Monday, June 4, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
June 2018 Tech News & Trends to WatchIt’s hot outside, but that hasn’t slowed the tech world, which is posed to bring as many new stories of controversies, product updates, and IPOs as usual. For all the professionals too busy to keep up with it all on their own, we bring you our update on tech trends to keep an eye on for June.
2. Amazon Provides Facial Recognition Tech to Law EnforcementAmazon can’t seem to go a whole month without showing up in a tech news roundup. This month it’s for a controversial story: selling use of Rekognition, their facial recognition software, to law enforcement agencies on the cheap. Civil rights groups have called for the company to stop allowing law enforcement access to the tech out of concerns that increased government surveillance can pose a threat to vulnerable communities in the country. In spite of the public criticism, Amazon hasn’t backed off on providing the tech to authorities, at least as of this time.
3. Apple Looks Into Self-Driving Employee ShuttlesOf the many problems facing our world, the frustrating work commute is one that many of the brightest minds in tech deal with just like the rest of us. Which makes it a problem the biggest tech companies have a strong incentive to try to solve. Apple is one of many companies that’s invested in developing self-driving cars as a possible solution, but while that goal is still (probably) years away, they’ve narrowed their focus to teaming up with VW to create self-driving shuttles just for their employees. Even that project is moving slower than the company had hoped, but they’re aiming to have some shuttles ready by the end of the year.
4. Court Weighs in on President’s Tendency to Block Critics on TwitterThree years ago no one would have imagined that Twitter would be a president’s go-to source for making announcements, but today it’s used to that effect more frequently than official press conferences or briefings. In a court battle that may sound surreal to many of us, a judge just found that the president can no longer legally block other users on Twitter. The court asserted that blocking users on a public forum like Twitter amounts to a violation of their First Amendment rights. The judgment does still allow for the president and other public officials to mute users they don’t agree with, though.
5. YouTube Launches Music Streaming ServiceYouTube joined the ranks of Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon this past month with their own streaming music service. Consumers can use a free version of the service that includes ads, or can pay $9.99 for the ad-free version. With so many similar services already on the market, people weren’t exactly clamoring for another music streaming option. But since YouTube is likely to remain the reigning source for videos, it doesn’t necessarily need to unseat Spotify to still be okay. And with access to Google’s extensive user data, it may be able to provide more useful recommendations than its main competitors in the space, which is one way the service could differentiate itself.
6. Facebook Institutes Political Ad RulesFacebook hasn’t yet left behind the controversies of the last election. The company is still working to proactively respond to criticism of its role in the spread of political propaganda many believe influenced election results. One of the solutions they’re trying is a new set of rules for any political ads run on the platform. Any campaign that intends to run Facebook ads is now required to verify their identity with a card Facebook mails to their address that has a verification code. While Facebook has been promoting these new rules for a few weeks to politicians active on the platform, some felt blindsided when they realized, right before their primaries no less, that they could no longer place ads without waiting 12 to 15 days for a verification code to come in the mail. Politicians in this position blame the company for making a change that could affect their chances in the upcoming election. Even in their efforts to avoid swaying elections, Facebook has found themselves criticized for doing just that. They’re probably feeling at this point like they just can’t win.
7. Another Big Month for Tech IPOsThis year has seen one tech IPO after another and this month is no different. Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi has a particularly large IPO in the works. The company seeks to join the Hong Kong stock exchange on June 7 with an initial public offering that experts anticipate could reach $10 billion. The online lending platform Greensky started trading on the New York Stock Exchange on May 23 and sold 38 million shares in its first day, 4 million more than expected. This month continues 2018’s trend of tech companies going public, largely to great success.
8. StumbleUpon Shuts DownIn the internet’s ongoing evolution, there will always be tech companies that win and those that fall by the wayside. StumbleUpon, a content discovery platform that had its heyday in the early aughts, is officially shutting down on June 30. Since its 2002 launch, the service has helped over 40 million users “stumble upon” 60 billion new websites and pieces of content. The company behind StumbleUpon plans to create a new platform that serves a similar purpose that may be more useful to former StumbleUpon users called Mix.
9. Uber and Lyft Invest in Driver BenefitsIn spite of their ongoing success, the popular ridesharing platforms Uber and Lyft have faced their share of criticism since they came onto the scene. One of the common complaints critics have made is that the companies don’t provide proper benefits to their drivers. And in fact, the companies have fought to keep drivers classified legally as contractors so they’re off the hook for covering the cost of employee taxes and benefits. Recently both companies have taken steps to make driving for them a little more attractive. Uber has begun offering Partner Protection to its drivers in Europe, which includes health insurance, sick pay, and parental leave – so far nothing similar in the U.S. though. For its part, Lyft is investing $100 million in building driver support centers where their drivers can stop to get discounted car maintenance, tax help, and customer support help in person from Lyft staff. It’s not the same as getting full employee benefits (in the U.S. at least), but it’s something. Those are the main stories we can see coming in June, but there’s sure to be a lot of tech news this month we can’t predict. Check back next month to see what tech stories to look out for in July.
Monday, May 21, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Follow This Checklist for Starting Your BlogYou’ve decided to join the ranks of the world’s bloggers. That’s a great idea. A blog can bring so many benefits. But now you have to figure out how to get started. Here are the main steps you need to take to start a blog.
First, do you already have a website?If so, jump to the next section. If not, you need to start your website first. There are four things you must have to launch a website: 1. Domain Name Your domain is the main address for your website on the web. It’s what people will type in to reach your website directly. A domain name should be as close to the name of your brand as possible. If the .com for the name you most want isn’t available, brainstorm alternative names or variations on the one you have that will be easy for people to remember. You can buy a domain on its own, but in most cases, you can get one for free when you buy the next thing you need. 2. Web hosting All websites must have web hosting. It’s what keeps your site on the web and accessible to visitors. Most web hosting plans include at least one free domain name and many include helpful add-ons that make creating your website easier, like templates or website builders. Some hosting plans are especially suited to working with popular blogging platforms, so if the blog is the entire reason you’re starting a website, look for a plan that’s designed to support that particular need. 3. Web design Once you’ve claimed your space on the web, you have to actually create the site itself. If you’re not skilled at web design, you can still easily put together your own website with the help of a website builder. If you want something that looks more professional or unique, look into hiring a web designer to create your site for you. If you want the blog to be the main focus of the site, make that clear going in. Your website should be designed to drive people directly to your content. 4. Copy When people land on your website, they’ll want to know where they are and what the site is all about. Before you launch your website, you’ll need to figure out the best words to use to explain to people what your website is and why they should stick around. It’s worth considering a professional copywriter for this part, particularly if you want your website to encourage people to take a specific action – like buying a product. If your goal is mostly just to share your ideas with the world, then you might not need to hire someone for this, but be sure to spend some time researching online copywriting if you do it yourself so you do it right.
The 5 Things You Need to Start BloggingWith all the website basics in place, you can start thinking specifically about the blog now. There are five main things you need to create a blog. 1. A blog strategy Chances are, you want your blog to accomplish something. Otherwise, why not just put your writing into a personal journal? For your blog to be effective at achieving whatever your goals are, you’ll need to take time before you start writing to clearly define a strategy. Determine what your main goals for your blog are and brainstorm a specific plan for how best to achieve them. Think about things like:
- Who you want to reach
- How often you want to publish new posts (be realistic here!)
- The types of content you want to create
- How you’ll measure success
- How to reach the audience you want
- How to keep the audience you find
ConclusionSeveral of the things you need to start a blog are simply a matter of getting the structure into place, but some of the most important parts of the process are ongoing. Be prepared to commit real time and energy to the process. For your blog to be successful, you have to put the work in. But if it connects with the audience you most want to reach, it will be well worth it.
Thursday, May 10, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
How to Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEOBlogging for SEO is pretty much a no brainer. Publishing regular blog posts gives you opportunities to target a large number of long-tail keywords, keeps people on your website longer, and gives other websites something to link back to. Getting your blog up and producing content for it are both important steps, but you can make that work go much further for your SEO efforts by taking a few extra steps to optimize your blog posts for SEO. While you should generally prioritize writing for your audience rather than search engines, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t useful steps you can take to make your posts go further with the search engines.
1. Do Keyword Research.Keyword research should be one of the first steps you take in developing a blog strategy for SEO because it helps you figure out the types of topics your audience is interested in. For each blog post you write, it’s smart to have a primary keyword or two in mind, along with a few similar or related secondary keywords. You’ll want to use these in the post where relevant, but only when it makes natural sense to do so. Don’t ever try to force a keyword in where it doesn’t work –the search engines frown on keyword stuffing and you could be penalized. And with Google’s use of latent semantic indexing (LSI), it’s less important than it used to be to use exact keywords in lieu of synonyms or similar terms. But having those keywords in mind and using them as you write is still worth it, as long as you don’t go overboard. A couple of useful tips for doing blogging keyword research:
- Go for long-tail keywords – One or two-word phrases are often very competitive and hard to rank for, so relevant longer phrases or questions are more worth your time. As an example, targeting a broad keyword like “seo” in a blog post makes less sense than getting more specific, like “small business local seo.”
- Think about voice search. As more people use Siri and Alexa, optimizing your content for voice search becomes more important. And since voice search is a newer development in SEO that not all businesses are thinking about, it’s a good way to be competitive.
2. Check for Rich Results in the SERP.Once you have your target keywords in mind, head to Google and do some searches for them. Many types of searches now include rich results on the search engine results page (SERP). If a search for your target keyword produces a featured snippet above the organic results, or if many of the organic results include images, video thumbnails, or other rich information, then you want to make sure you’re optimizing your content to compete for those things. In some cases, that means adding schema markup to your webpage. In others, it means changing the way you structure your content to try to compete for the featured snippet. Either way, you need to know what you’re competing for and against in order to create the right kind of content to be competitive.
3. Choose Your Post Title Well.One of the main parts of the page the search engines pay attention to in trying to understand what the page is about is the title. That makes it an important opportunity for you to communicate your topic by using your primary target keyword. Make sure you include it in a way that makes sense. If you shoehorn it in so that it’s confusing for your human readers, the lack of clicks you get will hurt your SEO chances more than use of the keyword will help them. But since your post will be covering the topic of your keyword, finding a natural way to include it shouldn’t be too difficult.
4. Include the Keyword in Your URL.The page URL is another important place to include your target keyword. It’s another part of the page search engines look at to figure out how to understand what the page is and, as such, is an important ranking factor. Always customize the URL before publishing. A blog post on how to find good winter boots should therefore have a URL like www.shoewebsite.com/blog/winter-boots.
5. Optimize Your Headings.You may be sensing a theme here. Your page headings are another part of the page that search engines give weight to in figuring out what your page is about. That means that, once again, you want to look for opportunities to (naturally) include your keywords in the page heading. That includes anything that has a <h1>, <h2>, or <h3> tag on the page. Headings are often a good place for those secondary keywords you have in mind, since it probably won’t make sense to use your primary keyword in every heading on the page.
6. Use Your Image Text.Another page element that search engines pay attention to is the text behind your images. The name of your image (e.g. keyword.jpg) and the alt text you can fill in are two more places you can include your primary keyword on the page.
7. Use Relevant Internal Links.Links are easily one of the most important ranking signals for the search engine algorithms. Getting other websites to link to yours is a challenge, but you have the power to do as much relevant internal linking on your own site as possible. Each time you write a new post, think about any blog posts you’ve already published that are relevant to what you’re writing now. Wherever it makes sense to do so, add in those links and, if you can do so naturally, use anchor text that relates to your target keyword for the older post you’re linking to.
8. Write a Meta Description.While meta descriptions don’t affect how your website ranks, they do influence what people see when they’re browsing their options on the search engine results page. If they’re trying to decide between a few links on the page, a strong description that uses the keywords they searched for (which show up in bold on the SERP) could make the difference in their choosing to click on yours. Google will display up to around 300 characters on the SERP in the description field, so figure out how to describe what’s on your page (using your target keyword) within a couple of lines here.
9. Link Your New Post to Old Posts.For all the same reasons you look for opportunities to add old links from your blog to new posts, you should periodically review your old posts to look for opportunities to link to posts that were published later. One way you can do this is by doing a search of your own site for the target keyword of each new post you create. When you find uses of that keyword or similar terms in your old posts, you can add in a link to the new.
10. Choose Tags and Categories Strategically.Blogs allow you to create tags and categories that help you group related posts together. This is both a useful navigational aid for people browsing your blog and a tool you can use strategically for SEO. Every category or tag you use creates a new page that will include the name of the tag or category in the URL, along with a lot of relevant content and links on the page. As with keyword stuffing, you don’t want to overdo it here and create tons of tags with similar keywords, but you should think carefully about which keywords and tags will be the most valuable to readers and for your SEO strategy. Come up with a list of a few based on the most important keywords you want to rank for, but making sure they each represent different types of topics (e.g. don’t have categories for synonyms or slight variations on terms) and use them whenever they’re relevant to what you’ve written.
Optimize Every Blog Post for SEOYour blog is one of your most important and powerful SEO tools. Every blog post you publish presents a number of opportunities to strengthen your website’s search authority. Don’t waste any opportunity you have to use your posts to their fullest SEO potential.
Monday, May 7, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Link Building Ideas for BloggersWhether your blog is a marketing tool for your brand or a personal blog you started to share your passion, you want people to see it. For all the work you put into writing and editing regular posts and finding just the right images to put alongside them to pay off, you need people to find those posts. And the main way people go looking for content like yours online is by searching Google or other search engines. For most blogs, showing up in the search results requires doing some link building. Link building is one of the most important and hardest parts of SEO. Google sees links back to your blog as an indication that people like and respect your work. Each external link from a quality website is a signal to the search engines that your website is quality too. It’s largely because link building is the hardest part of SEO to do well that it’s so important. Everyone can do the easy stuff; building high-quality links is how you become more competitive. Here are ten link-building strategies you can use to help boost your blog’s authority and make headway in the search engines.
1. Do a Quote Roundup Post.You’ve seen posts like this. They’re the ones that include quotes from a bunch of different experts on the same general subject. They’re popular for end-of-year posts (The Top <Insert Industry> Trends of 2018) or just any post that’s trying to pack a lot of different tips and insights into one place. We've even done a few of these here at HostGator. Influencers in your industry are often willing to contribute to these because they get a link back to their site and a chance to show their expertise on the subject in question. That benefits you because they’re that much more likely to share the post with their networks and/or link back to it in future posts on their own website. Quote roundup posts won’t guarantee you new links, but they’re a good way to get other influencers to help promote a post on your blog, thus bringing your content to a new audience. Those extra eyes on your blog may translate to more followers and new relationships, both of which are things that tend to correlate with more links.
2. Write Guest Posts.A guest post is a blog post you write for someone else’s blog that’s valuable to their audience. As long as the other blog covers topics that are relevant to your blog and target audience, it’s a good opportunity to reach new people and include a link or two back to your blog. Guest posting takes a lot of work – you have to identify the right blogs to pitch, convince them to publish your work, and write a really good post that appeals to their followers – and do all this for free. But if your post is good and the other blog is a good fit for the people you’re trying to reach, you could gain new followers and more traffic in addition to the links you build back to your blog. One thing that's really important to remember here is to be careful how much you self-promote or link back to your blog in a guest post. A lot of blogs won’t bother publishing your post if it’s seems promotional or spammy. Stick with one or two relevant links tops, and only mention your brand if or when it makes natural sense to do so.
3. Accept Guest Posts.Hear me out - I know it sounds like this is the best way to let other people build links on your site, but each of those people is likely to then promote your blog. As with quote roundup posts, this may not immediately earn you a bunch of new links, but it will help you build relationships with people who are more likely to promote your blog and link back to your posts over time.
4. Look for Resource Pages.A lot of blogs and businesses will put together pages or posts that collect helpful resources their readers might appreciate. Any pages that do this for websites that are like yours could be an opportunity for a link. To identify pages like this, think of the main keywords that describe what your website does and get to searching. If your blog is full of healthy vegan recipes, search for terms like vegan blog resources, vegan blog links and other variations on those terms. For every relevant resource page you find, see if you can find contact information for the site webmaster and craft a pitch for why your website deserves to be added. You should expect for a lot of your emails to be ignored. You’re essentially reaching out to a stranger and asking them to do work as a favor to you. But if you send out 100 emails and get two new links on high authority websites, the effort will be worth it.
5. Find Broken Links.Broken links are annoying for website visitors and owners alike. Every time someone clicks on one on your website, it’s a bad experience for them that reflects badly on you (unless you follow these tips to make your 404 experience a positive one). Broken link building is based on the idea that by alerting a website owner to a broken link on their website and suggesting a good replacement, you’re helping them out. Where most link building strategies amount to asking other website owners to do you a favor, in this case the favor’s more reciprocal. Finding examples of relevant broken links around the web can be difficult, but there are a number of broken link tools that help you find any broken links on a particular website, as well as SEO tools that deliver reports of broken links based on keywords or topic areas. For each relevant broken link you find, you can either contact the webmaster to recommend a piece of content you already have that makes a good replacement, or create a new piece of content if you don’t already have one.
6. Create a Statistics Roundup.Writers love statistics. They’re a good, solid way to back up any point they make in an article or blog post. As such, original research and data are some of the best types of content for earning new links. If you have the resources to create original research, definitely do that. But it does require a lot of work and the right tools and some bloggers aren’t up to the task. In that case, the next best thing is to try to collect existing statistics your audience is likely to be looking for all in one place. By bringing a large number of statistics together into one place in an easily accessible format, you’re providing value to the people (including writers) out there looking for that information. If writers find the stat they’re looking for on your website – even if you’re not the one that originated it – you may be the one to earn that link. Note: a lot of writers will follow the link you include back to the original source to check its authenticity and will prefer to use that link instead in their post. But don’t let that keep you from including that link back to the source - a stat that doesn’t point back to its source is less trustworthy (and less likely to attract links). In some cases though, that stat will be behind a form or shared in a format that’s less user-friendly than your post, which will make linking back to your blog post the better choice for their readers. This is especially true if you find a way to add value, such as with the helpful graphics HelpScout included in their statistics roundup.
7. Create and Give Out Awards.You know what happens when a person or company receives notice that they’ve won an award? In most cases at least, they want to publicize it. They may write about it on their blog, send out a press release, or promote their win on all their social media channels – in short, send a bunch of links and promotion back to the source. To be clear, well known brands or awards are more likely to get that response, but even little known brands or blogs that create awards can get a similar reaction, simply because people like getting awards. It gives them something to brag about and point to as evidence that they’re doing well. Why not create your own award? Give it a snazzy name (possibly one that sounds something like your blog) and start looking for other blogs, influencers, companies, or people in your niche that you think should be winners. Create a logo (or hire a graphic designer to do so) and encourage them to post it on their websites. It’ll earn you both links and general goodwill in the community.
8. Write Reviews or Product Comparisons.Whatever topic you cover on your blog, there are probably some products that your readers consider relevant. And product reviews and comparisons are very useful to readers who want to make sure they’re making the right choice when deciding which product to buy. They can always see what the brands behind the products have to say on their own website, but that’s worth less to them than unbiased information from a third party. Somebody with a photography blog will have readers interested in information to help them buy the right camera. Pointing them toward a specific camera you’ve used and know is great, and explaining everything about it that works well and all the little (or not so little) things about it that don’t work well is exactly what they need to hear before buying. Even better, if you’ve tried out three similar cameras and can explain how they’re different and their relative strengths and weaknesses, you’re providing triple the information to help people make a decision. Not only will your reviews or product comparison posts provide value to people in your target audience, but they’ll be likely to attract links as well. The brands selling those products have an interest in linking to any positive reviews of their products. And any writer working on content where they know that information will be valuable to their readers, such as say, a blog post on how to get started as a photographer, will have good reason to link back to your detailed post.
9. Use the Skyscraper Technique.The search rankings are a competition and some keywords are much more competitive than others. If you can identify keywords that are relevant to your topic, but currently only have lackluster or mildly good content in those top spots, that’s a keyword you can easily compete with. The skyscraper technique is about finding those top ranking blog posts that aren’t as good as your content, then creating a truly awesome blog post that’s obviously better. Once you’ve got your awesome blog post done and published, you can reach out to the websites that linked to the mediocre content that's currently ranking and recommend that they consider replacing that link with your more thorough and helpful content. If the original post has obvious errors or is outdated, make sure to include that in your case.
10. Connect with Other Bloggers.You’ll notice that a couple of the earlier recommendations on this list prioritize building relationships. That’s because relationships are a huge part of link building. People are less likely to link to a stranger from a blog they’ve never heard of than they are to someone they’ve interacted with and know is legit. If you re-tweet other bloggers in your space, share their content, leave comments on their blog, or find ways to collaborate with them – then you’ll get on their radar. Once they know you, they’ll be more likely to pay attention to your content and share it or link to it anytime they’re impressed by what you wrote or know the link will add something valuable to their post. This is a long game. You can’t introduce yourself to a blogger in your space today and expect a link tomorrow, but starting to build relationships now and become a part of the larger community will pay off over time.
ConclusionNone of these strategies are particularly easy. All of them will require a time commitment and some significant work. But if you want your potential readers to find your awesome blog posts, this type of work is the difference between only being found by those who already know you, and showing up in the search engines for the topics you cover.