Tuesday, July 17, 2018

4 steps to achieving initial email marketing success

Are you ready to rev up your marketing engine? Email can give your business the boost it needs to zoom ahead of the competition. In a digital landscape crowded by companies trying to grab consumers’ attention and hoping that people will engage with their brands online, email communications are a direct line to your target audience, reaching their intended recipients 90 percent of the time — an average that surpasses what you’ll find on platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

To launch a high-performing email marketing program that enables you to connect with more prospects, you’ll have to combine your efforts with two additional components: social media and sign-up forms. Follow these simple steps to learn how these three elements can work together to maximize your marketing efforts.

1. Make sure your website has an email sign-up form

Your contact list is the foundation of your email marketing program. To grow your list, you must provide your audience with a quick and easy way to sign up for your emails.

You can collect email addresses in a variety of places, but your website should be a primary spot. New visitors come to your site every day, which gives you the ability to capture email addresses as people view your content and learn more about your products or services. Just think about it — as visitors read more about your company and what makes you unique, they’re more likely to want to connect with you to find out more. If you’re using VerticalResponse, you can easily embed a form on your site. When a new contact signs up, the address will automatically be added to your email list.

If you don’t have a website or just want to create a more targeted list-building campaign, build a stand-alone landing page with a sign-up form. Landing pages typically have a single objective and employ copy and images that are hyper-focused on getting visitors to take a single, desired action. In this case, that action would be sharing an email address. Create content for this landing page that explains the benefits of signing up, and then share the link on social media. Will subscribers get special discounts? Will they be notified of new releases before the general public? Tell them so they don’t miss out.

2. Welcome new contacts

Once addresses start coming in through your sign-up forms, it’s time to get down to email business. Reach out to new contacts immediately by sending a welcome email. This message will establish the tone for future communications, so it should be friendly, enthusiastic and well-designed. You want to make a positive and lasting first impression. It’s also important that your welcome email reiterates the benefits of your email list and encourages subscribers to visit your website or physical location.

3. Use email to keep your contacts informed and engaged

After sending a welcome email, you can customize your campaigns to fit your business. You should send a variety of emails to your subscribers to keep them informed and engaged. From promotional offers to event invitations, you can send an email about anything that’s relevant to your business goals. Here are a few topics that you can try as you find your email marketing groove:

  • Send a newsletter that updates your audience about your business
  • Tell subscribers about a new product or service you’re offering
  • Invite subscribers to an open house, customer appreciation sale or other events
  • Offer a deal, discount, coupon or free consultation
  • Share useful tips that show subscribers how to use your product better
  • Provide educational content that’s of interest to your audience
  • Encourage readers to check out a new blog post
  • Share business updates or improvements via email
  • Send an email that offers holiday cheer
  • Send an email that celebrates a business milestone like an anniversary

Deciding when to send emails can be tricky. Every audience is different. Of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on your metrics to see what works best for your business. Try a few tests. For example, segment your list into two, send the same email to both groups on the same day, but at different times, and see which one performs better. Check your open rates and clickthroughs to determine what time is best for your audience.

4. Reinforce your communication through social media

After sending an email, get in the habit of sharing that same message via social media. For example, if you just invited guests to an upcoming event, you can turn to Twitter and Facebook to invite guests too. As the event gets closer, you can send reminder emails and post similar updates on your social sites.

By collecting more email addresses through a sign-up form, reaching out to those contacts via email and leveraging your social media accounts, you’re using multiple channels to reach your audience. In return, your business is more visible and customers are more engaged.

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2015. It has been revised and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

5 Tools We Love to Use with ActiveCampaign

tools to use with ActiveCampaign
This post was contributed by Identify Marketing, ActiveCampaign Certified Consultants.

As a marketing agency, we’re always looking for easier and more effective ways to connect with leads, and our clients better. Plus we love experimenting with new tools, testing them out so we can recommend them to our clients.

Along with ActiveCampaign, we use a variety of tools to help us build an engaged funnel and grow our agency.

We’re very conscious about adding a pile of tools that look great but don’t really add to the day to day operations of a business. It’s very easy to see those monthly charges creep up in the outgoings column!

So here’s our top five tried and true favorite tools.

1. Bonjoro

Bonjoro homepage

It’s an unwritten rule to save the best for last, but I love this tool so much that I need to start with it!

Bonjoro is an Australian-designed app and a highly effective tool to connect with someone at any point of the sales or client process. (Except that odd, unhappy client. They probably wouldn’t enjoy it!)

Bonjoro lets you record and send a short, personalized video to anyone within the app. You can customize the email with your own logo, create a specific call to action, and add a text message.

The feedback we’ve had from using Bonjoro is amazing! I use it to welcome anyone who signs up to my coaching email series, to introduce myself to anyone who has set a meeting or emailed us through our website, and to send off the cuff emails to clients who’ve had a recent win.

It’s magic because it’s personal.

You can connect Bonjoro with Active Campaign to get notifications of any new contact, or connect it to a trackable action (you will need Zapier for this).

2. Hotjar

hotjar homepage
Sometimes, the love of a pretty layout overrides the need to make sure a web page is laid out in the best way to help conversions.

That’s where Hotjar comes in.

Hotjar creates a heatmap showing you where visitors fall off the page. It also shows the most common “click” spots, helping you determine where to place call to actions and how to reorganize the page to convert better.

But its real gem? The videos of every visitor’s actions on your website.

In the videos, you can see every visitor’s scroll, every cursor movement, and each click. (contact details and name of the person remain private).

Here’s a few things we’ve discovered for clients using Hotjar (that we wouldn’t have known otherwise)

  1. There was a speed issue with a website, and the buy now button didn’t load fast enough.
  2. One of the contact forms didn’t go anywhere
  3. People wanted to click a decorative button for more information
  4. The landing page designed to convert didn’t have the call to action in the right place
  5. The high value of abandoned carts in an ecommerce store was due to a high shipping charge

3. Calendly

Calendly homepage
The secret of effective sales is keeping the control. The next secret of sales is allowing the person you are selling to feel they are in control.

Calendly helps your leads and clients make appointments with you at a time that suits both you and them. It syncs with your calendar (365 or Gmail), so if you’ve got a day blocked out it it won’t show that as a free spot.

When we first started using Calendly, it reduced my “setting meetings up” time by over six hours a week!

We then created a Facebook advertisement that offered free fifteen minute meetings—scheduled automatically. It was so successful that we had to turn it off after two weeks, because I couldn’t keep up with the incoming leads!

You can link your Calendly page to your about us or contact page, or add it to an automation so that contacts are emailed after specific actions.

We use it to offer a booked phone meeting time to every person who contacts us through our website. We also use it to book in strategy meetings with existing clients.

4. SnagIt

SnagIt homepage
Here’s a super simple tool we love to us as an agency—and pass on to many of our clients.

Snagit is a TechSmith tool that helps you create screen record videos. We use it extensively to record simple, customized training videos for all our ActiveCampaign and marketing clients.

The tool makes it super easy to record. You don’t need anything beyond the program, a screen, and your voice.

We’re a big believers in building systems for any repeat processes. That’s one of the reasons we love ActiveCampaign—it’s not just an awesome marketing and sales tool, but one that helps improve on administration and business systems.

If you’re doing something that a member of your team could do instead, record yourself doing it and talking through it, and pass it on. It’s the fastest way to train your team—and once it’s made, it can train any number of people.

5. Proposify

Proposify homepage
Effective proposals still help us seal the deal.

Even if you use email to send informal proposals, official proposals ensure that the client has a clear and full idea of your terms and conditions, the people who will be working with them, and a detailed breakdown of what to expect.

I used to create our proposals as a Word Doc. It had so much formatting and extra bits in it that I was forever trying to squeeze information in the wrong places, and forgetting to delete sections.

We researched for months before selecting Proposify for our proposals.

Part of the attraction was the ability to make truly beautiful proposals. My favorite part, however, is the complete visibility of when the proposal has been read, and which parts the client is focussing on.

From this we can see how engaged they are with the proposal, and which parts they might be stuck on. To be honest, I’m a little addicted!

Setting it up right does take time, but it’s truly worth it. You can sync Proposify to ActiveCampaign with Zapier, but we prefer to keep the two separate, and separate the aspects of the proposal into separate sales in Deals—as often clients start with just a portion of the work proposed initially.

If you’ve got a small to medium sized business selling services, all of these tools can help add to your sales and marketing toolkit—to help you become more effective and more profitable.

Rachel Klaver is the CEO (Chief Excitement Officer) of Identify Marketing, a marketing agency for small to medium sized businesses. Based in New Zealand, Identify are ActiveCampaign consultants, who integrate it with their work in overall marketing strategy, developing WordPress websites, Facebook funnels, and more.

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Stories

Are you using Instagram Stories? Wondering how you can use them more effectively, both for personal and business purposes? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about Instagram Stories, including: What ARE Instagram Stories, anyway? How to create your first Story FAQ’s about Stories: What types of content can you share via

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tip of the Week – Send Automated Birthday Reminders

Did you know you can build a simple automation to help you remember contacts’ birthdays?

In the automation builder, start a new automation from scratch and select the Date based start trigger.

In the “Action options” modal, set the trigger to begin however many days before the contact’s birthday you would like to be reminded. For example, if you want a reminder two days before a contact’s birthday:

Configured this way, the automation will check every day at 12am for any contact birthdays that are two days away. Follow this with the Notify action, and set the message to send to your inbox, along with any other relevant information:

To see this tip in action, watch this excerpt from a recent Office Hours session (13:30 at the link).

Read our Help article for more on using the Date based start trigger.

Why I Spent $500,000 Buying a Blog That Generates No Revenue

neil patel
(If you are wondering, the image of me above was taken when I used to work at KISSmetrics with Hiten Shah… I used to have hair)

In early January 2017, I purchased the KISSmetrics website for $500,000.

If you go to the site, you’ll notice that it forwards here to NeilPatel.com (which I will get into later in the post).

The $500,000 didn’t get me the company, KISSmetrics, or any of the revenue streams. The parent company, Space Pencil, is continually improving and developing the product.

And on top of that, there are restrictions. I can’t just pop up a competing company or any company on the KISSmetrics site.

So why did they sell me the domain? And why would I pay $500,000 for it?

I can’t fully answer why they sold it, but I do know a lot of their customers came from word of mouth, conferences, paid ads, and other forms of marketing that didn’t include SEO or content marketing.

For that reason, the domain probably wasn’t as valuable to them as it was to me. And of course, who wouldn’t want extra cash?

I’m assuming they are very calculated because they are an analytics company, so they probably ran the numbers on how much revenue the inbound traffic was generating them and came to the conclusion that the $500,000 price tag seemed worth it.

Now, before I get into why I spent $500,000 on the domain, let me first break down my thought process as I am buying out a lot of properties in the marketing space (more to be announced in the future).

Why am I buying sites that aren’t generating revenue?

This wasn’t the first or the last site that I’ll buy in the space.

I recently blogged about how I bought Ubersuggest. And it wasn’t generating a single dollar in revenue.

Well technically, there were ads on the site, but I quickly killed those off.

And eventually, I ported it over to NeilPatel.com.

When I am looking at sites to buy, I am only looking for 1 thing… traffic. And of course, the quality (and relevancy) of that traffic.

See, I already have a revenue stream, which is my ad agency, Neil Patel Digital.

So, my goal is to find as many sites that have a similar traffic profile to NeilPatel.com and leverage them to drive my agency more leads.

How do you know you won’t lose money?

I don’t!

This approach doesn’t guarantee I’ll make more money.

I look at the business as tons of tiny experiments. You don’t build a huge business through one simple marketing strategy or tactic.

You have to combine a lot of little things to get your desired outcome.

And sometimes you’ll make mistakes along the way that will cost you money, which is fine. You have to keep one thing in mind… without testing, you won’t be big.

With my ad agency, we tend to mainly have U.S. clients. Yes, we serve other regions as well… for example, we have an ad agency in Brazil.

neil patel brazil

But I myself mainly focus on driving traffic to the U.S. ad agency, and the other teams just replicate as I don’t speak Portuguese, German, or any of the required languages for the other regions we are in.

So, when I buy companies, I look for traffic that is ideally in the U.S.

Sure, the ad agency can work with companies in Australia, Canada, and even the United Kingdom, but it’s tough.

There’s a huge difference in currency between Australia and the U.S. and the same goes for Canada.

And with the U.K. there is a 5 to 8-hour time zone difference, which makes it a bit more difficult to communicate with clients.

That’s why when I buy a site, I’m ideally looking for U.S. traffic.

When I bought Ubersuggest it had very little U.S. traffic. Indonesia and India were the two most popular regions.

But I bought it because I knew I could build a much better tool and over time grow the U.S. traffic by doing a few email blasts, getting on Product Hunt, and by creating some press.

And I have…

ubersuggest traffic

As you can see from the screenshot above, U.S. is the most popular region followed by India and Brazil.

Over time it shouldn’t be too difficult to 3 or even 4x that number as long as I release more features.

Now, my costs on Ubersuggest have gotten into the 6 figures per month, and I am not generating any income from it.

There is no guarantee that it will generate any revenue, but I have a pretty effective sales funnel, which I will share later in the post. Because of that sales funnel my risk with Ubersuggest is pretty low.

As long as I can grow the traffic enough, I should be able to monetize.

What about KISSmetrics?

As for KISSmetrics, I mainly bought the domain for the blog traffic.

During its peak it was generating 1,260,681 unique visitors per month:

kissmetrics peak

By the time I bought the blog, traffic had dropped to 805,042 unique visitors per month:

kissmetrics purchase

That’s a 36% drop in traffic. Ouch!

And then to make matters worse, I decided that I wanted to cut the traffic even more.

There were so many articles on KISSmetrics that were outdated and irrelevant, so I had no choice but to cut them.

For example, there were articles about Vine (which Twitter purchased and killed), Google Website Optimizer (no longer exists), Mob Wars (a Facebook game that no longer exists)… and the list goes on and on.

In addition to that, I knew that I could never monetize irrelevant traffic. Yes, more traffic is good, but only as long as it is relevant.

I instantly cut the KISSmetrics blog in half by “deleting” over 1,024 blog posts. Now, I didn’t just delete them, I made sure I added 301 redirects to the most relevant pages here on NeilPatel.com.

Once I did that, my traffic dropped again. I was now sitting at 585,783 unique visitors a month.

kissmetrics drop

It sucks, but it had to be done. The last thing I wanted to do was spend time and money maintaining old blog posts that would never drive a dollar in revenue.

I knew that if someone was going to come to my blog to research Vine, there was little to no chance that the person would convert into a 6-figure consulting contract.

After I pruned and cropped the KISSmetrics blog, I naturally followed the same path of Ubersuggest and merged it in to NeilPatel.com.

The merge

The KISSmetrics merge was a bit more complicated than Ubersuggest.

With Ubersuggest, I didn’t have a keyword research tool on NeilPatel.com, so all I had to do was slap on a new design, add a feature or two, and port it over.

With KISSmetrics, a lot of the content was similar to NeilPatel.com. For the ones that were similar, I kept the NeilPatel.com version considering this blog generates more traffic than the KISSmetrics one.

As for all of the content that was unique and different, I ended up moving it over and applying 301 redirects.

If I decided to skip the pruning and cropping stage that I described above, the KISSmetrics blog would have had more traffic. And when I merged it in with NeilPatel.com I would have done even better.

But in marketing you can can’t focus on vanity metrics like how many more unique visitors you are getting per month. You need to keep your eye on the prize.

And for me, that’s leads.

The more leads I generate for my ad agency, the more likely I’ll increase my revenue.

Here’s my lead count for the weeks prior to the KISSmetrics merge:

hubspot leads

When looking at the table above, keep in mind it shows leads from the U.S. only.

The KISSmetrics blog was merged on the 25th. When you add up all of the numbers from the previous week, there were 469 leads in total, of which 61 were marketing qualified leads.

That means there were 61 leads that the sales reps were able to contact as the vast majority of leads are companies that are too small for us to service.

When you look at the week of the 25th, there were a total of 621 leads. 92 where marketing qualified leads.

Just from that one acquisition, I was able to grow my marketing qualified leads by 50.8%. 🙂

I know what you are thinking though. The week after the 25th (7/2) the leads tanked again. Well, you have to keep in mind that the table only shows leads from the U.S. and during that week there was a national holiday, the 4th of July. So, leads were expected to be low.

But still, even with the holiday, we generated 496 leads, 68 of which where marketing qualified. We still generated more marketing qualified leads than when we didn’t have the KISSmetrics traffic.

The early results show that this is going to work out (or so I hope). If you ever want to consider buying up sites that aren’t generating revenue, you need to know your numbers like the back of your hand.

My sales funnel

Some of you are probably wondering how I promote my agency from this site. As I mentioned earlier, I will share my funnel and stats with you.

The way I monetize the traffic is by collecting leads (and my sales reps turn those leads into customers).

On the homepage, you will see a URL box.

neil patel homepage

Once you enter a URL, we do a quick analysis (it’s not 100% accurate all of the time).

neil patel analysis

And then we show you how many technical SEO errors you have and collect your information (this is how you become a lead).

lead form

And assuming we think you are a good fit, you see a screen that allows you to schedule a call (less than 18% of the leads see this).

schedule call

From there, someone on my team will do a discovery call with you.

Assuming things go well, a few of us internally review everything to double check we can really help, we then create projections and a presentation before pitching you for your money (in exchange for services of course).

That’s the funnel on NeilPatel.com in a nutshell… It’s pretty fine-tuned as well.

For example, when someone books a call we send them text reminders using Twilio to show up to the call as we know this increases the odds of you getting on the phone.

We even do subtle things like asking for your “work email” on the lead form. We know that 9 out 10 leads that give us a Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, or any other non-work email are typically not qualified.

And it doesn’t stop there… there are lead forms all over NeilPatel.com for this same funnel.

If you are reading a blog post like this, you’ll see a bar at the top that looks something like:

exit popup

Or if you are about to exit, you will see an exit popup that looks like:

exit popup

You’ll even see a thank you page that promotes my ad agency once you opt-in:

video thanks

And if I don’t convince you to reach out to us for marketing help right then and there, you’ll also receive an email or two from me about my ad agency.

As you can see, I’ve fine-tuned my site for conversions.

So much so, that every 1,000 unique visitors from the U.S. turns into 4.4 leads. And although that may not seem high, keep in mind that my goal isn’t to get as many leads as possible. I’m optimizing for quality over quantity as I don’t want to waste the time of my sales team.

For example, I had 2 reps that had a closing ratio of 50% last month. That means for every 2 deals they pitched, 1 would sign up for a 6-figure contract, which is an extremely high closing ratio.

Hence, I am trying to focus on quality so everyone in sales can get to 50% as it makes the business more efficient and profitable.

The last thing you want to do is pay a sales rep tons of money to talk to 50 people to only find 1 qualified lead. That hurts both you and your sales reps.

Conclusion

The strategy I am using to buy websites may seem risky, but I know my numbers like the back of my hand. From an outsider’s perspective it may seem crazy, but to me, it is super logical.

And the reason I buy sites for their traffic is that I already have a working business model.

So, buying sites based on their traffic is much cheaper than buying sites for their revenue. In addition to that, my return on investment is much larger.

For example, if I wanted to buy KISSmetrics (the whole business), I would have to spend millions and millions of dollars.

I’m looking for deals, it’s how you grow faster without having to raise venture capital.

When you use this strategy, there is no guarantee you will make a return on your investment, but if you spend time understanding the numbers you can reduce your risk.

I knew that going into this KISSmetrics deal that I will generate at least an extra $500,000 in profit from this one acquisition.

Realistically it should be much more than that as the additional leads seem to be of the same quality, and the numbers are penciling out for it to add well into the millions in revenue per year.

But before you pull the trigger and buy up a few sites in your space, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t buy sites that rely on 1 traffic source – you don’t want to buy sites that only have Facebook traffic. Or even Google traffic. Ideally, any site you buy should have multiple traffic sources (other than paid ads) as it will reduce your risk in case they lose their traffic from a specific channel.
  2. Buy old sites – sites that are less than 3 years old are risky. Their numbers fluctuate more than older sites.
  3. Spend time understanding the audience – run surveys, dive deep into Google Analytics… do whatever you can to ensure that the site you are buying has an audience that is similar to your current business.
  4. Be patient and look for deals – I hit up hundreds of sites every month. Some people hate my emails and won’t give me the time of day. That’s ok. I’m a big believer and continually pushing forward until I find the right deal. I won’t spend money just because I am getting antsy.
  5. Get creative – a lot of people think their site is worth more than it really is. Try to explain to them what it is really worth using data. I also structure deals in unique ways, such as I gave KISSmetrics up to 6 months before they had to transition to a new domain (and to some extent they are still allowed to use the existing domain for their client login area). You can even work out payment plans, seller based financing, or equity deals… you just have to think outside the box.

So, what do you think about my acquisition strategy? Are you going to try it out?

21 Tips For Increasing Search Engine Rankings Right Now

We have published many posts on Increasing Search Engine Rankings in the past.

Posts about SEO Tools, Online Store SEO  and SEO for Bloggers.

But, nothing is constant in Search Engine Optimization!

One day you’ll find your website ranking above the fold on the first page of Google…

And the next day you are not even on the first page!

21 tips to increase your search engine rankings NOW.

These 21 tips are the core of the SEO methodology that we recommend and implement for the clients of our SEO agency partners.

I’ve compiled all the best practices to provide you with actionable steps to start ranking websites.

Tools and resources you’ll need:

1. Keyword Research

All your SEO decisions come from having the right keywords – from the topics you’ll be writing in your content strategy, to the pages you’ll be optimizing.

Keyword research is about finding the balance between relevance and search volume.

It’s important to choose keywords that are relevant to your target market, as well as keywords with enough traction and gets a significant amount of queries. These are your low hanging fruit and the ones that make up your bucket list of target keywords.

Here’s an example of the bucket list of keywords, and I’ll dive in a bit how we came up with this list:

increase search engine rank

Your most important tools when doing keyword research are Google’s Keyword Planner, KW Finder, and Ahrefs.

The first thing you need to do is see is determine the top performing pages of the website. Ahrefs provides you a list of your top performing pages, as well as keywords that are ranking for those pages.

21 Tips For Increasing Search Engine Rankings

This is where critical thinking comes into play. Most of the keywords that appear there might not be relevant to the website, so you need to cherry pick the ones that are relevant and have a high search volume. Add these to your bucket of keywords, then highlight the ones that you want to rank for the most.

The next thing you want to do is build your keyword list. That’s where Google Keyword Planner and KW Finder becomes handy tools. The process is the same as how you choose your initial keyword list—go to Google Keyword Planner and plug in your keyword to see other keyword suggestions that you can add to your list.

2. Headlines

One of the struggles in ranking a website is writing a compelling headline – one that has the right keywords and resonates with visitors.

Eight out of 10 people will read a headline, but only two will actually proceed past the headline .

How do you compromise a read-worthy headline and a rank-building headline?

You can go about writing highly-effective headlines in a few ways:

  • Start with a working title: You don’t need to finalize your headline when you start writing. A working title will suffice. This can be as straightforward as possible and include your keywords, so you can determine the best way to present what the page is about.
  • If it sounds off, don’t force it : Keywords are necessary to your headlines to make the page rank higher, but the problem with most keyword insertions is that they appear forced and awkward, sometimes not even making any sense.
  • Optimize for search and social : Straightforward titles work in SEO, but might not always be applicable in social. Your headlines should be playful and attractive, but still having a direct tone that gives users a hint of what the content is about. Find the balance between optimizing for search and social, and sprinkle it with your target keywords.
  • See how others are doing it and learn from them : This is why you have tools like Buzzsumo to show you content that has the highest engagement. Look at the top results, analyze how their headlines are written, and see how you can apply to your strategy.

SEO tips

3. Page Content

Websites that rank are those that provide high-quality, relevant content to search users. When we say high-quality content, it should:

  • Be unique – no duplicate anywhere on the site
  • Align with the search intent of the user and provides them with the information they’re looking for
  • Doesn’t have grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • Includes relevant keywords in the title, headers, and body
  • Be accurate and with links to high-authority websites
  • Prompts users to complete a specific action and directs them to the next steps in their customer journey

Is Word Count Important?

Quality or quantity?

That’s always going to be a debate among SEO professionals. Some will say that short is better, as users don’t have the time to scroll a wall of text. Long-form content, on the other hand, provides you with more opportunities to insert target keywords. Ideally, you want a page to have at least 1,000 words of high-quality content.

Writing tips for Bloggers!

4. Post Slug

A post slug is the part of the URL that comes after the domain name and shows a particular section of the site. This is one of the things that users see when they do a search.

SEO tips increase search engine rankings

Now, compare these two post slugs:

www.mywebsite.com/post-about-increasing-seo-traffic-for-my-website

www.mywebsite.com/increase-seo-traffic

Which of the two do you think is likely going to get more visits?

If you guessed the second one, you’re on the right track!

It’s easy to optimize post slugs, but this is often overlooked by website owners. What they end up with is a jumble of words – or sometimes, numbers and symbols – that don’t make sense and are hard to remember.

Here are a few pointers when optimizing a post slug:

  • Set the right permalink structure : The permalink is the full URL of any page or post of a website. It includes the domain name and the specific page. The permalink structure should match the goals of the site.
  • Keep it short and easy to read : You want a post slug that’s easy to read and remember, but it should still describe what the post is about. Remove stop words and unnecessary articles, such as “the”, “and”, “a”, and “an” as much as possible.
  • Use target keywords : Post slugs that contain target keywords are more likely to rank on search results and bring more qualified traffic to the page.
  • Don’t use the same slug for different pages : The slug should be unique to the page that you want to rank.

IMPORTANT: Think before publishing any page or post because changing it later is not a good practice and will require you to do a redirect. Moreover, the site might lose SEO momentum if you change or remove the permalink of the target page.

5. SEO Image Optimization

Google doesn’t have the ability to understand what the image is and how it relates to the page, but you can do this by adding alternate text or “ alt” text to images. The alt text provides a short description that appears on the image’s code, so search bots can “see” and “understand” what is being shown.

improve search engine rankings

Another attribute that you have to optimize is the image title. The image title doesn’t appear when the image doesn’t load or appear; it appears when a user hovers over the image.

seo alt tag

This is how the HTML image tag should look like:

<img class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-1234″ src=”https://www.mywebsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/seo.jpg” alt=”alternate text for image” width=”300″ height=”199″ title=”your image title attribute goes here” />

One way to determine if the site has missing alt text is through a tool called Screaming Frog. This can do a quick crawl of the site and generate a file that shows a list of all images on the site. This makes it easier to check which image doesn’t have an alt text and which needs improving.

Pro-tip : When uploading images, rename the image files with relevant keywords or key phrases that you’re targeting.

Apart from using proper image title attributes and alt text, it’s also important to use images that don’t have a heavy file size. Heavy images will make the website load slower and cause users to bounce from the site. Before uploading, compress the image to reduce its file size.

Tools like TinyPNG.com are handy for compressing images.

6. SEO Internal Linking

Websites need internal links to help users navigate from one page to another, shows information hierarchy across the site, and, most importantly, spread link equity across the pages. A common oversight that some SEO specialists make is linking haphazardly.

Internal linking is easy as long as you have your keyword research. Your keyword research serves as a guide on which pages you can link to using the appropriate anchor text for a certain keyword. For example, if you want to rank for a certain keyword, make sure it’s getting as much link juice as possible from relevant pages or blogs on the website. From this, you can create an internal link map for the website.

You can structure your internal link mapping like this:

SEO and Internal Linking

7. External linking

Adding external links provides your visitors with another point of reference when they need to verify information on your website. There are two ways to go about external linking: one is having another domain point a link to your website (inbound) , and the other is to link from your website to another domain (outbound).

Dofollow or No-follow?

When do you link with a dofollow or no-follow?

You opt for a dofollow link if you want search engines to drive link juice to your website from an external source with a high domain authority. No-follow, on the other hand, is you telling search engines not to follow a website linking to you, or basically putting up a sign that says, “Don’t count this link.”

8. SEO and Broken links

Broken links happen if a page has been removed or its URL has been changed without a redirect added. When someone clicks on a broken link, a 404 page will appear to show the page they’re looking for is not available on the website.

Why are broken links bad? For one, these disrupt the user experience and cause the site’s bounce rate to skyrocket. Users who can’t find the information they need tend to leave the website. Another reason is too many broken links can hurt SEO rankings, as search engines may devalue a website that has broken links.

Use Screaming Frog or Search Console to identify broken links. Here’s how Screaming Frog shows broken links on the site:

SEO and broken links

Google Search Console also provides you with Crawl Errors on the website.

Search Console

You’ll also receive a notification on your Search Console dashboard if there’s an increase of 404s on the website.

Console dashboard and seo

How to Fix Broken Links

  • Make sure the URL is formatted correctly.
  • Add a redirect to old, broken links and direct them to relevant pages on the site.
  • Remove the anchor text directing to a broken link if the page no longer exists.

9. Sitemap

Search bots read the XML sitemap to get information about a website. The sitemap is like the blueprint of the website—it includes information on the architecture of the site, valuable metadata of the pages listed in the sitemap, and specific types of content on the pages of the website.

When you submit an XML sitemap, you’re giving Google the go signal to count the pages included in the sitemap to be of high-quality and worthy of indexing.

For the majority of us using WordPress, there are plenty of tools and plugins online such as Yoast SEO and All-In-One SEO Pack which automatically submit your sitemap from your website to Google when new pages are created. This is considered best practice — submitting an updated sitemap each time you create a new page. [Automating this process is just the icing on the cake.]

Sitemap and increasing search engine position

It’s still critical to look through Google Search Console to make sure you don’t have crawl errors, or pages that shouldn’t be on your sitemap, being in the habit of reviewing your sitemap at least once a month is good practice.

10. Backlinks

Yes, link building is not dead. In fact, a website can’t thrive without links supporting it. Like what I mentioned before, links serve as a point of reference – not just for users, but also for search engines. This is why you need to get high quality backlinks from high authority sites.

Guest posting to other websites is one way to get backlinks to your site. Be sure to submit guest posts to sites with a high domain authority. I use Buzzstream to look for potential guest posting websites with high DA scores.

SEO tips

After listing down potential guest posting sites, reach out and pitch with the topics you want to write about. Here’s an example of an guest post outreach email from Buzzstream:

SEO tips backlinks

Another effective strategy to build backlinks is creating local citations or listings. I recommend this for websites that are targeting a specific location. If there’s a piece of content you want to promote, social bookmarking and forums are effective channels to utilize that content for building links.

Link Building – Without The SERP Risks

11. Meta Data

Meta Data is composed of two parts – title and description. Some SEO professionals add Meta keywords in their Meta Data, but Google says it doesn’t consider these in ranking search results.

A website’s Meta Data should entice users to click and provide them with information about the page. The Meta Data appears as a snippet of text on search results and on the HTML code of the website.

SEO tips

See how the Meta title and description are written for the results on the top positions. These show snippets that match the intent of the user and provide enough information on what the page is about.

Here are a few best practices to follow when optimizing the Meta Data of a website:

  • Use your target keywords in your Meta Data—ideally, the keywords should be on the left-most side.
  • Don’t write descriptions and titles that are too long, as this will cause the Meta Data to appear truncated.
  • Each title and description should be unique to the page.
  • Write compelling copies for the title and description to maximize click-through. The title and description should provide information that matches the search queries of users.

12. Tags

Optimizing tags is one way of improving how a website communicates with search engines. These tags are not visible to users, but they are to search engines. When search engines crawl a site and find these tags, they get information on what the website is about.

Here are some important tags you need to optimize:

Title tag : Each page should have a unique title tag, with only 50-60 characters (keywords included). What you put in the title tag is what will appear on search results. While it’s important to put in keywords, it’s better to make the title tag appear natural.

Header tags : Depending on how you structure your page, you can have H1, H2, H3, H4 tags, and so on. The idea about using header tags is to organize the content of the page. H1 tags usually serve as the title of the body content, while the subsequent header tags are the subheadings. Use your main keywords on H1 tag and embellish the subsequent tags with secondary keywords.

Schema tags : Optimizing the site’s schema tags improves a search engine’s ability to understand what the website is about and improves how the website is displayed on search results.

Nofollow link tags : Nofollow tags are important if you have backlinks that you don’t want search engines to count. Use this tag if you have links going to websites with a low domain authority.

Anchor text tags : When linking, pay attention to the anchor text. Your anchor text should provide context to where you’re linking; otherwise, search engines won’t see the connection and relevance of the link.

Canonical tags : These are used if the website has duplicate pages. You add this tag to help search engines identify which URL to consider as the master page among the duplicates.

Do a deep dive of the website to ensure its tags are optimized appropriately. Use Yoast for an way of adding tags on the website.

13. Page Speed

Here’s the deal with search—the longer it takes for a website to load, the more likely users will abandon the site. According to John Mueller in 2016, the ideal page speed is below three seconds, to cater to both search engines and user experience.

So, how do you improve a website’s page speed?

First things first, do a quick sweep of the website. Are there too many images on the site? Does it use Flash content? Which plugins are available?

Let’s start with images. Experts say images make up more than half of a website’s weight. For better optimization, use images in JPEG or PNG format. Make it also a habit to compress images before uploading.

Minification of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS is also an important practice to reduce the client-server requests in loading website content. You have to be careful during the minification process, so only the unnecessary codes are removed.

Reduce the number of plugins on the website. If the plugin requires complex operations, requires the use of external APIs, and loads many content assets or scripts, consider removing this from the site.

Also – see our previous article on Page Speed.

14. Mobile Optimization

With Google’s mobile-first indexing, neglecting mobile optimization is out of the question. If the site is already mobile optimized, good job! If not, you’ll have to start working on keeping it on par with sites that are mobile optimized.

Here are a few tips to optimize the site for mobile:

  • Minimize intrusive ads that hinder the experience of mobile users. If you want to have ads, it’s best to keep them at the bottom of the page.
  • Make sure pop-up software is Mobile Friendly.  No Flash.
  • Code instead of using images, as this helps in improving page speed.
  • Your content should be direct to the point but catchy and memorable.
  • The site should be responsive to all types of screens and orientations.
  • Text should be clear and legible—you don’t want users to zoom in on the page when they’re browsing.

15. HTTPS

Users are becoming savvier with how they browse and share information. With privacy becoming a main concern of many online users, maintaining a secure site is key.It’s important to check if the site has a security certification. If there’s none, you have to get this certificate from a certificate authority, which will verify the ownership of the web address.

There are three types of SSL certificates:

  • Domain Validation SSL Certificate : This certificate entails the website has been registered by a person with admin access.
  • Organization Validation SSL Certificate : This certificate validates the ownership of the domain and provides information, such as the website owner’s name, city, state, and country. This is usually used for commercial websites.
  • Extended Validation SSL Certificate : This certificate displays the verified owner of the website on browser address bars. This is ideal for high profile websites that are prone to phishing attacks and handle online financial transactions, such as banks.

SEO tips

Make sure your HTTPS site isn’t blocked from crawlers in your robots.txt files. Avoid using the noindex meta tag to ensure search engines are able to index your pages.

16. Duplicate Content

Duplicate content has always been a thorn on the side of digital marketers and website owners. But why do you need to be mindful of duplicate content? For one, search engines will have trouble distinguishing which version to include or exclude in their indexing. This, in turn, makes it difficult to determine which version to rank on search results. Second, duplicate content confuses users, which hinders their search experience. Most importantly, link equity becomes diluted among all duplicates, which impact the visibility of the original version.

How to Fix Duplicate Content:

  • Set up a 301 redirect.
  • Use the rel=”canonical” tag to specify which URL serves as a copy of the original.
  • Don’t use the same content over and over across your pages – even in your Meta Data.
  • If you have pages with similar content, expand the content of each page, or consolidate the information into one page.

17. Pagination

The more structure a website, the easier it is for users to navigate and get the information they need. If done right, pagination can bring about an amazing experience for users. This is why most websites implement pagination to provide users with additional navigation when browsing single sections of a page with long-form content.

increasing search engine rankings

When doing pagination, one of the important elements is a visible navigation. Placement is key when it comes to this aspect—do you only add pagination at top or the bottom of the page? If the pages are long and require continuous scrolling, it’s best to add pagination at the top and bottom.

As the purpose of pagination is to make it easier for users to navigate the site, it needs to show where they are and where they can go next. Users should easily identify the current page, so they know of where they are on the site. This also includes adding the Previous and Next links separated from the page numbers.

Another good practice for pagination is adding a “Go to Page” option. This enables users to jump to their desired page number instead of clicking on the Next link or the preceding or succeeding page numbers.

Finally, the first and last page numbers should be visible…

This gives users an idea of how much information they can get from the site. This also allows them to jump to the first and last pages without clicking through the other pages.

Pagination: 7 Best Practices with Examples

18. SEO and Reducing Bounce Rate

A website with a bounce rate going through the roof is never good news. A high bounce rate can be a source of why a site isn’t ranking on search results. When the number of users bouncing from the site is high, Google discredits the website and delegates a low score that affects rankings.

So, how do you reduce a website’s bounce rate?

  • Increased page speed : Use Google’s Test My Site to do a quick mobile speed test and see which areas on the site need improving.
  • Improved readability : This means no walls of text and better content formatting. Use subheadings or bullet points to make content scannable and digestible. Add imagery and screenshots that support information on the page.
  • Compelling Call to Action : Be clear on what you want users to do on the site – whether to buy, subscribe, or contact the business. Entice users to click on the CTA by giving a sense of urgency or showing the value of the service.
  • Fresh content : Always provide fresh content on the website. By publishing high-quality, high-value content, you’re providing momentum for the website and keeping users updated with new information.Understanding what is an ideal bounce rate is the first step into identifying how to reduce users leaving your site, and keeping visitors on your site, engaged and ready to take action.

19. Language Appropriation

English may be the universal language, but it’s not as universal as you think. There’s a difference between the American and British English in terms of spelling, word usage, and expressions.Why is it important to focus on language appropriation in SEO? Simple—you want users to be able to relate to the website. Using the appropriate language is the first step.One of the tools I recommend using is Grammarly. This checks for grammatical and spelling errors, proper punctuation, word choice, and style when writing. Grammarly also allows you to choose your language preference – American English, British English, Canadian English, and Australian English.

Language Appropriation

20. HTML5 Sections

I’ve discussed a couple of HTML tags that you need to optimize at tip #12 of this post. On this section, I’m going to dive deeper into HTML5 sections that you need to pay attention to. The latest version of HTML has semantic elements that you can optimize to provide search engines more context on what a page is about.

I’ll be focusing on the following:

  • <article> : This tag is used to specify new blog entries in a page. You can use this for content that changes from time to time, such as blog posts, forum posts, comments, or news stories. With this tag, you’re signalling to search engines to focus on the text inside the article more than the other elements of the site.
  • <aside> : This tag focuses on secondary content of the page. This tells search engine that the content with this tag is important, but not as much as the other content on the page. For instance, when you use this tag inside the <article> tag, search engines will see it and note its relevance to the article, but will not focus much on it. When using this tag, the aside content should have contextual relevance to the surrounding content. <nav> : This tag tells search engines that all the links enclosed in the tag are important for moving around on the website, which is why you should use this for major navigation links.
  • <section> : This tag allows you to break down content into different sections to make it easier for users to scan and find the information they need. Each section tag should contain a header tag to help search engines identify what that specific section is about and understand how it relates to the other content on the page.
  • <footer> : This tag specifies content that is placed at the bottom or footer section of a website. It contains copyright information, contact information, authorship information, sitemap, and links to other related pages. It also tells search engines the content enclosed in the tag is not as important as the content on the top section of the page.

By using the appropriate HTML5 sections, you’re hitting two birds with one stone—that is, making it easier for search engines to sort through the content of the website and providing users with a smooth user experience.

21. Displaying Updated Content

Fresh content is one of the foundations of Increasing Search Engine Rankings, but what about existing content on the site?

Do you leave those out of your strategy?

The answer is no.

While it’s important to provide as many pieces of fresh, relevant content as possible, you can still fuel existing content on the site to improve rankings. One way is by updating the cornerstone pieces and those that generate a lot of traffic. This shows the site has new information to offer and that you’re maintaining the website regularly.

There are different ways to display updated content on the website.

Option 1: Displaying the Last Modified/Updated Date Before the Post Content

This is done via functions.php (which is found via Appearance | Editor in your WP Dashboard)

theme functions php

 

Then add the following code to the functions.php of the site to show the date you last updated a blog post:

function wpb_last_updated_date( $content ) {
$u_time = get_the_time(‘U’);
$u_modified_time = get_the_modified_time(‘U’);
if ($u_modified_time >= $u_time + 86400) {
$updated_date = get_the_modified_time(‘F jS, Y’);
$updated_time = get_the_modified_time(‘h:i a’);
$custom_content .= ‘<p class=”last-updated”>Last updated on ‘. $updated_date . ‘ at ‘. $updated_time .'</p>’;

}

$custom_content .= $content;

return $custom_content; }

add_filter( ‘the_content’, ‘wpb_last_updated_date’ );

This is how it will appear on the website:

SEO tips

Option 2: Displaying the Last Modified/Updated and the Original Publication Date

If you want to show the date you last updated the post with the original publication date, add the following code:

$custom_content .= $content;

$u_time = get_the_time(‘U’);
$u_modified_time = get_the_modified_time(‘U’); if ($u_modified_time >= $u_time + 86400) { echo “<p>Last modified on “; the_modified_time(‘F jS, Y’);
echo ” at “;
the_modified_time();
echo “</p> “; }

After adding the code, you’ll get something like this:

SEO TIPS FOR BLOGGERS

 

Option 3: Adding a Plugin to Display Modified Date

If you’re not one for coding, you can use the Last Modified Timestamp plugin on WordPress. This plugin allows you to generate a short-code that you can add to a post, but that’s the downside—you have to add this to every page you want to update.

Last Modified Timestamp plugin

When you’ve successfully installed the plugin, this is how it will look like on the page:

SEO TIPS that work

Now that you know…

Increasing Search Engine Rankings is not rocket science, but it’s not as easy as ABC either.

What I learned in my years of working with agencies, providing wholesale SEO and building websites is you need to experiment with different strategies. While there’s no set formula on how to increase Search Engine Rankings, the best practices above are a good place to start!