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If you run frequent social media campaigns, you will undoubtedly use certain applications to assist you with posting messages. There are quite a few of them out there. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to discuss the merits of those applications or compare them. What we’d like to discuss today is whether or not it is prudent to pre-schedule your social media messages.

Some of the applications you can use allow you to pre-schedule your social media messages on the various social media sites.

Hootsuite, for instance, will allow you to pre-schedule messages on Facebook and Twitter, but you can’t pre-schedule on Google+. Do Share is a Google Chrome application that allows you to pre-schedule messages for Google+, but you have to be logged in for those messages to actually post.

Despite these drawbacks, there are benefits to pre-scheduling. First and foremost is time management. By pre-writing and pre-scheduling your messages, you can save time. Write your messages in advance and schedule them to post when you want them to.

I’d be careful to rely on this method too much. You still want to interact with your audience, retweet and re-share posts on the various social media sites you participate on. You want your presence to be personal and approachable if not spontaneous. Still, pre-scheduling some of your messages – those that are not necessarily timely or that are easy to write and can be posted at any time – can benefit you in the long run.

Our recommendation: Pre-schedule certain posts that you can share at any time without detriment. More timely messages should be posted when prudent for your business and your audience.

One of the most important principles of doing business online is the push-pull principle. You “push” your content out and “pull” your prospects in. But in order for this principle to work, your content has to be findable. You have to make it easy to find by the type of people you want to find you. The best way to make that happen is to start with a simple inventory.

How are people finding you now?

There are various ways to be found online. Here are a few easy ones to pick:

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Other blogs in your niche
  • YouTube
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Paid advertising
  • Organic search
  • Podcast directories
  • Business directories
  • Wikipedia

There are others, but the point is, you need to take inventory. If you don’t know how people are finding you, then you need to take some time and figure that out before you go on.

After finding out how you are currently being found, do an inventory of your content assets. What resources do you have available to push your content out to the places you are more likely to find prospects to pull in?

Having a good idea about what assets are at your disposal is critical to being able to use them effectively. Once you know what is available, you can put together a content strategy to reach the type of people you want to reach. Create awesome content that pulls people in to your sales funnel – then sell them what you have to offer.

Since 2011, content marketers have learned a few things about publishing content online. First and foremost is this: Produce quality content, not rehashed ideas that have been done over and over again.

Content marketers stuck in the past are still talking about link building techniques. Many of those link building techniques still work, but not always. Some of them work well most of the time. Still, online marketing is not all about link building, and the sad truth is that most SEOs are talking about it as if it is.

So if isn’t about link building, what is it about? In a word, it’s about authority. Do you have the authority to back up your claims? Can you prove your authority?

There are different ways to prove authority. One way is to present social proof. That is, you are active on several social media platforms and constantly churning out great content. Another way to prove authority is through search engine rankings and search engine recognition. If Google considers you an authority, then who is going to argue?

After last year, many online marketers are at a loss as to how to win favor with Google. It seems like many of the things that used to work are now only producing meager results.

Here’s a hint: Focus on your readers. Make them happy. If your content is written for your readers, you stand a much better chance at making the search engines happy and leveraging social proof.

Things may be getting ugly real soon at Yelp and other sites that allow anonymous reviews of businesses. In Virginia, a judge ruled that deliberately false statements are not protected speech. The problem is, the business owner suing in this case hasn’t proven that these anonymous reviews contain deliberately false statements.

Online reviews certainly change the way certain laws can be used in court. Previously, if you didn’t like a certain business, all you had to do is tell a friend. What you said to your friend in the privacy of your conversation couldn’t be disputed, but online reviews can.

Even if they’re anonymous.

Yelp and other sites have been hiding behind the First Amendment since their inception. That party might soon come to an end, however, if more businesses sue in states where the laws allow them to question the legitimacy of reviews.

These matters are complicated by the fact that a competitor can pay someone to post fake reviews of your business. Not many people, that I know of, would consider that protected speech. If you’re a business owner, I doubt that you’d want such fake reviews influencing people’s decision to do business with you. And that’s the problem. Right now, they can.

So will anonymous reviews soon be a thing of the past? Andy Beal has an interesting suggestion. Maybe it’s time for Yelp to introduce a verified customer attribute, but that makes me wonder just how they’d be able to do that.

What’s your take on anonymous reviews and social review sites like Yelp?

A listicle is a short form of blog content where you make a list of items and write a paragraph or two on each items so that the list looks more like an article. They’re very popular for online content and the reason they work are several-fold.

Here are the top 5 reasons to write listicles for your blog content:

Listicles are easy to read

Your blog readers can scan them and decide for themselves which parts of the article they want to stop and read.

They make great SEO

You can include your keywords in the list items, which serve as subheads for the article. This is an SEO-boosting tactic that still works as well as it did ten years ago.

A listicle is a tightly-focused area of knowledge

The best listicles serve up a short list of items on one particular topic, so the information is relevant to a particular niche audience.

Listicles are easy to write

Just write your list then go back and write the commentary for each list item.

Better than a bullet list

Instead of littering your blog with endless bullet lists, you can switch things around and write longer articles with subheads. Your listicles serve as lists without the bullets.

The next time you are tempted to write a blog post will bullet lists, write a listicle instead. They’re also easily share-able on social media.

High profile SEO Bruce Clay conducted a study concerning content creation and search engine rankings. What he found out was pretty astounding. Content curation can work better than original content if

it contains original content.

In other words, the key to successful content marketing is original content. That hasn’t changed in several years.

The Key To Successful Content Curation

The most popular kind of content curation is aggregation. This is where the curator simply takes a handful of links or content on a particular topic and aggregates them into a single post. It’s easy and doesn’t take up a lot of time. However, if this content isn’t accompanied by original content, it will be much less effective.

Distilling a lot of content into a smaller post where the original content is the star is a much better approach, though it does take up more time. Still, it is more effective.

Mashups can also be very effective. This is when you take a bunch of content and merge it into a single piece with an original point of view. That requires original content by definition.

As long as you include original content in your curated posts, they will achieve a certain level of search engine visibility. The more original content, the better. This is true SEO. Taking content that has already ranked and re-using it, even spinning it, is much less effective. SEO is, and always has been, about originality.

Every landing page is either a winner or a loser. If it’s a winner, it will convert prospects to customers. Here are five essential elements to include on your landing page if you want it to convert.

  1. USP – An acronym for Unique Selling Proposition. What sets you apart from the competition? Why should people buy from you? Establish early on. With a USP, you are not likely to convert sales.
  2. Name Capture Form – Whether you are closing the sale or collecting contact information for use later, you need to get your customer to give it up. Put a form on your landing page if you want it convert.
  3. Strong Call to Action – A call to action asks for the sale. Provide a strong call to action and visitors will buy, opt-in, and convert like crazy.
  4. Benefit-Focused Content – You have to sell the benefits of your product or service. You have a few seconds, and no more, to get your prospect’s attention. Use an eye-catching image and content that heavily focuses on benefits rather than features.
  5. Social Share Buttons – Encourage your visitors to share your landing page with their friends.

If you want your landing pages to be successful, include these 5 essential elements on every one. From the headline to the call to action, you’ve got to keep your prospects interested if you’re going to convert them.

Every now and then an idea comes along that seems hokie on the surface but actually turns into a big deal. Twitter comes to mind.

Flipagram promises to be to video as Twitter is to blogging. Call it microvideo production, but it could catch on.

The name makes you think instantly of Instagram. That’s understandable. It is integrated with Instagram. But it’s also integrated with Facebook and Twitter, which means that it could see a lot of users checking it out.

It’s actually a smartphone app – with downloads for iOS and Android.

The essence is Flipagram allows users to create short videos (15 to 30 seconds) using their own photos and music dubbed over them. One question that comes to mind is this, Can users use their own music? If so, then it could catch on with independent music artists, and the marketing value for small businesses will go up immediately, as well.

That’s not to say that you can’t use Flipagram for marketing if you are forced to use music from a pre-established library, but my guess is there will be commercial restrictions on copyrighted material.

I can’t wait to see how users put Flipagram to use and begin to share their videos across their social networks.

All Facebook says it won’t have the same marketing usability as Vine, but I do wonder. What do you think? Will Flipagram become useful to social media marketers?

One underutilized feature of Twitter is something called a Twitter chat, or a tweet chat. In a nutshell, this is simply the practice of using a special hashtag to host a discussion about a particular topic on Twitter. It’s a great way to use Twitter for branding your company.

It’s really simple. I’d recommend creating a special hashtag for your chat session rather than co-opt one that already exists. There are several reasons for this:

  • If you use a hashtag that already exists, you may find people joining your chat session who shouldn’t be there.
  • You may annoy other Twitter users who feel like you’ve taken over their conversation.
  • Creating your own hashtag is fun and practical as it carries with it a branded element that points back to you.

Before choosing a hashtag, conduct a search for it to see if it already exists. If it does, then come up with an alternative.

After creating your hashtag, write a blog post inviting your readers to join your chat session. Be sure to publish the time and date. Next, create an event on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn to notify your followers of the chat session. And don’t forget to invite your Twitter followers.

If you plan your chat session far enough in advance, you can promote it regularly prior to the event to encourage a higher attendance. Make sure everyone knows the chat hashtag.

Twitter chats can be conducted during a specific short period of time (i.e. 7 P.M.-9 P.M. on a specific date) or for a designated time period over several days (i.e. 8 A.M. on a specific date to 9 P.M. three days later). Either way, it’s a great way to get feedback on specific issues related to your customers and your brand.

It’s the end of the year, which means this is the time when online marketing professionals look at the year and see what they did well and what they could have done better before turning their eyes around and predicting the trends for the coming year. Since it’s the law, we’ve decided to get on the bandwagon and make our predictions for trends in 2014.

Only, we’re going to approach it a little differently. We’re going to list 5 trends that started in 2013 and that we see continuing into 2014 – maybe beyond.

  1. Mobile marketing – Mobile marketing has been on the rise. Two things are necessary for this. The first are responsive websites. By the end of 2014, if you don’t have one, then you’ll effectively be out of the mobile marketing game. Secondly, the growth of smartphone and tablet usage make mobile marketing an all-in effort.
  2. High quality content – Internet marketers should have been focused on this all along, but people tend to focus on whatever Google forces them to focus on. In 2014, that will be “high quality content.”
  3. Social media metrics – Social media is a channel that has finally come into its own. For many websites, social media traffic will eclipse search engine traffic.
  4. Apps development – Who doesn’t love a good app? Again, smartphones and tablets are driving this train. It’s only going to go faster – until it becomes a super train.
  5. Visual content – Images, videos, infographics, you name it. Content is becoming more visual. Don’t expect this to change.

These trends started in 2013, but they’re only going to become more pronounced in the coming year. What do you think?

Before and after the Hummingbird update, one of the chief goals for many search engine marketers was, and is, to get web pages to rank highly for key search terms. However, how you go about that is different pre- and post-Hummingbird. One thing is necessary in both cases, however: Quality.

If you truly want to produce high quality content, here are five types of content that have a better than even chance of qualifying:

  1. Evergreen Content – Let’s start with the easy one. If your content has value today and will have the same value in five, ten, or twenty years, then it’s what we call “evergreen” content. That kind of content will always rank.
  2. Problem/Solution – This is content that answers a specific question or solves a particular problem. Think of a problem that you know people are having and tell them how to solve it.
  3. Case Study – A case study focuses on telling a success story. Take a particular client or situation and tell how that client was successful doing something. Make the “something” very specific. It can a product or service, a particular problem they wanted to solve, or a process.
  4. Hot Tips – If you have the “Top 10 Tips For Doing X” or a similar post, these are usually golden. Top tips content is very valuable if it focuses on real top tips.
  5. Analysis of a Topic – Write an in-depth analysis of a particular subject. That includes pros and cons as well as statistics regarding the subject matter. Take a position on something and defend it, backing it up with facts and figures.

Of course, there is never a guarantee that your content will rank well for your targeted keywords, but these five types of content give you a big leg up.

A long time ago – before Hummingbird, before Penguin, and even before Panda – bloggers would go out to other blogs and make comments hoping to gather a few back links that would drive their websites higher up the search engine rankings. It worked until Google caught onto the game and stopped counting blog comments for linking purposes. So does that mean blog comments no longer hold value?

Website owners and Internet marketers are learning that not everything has to have SEO value in order to have value for their businesses. It’s a good lesson to learn.

There are many things, in fact, that have business or marketing value that don’t necessarily have SEO value. Serious online marketers need to take note of these, which include:

  • E-mail marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Apps
  • Blog and forum commenting
  • PPC advertising
  • Offline networking

Just to name a few.

Going forward, the primary goal for online marketers needs to be marketing and branding. That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider SEO factors. You should. But the way SEO is going to be conducted in the future is quite a bit different than how it was done in the past.

Do you have a plan for your future online business? Does it include SEO? Does it include things other than SEO? It should.

Cynthia Boris starts off this article with a great question. It seems that 55% of the respondents to a survey said they would trade their laptop for a tablet. Among men, that number is 60%. Among women, it’s 50%. But I wonder what it will be 10 years from now, or 5?

Read down a little further and you’ll learn that 56% said they were more likely to respond to an ad on a tablet than on a PC. Are you ready to advertise now?

If you haven’t figured out yet that mobile advertising is going to be the big shift in the next 5-10 years, then perhaps this article will convince you. Tablet usage is on the rise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tablets are the big seller this Christmas. I wonder how many people are going to get their first one?

For the final kicker, check out what Ms. Boris says at the end:

The important takeaway here is that a tablet isn’t just a mini-laptop. A flat banner ad isn’t going to cut it on a tablet. You need to think in terms of interactivity, of sound and movement. Whatever you can do (and afford) that gets a customer closer to experiencing your product, the better chance you’ll have of clinching the sale.

And to that I say, “Absolutely!”

If you’ll make your ads interactive, perhaps even including video, then you stand a much better chance of closing the sale. Now is the time to start thinking about marketing to tablet owners.

You’ve likely heard of link buying and how it’s a terrible practice to get into. You’ve likely even heard that it could get your website banned from the search engines. But what if you pay a blogger to insert your link into his or her content on a site he or she doesn’t own?

It’s been going on for some time now. According to Matt Cutts, the search engines are looking for ways to detect it.

It shouldn’t be hard.

As a practice, bribing bloggers is no better than buying links. In fact, ethically speaking, it could be worse. The net search engine effect could be the same. If you’re found out, you’re toast.

It is hard to say if Google has taken action or is looking to take action in the near future against sites using this technique but it is clear, Google knows about it.

My bet is, they’ll take action. But there’s a fine line because the site owners on the sites where the links are built may not be aware of the practice. If they were, they’d fire the bloggers I’m sure. How awful would it be if those sites were penalized and that was how they found out that their bloggers were stiffing them? My bet is, some bloggers would lose their jobs.

If you do things the right way, you never have to worry about running afoul of search engine policies.

If you thought that Google would publish Authorship rich snippets forever, then you are probably disappointed by this bit of news. I hope you don’t think Google promised you a nice big Authorship hug for the rest of your life.

The truth is, Authorship rich snippets were as easily gamed as links and other SEO fauna. Maybe that’s why they’re reducing the use of them.

I think Hummingbird changed a lot for webmasters. Instead of focusing on improving your author profile or increasing your search engine rankings through link building, maybe it’s time for webmasters to focus on publishing quality content that actually helps end users. It’s time to get back to marketing basics.

Yesterday’s post on building domain authority is the key to survival in the current search landscape. But it’s not the only thing that is important.

Online marketing is becoming more complex. The companies that succeed will be the companies that think about the needs of their customers and target audience and then focus on meeting those needs. If you’re still focused on feeding the bots, then you’ll likely end up at the bottom of the search results at some point. Google is getting more sophisticated in ferreting out low quality content.

This should be good news for anyone interested in high quality content.

It’s becoming vogue for content marketers, or SEOs, to talk about Domain Authority in the same way they used to talk about article marketing and link building. But what is Domain Authority, and is it important?

Rohit Palit offers the best definition of Domain Authority that I’ve ever seen:

… it basically means how much your site is likely to rank higher in search engines compared to competitor sites.

In other words, your Domain Authority is relative to other sites in your niche.

Post-Hummingbird, the most important metric for ensuring you rank higher in the search engines has shifted. It isn’t more content or more links. It’s higher quality content and perhaps some of the five pillars of content marketing shared by Palit’s infographic on Domain Authority. These include:

  1. On-site SEO factors
  2. Content promotion efforts
  3. Social media
  4. Branding
  5. Relationships with influencers

This is a combination who-you-know and what-you-know approach. Pure SEO – on-site SEO – is still important, and links are too to some extent, but equally important are branding, social media, your overall content marketing strategy, and your ability to influence the influencers. Google wants to force webmasters to build relationships not links.

By “relationships” I mean three things: Relationships with influencers, relationships with your customers (or target audience), and relationships between entities.

SEO is in a constant state of change. If you want to increase your chances at ranking in the search engines for your key terms, don’t focus on keyword-based content. Focus on creating great content, promoting it through valuable channels, and building relationships with key people who will interact with your brand in a meaningful way. In other words, carry on with your marketing plan as usual.

PPC Hero shares 15 ad networks you can use besides Google AdWords. I’d say you should definitely use the first two on the list:

  • Bing
  • Facebook

But you probably shouldn’t give up on Google AdWords either.

The thing about AdWords is it sends the most traffic to your website, if you do it well. Of course, you’ll pay more for clicks too. If you have a small budget, then you might start with Bing and Facebook. Once you increase your revenues enough to increase your advertising budget, then you can move on to Google AdWords.

Another benefit to starting with Bing and smaller ad networks is you can practice your ad writing and landing page skills. Failure will cost you a lot less than it will at Bing. Once you’ve perfected your craft, then you can spend the big dollars.

PPC advertising is only getting better. With Facebook, you can target your ads to specific demographics, which you can’t do with Google or Bing because they are more keyword-based. I highly recommend both approaches. PPC on the search engines is about finding your audience through their search habits. On Facebook, it’s about looking for them by customer persona type.

Smaller businesses don’t have to be left out of the PPC advertising game. Start small and work your way up.

More and more, businesses are figuring out that telling a story is good marketing. This is evident when you read about these social media hoaxes that people easily fell for, including top social media website Mashable.

In two of the hoaxes, a popular TV show host was behind the event. Both Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel foisted hoaxes on unsuspecting Net citizens.

But I’d like to discuss two other hoaxes on the list:

  1. The Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax
  2. and the Kiss Cam Breakup hoax

In both of these cases, the story itself is what made the hoax go viral. Manti Te’o was a Notre Dame football star who now plays for the San Diego Chargers. Allegedly, his long long-time girlfriend died in a car accident last January, except that the girl reported to have died in the accident didn’t exist. It didn’t stop the American public from latching onto the story and gasping in awe.

The Kiss Cam Breakup is actually a bit funny. Two Grizzlies employees staged a stunt on the Kiss Cam at one of the Grizzlies baseball games. Supposedly, the man wouldn’t get off the phone and kiss his girlfriend for the Jumbotron so she dumped her drink on him.

Stories capture people’s imaginations. True or not, it’s a great way to get people’s attention for your brand. Just be sure that, if you try this, you do it in an ethical way.

Not all story marketing needs to be done by video, but video is a powerful medium, so knock your lights out.

If you think that having more web pages will lead to better search rankings or a higher PageRank, then you are mistaken. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is no benefit to having more web pages on your website.

There are plenty of small websites that rank well. I’ve seen one page websites rank well, five page websites that rank well, and websites with hundreds of pages that rank well. So what determines how well a web page ranks in the search engines?

Nothing but the content.

The only way to ensure that your web pages rank highly in the search engines is to follow SEO best practices. If you do that, there’s no guarantee that you’ll take over the No. 1 position for every keyword that you are tracking, but your chances are higher if you follow the best practices recommended by the top SEO experts.

Also, if you have more pages on your website, then that simply means you have more opportunities to rank well – but only if you follow those SEO best practices.

In short, you have to follow the best practices for quality SEO on every web page on your website, whether you have one web page or 1,000. It’s those best practices that determine how well you do, weighed against how other web pages also employ those best practices. Focus on good SEO techniques, not on building more web pages.

Yesterday, Bing announced the addition of some really cool features that should make it more competitive with Google. That’s not to say we can expect an immediate turn around in search market share, but Bing could gain 1% or 2% over a year with these new features unless Google responds with similar features. Historically, however, when Google follows, they choke. They are much better when they lead.

Here are the new features being offered by Bing now:

  • Discover TED Talks – TED Talks are very popular. If you search for a person who has given a TED talk, you’ll get a Snapshot pane with that person’s biographical information, including a list of their TED talks.
  • Famous Speeches and National Anthems – Listen to them online right from Bing’s search engine. If you search for a famous statesman, you can listen to famous speeches by that person with just one click.
  • Online Courses – Find free online courses from top universities.
  • University Rankings
  • Scientific Concepts – Search for a scientific concept and you’ll get the definition and explanation of it right in the search results, which is similar to Google’s dictionary listings and weather reports.
  • Historic Events – Looking for a historical event? Get information on it right in the search results.
  • Related People – If you conduct a search and get a string of snapshots, you can hover over the images of the people and see how they’re related to your search.
  • Animal Research – Search for an animal and get a list with images of subspecies of that animal.
  • Ask Bing – Ask Bing a question and get the answer in the search results.
  • App and Software Downloads – If you’re searching for a piece of software or a particular app, Bing will point you to the safest websites for download.

All of these are useful for searchers, but how will they assist Internet marketers in putting their products and services in front of potential customers? We encourage you to play with these features on Bing and get familiar with them. Then you can put together a strategy for improving your search rankings based on how Bing appears to rank pages for these particular searches.