Mon, 30 Dec 2019 19:57:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Do You Need to Pay for Monthly SEO Services? Wed, 28 Dec 2016 00:35:00 +0000 The truth is, you don’t have to pay an agency for a monthly SEO campaign. And as the director of an agency, I’m sure many of you are shocked to hear this. SEO isn’t rocket science. Rather, it’s a collective effort between business owners, designers, developers, writers, and data analyzers who work together to create […]

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The truth is, you don’t have to pay an agency for a monthly SEO campaign. And as the director of an agency, I’m sure many of you are shocked to hear this.

SEO isn’t rocket science. Rather, it’s a collective effort between business owners, designers, developers, writers, and data analyzers who work together to create a spectacular website and maintain it regularly.

In this article, we’ll look at how we approach SEO for a new website and the day-to-day tasks involved.

If you can handle these tasks yourself or delegate the jobs internally – then no, you won’t need to hire an agency and pay for a monthly SEO service.

Your Primary Goal Is to Build a Great Site

The first step begins before you even think about optimizing your site for specific keywords. It starts with web design and development.

Why? Because a great website that offers an outstanding user experience is more likely to rank well than a site that’s sluggish and/or hard to navigate.

And here’s the important part: your site must be user-friendly to a mobile audience.

I can’t emphasize this enough. If your website isn’t user-friendly for people who use smartphones, tablets or phablets, then you can expect that it will rank very poorly.

Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. As Google leans towards a mobile-first index, a responsive-based website has become the standard.

Keep in mind: mobile-friendliness doesn’t just mean ease of navigation, but also speed. Mobile page speed is a ranking signal as well.

Hire the best web designer/development team that you can find to produce a site that’s not only easy to navigate, but also loads quickly. Make sure the team understands principles of SEO as they apply to website development.

Don’t be afraid to ask team members about SEO before you even hire them. Ask them what they know and check their answers against contemporary web design best-practices. Specifically, ask them the following questions:

  • Will you write meta tags for our website?
  • What SEO and security plugins will you install on your site?
  • Do you guarantee that the site will be 100% mobile-friendly according to Google’s mobile test?
  • Will you install Google Analytics and event tracking on our site?
  • How do you optimize a website for speed?
  • How do you check for cross-browser compliance?
  • What tools do you use to check for on-site SEO?

Also, have a look at their portfolios. Click around on websites that they’ve developed and see if the sites are user-friendly. Be sure to view the sites on your smartphone as well.

If you see a lot of problems with each of the sites, look for another company with a better track record.

One thing you should do for sure is to check the speed of their websites. Fortunately, that’s very easy to do with Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool.

Just use the tool to plug in the URL of one of the websites that you’re evaluating. You’ll get two scores: one for mobile-friendliness and one for desktop-friendliness. Both scores range from 0-100 with 100 unsurprisingly being the best.

More than just reporting the scores, the tool will paint them with a color. Green means the site is in good shape, yellow means there’s room for improvement, and red means there are serious problems with the website’s speed.

A yellow or red score doesn’t necessarily mean that the development team did something wrong, though.

The tool lists the reasons that it deducted points in its report. If you see something like “Reduce server response time,” that’s probably not the fault of the development team.

On the other hand, if you see something like “Optimize images – Properly formatting and compressing images can save many bytes of data.”, that’s totally on the development team.

You also need to ensure that your website is error-free from a W3C perspective.

If you’re unfamiliar with W3C, it’s just a short-hand way of referencing the World Wide Web Consortium, a standards organization that recommends best-practices concerning web development technologies.

To make life easy on web developers and their clients alike, the W3C created a validator that checks for errors on web pages. By making sure your HTML is valid, you can be more confident that different browsers and devices will render your website properly. As with the PageSpeed Insights tool, you just need to plug in a URL, wait a few moments, and then check the report that follows.

Obviously, you’ll let the development team know up-front that you expect the website to be free of HTML errors. You’ll also want to keep warnings to a minimum.

It’s also important that your website uses the secure HTTP protocol.

You might have noticed when you visit some of your favorite sites that the URL starts with an “https” instead of an “http”. That’s because those sites are using the secure protocol.

Once upon a time, it was common to only use the secure protocol during an exchange that involved sensitive information (such as a credit card number). Nowadays, web developers use HTTPS to give their sites a bump in the SERPs.

Keep in mind: you’ll need a digital certificate to use HTTPS. The cost for that varies depending on how many sites you want to secure and whether you want to display your company name in the so-called “green bar” part of the URL field. For SEO purposes, though, an economical solution should suffice.

Additional Tools you will need for On Page SEO

Once your website is ready to launch, you’ll still want to do a few more things to get it ready for SEO.

For starters, you should create a Google Analytics account. That’s because Google Analytics is a digital marketer’s best friend.

Even better: it’s totally free.

Once you’ve created the account, you just need to add a snippet of JavaScript code to your website in front of the closing </head> tag. The code looks something like this:


(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-73452413-1', 'auto'); ga('require', 'displayfeatures'); ga('send', 'pageview');

If you’re using WordPress, the admin console might offer you a field where you can place the tracking code. Check with your theme documentation.

Next, you should call Google AdWords at 1-866-2-GOOGLE and request Event and Goal tracking. The person on the phone will put you in touch with the company’s event tracking implementation team so that you can track clicks, contact form leads, conversions, and more. Make sure your developer is on the call with you so that you can implement and test the changes in real time.

Of course, you’ll also want to add your site to the Google Search Console and Bing Webmasters Tools.

At Huge Impact, we use the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) to optimize client’s sites. You can do the same by using several different features offered by the tool.

First, click on Search Appearance on the left-hand sidebar and then select HTML Improvements from the drop-down menu that appears. The report that appears on the main part of the screen will let you know if there are any issues with your HTML code.

Here are some of the more common issues you might see:

  • Meta tags – If you have duplicate meta tags or tags that are too short, expect the Search Console to complain. If you’re using WordPress, it’s best to manage meta tags with a plugin like Yoast, which shows you a green bar when your meta tags are at an optimal length.
  • Title problems – The Search Console will let you know if you’re using duplicate titles across multiple pages. It’s best if your title is in camel case and reflects the headline of the page or article. You can utilize multiple keyword phrases in a Title tag by separating them with a dash or pipe (for example: “My Article Title | My Site Name”).
  • Meta description problems – As with the title, the Search Console will inform you if there are duplicate descriptions across multiple pages. Descriptions should be one long sentence or two short sentences. It’s often the case that the description appears in the search results right below the title.

Next, click on Crawl on the left-hand sidebar and select Crawl Errors from the drop-down menu that appears. That report will show you errors that Google encounters as it crawls your site.

The most common error you’re likely to see on that page is the 404 (not found) error. That could happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • A page URL on your site may have changed
  • Someone linked to the wrong URL from another website
  • You’re running an e-commerce site and you discontinued a product
  • You linked within your site to a page that doesn’t exist

If you’re using WordPress, you can use the Redirection plugin to redirect 404 errors to another page. If you’re not using WordPress, you can modify the website’s .htaccess file to manage redirects manually.  Permanent 301 redirect rules written in a .htaccess file look like this:

Redirect Permanent /old-url

Next, click on Crawl on the left-hand sidebar and select Sitemaps from the drop-down menu that appears. In the top right corner of your screen, you’ll see a button that says ‘ADD/TEST SITEMAP’, which will allow you to submit a sitemap that will tell Google about all the pages on your website.

You can create the sitemap on your own, following the directions here. But if you’re using WordPress, then the Yoast plugin will create a sitemap for you. Yoast will create an XML Sitemap URL that looks like this:

All you need to do is add the sitemap URL in Search Console and Bing Webmasters Tools.

While you’re in Yoast, be sure to use it to “noindex” all pages that contain duplicate content. That’s because duplicate content is a no-no with Google (at least if it’s indexed).

To use the “noindex” feature of Yoast, just hover over SEO on the left-hand sidebar of your WordPress administration console. Then, select “Titles & Metas” from the fly-out menu that appears. Under Post Types, Taxonomies, and Archives, you can set certain page groups to “noindex.”  We generally noindex Categories, Tags, Author Archives and Date Archives.

Anything on these pages, is just regurgitated content that can be found elsewhere on your blog posts and webpages.

Building a Backlink Profile

Once you’ve established your site so that it’s favorable to Google’s search bot and added the site to the Search Console, it’s time to get on with what many people consider to be the hardest part of SEO: link building.

Why is link building so hard? Because you need to a link back to your website from somebody else’s website. That’s not always easy to do because, understandably, webmasters don’t just let anyone post links on their sites.

That doesn’t change the fact that backlinks are essential to good SEO. Google admits that the number and quality of backlinks is one of the top three ranking signals it uses to determine where sites belong in the SERPs.

The bottom line is this: if you want to take SEO seriously, you’re going to have to build backlinks.

You can build backlinks by finding webmasters, editors, and reporters who need content. Fortunately, just about every one of them needs content on a regular basis.

Start by registering at Help A Reporter Out (HARO). Present yourself as an expert in your niche and, if a reporter needs to talk to an expert, then he or she might call you for a quote or two. In return for your efforts, you’re likely to get a backlink to your site from a news organization.

Also, talk to non-competing webmasters about guest-posting on their blogs. Make sure that you post on blogs that are related to your niche.

Also, you should post on blogs that have an Alexa ranking of 100,000 or better to ensure that it’s an authoritative site. That way, you’re not contributing to low quality sites that won’t generate you any traffic. Keep in mind though, that if you get too aggressive with your link building efforts, it might be a red flag to Google. Be sure that your backlinks look natural and that you’re positively contributing to whatever online community you use to get backlinks.

Also, you’ll want to avoid buying links on private blog networks (PBNs), or blogs that are set up specifically to provide backlinks to sites. The problem is that Google will probably catch on to those blogs eventually and stop passing page rank. So you’ll end up with only a temporary solution that could end up getting you in trouble.

In a similar vein, watch out for link farms. They’re like PBNs but they’re a little more open about what they do. Google has issued a warning against link farms. You’d be wise to avoid such schemes.

Also, be careful about reciprocal link building, or exchanging links with non-competing sites. Again, if Google catches you doing that, your site could be subject to a manual penalty.

Going Social

Another way to get the word out about your site is with the aid of social media. Fortunately, that’s another free option.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to post about once per day or more. Be sure to post content that’s engaging and shareable so that you can attract backlinks from the blogs of some of your followers.

Also, be sure to post a variety of content on your social media channels. Post links to your site, create branded posts with your logo, helpful videos, funny memes, and anything else you think might be of value to people in your target market.

Get Found With Content Marketing

The best way to build backlinks is to set up a blog on your site and produce quality content. Then, other bloggers (and maybe even some high-profile media types) will link to your awesome articles.

Also, regular blogging attracts new visitors. Sometimes, people will stumble across your site from a keyword or phrase that they Googled. If those visitors are part of your target market, then you just might gain a new customer.

Consistent blogging also keeps users engaged. They’ll often leave comments on the articles you post and/or share them on social media. That generates more buzz about your business.

Finding Out What Works

Also, get to know your way around Google Analytics. Use it regularly to determine which blog posts attract the largest audiences and which ones are shared the most on social media. Then, be sure to produce similar amazing content as often as possible.

Google Analytics lets you look at user behavior and shows you how people are interacting with your website.

You can use the Behavior section of GA to determine the bounce rate, time spent on each page, and (if you’re tracking conversions) the conversion rate. Keep in mind that any page with a low bounce rate, high session duration rate, and good conversion rate is performing well. On the other hand, pages with a high bounce rate, short session duration rate, and low conversion rate should be optimized with improved content, images, interactive elements, and/or video.

You can also create custom GA reports and have them automatically emailed to yourself weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

So how can you tackle SEO on your own?

First, you do it from the technical side. That means you make sure that your development team builds an awesome site that’s SEO-friendly.

From there, you submit your site to Google Search Console and Bing Webmasters Tools. But you’ll also use those tools on a regular basis, to take care of any on-site SEO issues.

If you’re using WordPress, you should also take advantage of the Yoast SEO plugin to maximize your online visibility. If you’re not using WordPress or any another Content Management System (CMS), then you should outsource the technical aspects of SEO to a professional developer as the task involves tweaking some configuration files and adding HTML/JavaScript code.

Also, hook up your site with Google Analytics.  This free software will help you analyze where traffic is coming from, provide insightful data about your users and how they interact with your website.

Once you’ve built that foundation, it’s time to engage in day-to-day optimization efforts by producing amazing, original content consistently. If you’re too busy for that side of SEO, you might have to outsource the writing to a trained professional.

Be sure that you also keep up with your social media marketing. That’s how you can post links to your new content and keep people in your target market engaged with your brand.

Also, hot content will generate backlinks. People who run other websites are always looking for great content and they know about the importance of linking to sites that offer it. Take for example, all the good content we linked to in this article.  Each one of these valuable sources got a natural, unsolicited backlink from our site.

If you’re committed to doing all that work, then you don’t need to hire an SEO firm.

On the other hand, if you think that’s too much effort given all your other competing priorities, then maybe you should delegate SEO responsibilities to a reputable company.

Or perhaps you want to do a bit of both – handle the tasks you’re good at, and that you can manage, while outsourcing the remaining parts of your SEO campaign.

If you plan to hire an SEO firm, be sure to find a company that’s trustworthy (check reviews and references) and that’s 100% transparent about what it’s doing. Ask for sample reports up-front so that you know what you can expect to see once you’ve signed on with the company.  Make sure, everything they’re promising is included in the signed agreement.

Also, keep in mind that even if you work with an SEO company, it’s still a team effort. You and your SEO partners should bounce ideas off each other, ask questions, and respect each other’s opinions.

Your SEO team should share your vision, understand your target market, and offer a common-sense plan to reach people in that market.

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10 Tools That Help Create Awesome Blog Writing Topics Thu, 01 Sep 2016 18:42:25 +0000 Writer’s block can be a content marketer’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are several apps for that. If you’re struggling because you can’t find any great ideas for blog topics, you should check one of the many tools online that will provide some much-needed inspiration. Here are some of the […]

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Writer’s block can be a content marketer’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Actually, there are several apps for that.

If you’re struggling because you can’t find any great ideas for blog topics, you should check one of the many tools online that will provide some much-needed inspiration.

Here are some of the best options that we found.

1. HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator


By now, almost everybody in digital marketing has heard about HubSpot. It’s a company that offers a suite of online marketing tools to help businesses grow.

One of the reasons that so many people know about HubSpot is not just because of the quality of its service, but because the company runs a blog that offers helpful tips for fellow marketers. In other words, HubSpot has built its brand, at least in part, on content marketing.

But HubSpot doesn’t just offer free advice to digital strategists. It also offers a free tool that generates blog topic ideas based on keywords.

Here’s how it works: simply fire up the tool in your browser, then enter 1-3 keywords (preferably nouns) that reflect your niche or a topic that your visitors would like to read about. Then, the app suggests a few titles.

No, it won’t write the articles for you. Nor will it provide the outline.

It’s just meant to be used as a starting point. It’s up to you to fill out the content once you have an idea.

For example, we entered “jewelry” as a topic and received the following suggestions:

  • Think You’re Cut Out For Doing Jewelry? Take This Quiz
  • 7 Things About Jewelry Your Boss Wants To Know
  • The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Jewelry
  • 15 Best Blogs To Follow About Jewelry
  • 10 Quick Tips About Jewelry

There are a couple of good options in there. Clearly, the tool follows a formula that might not apply to every niche.

Bottom line: while HubSpot’s topic generator might not be your last stop, it’s a good starting point.

2. Portent’s Content Idea Generator


Portent is another digital marketing company, but it isn’t as well-known as HubSpot.

It does, however, offer an idea generating tool that’s far more entertaining than what’s offered at HubSpot.

That’s because Portent’s tool stems from its corporate personality. If you’re unfamiliar with Portent, you can get a pretty good idea about the company when you visit its home page and notice the word “Weird” standing out prominently.

The company’s idea generator is weird, too. But it’s weird in a funny way.

For example, we entered “jewelry” again and received the following suggestion: “Why Kim Kardashian Will Never Be Good At Jewelry.”

That might be true, but beyond that the generator provides running commentary about the various phrases and words it put into the title.

As an example, a bubble just above Kim Kardashian’s name reads: “Headaches: a known side effect after reading or hearing her name.”

If you’re not happy with the first suggestion that the Portent tool offers you (and hopefully you’re not if it includes Kim Kardashian’s name), feel free to hit the “regenerate” icon and see another headline. You can keep regenerating headlines until you find one that you like.

The second headline we received is: “Why Jewelry Is The Secret Ingredient.”

3. The Blog Post Ideas Generator

If you want to get some ideas for your blog without even entering a keyword or search term, then maybe The Blog Post Ideas Generator is exactly what you’re looking for.

All you have to do when you fire up that tool is click a button. Nothing else.

Sometimes, though, the generator will give you results that require you to literally fill in the blanks. For example, one of our ideas was: “My Favorite Place On Earth Is…”

Clearly, you’re going to have to finish that title.

Also, it’s worth noting that people in your target market might not even care about your favorite place on Earth. The Blog Post Ideas Generator seems to be better suited to mommy bloggers than businesses trying to build a brand.

That said, it might be a good place to visit if you’ve got a really nasty case of writer’s block. Although the generator might not offer a perfect title for your audience, it might give you a nudge in the right direction.

4. Blog Title Idea Generator

Inbound Now is a digital marketing company that offers its clients landing pages, lead tracking, and marketing automation. It also hosts a blog title idea generator.

The tool is unimaginatively named the Blog Title Idea Generator. As with the previous option, you also won’t need to enter any keywords to get your idea.

Just head over to the app and you’ll immediately see a title on the page. In this case, you won’t even have to press a button.

The first title we got was: “[Number] Harsh Realities Of [Keyword]”.

So, as you can see, users will still need to fill in the blanks. In fact, with this title, there are two blanks.

If you don’t like the title that you received, that’s no problem. Just click on the “Click to Generate Title Idea!” button and you’ll get a brand new title.

Our second title was: “Do You Make These Common [Keyword] Mistakes?”

That’s a little better than the first option. Obviously, you’ll want to fill in “[Keyword]” with a word or phrase that’s relevant to people in your target market.

5. Link Bait Generator

How can you go wrong with a name like “Link Bait Generator”?

It’s another option where you click to pick. Just enter your subject and get a wide variety of titles that are meant to act as clickbait.

The results are not always perfect, though.

For example, we entered “jewelry” into the subject line and received at least a couple of dozen options. Leading the list was this not-so-workable title: “Why Jewelry Is Destroying America.”

Unless your audience consists of people who are part of a very primitive religion, that title probably won’t generate much appeal.

Keep in mind, though, that part of the attraction of a tool like Link Bait Generator is that it just uses random clickbait-like phrases with the subject that’s provided. Sometimes, it will produce a winner.

Farther down in our list, we saw this title: “11 Ways Investing In Jewelry Can Make You A Millionaire.” That option actually has some potential.

Certainly, it’s better than the third option: “Why You Should Give Up Sex And Devote Your Life To Jewelry.”

If you don’t like the options that the tool gives you, just click the “Get Linkbait” button to retrieve a whole new list of titles that will hopefully include a couple of options you like.

6. ContentIdeator


Despite its awkward name, ContentIdeator is a great place to look for blog subject inspiration. It also differs from the other options in that it’s not quite so “random.”

Just head over to the website and enter a subject of your choice. Click the search button and you’ll receive much more than a variety of slapped-together words and phrases that include your topic.

Instead, you’ll find actual titles from around the Interweb. More than that, though, the tool also provides you with the number of social shares for each title so that you can gauge the popularity of each option.

Unfortunately, that information is blurred out unless you fork over $29 per month to see the exact number of shares. The company is probably using a tool like BuzzSumo to determine social share count and it passes that cost on to its users.

Still, even if you want to use ContentIdeator on the cheap, you’ll get a variety of blog post titles that can certainly feed your muse. You can also click on each of the titles to read the articles and generate even more inspiration.

When we searched on “jewelry,” we received a variety of great ideas, including this one: “’Game Of Thrones’ Star Emilia Clarke Fronts Dior Jewelry Campaign.”

7. Content Strategy Helper


The Content Strategy Helper might be one of the best options for gathering ideas about blog posts.

But you’re going to have to work for it.

That’s because it’s not a cloud-based tool like the other options. Instead, it’s a Google Doc.

Yes, a Google Doc.

To use the Content Strategy Helper, you’ll need to login to your Google account and visit the existing Google Doc that acts as a template. Then, make a copy by clicking on File>Make a copy…

Name the copy anything you want for now. The important thing here is that you have your own version of the doc that you can edit.

Once you’ve made the copy, you still have some work to do before you can use it to find ideas. On your new copy of the doc, click on Tools>Script editor…

That will take you to a page containing a lot of code that you won’t be able to understand unless you’re a professional software developer. You’ll need to replace that code with some new code.

Visit this page to grab the new code. It’s a simple copy-and-paste operation. Just make sure that you highlight only the code on that page and not the entire text.

Once you’ve copied the code from the page, just paste it over the original code in your Google Doc. The simplest way is to select all the existing code on your page and then overwrite it all by pasting in the new code.

Now, select File>Save from the script window to save your changes.

Once you’re done with that, you can finally use the tool to get some ideas. Just go back to the spreadsheet and find the cell highlighted in red (it probably has “seo” in it right now). Enter your own search term and hit Enter.

As you can see, results are categorized by source. You’ll see titles from Google News, Hacker News, Reddit, Digg, YouTube, YouGov, How Stuff Works, and others.

It’s a great “go to” source for inspiration once you’ve moved past the up-front requirements to get the tool working.

8. BuzzSumo


We’ve already mentioned BuzzSumo in this list because it looks like the ContentIdeator uses BuzzSumo to deliver its results. If you like what you see from ContentIdeator, you might be inclined to bypass the middleman and go straight to the source.

BuzzSumo is a premium tool that will provide you with a variety of online titles related to any niche. Even better: it displays social share stats so that you can see the number of engagements/shares for each title.

Why is that important? Because it gives you an idea about how well a title you’re considering is likely to perform. If a similar title worked well in the past, then it’s more likely to perform well in the future.

For example, when we searched for “jewelry,” we saw this title from BuzzFeed: “19 Stunningly Weird Pieces of Anatomy Jewelry.” That’s a great option for a blog about jewelry if it hasn’t already covered the subject of anatomy jewelry. Even better: that blog post received more than 81,000 Facebook engagements.

Of course, the downside to BuzzSumo is that it costs money. However, if you take your content marketing seriously, then you might find it’s worth the investment.

Right now, the cheapest BuzzSumo plan is offered at $99 per month. If you find that too pricey, have another look at the ContentIdeator plan offered at $29 per month.

9. Tweak Your Biz Title Generator

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator
If you’re tired of some of the other title generators that force you to click a button repeatedly until you get a title you like, then have a look at the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.

To use the tool, just enter your subject or niche, click the big, fat “Submit!” button and you’ll receive countless titles on one page.

Even better: the tool provides all the titles in the text area so that you can just copy and paste them to a text document. It also gives you the option to print or download them.

One really convenient feature is that the title generator separates your suggested titles into popular groupings. There’s a listicle group, a “how to” group, a “best” group, a celebrities group, and several others.

When we typed “jewelry” in the search bar, our titles included “Apply These 8 Secret Techniques To Improve Jewelry,” “Best Jewelry Android Apps,” and “Sexy Jewelry.”

There are also some ridiculous options, such as: “14 Days To A Better Jewelry.”

Still, with a list that includes as many options as this tool provides, it’s likely that any struggling blogger will find some great ideas.

10. SEOPressor Blog Title Generator.

SEOPressor Blog Title Generator

One final tool that will give you some ideas for blog posts is the SEOPressor Blog Title Generator.

It’s a little more sophisticated than some of the other options in that it doesn’t just ask you for a keyword, but also offers a drop-down so you can describe the keyword. Current options you can use to describe your keyword include:

  • Generic term
  • Brand/product
  • Event
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Person’s name
  • Skill

Once you’ve entered your keyword and selected your description, just click on the big “Generate Titles” button to see some titles.

When we entered “jewelry” and used “brand/product” as the description, we received the following titles:

  • Seven Advantages Of Jewelry And How You Can Make Full Use Of It.
  • Ten Shocking Facts About Jewelry.
  • Here’s What People Are Saying About Jewelry.
  • Everything You Need To Know About Jewelry.
  • 7 Ways To Tell You’re Suffering From An Obsession With Jewelry.

There are definitely some options we can work with in that list.

If you don’t like what you see, there’s a “refresh” button at the top of the list you can use to generate another five titles. You can keep on clicking that until you find a few titles that interest you.

Another bonus: the tool allows you to email yourself a list of all possible blog titles. Of course, when you do that, you’ll provide the website owner with your email address and no doubt find yourself on the site’s email distribution list. That’s good marketing.

Wrapping It Up

If you’re at your wit’s end when it comes to generating great ideas for blog posts, let technology be your guide. There are numerous tools available online that you can use to generate inspiration for some click-worthy titles. In most cases, it’s just as easy as entering a subject and clicking a button. In some cases, it’s even easier than that.

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How to Secure Your WordPress Website Thu, 26 May 2016 12:50:19 +0000 Many of us have either experienced issues with our own website security or heard about other companies and their cybersecurity problems. The importance of digital security is a lesson that far too many businesses learn the hard way. Ashley Madison, the “dating” site designed to hook up people for extra-marital affairs, reported that its user […]

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Many of us have either experienced issues with our own website security or heard about other companies and their cybersecurity problems. The importance of digital security is a lesson that far too many businesses learn the hard way. Ashley Madison, the “dating” site designed to hook up people for extra-marital affairs, reported that its user data was stolen last August. That led to some sleepless nights for more than a few cheating spouses and almost certainly helped line the pockets of several divorce attorneys.

Shortly thereafter, the U.S. federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported that it was hacked as well. To make matters worse, the personally identifiable information (PII) of government employees and contractors was stolen, leading to the possibility of identity theft. The government attempted to compensate for the problem by signing up more than 21 million people for free credit monitoring.

It’s not just websites that promote adultery and government databases that have been hacked, either. In fairly recent history, Home Depot, Target, and Sony have all felt the sting of hackers.

If it can happen to them, it can happen to you.

That’s why you need to take your website and data security seriously. It’s not enough just to add password protection and hope that your service provider takes care of the rest. You need to be vigilant, anticipate the threat of hackers, and make it as difficult as possible for unauthorized people to access your site.

I speak from experience. I’ve seen sites hacked many times.

And I can tell you this: cleaning it up is a hassle.

It’s much easier to prevent attacks than it is to fix the damage caused by hackers after you’ve been the victim of a security breach. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure here.

In this article, we’ll show you how to implement state-of-the security measure to minimize the risk of a hacker wreaking mayhem with your data (or, worse yet, your customer’s data). Specifically, we’ll look at ways to protect your WordPress website from hackers.

Security Plugins

Fortunately, there are plenty of plugins to help you protect your WordPress website.

One of those plugins is called WordFence. As of this writing, it has more than 1 million downloads from the WordPress website and enjoys an outstanding 4.9/5 rating.

Even better: WordFence is free.



There’s a caveat to that, though. Like many other WordPress plugins, you get the “basic” tool for free. However, if you want advanced features, you’ll have to fork over some cash. How much you spend depends on the number of sites you need to protect and the length of your plan. The company is offering an assurance that users won’t have to spend more than $4.92 per month per site.

The basic plan offers a free scan and will alert you if your site gets compromised. It also provides you with a live traffic view so you can see if people are trying to hack your site.

The premium plan offers additional bells and whistles such as country blocking, password auditing, and scheduled scans. You also get premium support in the event that you need to talk to a human being about the software.

Another plugin, iThemes Security, also helps you protect your site. It’s been downloaded more than 700,000 times and has a 4.7/5 rating.

iThemes Security is an excellent option for webmasters who “don’t know what they don’t know.” The plugin looks for security holes and patches them. It also offers enhanced authentication and stops automated attacks.

As with WordFence, iThemes Security is free but offers a premium plan, called iThemes Security Pro. The price on the premium plans range from $80-$247 per year, depending on how many sites you need to protect and whether or not you need developer licensing.

Security Tools

Some security tools are offered independent of WordPress. That is, you can use them whether or not you’re running a WordPress site.

One tool, Sitelock, offers a rich feature set of data security that should keep the barbarians away from your gate. The company offers several plans, each with various pricing models. Unfortunately, you’re going to need to call the company to get a quote based on the data security needs of your site.


The basic plan offers daily vulnerability scans, malware removal, denial-of-service protection, and sets up a firewall for your site. Other plans include additional security measures: SQL injection prevention, XSS injection prevention, vulnerability repair, and blocked access to back-door files used by hackers.

Keep in mind that if you want to go with SiteLock, it’s recommended that you give them File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access to your site so that they can scan your site periodically for malware.

You should also have a look at Incapsula and CloudFlare. They both provide firewall services and prevent bad bots from crawling your site. Additionally, they prevent SQL injections and even offer content delivery networks (CDNs) that speed up your website.

On a personal note, I use Incapsula and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Also, if you’re particularly interested in malware protection, have a look at Sucuri. This company offers a free site scanner that will check your site for malware, errors, and out-of-date software.

Google Search Console

Thus far, the tools we’ve looked at (at least the premium versions) come with a price tag. However, there’s one great tool that will help you with site security that’s offered completely free of charge. In fact, you’re probably already using it: Google Search Console.


To check security on your site using the Search Console, just login to it like you normally do. Then, on the bottom of the left-hand sidebar, you should see an item labeled “Security Issues”. Click on that and Google will give you a rundown of everything that’s wrong with your site from a security perspective. The tool will also offer advice about how to fix the security issues that it finds.

Keep in mind that the Search Console shouldn’t be viewed as a robust tool to lock down your site. Instead, you should use it in addition to other security measures.

Best-Practices to Keep Your Site Secure

In addition to the tools mentioned above, you can help keep your site secure by following a few “best-practices” that make it more difficult for hackers to gain access.

For starters, you should change the login URL from the default. Almost every hacker in the world knows that the configured URL to login to a WordPress site is the domain name of the site followed by “/wp-admin”. With that knowledge, they can attempt “brute force” attacks (basically, they just keep trying to guess the password over and over again) until they finally get in. Instead of making it easy for those hackers, use a plugin to rename the login URL. It’s worth noting that the iThemes security solution mentioned above also lets you change the admin URL.

Also, be sure to pick long passwords that are hard to guess. You might get frustrated when you’re registering on a website and it tells you a bunch of rules that you have to follow for your password. The reality is that those kinds of rules exist not only for your own protection, but also for the protection of the website itself. Use password generators that create cryptic passwords that include a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Those are usually much harder to guess than the names of your children.

I use LastPass to manage all my passwords. It not only generates secure passwords for each site, it also ensures that every site has a unique password. On top of that, it stores my passwords securely in its own database. All I have to do is remember one master password, and I’m all set to login to any site where I’m registered.


Keep your software up to date as well. That includes not only the WordPress installation itself, but also the plugins and themes. ?If you’d like to automate the process of keeping your WordPress software up to date, install the Advanced Automatic Updates plugin.

It was reported last year that hackers took advantage of the vulnerabilities in a couple of WordPress plugins. Those vulnerabilities were resolved with subsequent updates. Webmasters who didn’t update the plugins are still susceptible to attacks. That’s why it’s important to keep your software updated.

If you’re familiar with PHP and WordPress software, you can force auto-updates to the core installation by adding one simple line to a file. Just open wp-config.php and add this line (if it doesn’t already exist):

define ( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );

While we’re on the subject of plugins and their vulnerabilities, it’s important to know that one of the best (and easiest) things you can do to limit the potential for an attack is to also limit the number of plugins that you use. If you’ve got a bunch of plugins on your site that are still active and you’re certain that you’re not using them anymore, deactivate and uninstall them. Hackers can’t exploit vulnerabilities that don’t exist.

Also, pick the right plugins. These days, it seems like everybody with a basic knowledge of PHP and WordPress is producing a free plugin and uploading it to If you see a plugin that looks like it has a feature set perfect for your site, check the number of downloads. Be wary about installing anything with less than 100,000 downloads and/or a sub-par rating. You don’t want to be somebody else’s beta-tester, especially when it comes to security. Keep in mind, though, that the 100,000 number is a general rule (that I even break on occasion). When you’re evaluating any plugin, be sure to take everything into account, including the rating, the developer’s reputation, and compatibility with the latest WordPress version.

Finally, you should also disable admin access directly to files in your WordPress installation. That way, hackers who manage to get into the WordPress back end won’t be able to edit files directly. The easiest way to disable the admin access to files is to add the following line to your wp-config.php file:

define ( 'DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true );

Server Side Security

Although you can do a lot between plugins and best-practices to make security a priority, there’s also a lot that you can’t do because you don’t own the hardware infrastructure or manage the network where your site is hosted. That’s why it’s important that you pick a hosting provider that takes security seriously.

While it might be tempting to select a hosting provider on the basis of cost alone (especially if you’re running a struggling startup), you’re going to have to look at more than just the monthly price if you want your site to be secure. Get feedback from other people you know about the hosting solutions that they’re using. Ask them if they’ve experienced any security issues and why. Specifically: ask them if they get emails from time to time from their providers letting them know about a hack attempt that was thwarted. That’s a good indication that the company is proactive in preventing security breaches.

Use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) as well to provide an additional layer of security. If you’re unfamiliar with SSL, it’s an encryption format that protects data transferred between a browser and the server. If any “prying eyes” intercept encrypted SSL data sent to or from the server, all they’ll see is what appears to be garbage instead of sensitive information.

To use SSL on your own WordPress site, you can try to set it up yourself. However, it’s probably best to get a professional involved. It’s too easy to “break” something by making a mistake.

Once you’ve implemented SSL, you can test it out with the SSL Labs Server Test. That tool will also let you know if your host is secure and report back any vulnerabilities on the server.


Also, don’t forget to secure your database as well. All WordPress installations have a MySQL database that’s used to store posts, pages, and information about images. Be absolutely certain that the admin account for your database has a cryptic password and that the user name isn’t something obvious (like “admin”).

If your hosting provider is using a UNIX platform (a likely scenario), you should also secure the files that your site is using. You can do that because the various flavors of UNIX allow you to grant read, write, and executable access to specific directories and files. Follow this guide or, better yet, talk to a professional administrator about granting the right access to your important WordPress files. You don’t want to assign “777” access to your WordPress directories. That will give the whole world write access to the files in those directories, making it easier for hackers to cause problems.

If you need to transfer files to and from your hosting server, make sure that you do so with a secure connection. If you use the plain old File Transfer Protocol (FTP), your name and password is transferred in clear text over the wired (or wireless) connection. Hackers who are monitoring your communications can get your credentials and login to your site with full control.

Instead of using FTP to move files around, consider using the File Manager that your hosting provider almost certainly offers. It should use SSL to encrypt your communications.

If your hosting provider doesn’t offer a File Manager or you want to use your FTP client, make sure it’s a secure solution. Instead of using FTP, use SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) so that your communications are private. WinSCP and FileZilla are both excellent SFTP solutions that also have the benefit of being free.

Also, if your hosting provider is using cPanel, you should check the “Security” section of your cPanel console for various solutions. One solution, cPHulk, protects your site from brute force attacks. ConfigServer Security & Firewall is also useful for intrusion detection and offers cPanel integration.

User Security

It may be the case that you’re running a WordPress installation with multiple users. If so, you have an added layer of security that you need to cover.

Begin by ensuring that each user has the appropriate access. It’s not likely that all of your users need Admin access. People who are contributing content to your site should have Author access. Editors, who make the decision on whether or not to publish certain pieces, should have Editor access. Also, be sure to remove old, inactive users.

You’ll also want to limit the number of users on your system as much as possible. If you’re allowing people to create accounts so that they can leave comments on your site, consider ditching the native commenting feature of WordPress and opting for a third-party solution, such as Disqus or, better yet, Facebook Comments.

You should also implement two-factor authentication for your users. It’s called “two-factor” because it uses two forms of credentials instead of just one. The first security measure is the traditional name/password pair. The second involves another means of identifying the user, such a security token. The aforementioned WordFence security plugin has a two-factor authentication feature.

Additionally, WordFence can limit the number of consecutive failed login attempts. That will guard your site against brute-force attacks.

Also, use CAPTCHA technology to minimize threats posed by bots attempting brute force attacks. CAPTCHA fields are those little boxes that ask you to prove your humanity by filling out a field with characters presented in an image. It’s much more difficult (although not impossible) for bots to recognize those characters and complete the form.

Fortunately, CAPTCHA plugins exists to help you lock down your site with a CAPTCHA field. ?Most CAPTCHA plugins can be used for login, registration, password recovery and comment forms.


Along the lines of keeping bots out, you can also use the Contact Form 7 Honeypot plugin if you’re already using the Contact 7 Form for feedback and/or registration purposes. That plugin doesn’t use CAPTCHA technology, but instead creates a hidden field that only bots will fill out when they complete the form. If that field is filled out, the form won’t be submitted.

As with your own password, user passwords should be cryptic and difficult to guess. If your users complain about the complexity of their passwords and how difficult they are to remember, point them to a service like the aforementioned Good security begins with non-intuitive credentials.

Finally, avoid using default user names (like “admin”). Instead, make user names something more difficult to guess.

On Your Local Machine

Good security doesn’t just involve your remote host. You need to secure the PC that you use for day-to-day work as well.

For starters, make sure that you have quality malware and virus protection software installed on your PC and that it’s updated automatically. Remember, hackers are always finding new ways to break into systems and writing new software that’s used to exploit vulnerabilities. That’s why your anti-virus software must be updated constantly.

Also, install a firewall on your PC. That will make it just a little more challenging for hackers to gain access to your system.

Be sure to password-protect access to your system as well. In the event that somebody steals or gains access to your PC, the system will still be inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t know the password.

Finally, be sure to keep your PC in a location that’s secure. If it’s a laptop, take it with you as much as possible. If it’s a desktop, be sure that your office door is locked.

Wrapping It Up

Bad guys are out there. Sadly, many of them are smart and know how to hack into websites to wreak havoc, steal data, and jeopardize your relationship with your customers. That’s why it’s important that you do everything you can to fully protect your WordPress website. With the help of your hosting provider, a few plugins, and some best-practices, you can go a long way to mitigate the risk of a security breach.

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How to Build Links for SEO and Avoid Getting Penalized Wed, 04 May 2016 13:37:02 +0000 If you’re looking for the best way to rank a website, but your afraid of getting penalized, like so many have — then it’s probably a good idea to take advice from a company that’s the undisputed leader in search engine technology: Google. It was welcome news to many SEO professionals recently when Google spilled […]

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If you’re looking for the best way to rank a website, but your afraid of getting penalized, like so many have — then it’s probably a good idea to take advice from a company that’s the undisputed leader in search engine technology: Google.

It was welcome news to many SEO professionals recently when Google spilled the beans about the top criteria its search algorithm uses to determine placement in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Google calls those criteria “ranking factors.”

Which ranking factor is the best? The search giant is still hush-hush about which one is the best, but it has disclosed the top three ranking factors.
Among those top three: backlinks.

In this article, we’ll cover Google’s admission that backlinks work well as an SEO strategy, look at backlinks in general, and share some of the best ways to build backlinks to your own website without getting penalized.

Backlinks Boost Brands

The exact “formula” that Google uses to determine where pages appear in the SERPs is unknown to most of us outside of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Every once in a while, though, the company opens a curtain and gives us a brief glimpse of what’s going on inside.

That happened recently.

Late last year, Google announced the existence of an artificial intelligence system it uses to process search results. It’s called RankBrain.

During the announcement, Google also said that RankBrain was the third most important ranking factor. That admission led many curious SEO practitioners to ask: “If RankBrain is the third most important factor, what are the first two?”

At the time, Google refused to say.

It didn’t take company executives very long to realize that they looked silly by telling the world about the third most important ranking factor and not saying anything about the first two. So, a little while later, the search giant filled in the gaps.

During a Q&A with Google, Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev (reluctantly?) admitted that the first two ranking factors were the content itself and the backlinks pointing to the site.

Those are in no particular order, though.

From the Horse’s Mouth

SEO professionals have suggested for a long time (with good reason) that backlinks boost rank. Recently, Google admitted that backlinks are still an essential part of gaining search engine visibility.


However, Google also says that you shouldn’t buy links in an attempt to improve your rank.

Google says that a backlink profile is among the top two ranking factors that it uses to determine where to place a page in the SERPs.

That leads to the obvious question: How can you build backlinks while still playing by the rules?

The Components of a Great Backlink

Basically, backlinks are links on other websites that point to your own site. They’re called backlinks because they link back to your site.

There are two important components to a backlink. The most important part, arguably, is the link itself. That’s the URL pointing to your site.

The second part is called the anchor text. That’s the word or phrase in the article that the reader clicks on to follow the link. Usually, the anchor text appears on the page in a different color and is underlined to let the reader know that it’s clickable.

What Goes in the Anchor Text?

It was once considered de rigueur to include relevant keywords in the anchor text. For example, if you’re trying to rank a site that sells kitty litter, SEOs would use “kitty litter” as the anchor text.

Those days might be gone forever.

Why? Because the practice of trying to rank for specific keywords by stuffing those words in anchor text has been abused to such an extent that it can act as a red flag to Google’s search bot.

Publishers naturally use the domain name, brand name, or just a relevant-but-not-keyword-stuffed sentence fragment to link back to the site. Then, they leave it up to the Google search bot to determine what that site is all about. If the web page has great on-site SEO, it won’t be a problem for Google to determine its purpose.

To Follow or Not to Follow, That Is the Question

For years, SEOs have said that every link should be a “dofollow” backlink and that “nofollow” links are a waste of time. That’s not really the case.

All links are, by default, “dofollow” links. That means the Google spider that crawls all over cyberspace will follow those links and give credibility to them based on where the link originated. SEO professionals who’ve been around the block call that credibility factor “link juice.” Google calls it “passing page rank.”

On the other hand Google’s spider won’t follow a “nofollow” link (hence the name). As a result, it won’t pass link juice to the linked site. That means you can work very hard to get a link on a popular website, only to realize later on that the links on the site are “nofollow” and won’t boost rank.

There’s a flip-side to that coin, though. It’s usually a good idea to have a mix of “nofollow” and “dofollow” links. That’s because the Google search bot might raise a red flag if all of your backlinks are “dofollow.” Plus, you can still get traffic from “nofollow” links on popular sites (Wikipedia, for example) even though the Google bot doesn’t follow those links and pass any link juice.

It’s good to be able to tell if a hyperlink has a “rel” attribute set to “nofollow”. To do that, open the web page in your browser and click “CTRL+U” to view the page source. Then, hit “CTRL+F” to pull up the View Finder. You should be able to locate the link by just typing in the anchor text.

Here’s what a “nofollow” link looks like:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Anchor text here</a>

Keeping It in Context

There are also “contextual backlinks.” Those are, perhaps, the most important types of backlinks.

A contextual backlink is a backlink that appears in the content of an article. That’s in contrast to links that appear in the sidebar, header, or footer of a page.

You see contextual links in articles all the time. Heck, you’ve seen them in this article. They’re useful for writers because they provide a source for a claim that’s being made.

Keep in mind, though, the “contextual” part of a contextual backlink. Any link back to a site should be relevant to the subject of the article. For example, if you’re trying to rank a site that sells kitty litter, you should include a backlink in an article about cats or kittens, not an article about nuclear physics.

Backlinks need to be natural, period.

A Tale of Two Hats

There is a right way and a wrong way to build backlinks to your site. The right way will help rank your site. The wrong way will get your site penalized by Google and ruin your SEO efforts.

“White hat” SEO tactics follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Their strategies usually take a while to work, but they typically offer long-term benefits.

“Black hat” SEO tactics, on the other hand, take shortcuts. They use tools to create backlink spam on low quality sites. They try to hide their identity with IP proxies. They use article spinners to rewrite content they’ve found online so they can avoid duplication penalties.

Black hatters try to game the system to make a buck. White hatters focus on the big picture and create a natural-looking backlink profile. That’s the difference in a nutshell.

Private Enterprise

Some black hatters have found a clever way to build backlink profiles for client sites. They’ve built their own private blog network (PBN).

Instead of trying to get backlinks on other sites, they’ve created their own massive network of blogs – hosted by different hosting companies and using different site software – and then offer to sell links on their blog networks to people for a fee.

Here’s what they do: they regularly shop for expired domains that already have a healthy backlink profile. Then, they buy one of those domains for a nominal fee and set up their own blog using that domain name.

Rinse and repeat. They do that over and over again until they’ve created dozens of their very own blogs. They regularly post content on those blogs to make them look natural.

In reality, though, those PBNs are nothing but link farms. In the past, Google has penalized link farms. Even a brand as prominent as J.C. Penney got penalized for using link farms.

Yeah, But…

It’s beyond dispute that some black hat efforts have been successful in the past. But Google eventually discovers what those people are doing and penalizes their sites accordingly.

It’s worth noting that the black hat tactics that work today probably won’t work tomorrow. If you have a friend who ranked a site with a black hat strategy, that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. Google is always on the hunt for people who are trying to manipulate its search algorithm.

In short, if you want to rank your site and avoid a penalty, put on the right hat.

The Big Question

By now, you might be thinking to yourself: “Sold. There’s no way I’ll ever do that black hat stuff.”

Once you’ve established that conviction, the next question you might ask yourself is: “If Google says you shouldn’t focus on link building, but building links is important for SEO, then how the heck to do you get links without getting penalized?”

Glad you asked.

Digital PR

These days, the online marketing world is all abuzz with its latest favorite industry phrase: “Digital PR.”

Digital PR, like regular PR, involves using the media as your advertising vehicle. The biggest difference between PR and advertising is that advertising is paid media while PR is earned media.


A great Digital PR effort combines traditional PR with traditional online marketing tactics, like content marketing and social media marketing. It’s a strategy that involves spreading your great content around cyberspace to such an extent that people in the media can’t help but notice.

When that happens, some of those folks in the media might reach out to you for an interview, ask to profile your company, or write an article about the amazing product or service that you’re offering.

As with “old-school” PR, that’s a win-win. You get free press and the reporter gets a great story.

The biggest benefit is that those “old-school” media outlets are all “new-school” as well. They don’t just run print publications, they also have websites.

Websites give them the opportunity to link to your site. Do you see where this is going?

With Digital PR, you’ll not only generate word-of-mouth buzz about your site, you’ll also get a backlink from a reputable news organization or blog. Since those media outlets often have high authority with Google, you’ll be giving your site some link juice.

Here’s what a natural backlink from a media site looks like:

John Doe, CEO of ABC Company, says: “Kitty litter shouldn’t use harsh chemicals for the health of the cat as well as the homeowner. We offer a solution that’s cleaner and more natural than other options.”

In that paragraph, the “ABC Company” text would be the anchor text in a backlink. As you can see, the backlink also looks natural. That’s because it is natural.

Use the Scattershot Technique

So how can you get noticed by a reporter looking to meet a deadline? There are several ways.

One of the best is to just be as visible as possible. Spread your content to the farthest reaches of cyberspace by sharing it on various social media channels and asking friends and family members to link to it using their own personal blogs or social media channels.

It’s been said that part of success is being in the right place at the right time. If that’s true, then try to tilt the odds in your favor by being everywhere all the time.

In this case, that means gaining maximum exposure for your brand by using all legitimate channels to promote it. The more buzz you generate for your business, the more likely it will get noticed.

Repurpose Content

Way too many digital marketers are under the impression that they can only promote an article once. That’s simply not true.

Smart marketers know how to maximize the use of their time and generate buzz by repurposing old content.

If there’s some great evergreen content on your site that’s fallen off the first page and is in the more remote regions of your blog, you can give it new life by reusing it. Post a link to it on a social media channel. Give a little synopsis of it on a LinkedIn post and link back to it. Create a SlideShare presentation from it. Use the nature of the content to create a great video and upload it to YouTube. Start a podcast series with it.

On some occasions, it might even be a great idea to rewrite the article with updated information. Then, the published date will move the post to the top of your blog again. It might even land on the home page (depending on how you display your top blog posts).

Remember, though, that you don’t want to duplicate the content. It’s a very bad idea to just copy and paste the entire article into a new blog post. Google will likely penalize you for that.

Give a Helping Hand

If you want to generate buzz about your brand, use it to do something charitable.


Find a cause that you believe in (it’s best to pick one that’s not controversial, like “cancer research”) and use your brand to promote awareness about it. That means you should sponsor events, appear in-person to help out at certain functions, and speak publicly about the cause as much as possible.

If you decide to go the charitable route, you’ll commit yourself to a cause that you think is great while simultaneously increasing the exposure of your brand. What’s not to love about that?
Apple, for example, gives donations to non-profit organizations where employees volunteer. Other well-known companies, like Google, Microsoft, and Shell also practice corporate philanthropy.

Give a Helping Hand, Part Deux

Another (much more selfish) way to lend a helping hand is by offering your expertise to a reporter. That means you’ll be a “source” that the reporter quotes in a news piece.

Of course, when the reporter quotes you as a source, he or she will also have to include your company name. That name will likely be anchor text in a link back to your site.

Fortunately, there’s a great site that gives you an opportunity to help a reporter out. It’s called Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

Jump on HARO and list yourself as a source. Describe your areas of expertise so that you’ll be contacted for the right reasons.

When you are contacted, be sure to be as polite as possible. Remember Mark Twain’s advice that it’s never wise to pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel.

Be sure to spell your name and your company name very clearly if you’re being interviewed over the phone. You might be surprised at how often novice reporters misspell proper nouns.

Also, don’t hesitate to ask the reporter for a link back. Most of them understand that your time is valuable and agree that you should get a little kickback for offering your services as a source. They’re usually more than happy to provide the link.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to reporters on LinkedIn. Connect with them and let them know that you’re happy to be a source.


Another great way to get your brand noticed is by guest-blogging. That’s when you post great content on another person’s site and include a backlink to your own site.

If you’re not sure where to start with guest-blogging, digital marketing guru Neil Patel offers some great advice. Just Google the name of your niche (e.g., “content marketing”) followed by a phrase like “submission guidelines”, “guest post guidelines”, “submit guest post”, or “contribute an article.” That last phrase has to be in quotation marks.

For example, if you’re a content marketing expert and who’s looking to guest post on blogs related to content marketing, Google something like: content marketing “guest post guidelines”.

The search results will give you plenty of opportunities to offer your own contributions.

Good Karma

Keep in mind that guest-blogging is usually an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” proposal. In other words, if you’re given the opportunity to post on another person’s blog, you should also give that person an opportunity to post on your blog.

Turnabout is fair play, after all.

If you’ve already got a blog that’s getting a lot of traffic, then you can use the reciprocal opportunity as an incentive to let the other webmaster post on your blog. In your pitch email, write something like: “I’ll be happy to let you post on my blog that receives more than 4,000 hits per day.”

Meeting Alexa

As we’ve seen, it’s important to “choose wisely” when it comes to picking a blog where you post backlinks. That’s because blogs that aren’t very popular won’t do a lot to help you rank and generate traffic.

So how do you measure the popularity of a blog? There are several ways, but one of the best is by following the advice of Alexa.

You can think of Alexa as the busybody you met in college who knows everything about everybody. In this case, though, she knows everything about websites.

An rank measures the overall popularity of a site based on unique page views and overall traffic. The rank is measured as a number.

An Alexa rank is like a golf score: the lower the number the better.

As a rule of thumb, avoid guest-posting on blogs that have an Alexa rank higher than 100,000. You’re just not going to get much bump in the SERPs or traffic from sites like that.

Instead, focus on sites with a lower Alexa rank. In fact, you should aggressively pursue guest-blogging opportunities on those types of quality sites.

Wrapping It Up

If you want to increase the rank of your website, create more backlinks. Keep in mind, though, that there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about using backlinks. Make sure that you follow SEO best-practices when you’re seeking links to your site, otherwise you could do more harm than good.

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5 Mistakes You’re Making In Your Social Media Storytelling Strategy Thu, 28 May 2015 20:10:54 +0000 I hear it from brand managers more than they’ll admit: “Look, I’m tweeting ten times a day; I’m posting loads of cool images on Pinterest and Instagram; I’m sharing and favoriting content from my followers… now where the hell are these conversions I’ve been promised?” Well, where the hell are those conversions? Do you know? […]

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I hear it from brand managers more than they’ll admit: “Look, I’m tweeting ten times a day; I’m posting loads of cool images on Pinterest and Instagram; I’m sharing and favoriting content from my followers… now where the hell are these conversions I’ve been promised?”

Well, where the hell are those conversions? Do you know? Because if you don’t know, I’m going to tell you right here in this post.

I’m going to explain exactly why most social-media storytelling attempts fail miserably. I’m going to break down five specific reasons why this happens. I’m going to explain how each of these mistakes hurts your message. And I’m going to lay out positive suggestions for brainstorming your solutions to each of them.

Let’s get started with Big Mistake Number One.

1. Broadcasting an image instead of telling a story

Let’s go back to the original question: Where are all those conversions? The answer is, they’re on the other side of a feeling of tension.Woman with megaphone

No tension, no interest. No interest, no conversions.

When I look at many brands’ social-media feeds – and, who knows, maybe yours, too – what I see, more often than not, looks like a shot-by-shot breakdown of your typical TV commercial: “Look – here’s a shot of our product! Now here are some images of stuff that’s vaguely related to what we do! Now an infographic that’s sort of related to our field! Are you pumped yet? We sure hope so, because now here’s your call to action!”

To be fair, any halfway-savvy social-media marketer will also throw some relevant articles into the mix – and hey, if they’ve got the budget, maybe they’ll even put together their own semi-useful blog posts. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with product images or cool photos or blog posts, on their own. The core of the problem is that these things on their own don’t tell a story.

So, what exactly do I mean when I say “story?” I mean the combination of two simple factors:

  1. The creation of tension; and then
  2. An offer of resolution.

That’s it. Really. A story doesn’t have to have dialogue, or deep characters, or lavish sets, or even a clear narrative.

I mean, check out this video clip. The psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel used this quick little animation in their research back in the 1940s. There are no people or animals in the film – just abstract shapes. There’s no dialogue, or even any sound. There’s no clear story either – the shapes are just moving around semi-randomly. And yet every single person who watches this film invents a narrative to describe what’s happening. Click the “play” button and see if you do, too.

How incredible is that? You just watched a one-minute silent video clip of abstract shapes, and – if you’re like most people – you decided which ones were the good guys and which was the villain, and you even felt a twinge of suspense about what was going to happen next.If a one-minute silent video clip of abstract shapes can evoke a story in an audience’s mind, don’t you think your brand can?Of course it can – but not if you just broadcast a bunch of imagery and a call to action, and hope for the best.Instead, create tension first. Don’t offer the solution right away – start and stimulate dialogue about the problem your product or service solves. Get people wondering what the solution could be. Prime them to get upset. Wait for them to get mad. Show them where to go to find out more about the problem. And when they head over to check out the solution, then extend a hand, and show them how you can help.

The immortal example of how to do this in the shortest time possible is Apple’s “1984” ad, which marketers have analyzed to death for the past 30 years.

Most of this one-minute ad consists of nothing but a woman with a hammer running down a hallway, intercut with quick shots of mindless workers in some kind of dystopic factory. Tension builds and builds without anyone in the audience knowing what this ad is even for, let alone what problem it’s going to solve, or what the solution will be. “Where’s she headed with that hammer? What’s she going to smash? We’ve got to find out!”Then she smashes Big Brother and, in the final ten seconds of the ad, a short piece of text explains what this was all about: Your computer is boring, and it’s turning you into a drone. Let Apple smash through that wall and teach you what freedom is all about.Create tension first. Leave the customers hanging just a little. Get ‘em feeling tense; get ‘em primed and waiting for that moment of resolution. Then give ‘em resolution – in the form of your brand.

2. Failing to confront your audience

In 2011, the journal Psychological Science published a study on why people share some stories but not others. Here’s the conclusion the researchers came to:

The sharing of stories or information may be driven in part by arousal. When people are physiologically aroused, whether due to emotional stimuli or otherwise, the autonomic nervous is activated, which then boosts social transmission.

A second study delved into the specifics of the emotional reactions that sparked sharing – and they zeroed in on these top candidates:

mid adult woman on sofa staring at her mobile phone and biting nails. Horizontal shape, waist up, copy space

awe, amusing, moving, illuminating, inspiring, shocking, cute, sex, fear, anger, and controversial

Tension is necessary for conversion – and there’s no tension without confrontation. But that doesn’t mean your brand has to be the aggressor in that confrontation. It also doesn’t mean you should use shock tactics to get your point across – in fact, you’ll see that the list is pretty evenly balanced between positive and negative emotions; and between gentle and harsh ones.

What I mean by “confrontation” is that at some point in the story you’re telling, you need to hit your audience with an emotion they don’t expect.

Nobody who’s scrolling through Twitter or Instagram feels that he or she has time for an emotional epiphany today. That’s a truism that’s repeated so often it’s become cliche. And yet, there’s a second half to that equation, too; a half that’s not mentioned nearly as often: Strangely enough, everybody’s still hoping for something unexpected. Everybody hopes, on some deep, unspoken level, to be swept off their feet today.

That’s exactly where your story comes in. If you’re not going for the gut – for the “Wow!” moment – at some point early-on in your story, you’re wasting your time and your social-media budget. Because, as psychological research shows, that “Wow!” moment is the only thing standing between your brand and cultural oblivion.

Contrary to common social-media wisdom, tough topics can produce that “Wow!” moment – and the thousands of shares that come with it – just as effectively as heartwarming topics can. Take, for example, one of Upworthy’s top-shared posts of 2013 – this video of an elementary-school teacher showing her class how prejudice develops. It’s got 123,000 views on YouTube. Why?

It tells a simple but relatable story. It evokes a sense of urgency, because prejudice is still a major issue. And it disrupted people’s days with feelings of anger, tension, maybe a dose of fear – but, ultimately, with a sense that it tackles an important topic in a creative and moving way.Think about how it did that. Think about what elements – in terms of plot, visuals, music, and so on – it uses to evoke those feelings and ideas. Your content doesn’t have to use the same elements – and in fact, it shouldn’t duplicate any of them, if you can avoid it – but you can still leverage the same underlying principles.When we strip away vague terms like “adding value,” what we’re really left with is the emotional core of the thing: Tell a story that makes your audience feel something they’ve been waiting to feel.

3. Forgetting that your customer is the hero

You might not have heard of Joseph Campbell, but you’ve definitely seen his work. His books on storytelling – especially The Hero’s Journey – lay out a timeless plot structure that’s repeated in myths and legends from every culture on earth, including our own. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a young man feels trapped in his boring life and dreams of adventure; a wise old mentor appears and offers that adventure; the hero overcomes his fears and weaknesses to defeat the bad guys and save the land; and he returns home empowered by the knowledge he’s found along the way.


Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the skeleton of every epic from Star Wars to Harry Potter, along with thousands of other movies, books, and TV shows – and that’s no coincidence. Film schools teach The Hero’s Journey the way religious schools teach sacred texts. Most of the fiction you watch and read is written by people who know this book back-to-front – and that’s because when it comes to effective storytelling – any kind of storytelling – this formula works.

Over the past few years, social media marketers have been digging Campbell’s formula too. Here’s what Sterling Communications marketing expert Kallie Bullock has to say about it:

How do the tales of our most cherished champions apply to the content we, as marketers, develop to appeal to the masses? Simple: make the masses into the hero and make the product (or service) into the mentor…

Now, as someone who’s worked hard for years to provide goods or services to help customers, how do you feel about the idea of the customer-as-hero? Be honest. Because honesty is what it’s going to take to sell this.

After all the work you’ve put into building up your business – building it up to the point that you can swoop in and transform your customers’ world – you should get to play the hero at least a little bit, right?

Wrong! Because in The Customer’s Journey, you’re not the hero – you are the mentor. You’re that wise old dude who appears in the customer’s living room in a cloud of smoke and tells him or her, “You’ve been living a boring life until now – but the truth is, you’re the hero of this story! You’re the Special One who has the power. And I’m here to show you how to unlock it.”

4. Offering “The Call” at the wrong time

The next big plot point in The Hero’s Journey formula is known as “The Call to Adventure.” This is the scene where the hero gets invited to start his big quest; when your customer gets invited to climb into the adventure you’re offering. It’s what comes immediately after the “You’re the hero” moment. OK, so the customer is a hero. Cool. Now what? Don’t leave him hangin’!

But wait – before you run off to plaster the words “Call Now!” across your social media feeds, there’s a twist to The Call to Adventure: the hero always refuses it the first time. Sometimes he refuses the second time, too; and the third, and so on, until finally the mentor goes away, and the hero goes and seeks out the adventure for himself.


For a concrete example of how this plays out in social media marketing, check out Social Media Examiner marketing expert Heidi Cohen’s article on calls to action:

Skip the promotion. People active on most social media platforms are focused on socializing and aren’t prepared to buy… use social media sharing and notes to build customer excitement and engagement pre-purchase.

Cohen then cites a striking case: Target’s Tumblr blog, which – get this – doesn’t include a “Buy” button anywhere in its product descriptions. How the hell does that get conversions?

By motivating customers. People who like a product they see on Target’s Tumblr will go on the hunt for the same product on Target’s website. They arrive on the “Buy” page to look for that specific product – and as decades of psychological research have shown, that experience makes them vastly more motivated not only to click that “Buy” button, but also to share and recommend the product to their friends.

Offering The Call too soon in the story will make the customer feel pressured. It creates resentment between you and the customer, where there really doesn’t need to be any. You’re the mentor. That doesn’t mean you should make yourself and your product hard to find – it means your actual point-of-sale should only become easy to find when the time is right.

It’s obviously important to offer The Call at some point along the line – but lab research and field cross-tests alike keep coming up with the same counter-intuitive result: If your customers have to do a little legwork to get to the offer, they’re much more likely to take you up on it. Give your leads enough space to turn you down the first time. Give them time to second-guess themselves about that decision. Wait to make the offer until the hero has come and found you.

5. Trying to restrict how people interact with your story

Mentors present The Call, and they point the hero on the right path to start his journey – but they never tell the hero exactly how to have his adventure. The fun of an adventure is in the surprises; all the new stuff the hero discovers along the way. Telling the hero how to have his adventure would defeat the whole point, wouldn’t it?

Businesswoman marionette on ropes controlled by puppeteer against documents picture

That’s why I’m always disappointed – not surprised, really, but still disappointed – when I see marketers put content out onto social media, and then try to restrict how people interact with that content. Telling people, “You can talk about these aspects of the story, but not these,” is one of the fastest ways to disengage them, and give your brand an embarrassing reputation in the process.

One of the most infamous publicity disasters in recent Internet history started with an innocent enough concept: The actor Woody Harrelson had a new movie, Rampart, coming soon; and his publicists got the bright idea of arranging an online AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session with Woody on Reddit – except that Woody, they decided, didn’t actually need to be present for the AMA; his assistants and publicists would make up “his” answers to users’ questions.

And those answers, they decided, would focus solely and entirely on Woody’s new movie Rampart.

The result was such a catastrophe that everyone from Gawker to Forbes (yes, Forbes) reported on it – and the AMA itself is worth a skim next time you need a quick laugh. Here are a few choice exchanges (edited slightly for length):

Q. What has been your most difficult role to prepare for, and why?
This character in Rampart was the most difficult.

Q. Which role you’ve played has been the most rewarding, most difficult, and most fun?
A. Can I say Rampart?

Q. Should change this AMA to AMAAR (Ask Me Anything About Rampart)
A. I consider my time valuable.

If people are interested in your brand, they’re going to engage with it in their own unpredictable ways – and that’s a good thing! It means your product or service is becoming part of their daily lives. The less you try to squeeze that conversation into a specific shape, the less you run the risk of embarrassing yourself and your brand – and the better chance you have of seeing that brand grow into what your customers want it to be. A social-media campaign isn’t a cattle drive; it’s a focus group. Listen to the feedback. Take specific, concrete suggestions from it. Sculpt your story so that it interweaves with the stories your customers are telling.

This really brings us back to point number one: There’s a world of difference between broadcasting an image and telling a story. An image is just a static piece of information; a story is something people can interact with; reinterpret; write first-person fanfiction about. An image has just one character: your product or service; while a story features the customer as its hero.

And one of the coolest things about heroes is that they’re always full of surprises.

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