of copywriting, color psychology, analytics, and visual marketing.

This is no easy task.

Because of how difficult it is to master social media marketing, it's become on of the most sought after and highly paid digital marketing positions in the world.

Prove to clients you can generate measurable results that will grow their businesses through social media, and you will be richly rewarded.

4. Email marketing

There are few things that are more important to online success than email marketing.

If you have a large email list and you know how to leverage it, you can make large amounts of income every month with almost no work.

If you want to be someone who has employers knocking down your door, instead of spending hours and hours every day searching for new clients, learn email marketing.

And I don't just mean writing emails that convert.

I mean the whole process.

You see, most businesses have no problem hiring someone who can write high quality emails that will generate a few conversions.

But there is more to email marketing than simply writing some fancy emails.

Companies need people who can help them build huge lists from scratch and then use those lists to achieve a variety of goals.

Building an email list of tens of thousands without an existing client base is an extremely challenging task.

And if you know how to do it, you possess an extremely valuable skill.

Beyond that, companies also need people who can use those lists to grow their social media following, promote new products, and drive new sales.

If you can learn how to master the email marketing process from start to finish, you will have clients begging to work with you.

5. Mobile marketing

One of the most sought after, and yet most overlooked, skills is the art of mobile marketing.

While there are plenty of similarities between desktop and mobile marketing, there are also enough differences to make this an essential standalone skill.

To add real value to the company, you need to understand these differences and why they are important to the rest of the business.

You also need to be able to talk intelligently about the more complicated aspects of mobile marketing such as SMS and responsive design.

One of the great things about mobile marketing jobs is that they are significantly less competitive than SEO or social media marketing jobs but are still a huge need for most businesses.

It seems like everyone and their brother is a self-proclaimed “Facebook Guru” or SEO consultant.

But how often do you hear about mobile marketing managers?

Mobile marketing is a challenging field to master.

But if you can do it, you'll set yourself apart from the herd of other digital marketers.

This will all but guarantee high paying jobs for years to come.

6. Analytics

One of the single most important parts of digital marketing is analytics.

You can learn all the previously mentioned skills, but without the power of analytics, you'll always be fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

In any marketing campaign, it is essential to run tests, track data, and then analyze that data to determine how you can improve and overcome marketing plateaus.

To become the best digital marketer you can be, you need to be able to analyze your other marketing efforts and make improvements based on what you learn.

This is the only way to truly put your marketing skills in the fast lane and achieve real success.

7. Content management/marketing

Content marketing is king.

We live in the age of information.

If you don't have some sort of content that's bringing viewers and keeping them hooked, you'll fall behind.

This makes content management and marketing a highly valuable skill, especially for startups.

If you can learn how to curate and create incredible content for companies and then market that content to the point of it going viral, you'll become one of the most valuable assets for those companies.

The cool thing about content marketing is that it goes hand in hand with many other skills listed in this article.

If you can learn how to improve your social media skills, you'll improve your content marketing skills.

If you improve your abilities as an SEO, you'll improve your ability to create viral content.

Basically, any digital marketing skill you develop will improve your skills with content marketing.

Because of the crossover between skills, mastering content marketing will give you invaluable leverage whether you are looking for clients or growing your own business.

If you can get a couple of viral articles or videos under your belt, the sky's the limit, and you will be able to take yourself as high as you want.

8. Marketing automation

Companies need marketing automation solutions now more than ever.

Marketing is not an inexpensive endeavor.

Figuring out how to set up technology and software that streamlines the process as much as possible is an invaluable skill set.

However, mastering the art of marketing automation requires a wide knowledge base and an understanding of several different software platforms.

You need to learn the most efficient ways to automate email, social media, and content marketing, all without breaking your client's budget.

If you can do this, you'll be able to ask for just about any figure you want.

Most companies have no problem paying a top dollar to individuals who can save them money, make them money, and cut back on their workload at the same time.

9. UX design

One of the determining factors in online marketing success is the experience a user has once they've found your company.

Potential customers want to be able to navigate through your content as easily as possible, enjoying an aesthetically pleasing and streamlined experience.

In fact, customers will often base the credibility of an entire business on the design of its website alone:

UX designers are responsible for ensuring that products, websites, and other online platforms are easy to use and provide the customer with a pleasant experience.

Unlike most of the skills listed in this article, design is not directly responsible for bringing in new customers or generating leads.

However, it is responsible for ensuring that all of the effort companies put into other online marketing avenues is maximized.

It doesn't matter if you are incredible at SEO, a social media marketing ninja, and an email marketing master.

If customers can't easily access, navigate, and use your website and products, all of that effort will be in vain.

And with the growing expectations of the modern consumer, this skillset is more crucial now than it's ever been.

Conclusion

Digital marketing is one of the best industries for the modern freelancer or entrepreneur to be involved in.

There are no commission caps, no ceilings, and no limits.

If you can learn to cultivate marketable skills (no pun intended), there is no limit to how much you can earn and grow.

It doesn't matter whether you are running your own business, freelancing for a variety of clients, or just looking for a stable job with one company.

Digital marketing is one of the most lucrative and important skills you can acquire.

So, go out there and learn as much as you can.

It's paid off for me. I know it will for you too.

Develop one (or all) of these skills, and your business and life will never be the same.

Which digital marketing skills do you use the most? Which ones do you think are most essential today?

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Cleaning the Wp-Page Pharma Hack in WordPress

Pharma hacks are common website infections categorized under SEO spam. With pharma hacks, the attacker exploits vulnerable websites to distribute pharmaceutical advertisements to visitors. Symptoms of a pharma hack include embedded links and anchor text on pages or modified listings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). These attacks most often target search engines like Google...

The post Cleaning the Wp-Page Pharma Hack in WordPress appeared first on Sucuri Blog.

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10 Content Writing Tips That Will Help You Find Interesting Topics in Minutes

You've probably faced this before.

I know I have.

You've run out of ideas.

Maybe you've been blogging along for, I don't know, maybe three or four years. Maybe it's only three or four months.

And now you're done. Why? Because you've written everything there is to write about the subject.

You've exhausted all possible avenues, topics, approaches, angles, possibilities, and techniques. It's over. Your blogging career has to die because you don't have anything else to say.

It's no use trying to fake it and continue to post recycled fluff just to keep your audience placated, because they will wise up fast.

If you're out of ideas, you're out. You can't just-boom!-make yourself write new stuff on demand.

What do you do?

It's time to step back and strategize.

I've been blogging for a long time. Ten years is a long time, right?

And I still haven't stopped. I'm not just blogging here, on Quick Sprout. I'm also posting a lot of articles on NeilPatel.com, maintaining columns on Huffpo, Forbes, and Inc., and sharing guest articles with other marketing sites.

Yes, I deal with the same topics, but I have to provide fresh and unique content all the time.

Here are some of the ways I come up with interesting topics in order to keep readers engaged, informed, and coming back for more. 

1. Don't just read. Analyze all angles of the news

Staying up-to-date with the latest events in your industry is not always a matter of a quick Google search.

Google News only indexes a limited number of websites for its web searches and even fewer for its News aggregator.

Start with the most basic search, and compare your SERPs and headlines to other news sources.

It helps tremendously to research the demographics of your favorite news websites and determine some of the most recognized brand names in the industry as well as well-known commentators associated with that industry.

Take note of the movers and shakers of your business, and follow their movements.

Follow them on social media to see not only what they are posting but also what they're reading and what they're sharing and retweeting.

You'll see what's on their minds, and knowing the thought process of influencers in your industry, you'll be able to anticipate tomorrow's news.

2. Stay tuned into the voice of the people through social media comments

Don't stop looking for ideas after reading the most respectable and popular publications. Why? Because some of the best conversation starters are trending on social media.

They may not come from a reliable news source, but do these topics generate interest? Absolutely!

More Americans actually get their news from Facebook and Twitter than they do from network programming.

Some of the most absurd “guilty pleasure” posts trending on Facebook (you know, ridiculous headlines like “Child Sues Mother for Deleting All Her iPad Apps” or whatever) are great places to collect ideas.

Have you seen this meme that says, “I just came here to read the comments?”

Well, sometimes I do visit websites just to read the comments!

Why? I gauge what people are thinking about trends, the questions they ask, and what's inspiring them to comment.

People really speak their minds, holding nothing back! I've been shocked by the things I've read.

Ask questions about the stories and articles you read.

Why did this inspire controversy? What made people comment? What was the biggest issue people commented about? Who else might this event or trend affect besides the person interviewed for the story? What might be the long-term result of these new trends? What does this show us about how people's attitudes have changed on a given subject over a period of time (several years, for example)?

Maybe the story you encountered on Facebook will spark an idea for a post on “How many parents admit to using iPads to keep their children quiet?”

It's a related discussion to the original story you read, and yet if you're an app developer or iPad seller, it's also more relevant to your audience.

Ideas come from unexpected places. The more you constantly feed your mind, the more ideas will come to you. Write them down as soon as inspiration strikes.

Keeping up with social media news-and just as importantly, the comments of users and how the news makes them feel-is a great place to spark your creativity.

3. Visit some Q&A sites, and borrow their questions

Most questions on Q&A sites are public domain. Your answers can prove to be invaluable.

Industry leaders are always ready to answer a customer's question, and frankly, it's just the polite thing to do.

Now, guess where these people go to get a professional opinion on a question they have?

They certainly don't go directly to your office or your website, do they? They may not even run a keyword search.

No, they just ask whoever is nearby.

The current generation is used to asking questions and getting answers in 30 seconds.

If their friends don't know the answer, they'll ask random groups of people. And guess what? Eventually someone answers.

That's why you have sites such as LinkedIn, Yahoo Answers, and Quora, which discuss thousands of industry-specific questions you can browse.

Searching these sites is a double advantage for you. You can answer the questions on the site (getting some attention from the mainstream) and then write a new blog post or article by turning that brief Q&A into an entire 500-1000-word discussion.

Expand on the answers already given, and provide more insight on the issue.

Judging from the growing databases of these Q&A sites, you'll never run out of questions to answer-very often, even with niche topics.

4. Create your own database of customer concerns and questions

Chances are you've sold at least a few products, if not hundreds, by now. That means you have plenty of cases to study for your own marketing purposes.

What did your customers say in the reviews? What questions did they ask? Reviews matter, so pay attention.

You can generate ideas from their statements, survey information, emails, or testimonials.

I jump on the reviews customers leave to see tomorrow's trends.

I immediately read all posted reviews to see whether the customer is satisfied or not and whether they left any suggestions for improvement. I use their enthusiasm, positive or negative, to fire up discussion on the web content.

If you have never taken the time to learn your customer's personality and demographic, start now. Send a survey form along with every product delivery, and give them an incentive for taking the time to fill it out.

This will give you insight into your customer's mind, and it's the most direct and effective way to keep producing the content they want to read.

5. Research what your competitors have already done

There's no shame in learning from someone as equally ambitious and dedicated as you are. Make a list of your closest competitors-for industry as well as for local or long-tail keywords-and take notes on what they are writing about and why.

Now, you don't want to blatantly copy their entire article. Rather, analyze their topics, and determine ways to expand upon the story.

For example, for a broad topic such as food safety, ask yourself if there is a way to narrow it down to something more specific, like recent changes in the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act.

If the topic is too niche and you can't think of a way to adapt it to an original article of your own, broaden the topic to your area of expertise.

There's no sense, however, in rewriting something that's already successful and niche-specific.

Coming up with fresh ideas is one-half researching other people's great ideas and one-half brainstorming ways to make your rendition better.

6. Research the history of your profession and all related professions-offline!

It may surprise you to know there is far more information in book form than there is all across the seemingly infinite Internet.

The Internet makes research easier, but the information found there is not as comprehensive as we might think.

Libraries and bookstores are an underrated source of information, particularly in exploring forgotten or lesser-known histories and studies.

The quality of paperback or hardcover books is generally much higher and more in-depth than that of Internet e-books or articles, which are really scratching the surface of what we know.

Consider quantity alone. According to a very conservative Google Books estimate, about 130,000,000 books are still in existence throughout the world, though the number could be higher than that.

In contrast, Amazon-a place many people consider the definitive source of books-has less than a million e-books and lists 1.8 million print titles for sale (according to a Quora discussion).

Libraries offer access not only to books but also to newspapers, journals, encyclopedias, and archival documents that are simply not online because there's no interest in them. In these records, though, there is enough research to power up a blog for years on end.

If you really want to establish yourself as an expert in your field and produce thoroughly original content, take your search offline and bring back a gem of knowledge.

7. Interview an expert

Content writers sometimes ignore the option to interview an expert because quoting press statements are easier to use.

If, however, you are in need of a series of interesting blogs or articles, reaching out to a professional in your industry (or related industry) for an in-depth discussion can generate enough information to write a number of individual posts.

Many experts will give interviews free, provided you have a popular blog or are reporting on a niche subject with little available information.

Many experts are eager to give online interviews either to correct what they think is inaccurate information on their subject or to build their reputation and make their name Internet-famous on a given subject.

I remember interviewing a number of leaders in my earlier days, and the issue of payment never came up. Sometimes these experts really love to share their knowledge and have someone listen.

Since they know you'll publicize the interview, it's a win-win for them, especially if you keep the interview brief, using phone or video chat.

Profnet, a subsidiary of PRNewsWire, is a site that matches writers with experts (or usually their representatives) in a number of fields.

Some will do brief interviews online or on the phone for free. Some experts might charge a fee, and if it's a niche in which you can produce a lot of content and get some highly targeted traffic, it may be worth the exchange.

8. Hire young blood

Fresh perspectives are the best way to think outside the box. If you run out of ideas, brainstorm with more members of the team. Owners will oftentimes hire new blood to help in brainstorming sessions.

Even as an individual web content writer, you can tap into young creativity by simply starting conversations with acquaintances in the office or in your circle of friends online.

Many of my websites, such as Crazy Egg, have content from multiple contributors. That's one reason why the content stays fresh.

Featuring writers from multiple backgrounds and demographics helps bring diverse, and sometimes even opposite, views on the same events we cover.

Another thing that can spark your imagination is hearing personal experiences of your colleagues or friends. People probably tell you stories about their lives all the time, e.g., an exciting commute to work, a weekend adventure, etc.

Do you actually listen and say to yourself, “You know, this would make a great blog topic!”?

You can tell their stories, with permission, or adapt their stories to start a discussion with your readers.

9. Learn to read the work of your enemies

It's amusing how reluctant we are to listen to our enemies or, in some cases, the “quacks” of a field who we believe are spreading anti-advice.

This is why some people completely block news sites they deem biased or ignore social media users that irk them.

But I think some of the most interesting revelations about any industry come from disagreement. When someone disagrees with you, it's an opportunity for you to sharpen your debating skills. You brush up on your knowledge of history and science so you can make an accurate rebuttal.

This is actually standard protocol in college when you write a dissertation. By learning the opposing side's viewpoint, taking into account their objections and their research, you strengthen your own argument.

It doesn't really matter if you believe the viewpoint or not. Whether spoken or written, it's a part of your industry. Maybe that means you must correct the misconceptions with your web content.

Be open-minded to new evidence. Test new and outside the box ideas, even if they seem ludicrous.

This is just a part of the brainstorming experience. By spending some time investigating wrong ideas about your industry, you can find the right idea. You will also have greater passion for your industry.

I make it a point to read both sides of an argument before concluding what each side got right and wrong. It doesn't hurt to play “devil's advocate” in your industry blog either.

Sometimes, I can come up with a topic after reading someone else's story that I feel is utterly false and misleading. And guess what? It stirs a great conversation, which gives me ideas for three more posts.

As you can see from this Pew Center graphic, many brand name news outlets are associated with biased viewpoints:

Bias isn't a bad thing, and it doesn't necessarily mean you should avoid a biased outlet.

Objectivity is not your concern. Rather, you can generate fresh ideas for new topics by reading opposing points of view on the same subject.

10. Stay on top of industry news

Social media is not the universal channel for industry news.

While social media is important to review so you can learn the voice of the consumer, blog writing it really its own entity.

If you don't move beyond social media, you'll frequently pass over some really good stuff because of poor hashtags, too much competition, and bad scheduling.

On the other hand, using a blog news app will help you stay up-to-date with relevant industry blogs as soon as they are updated.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed for fast updates, or you can use a website such as Bottlenose, which is a data discovery program that gives you real-time insights about the trends in your industry.

This goes beyond just bookmarking and actually allows you to get analytical insights about drivers of brands, consumer trends, emerging risks, and what the competition is doing.

Alltop provides a free service and, a bit more to the point, shares the top business blogs and the most trending news stories.

You can also create your own virtual magazine rack of top websites, magazines, and blogs. Better yet, you can even share your rack as a URL for easy interaction.

Conclusion

Lastly, remember that your brain is constantly working.

Even during sleep, it can subconsciously give rise to new ideas.

If you're feeling drained and out of fuel, take a break and sleep on it.

Let your mind dwell on the idea over time, and make subconscious connections while you attend to something else. Before you know it, inspiration will strike you.

As long as you keep taking in information, you'll always be capable of generating great content.

What are your techniques for coming up with interesting topics?

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5 Ways Your Fans Can Help Optimize Your Site for Conversions

I've been watching Facebook closely for a long time.

I've tested hundreds of ad iterations.

I've worked hard to build organic reach for myself and my clients.

Here's what I've concluded: Facebook is awesome. But it's also tricky.

Why? Because the algorithm is constantly shifting, forcing marketers to up their game, readjust their techniques, and reorient their strategies.

Here's the thing. If you have a social presence for your business, Facebook has decided that your organic reach needs to shrink.

Again.

You know, of course, that this isn't the first time the social giant tweaked its algorithm.

In June, Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management for News Feed at Facebook, shared a post that detailed how Facebook was updating the news feed.

The core of the update is to prioritize posts that come from friends and family while reducing the onslaught of content from businesses and other publishers. Facebook wants users to see more posts from actual people, not businesses doing marketing.

The gist of the algorithm remains the same.

But the variability is increasing. Mosseri explained:

It will vary a lot by publisher mostly based on how much of their referral traffic or their reach is based on people who actually share their content directly…

If you've got strong engagement from your audience and they're shouting your name from the rooftops as they share your content, or generate content around your brand, you'll be far less impacted by the update.

But most of the businesses I work with aren't enjoying that level of stellar engagement.

This is what it boils down to. If you want to improve your reach and engagement, you'll need to find ways to leverage user-generated content (UGC) since that's what friends and family will see first.

What I want to communicate is pretty simple: User-generated content is one of the most effective forms of content marketing available today.

User-generated content is the future of content marketing.

UGC will act as dynamite to your social media presence, accelerate your onsite content efforts, increase engagement, boost conversions, and build up a wall of defense against any algorithm the world throws your way.

Let's talk about where the rubber meets the road-your fans helping your site become a conversion-generating machine.

Why you should put your money into user-generated content

There are a lot of benefits to UGC, and those benefits can be significant. And that's primarily because you're not limited to social media when it comes to working with customers to acquire and leverage it-though that's where a bulk of your gains can come into play.

Consider for a moment that more than half of the adult users on Facebook have around 200 people in their immediate networks, according to Pew Research.

That social network graph looks something like this:

If the algorithm wants all those people to see content from their connections first, it's in your best interest to get your audience producing or creating content about you.

And that's not just for the sake of a little (or even big) boost in visibility.

Consumers fully admit they find branded information from their peers trustworthy-85% of consumers, to be exact.

That's because the vast majority of them find that kind of content to be helpful when they make a decision about whether or not to make a purchase.

Nielsen's study on this subject showed that 92% of consumers trust content and the opinions of their peers over any other kind of advertising.

UGC also has influence over that trust, according to data shared by Yotpo:

UGC is the best way to beat an algorithm that wants to topple and bury your promotions amid pictures of babies, beards, and breakfast platters.

But you're not limited to Facebook in leveraging it.

With variations in engagement time across different social channels, you can see where there are opportunities to use user-generated content to drive up engagement as well as increase consumer trust.

Some brands are having a lot of success on other social channels and digital properties with UGC.

Below are a couple of examples of brands that leverage UGC using different channels.

A touch of wanderlust

National Geographic asked users to capture unforgettable people, places, and experiences that have impacted their lives from their travels around the world. The hashtag campaign (#wanderlustcontest) brought in tens of thousands of submissions branded to NatGeo.

And, of course, among those public submissions were some truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring photos people were all too happy to continue sharing.

Ignite user creativity

Nissan's luxury car brand, Infiniti, ran a campaign promoting its Q30 model, aiming to leverage the content of its fans to help promote the vehicle. The New Heights contest had users print out a marker card that would display the vehicle in 3D when used with their mobile app.

Fans were encouraged to show off the vehicle in unexpected places by snapping pictures and sharing them with a branded hashtag via different social channels.

These two great examples of building campaigns and visibility from user-generated content had a couple of things in common:

They both revolved around contests. While this is a good way to encourage action among your followers, it's not always necessary to give something away in order to source user-generated content. These two campaigns were actively asking their fans to provide the content.

This aspect-the asking-is the most important part you need to remember.

Why? Because the majority of brands simply don't ask. If you don't ask for it, you won't get it.

It's just that simple.

So, what's the simplest and most effective way to get UGC?

Ask your users to provide it.

If you want UGC, ask your followers to provide it

Brands don't want to be pushy, but with UGC, you've got to approach it like you approach a call to action (CTA).

With a CTA, you're telling your audience explicitly what you want them to do. It's been proven time and again that without a clear call to action, you lose conversions.

But only about 16% of brands take the same approach with UGC, expressing to fans just what kind of content they want to see. Without that kind of direction, consumers aren't sure what's okay to share.

In fact, 50% of consumers want brands to tell them what they should include when creating and sharing content.

You don't need to give away a luxury or big-ticket item when you make the ask, but you do need to ask.

Don't sit and wait for your fans to provide you with gold.

Here are some of the best ways you can start sourcing and leveraging user-generated content for your brand and social channels.

1. Curate user-generated content with Yotpo

I've long felt that Yotpo is an impressive platform for sourcing reviews, engaging customers, and utilizing customer feedback to promote growth.

Now, it's even better than ever.

Yotpo has stepped up its game with the recent launch of the Yotpo Curation tool.

This tool allows you to collect relevant Instagram photos from fans and influencers, displaying them on a single dashboard.

From there, you can tag products and handle rights management (including engagement with the original user to say thanks), inject the photos into your product pages, and even sell from your timeline.

This simplifies the tedium of trying to manually source user-generated images and lets you quickly benefit from the social proof tied to UGC.

In one survey conducted by Yotpo, 77% of consumers admitted they preferred to see consumer photos over professional shots:

That's a clear indication of what you should have on your product pages.

Imagine the impact of having quality reviews alongside images showing off your products being used by actual customers.

It would provide a significant lift in conversions when you consider that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site displaying user reviews. A study conducted by Reevoo showed that reviews alone, without any other UGC, lift sales by 18%.

The Yotpo tool turns your customers into brand ambassadors right on your product pages, plus you can create your own shoppable Instagram galleries or post that UGC to other social channels.

2. Build a community

When I talk about building a community, I'm referring to a gathering of people. Literal people in online gatherings.

You may view your social channels as individual and separate communities, but they're really not. At least not without some kind of organization.

There are a lot of ways to build communities, e.g., Facebook groups, subreddits on Reddit.com, or communities built into your website.

A community you create and manage can give your fans a sense of belonging and make them feel connected to your brand. They'll share a mix of personal content as well as content related to the brand as they engage with one another.

Through this engagement, you'll see things like images, videos, and testimonials crop up that are ripe for the picking.

That user-generated content feeds back into the community, encouraging others to generate more of it, and it helps anchor prospective customers who were on the fence about making a purchase.

Giant Vapes is one of the largest online retailers of e-liquid for electronic cigarettes. It also operates a Facebook community, roughly 25,000 members strong. Members regularly share the products they've purchased, industry news, their opinions about interactions with the company, praise over shipping and deals, and more.

3. Give them customization and unique experiences

Customization provides your fans and customers with a sense of real ownership. They'll naturally want to share with their friends and family what they've created, and you can play on that desire by asking them to do so.

Whether it's a customized piece of clothing, a bag, or a vehicle, customization often leads to some great user-generated content.

And sometimes you don't even have to ask.

Scores of people got excited about the announcement of Nintendo's Super Mario Maker. Players create their own Mario levels to play on their own or share with the community. Fans, new and old, went crazy when it launched, and YouTube was flooded with the creations of streamers, generating a lot of visibility for the brand and the game.

This video has almost 12 million views to date.

In the same vein of creating unique experiences, Hello Games is seeing images and videos of their game No Man's Sky showing up all over the web, including a subreddit devoted to the game (a user-created community).

No Man's Sky features a universe boasting over 10 quintillion procedurally (randomly) generated planets, each with creatures and alien plant life different from the last. That guarantees unique content, and fans have been quick to share images and videos of their discoveries since its recent launch.

When you give your audience something they've never experienced before and the chance to create something unique they feel they own, they're more likely to share that experience far and wide. That builds a lot of trust and provides a lift in conversions.

4. The UGC contest

I touched on contests above with a couple of examples, but in recommending this approach, I wanted to add one more because of the success of the campaign.

Back in 2014, Starbucks invited fans to decorate their white cups with customized art. Fans were asked to submit the images through Twitter with the #whitecupcontest hashtag for a chance to win. There were thousands of entries, and, of course, a constant stream of buzz that drove customers to their local stores.

.@Starbucks doodle on your cappuccino #WhiteCupContest http://t.co/37P0ZBZcqd pic.twitter.com/uQv3L3n3Rf

- damoward (@damoward) September 6, 2014

I'm mentioning this contest specifically because it pulls in elements from my last point: let users customize and do something unique.

You don't have to have a multi-million dollar budget to add customization to your product line.

Sometimes, you just need to give your customers a blank canvas and set their creativity free.

5. Use videos on product pages

Yotpo can strap a rocket onto your conversions with user-generated images, but don't let the rocket run out of fuel.

If you can get your fans and customers generating videos of your products in use, those should be added to your product pages as well.

Explainer videos are great, but there's nothing that sells a product faster than a video showing real, happy customers, who are 100% satisfied with their purchase.

Here are some quick stats that show how effective product videos really are:

90% of users admit that seeing a video about a product helps them make a purchase decision 36% of customers trust video ads; imagine the trust you gain from earned media 64% of visitors are more likely to buy a product after watching a video online Product videos can increase conversions by as much as 20% Conclusion

Aside from those five tips, it goes without saying that you should absolutely be using product reviews on your website and social channels such as Facebook.

Leverage that social proof, and find creative ways to team up with your customers.

A large portion of your audience are happy to create and share content for you-they just need to know what you're looking for.

Tell them how to help, inspire them to get creative, and watch your conversions climb steadily as your collection of UGC grows.

Are you using user-generated content right now to build trust with your audience and increase your brand's visibility? What techniques are you using, and what's the most successful?

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Google dropping “Mobile-friendly” label from search results

Google says the change is designed to declutter its search results. The post Google dropping “Mobile-friendly” label from search results appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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How to Know When You Should Use Paid Social Media Traffic

Have you ever used paid social media? I know some people who completely avoid it. They think it means cheating, or it's somehow inappropriate.

In my opinion, paid social media traffic is an excellent tool.

Obviously, I'm not talking about illegitimately purchasing likes or shares from spammy businesses (more on that below).

I'm discussing legitimate paid methods.

If you use them properly, you can quickly grow your audience, your brand, and your revenue.

However, if you use paid traffic without first educating yourself and deliberately seeking out the best tools and information, it will lead to huge financial losses.

Knowing how to use paid social media traffic is important. But what's even more important is determining when you should use paid social media traffic.

I think that's where a lot of the confusion starts for some people. Maybe you've wondered the same thing.

When should you start spending on social media traffic, impressions, or clicks?

For paid traffic, like for many aspects of business, timing is everything.

I've already written many articles on how to use paid social media traffic to effectively grow your business and increase the ROI of your marketing campaigns.

But today, I want to cut through the noise and help you make an educated decision on whether or not you should be using paid traffic at all.

Ready?

Let's begin. 

First, a definition

Before we dive into the deep end and discuss the ins and outs of paid traffic, I want to start with a definition.

When I talk about paid social media traffic, I am not talking about buying likes or fake followers.

This is an absolutely terrible business tactic!

It leads to a poor quality audience that has no interest in you or your company and will result in  large followings that do not help you grow your brand.

Not to mention, it's also a very sleazy and unethical approach to social media marketing.

By paid social media traffic, I mean the practice of investing in paid ads and marketing for the purpose of delivering your content to relevant audience members-audience members who are actually interested in what you are selling.

Instead of paying some kid with a computer in a foreign country to “like” your photos, you are actually putting your content in front of someone whose interests genuinely coincide with what you are offering.

With that out of the way, let's get down to business.

When should you pay for social media traffic?

Let me answer this question with four statements. If any of the following is true of your business, paid traffic may be your best approach.

1. When you are building an audience from the ground up

One of the first situations in which you should pay for social media traffic is when you are building an audience from scratch.

If you are just getting into the game of social media marketing, paid traffic is critical.

Think about it.

If you have no audience, no one is going to see your content. If no one sees your content, no one shares your content. If no one shares your content, your following cannot grow. If your following cannot grow, your social media efforts are completely irrelevant to your business.

Such is the struggle of the social network newbie.

Is it possible to grow your social media accounts organically when you are starting from scratch?

Of course.

You can reach out to other similar brands, link your accounts to your blog or YouTube channel, and use friends and family to help your content get off the ground.

But that is life in the slow lane.

Using the organic methods, you could reasonably expect to have a decent social following (3,000 – 5,000 followers) within about 18-24 months.

However, if you use paid traffic, you could cut that time in half while doubling your traffic.

2. When you are diversifying the demographics of your audience

A big problem many brands have is that they get caught in an endless cycle: they target the same type of audience over and over and over again.

For example…

Let's say you own a local business.

You run a chain of unconventional gyms with your primary locations on the East Coast.

In addition to your traditional marketing campaigns, you use social media and content marketing to grow your brand and increase your company's exposure.

Over the years, you've built up a reputable following on Facebook, but your audience is primarily located in your hometown and the surrounding cities.

Now, you want to open another location on the West Coast so that you can enjoy sunny beaches and fruity beverages while helping people get fit.

The only problem is, your entire online following is located about 2,000 miles away from your new location.

Not exactly ideal for building a new customer base, is it?

This is where paid traffic becomes a life saver.

With paid social media traffic, you are able to target new demographics and promote your brand in new locations.

You can get really specific, like this:

Using social media in a geotargeted way like this is especially useful for brick and mortar stores looking to relocate or for online business looking to tap into a new audience.

3. When you are looking to scale your social platforms with a similar audience

If you've already built up a healthy social media following and you are looking to make your social media platforms even more profitable, paid traffic is the way to go.

While organic traffic is great, it doesn't generally work well with large followings.

This is because of the law of diminishing returns.

Source: vibhavagarwal.com

Let me explain.

Imagine you are an aspiring bodybuilder who is just starting to lift weights. After the first couple of months, you are going to see humongous gains.

You will pack on muscle, shred fat, and improve most of your lifts by close to 100 lbs. But after about 6-12 months of doing this, you'll see that your improvements start to slow down.

You will still be gaining muscle and losing fat. You will still be increasing the amount of weight you can lift. But it will not be as drastic.

Then, as you continue training on a regular basis, you will start reaching a point where even marginal gains are difficult to achieve. You will start approaching your genetic potential.

And then, you have one of two options:

You can continue training naturally and understand that you are close to your peak and improvements will take a long time. You can decide to use steroids or some other performance-enhancing drug to beat your genetics and achieve even more gains.

Now, this is not an ethical or health-based argument for steroids, but it is a pretty effective analogy for paid traffic.

You see, whenever you first launch your social media campaigns (if you really know what you are doing), you will probably see some pretty quick growth.

You will go, as they say, “0 to 100, real quick.”

0 to 100,000 anybody?

After the first year, you will likely have several thousand followers across your various channels.

In the second year, growth may continue at an even more rapid pace.

But eventually (and this typically happens around the 10,000 followers point), you will hit a wall.

You will still be adding to your followers, but, unless you are willing to start using the “performance enhancing drug” of paid traffic, it will take you years to hit your goals.

However, if you are willing to invest into paid traffic, you can beat the law of diminishing returns and skyrocket your social media following in a very short amount of time.

Luckily for us, there are no ethical, legal, or health concerns related to paid social media traffic like there are with steroids.

You have little to lose and much to gain.

4. When you want to increase your organic reach

I know that using paid traffic to increase your organic reach sounds like an oxymoronic statement.

And it is. But hear me out.

Just because someone follows you or “likes” your content does not mean your content is actually showing up in their newsfeed.

People simply follow too many different brands and individuals for all of them to show up in their feeds.

I, for example, follow dozens of other influencers and tech blogs across my various social channels.

But I rarely see any of the new content posted by the people I am following.

It's not because I don't like the content or because I have no need for what they are sharing.

It's simply because of the volume of content published each and every day.

If you want to grow your organic reach and get your content in front of people who already like and follow you, you need to invest in paid traffic.

It will increase the frequency with which your content is seen by your followers, and your audience will be more likely to actually find out about a new product you are offering or a promotion you are running.

When should you not pay for social media traffic?

Now that I've covered some of the situations when you should pay for social media traffic, I want to touch on one of the biggest reasons why you should not pay for social media traffic.

It's about quality.

If you are looking for super high quality traffic, paid ads may not be your best approach.

The current stage of your business will determine the type of traffic you want to generate.

For those of you just getting started, the single most important thing to focus on is simply generating more traffic and getting your content in front of new eyeballs.

For others, especially if you already have a strong social media presence, your focus should be on generating high quality traffic.

The quality of the audience you build with paid traffic will generally be lower than the quality of the audience you build with organic traffic.

This is due to a variety of factors.

First, we have to acknowledge the unfortunate reality of social media. There are hundreds of thousands of bots and fake accounts.

Whenever you use paid traffic, it's much more likely that you will attract more of these automated accounts than you would if you were growing your reach 100% organically.

The second factor is that people who seek out and find your brand organically are typically much more likely to purchase than someone who simply “liked” your page because your ad popped up on their phone.

If someone has taken the time to find your social media pages without the persuasion of advertising or paid marketing, it means you are solving a problem they have.

These people will be much more likely to share your content, be engaged in your discussions, and invest in your products.

Now, using paid traffic obviously does not preclude you from generate organic traffic.

However, you have to remember opportunity cost.

Source: quickmeme.com

Every hour you spend and every dollar you invest in paid traffic is a dollar and an hour you could have spent optimizing your social platforms and website to generate high quality organic traffic.

With that in mind, it's important that you have a clear understanding of the current stage of your business and your goals with social media.

Next steps and measuring your success

Now that you are a little bit more informed about the times when you should and should not use paid social media traffic, I want to discuss one last thing before I leave you to it.

Measuring your metrics.

While tracking your metrics is extremely important whether you utilize paid traffic or not, it is doubly important whenever you are investing your hard earned dollars in social ad campaigns.

You need to have clear business goals for your paid traffic campaigns.

Whether it is to generate new leads, increase sales, or simply increase brand exposure, you have to have clearly defined objectives for your investment.

Once you've defined that objective, it is imperative that you track your metrics to ensure your investment is actually getting you closer to your goal.

Source: moz.com

Are the individuals you reach on social media buying your products? Are they joining your email list? Are they reading and sharing your content?

If you are not tracking these metrics, you will never be able to effectively run paid traffic campaigns.

You'll end up spending thousands of dollars that could've been better spent elsewhere, and you'll end up with a negative ROI.

Conclusion

Paid social media traffic is a phenomenal tool.

If you use it in the right situations and in the right way, it can accelerate the growth of your business in a way that few other investments can.

But the key here is you have to use it at the right time.

If you are using paid social media traffic in the wrong situations, you'll end up losing money and damaging your brand.

Take the above advice to heart, and decide for yourself whether paid social media traffic is a worthwhile investment in your current circumstances.

How have you used paid social media traffic in the past? What were the results?

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11 Personal Brand Building Hacks That Will Earn You More Customers Within Two Weeks

If you run an online business, you are probably aware that building a strong personal brand is one of the most powerful tools in your entrepreneurial arsenal.

While most entrepreneurs understand the power behind effective branding, very few understand how to effectively execute and build a reputable personal brand.

If that's you, don't worry.

With a few simple tweaks and hacks, you can ramp up the power behind your brand and build a bigger fanbase than you ever thought possible in a few short weeks.

Here's how.

1. Use professional profile photos

If you want to be taken seriously in the online world, you need to present yourself with an air of professionalism.

I know it may be tempting to use that cute avatar as your profile picture, but it comes off as adolescent and unprofessional.

Invest the time and money into a professional picture, and it will be worth its weight in gold for your personal brand.

Make sure you smile. Why? Because a smile can build trustworthiness.

Here's how MedicalDaily.com summed up the research on this subject:

Psychologists specializing in facial expressions are still unsure as to whether a human smile is a tool used for communication or an involuntary expression that conveys our emotional state. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön and the Toulouse School of Economics have confirmed that putting on an honest smile that is genuine can influence people to cooperate with you by perceiving you as trustworthy.

The professional photo I use on this blog is simple and effective. Shirt. Suit. Tie. And…smile!

In the photo above, I'm wearing a suit. That helps, of course, but it's not absolutely necessary. To look professional in a photo, you don't need to be wearing a business suit.

By “professional photos,” I mean the quality and subject of the photo.

I was browsing LinkedIn recently and came across a guy I know to be really professional. He does top-notch work and is the president of his own company.

But his profile photo doesn't shout professional! In fact, it's kind of hard to figure out what's going on in his picture. The quality and subject of the photo don't speak to his professionalism.

Isn't there a place for fun photos? Sure, but make sure you're using them in the right place and at the right time.

I've discovered that fun or casual photos can grab people's attention-like this one on my blog NeilPatel.com.

Here are a few key things to remember:

When it comes to your profile photo (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), make sure it's a headshot. No one else needs to be in the picture-no kids, pets, or significant others. Smile. Don't wear sunglasses. Wear something that's appropriate to your job and position. If possible, use the photo services of a professional. Use a high-quality photo. Pixelated headshots aren't effective.

Look, you don't need to be a good-looking person to have a really high-quality headshot that brings in the leads. All you need is a sharp, crisp, professional photo of your face.

2. Present content authentically

We live in an era of frauds and fakes. If you are not intentional about your presentation, even high quality information may be disregarded or come off as disingenuous.

Whenever you write an article or record a video, speak or write authentically, from the heart. Don't worry about what people will think.

Whether you swear like a sailor or are as clean-cut as they come, whether you are reserved and quiet or as intense as a Navy SEAL instructor, use your own personality and style whenever you share your message.

People will appreciate the authenticity. Your polarizing nature will create more loyal customers and fans than you can imagine.

3. Create and share killer content on a regular basis

The world is so full of new and exciting content that it's easy to get left behind (even with an established brand) unless you are regularly creating and marketing high quality content.

A guy like Brian Dean has a strong personal brand:

He needs to be publishing really great content on a regular basis in order to generate leads for his business.

As expected, his content is always top-notch:

Whether you are creating YouTube videos, podcasts, or blog posts, you need to keep your head in the game and crank out killer content on a regular basis.

What's “killer” content? Here are a few pointers:

Well researched-back up your claims with data. Unique-don't repeat what everyone else is saying. Longform-lengthy content gets more social shares, more backlinks, and higher search engine results. Genuinely useful-solve problems; relieve pain; provide answers. Grammatically correct. 4. Stay consistent on social media

The average person in the Western world spends around 3 hours on social media each day.

If you don't build and maintain a high profile social presence, your brand will suffer a slow but certain demise.

Gary Vaynerchuk's social media presence is on point. He's always publishing content, and it's always good.

Social media is so prevalent in our modern culture that it's become an absolute necessity for any aspiring entrepreneur to master the art of social media branding.

How do you remain consistent on social media? Here is a schedule you can follow:

Twitter: 5 times a day

LinkedIn: 1 time a day

Google+: 1 time a day

Facebook: 2 times a day

Branding isn't complicated. It's simply a matter of deciding what your jam is, knowing it, and being all about it, everywhere you are.

5. Tell a compelling story

People love stories-it's part of our DNA.

We have a neurological response to storytelling:

The effect of a story is so powerful that it's impossible to ignore.

James Clear, a popular blogger, explains his take on stories:

In the end, my work ends up being one-part storytelling, one-part academic research, one-part personal experiment. It's a colorful blend of inspirational stories, academic science, hard-earned wisdom.

His stories are now part of his personal brand. He uses storytelling to introduce the lessons he teaches on his blog.

A story? About a tough job? And the Tour de France? Yes, please.

And while the days of listening intently to tribal leaders tell tales of struggle and victory while huddled around a campfire on the savanna are over, we still connect with stories in the same way we did thousands of years ago.

If you want to effectively build your personal brand, you have to center everything around a story.

And not just any story, your story.

One of the quickest ways to grow your brand and your business is figuring out how you can craft and share your story in a way that's as relatable and authentic as possible.

6. Be intentional in positioning yourself

How do you want to be known in your niche?

Are you the friendly expert? The sarcastic a-hole? The mentor full of tough love?

Think about people with strong and recognizable personal brands such as Tucker Max (the sarcastic a-hole), Tim Ferriss (the friendly expert), or Garrett White (the tough love mentor).

All of them decided how they wanted to position themselves within their niches and then built their brands around that.

If you want to succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavors, you'll do the same.

You have to own it. Stick with it. You're building an identity.

Maybe Tucker Max likes his identity. Maybe he doesn't. But he made the bed, and now he has to lie in it.

Selena Soo positions herself as a publicity and business strategist for experts, authors, and coaches:

Every email, webinar, ad, and update is focused on that one point.

Brendon Burchard is a passionate coach who has positioned himself using the “Live. Love. Matter.” slogan. His positioning has allowed him to create a powerful presence that people don't forget.

7. Host hangouts and reply to comments

One of the quickest and most efficient ways to grow your personal brand is to connect with your audience.

Whether you are responding to comments on your blog, hosting weekly AMA Hangouts, or annual live meetups, getting involved with your audience and building rapport will put you on the fast track to a massive and recognizable personal brand.

8. Create a recognizable logo

The human brain processes logos in around 13 milliseconds, faster than the blink of an eye. I bet you recognize these logos:

A recognizable and high quality logo is essential to your visual marketing and personal brand.

Think about brands like Pepsi, Amazon, Google, and PayPal.

All of them have established strong logos people instantly recognize. Whether you love them or hate them, you cannot look at the Pepsi logo or see the colorful letters of Google without immediately acknowledging the brand:

Use the power of the human brain to your advantage, and craft a high quality logo that will increase your recognition.

A personal brand logo creates a visual hook for people to pair with your brand. If you are trying to brand yourself using only a title, your name, or a slogan, it won't be as effective.

The human brain uses a variety of sensory inputs to create a lasting memory-sound, motion, color, smell, and imagery.

By creating a colorful and unique logo, you'll be able to develop visual imagery that sticks in people's minds.

Think about Jimmy Fallon for a moment. He has a strong personal brand and uses his circular logo and blue moon imagery to reinforce this in people's minds:

Rachael Ray, the celebrity cook, has a fun, light, and memorable logo featuring her name:

9. Create a brand tag line

Another great way to build your brand recognition is to create a powerful and easy to remember tagline or mission statement.

“Open happiness.”

“Stay fresh.”

“The few, the proud, the ____.”

“Let's go places.”

Even without me telling you the brand names, you've probably recognized the brands of Coca-Cola, Subway, the U.S. Marines, and Toyota.

Brands try to harness a feeling, an emotion. That's why a brand that makes automobiles can have a tagline with a visceral and deep-seated impact.

That's the power of a well-written tagline.

Even in a so-called “boring” industry, Microsoft tries to be inspirational.

A personal brand has even greater potential for inspiration and motivation.

10. Start a podcast

If most of your work is centered around the written word, starting a podcast is a fantastic way to build a stronger online personality and establish a more powerful brand.

Podcasts are a rawer and unfiltered medium for sharing information, and if you can grow them and market them well enough, they can also be a fantastic strategy for monetizing your brand.

11. Start speaking at events

One of the best ways to establish authority of your personal brand is to speak at events or conferences:

Although speaking at TEDx or The World Domination Summit may feel out of your reach right now, start with smaller gigs, and build from there.

Getting up in front of a live audience, while being vulnerable and not having the ability to edit mistakes or correct your speeches, is a powerful way to build more authenticity into your brand.

Speaking takes practice. Many people are afraid of public speaking, but I think everyone should try it at least once.

Who knows? You may find that it's something you love and are good at!

Conclusion

You're now equipped with 11 powerful tips. These hacks work.

If you are willing to take action, you can grow your personal brand at an obscene rate, earning more customers and building a loyal following quicker than you ever thought possible.

It will take hard work and sacrifice on your part, but I promise that if you do what you need to do and use these 11 tips, your brand and your business will never be the same.

A personal brand is a powerful thing. How have you used your personal brand to gain more clients and customers?

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Analyzing and Cleaning Hijacked Google SEO Spam Results

Blackhat SEO spam comes in many forms, and one of the most nefarious is hijacked search results. This happens when search engines crawl and display unwanted content in the title and description of infected web pages. The negative impact to the infected website cannot be understated. This harms the website's reputation with visitors and will...

The post Analyzing and Cleaning Hijacked Google SEO Spam Results appeared first on Sucuri Blog.

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How to Connect With Traditional Media Influencers

Are you seen as an expert in your industry? Want to develop relationships with the media to become a go-to expert? To explore what marketers need to know to connect with traditional media influencers, I interview Josh Elledge. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social [...]

This post How to Connect With Traditional Media Influencers first appeared on .
- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

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4 Free Digital Marketing Opportunities Most Marketers Are Missing

Digital marketing.

To some, it's merely another fancy buzzword. To others, it's the backbone of their entire business.

In my life, digital marketing is almost everything I do.

For most entrepreneurs, however, it is a highly underutilized and misunderstood tool.

Most people think digital marketing has to be an expensive endeavor that takes thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to see any success with.

This is simply not the case.

There are a number of free tools and opportunities within digital marketing that most entrepreneurs are missing.

Here are just a few of them to help get you started. 

1. Use the power of blog commenting to build links

Blog commenting has become a practice synonymous with spammers and sleazy online marketers.

Because of this, most entrepreneurs do not take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Despite the negative connotation, blog comments are a fantastic way to promote your business and build a very natural link profile.

It's only when blog commenting is used improperly (like in the image below) that it's damaging to your Google ranking and personal reputation:

So, how can you use the power of blog commenting to market your content in an authentic, natural, and non-spammy way?

The first and most important step is finding the right blogs to comment on.

The best way to do this is simply to use blogs you regularly read or blogs that show up in your social media feed.

This practice ensures that you are posting on sites relevant to your niche.

It also increases the authenticity of your comments since you are an actual reader and probably have gained real value from the content you are commenting on.

However, if you already comment on your favorite blogs on a regular basis and are looking to expand your reach, there are other ways to find places to comment.

An easy way to do this is to utilize the Google Search Console and Advanced Search Operators.

Let's say you are running an online fitness clothing store for women.

You could enter any of the following search operators into Google:

Women's athletic wear “comments” Women's athletic style “leave a reply” Women's athletic clothing “leave a comment”

For example:

The search operators you are using clearly specify to Google that you only want search results that have the option to comment on the page.

After you've compiled a list of potential blogs to comment on, you can check their Ahrefs ranks to determine whether or not they are worth your time.

Now that you are done with the easy work of finding high quality blogs to comment on, it's time for the hard stuff.

And that's getting your comment approved.

This basically comes down to writing a non-spammy comment that still includes a link to your site.

Since most high-quality blogs have a pretty heavy moderation policy, this is not an easy task.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

Always fill the name field with your name-not the name of your site. Comments that have URLs in the name field are deleted most of the time. Leave the website field blank. Since you are going to include a link in the body of your comment, leaving the website field blank will help improve the odds of your comment passing the moderator. The best way to comment is to pick a relevant point from the blog content and then expand on it in an authentic and genuine way.

Take a look at some of the examples below to see the right way to do this:

2. Don't overlook press releases

I know, I know.

“What the heck, Neil? Press releases?! We are in the 21st century here!”

And I get it.

But press releases, when used properly, can actually be a pretty fantastic tool.

If you time the article right, a press release can generate a load of views and shares for your content.

When you have a large number of people, especially journalists, reviewing your content, it is more likely that your work will be picked up by major publications.

This can be a pivotal component of getting your content to go viral.

Press releases can also help your link-building campaigns in a big way, but you have to be intentional about the content.

Here are a few of the benefits, if you can ignore the not-quite-accurate benefits of “rankings” and “links.”

Links and rankings do happen, but only indirectly.

If a journalist or blogger sees your press release and decides to cover your content or include it as a part of a major story, the keywords you'd use would be key.

Make sure your content is filled with keywords you want to rank for.

This way, if a journalist takes a quote from your work, you'll be able to build up links to help boost your rankings.

The most important thing to keep in mind when running a press release, however, is your message.

Unlike with a regular blog post or YouTube video, when you run a press release, you and your content are now in the spotlight.

If you have any incongruency in your messaging, any incorrect data, or serious errors within your release, the PR will do more harm than good.

With a press release, you are shouting your message from a mountaintop.

Make sure you are shouting the right message.

While press releases are typically very expensive endeavors, costing anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, there are tools online that let you generate press coverage for free.

Here are a few of the best:

24-7PressRelease.com PRLog.org IdeaMarketers.com

There are certainly drawbacks to press releases.

They do not directly improve SEO; they are difficult to track; and if you make a mistake, you can do more damage to your brand than good.

However, if you know your way around, you can actually market your content quite effectively using free press release sources.

Just make sure you consider the pros and cons before filing for a release.

3. Get on Google+

With the prevalence of social media in today's marketplace, it surprises me that more businesses do not take advantage of the Google+ platform.

Google+ is a fantastic free way to market yourself, your business, and your content.

Getting started on Google+ is simple.

Because I've already written extensively on how to use Google+ for your marketing campaigns, I'll give you only a brief synopsis in this article.

The first step is to claim authorship with your personal Google+ profile.

Basically, this makes it easier for readers to identify your content, and it will allow you to position yourself as an authority within your niche.

Here's how you can do this as simply as possible, courtesy of Social Media Examiner:

Once you've linked your content to your Google+ account, it's time to start utilizing the power of the Google+ apps.

The first thing I recommend is using the +1'd Content app.

This allows people to recommend a website or a post. It will increase your click-through rate and will allow people to share and comment on content outside of Google+.

Next, you need to set up YouTube integration with your Google+ account:

Source: youtubecreator.blogspot.com

Let me share a little statistic with you.

People spend almost 6 billion hours-a month (!)-consuming YouTube content.

By integrating your Google+ and YouTube accounts, you will expand your reach on both platforms simultaneously and increase the number of eyes viewing and sharing your content.

And finally…

The big one.

Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts is by far one of my favorite marketing tools.

If you have any degree of authority within your niche, running regular Google hangouts is one of the fastest ways to engage your audience and improve your sales.

When people get to interact with you in a raw and unedited form, they tend to connect with you on a deeper level.

This will build engagement with your audience, transforming them from casual readers to raving fans.

Using a Google Hangout to host a webinar is also a great way to boost sales, especially whenever you are releasing a new product.

However, be warned.

If you are using webinars solely to promote new products, users will leave, and you will damage your online reputation.

You need to offer massive value while hosting webinars before you even mention a new product.

4. Do link outreach (the right way)

When digital and content marketing first started to take off, the tactic of link outreach became very common.

Link outreach basically looked something like this:

And the thing is…

…this used to work.

However, in the modern business world, the above strategy will probably have a 1-3% success rate, likely with lower tier websites and blogs.

But.

The core strategy of connecting with other influencers and having them promote your content (either by replacing a broken link or just sharing it outright) still works.

If you do it the right way.

What is the “right” way?

Focusing on relationships first and link building second.

Here is the deal.

A lot of Internet marketers are a pain in the butt.

They are constantly seeking to gain value from other people-those they have no relationship with-and rarely offer anything in return.

If you want to stand out from this crowd and actually succeed in your link-building efforts, you need to try a different approach.

The first step is to find companies you want a link from in the first place.

I once again recommend you select blogs and websites you are already familiar with and read on a regular basis.

But if you've already worn out all potential opportunities with your “regulars,” you can try another approach (shout-out to Ryan Stewart of Ahrefs.com for introducing me to this).

If you want to find great places to get potential links, then fire up Google, and input one or more of the following searches:

[Your keyword] + “Top posts of the week” [Your keyword] + “Friday link roundup” [Your keyword] + “Best posts of the week”

This will allow you to find blogs and websites already curating great content.

Trust me: it's a lot easier to get a link from one of these resources than from a blogger who only promotes their own content.

Now that you've found the blog you want to get a link from, it's time to connect.

This does not mean you immediately email them, asking for a link to your content.

The first step you need to take is to start following the blog/website/influencer on social media.

Once you are following them, drop them a line with something simple:

Hey, this is so-and-so. I read your piece on XYZ and really enjoyed it! Keep up the great work!

Once you have broken the ice and made the first contact on social media, start commenting on their posts and on their blog.

Do this for about a week, continuing the conversation you started above, if at all possible.

Once you've established good rapport and the influencer is aware of you, it's time to ask for the link.

While this tactic works great for broken links, it works even better if the blogger regularly posts a “Best of the web” article or something similar.

You will end up getting more traffic from a weekly roundup than you would from a broken link.

And, if your content is good, you may end up getting a repeat “customer” who will continue linking to your company for months or years to come.

Conclusion

Digital marketing can be a lot simpler (and less expensive) than people think.

But you have to be willing to take an “outside the box” approach to it.

Equipped with the above four tips and tricks, you'll be able to market your company more quickly and effectively than ever before.

None of the advice I've given here is easy, but it's simple and doable.

Take the time to educate yourself on these four opportunities, and learn how to capitalize on them to grow your business.

And invest your time in uncovering the wealth of other free digital marketing opportunities available in today's marketplace.

You may be surprised at how effectively you can market your company and your content without a big budget.

What is your favorite free digital marketing opportunity?

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