Thursday, December 21, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
8 New Year’s Resolutions for Affiliate MarketersThe beginning of a new year is always a good time to think about ways to improve. As affiliate marketing continues to grow in popularity each year, affiliate marketers have to do more to stay competitive and keep your content relevant and profitable. As we move into 2018, here are a few good New Year’s resolutions to consider to make your affiliate marketing even more successful in the year to come.
1. Revisit and update your business strategy.Every type of business needs a business strategy. Even if affiliate marketing is something you currently do on the side in addition to another job, you can benefit from sitting down to really work out a plan for how to approach it so you get the most out of the time you put in. As part of this process, review your earnings data for the last year. Figure out which types of products and brands you work with that bring the most money in. See if there are certain topics or types of content that perform the best in terms of driving sales, as well as which perform well in terms of driving traffic - both goals are valuable, and the content that’s best for each may vary. Use your analysis to guide your plan for the coming year. Consider if you should shift more toward covering a certain topic area or work more with brands offering different types of products. Include in your plan specifics on things like how often to produce new content and how to promote it. Having a general schedule to stick to and idea of how to approach your marketing efforts can help you more consistently stay on top of things in the next year.
2. Research and consider new affiliate partnerships.This is also a good time of year to consider branching into new partnerships. Take some time to research brands in your space and identify which ones offer affiliate programs. Figure out which sell products you’re confident are a good fit for your audience (and that you’d feel good about recommending), and measure the terms of the various affiliate programs against each other. Once you’ve weighed the value of the products and the affiliate relationships against each other, make a move toward working with the brands that you’ve decided are your top picks. They offer the promise of new revenue in the coming year, as well as new products for your audience to learn about and try.
3. Evaluate and consider if you want to keep all current affiliate partnerships.It’s always awkward ending a professional relationship, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. In your analysis of which products and brands are helping you make the most money, were there some clear losers? If there’s a brand that just isn’t a good fit for your audience, or that you’ve come to feel less enthused about yourself, then cut the ties. Affiliate marketing works better if you’re genuinely excited about every brand you work with and know your audience is likely to feel the same. If dropping a partnership makes your brand stronger, use the beginning of the new year to make that hard choice.
4. Do a website review.As an affiliate marketer, your website is the main place you interact with your audience. You want to make sure everything about it (not just your content) is designed to make it a good experience for your users. This is a good time of year to commit to going through the whole website to look for potential issues that could be causing a bad experience for your users or making you look bad. This includes:
- Anything that makes you look spammy, such as typos, grammatical errors, keyword stuffing, or hidden links.
- A slow load time – this is annoying for users and bad for SEO.
- Broken links
- Unintuitive navigation – can users easily find what they’re looking for? Do your pages have CTAs to lead visitors to other useful pages or content?
- A bad mobile experience
5. Consider new strategies for growing your email list.Your email list is one of the most powerful tools you have to grow and maintain your community. Anyone that takes the step of signing up is saying that they trust you enough to want to continually hear what you have to say moving forward (for as long as you continue to earn that trust). The larger your email list is, the more people will consistently see your content and click through on the links included in it. That’s why if building your email list wasn’t already a top priority for you, then 2018 should be the the year you really focus on it. Promote it heavily on your website with hard-to-miss signup forms and CTAs. Promote it on social media to your followers. Consider producing gated content or putting on webinars to increase signups. And whatever you do, make sure once you’ve gained those subscribers you reward them with quality content that makes them want to stick around.
6. Get to know your audience.Affiliate marketing only works if your audience feels like they can know and trust you. That works better if you make the effort to know them too. Commit in 2018 to interacting more with your audience so you can get to know them better. Do a survey (or a few) to better understand what they want from your content and community. Engage with them on social media – ask questions, do polls, and provide responses when they communicate with you. The better you understand the people coming to your website and consuming your content, the better you can provide them with what they want and keep your relationships with them strong.
7. Figure out something you need to learn more about and create a reading list.Everybody always has more to learn. No matter what you write about now or what kind of research you’ve done already to strengthen your affiliate marketing business, you will benefit from doing more research. What are some things you’ve been meaning to learn more about? SEO? Being a better writer? Finding work-life balance? Research some of the best articles and books to read on the subject you’ve chosen. Make yourself a reading list and set deadlines to make you more likely to stick with it. You can bring what you learn to your business to make it consistently better over the next year and into the years to come.
8. Branch into new content types.It can be easy to fall into doing the same kind of thing over and over, but you can bring some freshness to your content by branching into something new. If you mostly do how-to tutorials, consider trying out some review posts. If you’ve mostly stuck to video so far, try out podcasting or writing. Get creative with your content ideas. If your audience doesn’t respond well to the change, well at least you tried and got some new data points on what works and doesn’t. If they do though, then you may gain more engagement or new followers because of your experimentation. And you’ll learn how to do something new in the process. You know how much work goes into affiliate marketing. But creating content is just one small part of the job. Use the beginning of the New Year to do some of the other tasks that can help your affiliate marketing business be more successful. The time you put into your content will go that much further if everything around it is working better. Did you know you can earn up to $125 per signup with HostGator's affiliate program? Sign up now for free!
Monday, December 18, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
What You Need To Know About SEO In 2018It's the time of year when most of us set fresh goals for our websites, whether we're blogging, promoting our professional services, selling goods, or some combination of those activities. It's also a good time to make sure the foundations of your search-results presence are still solid so prospective readers, clients, and customers can find you. Without an SEO update, you'll be missing out on prospects in 2018. If you set up your SEO a couple of years ago and think you're still good, you may be surprised by how quickly the best SEO practices have evolved since then. To help you get the most from your online efforts in the year ahead, here's what you need to know about SEO in 2018.
What exactly is SEO?SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” A few years ago, SEO was shorthand for a few key activities: posting useful content, including relevant keywords, and linking to high-quality sites, all of which had a big impact on where a site ranked in search results compiled by Google, Bing, and other search engines. These things still matter, but SEO is an umbrella term that covers a lot of ground, and that ground is always shifting to deliver better results. Right now, Google Search uses some 200 algorithms (including keywords and links) to rank search results. Not all of the factors are things that you can control. For example, the location and search history of the person searching will influence the results Google delivers. So a search for “affordable braces” may display a Denver orthodontist's website for a searcher in Colorado who has a history of looking for school supplies and teen clothing, while the same search in the UK by a man who shops for clothes online will almost certainly turn up what we in the US call suspenders. But there are a few new-ish SEO factors that you can control, and they matter as much or more than link-building and keywords, thanks to the changing ways people use the internet.
Why does “mobile first” matter for SEO?If you've been seeing the phrase “mobile first” lately, here's why: Google is in the process of slowly rolling out a mobile-first index, adding sites a few at a time. This change has been in the works since at least 2016 and will take a while to fully implement. When it's done, Google will prioritize mobile-friendly sites in search results. Why? More than half the world's online searches are done on mobile devices, which means most users need mobile-optimized sites to find what they're looking for. How do you know if your site meets Google's mobile-friendly standard? Just ask. Enter your URL on Google's mobile-friendly test page. If your site is mobile-friendly, you'll have the option to submit it to Google for inclusion in the new mobile-first index, although that may take some time. Your test results will also include a site-wide mobile usability report with suggestions on improving your mobile friendliness. There's also a guide for getting started with mobile optimization.
Does page speed affect SEO?Yes, now more than ever. Page load times have been a factor in search rankings for several years, and there was a lot of talk in 2017 about how important it is for sites to load quickly. Google is giving page speed a higher priority in part because mobile users don't like to wait and in part because no one else likes to wait, either. The bottom line is that if your site doesn't load on desktops and mobile devices within 2 or 3 seconds, it's going to be harder to find than it needs to be—and people who do find it are more likely to bail after waiting a few seconds for it to load. How do you know if your site's page speed is OK? Use Google's PageSpeed test.Here's where things can get interesting. Even if your site passes Google's mobile-friendly test, your page speed may still need work. For example, my professional site aced the mobile-friendly test, and I gave myself a hearty pat on the back for using a mobile-optimized WordPress template. But Google's PageSpeed tools are not happy with my mobile page load times. While my desktop page speed rated 86 out of a possible 100, my mobile page speed earned a failing grade of 55. Fortunately, when you run your test, you'll get a list of possible ways to optimize your page speed and improve your score. If, like me, you need to raise your site's score, consider these suggestions your homework for better SEO in 2018.
How can you optimize your site for voice search?Have you ever wondered why so many headlines, subheads, and article topics are written as questions? It used to be that savvy marketers and writers included questions because they make readers more likely to click on headlines and read articles. That's still true, but now there's another good reason – because voice search is getting more popular by the day. Remember all those people searching in mobile devices? A lot of them would rather ask Siri, “Where can I pick up grain-free dog food?” instead of trying to key in “grain free dog food near me” on their phones. And Amazon Echo users can ask Alexa to look things up for them all day long without ever coming near a keyboard, which is part of the reason industry watchers expect 30% of online searches to be screenless within the next two years. How can your site deliver what voice searchers are looking for? First, look at your site traffic from searches and review your customer service inquiries to see which questions lead people to your site and what questions they ask once they're there. You can develop those questions into an FAQ section or work them into your site as headlines, subheads or copy. Then be sure to provide the answers to those questions. This sounds obvious, but you'll want to write those answers in a way that delivers the information quickly and clearly for people who are on the go. Short snippets work best for voice-search results. If you're looking for local customers, make sure to set up your My Business listing with Google. Fill it out as completely as possible and keep it up to date. That way, when people ask Siri or Alexa for your product or service “near me,” you'll rank higher in their results (regardless of whether it's a voice or text search). Want more information about local SEO? Check out this post on finding high-quality local SEO services.
Your SEO Refresh Plan: Top Recommendations and Best Practices for 2018For 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.
The BasicsHere’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 searchHow 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. 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. 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. 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 indexGoogle’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.
ConclusionThere 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.
Instagram Advertising GuideInstagram 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.
Why Brands Should Advertise on InstagramIf you’re not sure yet if Instagram is right for your brand, here are a few compelling reasons to consider it.
Instagram’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:
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 AdsThere are four different types of Instagram ads brands can use.
1. Photo AdsJust 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 AdsVideo 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 AdsCarousel 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 AdsThe 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 TargetingOne 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.
- 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
- 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
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 AnalyticsAs 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 InstagramIf 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). Once there, your first step is to choose your objective from one of the options provided. Then you can name your campaign and start getting it set up. Choose your country, time zone, and currency. On the next page, you can define your audience targeting, choose where you’d like your ads to be seen, and set your budget.
Finally, you can choose to create an ad anew, or select a post you’ve already shared to be turned into an ad. 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.