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People have been gradually turning against “click-bait” for a while now and using the questionable tactic to attract attention may finally be accompanied by some real consequences according to an announcement from Facebook today.

According to the announcement, the social platform is rolling out an update to the News Feed algorithm that will help reduce the number of misleading or purposely vague headlines by incorporating the amount of time users spend reading a page as a signal.

Clickbait

“‘Click-baiting’ is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see,” Facebook research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang wrote in a blog post. ”

“Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed.”

Click-bait certainly is effective, but this strategy has become so prominent that even casual internet users are becoming familiar with the phrase. More importantly, the majority appear to agree they don’t like it. 80% of Facebook users say they prefer headlines that give them a fuller picture about what’s behind the link instead.

Here’s Facebook’s explanation of how they are aiming to take down click-bait:

One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.

Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.

Duplicate content has been an important topic for webmasters for years. It should be absolutely no secret by now that duplicate content is generally dangerous to a site and usually offers no value, but there are occasional reasons for duplicate content to exist.

Of course, there are very real risks with hosting a significant amount of duplicate content, but often the fear is larger than the actual risk of penalties – so long as you aren’t taking advantage and purposely posting excessive duplicate content.

Google’s John Mueller puts the risk of using duplicate content in the best context,. According to John, there are two real issues with duplicate content.

The first issue is that Google’s algorithms typically automatically choose one URL to show for specific content in search, and sometimes you don’t get to choose. The only way you can effectively let Google know your preference is by using redirects or canonical tags, and that isn’t foolproof.

Secondly, if you are hosted a ton of duplicate content it can actually make the process of crawling to overwhelming for the server, which will slow new content from being noticed as quickly as it should be.

Still, John said that in most cases, “reasonable amounts of duplication […] with a strong server” is not a huge problem, as “most users won’t notice the choice of URL and crawling can still be sufficient.”

SpellingPretty much anything Google’s most popular engineer Matt Cutts says makes headlines in the SEO community, but often his Webmaster Chat videos and advice aren’t mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination. For instance, we recently covered a video where Cutts explained that bad grammar in the comment section most likely won’t hurt your ranking (unless you allow spam to run rampant).

For content creators, it was a legitimate concern that poorly written contents might negate the hard work putting into writing legible and well-constructed content. However, many used this to run headlines that Google doesn’t care about grammar, which is not even close to being confirmed.

As Search Engine Land points out, way back in 2011, Cutts publicly stated that there is a correlation between spelling and PageRank, but Google does not use grammar as a “direct signal.” But, in his latest statement on the issue Cutts specifies that you don’t need to worry about the grammar in your comments “as long as the grammar on your own page is fine.” This suggests Google does in fact care about the level of writing you are publishing.

It is unclear exactly where the line is for Google at the moment, as they imply that grammar within your content does matter, but they have never stated it is a ranking signal. Chances are a typo or two won’t hurt you, but it is likely Google may punish pages with rampant errors and legibility issues.

On the other hand, Bing has recently made it pretty clear that they do care about technical quality in content as part of their ranking factors. Duane Forrester shared a blog post on the Bing Webmaster Blog which states, “just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours.”

Duane continues, “if you [as a human] struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error free content exist to serve the searcher?”

In the end, it all comes down to search engines trying to provide the best quality content they can. The search engines don’t want to direct users to content that will be hard to make sense of, and technical errors can severely impact a well thought-out argument.

As always, the best way to approach the issue is to simply write content for your readers. If your content can communicate clearly to your audience, the search engines shouldn’t have any problems with it. But, if a real person has trouble understanding you, the search engines aren’t going to do you any favors.

If you’ve spent much time online in the past year or two, it is almost certain you’ve come across an infographic. They are highly enjoyed by the public, as well as being educational. This is why more companies and content creators are using infographics to communicate and share knowledge with the public than ever before. Some may say it is just a trend, but either way the data shows that searches for infographics have risen over 800 percent in just two years, from 2010 to 2012.

Even if you don’t know what an infographic is, the chances still favor that you have seen one either in your Facebook feed, a news article, or maybe even your email. Infographics are images intended to share information, data, or knowledge in a quick and easily comprehensible way. They turn boring information into interesting visuals which not only make the information easier to understand, but also make the average viewer more interested in what is being communicated.

According to Albert Costill, multiple studies have found that 90 percent of the information we retain and remember is based on visual impact. Considering how much information take in on a day to day basis, and that means you’re content should be visually impressive if you want to have a hope of viewers remembering it. If you’re still unsure about infographics, there are several reasons you should consider at least including them occasionally within your content strategy.

  1. Infographics are naturally more eye-catching than printed words, and a well laid-out infographic will catch viewers attention in ways standard text can’t. You’re free to use more images, colors, and even movement which are more immediately visually appealing.
  2. The average online reader tends to scan text rather than reading every single word. Infographics combat this tendency by making viewers more likely to engage all of the information on the screen, but they also make it easier for those who still scan to find the information most important to them.
  3. Infographics are more easily sharable than most other types of content. Most social networks are image friendly, so users are given two very simple ways to show their friends their favorite infographics. Readers can share a link directly to your site, or they can save the image and share it directly. The more easily content can be shared, the more likely it is to go viral.
  4. Infographics can subliminally help reinforce your brand image, so long as you are consistent. Using consistent colors, shapes, and messages, combined with your logo all work to raise your brand awareness. You can see how well this works when you notice that every infographic relating to Facebook naturally uses “Facebook Blue” and reflects the style of their brand.

Obviously you shouldn’t be putting out an infographic every day. Blog posts still have their place in any content strategy. Plus, if you are creating infographics daily, it is likely their quality will suffer. Treat infographics as a tool that can be reserved for special occasions or pulled out when necessary. With the right balance, you’ll find your infographics can be more powerful and popular than you ever imagined.

If you have been reading up on SEO, blogging, or content marketing, chances are you’ve been told to “nofollow” certain links. If you’re like most, you probably didn’t quite understand what that means, and you may or may not have followed the advice blindly.

But, even if you’ve been using the nofollow tag for a while, if you don’t understand what it is or how it works you may be hurting yourself as much as you’re helping.

The nofollow tag is how publishers can tell search engines to ignore certain links to other pages. Normally, these links count similar to votes in favor of the linked content, but in some circumstances this can make search engines think you are abusing optimization or blatantly breaking their guidelines. Nofollowing the right pages prevents search engines from thinking you are trying to sell you’re influence or are involved in link schemes.

To help webmasters and content creators understand exactly when to nofollow, and how it affects their online presence, the team from Search Engine Land put together an infographic explaining when and how to use the tag. They also created a comprehensive guide to the tag for those who prefer long walls of text to nice and easy infographics.

BudgetAs it comes time to prepare for business strategies going into the next year, many are wondering exactly how much they should be planning for in their SEO budget. Well, there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is SEO continues to yield great returns on your investment. The bad news is SEO is getting more and more expensive to do well. Jayson DeMers put together five reasons you should be asking for more for your SEO in 2014.

1)You Can’t Cheat With Cheap Backlinks

Not too long ago, you could just buy packages of a huge number of cheap backlinks and skate into high rankings on Google. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. However, Google has made it very clear they won’t let you play that game anymore. They’ve started penalizing those who try to use cheap shortcuts to a lot of backlinks, and they’ve gotten great at spotting when you do try to game the system.

Article spinning, excessive social bookmarks, paid links, duplicate content, and keyword stuffing have all been ruled illegal in Google’s book. You’ve got no choice but to go legit now.

2) Recovering from Google Penguin Can Be Costly (And You Need an Audit Anyway)

While many have already managed to recover from a drop in the rankings thanks to Penguin 2.0, there are plenty who haven’t been able to make a full recovery yet, and even more who are likely to be penalized in the coming year. But, recovering from Penguin takes a lot of time and effort, and time means money.

Usually, site owners need to undergo complete SEO link profile audits to identify all of the problems costing their site and begin recovery. Even if you haven’t been hit with an unnatural link warning within Google Webmaster Tools, it is still wise to perform an audit to spot any potential trouble links before Google does.

3) Good Content Marketing Isn’t Cheap

Google has begun to favor quality content pretty heavily, but this also means the bar has been raised. You used to be able to write just a few short blurbs every work and get reasonable traffic and authority in Google, but now every brand has a blog. You have to put in more work to stick out.

DeMers goes as far to suggest the standard minimum word amounts to rank well are going to go up, even as high as 2,000 words per article. He uses Google’s new in-depth article section as an indicator of this move, though Google’s own words paint a slightly different picture. “Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests up to 10% of users daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic.”

I don’t think article word count will necessarily go up as more blogging continues, but exploring your topic more thoroughly is usually a good idea. Google will still allow succinct content into the rankings for those who are looking for quick and ready answers, but that content can’t be weak. Even the shorter content you put out needs to offer a real and identifiable value to visitors.

4) You Need a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing doesn’t simply consist of publishing content. There is much more that has to be done to get that content out in front of your audience’s eyes. That’s why many have called content marketing the new SEO, even though many SEO professionals are expected to handle content creation as well.

There is some truth to the idea however. Publishing useful and interesting content builds your brand and generates brand signals that do get your content ranking in search engines. However, this just shows how important it is to have a plan put in place ahead of time for your content marketing. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll likely fall into the low quality content pattern with less flashes of quality unique work.

If you are expected to handle SEO and content marketing at the same time, you’re going to need more resources to ensure everything is done right.

5) Outsourcing Social Media to Scale Up

Social media appears to be ingraining itself into search engine rankings at an alarmingly fast rate, and as such it requires a lot of attention. It is gaining steam both as an outreach and audience engagement strategy as well as driving traffic and boosting rankings.

The problem is, depending on the size of your SEO team, you likely don’t have the time and means to properly handle your social media on your own. Business owners don’t have the spare time to be investing heavily into social media, and an SEO professional’s time is already spoken for by a multitude of tasks. If you’re brand can afford it, outsourcing social media means your social efforts will be focused and well planned, while your other responsibilities won’t falter.

What’s the best way to rank highly right now, according to Google? Most SEO professionals would say some one of two things. Creating a quality site will get your site ranked highly, and quality content is the most powerful way to improve the quality and value of your site.

According to Ryan Moulton, a software engineer at Google who Barry Schwartz from SEO Roundtable implies works in the search area, high quality content doesn’t necessarily work like that.

The assumption is that the “high quality” content Google favors is the most accurate and informative text available. But, Moulton says we misunderstand or forget about actual usefulness.

He was defending Google in a Hacker News thread on why Google ranks some sites highly despite the content not being entirely accurate, and in some people’s eyes low quality. He explains that some sources may be the most accurate, but they are often way too high-minded for the average searcher.

He states, “there’s a balance between popularity and quality that we try to be very careful with. Ranking isn’t entirely one or the other. It doesn’t help to give people a better page if they aren’t going to click on it anyways.”

Ryan then continues with an example:

Suppose you search for something like [pinched nerve ibuprofen]. The top two results currently are mayoclinic.com and answers.yahoo.com.

Almost anyone would agree that the mayoclinic result is higher quality. It’s written by professional physicians at a world renowned institution. However, getting the answer to your question requires reading a lot of text. You have to be comfortable with words like “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” which a lot of people aren’t. Half of people aren’t literate enough to read their prescription drug labels: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1831578/

The answer on yahoo answers is provided by “auntcookie84.” I have no idea who she is, whether she’s qualified to provide this information, or whether the information is correct. However, I have no trouble whatsoever reading what she wrote, regardless of how literate I am.

Google has to balance many factors in their search results, and the simple fact is most searchers aren’t looking for comprehensive scientific explanations for most of their problems. They want the most relevant information for their problem in terms they can understand.

It should be noted Google does allow access to these academic sources in other areas of their search, but when writing for the main search page, your content needs to be accessible to your audience. Your average SEO news source can get away with using technical language to an extent, because those reading your information likely already have built a vocabulary for the topic.

However, if you are offering a service or attempting to educate to the general public about your field, you need to use terms they can easily understand without a dictionary and address their needs head-on.

There is still certainly a place for more extensive content. For instance, the Mayo Clinic and WebMD still rank higher than Yahoo Answers for most medical searches, simply because they are more reliable.

Blogger Portrait

Source: Marisa Vasquez

Content marketing is all the rage in SEO right now. As links continue to get devalued (though they can still be potent if gained properly), optimizers and marketers are moving their focus to the actual content you see on the page. This is potentially a great shift to providing consumers with real value, but generating content on a regular basis is costly and intensive. If you slack, it can be worthless at best, and damaging to your rankings at worst.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it. But, content marketing has to be done right, with smart choices about how to spend your time and efforts. All it takes is some planning and extra thought that too many forget to do. If you think ahead, you can avoid most of the common content marketing mistakes far too many make. Jayson DeMers pinpointed some of those common mistakes, and if you know how to identify them, you can fix them.

1) Writing for the Wrong Audience

Every article or piece of content you put out there should be of value to someone, but that audience shouldn’t be arbitrary. As a business, you have a specific audience that you should be paying attention to. If you understand your audience, you can better choose topics and write in the appropriate tone for who you are trying to connect with. Home services such as plumbing and roofing have very different consumers and audiences than tech startups.

One of the most common ways to forget to write for consumers. We tend to get excited about the content we are putting out and the work we’ve put in – and that is great – but we also tend to geek out and write for those who are spending hours scouring blogs like us. We forget to communicate with the actual people needing their services. For every article, you need to ask, are we writing for our consumers or our peers?

2) Using the Wrong Metrics

Creating content takes a ton of time. You have to research, try to brainstorm unique topics, follow all the social media feeds. It would be tragic if all those efforts weren’t being properly measured and fine-tuned. However, getting started with the right metrics for your business at first can seem even more troublesome than making all that content.

Getting started, it is common to focus on measuring outputs rather than results. It helps ensure you follow through on your content marketing efforts and are achieving the basic creation aspect. But, once you’re in the flow of creating content you have to evolve your metrics to ensure they are actually achieving the larger desired results. You have to make sure you’re getting an actual return on your investment.

Not only do you want to make sure that you are strengthening your front on using the right keywords, you want to be checking on your conversions. You’re content isn’t successful if it isn’t helping direct people to the next step. Are you including clear calls to action? Are you getting people to make the next step you want? If not, you may want to change your strategy.

3) Failing to Focus on Branding

Content serves the purpose of making your brand trustworthy to consumers. Brand development can help build your brand as a leader in your market, or it can build the reputation of a service or product. Simply put, creating content allows you to build your brand as a leader in your industry to those who haven’t used your product or service yet. Writing as a leader or member of your business should showcase your expertise and make consumers trust you. The trick is doing it in a professional way, without being heavy handed.

Trying to make a hard sell with your content isn’t advised, so you have to achieve these goals much more subtly. The primary goal is educating and informing, but that has to be put in a package that will also strengthen your brand. It is a difficult line to walk, but with focus on your brand and the audience, you will find the proper mix.

There is no doubt that blogging is a powerful tool for content marketers and SEOs. However, the simple days of recording your daily activities in a sort of online diary has grown to become a much more complex endeavor, especially for those who intend to use it for marketing.

The reason blogging became the mess many companies see it to be is simply that too many put too much emphasis on blogging and tried to make it something new that can drive away beginners or website owners with its complexities.

Blogging can do wonders for your SEO and your business, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with blogging, chances are you’ve reached that tipping point. You are also probably making some common mistakes that are rather simple to fix. Most likely, you just need to simplify.

A simple way to simplify is to just narrow your focus a little more. If you find yourself trying to cover vast themes and ideas in your blog, you are using the wrong format for your thesis. For every blog post, try to stick to a single idea. You may think you’re doing that, but consider it like this: while a country like Portugal may be “one topic” it can be broken down into so many subtopics. Pick one of those subtopics, and then see if you can break it down more. If you’re interested in the local culture, zoom in more on the music. Maybe pick a specific style of music that is most relevant or interesting and focus on that.

Similarly, even if you choose one fairly specific topic that you are knowledgeable on, you can still feel compelled to write endlessly, but you probably shouldn’t. Longer posts can get a little more attention and earn you some credibility if they are well done, but articles reaching 2,500 or more words should almost certainly be considered for another medium than a blog. By over-reaching on blog post size, you can throw off the scores of people who scan for information, and limit your own output possibilities.

Depending on the size of your business, bloggers can also end up in a chain where five or six people have to sign off on every single blog post before they can go to publish. In reality, you only want two to three people being the deciding council of what content is going to the public. Two or three people are enough to ensure there are no big thematic mistakes or smaller errors like typos or factual inaccuracies, but the more people you add to that process, the more likely you’ll have to deal with more arguments about what is fit to be published.

Speaking of editing, even one-person blogging teams can get stuck in the process of over-editing. Blogs don’t have to be perfect. You want to appear reputable and intelligent, so you don’t want to put out something chock full of mistakes, but web writing is informal. You don’t need to spend the time editing a blog that you would something in a newspaper or any other type of professional writing. Your audience isn’t looking for that.

For the most part, you can feel comfortable sticking to one, or possibly two rounds of editing at most for any post. You want to ensure there are no huge cohesion errors you didn’t notice in the throes of writing, but if you misspell one work, it won’t be the end of the world.

Of course, there are many more ways you can over complicate blogging as a process. Sujan Patel recently wrote about some ways that bloggers tend to make everything more of a mess than they should. You want to put out quality content, but most of the time keeping it simple will just make it easier to see the good work you’ve done.

Great content can do just about anything you want it to. You want to draw in more visitors? They’ll come for quality content. Need more conversions? Get some great content. In the best cases, it can go viral. But how do you know what great content is? How do you know what the public wants?

The internet is so insanely populated with content at this point that it is just getting harder and harder to stand out. There are many lists like this one, and they offer different opinions in different ways, but what makes one of those articles more attractive than all the others? It answers people’s needs.

That sounds so incredibly basic that many would say there’s no way it is the whole story, but in reality answering to people’s needs is much harder than you think. There are no guaranteed right answers, and the only way to truly know if you gave the public what they want it to get it out there, but you can get some hints beforehand, if you look in the right places.

Jason DeMers shared some ways you can find out what your target audience is looking for and create the content they need. If you want your content to stick out from the rest, you need to know how to understand your audience.

  1. Competitors’ Forums – This slightly controversial method is also one of the easiest ways to get in the mind of your target audience, and it is definitely one of the easiest. Just find the competitor in your field with the best web presence, and keep tabs on what their audience is interested in and responding to. Of course, some argue that this leads to blatant copying or spylike business practices, and I suggest discretion with the tactic, but if you are looking for a quick way to find out what your market wants, this will show you.
  2. Comments Sections – Just like your competitors’ forums, any place where your audience can directly interact with you offers boundless opportunities to find out what they want and need. Comments sections on your own website, as well as others out there like Reddit, are filled with people looking for solutions, and they are often vocal about looking for it. If you keep your eye on places where the public is interacting, you should be able to easily discern what is on their minds.
  3. Surveys – Where comment threads create an open forum feeling of interaction, surveys allow your audience to speak directly to you and tell you what they want and need. You don’t even have to do your own survey if you don’t have the resources. Just keep your eyes on other public surveys going on. They are everywhere, just look in your daily newspaper.
  4. Product Forums a.k.a. the Support Boards – If you have a niche product and people are looking for support solutions, chances are there is a support board going on somewhere filled with people voicing their problems and opinions all at the same time. In the best situation, you run these boards and can create some good PR while also helping customers and monitoring their interests simultaneously  but even if your customers are using a public forum, you can benefit from listening in.

The public is often very open about their feelings and desires, you just have to go where they are voicing them. The internet offers many popular options, and it is easier than ever to keep tabs on what your target audience is thinking. There isn’t any excuse to ignore their needs.