Monday, June 26, 2017

The most effective ways to respond to negative reviews

Customer reviews are one of the most important pieces of your marketing campaign, and research has indicated they may have significant impact on your ranking in search.

In fact, 84% of consumers trust an online review as much as they would a personal referral. However, not all reviews are positive. At some point throughout the history of your business, you’re going to run into negative reviews.

Fortunately, this doesn’t always have to be a bad thing – negative reviews can work in your favor as a business opportunity if you know how to react. Read below to learn the most effective ways to respond to negative online reviews.

Stay positive

Anyone who’s ever worked customer service knows how difficult it can be when a customer is attacking you. A negative review may get you upset, and as a human being your first instinct is to go on the defense, but that doesn’t mean you should become a keyboard warrior and attack the reviewer (unless you’re Wendy’s, of course, who recently spouted off Twitter battles with McDonald’s and customers alike). Unless you’re a multimillion-dollar fast food company, we don’t advise getting snarky.

Approach all negative reviews with a calm, positive attitude. Let the customer know you’ve heard their concerns, but never point fingers. Even if you’re not in the wrong, you shouldn’t make the customer feel like the victim.

It also doesn’t do you any good to simply ignore the review. The general public would prefer you respond than simply ignore the situation. Responding with a positive comeback will show that your business cares about its customers.

Offer a solution

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Sorry won’t cut it”? This is the case when you’re responding to negative comments or reviews. Simply offering an apology to your customer won’t do – a customer will want a solution to their problem. When you’re responding to a negative review or comment, let the customer know how you’ll fix the problem.

Below is an example of a great response that offers a solution. A JetBlue customer tweeted that their in-flight TV was not working. JetBlue immediately responded with this:

This response shows that JetBlue is empathetic towards their customer’s concerns. Then they follow up with an immediate solution.

It’s safe to say this customer appreciated the time this company took to solve their problem in a timely manner. They instantly redeemed themselves and showed their customer’s happiness is their priority.

Reiterate your company’s policies

You may fear that a negative review will make your company look bad. This is only the case should you ignore the review entirely. When you respond to a negative comment, flip the negative to a positive. Use this as an opportunity to reiterate your company’s good qualities.

For example, you can respond by saying, “We’re sorry you had a poor experience. We’ve been doing business for several years and most of our customers leave happy. We’re sorry we didn’t meet your expectations this time around.”

Take the conversation offline

When you receive a negative review online, you should always respond immediately on the same platform. This not only satisfies the original poster, it’s also a public place that all your potential customers will see.

However, some things can’t be addressed online. Issues involving a customer’s personal information, for example, should be discussed in person or over the phone. When addressing these types of negative reviews, provide a direct contact for your customers.

Taking the conversation offline shows that your business will go the extra mile to resolve any customer complaints or issues. However, you should only use this method for severe cases.

Does your company have a customer service line? This can also be a great way to incorporate an offline conversation. In your response, give the customer the line to your customer service department to resolve any issues that can’t be taken care of online.

Approach the customer as a real person

We’ve all experienced the nightmare that is automatic bots. Calling into a customer service line and hearing a robot on the other end is one of the most frustrating situation a customer can go through. Consider this when you’re responding to your customers. Leave out all the industry jargon, and speak to them like they’re a real person – because they are!

When you use plain language and speak to the customer as a human being, you’ll sound more genuine. Chances are, your customers will see you as a human as well, and not just as a business.

Google has also taken measures to ensure that you, the business owner, isn’t dealing with automated customer reviews. This solution is called verified customer reviews, and I’ve previously written about ways that you can use the feature to come out on top.

Ask for an update

If you’ve responded to the customer’s review and solved the problem, don’t hesitate to ask for an updated review. Often times customers will take this upon themselves and either delete or update their negative review. Here’s an example of an updated review after an issue was solved:

As you can see, many review sites, like Yelp, will show that this is an updated review. Once you’ve solved the customer’s issue, politely ask them if they’ll update the review online.

Having trouble thinking of a nice way to ask? Once you’ve followed up with the customer, ask them something such as, “We appreciate your feedback, and would like other customers to know how we’ve solved your issue. Would you mind updating your review to reflect this?”

Always make sure you thank them for their feedback, regardless if they update the review or not.

The takeaway

As soon as you see a negative review, your heart instantly sinks. But no matter how stellar your business is, you’re not going to make everyone happy. A few negative reviews won’t be the end of your business. Use these reviews as an opportunity to showcase your company’s outstanding customer service.

The sooner you rectify any issues your customers have, the sooner you’ll build better rapport with your customer base.

What tactics would you add to this list? Let us know the comment section below.

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda at AmandaDiSilvestro.com.

Friday, June 23, 2017

How JavaScript impacts page loading speed on mobile

The effect of JavaScript on mobile web performance is twofold.

One, it is the second largest contributor to webpage weight, behind images, thereby increasing download time; and two, once downloaded, the browser then needs to run the script, which can delay the downloading/rendering of other (perhaps more important) assets on the page.

JavaScript (aka scripts or JS) is one of the triumvirate of technologies that make web pages (and web apps) work. The HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) controls the structure and content of the webpage; CSS (Cascade Styling Sheets) controls how the site looks on different devices; and JavaScript makes the page more interactive and dynamic.

Scripts perform numerous functions on webpages such as loading ads, A/B testing, tag management (personalizing the page) or displaying an inline video player.

Over the last five years, the total weight of pages sent to mobile devices has quadrupled to 2.2MB. Size matters because, in general, the more data that is sent over a mobile, or fixed, network the longer a page will take to load. More data, more seconds staring at an empty mobile screen.

This suggests that images – which tend to take up more of the total kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB) of each page – are the main culprit. But this is not always the case.

JavaScript could potentially have more of an impact on page performance than images. As Patrick Meenan, founder of the web performance testing site WebPageTest and software engineer at Google, explains:

“Scripts are usually a (bigger) issue because of the time it takes to actually execute the script in addition to the download size, while images really only matter because of the download size. With mobile devices for example, it can take several seconds to run a script even after it has been downloaded.” 

It’s not necessarily JavaScript, per se, that is the problem, but how it is implemented: scripts can monopolize browser activity, blocking the download and rendering (displaying) of other content.

“The problems are often compounded where the script is referenced in the page. The content after a ‘blocking’ script (as opposed to an async script) doesn’t exist, as far as the browser is concerned, until after the script has been downloaded and executed. When, as is commonly the case, scripts are put at the beginning of the page this means that the page will be completely blank until the scripts have downloaded and executed.”

We will discuss below the difference between blocking, inline, synchronous (sync), asynchronous (async) and deferred scripts and how to fix JavaScript problems, but first we’ll look at how to spot issues.

Testing for blocking JavaScript

If you have tested your webpages using Google PageSpeed Insights (N.B. you should regularly test your mobile webpages using tools such as WebPageTest and PageSpeed Insights), chances are you have seen the following warning:

! Should Fix:

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

Your page has 8 blocking script resources and 7 blocking CSS resources. This causes a delay in rendering your page.

None of the above-the-fold content on your page could be rendered without waiting for the following resources to load. Try to defer or asynchronously load blocking resources, or inline the critical portions of those resources directly in the HTML.Screenshot shows BBC.com tested with PageSpeed Insights (as detailed in text).

The text and image above is from a Mobile PageSpeed Insights test on BBC.com conducted in February 2017.

Note “above the fold” refers only to the part of the webpage which is visible on a mobile device, without scrolling, Google is not analyzing scripts on the rest of the page.

The BBC is the world’s most popular English language news website, according to Alexa, so to put it in context we should also test the others in the top four. The results suggests two more publishers have similar issues with JavaScript. (The test also highlights CSS issues, but this is not the focus of the article):

  1. BBC.com PageSpeed test (8 blocking scripts; 7 blocking CSS resources)
  2. NYTimes.com PageSpeed test (0 blocking scripts)
  3. ESPN.com PageSpeed test (2 blocking scripts; 3 blocking CSS resources)
  4. CNN.com PageSpeed test (6 blocking scripts; 2 blocking CSS resources)

4x growth in JavaScript use in five years

Over the last five years the amount of JavaScript used on the average mobile page has almost quadrupled from 101KB in February 2012 to 387KB in February 2017. The number of requests (a request is the number of times a browser is required to download an additional piece of content or code) for different JavaScript files has increased from 8 to 21.

This is clearly illustrated in the graph below from HTTP Archive. HTTP Archive tests the top 1 million sites several times every month using data from WebPageTest, and publishes trends and stats that are essential benchmarking for the performance of your site.

Graph shows the growth of JavaScript over five years from 101KB in February 2012 to 387KB in February 2017.For the top 1 million sites monitored by HTTP Archive, JavaScript accounts for 17.4% of page weight. JavaScript also accounts for 21 out of 93 total requests (22.6%).

For some sites, particularly in the news space, JavaScript has a considerably larger share of page weight than the norm.

The image below compares the breakdown by content type for the average site with BBC.com tested by HTTP Archive (15 February 2017):

  • The first thing to note is how impressively small the BBC page size is: 609KB v 2225KB.
  • The second thing to note is how small the combined size of the BBC images: 70KB v 1501KB.
  • The third thing to note is how proportionally large the scripts are: 458KB or 75.2% of total page size.
  • The fourth thing to note (not shown in the charts below) is that 39 (44.3%) of the BBC’s total 88 requests are scripts.

Two pie charts compare the content breakdown of the average mobile site with the BBC. A much larger proportion of the BBC homepage is scripts.

When you compare the test results of the top four English language news websites, it is remarkable how much smaller the BBC is than its rivals. It is a one-third to a half of the size, with two to three times less JavaScript.

  1. BBC.com tested by HTTP Archive: Scripts 458KB (75.2%) of 609KB of total data; 39 JS requests (44.3%) of 167 88 total requests.
  2. NYTimes.com HTTP Archive test: Scripts 1511KB (51%) of 2953KB of total data; 73 JS requests (43.7%) of 167 total requests. (N.B. NY Times has a dedicated mobile site at mobile.nytimes.com, which is not listed by HTTP Archive, which may deliver different results.)
  3. ESPN.com HTTP Archive test: Scripts 1183KB (65.7%) of 1802KB of total data; 50 JS requests (47.2%) of 106 total requests.
  4. CNN.com HTTP Archive test: Scripts 1484KB (68%) of 2182KB of total data; 67 JS requests (31.9%) of 210 total requests.

What is the effect on mobile page speed?

So does it follow that the slim-line BBC site would load much faster than all its rivals?

Err, no. On 15 February 2017, HTTP Archive recorded the following load times:

  1. BBC.com: 18.3 seconds
  2. NYTimes.com: 27.4 seconds
  3. ESPN.com: 8.8 seconds
  4. CNN.com: 31.5 seconds

So, the BBC is faster loading on a mobile device than CNN and the New York Times, but considerably slower than the (larger) ESPN.

This is what the two sites look like on a mobile device. (The filmstrip is one of WebPageTest’s most visually compelling features, easily understood by any non-techie). Each frame represents 1 second. When the HTTP Archive test took place, for 9 seconds BBC.com mobile visitors saw nothing, while for 4 seconds ESPN visitors saw nothing.The image shows two filmstrips of the BBC.com and ESPN.com homepages loading on a mobile device.

There could be many reasons why one website might be faster than another, such as server response times, use of content delivery networks (CDN), the impact of ad networks, inclusion of third-party data (common on news sites), or the time and place of the test (in this case California, USA).

However, all other things being equal, it is possible that JavaScript could be a contributing factor. (Apologies for the hedging of bets). As noted above, BBC.com did receive more warnings for blocking scripts above the fold than the other news sites.

Reducing reliance on JavaScript

JavaScript is often used to perform tasks that cannot (easily) be done with HTML or CSS. As the W3C gradually add these features to the HTML or CSS standards and they are implemented by browsers, the JavaScript patch is no longer needed, as HTML/CSS is likely to be more efficient. A good example of this is responsive images.

Alex Painter, Web Performance Consultant at NCC Group:

“As a rule, it’s worth sticking to the principle of progressive enhancement – delivering a site that works without JavaScript and using scripts only for those extra features that can’t be done any other way.

“Using JavaScript to render content can be expensive – it takes time to load and execute. So, for example, if you can use HTML and CSS to achieve the same result, that’s generally going to be faster.

 “When it comes to responsive images, for example, you can use media queries in CSS and picture/srcset in the HTML to deliver the right image for the viewport without having rely on JavaScript.”

Choose asynchronous and deferred JavaScript over blocking and inline scripts

There are a number of ways that JavaScript can be implemented on a webpage, including:

  1. Blocking scripts are synchronous which means they have to be dealt with immediately and ahead of anything else. By default, all JavaScript is parser blocking. As the browser does not know what the script will do to the page, as soon as it meets a request (in the HTML file) to download a JavaScript file, it stops building the webpage, and does not continue until the file is downloaded and executed.
  1. Inline scripts also stop the page build, but as they are included in the HTML, they do not need to be individually downloaded. However too large or too many inline scripts will bloat and delay the initial download of HTML file.
  1. Asynchronous scripts allows the browser to continue parsing (analyzing the code and building the webpage), while the JavaScript file is downloaded. Including the async attribute in the HTML tells the browser that it doesn’t need to put everything on hold.
  1. Deferred JavaScript – tells the browser to leave the execution of the JS file until after it has finished building the webpage, this is signified with the defer attribute.

Are blocking scripts ever justified?

Patrick Meenan:

“If the site functionality relies on the code, then it needs to be run as a blocking script so that it is ready before the page needs it. A very common case for this is tag managers and A/B testing platforms where the code will change the page. In other cases blocking is used when it will be more work to load the functionality asynchronously.”

Reducing size of JavaScript files

How big is too big? How many requests is too many?

This will always be a balancing act.

Patrick Meenan:

“Since the browser will only load six requests at a time for each domain, if you have more than that it needs to request the rest after the first ones have completed, leading to longer times from the request/response delays.

 “Larger JavaScript files also take longer to parse and run (1ms for every 1KB of uncompressed JS is a reasonable estimate).  All else being equal, if you have the same amount of JS in a lot of files it will take much longer to load than if the same amount of JS was in a single file.”

Google recommends minification of JavaScript files using UglifyJS or Closure Compiler.

For more on how to optimize the speed of your mobile site, check out our previous three-part series:

Andy Favell is Search Engine Watch’s columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact him via LinkedInor on Twitter at Andy_Favell.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to scale your business internationally on search engines

Most online sites at some stage will want to expand, and one of the most common ways to do that is by offering products to an international market.

However, it’s not an easy or simple task by any means. This post will help you understand the risks, research and steps involved in expanding your business into an international market.

Considerations and research

Is it the right time to go international? Is there a need to go international? This very much depends on your focus for the future and the current needs of the business.

If you are increasingly having visitors to your site from international locations, now be may the time to start implementing an international SEO strategy.

There are, of course, a few things that you need to take into consideration – such as:

  • Are you able to implement ALL technical fixes?
  • Do you have the resources to carry out the work and manage each variation in the future?
  • If targeting a different language, do you have somebody to translate?
  • Is the business ready to carry out international orders and process transactions?

Once you have checked all the above, it’s essential to carry out further research. As with any new website idea or build, it’s all about making sure it’s a worthwhile venture.

One of the biggest research areas will be around keyword research to find out if there is demand in the locations that the business will be expanding into. It’s important to note that the keyword research should be done in the language you will be targeting, and location.

If all the above is confirmed and ready to go, the next stage is to plan the implementation.

Website structure

You may have seen a number of different implementations of international, each having different pros and cons. I tend to lean towards using subdirectories; however, it very much depends on the type of targeting you will be using.

These are the main structure types:

  • ccTLD – Domain variations such as example.fr, example.au
  • Subdomain – fr.example.com, au.example.com
  • Subcategory – example.com/au/, example.com/fr/

We have provided an example of the set up for a website using the subcategory URL structure for the UK and France. It’s important to note our main website is sitting on a .com as this tends to be the norm now. However this would work in the same way for .co.uk.

We’ve done this with variations that include both language and location, but this can be done with just language or just location.

This would mean that we add the following code to our website:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/1tgeQSF; hreflang=”en-gb” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/2rUDmQC; hreflang=”fr-gb” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/2sF6w3c; hreflang=”fr-fr” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/2rUTWja; hreflang=”en-fr” />

We can also add an X-default tag to this piece of code to be safe. This will tell search engines that if there is a URL that is not using this structure that it should default to the URL specified. This would change our code snippet to:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/1tgeQSF; hreflang=”en-gb” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/2rUDmQC; hreflang=”fr-gb” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/2sF6w3c; hreflang=”fr-fr” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/2rUTWja; hreflang=”en-fr” />

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://ift.tt/1tgeQSF; hreflang=”x-default” />

It’s important to note that this is only for the homepage of our example website. Internal links will also need to use this code but with the URLs changed so they reference the specific URL rather than the homepage.

We have also left the homepage as .com because in the past we have seen drops when a site has also used the new URL structure for the homepage. If we were to change example.com to example.com/en-gb/ it would mean example.com having to pass through a redirect.

It’s much easier to do this within the CMS you are using; however, if needed you may use a bulk href lang tool.

Sitemap implementation

When people talk about using sitemaps and international SEO, they tend to be referring to implementing localization through the use of sitemaps. This is another way of accounting for different languages and countries if hreflang is not a possible solution.

The solution works in a very similar way to hreflang, but sits within a sitemap rather than in the website’s source code. We tend to only suggest using this method if hreflang is completely out of the question.

Metadata & content

We have already carried out our keyword research to find out where the demand is based on different languages, this is where new metadata needs to be used for each language variation. It’s also important that the right variation of the word is used, for example when targeting the USA from a site that uses UK or Canadian English.

The on-page content also needs to reflect the language that the user is on. If the hreflang is marked up to say the page is in French, it needs to be written in French. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people get this wrong.

It’s also very important to make sure you have the in-house resource or outside help to be able to get this all done before launch. Yes, it is possible to gradually amend the content, but for users this could be very annoying – imagine their frustration in landing on a language they cannot understand.

As well as translating the content, it should reflect the audience you are targeting and their behaviors. User behavior varies from country to country and is something that needs to be taken into consideration when generating on-page content.

There are many differences that may not be apparent straight away. However, the best tip I can give is to not translate directly from English as what you are saying may not make any sense in another language.

It’s also very important to take cultural differences into account when writing new content or trying to sell a product in a different market. People from different countries will look at areas of the website in different ways such as: security, payment gateways, type of language used, shopping cart structure and many others.

This is why it’s worthwhile speaking to people from the country you are trying to target and getting somebody local to write the content and provide feedback. It all comes back to doing your research beforehand.

International Google Local

This section is very much dependent on the type of business you run. However if you have a physical location in the new countries you will be targeting it’s very important.

Google My Business allows businesses to create a listing giving full details of their company along with the location. This will be important in building up an organic search presence in a new location. There are plenty of posts on local SEO so I won’t go into it too much here, but these are the main steps:

  • Create the location here http://ift.tt/1vz9P6X
  • Add as many details as possible
  • Add the address to the most relevant page on your website
  • Mark the address up with local schema
  • Obtain links from relevant websites in the area or region

Carrying out the above steps will help the new location build up a stable base of links that can be built on top. I would also suggest creating relevant social profiles and local listings if relevant.

Summary

Making sure you are fully prepared is by far the biggest step in scaling a business to target an international market. Without the correct preparation, there is a very high chance that you won’t achieve what you initially set out to do.

International SEO is not a simple process by any means and can easily go wrong. However, if you are in the position to expand your business into an international set-up, there are easy gains to be made.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to achieve off the charts off-page SEO that will boost traffic

When you think about improving your SEO, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Maybe you think of rewriting your web copy to rank better for certain keywords, churning out new posts for your blog, or making sure your website is structured in a logical way.

All of these are important aspects of ranking well in search engines, but they aren’t the only ways you can optimize your web presence. If you want to rank better and get more traffic, you need to improve your off-page SEO, too. This guide will help you get started.

So, what exactly is off-page SEO?

In the simplest terms, off-page SEO encompasses all the aspects of SEO that occur outside your website (yes, it’s true). You can think of it as your reputation. Off-page SEO includes the things you do as well as the things other people say about you. Your social media activity, your customer service practices, and the online reviews customers leave for you on other sites are all examples of off-page SEO. Below is an example of reviews for realtors on Redfin:

Many people think that off-page SEO is just about link-building. It’s true that, at its core, the objective of good off-page SEO is to drive traffic to your site by earning plenty of high-quality links.

But if you just think of your strategy as a way to get more link juice, you’ll be missing a lot of the potential nuance of this topic.

Getting started with off-page SEO

Instead of focusing solely on links, it’s better to improve your off-page SEO by working on your reputation, your authority, and your popularity. In a nutshell, your objective should be to provide excellent value and connect with as many people as possible.

This is a long-term strategy, but your patience will pay off down the road – your business will gain recognition, you’ll establish your expertise in your field, and eventually you’ll start earning links from respected sites.

With that said, there are two main ways you can start improving your off-page SEO: connecting with your target audience and networking with influencers.

#1: Connecting with your target audience

Interacting with the people who might need or want your product or service is smart, both in terms of making more sales and thus improving your SEO because of the traffic that comes with it. However, it’s important to connect with people the right way.

Consumers are savvy, and they don’t like feeling pressured to buy things. Instead of focusing on what you’re selling, which can come across as spammy, grow your following by finding ways to help other people without asking for anything in return. A few ideas include:

Stay active on social media the right way

It goes without saying, but social media is one of the best ways you can connect personally with people who might need or want your service. Figure out where your target audience spends time online (this article covers how to do so in more detail), and make sure you have accounts on those platforms.

In general, the more accounts you have, the better, but keep ROI in mind – there is obviously no point wasting time on an obscure platform most people don’t use.

Furthermore, if you don’t have the resources to manage a lot of social pages, that can end up hurting your reputation, so start with the ones that matter most, post regular updates about your business, product, or service, and engage with your customers every chance you get.

Always remember, people like to know there’s a human behind their favorite business.

Share your knowledge on forums and message boards

If your target audience spends time on sites like Quora or Reddit, create accounts there and start posting. Join interesting conversations and answer other people’s questions. Aim to provide value instead of just increasing your post count.

It’s okay to mention your business if it’s pertinent to a question – for instance, you might tell a story about how you solved a problem with a customer. Just don’t push your product or service.

Your strategy on forums should just be to build up your reputation as an authority in your field. Over time, people will start to recognize you and come to you for advice.

There are tons of people online doing a great job of this. The example below from a personal trainer is just one example of someone who answers a lot of questions, has gained followers because of it, yet doesn’t focus on self-promotion but rather just making those connections:

Be on the lookout for opportunities to create useful off-site content

You might already do content marketing with your on-site blog, but why stop there? Consider incorporating various types of content, like videos, images, and infographics, into your social media marketing and your forum posts.

It’s rare these days to see an infographic on a forum (except for maybe something like Reddit or Tumblr), but when you do, it stands out. Guest posting is also, of course, another great way to do off-site content marketing, but more on this later.

Screencap of a discussion thread about a picture of a cute dog on Reddit.

#2: Building relationships

Connecting with your target audience is essential for good off-page SEO, but it will only take you so far. To become a recognized authority, and to start earning valuable links from experts in your field, you’ll have to network, too. Here are some tips for building strong relationships.

Guest post on other people’s blogs

Guest posting is a tried-and-true strategy for getting links back to your site. But while it’s a useful way to build your link profile, that’s not the main reason you should offer a guest post.

Instead, think of guest posting as a way to forge new relationships and help people who aren’t in your circle of regular blog readers.

The problem with guest posting for links is that you might be tempted to go for quantity over quality. But writing a lot of low-quality posts on blogs that don’t get much traffic won’t actually help you that much, and depending on where you’re published, it could even damage your reputation.

Instead, pitch guest posts only when you think you have something useful to say. Choose blogs you’d be proud to appear on, and make sure your idea is a good fit by studying the style and content of the blogs you’re pitching to.

Of course, not every blog you write for has to be a household name. In fact, if you’re just starting to guest post, they almost certainly won’t be. Still, you’ll get better results (and you’ll be able to publish on the big-name blogs sooner) if you focus on making genuine connections with other bloggers and saying something of value every time you write a guest post.

Leave comments on the blogs you read regularly

If you find certain bloggers helpful or inspiring, let them know! Bloggers love it when readers leave them thoughtful comments, and commenting on a blog post is one of the easiest ways to connect with someone you admire.

Keep in mind that there’s a right way and a wrong way to comment on blogs. Take the same approach here as you would for a guest post – focus on connecting, not just on commenting for its own sake. Don’t leave generic comments, don’t link to your website or blog, and don’t comment on a post if you didn’t actually read it.

Instead, say something relevant to the post itself. Greet the blogger by name and tell them why you liked this post. Was it helpful? Thought-provoking? Tell them how you implemented their ideas, or ask a question inspired by the post.

When you interact with bloggers this way on a regular basis, they’ll start to notice and remember you. The Wired.com community seems to do this well:

Look for avenues to connect with thought leaders in your field

Leaving comments on blogs is a great way to build relationships, but it’s far from the only way. Remember those social media accounts you made? Use them to follow thought leaders and experts in your field.

Twitter, in particular, is a great way to reach out to others – it’s simple, professional, and brief enough that you don’t have to worry about bothering anyone.

Don’t forget to take advantage of offline networking opportunities, too. That’s right – your off-page SEO efforts don’t even have to involve the internet. Cyberspace makes it easy to reach out to people, but in-person networking events can be far more useful since you’re more likely to be remembered if you connect with someone in real life.

Put yourself out there by looking for some interesting conferences and meetups to attend. Start hanging out where your target audience hangs out and see how far it can take you.

The takeaway

On-page SEO is important, but it’s only half the battle if you want to maximize your success. Off-page SEO plays a huge role in building your reputation, bringing in traffic, and encouraging your target audience to choose you over your competitors.

Improving your off-page SEO is an ongoing task. Whether you’ve been working on your reputation for years or you’re just getting started, there are plenty of things you can do to connect with more people and expand your brand’s reach.

Focus on helping people out, providing useful information, and cultivating a strong network of peers and mentors. Along with a great reputation, you’ll build a profile of high-quality links that will drive more traffic to your site than ever before.

What are your favorite off-page SEO strategies? Let us know in the comment section below.

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for NoRiskSEO, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Meeker’s Report on the state of advertising and trends to watch out for

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2017, one of the most-anticipated annual events in the world of digital, was released a few weeks ago. 

The 355-slide report covers the major shifts we are currently seeing in the internet and the digital economy, and is considered something of a barometer for the state of digital across the globe, as well as a forecast for what is likely to come.

Some notable sections have focused on the rise of interactive gaming in all its forms and what that means for digital, the evolution of customer support in social media, and the state of the internet in China and India.

Meeker also focused a 69-page section on developments in online advertising and commerce, examining the pervading trends and what they mean for the industry. Here are some key highlights.

The rise of mobile advertising

The growth of online advertising is increasingly made up of growth in mobile advertising. An increase of 22% year-on-year indicates that the future of advertising is mobile.

This is a good reminder for marketers and advertisers of the need for mobile-friendly content, be that articles or ads, as the rise of the mobile audience along with the increasing spend on mobile advertising brings new opportunities for success.

Moreover, it also highlights the importance of creating mobile-friendly pages, taking into account all the factors that may affect a site’s speed or performance.

Google and Facebook dominate advertising growth

A closer look at the changes of advertising year-on-year shows a monopoly in advertising growth between Google and Facebook. Google saw a year-on-year increase of 20% from 2015 to 2016, while Facebook saw even greater success, with a year-on-year increase of 62%.

These two combined are responsible for 85% of advertising growth–and this percentage is expected to increase even more in future years.

These are useful figures for marketers exploring the best platforms in which to invest their advertising budget, and a good reminder of how Google and Facebook ads can lead to successful results.

Facebook has invested heavily over the past year in improving its advertising platform to make it more appealing, and its numerous advertising options have won many marketers over. Moreover, its focus on the growing trend of visual content (images and videos), along customized advertising options, has offered new creative avenues for advertising.

As for Google, its focus on mobile growth and understanding of how advertising should evolve has brought new options for marketers seeking the best ways to promote their products through the most relevant search results.

The challenge of measuring ROI

The measurement of social ROI seems to remain a big challenge for marketers. Despite the evolution of social marketing and advertising, it remains a major challenge for marketers to effectively measure the success of their efforts.

When surveyed about the metrics they focus on when defining social ROI, 56% of advertisers picked engagement as their main measurement, while 21% chose conversion and revenue and 15% picked amplification and brand awareness. (Source: SimplyMeasured State of Social Marketing Annual Report)

The diverse goals marketers have for their social media rely on different metrics, which is why it’s still challenging to decide on the best ROI. Although engagement still remains marketers’ means of tracking success, conversion or brand awareness cannot be overlooked.

New ways to target and measure ads

The rise of online advertising and its constant evolution can be attributed to the creative and effective ways that all online platforms help advertisers reach their goals.

There has been an interesting improvement in targeting and measurement across all of the popular platforms in the last year, which may serve as proof that the advertising competition among platforms can lead to more options for marketers.

  • Product listing ads (Google): Google’s idea to highlight product listing ads was successful, with a stable increase in clicks over the past few years. This has allowed the company to capitalize on its new concept, while ecommerce companies have found an enhanced source of revenue through targeted listing.
  • Targeted pins (Pinterest): Pinterest decided to become serious about advertising and it officially became on of the favourite platforms for ecommerce companies to promote their products. Pinterest was well known for being a popular platform for product discovery, as users tended to pin the products they liked. This changed the last year, as it has also become a platform of purchases, doubling the number of people who base their purchasing decisions on the pins they come across.
  • Goal-based bidding ads (Snapchat): Snapchat created a new type of ad, with its unique mobile platform focusing on engagement. Goal-based bidding ads were aiming to make users spend more time on the creative ads, grabbing their attention in the most engaging ways. For example, users may swipe through the ad to play a game, which makes a clever way to appeal to them without relying on traditional advertising methods.

Right ad at the right place at the right time

One of the most successful ways for Google and other platforms to increase their revenue was the focus on the users and their input on each platform.

Google now counts a $679B market capitalisation with its focus on user-typed input, words that help ads become more targeted.

Snapchat already counts a $25B market capitalization in just two years and this can be attributed to its focus on user-uploaded input, the images that make ads more relevant for their audience.

The analysis of data and the idea of having users be the central focus of the platform to create more targeted ads is expected to grow advertising options even further. From a user’s point of view, this increases the chances to make the ads more relevant and less annoying, which is still important in an online world full of irrelevant noise.

The future of voice search

Voice search was a major feature of last year’s Internet Trends Report, and the 2017 Report builds on this. Since 2016, voice has increasingly entered into the consciousness of search experts and marketers, but we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what it can do.

The rise of mobile has made voice searches more popular in turn, and it’s interesting to note that 20% of mobile queries are made via voice. This indicates that voice search is becoming increasingly a part of our everyday habits.

Moreover, it has been observed that almost 70% of requests in Google Assistant are carried out in natural language, which serves as a good reminder on the way that voice can replace typing on several occasions.

Moreover, voice recognition has shown great signs of improvement in recent years, with Google’s machine learning reaching an accuracy rate of 95%.

There is a big challenge ahead for voice search providers to equal the accuracy of text-based searches, in order to convince people to trust voice functions even more.

Smart home hubs with in-built voice assistants have also seen great growth in the last year. A closer look at Amazon Echo’s installed base over the last two years indicates that consumers are exploring how voice can become an integral part of their daily lives.

It is expected that the applications of voice will expand even more in years to come, with communication, shopping and entertainment being key areas of growth.

Overview

As advertising giants search for new ways to maintain their growth, marketers should keep seeking the best methods to reach their target audience.

The variety of ad platforms nowadays brings an opportunity for more creative advertising and it’s important to consider how the use of data, the domination of mobile and new types of advertising can lead to the most effective results.

Measuring ROI on these new forms of advertising is still a challenge, but the fact that most of the industry is aware of this issue brings us closer to a time where this problem will be solved.