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  • 2018 SEO Refresh: Best Practices for Your SEO Strategy This Year

    Monday, December 18, 2017 by

    New Year SEO Refresh Plan for 2018Your SEO Refresh Plan: Top Recommendations and Best Practices for 2018

    For as long as Google’s been a widely used verb, SEO has been one of the most important marketing tools available to businesses of all types and sizes. That’s not a fact that’s likely to change anytime soon. Even for purchases made in a physical store, people often start by looking up information online. Gaining visibility in the search engines takes time and work, but it’s work worth doing (or paying for) for the results it can bring. And the longer you keep at it, the more competitive you’ll be. But SEO isn’t static. You can’t just keep doing the same thing year after year. Every year brings new trends, updates, and best practices. To make sure you don’t fall behind, here are some of the main things to be planning for in your 2018 SEO strategy. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    The Basics

    Here’s the good news: some things haven’t changed. The most important parts of a strong SEO strategy in 2017 are the same in 2018, and they’re likely to still be best practices in 2019. These are the basics you can consistently count on.  

    1. Fresh, high-quality content is a must.

    Not long ago, Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist confirmed that fresh content is one of the most important ranking factors their algorithm. To anyone paying attention, this is no surprise. Regularly publishing new content on your website shows search engines that your website is still being updated. Covering a number of topics relevant to your industry provides opportunities to rank for a growing list of keywords and topic areas in the search engines. And high-quality content will attract the shares and links that search engines equate with authority. SEO isn’t the only reason to create content, but it’s definitely a good reason to keep up with it. You should still use content marketing as a key part of your SEO efforts this year, and if anything, plan on giving it an even higher priority in the coming year than you did before.  

    2. Strategic link building is important.

    Creating really great content is a good step for earning links, but you usually have to do more than just hit “publish” to get them. Link building is therefore still an important part of doing SEO in 2018. Google is upfront about links being another one of the most important ranking factors their algorithm looks at, but they can’t just be from anywhere. The quality of the links you get is more important than the number of them. Make sure your SEO strategy includes a link building plan that emphasizes websites that have a lot of authority in Google’s eyes and relevance to your topic. Most SEO tools can help you research the authority of websites in your topic area, and generally speaking, sites that end in .org or .gov are often a good bet. You can earn links by offering to write relevant guest posts, by building relationships with other site owners, and by doing something newsworthy that gets coverage (like a contest or charity event). Link building is tricky because it requires convincing someone else (often strangers) to want to do something that benefits your business. But every time you earn a high-quality link back your website, the benefits you reap will be long term and significant.  

    3. Your website must offer a good UX (on all devices).

    If you do everything else right and get people onto your website only for them to get frustrated with the way your website is designed and bounce, the search engine algorithms notice. They want to direct people to high-quality pages that provide searchers with what they’re looking for. Factors like how long they spend on your website once they get there and if they visit more than one page tell the search engine algorithms whether or not people are satisfied with what they find on your website. Reps from Google have confirmed that RankBrain, a big part of how websites are ranked these days, measures when “someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back.” While the quality of your content and how relevant it is to what they were looking for when they clicked both play important roles in keeping people around, your UX can make or break whether or not people bother to stay on your website for longer than a few seconds. Great content can’t overcome a bad experience. And while it’s not a new issue, each and every year, the experience you offer on mobile devices becomes more important both to how your visitors experience the website and how Google views it. When you’re focusing on UX, make it a priority to design for a good mobile experience as well.  

    What’s New for SEO in 2018?

    So that’s the easy part (sort of). A lot of doing SEO well this year well will mean sticking with the things that made for good SEO before. But there are some newer trends and changes in Google that website owners should have on their radar moving into the next year.  

    1. The role of voice search

    How people search online keeps evolving. It seemed surprising to many when mobile searches overtook desktop ones recently, but the next big shift has snuck up on us already. Over 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search every single day. Voice searches now make up 20% of all searches on mobile devices. When you’re planning your content strategy for 2018, think about how people use voice search versus type search. When you ask your phone something out loud, you probably don’t use keywords – you ask a question or state a command in a full sentence. Instead of saying “austin weather” you’d say something like “what’s the weather forecast in Austin today?” For businesses, that means a shift away from a focus on keywords specifically (although they don’t have to go away entirely). Think in terms of conversational phrases and statements as well as keywords. Aim to create content that’s based around the kind of questions you expect your customers will ask using voice search. Oh, and aim to optimize your content to show up in one of the rich snippets in Google that we’re about to talk about.  

    2. Rich snippets (and other rich results)

    You’ve probably noticed in your own searches on Google that search engine results pages for a lot of keywords now include a lot more than the list of ten links that used to make up a SERP. In addition to the ads that have long shared the space with natural results, you’ll now see alongside, on top of, and otherwise scattered around the list of links, rich results that are set apart from the main list with images, map locations, text in a box, and more. google rich results In some cases, you have to go pretty far down the page to get to the natural results that SEO strategists spend so much time trying to rank in. These rich results can be a distraction from your website in the results, but you can try to make them work for you by optimizing your site to show up as a rich result. There are a few tactics you can try to accomplish that: Try to ask and answer basic questions high up in your content. The answer snippets now common in the results of many question searches visually dominate those pages. Optimizing for them is a mixed bag; on the one hand, if the answer is entirely contained in the box on the search results page, people are less likely to click through. But if they’re going to click on any results, there’s a good chance it’s going to be the most obvious one in the answer box. featured snippet Use schema markup. Schema markup helps tell Google what type of content is included on your page and identify the different parts of it they’re most likely to pull out to feature in a rich search result.  For example, a recipe will be more likely to have the image featured on the search results page along with information like the number of calories, the time it takes to make, or the rating it’s received from users, if applicable. All that information makes visitors more likely to click, especially if your page is the only one that has it featured. recipe rich snippet If you’re a local business, prioritize getting featured in the map cluster. Local SEO has always been a little different than SEO for national and international businesses, but this has only become more the case as rich snippets have taken over the SERPs – particularly when it comes to the map snippet. One of the most important goals local businesses should have in search is trying to get into the 3-pack of businesses that are featured on the map that shows up at the top of the page, with the business information right below it. That means a focus on things like directory listings, customer reviews, and making sure your on-site optimization emphasizes mentions of your city, state, and address. And it’s always a good practice to go through the act of searching the terms that are most relevant to your business periodically to see what’s going on with the results page over time. If in six months your most important search term suddenly starts delivering rich video results over text results, then you’ll want to know that to shift your strategy accordingly.  

    3. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

    As technical as the term sounds, the concept behind latent semantic indexing (LSI) is pretty simple. The old advice was to pick one target keyword per page and really focus on it. That led to lots of sloppy keyword stuffing and low-quality content, so for a long time Google’s been finding ways for the algorithm to identify what pages are about without basing it on something like the number of times a keyword is used. LSI looks at the relationship between different words used on a page to better understand the overall topic it’s getting at, rather than focusing on specific keywords. So when the algorithm comes upon a website that uses the word “bat” a bunch, it looks for other related keywords or signals to help it figure out if the page is talking about the small, flying mammal, the tool regularly used in baseball, or an acronym like the British American Tobacco company. What LSI means for SEO strategists is that you don’t need to worry so much about focusing on a particular keyword. Using different variations of a term in a piece of content, along with the many related words that are sure to come up naturally, will do a lot of the work for you. But if you want to further optimize your content for LSI, then do keyword research to discover the terms Google sees as related to the focus term you have in mind. Google’s Keyword Planner tool can help with that, as can the free LSI Keyword Generator.  The autosuggest terms you see when you’re starting to type your term in Google can help as well, along with the “searches related to” suggestions that show up on the bottom of the search page. If there’s a natural way to incorporate these various keywords into your content, they can further signal to Google what your content’s about and what they should rank it for.  

    4. Mobile-first index

    Google’s been letting us know for a while that they’re giving more priority to mobile. They announced a couple of years ago that whether or not websites were mobile friendly would affect their performance in search results.  Now they’re going a step further by making the mobile version of websites the primary one that algorithms look at. You’ve been hearing for years to make your website mobile friendly, so this news probably shouldn’t change much about your strategy. If your website isn’t already mobile friendly, then make that happen ASAP. If you built out a mobile version that doesn’t include the content and pages your desktop website includes, then work on moving your full website over to the mobile version you offer. If, like a lot of businesses, your website is responsive and delivers up a mobile-optimized version of the content visitors see on your desktop site, then you’re set.  

    Conclusion

    There will almost certainly be additional changes to how people search and how Google’s algorithms work in 2018, so in addition to taking all this into account in your strategy for the year, keep an eye on the search engine news that arises. And pay attention to what you see in your own searches online.  After all, everyone reading this is a searcher as well as a search optimizer. One of the best ways to stay on top of the trends is to simply pay attention as you see them happening. As always, prioritize your visitors most of all. That means continuing to make useful content and a strong user experience your top priorities. The things your visitors like about the site will always be the main things Google cares about.
  • 2018 New Year’s Resolutions for Website Owners

    Monday, December 18, 2017 by

    New Years Resolutions for Website Owners10 New Year’s Resolutions for Website Owners

    Whether you own a website to promote a business or to share your thoughts with the world, maintaining it takes a lot of work – especially if you want it to reach a lot of people and keep them coming back. It can be easy after a while to go on autopilot and let the site basically run itself, but when you do that there are inevitably important to-dos you’re forgetting. With a New Year comes the reminder to do all the important tasks that need to be done that are easily forgotten in the day-to-day work of keeping the website up and running. To make your website better as you go into 2018, consider these 10 New Year’s resolutions for website improvement. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    1. Do a site audit.

    When was the last time you went through the whole website page-by-page to look for errors or other issues? If it’s been a while (or if you’ve never done it at all), then schedule a site audit now. The only way to catch every little thing that needs fixing on your website is to go through and find the issues yourself. Look for typos and spelling errors, broken images, pages that load slowly, or things that don’t look right on different devices and in different browsers. It’s slow, tedious work, but that’s why it’s a good idea to get it on the calendar now when you’re in the mode for New Year’s improvement. Make the small fixes as you go and make note of the others to return to later, but set them down on your calendar so you don’t let them slide. At the end of this project, you’ll have a better, cleaner website that provides a more seamless experience to your visitors.  

    2. Do a security check.

    It seems like we’re constantly hearing about new security breaches. While bigger brands and government institutions are bigger targets for hackers and cyber thieves, that doesn’t mean smaller businesses and website owners can stay complacent and just hope for the best when it comes to security. Commit in 2018 to making your website more secure. That’s a good idea for all websites, and doubly important for any business website that accepts payment or other sensitive information from customers. You owe it to your customers and followers to keep their data protected. HostGator CodeGuard Time Machine SnappyStart by making sure your website is backed up. If something does happen to it, you want to know you have a relatively easy way to restore it without having to start from scratch. You can invest in automatic backups with most hosting providers (HostGator offers CodeGuard for less than $2 a month). You should also look into a security program like Sitelock, which regularly scans your website for vulnerabilities so you can proactively take care of them before a hacker gets the chance to use them against you. If you’re ready to get a little more technical, review and complete the seven website security steps outlined here. By doing things like keeping all your software updated and fixing any vulnerabilities in your code, you can make it that much harder for any hackers to touch your website.  

    3. Do a thorough analysis of your analytics.

    Even if you already check Google Analytics regularly (which is a good habit to have as a website owner), it’s useful at the beginning of a New Year to do a more thorough review of the data. Zoom out to look at larger time parameters than you usually do. Look for trends in the data for the entire year, and see how they compare to last year and the year before. By looking at the big picture and taking the time to really sit with the analytics and perform a thorough analysis, you can find some important insights and takeaways that you might miss just looking at the weekly or monthly results. Use the analytics to get an overall feel for the pages that are doing their job and those that aren’t and investigate to figure out why. Expect to walk away from your analytics overview with a list of action items you can take to improve the results on your website.  

    4. Change all your passwords.

    General advice on this subject is that you should be changing your passwords once or twice a year. But most people don’t actually bother. If it’s been awhile since you updated the passwords for your various logins, then it’s time to go ahead and make a change. If you have employees or other colleagues that work on the website, urge them to do the same. And while it makes your life harder, go ahead and make the passwords for your various logins unique – don’t use the same password to access your FTP that you use for the WordPress login that you use for your credit card accounts – if a hacker figures out one of them, they gain access to all of them. Clearly that would be bad news.Password Generator

    5. Find and update all broken links.

    Have you ever clicked on a link only to land on a 404 page? Or worse, an error page with no information at all? Broken links cause frustration and are often one of the culprits behind high bounce rates. And inevitably, any website that’s been around for a while is going to have some. You can use a free tool online that will automatically check your whole website for broken links so you know where to go in and fix or remove them. While you’re at it, revisit your 404 page. Is it helpful? Is it boring? It doesn’t have to be. You can make the experience of landing on a wrong page on your website useful and even fun by creating a great 404 page. Ideally, not many people will end up there, but if they do, they’ll be less likely to leave your site altogether.  

    6. Do UX Testing.

    The way people use the internet is changing all the time. Even if your website offered an intuitive experience when you first designed it, that could have changed by now based on changing user habits. The only way to ensure your website provides the kind of experience people find easy to use and that it’s helping drive them toward the actions you most want them to take is to do user testing. Bring in some customers or friends to provide outside eyes. Have them spend some time navigating the website. Make observations on how they use the website and whether or not they seem to have a hard time finding anything they’re looking for. If you have an e-commerce business, have them test out making a couple of purchases to see if they find anything difficult about that process. And make sure you include mobile testing as part of the process – many of your visitors will be coming to your website from mobile devices, so it’s crucial that you provide a good experience there as well.  

    7. Decide if it’s time for a website redesign.

    hostgator web design servicesEvery so often, your website will need a full-on website redesign. If it’s a been awhile and you feel like you’re due for a refresher, then really think about what you want to get out of your website. Clearly define your goals and think about things like the visual style, layout, and color schemes you like on other sites and might want to emulate. Then start looking into web design services. A new website for a New Year can be an exciting way to refresh and improve upon what came before.  

    8. Make your website more mobile friendly.

    Mobile internet use has overtaken desktop browsing. Having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional. If you haven’t already taken steps to make your website intuitive and user friendly for visitors on a mobile device, then that should be a top priority in 2018. Make one of your resolutions not to put it off any longer.  

    9. Start a blog (if you don’t have one yet).

    Blogging gets a lot of attention in marketing circles for good reason. Fresh content gives you more chances to engage with your visitors and gives them more reason to keep coming back to the website. If you’re trying to build an email list, promising regular content updates gives people an incentive to sign up. And since Google likes fresh content, blogging is good for SEO. Be warned that blogging takes a lot of time to do well (or money if you opt to hire out a lot of the work), so if you make this one of your New Year’s resolutions, you should be prepared to really commit to it. Before you start writing, create a blogging strategy. Think about the types of topics you want to cover and how often you plan to post (don’t be overly ambitious here – your blog won’t go far if you burn out soon after you start it). If you can commit the time and/or budget to maintaining a blog, it can be a powerful tool to make your website more popular and valuable.  

    10. Update your marketing plan.

    The web is a crowded place. If you want your website to keep getting visitors (or start getting visitors), you have to put some work into making it easy for them to find your website. The beginning of a New Year is a good time to revisit your marketing plan and make any needed updates. To start, evaluate what’s working now. In the Acquisition section of Google Analytics, you can see how people come to your website. This gives you a snapshot of how well your SEO and social promotion efforts are working out for you. Combine those analytics with the metrics provided by any marketing software you use (e.g. a CRM or email marketing software) to get a bigger picture of how well your current efforts are paying off.Reviewing Acquisition Overview in Google Analytics Also consider if there are any new online marketing techniques or channels you want to try this year. If there’s a social media channel you’ve avoided so far that’s blowing up in popularity, maybe 2018 is the time to develop a presence there. The online marketing world is constantly changing, so use this opportunity to explore new trends and see if they’ll work for your website. We can’t guess at what will happen in 2018, but you can make sure you’re going into it with a stronger, better website. Use the beginning of the year to do some clean up and make some improvements. Your website and its visitors will both benefit from the changes.
  • The Business Guide to Advertising on Instagram

    Monday, December 18, 2017 by
    instagram advertising

    Instagram Advertising Guide

    Instagram is now one of the main social media players, but one that some brands may still not be entirely familiar with. In spite of the image-driven platform’s huge popularity, we still hear a lot more about Facebook and Twitter. For a lot of brands though, Instagram is a place you should definitely be. Create Your Blog

    Why Brands Should Advertise on Instagram

    If you’re not sure yet if Instagram is right for your brand, here are a few compelling reasons to consider it.

    instagram usage statisticsInstagram’s audience is huge.

    The company reported earlier this year that their numbers had grown to 700 million users. According to Pew Research, nearly a third of all internet users are on the platform. With numbers that big, the chances that someone in your target audience is on Instagram are significant.

    Engagement on the platform is high.

    While Facebook gets a lot of attention for being the social media site used by the most people, Instagram handily beats it in engagement. Brands see four times as much engagement on Instagram as on Facebook. And while audience engagement is good for brands in general, the type on Instagram is especially valuable since it leads to action. 75% of Instagram users take some form of action in response to posts on the platform, whether that’s visiting a brand’s website, performing a search, buying a product, or recommending them to a friend.

    It’s easy if you already use Facebook.

    Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, both social media networks use the same ad platform. If you’re already advertising on Facebook, then getting started with Instagram won’t require learning much new.  

    What Businesses is Instagram Right For?

    With so many different social media sites and advertising platforms, most businesses can’t afford to be everywhere. You have to figure out which platforms are right for your brand specifically. There are two main things to consider to determine if Instagram advertising is a must-have for your brand.

    1. Your industry.

    Instagram isn’t a platform people are likely to turn to when they’re researching the best productivity software for their business. For some B2B brands that create products that aren’t especially visual, the platform can potentially be useful, but it may not be essential. On the other hand, there are a few industries that Instagram is essential for. If your products fall into any of the following categories, Instagram should be an important part of your social media strategy:
    •      Fashion
    •      Food
    •      Beauty
    •      Entertainment
    •      Design
    •      Music
    •      Crafting
    •      Photography
    •      Art
    •      Travel
    Basically, anything that’s visual and/or relates to hobbies and interests people are likely to want to share pictures of is prime fodder for Instagram.

    2. Your target audience.

    We’ve already established that a huge number of people are on Instagram, but they generally skew pretty young. About 60% of adults under 30 use Instagram, while only a third of those from 30-49 and 8% of those 65 and older do. If seniors are your primary target audience, then Instagram is less likely to be important for you than if you’re selling products beloved by young adults. In addition, the platform is more heavily used by women than men. 38% of women are on Instagram, while only 26% of men are. That probably doesn’t mean that a brand focused on men shouldn’t be on the platform at all, but more that those selling to women should make it a particular priority.  

    Types of Instagram Ads

    There are four different types of Instagram ads brands can use.

    1. Photo Ads

    instagram ad typesJust like they sound, photo ads consist primarily of a photo that will show up in a user’s feed. You can include some simple text below the photo and a hyperlinked call-to-action (CTA) that drives people to your website.

    2. Video Ads

    Video ads can last up to 60 seconds and work a lot like photo ads, but with the added movement. You can still include a bit of text at the bottom and a linked CTA to drive traffic your way.

    3. Carousel Ads

    Carousel ads are similar to photo ads, but give you the chance to add several photos that customers can swipe to move between. You can add shots of your products from multiple angles or use them to illustrate a story. Like the other types of ads, you can include a hyperlinked CTA, along with some text at the bottom of the ad.

    4. Instagram Stories Ads

    The Instagram Stories feature gets used by around 250 million people a day. In addition to ads on the main feed, these photo or video ads will show up in between other users’ Instagram Stories.  

    Instagram Targeting

    One of the great things about Instagram advertising being a part of Facebook’s platform is that they have a huge amount of data and impressive targeting options. You can focus your Instagram ads on specific audiences based on:
    • Geographic location – If your focus is local, you can just pay to show ads to those in your area.
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Language
    • Connections – You can nurture current relationships by focusing ads on those who have already interacted with your brand in some form – whether through likes, app use, event attendance, or simply following your account.
    • Education Level
    • Income level
    • Job/Industry
    • Race
    • Parental Status
    • Political Preferences
    • Interests – Between activities and profile information on both Facebook and Instagram, the company has a lot of data on what users are interested in.
    • Behavior – This is based on data for things like how often people click on ads and make purchases online, along with operating systems and devices commonly used.
    • Relationship Status
    In addition to all these targeting options, you can also create a custom audience by uploading a list of customers or leads you already have or by allowing Facebook to access data on who has visited your website or interacted with your app.  

    How Much Does Instagram Advertising Cost?

    As on other social media platforms, your cost will depend a lot on the particulars of your campaign. Your cost can change based on factors like your targeting, the day of the week your ad shows, and the type of ad you choose.  You can choose between paying on a cost-per-impression or cost-per-click basis, depending on whether your primary goal is awareness or conversion. The average CPM (cost per thousand impressions) is $6.70, and the average CPC is between $0.70 and $1. As with most advertising platforms, you can set a maximum on your campaigns and bids to make sure you only pay as much as you’re comfortable with.  

    Instagram Analytics

    As you could probably guess by this point in the post, Instagram Analytics go through the Facebook platform. You access them in the same place you check your Facebook ad analytics. Instagram provides metrics at the campaign, ad set, and individual ad levels. You can see your ad’s reach (how many people viewed it), engagement levels (clicks), and how that relates to the amount spent on it. You can also see how results break down by device type and demographics.  

    How to Get Started Advertising on Instagram

    If you’re already advertising on Facebook, then head to your Facebook Ad Manager. If you’re not, click Create an Ad on Instagram’s business page, and you’ll be directed to Facebook’s Ad Manager (and pre-logged in, if you’re already logged into your Facebook account). instagram create ad Once there, your first step is to choose your objective from one of the options provided. Facebook ads manager for instagram Then you can name your campaign and start getting it set up. instagram advertising goals Choose your country, time zone, and currency. instagram ad setup On the next page, you can define your audience targeting, choose where you’d like your ads to be seen, and set your budget.
    instagram ad targetinginstagram ad set budget
    Finally, you can choose to create an ad anew, or select a post you’ve already shared to be turned into an ad. instagram advertising choose ad type Once you’ve started, do some testing to get a feel for which types of ads perform best. Pay attention to your analytics so you can tweak your approach as you go for better results. Even though the backend is just like Facebook, Instagram is a distinct platform that won’t work in quite the same way as any of your other advertising channels. So take some time to figure out what people respond to there so you can get the most out of it.
  • 2018 New Year’s Resolutions for Bloggers

    Monday, December 18, 2017 by

    new years resolutions for bloggers10 New Year’s Resolutions for Bloggers

    The beginning of a new year is a good time to look back on the year before and find ways to be better. And when you’re a blogger, there are always ways to be better. One good thing about blogging is that the fact of doing the same thing consistently over time means you get a lot of practice and opportunity to learn what works. But it can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day work of blogging and forget to ever take a step back to evaluate what you’ve done so far and take a thoughtful approach moving forward. As we move into 2018, take some time to step back from the writing and do all that other stuff you need to do to be a great blogger. Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions to consider that can help. Create Your Blog

    1. Create a blogging strategy for the coming year.

    Have you ever sat down and worked up a strategy for your blog? If you haven’t, make 2018 the year you do so. If you have, take this opportunity to revisit and update the strategy you have based on what’s been working best for you so far. First, think about the goals you have for your blog. What do you want it to accomplish? If it’s a business blog, you want it to attract potential customers. If it’s a personal blog, you may simply want to reach some like minded people interested in hearing your thoughts. Your blogging strategy will depend on your goals, so make sure you’re clear on what they are first. The next thing to do here is spend some time with your analytics. Look at which of your posts get the most traffic and engagement (e.g. comments, shares, or actions like signing up for your email list or clicking through to another piece of content). Then look for trends in what’s working and what’s not. Once you’ve considered all that, sit down and make a plan. Think about things like the types of topics to cover, how often you plan to post, how long to make your posts, and the content types to make use of. Having a plan will make some of the work of blogging easier in the year to come.  

    2. Try a new marketing technique.

    If you’re putting the work in as a blogger, you want people to see what you’re writing. With so many other blogs out there, you have to commit some time to marketing the blog posts you write. But there are loads of different marketing tactics you can use and most bloggers don’t have the time or funds for all of them. This year, consider branching out to try a new marketing technique to see if it brings a new audience to your blog. It may not work (in which case it can be dropped when you next work on updating your strategy), but if it does it could increase the success of your blog and bring you readers who never would have learned of you otherwise.  

    3. Start creating your own images.

    Blogging isn’t all about the writing. Including images with each blog post is now an expectation, and for good reason – people are 80% more likely to read your content if there’s an image, and it increases retention by 64%. But having any old image included isn’t good enough. If you’ve been turning to stock photography to add visuals to your blog post (and we get it, it is the easiest option), make 2018 the year you reconsider that choice. Original images take more work to create, but they feel more authentic and have been proven to get better results. Committing to original photography or graphic design is one big way you can improve the quality of your blog this year.  

    4. Find and fix all broken links on your website.

    Broken links create a negative user experience, make you look sloppy, and could be contributing to your bounce rate. Identifying them and fixing them is one of those tedious tasks you just have to commit to dealing with every so often. The good news is that the first part of that equation is easy. There are free tools online like Dead Link Checker, that will quickly run a full review on your website to find all the broken links. Then all you have to do is go through and update them all. It takes some time, but it’s worth doing, and this is a good time of year to commit to getting it done.  

    5. Update your web design.

    When was the last time you updated your web design? There’s a decent chance you’re due to revisit it. Do some testing to see if your website offers an intuitive enough user experience. If not, you could be losing visitors who have a hard time finding what they’re looking for or simply don’t know where to go next after reading a blog post.

    mobile vs desktop site visits

    Make sure to include testing on mobile devices. Over half of the time people now spend online is on mobile devices. If your blog offers a great experience on desktop, but a difficult one on your smartphone, then you definitely need to update your web design to be mobile friendly.

    6. Try a new content format.

    Most blogs primarily focus on written content. That’s just the nature of the medium. But there’s no reason you have to stick with written content exclusively. You can share videos, podcasts, or visual content like infographics on your blog. A new year can be a good time to get a little adventurous and consider what other formats could be a good fit for you and your audience.  

    7. Go longer.

    google ranking by word countLonger blog posts take more time, but there’s a lot of research that suggests that people like them and they produce many of the results bloggers see – like more shares and backlinks. If you can find the ongoing time to commit to creating longer content, a switch to more longform blog posts could be a smart move to make in 2018.  

    8. Create a strict calendar to stick to.

    If you’ve been posting sporadically now and then, whenever you find the time, then your blog won’t be reaching its potential. Publishing consistently lets your readers know how often they can expect to see new content when they visit your blog. They’re more likely to come back if they know they’ll see something fresh each time. For most bloggers, the only way that kind of consistency will happen is if you create a content calendar in advance and commit to sticking it to it. It’s hard to do, but that makes it one more way you can set your blog apart from the many that can’t manage it.  

    9. Create (and stick to) a promotion plan.

    Writing, editing, and publishing your content is hard enough. But for a blog to be successful these days, it’s not just enough to push content out, you also have to put time into promoting your content. As with the blogging itself, it’s worth sitting down and really working up a plan. Reviewing Acquisition Overview in Google AnalyticsOnce again, turn to your analytics. Specifically, look at how people are finding your blog. Look at sections of Google Analytics like the acquisition overview and social reach to get a feel for how people are coming to your blog. Based on what the data tells you, you may want to increase your online marketing efforts, or make some changes to your approach. Make this an ongoing part of your process. For every post you publish, plan on spending a certain amount of time promoting it on social media, to your email list, and anywhere else you feel people might benefit from it. Also consider devoting some of your blogging time to writing guest posts or collaborating with other content creators in your space as a way to start reaching new audiences. Spending time on content promotion does take time away from the content you create for your blog, but reaching more people makes the time you spend on your blog posts more worth it. For most bloggers, it will be a worthwhile tradeoff.  

    10. Start affiliate marketing.

    Affiliate marketing isn’t for everybody.  If your blog is already designed to help you sell your business products, adding affiliate links in might muddy your message. But if you’ve been putting work into blogging about something you care about for a long time and have gained an audience, then 2018 could be the year you start monetizing your blog with the help of affiliate marketing. Research brands relevant to the topic you write about and see which ones have an affiliate program. Be strategic in choosing which brands you get involved with – they should have some relationship with the types of topics you cover and sell products you can genuinely recommend (you want to stay authentic). This step will mean having to think creatively about the types of content you create to feature your affiliate clients, but when done well, affiliate marketing can benefit the blogger, the brand, and your audience. If you’re ready to start bringing in some money for your blog, consider if it’s time to make the move. Blogging is a lot of work, but it can be so rewarding. You can make it more rewarding this year if you commit to some New Year’s resolutions that make your blog better and help you achieve more of your goals.
  • Should You Create a Business Blog?

    Monday, December 11, 2017 by
    why create business blog

    Should You Start a Business Blog?

    You hear about it all the time. Businesses are supposed to have a blog. But is blogging really right for your business? The answer is: it depends. Blogging brings a lot of benefits, which is why it gets so much attention in business and marketing publications. But every business should carefully consider whether or not starting a blog makes sense for you. Here are the main things you should know to help you decide.  

    5 Benefits of Creating a Business Blog

    Business blogs are a great marketing tool. Many of the businesses that have taken the step of investing in blogging have seen notable results for their efforts. benefits of blogging for business

    1. Blogging is good for SEO.

    One of the big reasons business blogging has taken off is that it helps businesses improve their search rankings. Representatives from Google have come straight out and said that high-quality content is one of the most important things their algorithm uses to determine search rankings. And blogging is helpful for other factors that play a role, such as link building (blog posts give other sites more opportunities to consider linking to yours) and time spent on site (reading a blog post takes time). In addition, blogging gives you a lot more chances to try to rank for a wider variety of relevant keyword terms. For instance, a florist that aims for the terms “florist” and “flower delivery” on their main pages could try for long-tail keywords like “best flowers for a funeral” on their blog – creating more searches they’ll potentially be found in. People looking for helpful information that find blog posts that answer their questions will be that much more likely to buy what they need from the company providing those answers.  

    2. Blogging is crucial for content marketing.

    If you’ve given any consideration to doing content marketing, then a blog is likely to be the cornerstone of your content strategy. Blogs are the most obvious format for publishing ongoing content. Even though they’re mostly known for written content, they’re a good space to promote other content formats as well – you can easily embed videos and podcasts into blog posts and include visual content like infographics in them as well. Your blog gives people interested in your content a consistent spot to check back for any updates. And by having a lot of your content in one place, it makes it easy for you to promote other pieces of content to any visitors that show an interest in another piece. Blogging is generally just one part of a solid content strategy, but for most businesses doing content marketing, it’s an especially important part.  

    3. A blog is a good tool for building your email list.

    Email marketing is largely considered one of the most effective forms of marketing available to businesses.  Two-thirds of consumers have made a purchase because of an email they received, and email marketing has an ROI of $38 for every $1 you spend. But for email marketing to work, you have to have a list. And building an email list isn’t easy. While promises of discounts can definitely get you some signups, many consumers will be more likely to sign up for your email list if they know they’ll be getting valuable information from every email you send. For those consumers, you can get their attention with blog content and promote your email list while they’re on the website. Then, the new blog content you create will give you something new to email them about. It’s a whole cycle that helps you build positive relationships with your prospects. Create Your Blog

    4. Blog posts give you opportunities to interact with your audience.

    If a person’s only association with your brand is when they browse your products or make a purchase, then you’ll be easy to forget. But if they know your website includes a treasure trove of useful information on subjects they care about, then they have a reason to check out your website more often, sign up for your email list, and maybe even leave comments or share your blog posts to their networks.  

    5. Blogging helps you build a positive brand reputation online.

    Being seen online is a challenge all businesses face. For anyone to think about buying from you, they first have to figure out you exist. By improving your SEO, giving other websites a reason to link to you, and providing visitors with interesting content to share, a blog provides a lot of opportunities to grow awareness of your brand online.  

    3 Reasons Not to Create a Business Blog

    Those reasons should all be sounding pretty persuasive right now, but blogging isn’t for every business. There are three main things you should be aware of before you take the plunge.  

    1. It’s a lot of work.

    In order to regularly publish new content:
    • Somebody has to pick topics and plan a schedule.time spent blogging
    • Somebody has to write the content.
    • Somebody has to edit the content.
    • Somebody has to find or create relevant images.
    • Somebody has to load it to the blog and publish it.
    • Somebody has to moderate and respond to comments (if you keep comments open).
    • Somebody has to promote the content.
    Those are all pretty basic tasks required for blogging, and depending on your business, that somebody might be you. It may not be practical for you and the staff you have now to suddenly take on this big new project that takes a lot of time. Which brings us to the second thing…  

    2. It can get expensive if you hire help.

    To keep a blog going, you will probably need to either hire new staff or contractors to help you with content planning and creation. Good content strategists, writers, and designers cost money. To do blogging right, you should be prepared to commit a budget to it. Since most blog-related costs are ongoing, you’ll have to expect to keep up expenses over time and should be prepared to spend a lot.  

    3. A bad blog is worse than no blog.

    This point relates directly to the other two. If you try to rush your blogging just to get something out there, it will look sloppy and hurt your reputation rather than help it. If you hire the cheapest writers you can find and get keyword stuffed low-quality content or worse, plagiarized content, it could hurt your SEO and it certainly won’t meet any of the goals you want a business blog to achieve. The main reason a business shouldn’t create a blog is if they’re not prepared to commit the time and money it takes to make sure it’s good. That means consistent, high-quality content designed to help you meet clear goals. All the benefits mentioned above only kick in if your blog is good, so don’t waste time and money trying to have a blog just to have one. Make sure you do it right.  

    How to Do It Right if You Do Start a Blog

    If you’re convinced that blogging does make sense for your business, here are a few steps to take to help you get the most out of it.  

    1. Create a plan.

    Your blogging will be more organized and successful if you take time before you start to work up a blogging plan. Figure out what you want your blog to accomplish, what types of topics you want to cover, and the types of blog posts you want to publish.  

    2. Figure out a realistic blogging schedule.

    A common reason brands give up on blogging is burnout. If you underestimate how much work is required to keep your blog going, you’re likely to overextend yourself and decide it’s just too much work to keep up with. To keep that from happening, be realistic in working up a schedule for your blog. Don’t try to publish every day if you have one person on staff trying to fit in blogging on top of other responsibilities. In that case, starting with one blog post a week may make more sense. Whatever you do, do make a schedule in advance. You’ll be far more likely to stay on top of blogging if you create a content calendar and commit to sticking with it each month.

    3. Define who you’re writing for.

    You can’t just write about whatever topics interest you personally – your interests aren’t necessarily the same as those of your customers. To help you focus your blogging efforts and make sure they reach the people you most want to see them, take time to figure out who your target audience is. What do your customers tend to have in common? Think in terms of demographics, interests, and online behaviors. Building out buyer personas can help you visualize the person you want to talk to when you plan out your blog and create content.

    4. Promote your blog content.

    These days, publishing great content isn’t enough on its own. The web is too saturated with content on all types of topics. To stand out and make sure your content reaches your audience, you have to put some effort into promoting your blog posts. That means sharing them on social media, sending them to your email list, and considering paid distribution and promotion. All your blogging work won’t count for much unless you make sure people get the chance to see the content you create.  

    5. Pay attention to analytics.

    Once you start blogging, you’ll start collecting data on how people find and interact with your posts. Expect it to take a little while for your blogging to find traction, it usually does. But as you go, keep an eye on those analytics so you can find trends in which types of topics, blog post types, and promotion tactics perform the best with your audience. Your data will provide you a lot of insights into how to improve and get more out of your blog as you go. Committing some time to data analysis can go a long way to getting better results from blogging over time.  

    Is a Business Blog Right for You?

    If blogging for your business sounds overwhelming, then it honestly might not be for you – for some businesses the time and monetary commitment makes it a no go. But if the benefits sound worth the work, then you may be ready to start enjoying the benefits of business blogging.