How To Write Noteworthy Content And Get Your Blog Syndicated by LifeHacker

How To Write Noteworthy Content And Get Your Blog Syndicated by LifeHacker

One of the hot new trends in Content Marketing this year is “content syndication”.

In case you haven’t heard about it before, imagine this:

You write an article and publish it on your own blog. Your audience checks it out.

Then you take that same article and republish it on a dozen wildly popular sites like Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc, Lifehacker, The Next Web, tapping into their massive audiences and getting huge traffic and some high authority links from them.

Or even better.

You just publish your article and THEY pick it up and republish it automatically, without you having to do anything (like it happens with Buffer blog).

But of course it’s easier said than done.

Content Syndication might sound like a “hack” or a “shortcut”, but in reality there are tons of hard work involved.

And 80% of that hard work goes into creating high quality content that authority sites will be happy to republish.

To be honest I never had any of my content syndicated on big sites. But I know someone who does it regularly.

Meet Gregory Ciotti – one of the most brilliant content marketers that I know of.

His articles generate up to 19.000 likes on Facebook and get referenced by leading blogs like SmashingMagazine, CopyBlogger and Buffer.

But the most impressive part is that his blog Sparring Mind gets syndicated by LifeHacker on complete autopilot:

“I happen to be syndicated with Lifehacker for my site Sparring Mind, which means that the contributions editor checks out my new posts, and if they are a match with the Lifehacker audience, she’ll republish them.”

I’ve learned a lot from Gregory about writing noteworthy content and I’ll be happy to share some of my takeaways with you.

1. The secret to great writing is great reading material.

This applies to both: what you write and how you write it.

We aren’t born with tons of knowledge in our heads. So if you want to write something noteworthy – you have to learn something noteworthy first.

There are a lot of ways to learn new things, but reading is probably the quickest one.

Gregory writes a lot about human psychology and by looking at his list of “50 Must-Read Social Psychology Books” you can guess where all these great ideas of his articles come from.

Good-Books

Yet books are not the single source of new information out there.

A ton of new articles on any given topic are published online every single day.

So you shouldn’t ever feel a lack of new information. Your only problem should be:

– How to keep up with all that stuff?

FYI, I have recently tackled this question on my personal blog: “How To Keep Up With New Information Even When You Don’t Have Time For It”

Here’s a great habit that every content marketer should adopt.

Whenever you decide to write an article on a certain topic – go and read all the best articles on that topic that were already written.

How do you know which articles are “the best”?

That’s simple.

They either have tons of social shares or tons of other websites linking to them.

Just search for any topic in Ahrefs’ Content Explorer tool and you’ll see what I mean:

content-marketing

Reading a lot and being on top of things is one of the best “hacks” I know to writing notable content.

And all the tips below won’t really work for you until you master this one.

2. The “M. Night Shyamalan Technique”

Another great “hack” that I’ve learned from Gregory.

M. Night Shyamalan is a movie director and screenwriter who made a name for himself by having a unique “twist” ending in his movies.

That’s what you need to do with your content – add some unique “twist” to it to help people remember you.

This “twist” can take many different forms.

Gregory Ciotti mostly writes about personal development and customer success and he is known for using a lot of psychological studies and research data in his writing.

Derek Halpern has the same “twist” as Gregory (referencing a lot of psychological studies), but he applies it to a different niche – online marketing.

The twist these guys have picked for themselves takes tons of effort to master, so you may think of an easier “twist” to start with.

For example Ana Hoffman is strongly assiciated with a cup of hot coffee andNoah Kagan with a bunch of tasty tacos.

Taco-Shirt-Doritos-Locos-Taco-225x300

I mean even the smallest detail can help you stand out.

And you shouldn’t limit yourself to a single “twist” actually.

Other than using tons of studies and research data in his writing, Derek Halpern makes you memorize him by posting weird pictures of himself all around his blog:

derek-sad

And I absolutely agree with Derek on this one:

pic

What stands out gets remembered. What blends in gets forgotten.

Derek Halpern

3. The “White Bread” & “Wheat Bread” Content

This concept was totally new to me, but it makes so much sense!

  • “White bread” content (not healthy, but very tasty) – the kind of content that is easy to digest. It won’t make you think too hard and you may not learn a lot, but it would surely be a fun read.
  • “Wheat bread” content (not tasty, but very healthy) – the deep dive kind of content that breaks down some difficult topic. An article like this can teach you a lot of new stuff and even change your day-to-day life.

Both types of content can be “noteworthy”, but each in its own way:

  • “White bread” content is the one that will get a lot of social shares, because people enjoyed reading it and they want to immediately share their experience with others.
  • “Wheat bread” content won’t get many shares, but it might get a lot of references. After learning something valuable people tend to reference the origin of their knowledge when they talk about it.

I decided to browse Brian Dean‘s blog Backlinko.com with Ahrefs’ Content Explorer tool to find a few examples of of “white bread” and “wheat bread” content.

Check out this post: “17 Insanely Actionable List Building Strategies That Will Generate More Subscribers Today”.

It breaks down 17 list building strategies without going into too much detail. It’s easy to digest and doesn’t require a lot of thinking from its readers.

As a result, it attracted 2.8k tweets and only 76 linking domains:

backlinko01

Now check out this one: “Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days”.

In this article Brian goes really deep into what he calls a “Skyscraper Technique”, which makes the article quite hard to digest, but you learn a ton of stuff from it.

That post got only 525 tweets, which is 6x less than the previous article.

But it got links from 416 domains, which is 5x more than the previous article:

backlinko02

So with “white bread” content you entertain people and attract a lot of traffic to your site. And with “wheat bread” content you teach them something valuable and get referenced for it.

Here’s an absolutely ingenious thing that Brian did to his piece of “wheat bread” content – he created a system that people can follow and gave a name to it!

When you give a name to a process or a strategy that you have just shared with your audience, you make it easy for them to reference it in future.

So bloggers don’t reference Bryan’s article as “this post on generating traffic”, they use the short and catchy name – the Skyscraper Technique.

Want proof?

Take a look of the anchor text distribution of links pointing to Brian’s blog (as perAhrefs’ Site Explorer tool):

backlinko-anchors

4. Strategic Controversy

It’s quite boring when everyone has exactly the same opinion on the matter, right?

That’s why controversy drives shares so well – it makes people talk and express their opinions.

But you have to be really careful with it. With highly controversial topics there’s a chance to offend a lot of people and bury your own image.

How do you play safe?

Just pick a topic of moderate controversy.

Here’s what the research from Wharton Business School on When, Why, and How Controversy Causes Conversation says:

“Data shows that controversy increases likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, additional controversy actually decreases likelihood of discussion.”

A classic example of this would be “The Great Toilet Paper Debate”.

toilet-paper-debate

I mean you can’t offend anyone with your opinion or arguments on which side is the right one. That’s why everyone will eagerly discuss it.

In fact this argument got so huge that it resulted in a dedicated Wikipedia page.

If you want to learn more about controversy and how to apply it to your writing, I highly recommend you read this article by Gregory Ciotti: “The Science of Creating Controversial Content”.

5. Don’t Write It, Visualise It

Can you explain in words “how to tie a tie”?

I bet it’s going to be a pain both for you and the person reading your explanations.

But you can do this instead:

onassis_tie_knot_how_to_tie_a_tie

And you don’t have to use any words at all.

Visuals help you to explain things that you struggle to put into words.

And besides, what do you think your readers will do once they get asked “how to tie a tie”?

Instead of trying to explain it, they will just use your visual!

This is what Gregory calls “The Swipe Factor”: visuals are very easy to reference and even easier to share.

They are the “snacks” of the internet!

pic

Images are the ‘sna­cks’ of the internet.

Gregory Ciotti

It’s no secret that images perform better than any other type of content on all known platforms.

Even on Twitter, which used to be a text-only platform:

retweets

Gregory did a little experiment with their corporate Twitter account @Helpscout.

If you look at their twitter feed, they rarely get more than 3 retweets and 3 likes. But here’s what happened when Gregory posted a tweet with a catchy visual:

That’s 4x more retweets and 5x more favourites than their regular tweet!

It’s not easy to come up with a visual that others will “swipe”. Most of us don’t have the skills, which means we’ll have to pay for it (like I did to create quite a few custom images for this huge article).

And even if your visual won’t take off, you can still reuse it in your own articles, which will make them look more professional.

For some additional tips on creating visual assets I suggest you read this:

“A Visual Asset is Worth 1000 Words”

and this:

“The Marketer’s Guide to Information Visualization: How to Rock Infographics, Shareables, and Slideshows”.

6. Sound Bites

If you still haven’t heard about “sound bites” go skim through this article by Gregory Ciotti: “Customer Service is a Two-Way Street”.

I bet you’ll notice how Gregory have distilled the main idea of the article in a single catchy sentence and made it stand out from the rest of the copy:

00-gregory-article

That’s a “sound bite”.

There’s no tweet button next to it and still a lot of people tweeted that quote:

5

You see, people love tweeting things that make them look smart, so whenever you give them a smart quote to tweet – they will eagerly do that.

That’s why you can see a lot of top bloggers adding “tweetable quotes” into their articles – this helps them spread ideas and get more traffic from Twitter.

I’m a huge advocate of the “tweetable quotes” strategy.

(In fact I’ve created a neat WordPress plugin for creating fancy-looking tweetable quotes. It’s called TweetDis and the quotes you see in this post were created with the help of this plugin.)

How To Syndicate Your Noteworthy Content To Big Sites

Would you like to learn the proven syndication formula, that will easily get your articles published at LifeHacker, Huffington Post, Forbes, FastCompany & many other huge publications?

I definitely would.

But I’m afraid there’s no such thing.

The only way to do this, is to write a piece of content that will generate some solid buzz on your own blog and then reach out to editors of these big publications with perfect reasoning of why they should republish it.

Here’s an example of an outreach email that Gregory sent to LifeHacker:

Lifehacker

No magic pills, silver bullets or anything like that.

Just “noteworthy content” + “persuasive pitch”.

Actually some platforms like Medium or LinkedIn allow self-syndication, but that does not guarantee that someone will ever notice your work among thousands of other self-syndicated articles.

The another great tip that I’ve learned from Gregory is to create content tailored for specific features that you think you can get.

I mean if you want to write about Content Marketing at Forbes – go read a few articles on this topic that are already there (one, two) and make sure yours will be structured and formatted in exactly the same way.

And if you won’t get a “yes” from your first attempt, learn your lesson and reach out again with a new article.

But like I said from the start – it’s easier said than done.

Back To You

I would love to hear your thoughts on writing the kind of content that gets picked up by major publications.

Did you manage to do that? What worked for you personally?

This ‘Inverted Broken Link Building’ Strategy Will Make You Facepalm

This ‘Inverted Broken Link Building’ Strategy Will Make You Facepalm

When you just start with SEO you hear a lot about the benefits of broken linkbuilding.

Quite often you can find broken links on pages with some authority and these links are editorial in most cases, which gives them additional power.

But the common problem is:

Where to start when searching for broken links?

Russ Jones created what I found to be the “Complete Guide” to broken link building on MOZ.

But if you only read the content summary of the article, you will surely be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information you need to process in order to make this work for you.

broken link building

I have been trying to simplify the process for ages, and until recently, I had to do the same way everyone else does it, and I hated it.

It generates awesome results though, which is the only reason I did it.

A few days ago, while surfing trough expireddomains.net it struck me that I should reverse the process.

Instead of looking for pages with broken links I should rather grab a “dead” site and find everyone who’s still linking to it.

And it worked like a charm!

Required Tools:

  1. https://www.expireddomains.net/
  2. https://ahrefs.com/
  3. Google Docs Spreadsheet
  4. SEOQuake Extension
  5. Wayback Machine (Archive.org)

Finding expired domains with backlinks.

The type of domains you are looking for is defined by one of two characteristics(or both, if you want to target a specific language for a specific keyword):

  1. Niche: Since it used to be one of the “SEO’s Best Practices”, you will still find many websites with their main keyword in the domain name.
  2. Top Level Domain: If you want to target a specific language, it is done in the easiest way by filtering the results based on the TLD. de for Germany, .it for Italy etc…

Let me show you how to find domains for a competitive keyword like “VPN” with live backlinks on them.

Prospecting

Step 1. Search for the main keyword, in our case “VPN”

expired domains broken links

Step 2. Sort by the number of backlinks from different domains

sorting by backlink amount

Step 3. Copy the domains you have found in a Google doc sheet, keeping only the link volume data. I usually cut the list off at 10 backlinks.

backlink overview

With only 5 minutes of work, I got 50 related domains with approximately 1516 backlinks from different sites pointing to them.

That is an awesome achievement for such a short investment of time.

Similar to this, you can also search for domains by keyword and top level domain; just add them both in the search.

For example “VPN .fr”

VPN-fr

Link Quality Validation

While some of the domains may have a massive amount of active backlinks, you still need to make sure that those backlinks are of good quality.

For example: The top of our list has: vpnvmgw.com, and if you check it in Ahrefs.com site explorer, the top stats will look impressive- 15.000 backlinks from 772 domains.

site-explorer-validation

What raises up the suspicion at the first glance is the low global rank, and especially the low URL rank, with such a big amount of backlinks.

For comparison: A website from the same niche I have been working on, has a multiple times higher URL Rating and Global rank with less backlinks.

SE2

If you check further down in the vpnvmgw.com Ahrefs overview, you will see that all their backlinks come from China, and that the anchor text is Chinese, which makes them worthless for us.

se-anchor-text-report

I have to warn you, there will be a lot of junk, even though most websites remove 404 links as soon as they appear. What is left is mostly junk, or some leftovers of failed link building attempts, which were also the reason the domains were left to expire in the first place.

BUT, from time to time, you will find a gem, something like freeukvpn.com in our case.

It doesn´t look like much, only 62 referring domains and 107 Dofollow backlinks, but when you check their anchors, and the referring domains, you can see that it looks, more or less, natural.

Referring-Domains-report

Some forum references, some blog mentions, all sweet and nice, gives you material to work with.

You can join the forum and mention that the linked website is out of service and show your resource.

TIP #1: Try to leave at least 20 answers on the forum earlier, and be registered for at least a week, so it doesn’t look like a spam.

You can contact the blog / website owner, show them the broken link, and ask them to refer to your resource on the similar topic.

TIP #2: If the website has no contact details presented, try the whois database (http://www.whois.com/whois/*URL*). If the owner hadn’t protected his contact data, you will easily find the email address under which the domain got registered, which allows you to contact the domain holder directly.

Using this method I managed to get leads for 120  broken backlinks from relevant domains in my targeted niche. Creating and having the content to back them up, offers made to those website owners increased my chances for a backlink massively.

Important: Make sure that the organic looking backlinks don´t come from spam domains, or from a penalized PBN (Private Blog Network).

You can always check the domain metrics with SEOQuake, or the Domain Authority with the Moz toolbar, which ever is easier for you.

Another option to get useful linkjuice from these expired domains, would be to buy the expired domain, recreate the directories and pages, and redirect the high quality backlinks with a 301 redirection to my own website.

While there is a certain loss in link equity, and you certainly don’t want to have too many backlinks from redirections in order to keep an organic link profile, this method can save a lot of time and can give you a quick boost for your rankings.

Getting Free Content From Expired Domains

Another benefit of this method of broken link building is that you can come across websites with high quality content, which is actually deleted, not indexed in Google anymore, and copyscape proof.

For example, a deleted domain TheFamilyFinances.com has 154 Results under the tab “Top Pages” in Ahrefs which means there are probably 153 deleted blog posts which have been present on this domain.

FREE-content

“They are deleted, so what use do I have from them?”

Is what you are asking yourself now probably?

Well, let me show you how you can extract the content from those pages, and feel free to have a facepalm for not thinking about it earlier.

On the website TheFamilyFinances.com, I found some interesting series posted in 2012 named “The costs of raising a baby”.

As a father, this is an interesting topic for me, and I guess for you as well. It might be somewhat outdated, due to price changes, but the topic is still hot.

So I took the URL of the article: “The Cost of Rising a Baby: Formula”:

thefamilyfinances.com/2012/03/07/the-costs-of-raising-baby-formula-2/

Run it in Archive.org, and I got the article:

archive.org content

Just to make sure that the text is not indexed somewhere, I usedplagtracker.com and run a check on a few paragraphs or the whole text.

plagiarism-check

Alternatively, you can also take a paragraph from the text and run it under quotation marks in Google, and see if there is an exact match for the paragraph.

Since the page had links to related posts, I managed to harvest a full series about “The Cost of Raising a Baby” which created a volume of over 4.000 words with unique content.

Unique content series

Now to the facepalm I’ve promised you:

This was way to easy

The right thing to do…

I could use this content as a resource on my own page and ask websites linking to the former source for a backlink without creating my own content on the topic, which saves time and money.

Just to be fair, try to contact and сredit the original author of the content, reference him in every case.

The content is most probably dumped and will never again be used, but asking the owner for the permission makes the difference between re-purposing content and stealing it.

I hope you liked these 2 simple techniques and that they will make your work somewhat easier.

[New Tool Alert] Discover Missing Link Opportunities With “Link Intersect” Tool

I’m sure many of you guys are already well aware of the “link intersect” concept.

So I won’t waste any of your time with my dissertations and just give you a direct link to the tool:

Link Intersect Tool

(FYI it’s under Labs menu)

And just in case you’re new to this, I’ll happily share some additional details below.

Link Intersect Tool by Ahrefs

As you can see on the screenshot below, I am using this tool to find sites that link to our competitors (Moz & Majestic), but don’t link to us (Ahrefs):

link-intersect-tool-ahrefs

The tool shows me as many as 160 different domains that are not (yet) linking tohttps://ahrefs.com:

link-intersect-report

I usually sort this report by DR column so that to see the most powerful domains on top.

And then click on the “expand” buttons to see the exact pages that link to our competitors:

link-intersect-pages

This way I can get quite a few ideas of what we should do to have our tool appear on all these sites.

I’m sure you will easily discover some great link opportunities for your own site, if you play with Link Intersect for a few minutes.

One little feature that I enjoy a lot is that you can pick different types of targets:

link-intersect-targets

You may search for sites that link to a very specific URL or you may search for sites that link to ANY page on a given domain – these two options are my favourite ones.

Shortcuts Menu

If you’ve been using Ahrefs tools lately, you’ve probably noticed a little icon that appears next to each URL in all reports.

When you hover your mouse cursor over it, you get a list of “Shortcuts” to different Ahrefs tools.

It looks like this:

shortcuts

There were quite a few requests to add this little thing to our UI and we’re hoping that it would make your SEO research process more convenient.

La Fin

That’s it for this week!

Try your new “Link Intersect” tool and let us know what you think about it!

Matt Cutts Says Google Is Cracking Down on Bloggers being Bribed for Links

Matt Cutts Says Google Is Cracking Down on Bloggers being Bribed for Links

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, never has a dull moment on Twitter. When he’s not posting pictures of his adorable cat he’s dropping bombs about the latest black hat activities Google is cracking down on.

Most recently, Matt made it known that Google’s web spam team is aware of SEOs bribing bloggers for backlinks and Google is prepared to take action. Here’s his exact tweet:
The link in Matt’s tweet is to an article on Gawker, titled ‘Shady Marketing Firms Are Still Quietly Bribing Bloggers.’ The article documents a technique being used by black hat SEO firms where they are offering to pay bloggers on established websites to insert links to their clients’ sites.

To be clear, these SEO firms are not going directly to the site owner and offering to pay for link placement, which is something that goes on all the time and is not necessarily frowned upon. It’s called sponsored content. These firms are offering to pay individual writers under the table to insert a link to one of their client’s sites in a future article.

For example, it would be like if someone e-mailed me directly and offered to pay me to insert a link on the Ahrefs blog without the owner of this site knowing about it. That’s highly frowned upon by Google, and I’m sure the site owner wouldn’t appreciate it too much either. Not to mention if the writer was exposed for accepting bribes it would severely damage their credibility and reputation.

With that being said, Matt Cutt’s tweet implies Google is cracking down on the buyers of the links, the writers inserting them, and the sites on which they’re being inserted. In other words, all parties involved are being affected by this shady link building tactic.

It’s not clear from Matt’s tweet whether they’re already taking action, or just preparing to take action in the future. But it is clear that Google is aware of the practice and will be bringing the hammer down in the form of manual actions.

Are You Really Doing Your Job? How to Earn Clients’ Trust in SEO Today

Are You Really Doing Your Job? How to Earn Clients’ Trust in SEO Today

I am sure you have a straightforward system for winning clients over.

You understand how to attract them to your business, what sales techniques to use and what words to say.

Great.

But tell me, how long does your typical relationship with a client last for?

There is a low level of trust in SEOs these days. The recent turmoil in the industry certainly hasn’t helped. Let’s face it, not everyone coped well with what happened. Businesses with websites hit or penalized ended up having to pick up the pieces themselves. Others were penalized exactly as a result of the work a consultant did for them. The examples are many.

All in all, none of this helped in portraiting a positive and trustworthy image of the industry.

Let’s look at your clients then. They hired you with certain expectations in mind. A large aspect of their business is now depending on your work. They have no clue what you are really doing though (it’[’s not their job to know after all). But, with all that happened around them (and more that they may have heard of from somewhere), it’s no surprise that they are worried. And, by far, this isn’t personal.

You, on the other hand, are uncertain about your clients’ retention. Will they stick with you for longer or leave after the contract is over? Perhaps like many other companies, they will decide to shift their budget to PPC? After all, it’s safer and offers a much quicker return, right?

With both sides worried, someone needs to step up and start building a trustworthy relationship. And, in my view there is no one better to do this than you.

Subtle thing, which I will show you in a second, on top of exceptionally great work of course, will help.

Here’s what you should do.

1. Ask Your Clients About Their Goals. Refer to Them Often During the Duration of the Contract

This, in fact, is how every client vendor relationship should start. As we both know, it does not always happen, for whatever reason. Yet, showing a client that you care about their goals is a sure way of telling them how serious about their business you are.

It also makes a communication with them much easier. Rankings, traffic are great metrics but quite often, the real stuff is hidden in between the lines in your report. Your clients though, might not have enough time to extract and analyse this information.

Therefore, show your clients exactly how your work relates to their goals.

2. Learn Their Business Model

Is it possible to deliver great SEO service without fully understanding the clients business model? Yes. Most of the time you can base what you do on your understanding of it, your experience and sometimes, don’t kill me for saying this, a gut feeling.

At the same time, understanding how the clients business fully works, the realm they operate in, their competition and audience as well as problems they are trying to solve does help to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.

But above all, learning a client’s business will signal to them how deeply engaged in the relationship you are. That you want to become an integral part of their operation, not a once off vendor.

3. Plan and Project

Oh, the planning, I hear you say. How can you plan or project something that is unpredictable as SEO?

Well, without over dramatizing, you can. Of course, you will never be able to present clear results you are going to bring. But presenting even some general projections, based on the current state of the clients website, their marketing efforts so far and their budget will increase their level of trust in you.

It will also give them something they will be able to check your progress against. This will give them a power to, in spite of their lack of knowledge about SEO, measure your progress and verify if you are doing what you have promised.

And that’s, if you ask me, a huge thing when it comes to building that trust in you.

4. Say No to Quick Fixes

Hands up who’s tired of being constantly asked for quick fixes? OK, everyone.

Everyone wants to see results fast, clients especially. After all, they are the ones investing money on the promise of getting a return on their investment.

And quick fixes can be tempting. You might want to deliver those results fast too, just to prove yourself in their eyes. But we all know how going after quick fixes usually ends.

Stay clear off them, learn to say NO to clients demands and do your work properly, even if it means having to wait longer for results. It will pay off in a long run.

Conclusion

Trust is one of the key aspects of any client – vendor relationship. Showing clients that you perceive yourself as an integral part of their business is one surefire way to earn that trust, almost from the day one.

The Most Important Google Updates Of 2013: Everything You Need To Know

The Most Important Google Updates Of 2013: Everything You Need To Know

Not a year goes by without Google making at least a few changes that force us SEO professionals to rethink how we do things. The year of 2013 was no different. In fact, a case could be made for this being one of the most profound years in recent memory where Google changes are concerned

Throughout the year several things we relied on day in and day out were taken away from us. A new algorithm was introduced that has the potential to make the search experience better for everyone. And Google continued their crusade to hit web spammers where it hurts.

In this post I will explain all of Google’s most important changes in depth. These are the ones you really need to know about—no matter what business you’re in or what your level of experience with SEO is. Google has rewritten some of the fundamentals of SEO this year and I’m here to tell you all about them

How will these changes impact your SEO efforts going forward? Well I’m glad you asked because I will be explaining that as well! There are a few revisions you’ll need to make to your SEO playbook going into 2014, and I’ll help guide you in the right direction.

Join me as I take you through Google’s most important changes in 2013 and pass along some advice for how to revise your strategy in the new year.

Google Launches Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 Updates

On May 22nd Google launched version 2.0 of the Penguin webspam algorithm that affected 2.3% of English-US queries. As is the case with all Penguin updates, this one further penalized sites that use black-hat SEO techniques while rewarding sites that play by the rules.

What made Penguin 2.0 significant was the revelation that previous Penguin updates only analyzed the inbound link profiles of website home pages. Penguin 2.0 digs deeper into the inbound link profiles by analyzing a website’s internal pages as well.

On October 4th Google launched Penguin 2.1, which Matt Cutts claims only affected around 1% of search results to a noticeable degree. This update improved upon the 2.0 update by identifying newer sources of inbound link spam pointing to a website’s internal pages.

A bit of good news with all these Penguin updates is that each update is an opportunity to recover from the old one. This means if you’ve done your due diligence in identifying and removing spammy inbound links, the next time Google rolls out a Penguin update you have a good chance of recovering from any penalties you were previously hit with.

All Google Keyword Data Is Now ‘Not Provided’

On September 23rd, Google made a dramatic shift towards encrypting all search data. SEO professionals everywhere were cut off from valuable keyword data that used to be readily available, such as what keywords were used to find sites. Keyword data now shows up as (Not Provided) in Google Analytics, unless it comes from other search engines like Yahoo or Bing.

This update is significant because keyword data was, and still is, an important part of doing our jobs as SEOs. This information was also incredibly useful to the average website owner, not just people who work in the SEO industry. Now we all have to resort to much less efficient ways of mining keyword data, which some people may not end up doing at all if they don’t have time to be bothered with it.

Google says they made this change to protect the privacy of their users, but in my opinion Google is doing their users a disservice. It’s more difficult to create content users want if you have no idea what they’re searching for. I wish I could say there is a net positive to the shift towards protected keyword data, but I believe it adversely affects everyone.

New Hummingbird Algorithm Is Introduced

Google rolled out the new Hummingbird algorithm on September 27th, the day of Google’s 15th birthday. Hummingbird promises to improve the search experience with smarter, more precise, and faster results.

More specifically, Hummingbird is designed to better understand queries containing whole sentences, not just groups of words, in order to deliver better results. Google wants to return pages in search results that match the entire meaning of the query, rather than pages that rank well for just a few of the words. Content that delivers full, complete answers to questions now ranks better as a result.

Hummingbird is significant because it marks the first time since 2001 that a Google algorithm has been so dramatically rewritten.

Keyword Tool Is Replaced With Keyword Planner

On August 27th Google replaced their much beloved Keyword Tool with a less efficient option called Keyword Planner. This change was heavily criticized because Keyword Planner does not provide match type data for search volume, or mobile vs. desktop search data.

Keyword Planner did come with a few nice, new features though. It offers better geographic segmentation and the ability to upload far more keywords to get performance data.

This change is significant because the old Keyword Tool was something SEO professionals relied on and it was swiftly taken away from us. However, a month later we would all learn a bit more about why Google did this when they announced their aforementioned shift to encrypted search data.

Authorship Rich Snippets Reduced By 15%

You know those rich snippets in search results that show Google+ authorship information about who the post was written by, along with a picture? Well on December 19th Google reduced the amount of those authorship rich snippets appearing in search results by 15%.

Google did this in an effort to improve the search experience for users by showing only the most authoritative authors. As a result, low quality sites with less authoritative authors lost their ability to display authorship rich snippets.

This is a significant change because authorship rich snippets have been known to improve click-through rates, so losing the ability to display them could have a negative impact on traffic. Not to mention it was a bit of a wake up call in regards to how authoritative Google really thinks you are.

What To Do Going Forward

After digesting all this information about the major Google changes of 2013, I’m sure by now you want to know how it will impact your SEO efforts in the new year. Here is a list of several things that should become ingrained in your SEO strategy in light of these changes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Focus on creating good quality, rich content that satisfies the needs of users and solves their problems. Cheap content that offers little-to-no value isn’t going to cut it anymore.
  • Stay away from black-hat link building techniques. Use tools, like the ones offered here at Ahrefs, to monitor your inbound link profile. Keep an eye out for anything that looks unnatural or spammy and get those links removed ASAP.
  • Get comfortable with other methods of obtaining keyword data. We’ll never have it as good as we did before encrypted search, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it all together.
  • Work towards being seen by Google as an authority in your niche. This means not only creating great content, but demonstrating expertise on a particular subject and hopefully getting linked to by other authorities.

Of course, 2013 brought many other changes from Google beyond the ones I listed. The changes I discussed in this post are the ones I believe to be the most important. If you feel like I left something out, or have any questions, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Ever since the first caveman invented the wheel, we’ve been using tools to save ourselves time, money and headaches.

And thanks to the digital technology revolution of the past two decades, we have more options than ever when it comes to the kinds of tools that can be used to grow a business.

To help you leverage these advancements, I’ve put together a list of a few lesser-known business growth tools you may not have heard of before.

Skim through the list and see if any of them catch your eye. If so, add them to your arsenal today.

Their impact on your overall productivity and the growth of your business could be astonishing.

1. Narrow.io

Automate your Twitter growth with Narrow.io. It’s a simple tool that automate the tedious, yet effective, tasks that can lead to huge growth with your Twitter profile.

00-narrow.io

And don’t worry, it’s not your general “follower spambot.” These guys use a sophisticated algorithm to target people that care about things your target audience cares about.

It’s all about building an engaged audience on Twitter. You can’t do that by randomly following, unfollowing and favoriting people without a plan. You’ve got to find the people that talk and care about the things you do. Only after you do that will you be able to effectively grow your account.

Narrow.io will help you do that in a strategic manner that works.

2. Customer.io

Every customer will have a unique experience with your company. I don’t think two people will ever have the exact same path to purchase. Some will sign up for your blog newsletter, others will only download your white papers. Some will choose to pay a monthly plan, others would rather the annual payment. You get the idea…

01-customer.io

And so does Customer.io. Their software sends targeted messages to customers based on their specific behaviors and path to purchase.

It’s a great way to get a bit more personal with your emails. Use it to create new emails based on where your customers are in the buying cycle, as well as the behaviors they’ve taken. That level of personalization will lead to more purchases, loyalty and growth for your business.

3. Picreel

Don’t you hate it when a new visitor leaves your site without filling out a form or taking action? It’s frustrating – especially for a business that’s trying to fuel growth.

02-picreel

Picreel offers solutions for these exact types of situations. Their tool helps propel conversions by putting your message in front of the audience at just the right time using exit-intent technology that captures visitors’ attention before they leave your site.

Yes, there’s a huge debate around how much people hate pop-ups, but despite their feelings about the tactic, no one can argue with its effectiveness. When you put the right message in front of the right audience at the right time, it works.

And you can create popups around other things too, not just exit-intent. The tool has features that show your visitors exclusive message based on specific behaviors and that target visitors throughout your site as they discover content.

Honestly? It’s a little like having a miniature 007 spy working for your site – serving up the right content when it matters most.

4. SellHack

The guys over at SellHack know how to get things done. Their service revolves around finding a person’s email address for you – and they’re amazing at their job. All you need is a person’s first and last name and the domain where they work.

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Sure, there are ways to find a person’s email on your own. But, trust me, it’ll take you hours of research. And even then, it’s not a sure thing. Don’t waste time with that frustrating trial and error.

If you ever send out cold emails, then you’ve got to try these guys out.

5. Intercom.io

I don’t know about you, but I find it a huge hassle to switch from my customer service app to my email marketing program, and from my customer relationship management system to my marketing automation platform. And I find it even more frustrating when these different kinds of software don’t integrate with each other.

04-intercom

That’s what I love about Intercom.io – it brings all these services together into one product.

Even better? The money you save from using one app (instead of five) can be used to help fuel your business growth even more.

If you want a solid system that integrates everything together, try setting up a system with this service. It just might be the best thing you’ve ever done for your business.

6. Typeform

Typeform does everything it can to make forms and text-based surveys a fun experience. Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems like quite a challenge – and yet, the company does a great job with it.

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By making your forms interactive and fun, you’ll increase the number of people that actually fill them out. That’s more leads for your sales funnel, and the potential to generate more sales for your business. It’s truly growth at its finest.

7. JustReachOut

Hiring a PR agency can be a costly expense. And unless you’re a fully-funded startup superstar, it’s probably not a feasible investment. Unfortunately, that means you either forget PR or learn how to do it yourself. Most people, I think, choose the former, because the latter seems too difficult and time consuming.

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That’s the pain that JustReachOut wants to eliminate. It’s a great tool for startups and entrepreneurs that want to pitch their company to the media, but don’t know where to start. They’ll help you get setup and perfect your pitch – cutting the time and expense associated with working with a traditional PR firm.

8. Quickmail.io

Quickmail.io is another great tool for professionals that rely on cold emailing. Once installed, the system sets you up with a complete funnel and follow-up function. As soon as a prospect responds to your email, they’re taken out of the sequence and won’t receive additional emails.

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It’s powerful if you want a way to keep up with cold emails and add a personal touch. And although people can use cold emails for evil, they can also use them for good. Obviously, I’m only advocating this tool for the good guys!

9. Totango

Like many apps, Totango helps you understand the user experience and drive conversions. But what really makes the company shine is their trial conversion feature, which helps you identify prospects that are actively evaluating your product and separates them from the average free users.

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Once you have that kind of information in your arsenal, you can strategically follow up with particular customers and really see an enormous increase in your conversions.

10. Famebit

If you want to make waves with YouTube, you can’t beat the guys over atFamebit. They’re helping entrepreneurs and startups connect with YouTube influencers that will talk about your product – and that kind of exposure can do great things for your company’s growth.

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I’d definitely recommend it to anyone wanting an easy, affordable way to get their product or service in front of thousands of people.

Wrapping it up…

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention the mega-tools that you’ll find on so many other posts. Why? Because I believe these small, nimble tools work well for small, nimble companies – and cutting your software expenses frees up capital that can be spent on bigger, better growth campaigns.

Do you have any other tools that you’d like to add to this list?

Leave me a comment below with your recommendation!

Guest Posts, Infographics, Etc. – Predicting The Next Form Of Guest Content

Guest Posts, Infographics, Etc. – Predicting The Next Form Of Guest Content

Many website owners welcome guest content – it’s a cost-effective way to keep their sites fresh, offer differing perspectives and continually engage site visitors.

Online marketers take advantage of this supply-and-demand scenario, providing blog posts, infographics and other guest content to earn links and build their brands. This guest post is a case in point.

Let’s take a look at where guest content has been and where it’s headed to in the year of 2014.

Infographics

Infographics are an ideal format for online content, as they are heavy on visuals and light on words. The infographic below gives a perfect overview of infographics and their popularity.

Article_PredictingTheNextFormOfGuestContent_1_final

If you’re still intimidated by infographics, Hubspot offers five free, customizable PowerPoint templates that let you create your own infographics.

However, in an article on Search Engine Watch, Google’s Matt Cutts is quoted as offering a word of warning regarding the use of widgets and infographics for SEO:

“The value of those things might be branding, they might be to drive traffic, they might be to sort of let people to know that your site or your service exists but I wouldn’t expect a link from a widget to necessarily carry the same weight as an editorial link freely given where someone is recommending something and talking about it in a blog post.”

Curated content

Curated content is a modern-day take on the idiom “Why reinvent the wheel?” If relevant content exists out there in cyberspace, why not capitalize on it? Linking to content on other sites is one thing, but if you plan on using the actual content, be sure to obtain permission first. As in the print world, online content may be protected by copyright laws. You don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you decide to include the content in a guest post.

Charmin’s Sit or Squat site is a great example of curated (crowd-sourced) content. The site and its companion mobile app help you find the best public restrooms. People are invited to rate restrooms and share with others. (The toilet paper map icons are a nice touch… I’m just glad there’s no option for adownload!)

Article_PredictingTheNextFormOfGuestContent_2

Reverse guest blogging

Think of it as online reverse psychology. Instead of pushing your content out to other sites, invite respected bloggers to contribute to your site and/or social media outlets. It’s a win-win situation: The blogger builds his or her audience, and so do you. Plus, you’re likely to earn backlinks from the blogger’s own followers.

Slideshare

Slideshare is a free site that allows you to upload content – presentations, documents, infographics and PDFs (up to 100mb). If you want to share videos, however, you must upgrade to the pro version. The site not only shows what’ trending in social media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – it features conferences as well. You can search for shared content or go to categories: Business & Management, Career, Design, Education, Entertainment and Technology.

Videos

YouTube, move over. Other players on the online video field include Twitter’s Vine,Instagram, and Vimeo. Keep in mind that a video doesn’t have to be an expensive, Oscar-worthy production. It can be as short – or as long – as you’d like. Keep in mind that the platforms have different limits on video length: 6 seconds for Twitter, 15 seconds for Instagram, and 15 minutes for YouTube, while Vimeo has no time limit. (Yes, there are ways around YouTube’s 15-minute limit, but they still need to be under 20 GB.)

Webinars

Webinars are still around, and probably will be for some time. If you offer to host a webinar, whether via your own site or someone else’s, you need to be upfront as to who’s actually sponsoring the webinar. You also need to steer clear of promotional content… at least until the end of the webinar. A webinar should be educational/informational, not a blatant sales pitch. Be sure to offer a recording of the webinar for anyone who signed up but could not attend the actual webinar. An archive of past webinars also ensures that your content will endure beyond its initial offering.

The format of your guest content is secondary. The key is “content”. If your content is not value added, it will fail to produce the desired results. That is, if it’s picked up by sites at all. Your content must consistently inform and engage, or other sites will hesitate to roll out the welcome mat to you.

Why is Good Site Architecture Important?

Why is Good Site Architecture Important?

Web popularity depends on a number of things—search engine results, brand awareness, and social media interactions to name a few. Among the three mentioned, search engine volume is still ranks first in the method of determining the popularity of a website. How high a site ranks in the search engine results pages (SERPs) will give a user an idea on how popular that site is.

A website’s ranking in the top of the SERPs is not, however, solely determined by the amount of web traffic it generates. There are other factors involved, one of which is site architecture.

Site architecture, or the way a website is laid out plus the way its pages are interconnected with each other, is highly underrated yet very important for both the creators and end-users of a site. For instance website owners oftentimes are confused that despite the web traffic coming into the site, user engagement is not that high. While a lot of factors may contribute to this, one of the main reasons probably is poor website structure.  Search engines, on the other hand, look at structure and how it plays a huge role on how a website performs in the SERPs. This has a lot to do with the “link juice” and links (both internal and external).

There are three criteria of site architecture; technical, aesthetic andfunctional. Each one should be considered in the planning stage of a website development. If you plan on checking on your site structure, consider these tools to use for planning or checking it.

Technical

Good technical structure helps in the flow of the link juice (site authority) awarded within the website. Once properly set up, the distribution of the link equity to the website and its inner pages will increase the authority given by search engines which in turn boost their rankings.

This criterion also involves the call-to-action button that will be programmed with modern web programming languages.  It is a balancing act between the technical aspect of the site and design. One should not be compromised in favor of another.

Aesthetic

No doubt, how a site looks like may also determine its popularity. Writers can write the best content for the blog and article sections but if the site looks like something pulled from 1996, rest assured that visitors would look for other places to find similar content.  The aesthetic criterion involves visually appealing and engaging calls-to-action of the pages.

Take note of where the calls-to-action buttons lead to. In the perspective of SEO, it should be organized in a way that there would be no skipping in the “hops” of search engine bots from the level of the pages i.e., homepage to category pages or sub-category, to the inner pages.  For visitors, clicking on the calls-to-action button should not be confusing. Do not make a visitor click on a button, redirect him to a different page, then click another button to go to the page where they should have gone in the first place.

Home > Category > Sub-category > Inner pages >

Normal “hop” of page levels

Plugins also play a huge role in the site’s aesthetics. Although this may be in the territory of site conversion, their contribution in the design aspect of the usability of a page is also considered in the overall structure. The impact of these calls-to-action plugins to the architecture is easy navigability from one page to another with a specific path already set.

Functionality

Possibly the most important factor in a site structure, functionality refers to the ease of navigation of a website. A site’s navigability will spell the difference between its success and failure. Good functionality can lead to better engagement, time on page/site, lowered exit and bounce rates, and more pages per visit.

The function of each page and link should be carefully planned and organized in a way that they provide visitors the information that they need. It is important to set up your site’s architecture with your users in mind. Aside from usability, it can also boost your website traffic as web crawlers can also navigate the pages easily and the link juice can easily be distributed.  It should also consider the path that they want their visitors to take in order to achieve the goals of the site, be it signing up for a newsletter, browse through the content, or purchasing a product.

The goals of the site, like newsletter sign-ups for example, are dependent on the organization of the pages. Visitors should have a clear path on what they would do in a page in order to realize the site’s goals. The improvement can be monitored using analytics and conversion rate optimization. It is important that the flow of the steps that should be taken to realize the goals should be organized. The importance of a proper site structure could be stressed enough in order for websites to gain and increase their exposure in search engines. The important takeaway is to set what the goals of the site are and plan the architecture based on those goals.

Weekly SEO Roundup on Ahrefs Blog: Week of 3 Jan 2014

Weekly SEO Roundup on Ahrefs Blog: Week of 3 Jan 2014


Ahrefs Insights

Are You Really Doing Your Job? How to Earn Clients’ Trust in SEO Today
Eager to build a strong and lasting relationship with SEO clients and increase your client retention rate? Earning their trust in SEO is your key to success! In this article, Pawel Grabowski reveals how you can earn your clients’ trust in SEO, almost from the day one.

The Most Important Google Updates Of 2013: Everything You Need To Know
Wondering how the major Google changes of 2013 will impact your SEO efforts in the new year? In this post Matt Southern explains all of Google’s most important updates in depth and points to a few revisions you’ll need to make to your SEO playbook going into 2014 in light of these changes.

Why is Good Site Architecture Important?
In this post Johann Carpio discusses the importance of a proper site structure for gaining and increasing your site’s exposure in search engines and describes 3 criteria of site architecture – technical, aesthetic and functional, that should be considered in the planning stage of a website development. Use those tips wisely!

SEO Research and Trends

2014 SEO Playbook: Off-Page Factors
In this post Tom Schmitz represents the third and final entry in his annual SEO Playbook. This time he discusses off-page factors (for the most part boiling down to quality, authority and trust) that SEOs should consider in 2014. Hope, you’ll find it useful!

The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Baidu SEO
In case you are interested in the Chinese market and planning to take your SEO efforts East in 2014, here’s your SEO guidelines to the most popular search engine in China. It comprises the most important content, technical SEO, link building, and Chinese law requirements, as well as some tools for Baidu that should be helpful for you.

Google: You Must Wait A Few Weeks To Submit A Reconsideration Requests
Don’t you hurry to submit a new reconsideration request after the previous one has failed, cause Google just won’t review it. In this post Barry Schwartz reports that Google recommends webmasters to “take the necessary time to remove unnatural backlinks” to their sites and wait “a few weeks” before submitting another reconsideration request.

Google: Can’t Crawl Your Robots.txt Then We Stop Crawling Your Site
This is, probably, nothing new, but really important. Barry Schwartz draws our attention to the issue discussed at Google Webmaster Help forum: you need to make sure Google is not having trouble crawling your robots.txt file (if you do have one), and it returns either a 200 or 404 response code; otherwise, Google will just stop crawling your site.

Link Building

How SEO Greed Can Ruin A Perfectly Good Linking Strategy
We’ve all heard by now about the case with Rap Genius, officially penalized by Google for link schemes, namely for the so-called TieFating. According to Eric Ward, it didn’t have to happen that way. Find out how a brilliant linking strategy can get a bad name and press because of inexcusable tactical errors in execution and intent on part of those, blinded by SEO greed.

A World Without Links
Tiered of being reliant on links and fearful of each next Google Penguin update? Just imagine a world without links and link building! The author of this article reviews some other ‘off page’ SEO factors that could be considered instead of links, if someday Google decided to remove link value from their algorithm. It appears, such a perspective is not that bad after all!

Preparing For The Link Apocalypse That May Or May Not Be Coming
Should we expect links to be less important in 2014? Is it possible that they could just disappear or be replaced by social? Should you still focus on link building? Or will link building for SEO become a thing of the past? So many questions! Nate Dame aims to provide answers and discusses how one can prepare for the unknown.

How to Remove Toxic Links Pointing to Your Site
The author of this article in plain words describes the five ways you can deal with toxic links pointing to your site, highlighting the drawbacks of each method. Thus, you always have a choice, so it’s up to you to decide which way to take! Happy and harmless toxic links hunting!

Content Marketing

Why Content Marketing is a Definitive Method for Success in 2014
According to the author of this post, for many companies content creation became a prime method for marketing success in 2013, and this is not going to change in 2014 as well. She offers a recap of the most important things we realized about content in 2013 and shares some ideas on where content marketing is going in 2014.

The Global SEO & Content Marketing Landscape
Planning to spread your SEO and content marketing initiatives globally in 2014? That is the right thing to do, as global SEO and content marketing are more important than ever! Anyway, it’s not an easy task. Jim Yu aims to help you providing in this post some valuable insights into the climate of global search and some great tips for global SEO in 2014.

5 Ways to Have Killer Content in 2014
Eager to have killer content in 2014? According to Erin Everhart, all you need to do is: imply marketing automation to measure your content marketing efforts; use smarter and personal content in emails; make it available on the move; separate content from link building; mix small tastings with larger portions of content.

Social Media

5 Social Media Advertising Trends to Watch for in 2014
We can’t but agree with the author of this post saying that 2013 has been an incredible year of growth for social media advertising. Anyway, more is yet to come! Excited? Discover the five trends in social media advertising to watch out for next year.

The Effect Social Media Has on SEO and Sales
What role does social media play in your online marketing strategy? If you think it’s just an optional component not playing a major role, you’ll definitely reconsider this approach after reading the post. It describes a few ways that social media can affect your SEO and sales. Check it out, discover and leverage the full potential of social media for your online effort.

The Marketer’s Guide to Pinterest
Looking for ways on how to successfully incorporate Pinterest into your social media marketing strategy? This article reveals four ways Pinterest can benefit your business and directs you to a great and detailed Marketer’s Guide to Pinterest to help you get started.

Mobile SEO

Succeeding With Content In A Mobile World
The author of the post rightly notes that in 2013 the mobile web was on fire, thus, a mobile content strategy is definitely a must for 2014. What do you need to succeed in the mobile world? Discover some tips addressing the expectations of mobile users, as well as user hurdles, and get inspired by the examples of successful mobile content strategies.

5 Essential Elements for Mobile SEO Success in 2014
Ensure your mobile SEO success in 2014 with these five essential tips provided by Jay Taylor: focus on the mobile user experience, have a mobile-friendly site, increase mobile page load speeds, incorporate clean design with a focus on usability, understand mobile-user intent, take conversational & voice search into account.

Infographics

11 Most Important Google Search Algorithm Updates/Changes in 2013 [INFOGRAPHIC]
In this post Pratik Dholakiya offers for your consideration a great infographic comprising the most important changes to Google’s algorithm this year. Not the most pleasant memories brought back, huh?

Infographic: The Year In Social Media, A 2013 Recap
Check out what happened in social media in 2013! Infographic Promotion represents a nice infographic covering some of the highlights in social media over this past year.