Monday, 27 January 2014

Tips For Building A Strong Content Marketing Plan

Reaching consumers is tougher than ever with so many businesses clamoring for attention. Providing good, attention-grabbing content is the key to being heard over all the noise. But how does your business craft a consistent, effective content marketing strategy?
According to a pair of studies hosted by Marketing Profs and the Content Marketing Institute, nearly half of all B2B marketers have no content strategy. More than half of all B2C marketers lack a strategy for content marketing. This means businesses and marketers who take time to plan their content marketing for 2014 will have an advantage over their competition.
As you begin a new year with high hopes for your marketing efforts, here are a few tips you can follow to create a content marketing plan that will yield results.

Content Calendar
All a marketer needs to create a content calendar is a blank calendar. There are several tools you can use, which are mentioned below, but the biggest work in a content calendar is the pre-planning you’ll do prior to marking up your calendar.
First you’ll need to determine the dates of your major events in 2014. Is there a special luncheon or seasonal sale you’d like to promote? Note that, as well as any peak sales seasons you’ll want to take advantage of. You’ll likely want to promote each date more than once, so when you begin choosing dates on your calendar, you’ll be able to choose several posting dates leading up to each big day.
If you’d prefer a more comprehensive content calendar tool, here are a few worth noting.
  • Kapost is among the most popular content calendar tools, allowing users to assign team TISI -1.49% members, who can check off items as they complete them. But with plans starting at $95 per month per user, Kapost may be a much more robust tool than many businesses need.
  • WordPress’s Editorial Calendar Plugin is a great option for current users of WordPress as a content management system (CMS). Using the editorial calendar, WordPress users can get an overview of when each blog will post to allow them to identify any gaps or overlaps. While this tool is designed specifically for blog posts, it can provide a good jumping-off point as businesses begin to create a content calendar.
  • Google GOOG -2.01% Docs provides a selection of editorial calendar templates that can be used and saved to a shared Google Drive. Once uploaded, the calendar can be shared and updated by all permitted team members.
Collaboration Tools
In addition to planning posts, any business that has multiple team members working on projects needs a collaboration tool. Files can be uploaded and shared, tasks can be marked as complete, and workers can communicate over an interface similar to the social media tools workers use every day.
Here are a couple of the most popular collaboration tools.
  • Basecamp starts at $20 per month, but it comes with a 60-day free trial to allow businesses to see if it meets their specific needs. With Basecamp, each project gets its own page, where users can collaborate, upload files, check off items on a to-do list, and more.
  • Team Gantt uses the Gantt chart style of planning often used by project managers. But this solution adds e-mail reminders, collaboration capabilities, and more.
Incorporate Other Media
Too often content strategies focus solely on written content, but today’s consumers respond to imagery as much, if not more than, text-based content. Infographics continued to grow in popularity in 2013 and will likely become even more popular in 2014. By adding posts to YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram to its plans, a business can grow its market even further in 2014.
Another way to engage visitors and attract attention is through short explainer videos. Powtoon provides a free creation tool, as well as advice on how to create your own animated videos. Even on paid animation sites, businesses can create an animated video themselves at a fraction of the price a production company would charge.
Infographics are another tool that initially had business owners perplexed. Luckily, numerous online tools have emerged to help businesses complete the task. and both let businesses create infographics themselves, incorporating both text and vivid images.
Measure Results
Analytics and tracking should be a part of any marketing campaign, with results regularly gathered and reported. This insight can help a business redirect its campaign when certain elements aren’t working, ensuring success and boosting ROI.
Social media analytics are a great way to get information on campaigns specific to various social media sites, but many businesses can’t. Google Analytics can help provide insight on consumers’ search habits, both on PCs and mobile devices. For social media campaigns, though, HootSuite puts a variety of analytics in one place, with reports customized to a business’s needs.

SEO, Social Media techniques

Online marketing has changed dramatically in the past few years. When Google released search their Panda and Penguin algorithm updates , many website owners were sent scrambling as they watched their site’s rank slip.
But not all online marketers found Google’s updates to be devastating. Those who built a strong foundation in solid, white hat online marketing practices weren’t affected like marketers who cut corners and tried to game the system. These sites found their rankings plummet, and deservedly so.
Unfortunately, there were also those website owners who were stuck in the middle. Companies and individuals without a dedicated marketing team to test and tweak their strategies also saw their rankings dive.  Most of the websites in this category were run by business owners focused on day to day operations. Marketing is only a small fraction of daily operations, which means they didn’t have the time to understand the practices and testing that goes into online marketing. Instead, these business owners picked up techniques here and there, but were often unaware of how and when to use different practices. If this sounds like you, this overview can help you understand basic online marketing practices and how to use them.

Understanding the Basics of Building an Online Marketing Strategy 
Building a successful online marketing strategy is just like building anything – it starts with a solid foundation. That foundation comes from understanding three basics of online marketing:
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
But knowing what each facet does for your website isn’t enough. As many people discovered after the recent Google updates, applying even well-established marketing techniques incorrectly way can hurt your ranking. To maximize their benefits, you also need to understand their shortcomings.
Search Engine Optimization
When people think of online marketing and the search engines, SEO is usually the first thing that comes to mind. SEO is used to create a site that the search engines will rank as one of the most relevant pages for a given term. The fact is, 95 percent of searchers click on a page that appears on the first page results for Google, Yahoo! or Bing. You can see that search rank is a big deal!
Building a solid SEO strategy consists primarily of selecting relevant keywords and providing valuable content related to those keywords. In the past, SEO was driven by factors like keyword placement, keywords density, and even how many times a keyword was used to link to that page.
But the search engines quickly discovered that keywords could be easily manipulated. A page that had nothing to do with a keyword could be ranked in top three, just by optimizing the page. Today, this means that sites who rely solely on keywords are often ignored by the search engines.
Instead, SEO should include:
  • Relevant Keywords
  • Valuable Content that is Shared
  • A Website that Loads Quickly
  • Both Images & Content
  • Backlinks from Respected Websites
Content Marketing
Content marketing is not a new concept. In fact, John Deere started the trend in 1895 when they released The Furrow, an agricultural magazine. Other companies like Jell-O and Michelin followed suit with recipe books and automotive tips. Content marketing is important because it helps build your brand and inspire confidence in your company. In fact, six out of ten consumers say that after reading a custom publication, they feel better about the company.
Online content marketing has expanded the field to include blogs, training videos, podcasts, and even video games. But like every other online strategy, content marketing has its downsides. Low quality content is the most common mistake and can affect your rankings and damage your brand. For example, content riddled with grammar and spelling errors makes you look careless and unprofessional. Providing statements without verifying the facts can make you look foolish. Remember that the content you put on your site might be the first impression a prospective client gets of your company.
Another mistake many businesses make is to pull away from content marketing all together. This likely results from a trend against guest blogging prior to the recent Google updates. Aggressive marketers were creating guest blog posts, and then submit them to anyone who would publish them in return for a backlink to their site. These backlinks were thought to be the perfect marriage of content marketing and good SEO.
Google, however, thought differently. They saw poor quality content of no value used for nothing more than backlinks. So Google took action against these aggressive marketers, and online marketers became concerned. Many dropped guest blogging and content marketing entirely, worried that their ranks would fall.
But Google never said guest blogging would result in poor rankings. They said marketers should provide valuable content and host it on reputable sites. Which should have been the plan for most marketers to being with.
Social Media Marketing
For some, social media is nothing more than a way to stay in touch with old friends. But for businesses, social media is a way to tie SEO and content marketing together. Search engines take into consideration the number of shares a page receives when it ranks that particular piece of content.
Social media is also quickly becoming the primary way content is shared. Sites like Twitter, Google+, Stumble Upon, and Facebook all allow consumers to share valuable content with others in their network. Research shows people are more likely to trust content shared from people they know, so a share is akin to a 4 star rating!
A common mistake in social media marketing is thinking a large number of followers is all you need. In fact, many businesses have sprouted up offering to sell you 100 or 1000 ‘real’ friends or fans. Keep in mind that friends and fans are not enough – you need to build engagement. Friends that are purchased are often not your target demographic or are fake accounts. Neither will help you accomplish your goals.
In order to make the most of a social media marketing strategy, you need to interact with your fans and create a true community. Show that you are accessible by allowing people to ask questions, voice concerns, and even complain. Then address these issues in a professional manner. Provide them with content that interesting, not just promotional. Remember, social media is first of all social!
These three components are just the foundation of building a successful online marketing strategy. But without an understanding of how these three areas lay the groundwork for your overall strategy, you could find your efforts wasted. By building a solid online marketing foundation, you can begin to build a successful strategy that works for your business.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Are PDFs Optimal For SEO? The Pros And Cons

I expect that most everyone working in SEO knows that PDFs are indexable by search engines. PDFs can also appear with an authorship-rich snippet in Google SERPs. But, just because a file format can be indexed doesn’t always mean that it’s the ideal approach. Today, I’d like to explore the pros and cons of PDFs from an SEO perspective.

The Pros Of Using PDFs

There are some pros to using PDFs. Besides ease of use, they can help with indexing because these documents contain meta data, links, indexable content and authorship attributes.
1. Easy to Create
PDFs can be very helpful for marketers, especially those with smaller teams or limited resources. They’re easy to create — just save your document from Word, Illustrator, etc., as a PDF. Press releases, case studies, product data sheets and more can quickly be converted to an essentially web-ready format. For those without any HTML programming knowledge, PDFs for certain document types can be a fast way to publish web-based content.
2. Contain Meta Data
PDFs also contain meta data, such as meta keywords and descriptions. You can find and edit the meta information under Properties in the File menu in Adobe Acrobat. While meta data doesn’t have a high impact on SEO anymore, I like to think of the meta description as your opportunity to craft just the right description that will compel a searcher to choose your website in the SERPs, and I’d rather write my own description than have a search engine choose it for me.
3. Contain Links
Like web pages, PDFs can also contain links, and those links can be followed by search engine bots. These links can contain anchor text, as well.
4. Indexable Content
Perhaps the most attractive pro of using PDFs is that the content within the PDF is generally readable and indexable by search engines. However, not all PDFs have readable content. To ensure that the text is readable, it should be created as text, not as an image, making it ideal to create the PDF from the originating program, like Word or Illustrator.
5. Authorship Applied
Also like HTML pages, authorship can be identified and inferred by Google for PDFs. However, as with HTML pages, authorship will only show for the first author listed, so it’s important to be sure that the preferred author is listed first. Also, the PDF must be an identified “contributor” site in Google+ for that author.

The Cons Of Using PDFs

There are a number of drawbacks to using PDFs when it comes to navigation and lack of control regarding document length, page content, document organization, code editing, structured markup and tracking.
1. Lack of Navigation
One of my greatest concerns about relying too heavily on PDFs for website content is that PDFs often lack site navigation. This means that when a site visitor arrives at the website, they have no simple way to reach other pages on the site. So if the PDF happens to rank well in organic search and a searcher finds the link and arrives at the PDF, how can that visitor easily access other content on your site?
2. Length of Document
Because it’s so easy to save a document as a PDF file, it’s not common to break up a PDF into multiple, smaller documents. For example, in the case of a whitepaper or report, the PDF could range from a few pages to hundreds of pages. This isn’t really ideal for SEO in some cases because longer documents contain more text and often multiple topics. This means that one PDF document, which will equate to one URL, may contain a lot of content that normally might be broken up into multiple website pages in HTML.
3. Lack of Page Organization/Control
Certainly one of the greatest benefits of using a content management system for a website is page organization and control. PDFs, however, don’t often work within the organizational structures of CMS as pages but rather as downloads. So, relying on PDFs as page content isn’t ideal simply from a page organization and control perspective.
4. Lack of Code Editing Capabilities
Certainly one of the benefits of HTML pages is the flexibility that HTML authors have to edit the website code. For instance, images can be optimized for search through tags and other options in HTML, but images cannot be optimized as well in a PDF. This also makes PDFs less than ideal for 508 compliance as well because you cannot add an “alt” tag to each image within the PDF.
5. Can’t Implement Structured Markup
Structured markup and the rich snippets they can generate have been shown through various studies to improve SERP visibility and click-through rate in organic search. But PDFs don’t work the same way that HTML does — authors cannot apply structured markup to the content because of the way the PDF file type works.
In my estimation, that’s a true disadvantage of PDFs. For instance, what if your PDF contains recipes? You won’t be able to use structured markup around those recipes, therefore excluding those recipes from Google’s recipe view in organic search and preventing those recipes from showing recipe rich snippets.
6. Lack of Tracking Mechanisms
I find the greatest disadvantage of using PDFs to be the lack of tracking mechanisms I can apply to PDF documents. Google Analytics can perform tracking through onclick event tracking for PDF downloads, but other tracking within the PDF is not as simple. Additionally, there may be other tracking mechanisms your site uses, such as a marketing automation system. The tracking code for these systems also would not be able to be added to the PDF.
Unlike with HTML pages, PDFs make it much more difficult to fully understand how a visitor is progressing through your site, which is less than ideal.


In the end, PDFs are clearly not the best option for SEO. This doesn’t mean they are bad for SEO, but they simply don’t put the control for SEO in the hands of the webmaster per se. To realize the greatest benefits from SEO, where applicable, I do recommend moving content from PDF to HTML site pages, giving webmasters greater control, flexibility and the best opportunity at SEO and visibility and tracking advantages.

Friday, 24 January 2014

How to Filter Unwanted Content in Google

There are various ways on how to filter unwanted content in
Google. In this case, unwanted content may refer to advertisements and other search results that do not make a lot of sense. In other words, the results may be of little as per the search made. The reasons behind filtering unwanted content vary from one person to the other.
While other internet users may want to block unwanted content to have a new surfing experience, other users do so for other purposes. For instances, parents will need to block unwanted adult content search results in the home computers to ensure their children do not access the same. On the other hand, users filter unwanted contents to reduce instances of distractions from the topic of search.
Two main ways on how to filter unwanted content in Google involve the use of browser extensions and inbuilt features by the Google developers. The use of either ways depends on the purpose. Notably, they are both effective.

Blocking Unwanted Advertisements
In order to block unwanted advertisements, very many tools can be used to accomplish the same. This trend is very popular among web users. Both Chrome and Firefox users have the option of adding an extension that automatically blocks ads. These extensions are found in the add-ons category. Alternatively, other people prefer to use HOST filters to prevent any advertisement from specific hosts. For instance, Firefox users can implement the widely used Ad block Plus. This is one of the add-ons among the many others that can be used for the same purpose. On the other hand, individuals who prefer to use Chrome there is the Ad Block add-on. One only needs to add it to the browser and it will block ads.
Fortunately, advanced advertisement block add-ons give users the freedom to customize on only the things that they do not want to see while leaving those that they want. Before installing any of the add-ons, one should read the terms and conditions. Additionally, if there is any subscriptions that are required, make sure you have done so.
Google inbuilt feature to block unwanted search results
In the recent past, Google has come up with an algorithm to ensure only important results appear on the first page of the search. The way this feature works is very simple. The user is required to log in into the Google account or sign up for one if he/she is new. After that, the user should just do the normal search. If you visit any of the link results and find out that, it does not have helpful content, return to the previous search results. Look at the options that are available next to that link. You will get a block feature that will block future results from the same site.
For you to be sure that the feature worked, refresh the browser and there you go. In addition to that, there is another option on the browser that will allow you to manage the blocked websites. If in future you would like to visit the site again, you will be able to do so from the “manage blocked websites” option.
Other ways that can be used to filter unwanted content is to ensure that you search for the correct word. This is done by double-checking if you have typed the correct thing. If you still get the unwanted results, you can use the above method.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

ET deals: $350 off Lenovo Flex 20 dual-mode desktop

Lenovo has met with some success lately by taking traditional PC form-factors and then adding some sort of unique tweak that gives you another way to use the system. The company’s Yoga laptops and tablets are undoubtedly the most popular of that bunch, but the Flex desktops are going in a similar direction.

lenovo-ideacentre-flex-20-modes-1060pxThe Flex desktops start with a premium all-in-one PC, complete with Haswell processors, a slim design, and a touchscreen. Rather than sticking it on a boring old stand, Lenovo stuck with a manageable size display (19.5-inches) and gave it a collapsible hinge stand.

A built-in battery was also added to give you two hours of time away from the wall socket, perfect for moving the machine between rooms, showing something to another person, or just getting some downtime playing touch games on the couch. When you’re ready to get back to the usual computing tasks, it comes with wireless keyboard and mouse and has all the features and performance needed to handle the usual PC work.

This is one of their newer lineups and hasn’t received much in the way of discounts, but right now you can get a pretty hefty $350 discount on a model equipped with a 4th gen Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB HDD, and other usual features like Windows 8, Bluetooth, 802.11n WiFi, USB 3.0, and more. This coupon knocks the price down to just $749 with free shipping, yielding the lowest price we’ve seen yet.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Be A Leader In Your Industry: Help Others

Think about the qualities that define industry leaders. They are knowledgeable, well-connected, credible, and amiable — among other things. And, because of these traits, they’re always in a position to help others in the industry. (Whether they actually do or not is another story.)
It’s this potential to help that contributes to a leader’s authority and credibility, and it results in something else: Helping others can allow you to differentiate yourself and naturally attract people to your brand in a meaningful way.

Three Benefits of Helping Others

By simply sharing your knowledge and resources, you stand to gain three benefits — benefits that will position you as an industry leader while also ensuring the longevity of your business.

1. Create Brand Advocates

You can garner valuable brand advocates by simply providing help where help is needed. We recently took this concept to heart and hired someone who is solely responsible for helping our partners. Whether it’s providing a press opportunity, a referral, or simply valuable information, it’s that person’s job to find opportunities to help someone out.

As a result of simply helping our partners, we’ve gained a community of brand advocates who consistently refer potential clients our way, bringing us valuable opportunities.

2. Decrease Barriers

When you make the effort to help someone, you are given the opportunity to form a meaningful relationship, rather than a purely transactional one.

Take my relationship with Scott Gerber, “super connector” and founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council. When we met two years ago, we could have rushed into a strictly business relationship, which wouldn’t have lasted long. Instead, Scott and I have made a meaningful connection over the past two years by giving each other feedback on projects and providing introductions. As an added benefit, we were recently able to make a seamless transactional deal because of the trust previously established between the two of us.

It’s relationships like this — larger, meaningful partnerships — that will differentiate you from competitors and provide you with the credibility to make similarly valuable connections in the future.

3. Encourage Employees to Do the Same

By helping others, you’re setting an example for your employees to do the same. This means employees will be more likely to go out of their way to help clients, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

Consider the debt collection agency CFS2, for example. It has a simple strategy: help the people they collect from pay their debts. By helping people create résumés, coaching them through difficult times, and providing other resources, CFS2 is outperforming competitors by 200 percent. This strategy is great not only because it reflects the company’s goodwill, but by sharing its knowledge and resources with others, CFS2 positions itself as an expert in personal finances. If your brand can garner a reputation based on both amiability and expertise, you’ll have more than just a profitable business.

Five Ways to Help

Obviously, there are many ways to help your business partners and industry connections. If you’re looking for inspiration, below are five ways to showcase your expertise and networking abilities through helping others.

1. Recognize them. When you have the opportunity to recognize someone, take it. This can mean mentioning a partner’s good work in a thought leadership article or talking about a company at an industry conference.

2. Bring business their way. If someone asks you to suggest a particular product or service, give a potential lead or business partner an introduction. It takes about five minutes to look up LinkedIn connections, and the person you recommend just might return the favor.

3. Volunteer your time. Even the busiest people can make the time to help others out. Gary Vaynerchuk recently offered to help up-and-coming bloggers by doing an interview for their sites. Even if you aren’t as well-known as Gary, keep track of the people you can help and reach out to them.

4. Share knowledge. This is the easiest way to help if you lack a personal brand. Recognize some common problems people are having, and find a way to connect the dots for them. For example, a lot of people have told me they have trouble connecting APIs and Web services. Because I simply know about Zapier and its services, I’ve been able to introduce people to a product that saves them both time and money.

5. Give feedback. Too often, people tell their peers what they want to hear rather than actually giving valuable, constructive feedback that could help them. If you provide feedback that could potentially improve a person’s business, that person will look to you in the future.

In a sea of aspiring industry leaders looking for quick transactions and easy credibility, it’s no wonder that business leaders can stand tall above the rest through the simple act of helping others. By helping your partners, potential business leads, or other industry connections, you not only win their gratitude, but you’ve positioned yourself as a person with knowledge, resources, and credibility — the makings of an industry leader.