Guest Author: Maham Chappal is a ghostwriter and word lover. She will weave her word magic and gently nudge readers into getting comfortable in your comment box. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her at mahamschappal.com.
But when it started no-one knew it was going to change the world forever.
The IBM personal computer had just hit the streets. The computer manufacturers didn’t take much thought on this small blip on the computer event horizon. 10 years later many of them were going out of business or gone. The survivors had to reinvent their business models.
But the first PC was very boring.
What colour did you want on your screen? It was black and white or nothing.
Then things got very exciting a year or two later. You were able to have orange and green text on a black background.
Today the choices are infinite in vibrant HD color.
But it’s not just about color….. it is now a multi-media digital smorgasbord on a very visual web. High definition images. video and even live streaming.
Why visuals are important
Research shows that images and visuals have huge impact on sharing and even web traffic.
If you just look at Facebook. 87% of total interactions (sharing, clicks and comments) can be attributed to just photos. On Twitter you get 150% more retweets, 89% more favorites and 18% more clicks.
It is predicted that 70% of marketers this year are planning to increase their use of visuals to maximize their marketing effectiveness.
What are the optimal image sizes on social networks?
There are two things you need to consider. Optimal size and acceptable. Let’s have a quick look at the key images for the top social networks and the optimum image requirements.
The infographic below will provide more detailed instructions for each of the 7 platforms. These include file size, file type and pro tips.
For your in-stream photos the optimum is 1024 x 512 pixels.
With the shared images on Facebook the optimum size is 2048 x 2048 pixels.
The shared images on Google+ need 2048 x 2048 pixels.
The shared images on Tumblr requires 1280 x 1920 pixels.
The images in the feed on Instagram need 640 x 640 pixel visuals.
The Pin image standard needed on Pinterest is 736 pixels wide and you don’t need to worry about height as it is scaled for you.
The shared image requirement on LinkedIn needs a 531 x 399 pixel visual.
So for a top content marketing tips on visual content standards. Check out the infographic below for more detailed requirements on the visual standards you need to follow for obtaining the best results.
You may be doing everything you can think of to promote your blog online; email outreach, social media promotion, paid advertising and much more…
But how many non-digital promotion channels have you tapped into?
There are tonnes of ways to bring in readers from the offline world, that most of us are missing out on.
(This article assumes that you already have a focused theme for your blog and are writing specifically about one niche. If not, you’ll probably need to select and fine-tune your angle first.)
Let’s take a look at three offline opportunities you may be missing to boost your blog’s traffic.
1. In-person networking
We’ll start with the oldest, still most-effective strategy known to promoters: in-person networking.
People trust word of mouth because it comes from human connection, an essential component of success in any endeavour.
There are always people who network so they can manipulate and use others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build real relationships through your own networking endeavors.
The way to build these relationships is just to hang out with the people who know what you want to know.
If you know of a marketing genius who could get you a lot more readers by mentioning you in their sphere, find the networking events he or she frequents and seek them out for some casual conversation.
(Don’t try to lead the conversation; just let him tell you about what they like. Inspiration can spring from any topic if it’s being handled by an interested person.)
If you’ve got your eye on a particular industry influencer whose expertise could help your blog, attend a speech he’s giving and ask afterward if he’d be interested in a little happy hour + eats so you can pick his brain further.
You don’t have to have the world’s most magnetic personality to do this.
As Penelope Trunk would say, just be interested in others. Don’t come in asking for anything, and don’t try to be too smooth – others will pick up on it. Just being you is likely to leave a much more positive memory than any amount of name-dropping or thinly veiled pleas for attention.
Offer to talk about something that already interests your contact, even if it isn’t business-related. If they don’t have time for you at the moment, you should respect that, but don’t give up completely.
A brief email the next day, asking if you can reconnect at some point, is entirely appropriate. As long as you don’t come across as a con artist, your genuine interest will usually get you a friendly response.
Foster these new relationships over time – it won’t be long until they start turning into more blog traffic.
2. Print marketing
Sending out a traditional newsletter to remind people to read your blog, when the blog itself offers much more information in a convenient, easily navigable manner? How cheesy is that?
It’s actually not a bad idea. People still like to get personal snail mail.
The key is to not overdo this tactic. Email is preferable for weekly or monthly updates, while a physical mailer would be better to send out quarterly or semi-annually.
If you don’t trust your own sense of how often would be too often to send out a printed update, get your friends’ opinions on how frequently they’d like to receive that kind of thing. (When averaging the timespans they name, err on the less-frequent side.)
You can also prospect for new readers by using print.
Many large companies will post physical addresses for their staff on the “Contact” or “Bio” section of their websites.
You can use these to send a postcard or smartly written informational letter to industry influencers whom you would like to look at your site.
Offering a coupon if you also sell products will sweeten the deal nicely.
And, as always, another print option that will serve you well in face-to-face situations is a good business card.
Having an attractive card to give away when you meet a new contact not only makes you more memorable; its excellent design may even be the motivating factor for someone to visit your blog.
This ties in with the first point about in-person networking.
How are you going to meet the people who live around you if you spend all your time at home, in front of your computer?
If you need help finding nearby activities that can help you meet people, or if your main desire is to benefit others’ lives, volunteering is for you.
Sites like Network for Good can help you find the perfect opportunity for your skills and location.
You’ll meet a lot of awesome people when you volunteer.
Like you, they don’t want to remain islands unto themselves. They want to use what they have to help others.
Arianna Huffington who started one of the most-read blogs in the world, agrees that volunteering is necessary for personal development as well as for the betterment of one’s community.
(Every volunteer organization does, admittedly, have a few image-cultivators who are only serving the community to make themselves look good, but you’ll make many selfless acquaintances as well.)
Volunteering differs from networking, in that you can’t go into it hoping to meet a specific person who works in a specific industry. It’s more about putting your skills to visible use in a socially responsible way, and just seeing whom you meet as a result.
You can learn a lot about your community and its pain points by volunteering your skill set.
Through volunteering, you may discover a talent you never knew you had, or a stress-release outlet that you desperately needed.
Your experiences will also develop a lot of blogging material, which can expand your online reach as well.
What about you?
How have you considered reaching out offline to expand your online sphere of influence?
If you’ve accumulated any tips or tricks throughout your own blogging journey, share them with us below!
Author: Katherine Halek is a Content Strategist at Signazon.com, a leading online printer that works with thousands of small businesses around the country. Katherine enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, marketing, and career advice. Connect with her on Google+.
Recently I attended the Search Marketing Expo, and it helped.
Things are a little clearer in my mind now, and Google doesn’t seem as scary anymore.
Today I will share my biggest takeaways and the SEO predictions I learnt from the most popular search marketing conference in the world.
If content marketing, search ranking and SEO make up a core component of your work this article may be the most important article you’ll read all year.
The punch line?
Mobile and voice search are shaping the future of SEO, and Google is putting new emphasis on ‘direct answers’ to queries.
Here’s what business owners, digital marketers, content creators and SEO experts need to know about these key changes and how they impact their work and their websites.
1. Mobile is the future
Mobile searches will surpass desktop in 2016
According to eMarketer, 2015 will see mobile search reach the tipping point—the stage at which the majority of spend, organic traffic and paid clicks comes from smartphones and tablets rather than the traditional medium of desktop and laptop search.
Figure 1: Increasing search ad spending on mobile over time from 2013 to 2018
What does this mean for your business?
Apart from making your website both mobile friendly and responsive to all devices, you need to go a little further.
It means you need to have a mobile mindset for all of your website and product based decisions. Consider how your content will appear on a smartphone before finalizing your website, product pages, service pages and layouts.
The aim is to give mobile users the same optimum experience when they visit proper desktop websites.
In other words, businesses must give thought to all of the following; mobile marketing strategy; mobile design, mobile search marketing and advertising, mobile e-commerce and mobile payment, mobile CRM (customer relationship management), mobile coupons, and integrating mobile, local and social.
Figure 2: A case study of PlusNet whose “mobile first” mindset led to increased conversions on mobile
Figure 3: The difference between past and present mobile designs. Note, the new focus on better visual experience and the use of space to highlight important elements of the web page
Figure 4: Example of Zazzle Mobile Design changes:
What did Zazzle do?
Created simpler, more focused product pages
Kept only features that are useful to mobile users
Prioritized products that are popular with mobile users
Created mobile-only deals and promotions
A 186% increase in mobile sales
Figure 5: The tactic of using “Call-Only” ads can work well for businesses who want to increase the call conversion on mobile devices. This could work for products where users don’t need to gain an understanding about them and want a quick answer, for example: removal, storage, laundry, car rental…etc
Claim your business across Google Search, Maps, and Google+
50% of consumers visit a store within a day of searching on a smartphone.
Soaring mobile search will have a major impact on local businesses, especially for retail stores and hospitality venues such as restaurants, cafes, and hotels.
This emphasizes the importance of getting your business listed on Google Plus Local, Maps and customising your search appearance.
Businesses should ensure they have completed the full description of products, services, images, videos and social reviews.
2. The rise of voice search
Next time you use Siri, Cortana, or Google Now think about how your interaction is different.
Figure 6: Voice search is now available on Apple Siri, Google Now and Windows Cortana phones
With text-based search, you type something like “Home Depot” and you click on the address to find its location.
With voice search, you’ll say, “Where is the nearest Home Depot?”
Think about how you began your search. Did you open the search box by touch or did you prompt the assistant by saying “OK, Google.”
Not long ago an agency, Rosetta, published a brilliant article that shared the unique idea that voice search is marked by the use of question words: Who, What, Where, Why, and How.
These are the question terms that will define our changing search patterns on mobile devices.
While desktop searches will be used for in-depth content that can’t be answered in basic short form.
Figure 7: As you can see tablet growth is the highest, due to the growth of Wi-Fi and voice search.
Figure 8: The ready-to-act level changes when it comes to different type of search queries.
As you may know, Google is launching voice recognition search features on Google apps.
Voice search changes the behaviours of consumers by moving faster than type search. Although Google hasn’t provided exact stats on the superiority of voice recognition over type search yet.
Part of this change is to embrace the increasing popularity of mobile search and to make the search engine more proficient, saving the consumer both time and effort.
Conversational search helps users answer fact, stat-based questions such as “tell me the hotels in the Sydney CBD”, it can then refine the search to “find me the cheapest hotel in Sydney CBD”.
You can appreciate how efficient the search assistant system is, making the entire process much easier for the time-pressed consumer.
What You Can Do To Embrace This Change?
You need to improve your efforts on local SEO. Search results depend on many factors, among them are full details about products/services (pricing, location), reviews, and local citation. All of which are important factors to get your site ranking highly in search results
It is now important to make your apps search friendly. Apps are becoming more integrated within Google search results since Google has started indexing app content. Accordingly, businesses can make sure their app appear in search results under web and applications, making it more accessible to users.
Figure 9: Example of apps appearing in search results
Another key point I took from the conference was the importance of the mix between content marketing and SEO.
It is important to integrate your SEO strategy with your content marketing.
For example, conducting comprehensive long tail keyword research to identify the popular words and phrases that users are searching is only necessary or pertinent when combined with the relevant content strategy which could involve FAQs, Facts, How-to-articles, Explainer Videos and so on.
Analyse your long tail keywords to find patterns, and consider using those that stretch into six and seven words in length, including question phrases and positives or negatives accordingly. Then you can write content using these terms.
Figure 11: Voice searches contain more words – this means long-tail keywords are even more important as part of the SEO process.
Google has yet to comment on how conversational search will impact ad listings, but I doubt any significant changes will occur any time soon.
3. Structured data and direct answers are trending
Direct answers are Google’s attempt to show you the an exact answer to your search query at the top of the search page.
They were not originally designed with mobile in mind, but the requirements and restrictions of mobile search have pushed its growth.
Google: “we built Google for users, not websites.”
Approximately 19% of queries result in rich/direct answers
Bad for specialized search engines and competing answer engines –i.e. weather sites, shopping searches, yellow pages and lyric sites
If your business strategy is to collect and present data and facts you don’t own, Google is now a direct competitor
Most direct answer platforms are not commercially valuable.
Some answer engines (Weather Underground) provide data to Google via licensing –additional revenue + traffic stream
If you are the answer to a direct answer (what is the best restaurant in Sydney) then life is good!
About 75% of the time, links to the source are provided
Most searches can’t be turned into a direct answer, and many search sessions are multi-step
Major sites are not reporting a downturn in traffic as a result (so far)
How to adapt
Provide structured data for everything you can.
Do you ever wonder how some e-commerce sites get yellow stars, prices, or thumbnails in their search result listings?
That’s structured data at work.
Structured data sounds a bit off-putting, but it’s simply a way of tagging the data in your web pages so that search engines can easily understand. These data elements can be anything from pricing and availability to breadcrumbs and video.
So what exactly does structured data look like in search engine listings?
Structured data is the “extra” information that you see next to a website and meta description. For example, if you are searching for a restaurant, you will not only see the restaurant’s name, but also additional information such as hours, pricing and stars to indicate positive reviews.
So do you need a web developer to manage structured data and SEO for you?
Unfortunately, yes you do, your time is better spent growing your business rather than trying to figure out how to implement structured data on your website.
Figure 12: Example of Google review and video mark-up
Figure 13: You can mark-up not only for rating but, time, price and other specs
Structured data is definitely not only for search engines. If done correctly it will make your result much more attractive and increase your click through rate.
Author: Huyen Truong is a SEO Manager at Sydney SEO Agency – Result Driven SEO with a passion to help small and medium-sized businesses get found online in digital world through search-engine friendly website design, organic search engine optimisation strategies and tactics. Follow her on Twitterto see her latest articles.
Ok you get it; content marketing alone might not be enough and mobile is becoming more and more important if you want to advertise online.
But where do you start? How do you know what is the best platform for your business?
The most effective form of digital advertising is contextual – it depends on who you are trying to reach and how you want to get there.
Let’s run through the options, then give a quick breakdown of who benefits most from each.
It’s a rare thing to find a company without a social media division these days, even if that “division” is just some hapless intern working for experience.
From restaurants to airlines to celebrities – if there’s a brand, there’s a Twitter handle to match.
When it comes to advertising on social media, everything is pretty new. The way we advertise on these platforms is continually changing, because no one really knows what works.
Advertisers aren’t quite sure yet (although some will claim they are). The consumers are confused with these new ads popping up on their social streams. And the platforms themselves (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) are still balancing user experience with maximising revenue.
Social ads generally follow Pay-Per-Click or Pay-Per-Impression models, making them relatively easy to budget for – because you pay for what you get.
Now for a closer look at Facebook and Twitter as advertising platforms.
Facebook ads are similar to Google PPC campaigns, where you can bid for clicks or impressions on different keywords, then display ads on Facebook’s right vertical bar.
More recently Facebook introduced news feed ad spots if you have an active Facebook page. These are proving a much better ROI than the right side bar.
Keep in mind that the people seeing your ads will find them in a social context – so photos and images are a core component of a successful ad campaign.
Who should advertise on Facebook?
Devoted PPC marketers with the willingness to spend a lot of time getting things right.
Keep in mind that the sheer number of users Facebook has, makes it a perfect fit for B2C marketers. But B2B marketers have started to make their presence known because of the extremely targeted information the platform is accruing on all of us.
Facebook ads are easy to launch, and just as easy to edit (especially with the new mobile ad manager).
Marketers are able to make spot fixes on the fly to optimize and correct underperforming ads while boosting budget for winners.
These ads are, again, not dissimilar from Facebook advertising when it comes down to brute mechanics.
But they’re a different animal conceptually. Facebook ads are, well, advertising. They’re your chance to put your commercial foot forward.
Twitter ads are not. Paying for prominence here is a way to put what you might normally tweet into a more obvious place.
Ads work in parallel with the personality of your normal, free Twitter feed, and shouldn’t veer off into sales territory.
Who should advertise on Twitter?
Marketers with a solid Twitter strategy, but not enough Twitter traction.
Promoting your posts to the right audience (and yes, Twitter’s ad engine allows considerable targeting) is your way of cutting through the logjam of influencers and expose potential clients to your social voice.
The relative new kid on the block.
Interstitial ads, if you haven’t heard the phrase before, are promotional pages that show up before a visitor makes their way to the content they actually want to see.
On one hand, that basically guarantees visibility. On the other, it’s irritating; interstitial ads are prime targets for adblock software, and many clients avoid them on principle.
As a result, the industry has undergone a mild reformation. They’ve really come into their own on mobile platforms, where they quickly capture attention, leading to soaring success, especially in the case of attention-grabbing video and rich media ads.
Who should advertise with interstitial?
Companies with the budget to make a move on mobile and do it right.
Poorly made mobile ads are just as annoying as their increasingly disliked predecessors; treat them as an opportunity to create original content, then show it to your viewers.
Maligned, dispensed with, but still darn useful.
Banner ads have caught a load of flak for the slashed CTR’s they’ve seen of late. But while the numbers are daunting, they merely point to a poor average, not a death knell for the humble banner.
They might not pull the engagement that more obtrusive options do, but banner ads remain wonderful for establishing visual branding, and hitting a highly targeted audience.
The ability to pick and choose where an ad shows up allows advertisers to carefully tailor their campaign toward a given site and demographic.
But in order to beat flagging CTR’s, companies do have to evolve. Think about clever examples like Skittles’ interactive, offbeat banners, or powerful, fold-dominating movie posters.
Who should advertise with banner ads?
Established companies with a solid ad budget, and an extremely clear idea of who they want to reach and how.
A defined audience and a superb visual idea can still combine to keep banners relevant.
The skimpier, but less-expensive cousins to banner ads.
Google’s Pay-Per-Click campaigns have become a massive boon for cash-strapped businesses looking to muscle in on banner space. And at least at the moment, they’ve proven to be effective.
Those stark text boxes may blend in to the background of many sites, but find a convincing enough message, and it’ll still snag a few eyes.
Perhaps the best thing about PPC ads is that they offer a more-or-less predictable ROI, and one that, even if an ad belly-flops spectacularly, won’t drop to levels low enough to seriously hurt most companies.
Design costs for text ads are nil, and the PPC model guarantees that advertisers won’t drop too much of their budget upon launch.
Who should advertise with PPC?
Companies that don’t translate well to visual media.
Whether you simply don’t have a graphic artist on hand, or your services are hard to sum up in a photo, PPC is your best bet for a high-yield campaign.
The best PPC ads are the ones that ditch details, and go for the jugular with competitive prices and calls to action.
Wrapping it up
Alright, we’ll try and end this on a slightly less wishy-washy note.
While all ad formats still have their applications for different companies, changing technology and market trends will result in a few finding even greater success down the road.
We’re particularly talking about mobile. Whether you go banner, video interstitial – whatever. Mobile ads will likely make up a larger and larger percentage of all advertising in the coming years. Evolving tech such as proximity marketing will only exaggerate that effect.
But if you’re attached to a particular form, there’s still good news. The lessons learned from more traditional marketing aren’t about to be completely invalidated. At the end of the day the actual quality of ads will be the single largest determining factor of their success.
Guest Author: Tuan Nguyen is the owner of 20DollarBanners.com, and a major proponent of banner marketing done right. A digital veteran, Tuan is also the founder of Aplusmedia, a web development and marketing agency.