World Domination Made Easy
Like most web site owners, you’ve probably gotten dozens of e-mails, faxes, postcards and perhaps even a phone call or two from so-called “experts” promising you that they can get your site that coveted #1 spot on Google, or any of the other search sites. The cold, hard truth is that no one, let me repeat it NO ONE can do that. Anyone making that promise should be avoided.
Now that I have dashed your dreams of Google domination on the rocks, I do have some good news. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not all rocket science; there are many things you can do yourself to help raise your ranking and placement on all of the search engines. I’ll share a few of them to help get you started down the road to search engine domination.
Optimize your site for your audience, not for the search engines.
Okay, this is more of a philosophy than an action item, but I truly believe this. Despite the rumors to the contrary, the engineers at the various search companies are not deviously trying to create tools to make it harder for site owners to be found, or to create robots that are more “roboty.” Believe it or not, they want to make it easier for people to find the sites that are the most relevant to the search words they entered. To do this, those engineers try to make the robots behave more like humans.
Think about when you open your daily newspaper – you probably scan the headlines (larger ones first), glance at a photo or two, read the captions, maybe read the first few lines of a couple stories…and then you decide what you want to read first, what is most relevant to you at that moment in time.
The search engine engineers are *trying* to have the robots behave the same way. By analyzing all of the content and how it’s structured, the search engines hope to determine what is the most relevant for each person’s search.
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Does your site use an easy-to-follow layout, does it have compelling copy, use appropriate images and supporting links? Are your pages easy to navigate? Are headlines clear and concise? Are there links to related information on your site, or even to another site?
Find the best keywords.
This is often thought to be an easy aspect of site optimization, when usually it is one of the more difficult. What you think someone will search for and what they actually search for can be two very different things. Put a great deal of time and effort into researching your keywords for your web site. In “Five Steps to Effective Keyword Research“, SeachEngineGuide.com says that site owners may use too narrow of a lens when evaluating their site, resulting in keywords that read like industry jargon. For example, if you want to use “gourmet kitchen” as a keyword, use that and not “grmet kit”, which I would assume to be a grommet repair kit. While these words make perfect sense to you (the site owner) they make little or no sense to your potential customer.
Insert keywords into page titles, headlines and content.
Titles are displayed to searchers as the link to your pages. Having a title that describes what a person should expect to find when they get there will not only help bring more people to your site, it will bring more of the right people. Additionally, because this helps readers – the search engines love it and use this in the evaluation process to determine which sites are the most relevant for the search words used. While the formulas of accepted use vary wildly, be sure to use your keywords and page title within the body of your content. I recommend using the exact same text within your title as a headline tag at the top of the page. Do not ever have words in your title that are not used somewhere on that page – most search engines look upon this as spam and will likely drop you.
Use page titles as links to internal pages.
This is one of the easiest things to do and is also one of the most frequently ignored. How many times have you seen “click here” or “view this”? Not very inviting is it? Just like on the search engine listings, using your page title (which had better include your keywords) tells your readers what they can expect to find if they do click on a link. As an added benefit, because it helps the readers…you guessed it; the search engines love this too.
Describe your images with the alt tag.
If your site uses images for navigation elements, this is critical. For now at least, robots can’t easily read your images to understand where they go. Just like in other page links, if possible, use the page title of the destination page as the alt text so that your readers will see the little hover text and the search engines will get another dose of your keywords. If you haven’t yet, you should view your web site in a text-only web browser. This is how the search engines see your site. Delorie.com has a Lynx Viewer available for use on their site. Lynx was a web browser used back in the olden days, before the web was pretty, when it consisted of just text. If your site looks and works well in Lynx, the robots will be much happier. On the subject of images, it’s also a good idea to name them descriptively too. For example if you have a great little logo image that says “Call Vicki! Official San Mateo Real Estate Blog”, then name your image “Call_Vicki_Official_San_Mateo_Real_Estate_Blog.gif” and not just “logo.gif.”
Make your pages “link-worthy.”
All of the major search engines place considerable importance on the number (and quality) of inbound links to your web site. But how do you get those links? Just like the movie said “If you build it, they will come.” If your site has quality content, people will want to share it by adding links. You can, of course, request other site owners to link to you, but use this tactic with caution. Only request links from sites with relevant, related material. Be vigilant – never, ever, let your site be placed on a large list of sites. These lists are frequently abused and as such are being dropped from most search engines.
That’s it? Really?
No, that’s not it. This is but the tip of the iceberg. Even on the day you reach the #1 spot, you will still need to keep working. SEO is a lot like when you used to play “king of the hill” as a kid, as soon as you manage to claw your way to the top, there are ten others ready to come and try to knock you down. But hey, nobody ever said world domination would be easy.
The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing
(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.
The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.
Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.
“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”
The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.
The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.
In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.
The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.
Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.
The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.
One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.
Are Gen Z more fickle in their shopping, or do brands just need to keep up?
(BUSINESS NEWS) As the world keep changing, brands and businesses have to change along with it. Some say Gen Z is fickle, but others say it is the nature of change.
We all know that if you stop adapting to the world around you, you’re going to be left behind. A recently published article decided to point out that the “fickle” Gen Z generation are liable to leave a poor digitally run site and never return. Now of course we’ve got some statistics here… They did do some kind of due diligence.
This generation, whose life has been online from almost day one, puts high stakes on their experiences online. It is how they interact with the world. It’s keyed into their self-worth and their livelihoods, for some. You want to sell online, get your shit together.
They have little to no tolerance for anything untoward. 80% of Gen Zers reported that they are willing to try new brands since the pandemic. Brand loyalty, based on in-person interaction, is almost a thing of the past. When brands are moved from around the world at the touch of your fingertips there’s nothing to stop you. If a company screws up an order, or doesn’t get back to you? Why should you stick with them? When it comes to these issues, 38% of Gen Zers say they only give a brand 1 second chance to fix things. Three-quarters of the surveyed responded saying that they’ll gladly find another retailer if the store is just out of stock.
This study goes even further though and discusses not just those interactions but also the platforms themselves. If a website isn’t easy to navigate, why should I use it? Why should I spend my time when I can flit to another and get exactly what I need instead of getting frustrated? There isn’t a single company in the world that shouldn’t take their webpage development seriously. It’s the new face of their company and brand. How they show that face is what will determine if they are a Rembrandt or a toddlers noodle art.
The new age of online shopping has been blasted into the atmosphere by the pandemic. Online shopping has boosted far and above expected numbers for obvious reasons. When the majority of your populace is told to stay home. What else are they going to do? Brands that have been around for decades have gone out of business because they didn’t change to an online format either. Keep moving forward.
Now as a side note here, as someone who falls only just outside the Gen Z zone the articles description of fickle is pompous. The stories I’ve heard of baby boomers getting waiters fired, or boycotting stores because of a certain shopkeeper are just as fickle and pointed. Nothing has changed in the people, just how they interact with the world. Trying to single out a single generation based on how the world has changed is a shallow view of the world.
Google is giving back some privacy control? (You read that right)
(TECH NEWS) In a bizarre twist, Google is giving you the option to opt out of data collection – for real this time.
It’s strange to hear “Google” and “privacy” in the same sentence without “concerns” following along, yet here we are. In a twist that’s definitely not related to various controversies involving the tech company, Google is giving back some control over data sharing—even if it isn’t much.
Starting soon, you will be able to opt out of Google’s data-reliant “smart” features (Smart Compose and Smart Reply) across the G-Suite of pertinent products: Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Opting out would, in this case, prevent Google from using your data to formulate responses based on your previous activity; it would also turn off the “smart” features.
One might observe that users have had the option to turn off “smart” features before, but doing so didn’t disable Google’s data collection—just the features themselves. For Google to include the option to opt out of data collection completely is relatively unprecedented—and perhaps exactly what people have been clamoring for on the heels of recent lawsuits against the tech giant.
In addition to being able to close off “smart” features, Google will also allow you to opt out of data collection for things like the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other Google-related services that lean into your Gmail Inbox, Meet, and Chat activity. Since Google knowing what your favorite restaurant is or when to recommend tickets to you can be unnerving, this is a welcome change of pace.
Keep in mind that opting out of data collection for “smart” features will automatically disable other “smart” options from Google, including those Assistant reminders and customized Maps. At the time of this writing, Google has made it clear that you can’t opt out of one and keep the other—while you can go back and toggle on data collection again, you won’t be able to use these features without Google analyzing your Meet, Chat, and Gmail contents and behavior.
It will be interesting to see what the short-term ramifications of this decision are. If Google stops collecting data for a small period of time at your request and then you turn back on the “smart” features that use said data, will the predictive text and suggestions suffer? Only time will tell. For now, keep an eye out for this updated privacy option—it should be rolling out in the next few weeks.
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