Tag Archive | "Follow"

Follow the Local SEO Leaders: A Guide to Our Industry’s Best Publications

Posted by MiriamEllis

Change is the only constant in local SEO. As your local brand or local search marketing agency grows, you’ll be onboarding new hires. Whether they’re novices or adepts, they’ll need to keep up with continuous industry developments in order to make agile contributions to team strategy. Particularly if local SEO is new to someone, it saves training time if you can fast-track them on who to follow for the best news and analysis. This guide serves as a blueprint for that very purpose.

And even if you’re an old hand in the local SEM industry, you may find some sources here you’ve been overlooking that could add richness and depth to your ongoing education.

Two quick notes on what and how I’ve chosen:

  1. As the author of both of Moz’s newsletters (the Moz Top 10 and the Moz Local Top 7), I read an inordinate amount of SEO and local SEO content, but I could have missed your work. The list that follows represents my own, personal slate of the resources that have taught me the most. If you publish great local SEO information but you’re not on this list, my apologies, and if you write something truly awesome in future, you’re welcome to tweet at me. I’m always on the lookout for fresh and enlightening voices. My personal criteria for the publications I trust is that they are typically groundbreaking, thoughtful, investigative, and respectful of readers and subjects.
  2. Following the leaders is a useful practice, but not a stopping point. Even experts aren’t infallible. Rather than take industry advice at face value, do your own testing. Some of the most interesting local SEO discussions I’ve ever participated in have stemmed from people questioning standard best practices. So, while it’s smart to absorb the wisdom of experts, it’s even smarter to do your own experiments.

The best of local SEO news

Who reports fastest on Google updates, Knowledge Panel tweaks, and industry business?

Sterling Sky’s Timeline of Local SEO Changes is the industry’s premiere log of developments that impact local businesses and is continuously updated by Joy Hawkins + team.

Search Engine Roundtable has a proven track record of being among the first to report news that affects both local and digital businesses, thanks to the ongoing dedication of Barry Schwartz.

Street Fight is the best place on the web to read about mergers, acquisitions, the release of new technology, and other major happenings on the business side of local. I’m categorizing Street Fight under news, but they also offer good commentary, particularly the joint contributions of David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal.

LocalU’s Last Week in Local video and podcast series highlights Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling’s top picks of industry coverage most worthy of your attention. Comes with the bonus of expert commentary as they share their list.

TechCrunch also keeps a finger on the pulse of technology and business dealings that point to the future of local.

Search Engine Land’s local category is consistently swift in getting the word out about breaking industry news, with the help of multiple authors.

Adweek is a good source for reportage on retail and brand news, but there’s a limit to the number of articles you can read without a subscription. I often find them covering quirky stories that are absent from other publications I read.

The SEMPost’s local tab is another good place to check for local developments, chiefly covered by Jennifer Slegg.

Search Engine Journal’s local column also gets my vote for speedy delivery of breaking local stories.

Google’s main blog and the ThinkWithGoogle blog are musts to keep tabs on the search engine’s own developments, bearing in mind, of course, that these publications can be highly promotional of their products and worldview.

The best of local search marketing analysis

Who can you trust most to analyze the present and predict the future?

LocalU’s Deep Dive video series features what I consider to be the our industry’s most consistently insightful analysis of a variety of local marketing topics, discussed by learned faculty and guests.

The Moz Blog’s local category hosts a slate of gifted bloggers and professional editorial standards that result in truly in-depth treatment of local topics, presented with care and attention. As a veteran contributor to this publication, I can attest to how Moz inspires authors to aim high, and one of the nicest things that happened to our team in 2018 was being voted the #2 local SEO blog by BrightLocal’s survey respondents.

The Local Search Association’s Insider blog is one I turn to again and again, particularly for their excellent studies and quotable statistics.

Mike Blumenthal’s blog has earned a place of honor over many years as a key destination for breaking local developments and one-of-a-kind analysis. When Blumenthal talks, local people listen. One of the things I’ve prized for well over a decade in Mike’s writing is his ability to see things from a small business perspective, as opposed to simply standing in awe of big business and technology.

BrightLocal’s surveys and studies are some of the industry’s most cited and I look eagerly forward to their annual publication.

Whitespark’s blog doesn’t publish as frequently as I wish it did, but their posts by Darren Shaw and crew are always on extremely relevant topics and of high quality.

Sterling Sky’s blog is a relative newcomer, but the expertise Joy Hawkins and Colan Nielsen bring to their agency’s publication is making it a go-to resource for advice on some of the toughest aspects of local SEO.

Local Visibility System’s blog continues to please, with the thoughtful voice of Phil Rozek exploring themes you likely encounter in your day-to-day work as a local SEO.

The Local Search Forum is, hands down, the best free forum on the web to take your local mysteries and musings to. Founded by Linda Buquet, the ethos of the platform is approachable, friendly, and often fun, and high-level local SEOs frequently weigh in on hot topics.

Pro tip: In addition to the above tried-and-true resources, I frequently scan the online versions of city newspapers across the country for interesting local stories that add perspective to my vision of the challenges and successes of local businesses. Sometimes, too, publications like The Atlantic, Forbes, or Business Insider will publish pieces of a high journalistic quality with relevance to our industry. Check them out!

The best for specific local marketing disciplines

Here, I’ll break this down by subject or industry for easy scanning:

Reviews

  • GatherUp (formerly GetFiveStars) can’t be beat for insight into online reputation management, with Aaron Weiche and team delivering amazing case studies and memorable statistics. I literally have a document of quotes from their work that I refer to on a regular basis in my own writing.
  • Grade.us is my other ORM favorite for bright and lively coverage from authors like Garrett Sussman and Andrew McDermott.

Email marketing

  • Tidings’ vault contains a tiny but growing treasure trove of email marketing wisdom from David Mihm, whose former glory days spent in the trenches of local SEO make him especially attuned to our industry.

SABs

  • Tom Waddington’s blog is the must-read publication for service area businesses whose livelihoods are being impacted by Google’s Local Service Ads program in an increasing number of categories and cities.

Automotive marketing

  • DealerOn’s blog is the real deal when it comes to automotive local SEO, with Greg Gifford teaching memorable lessons in an enjoyable way.

Legal marketing

  • JurisDigital brings the the educated voices of Casey Meraz and team to the highly-specialized field of attorney marketing.

Hospitality marketing

Independent businesses

Link building

  • Nifty Marketing’s blog has earned my trust for its nifty local link building ideas and case studies.
  • ZipSprout belongs here, too, because of their focus on local sponsorships, which are a favorite local link building methodology. Check them out for blog posts and podcasts.

Schema + other markup

  • Touchpoint Digital Marketing doesn’t publish much on their own website, but look anywhere you can for David Deering’s writings on markup. LocalU and Moz are good places to search for his expertise.

Patents

  • SEO by the Sea has proffered years of matchless analysis of Google patents that frequently impact local businesses or point to future possible developments.

Best local search industry newsletters

Get the latest news and tips delivered right to your inbox by signing up for these fine free newsletters:

Follow the local SEO leaders on Twitter

What an easy way to track what industry adepts are thinking and sharing, up-to-the-minute! Following this list of professionals (alphabetized by first name) will fill up your social calendar with juicy local tidbits. Keep in mind that many of these folks either own or work for agencies or publishers you can follow, too.

Aaron Weiche
Adam Dorfman
Andrew Shotland
Ben Fisher
Bernadette Coleman
Bill Slawski
Brian Barwig
Carrie Hill
Casey Meraz
Cindy Krum
Colan Nielsen
DJ Baxter
Dan Leibson
Dana DiTomaso
Dani Owens
Darren Shaw
Dave DiGreggorio
David Mihm
Don Campbell
Garrett Sussman
Glenn Gabe
Greg Gifford
Greg Sterling
Jennifer Slegg
Joel Headley
Joy Hawkins
Mary Bowling
Mike Blumenthal
Mike Ramsey
Miriam Ellis
Phil Rozek
Sherry Bonelli
Thibault Adda
Tim Capper
Tom Waddington

Share what you learn

How about your voice? How do you get it heard in the local SEO industry? The answer is simple: share what you learn with others. Each of the people and publications on my list has earned a place there because, at one time or another, they have taught me something they learned from their own work. Some tips:

  • Our industry has become a sizeable niche, but there is always room for new, interesting voices
  • Experiment and publish — consistent publication of your findings is the best way I know of to become a trusted source of information
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, so long as you are willing to own them
  • Socialize — attend events, amplify the work of colleagues you admire, reach out in real ways to others to share your common work interest while also respecting busy schedules

Local SEO is a little bit like jazz, in which we’re all riffing off the same chord progressions created by Google, Facebook, Yelp, other major platforms, and the needs of clients. Mike Blumenthal plays a note about a jeweler whose WOMM is driving the majority of her customers. You take that note and turn it around for someone in the auto industry, yielding an unexpected insight. Someone else takes your insight and creates a print handout to bolster a loyalty program.

Everyone ends up learning in this virtuous, democratic cycle, so go ahead — start sharing! A zest for contribution is a step towards leadership and your observations could be music to the industry’s ears.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Search Engine Land’s Community Corner: Staff changes at SEL, a new Google Twitter account to follow, and an awards reminder

This week brings a warm hello and a fond goodbye within the Search Engine Land team, along with another channel to stay up to date on Google search info, the Search Engine Land Awards and more honors for the search marketing community. Search Engine Land staff changes Good night and good luck, Jess…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Follow The Sun! The Right Way To Use Solar Energy

Solar Tracker Panels In Vermont

In the future, people will be less dependent on oil for things like electricity and home heating. Solar energy will take up much of the slack, and it is actually something that you can use right now. This post can definitely help you out there.

Even a small change, such as a solar-powered hot water heater, can help you save money and live greener. You could invest in a solar-powered water tank or in a tankless system. Solar water heating tanks can be placed on the roof of your home.

If you want to go solar partially, check out small-scale applications of solar power. There are two ways to go about it. The first is to find window-mounted panels for powering electronics. The second is to look for solar equipment aimed at campers, such as lanterns and stoves. Every little bit shaves a little off of your electric bill.

Although solar panels seem like a permanent installation, the best systems allow for the panels to be adjusted. If you have to put in panels with fixed angles, try to position it so it will work for both winter and summer months.

You can save a lot of money with solar energy if you don’t mind the investment. Solar panels are pricey and could take you years to pay off. Do not invest in solar panels unless you are ready to settle down.

When buying solar panels, stay away from salesmen who try to pressure you into sales. It’s important to carefully review all the options to make the best decision. Buying on the spot from a high pressure person can mean making the wrong choice and wasting your hard earned money.

Sun tracking panels are the most efficient available. This type of system tracks the sun over the course of the day and during all seasons. These cost more than fixed panel systems, but the extra energy created will make it worthwhile.

You can get hefty credits from the government if you switch to solar energy. In some places, you could get approximately 30 percent of the money you put into your system back. You should do some research on the Internet or get in touch with your local government to find out more about the incentives and programs you are eligible for.

When you own your own home, you can’t go wrong with a complete solar energy system. If you are currently making payments, you are just adding an additional monthly cost which could put you in serious financial trouble.

As far as solar panels go, bigger is not always better. Many things affect the quality, like wattage, the materials it’s made of, and the warranty. Consider every one of these points before making any decisions.

Alter the angles of your solar energy system to optimize energy reception. Sunlight amounts change based on where the sun is. When you change your panels’ angles, you ensure that they are running as efficiently as possible throughout the year.

If purchasing solar panels is something you cannot afford, you should think about leasing some. Leasing is more affordable and you will save energy costs more quickly.

If you don’t feel like now is the best time for a solar energy system, consider getting a water heater that is solar to start with. A water heater can represent upwards of thirty-five percent of a single home’s energy use. With the upfront costs of solar water heaters being less than a full power system, more people are able to install these rather than full systems.

Think about having your solar panels connected to the power grid. This way, you can sell unused energy to a local power company. This can help negate the installations costs.

Solar energy systems may be installed with a discount, or you may get one installed for no money at all. Solar energy is big right now and the government might even give you money to install a system.

There are many different variables that you must take into account when deciding where to install your panels. These provide a scenario for direct sunlight constantly when determining the panels’ intended outputs. Trees, cloudy skies, and a number of other factors may somewhat reduce this number.

When installing solar panels, consider the location and angle of your panels. When installing solar panels, you should take your house’s latitude into account. This will allow you to maximize the electrical output they give you.

You may want to use solar hot water for your pool or hot tub. Instead of closing it up to save on your energy bill, consider switching over to solar energy to power your hot tub and pool.

In the future, power should be less expensive and should have a negligible impact on the environment. There’s no need to wait for the rest of the world to catch on! Why not explore the options now? You will be amazed by the amount of money and energy you will save.

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Follow This Superstar’s 7-Step Example to Dominate Your Industry

black leather platform heel crushing a cupcake

I woke up like this. I woke up like this. Flawless.

After listening to “Flawless” five times, Evette went to the mirror, and told herself the lyrics in the Beyoncé song were true.

She believed it. She internalized it. She embodied it.

Ready to dominate, Evette strutted over to her computer to fire off a blog post. A post that would enable her to claim her rightful place atop her industry.

The same way Beyoncé dominates her industry.

You’ve met an Evette before, right?

Someone who thinks she’s so flawless, all she has to do is show up and everyone will bow down to her.

But it doesn’t quite work that way. Not for the Evettes of the world. And not even for Beyoncé.

As a result, instead of showing the world she’s a rock star like the Queen Bey, Evette ends up looking more like this.

No bueno.

But there’s a better, more strategic way.

The blueprint for dominating your industry

As talented as Beyoncé is, it’s tempting to believe that she does indeed just wake up flawless.

But the Queen Bey is human. Just like you and me.

The difference between Beyoncé’s mega-success and yours is a matter of executing the right game plan to make the most of your abilities and opportunities.

That’s what Evette is missing.

So if you want to dominate your own industry, follow this Beyoncé-inspired, seven-step blueprint for consistently crushing your competition.

1. Stand on a soapbox

Women’s empowerment has been a consistent theme throughout Beyoncé’s career. Through songs like “Independent Women Part One” with Destiny’s Child, to “Run the World (Girls)”, and “Flawless” as a solo artist, the singer has a long history of touting girl power.

The self-proclaimed “modern-day feminist” also has a 10-piece, all-woman band dubbed The Sugar Mamas. Her motivation for forming the band was to inspire young women to get involved in music.

Beyoncé’s commitment to promoting women even led her to write a piece on gender equality in The Shriver Report earlier this year.

If you want to dominate, you must elevate your tribe.

Lead them. Empower them. Make them better off for having you in their world. To strengthen your tribe, you must stand for something bigger than the products or services you offer.

Fashion designer Tory Burch, for example, strengthens her tribe by supporting economic empowerment for women.

The Tory Burch Foundation provides small business loans, mentoring, and entrepreneurial education for women. Tory was recently named an Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama administration because of her commitment to her cause.

What do you do to elevate your tribe?

2. Practice until your feet bleed

On Day One, Beyoncé wasn’t the amazing rock star she is today. She’s put a ton of work in over the years honing her craft. At times, she even practiced her choreography until her feet bled.

Even though she’s long-passed the 10,000-hour mark in performing, Queen Bey still puts in major work to keep growing.

Lacey Rose of Forbes noted:

Beyoncé constantly works and reworks her act, watching every two-hour performance on tour — even after the hundredth appearance — taking notes on how to improve.

If you want to dominate, you must work harder than most people are willing to work.

You must put in the work on the key things that propel you beyond your peers. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’re already pretty darn good.

Jon Morrow stuck to an insane practice schedule early in his blogging career. Even while toiling away as Associate Editor at Copyblogger, he wrote 100 headlines a day, every day, for a year to master the art. In addition, for years he wrote at least 2,000 words per day.

As a result, he’s one of the most popular bloggers around.

What do you do to improve your craft?

3. Be a weirdo

Few others are able to do what Beyoncé does. Her knock-out performances, complete with strong vocals and epic dance moves, leave audiences spellbound and leave other artists struggling to compete.

Even with all that performance power, Jody Rosen in The New Yorker described the weirdness of Beyoncé’s music as her true point of differentiation:

She is such an effortless entertainer, such an unerring singer and hoofer, that it’s easy to overlook her music’s defining quality: strangeness. Beyoncé is an eccentric, a vocalist with truly weird and original melodic and rhythmic approaches. Listen to the slippery rap-style syncopations in ‘Say My Name,’ to the melodies that float and dart over the thump of ‘Single Ladies,’ to the jarring timbral and tonal variations in ‘Ring the Alarm’ and ‘One+One’. Those sounds didn’t exist in the world before Beyoncé. If they sound ‘normal’ now, it’s because Beyoncé, and her many followers, have retrained our ears.

If you want to dominate, you’ve got to be strange.

You can’t be another lame “me too” version of all the other businesses in your industry. You’ve either got to do different activities, or do the same activities in a different way.

Dance choreographer, author, small business, and personal development guru Marie Forleo embraces her weirdness. She uses it to deliver memorable and helpful training videos week after week.

Need further proof that people like weird? This episode of Marie TV has more than 350 comments and 1,300 social shares.

What makes you the type of weirdo your customers can’t live without?

4. Tightly choreograph your story

Beyoncé has also successfully managed her brand. The singer’s hand is in almost every detail of telling her story to the world. Like that time she wrote, directed, and produced a documentary about herself.

At the core of her brand, she has established herself as a prolific entertainer. With 10 studio albums under her belt, she’s maintained a steady presence in front of her audience.

She also stays present in front of her fans via a well-curated Tumblr account and through behind-the-scenes videos of performances.

After establishing herself as a strong force within the music industry, she expanded her empire through movies, merchandise, a clothing line, perfumes, and tons of endorsements.

If you want to dominate, you must shape and tell your own story.

Take control of your reputation by actively managing your brand. Position yourself for growth by consistently telling your story through action and message, regardless of the medium.

What is the story you communicate about your brand?

5. Assemble a rock star crew

Beyoncé’s career started off as part of Destiny’s Child. Upon launching her solo career, she formed an even stronger alliance when she began dating and later married rapper Jay Z.

This past summer, the entertainment power couple, with 36 Grammys between them, made their partnership work harder for them with their “On the Run” tour. Tickets for their co-headlined performances sold for 44 percent higher than their individual tours.

If you want to dominate, don’t go it alone.

Collaborations are game changers. Brian Clark has noted that the relationships he’s developed while building Copyblogger have made the difference in his professional life.

You’ll get further much faster when you have a crew of fantastic people around you to propel you toward your goals.

What can you do today to strengthen your network of rock stars?

6. Produce epic content

Part of staying at the top of your game involves continually changing the status quo. Innovations that get people talking.

Like performing a live concert fewer than five months after giving birth, or filming a star-studded fake movie trailer to promote your upcoming concert tour.

Or releasing a surprise visual album with no promotion.

Rolling Stone editor Rob Sheffield described the impact of the visual album:

Beyoncé has delivered countless surprises in her 15 years on top of the music world, but she’s never dropped a bombshell like this. The Queen Bey woke the world in the midnight hour with a surprise ‘visual album’ — 14 new songs, 17 videos, dropped via iTunes with no warning. The whole project is a celebration of the Beyoncé Philosophy, which basically boils down to the fact that Beyoncé can do anything the hell she wants to.

The visual album generated over 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours and more than 800,000 copies sold worldwide in three days.

If you want to dominate, don’t play it safe.

Entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau traveled to all 193 countries in the world by age 35. He also hosts the annual World Domination Summit.

Coincidence? I think not.

What type of epic project will you work on to get people talking about your business?

7. Transform yourself into a dominator

Beyoncé didn’t start off with a domination mentality. Like many, she initially approached her career with a “work hard, and all my dreams will come true” attitude.

She quickly learned that hard work alone wasn’t enough:

I thought of this performance, which was a real defining moment in my life as a child. In my mind, we would perform on Star Search. We would win, we would get a record deal, and that was my dream at the time. There’s no way in the world I would have ever imagined losing as a possibility. You know I was only nine years old, so at that time you don’t realize that you could actually work super hard and give everything you have, and lose. It was the best message for me.

Losing Star Search transformed Beyoncé into a dominator.

It transformed her into an artist who wouldn’t be satisfied with showing up and waiting for others to pick her.

She now creates irresistible offerings that compel droves of adoring fans to eagerly line up to get a dose of whatever she dishes out.

But you don’t have to lose Star Search to be transformed into a dominator.

Decide to dominate

Decide you’re not going to be satisfied with the results of just showing up, and then follow the blueprint.

In time, your own droves of adoring fans will tell you how flawless you really are.

Ready to dominate?

Strut on over to Google+ and let me know which part of the blueprint you’ll start today to begin your transformation.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tanya Dawn.

About the Author: Sonia Thompson is the founder of TRY Business where she’s on a mission to help entrepreneurs build businesses that ooze awesome. Jump on her free eCourse on how to get your customers to love you.

The post Follow This Superstar’s 7-Step Example to Dominate Your Industry appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Pinterest adds follow option for interests

One thing that has always bothered me about Pinterest is that you can search by keywords but you can’t follow keywords. If I’m interested in movie memorabilia – I can follower pinners who often pin movie memorabilia, or I can follow boards pinners set up that are all about movie memorabilia but I can’t follow all pins related to movie memorabilia.

In the near future, that could change.

Pinterest Interests

Pinterest just started rolling out Pinterest Interest filters, some of which come with their very own follow button.

It begins with high-level topics such as Hiking or Camping. You can choose to follow at this level or drill down to a more specific level such as Hiking –> Pacific Crest Trail.

Which ever level you choose, all pins related to that topic will now show up in your feed. (I’m assuming all. Maybe they’re going to pull a Facebook and filter your filters.)

This makes so much sense, it’s a wonder the site wasn’t built this way in the first place.

It’s a slow roll out in English first. It will be available on the web and on the Android and iPhone apps. As usual, I don’t have the option yet, so I can’t give it a test drive. In theory, you’ll be able to choose any of the topics on the main category page and find a follow link and a drill down. I couldn’t find any examples, except the outdoor activities they used as an example in their post.

As good as the idea is, it’s still flawed. As one commenter points out, the filter is a little too literal in spots. For example, what would you expect to see on the Explore Outdoors page? According to the secondary filters, it’s all about camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking. But the pins that appear under the topic header are anything but. . .

Pinterest Outdoors

Yes, it’s outdoors – but it’s outdoor decor which doesn’t relate to any of the filters you see at the top. Acknowledging the comment, Pinterest says this will correct itself over time. True to some extent, but Pinterest’s search engine relies on what people write in the text box. So if I post a garden photo with the word “outdoors” in the description, it’s going to show up on this page.

What I find really interesting is that Pinterest chose this topic as their tester. Feels like they’re trying to shrug off the notion that the site is oriented toward home, crafts and food. Not saying outdoorsy people don’t use Pinterest but a look at their own “Popular Pins” page tells the story.

Pinterest Popular

DIY Baby Blocks, hair styles, S’Mores and help for postpartum pain. Come on Pinterest, embrace your true nature.

From a marketing standpoint, these new filters are superb. If you pin and label correctly, you have a chance of showing up in more feeds than ever before.

 

 

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

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Breaking the SEO Rules: When Not to Follow Best Practices – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Best practices are set in place to guide us toward success in most situations. Not all situations. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus shows us several instances in which it’s actually best to break the rules and throw those best practices out the window.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Howdy Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re going to be talking about one of my favorite subjects – breaking the SEO rules, and when not to follow best practices.

Now, best practices are something we talk a lot about here at Moz, and people are very adamant about following them oftentimes. So before we get started, I want to talk about what exactly we mean when we say “best practices.”

For example, a best practice would be that your meta description length is only so long, or that your title tag length is 512 pixels or something like that. So when we talk about best practices, we’re talking about a set of rules that are consistently showing superior results. It doesn’t mean they’re the only way you can do things, but in general, over time, they deliver the best results over other techniques.

Best practices are also used as a benchmark so that when you compare two different techniques, such as title tag length is this long or title tag length is that long, one set of those results you can use as a benchmark to measure your results.

Finally, best practices are meant to evolve and improve. Best practices get better over time. If you’re running a business or you’re doing SEO, your best practices are going to change the better you get at what you’re doing and the more you learn. This is one thing that people often forget — that best practices do change.

But sometimes you want to ignore best practices, and that’s what we want to talk about today. One of the first reasons that you sometimes want to forget about best practices is when you want to deliver the highest ROI for your activities. When you’re working on a client’s site, when you’re doing in-house SEO, time and resources are limited. So you want to make sure that you’re doing the activity that leads to the highest return on investment for what you’re doing.

This is a really common example when people start. When they’re new to SEO, they start on a campaign, and they start optimizing their on-page elements and crawlability and engine accessibility. At the beginning of your campaign, that’s a really high-ROI activity.

As you fix those site errors, as your search engine optimization improves, working on on-page issues, the return on investment starts to decline. What people do is they stay on this line far too long, and they’re fixing every little thing on their site, and they’re not seeing a huge return on investment.

At the same time, they’re ignoring all the other issues, such as building links, building a community, getting out there on social media, when that would be a much higher-ROI activity. So even though it would be a best practice to stay on those sites and fix all those issues, sometimes there are activities which are going to be much more valuable for you to pursue.

Along those same lines you always have to weigh the cost and the benefit of the SEO that you’re working on, because working on best practices and implementing SEO on your site sometimes comes at a cost, especially if you’re making changes. So you have to justify what you’re going to get in return to the effort that you’re going to put into it.

An example that comes up a lot, it’s a best practice to have keywords in your URL structure. So we see people write in, people talk to us, and they have a structure like this example.com/category/keyword. They want to go through a massive site reorganization, so that’s example.com/keyword/keyword.

Now, keep in mind that doing that there’s a bunch of 301 redirects. You may lose some link equity, and you may even lose rankings. In the end, you have to wonder if making that change is worth the change, worth the cost of doing so. In many examples, it’s not going to be.

We have a saying: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, because making huge, massive changes is going to cost you. If you’re ranking pretty well in this situation, we might recommend just leave it alone even though it violates best practices.

A lot of times you want to violate best practices when you’re optimizing for other goals. Again, talking about that title tag case, 512 pixels, that’s generally the amount of title tag that Google will display in its search results. So that’s what we define as best practices for title tags.

But that doesn’t mean you should go rewrite every title tag on your site, which a lot of people will go out and do. You might be optimizing for social sharing. If you have an awesome title tag and it’s hot on Twitter, it’s hot on Facebook, it’s hot on Google+, LinkedIn, and it’s getting shared all over the place, it might be okay to go over that 512-pixel length.

If you have a title tag that’s converting really well, and it’s driving all these sales to your home page, and it’s showing up in other places, you may not want to rewrite it.

If you’re ranking really well, there’s no reason to make that change, especially if you’re talking about hundreds or thousands of title tags on your site. We get into the cost benefit ratio again.

So yes, best practices tell you to have it at 512 pixels, and it’s often the case that you want to keep it within those ranges because they are consistently showing superior results. But not in every case, because sometimes you’re going to have different goals.

The final point is this idea of evolving and improving. Part of SEO is constantly learning what works and what doesn’t work. Google and the other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, so we want to experiment. We want to learn new things. We want to try new things. We want constant improvement on these best practices. We don’t want to set them in stone. We want to define them and try to improve them over time.

SEO is all about discovery. What works today may not work a year from now or two years from now, so we have to have open minds and keep learning and keep making our best practices the best they can be.

That’s all for today. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Checkout Page Optimization: Just Follow the F.A.C.T.S.

Posted by Yoast

Editor’s note: This post was co-authored by Joost de Valk and his brother Thijs de Valk.

At Yoast, we’ve recently written about how we’ve drastically changed our checkout page. This process and our findings gave us the idea to do a best practice of sorts on checkout pages. As it is, a lot of checkout pages are far from optimal, and this short film from Google Analytics is rather harsh but lays it out quite well:

There are some elements to a checkout page that, in general, really help your conversion rate. Ignore these findings at your own peril. I’ll be looking at the following factors, all of which have a serious impact on your conversion rate: Focus, Assurance, Clarity, Time, and Social proof.


Focus

A page needs focus for people to understand what it is you want. On the checkout page this is doubly true; if your focus isn’t on the process of checking out, people will get confused. And confused people don’t convert.

An easy way to add focus to your checkout page is to implement calls to action. Calls to action are somewhat of a science, and people have performed a lot of tests to find the call to action that will work on any website. However, we believe it all depends on context.

Call to action

You should always use a color for your call to action (CTA) that stands out in your design. Usually we recommend people use a color they haven’t already used in their design (or at least that page). Next, bigger is better. The bigger you make your CTA, the more attention it will draw to itself, thus the more focus it will render.

Obviously the size of your button needs to stay workable. Also think about the shape of your CTA. We like to use calls to action that are shaped like an arrow, because they give people a sense of direction. The shape of your CTA alone will give people a sense of forward movement, which is associated with all things positive:

Button2

Lastly, the copy on your CTA is of importance as well. In general, be short and concise. People don’t like reading buttons, they just want to know where it leads.

Clutter

Especially on your checkout page, you need to remove as much clutter as possible. By clutter we mean “mess” on your website that distracts from the main goal. Any element on a page that’s not aimed toward that page’s main goal is clutter, and too much clutter makes your page lose focus altogether.

Clutter that is “outbound” (takes your visitor to another page) is especially bad. Make sure that the most important thing on the page is your checkout process. This can mean removing breadcrumbs, products you’re cross-selling and sometimes even a “continue shopping” button.


Assurance

Assurance is something people crave. People have to feel safe on your website and its pages, because if they don’t, they simply won’t spend their money there. So be sure to give them the safest feeling possible.

Safety signs

One of the most important things is to assure people your website is ok using safety signs—signs that mean the page/site you’re currently viewing is free from malware and is “hacker proof.” People want a visible affirmation that the page they’re viewing is safe, especially if that page is the checkout page. They want assurance that their money will be safe. So don’t just expect people to understand your website is safe; show it.

Payment methods

People want to know as soon as possible if you’re offering the payment method they want to use. So it’s best to show the credit card logos of the companies you support. If you support PayPal, include that as well, obviously. To avoid clutter, we’ve done this on our checkout page:

Logos

This way, it actually adds clarity to the payment options, assures people we have their kind of payment method, and reduces clutter by not showing it somewhere else.

Unexpected costs

As in the video, people do not like to be surprised at the counter. That’s why unexpected costs are the #1 reason people abandon their shopping carts. To prevent this, you need to assure people that there won’t be any unexpected costs. This can be as simple as adding a line like “there will be no additional costs” next to the total of the visitor’s shopping cart.


Clarity

Clarity and conversion are often mentioned in the same sentence. If your copy and your pages aren’t clear, they just won’t convert as much as they could. So be sure to make your checkout page process as clear as possible.

Progress bar

A progress bar gives people insight in how far along the process of checking out they are, and also adds the positive effect of gamification. This gamification effect means people will want to get to the next step as fast as possible. On our own checkout page we’ve decided to have people always step in on the second step. The first step is choosing a product:

The reason we do this, is because the visitor has already taken the hardest and biggest step in your process: he chose a product he wants to buy! So validate that step and make them feel good about it. This way the visitor has already done part of the process without any effort.

Product images

It has to be very clear that the product people have added to their shopping cart is actually the product they want. Showing pictures of your product is by far the easiest way to do this. An added bonus is that (decent) pictures actually increase your conversion rate.

Inline validation

Another form of clarity is inline validation. This makes it very clear for users whether they’ve correctly filled in the field or not:

validation1 Error

This kind of immediate feedback is very clear and actually makes people more likely to complete the entire form. And in fact, creating inline validation for your form fields isn’t hard at all, as we explained in a post on the technical aspects of implementing inline validation recently.


Time

Time plays an important role in your conversion rate. You literally just have seconds for your page to load and convince your visitor that they should stay on that page.

Site speed

In order to convince your visitors within that few-second window, your site needs to be fast enough. Having a website that’s too slow, can literally cost you money. This is especially important if you have a (large) user base on mobile devices.

Cookie expire time

You can actually have your website “remember” what people added to their shopping cart. This information is stored in cookies, and you can determine how long this information will be stored. Only 50% of your shopping cart visitors will buy within an hour. After that, it takes people a lot longer to make a decision.

If you want 80% of your shopping cart visitors to buy what they added to the cart, you’d have to save those items for 7 days. Doing this will make sure people can leave your website, come back later and simply pick up where they left off. This makes it a lot easier for people and removes the risk of having people go through the choice and thought process of picking one of your products twice.


Social proof

Social proof is a powerful way to persuade people. There’s nothing more useful for influencing people than other people telling them your product is awesome. Social proof works because people will get more confidence in a product if they, for instance, read good reviews from other people. The manufacturer of a product is always going to say their product is fantastic. Having other people talk about it, simply makes it more objective, and thus more trustworthy.

However, you have to take care, because social proof can also seriously backfire. You have to make sure you’re using positive social proof. Positive social proof means providing people with things they can gain from using your product, instead of what they’re risking not to gain (negative social proof). Telling people what they’re risking, or worse, how many other people are risking it, can have the exact opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve. People will only find more reason not to use your product.

Testimonials

Testimonials are stories or pieces of text from actual users about your product. If positive, these can have great impact on people. Always be sure to use as much information of the person giving the testimonial as possible. Adding pictures has been found to increase trust, even if the picture didn’t make any sense at all. However, a picture of a face always draws more attention:

This actually has a drawback, because people looking right at you will keep your attention. If at all possible, it’s best to have the eyes of the person in the picture pointed to an important element on your page, such as your call-to-action.

Lately we’ve been reading a lot about ‘mini stories’. These are basically testimonials, but written like short stories. When written right, mini stories are supposed to have a kind of seductive effect on people.

Numbers

Telling people how many went before them in buying your products persuades people to also buy your products, especially if it’s a high number. This is due to multiple things, among which peer pressure is probably the most important. It’s basically trust based on numbers. Peer pressure means people are afraid to “stay behind” if a lot of other people have already done something. When using this tactic, be sure to use the exact number of people who’ve bought something or signed up, and to not round anything up. It turns out that for your visitors exact numbers are more believable.

Authority

Telling people what other important people or businesses have used your product or service is a great way of persuading people. Especially if you use the kind of people and businesses you know your visitors will like. This is all because of the Halo Effect, which means people’s impression of you can be influenced by their overall impression of you. So if you make that overall impression more positive by naming those great names working with you, they’ll think more highly of you.

Up to you

Your checkout page needs every much bit of thought as the rest of your website. In fact, if you manage to convert more people here, this will be the closest thing to direct money you’ll ever find in Conversion Rate Optimization. So what do you think? Let us know!

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LinkedIn Showcase Pages Let Users Follow Specific Brands, Products

LinkedIn has unveiled Showcase Pages, a complement to its now well-known Company Pages, with the important difference that now followers of the brand can interact directly with the specific branch, unit or business they are interested in.
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Twitter Adds Option to Open Direct Messaging From Folks You Don’t Follow

Twitter quietly snuck in an option that I’ve been wishing for for a long time, so color me happy. It’s a simple opt-in that would allow people whom you don’t follow to send you a direct message.

recieve direct message

This option has a huge potential for misuse, but I think the opportunities far outweigh the annoyance factor. (She says now before the unwanted DMs start rolling in.)

You’ll find the checkbox under the Account tab in your Twitter settings. I think it should be under the Security and Privacy tab, but they didn’t ask me. Tick the box, add your password to prove you mean it and it’s done.

Without the check, direct messages can only be exchanged between mutual followers. You follow me, I follow you – we can direct message each other. It was created as a private way of moving a conversation off of the public feed.

I don’t use it that way. I do use direct messaging to relay non-public information such as an address or phone number, even an email address.

What ends up happening is I get public messages asking me to follow a person so they can send me a private, direct message. Usually its because they want my opinion or they want to pitch me. I’m good with that and now that I’ve checked the box, they can direct message me directly.

The concern is that the option can be used for spamming. So true, but so can the @ mention. Either way, your message is jumping to the head of the queue. I suppose there is a certain weight behind direct messaging versus an @ mention but in my case it’s six of one. . .

The Verge suggests this might be a first step toward Twitter news alerts or even paid brand messaging. Buying a promote Tweet is fine, but imagine if you could direct message 1,000 targeted users.

What I want to know is how Twitter is showing the open direct message option. Will there be an indicator on an account or do we have simply give it a shot and see if it goes through? I’d like to use this option to contact people I want to interview. It’s a quick way to introduce yourself and start the conversation. If you’re interested, we move to email. If not, we move on.

Yes, I see a lot of potential in this little switch. What do you think? Is opening up direct messaging a good idea or akin to opening the spam floodgates.

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Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?

The fundamental question of value proposition is “Why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?” But, what about social media? Value proposition is often an afterthought of social media campaigns, so read on to learn more about why it’s up to you to answer why your ideal customer should like or follow you.
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