What is SEO? The Basics of the Basics

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is important to companies to bring more people to your website. Search engines lead visitors to your website from relevant searches, and SEO helps maximize these connections.

An SEO Timeline

How did SEO even begin? It first originated in the early 1990s with the world’s first website and continued its birth for the next decade. Excite was the first search platform, followed by Yahoo and later Google. Each engine continued to simplify the big bad world of data. It was easy to manipulate search engines at this time, but Google began to see opportunities for the future.

In 2003, Google began optimizing search engines by improving the value and relevancy of results. Local SEO began in practice to provide users accurate information regarding maps, locations, and more. Ethical practices were encouraged by Google even in the early days.

After a few years, Google began to encourage real-time search results promoting content media with Universal Search. In 2008, Google Suggest made SEO even more targeted for users. In 2010, Google continued to become stricter as the clear leader in search engines. Social media began to alter search results, prompting the creation of Google+.

Currently, privacy and personalization are coming into conflict around SEO. While digital marketers want to create the most customized experience for visitors, users want to maintain their privacy and not have search engines read their minds completely. Still, content must be personalized with quality content to be competitive.

While Google is not the only search engine, it dominates the industry. 65% of searches are Googled, followed by 20% done with Microsoft and 13% with Yahoo. Google likes to keep it clean, though, so they constantly change the algorithm to keep searching as authentic as possible. This ensures ethical practices within digital marketing and keeps it fair between sites that actual deserve the highest rankings.

Basic Optimization

In addition to high-quality content, search engines also rank sites by how visitors engage with your site, loading speed and mobile ease, and the amount of unique content. Sites with higher retention rates are ranked higher than sites that lead users to return right back to their search query.

Keywords are crucial in optimizing your site. What will your targeted visitors be searching to find you? It is also important to research your selected keywords and ensure they are deriving the desired results. More than just comparing to competitors, you want to check on search volume and relevance regarding your target keywords. Keywords reside in more than just tags, too. On-page optimization includes title tags, meta descriptions, body content, alt attributes, url structure, schema, as well as markup.

Information architecture is also crucial in SEO. It is best to avoid flat information architecture; you want to provide the most linked-to pages. By having your most important search pages ranked high in your personal information architecture, search engines will rank your own information higher. Make sure you also avoid header responses, such as 404 errors. If your pages have been relocated, do not hold on to them. You want to help your visitors find desired content, not frustrate them. It is easy to overlook issues like this, redirects, and duplicate content, but you want to prevent any difficulty in accessibility. Even just a few unnecessary clicks can prod users to return to their original search, losing your audience. After all, your website is for others.

Once you begin to figure out your own SEO, how do you measure your results? Rank your keywords and record your organic traffic and leads. Analytics from the web are never perfect, so there can be flaws in your tracking. Lifetime value metrics can be tricky, so consider your organic users.

Past traditional SEO, there is also international and local cases as well as search engines within  app stores. These all provide important insights, depending on your particular industry and target audience. Be open-minded and think outside the box. Reverse engineering can help improve your users’ experiences and continue to improve your rankings.

SEO is constantly evolving, and this is an only an overview. Continue to follow our blog for the basics, the latest, and more.

 

Spiders on the Web: A brief guide on the inner workings of search engines

We often take the ability to use a search engine for granted. Google has made search so easy that we do not have to worry about finding information. Googling something we do not know has become second nature to us. We trust Google’s results to be relevant and accurate. In order to best optimize your website for Google, it is helpful to know how the search engine works.

Pre-Google

This article contains a detailed account about the rise of Google, if dense material isn’t your thing continue reading this summary. Early search engines, like AltaVista, would compare search terms to their database and whichever page had the most similar terms would be considered the most relevant. This was problematic because the results weren’t necessarily the most relevant. For example, if you wanted to search Columbia Sportswear, Dick’s Sporting Goods might be the first result, rather than the corporate web page, because they list a lot of Columbia products. The amount of times a keyword was mentioned in the page outweighed other information in determining relevance. Search results weren’t as helpful because users had to filter through the results themselves. Yahoo was different. They used human judgement to aid their search engine’s results. Yahoo hired people to read through webpages to pull keywords and write summaries. In 1997, Google changed the game by offering better results, without clutter. Instead of looking at the text of a website, Google observed the patterns of hyperlinks, specifically, the number and type of incoming and outgoing hyperlinks. 

Search Now

When you type your search query into Google, the search engine sends out little programs called crawlers or spiders. These crawlers jump from page to page by following links. As the spiders travel, they send a copy of each page to the search engine. Google then creates an index of the words on that page. Algorithms are complex mathematical equations which are designed to find hints to understand what you are searching for. There are plenty of great videos on Youtube, like this one, that will help you visualize the search process. Going back to our example, when you type in “Columbia Sportswear” on Google, the first search result will be the manufacturer’s website, not a retailer’s (i.e. Dick’s Sporting Goods). This is because of Google’s algorithm, which gives more weight to a company’s homepage.

Why it all matters

According to this article, less than 6% of users clicked on a link on the second page of Google results.  As a small business owner, it is crucial for you to maximize the chances of your website being on that first page. The process of making your website search-engine-friendly is called Search Engine Optimization, or as it’s commonly referred to, SEO. As the name suggests, Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your website’s content for Google’s crawlers. How often websites are crawled depends on how often the content on the website changes. Therefore, frequent updates to your website are essential to driving traffic.

 

Selecting a Target Audience on YouTube

By Marisol Ledezma

    When starting up a business, advertising may not always be top-of-mind. Mike Rhodes, co-author of Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, says that YouTube’s enormous traffic and cheap pay-per-click rates are two factors that make YouTube an effective method to reach a target audience. Advertising through YouTube is ideal for small businesses on a tight budget because advertisers don’t get charged unless users view at least 30 seconds of the content.

    One of the most important steps when starting a YouTube advertising campaign is identifying a target audience. Without a target audience, the advertisement does not reach the right people at the right time, and therefore isn’t as effective as possible.

    Fortunately, YouTube offers a variety of methods for advertisers to zero in on their target audience. One of these methods is to select your target audience based on demographic groups. This method requires advertisers to choose the age, gender and parental status of the target audience.

    Advertisers can also select their target audience based on the viewer’s past interactions on the advertisers channel or previous videos. This method is effective because brands are able to reinforce their message with people who have already been exposed to your videos. This method is known as “video remarketing”.

    Another targeting method allows advertisers to chose websites, videos, and apps that are part of the Google Display Network to run their ads. This method is known as “managed placements”. In contrast to other targeting methods where ads are placed automatically, manage placements enables advertisers to select managed placements.

    A target audience can also be selected based on specific topics on YouTube. This method is known as “topic targeting”. Topic targeting lets advertisers reach viewers based on the topics of the videos they watched. For example if an advertiser selects the “beauty” topic, then someone watching makeup tutorials would be selected to view the advertiser’s ad.

    The final targeting method is based on words or phrases that are used during a video search on YouTube. When using this method, the ad will only appear when those exact words or phrases are searched on YouTube.

    YouTube’s large selection of targeting methods is one of the reasons why it is an effective tool. Advertisers can find instructions on how to activate these targeting methods by visiting YouTube’s help center here.

What are Native Ads? Are they Effective?

For the past few years native advertisements have been a hot topic for digital marketers and businesses alike. Across the board companies have to educate themselves with the difference between using native ads vs. banner ads on their websites and/or social media.

The MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) defines native advertisements as “a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.” Sounds easy enough right?

Not quite, there a lot more components to native ads than the definition suggests, like any other digital ad there are mobile ads and display ads, and like any other ad one can be more successful than the other.

Moreover you have to make sure that the sponsorship fits your business criteria and your audience’s preferences, meaning you have to keep a close eye on engagement metrics such as CTR’s (click through rates) to measure whether or not your target audience is responding to the ad.

A key component of a successful native ad is keeping close to the rule book before posting anything. When using a native ad you must ALWAYS (yes, always) use the correct language when presenting content these tags include but are not limited to: Sponsored By; Sponsored Post; Presented By; Paid Post; Promoted By; Ad; and Advertisement.

“Advertisers should clearly distinguish advertising, public relations and corporate communications from news and editorial content and entertainment, both online and offline.” (AAFTL – American Advertising Federation Thought Leadership)

As a professional you should always keep these restrictions and facts in mind while taking advantage of the insights and effectiveness of native ads.

So… How can you choose?

In 2013 ShareThrough.com conducted a study with 4,770 people to determine how either one of these work for brands across the board. The following infographic shows their findings:

native-ads-vs-display-ads-e4f0d804

Not much has changed since 2013, native ads are still perceived as a 23% higher quality add with 3 times more time and attention from the public says MMA’s Advertising Committee. In addition, audiences around the globe are more used to native advertisements than they ever where.

Native ads became increasingly popular with the “social media explosion” in the early to mid 2000’s. Nowadays seeing a company’s sponsored Tweet, Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr post is considered as normal as any other post on your feed.

Since native ads copy the function and format of the platform upon which they appear, audiences perceive the ads as valuable content instead of “just another ad.”

Taking this into consideration, banner ads should not be taken out of the equation when looking to advertise on social media platforms. Instead you should always weigh your options, while native ads merge better as editorial content banner ads stand out and might be better for special offers and/or deals.

Final verdict? Native ads can by widely successful but you have to keep a close watch on the engagement that they produce and whether or not pairing it with a banner ad can lead to a better qualified advertising campaign.

For more information on how native ads can help your ROI look out for our next blog posts!

Can’t get enough? Check out our post on the best filters for your next Instagram Advertising.

Top Influencers in the Beauty Industry

With the rise of social media and the increasing digital space, it’s no wonder that top beauty brands are the first to jump on the influencer trend. The use of bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers has propelled both high-end and drugstore beauty brands to reach a larger and more diverse audience. In 2015 top brands such as L’oreal, Cover Girl and Bobbi Brown created strictly digital marketing plans to launch their new products to customers. Their success would not have been possible had they not reached out and partnered with those that are already succeeding in the digital and social media world.

When determining what type of individual to reach out to in regards to representing your beauty product or brand, it’s imperative that you consider how you want to market the brand. Customers will turn to different types of media outlets when they are looking for different things.

Blogging allows customers to read about and digest the review that an influencer has posted about the product. Although digital, it is comparatively similar to traditional reading so it’s no surprise that bloggers continue to reach an older audience.

On the other hand, maybe you’re looking for more of a candid “on the spot” review or “how to” tutorial using your product. Vlogging allows customers to connect more personally with their influencer. Through the camera, the audience feels like they are experiencing the review along with the influencer. The vlogging scene generally reaches a younger demographic because of the Millennial generation’s need for constant interaction. Vloggers are also extremely present on social media because it’s the outlet that they use to reach their audience as well (primarily through YouTube).

So where are these influencers and how do you reach them?

According to Style Caster Media Group the top US based beauty bloggers include Shea Marie of Peace Love Shea, Jacey Duprie of Damsel in Dior and Serena Goh of The Spicy Stiletto. The Top US based beauty vlogging world is dominated by Los Angeles based Michelle Phan as she continues to top the charts boasting 8 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. Each video she posts reaches an average of 1-3 million views. Her high numbers are followed closely behind with vlogger Andrea Brooks reaching 3.7 million subscribers and Dulce Candy reaching 2 million subscribers.
Regardless of which influencer you use, the key to utilizing an influencer for all that they have to offer is through their social media reach. Although having a blogger write a post about your brand or a vlogger posting a review on YouTube is important, social media is unique and necessary because of how instant it reaches an audience.

Let’s return back to Michelle Phan. The 28 year old has over 2.1 million Instagram followers and 678K Twitter followers. For every video she posts, she will post a corresponding tweet or picture to advertise her new video. It’s likely that even customers that do not subscribe to her on YouTube will follow her on social media platforms. With this your product or brand has the potential to reach a large number of additional customers almost instantly. If customers are then interested in the product they can follow through and see how Michelle has used the product in her videos.

The same can be said about Shea Marie boasting 958K Instagram followers. Her past work with brands has shown that often beauty brands will choose to market their product exclusively on her social media channels because of her high numbers and instant reach they can access.

So what does this all mean for new beauty products or brands trying to break through the scene?

First you must consider what type of audience you want to target. Stick to the blogging scene for an older mature audience and turn towards the vlogging scene for millennials and younger generations because of their need for that extra personality from their infleuncer.

Second, consider your influencers interaction with social media in every aspect of your marketing strategy. Whether this means that you work with an influencer strictly through social media or follow up to ensure that they post about their review on social media, it’s imperative to reach a wider audience and gain brand recognition among your audience.

Finally, don’t forget to recognize that sometimes the best type of marketing you can do is through strictly social media and continue to utilize and monitor who the new “it girl” is.

All images sourced here

#InstaThemes

When Instagram first launched, the majority of users were either teenagers or foodies.  Since then, 26% of adult Internet users are using Instagram, giving businesses the opportunity to increase brand awareness and represent their brand’s personality in a fun, creative way. Yet, very few businesses have embraced Instagram and everything it has to offer.

In today’s world, where visual content is crucial, it is important to portray your brand in a unique way so consumers think of you when they see a certain image. Brands like #Oreo, #VirginAmerica, #Nike and even #PBR made Small Business Trends list of the Top 25 Brands you should follow on Instagram. After looking at the list, it’s easy to see why each one made the cut.

Oreo posts projects and recipes that people can make with their products. They post creative images to help them create a call to action in order to increase customer engagement. On the other hand, clothing brands like Nike, post sports related pictures and inspirational quotes. They use different hashtags and re-post pictures they have been tagged in for their followers to connect with them.  Airline Virgin America posts behind the scene pictures of their company’s employees and encourage their followers to tag them in pictures of their own travels.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 4.40.38 PM Nike Instagram Theme

Virgin AmericaEven though all of these brands have a different target market, they have one thing in common, a theme. All of them were able to display their brand’s voice and personality by combining storytelling with creative images and videos. The company is able to demonstrate their company’s culture, connect with influencers, share company news, and enhance and complement event experiences.

So how can your company keep a uniform theme on Instagram? To start, you should determine your objectives, develop a content strategy, and come up with a content calendar. Every time you post ask yourself, who is my target audience? Does this image and caption portray my brand’s personality?

Here are a few simple pointers from your Visual Marketing gurus at #DoItForTheGram to help you maintain a common theme for your Instagram:

  • Post similar pictures, but in unique ways. Think outside the box, think like one of your consumers.
  • Use the same filter & the same cut. Here are a few apps you can download to help with that
  • Create an Instagram Style Guide. If you have more than one member on your creative team posting to the brand’s Instagram be sure that everyone is on the same creative #gram.

What are some of your favorite brand themes? What are some brands you think are worth following on IG? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on our own IG account @hashtag4thegram.

5 Reasons why you need to start incorporating Infographics into your visual marketing strategy right now

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The internet has forever changed the way we are able to market ourselves and our company. It has become so easy to relay information to millions of people across the globe, but a problem arises when you are unable to make your information stand out amongst the sea of knowledge that flows through the internet. That is where infographics come in. Infographics are a visual marketing tool that have recently joined the visual marketing game and have risen up to be one of the most effective ways of visual marketing. In the past two years alone, infographic search volumes on Google have increased by over 800%. They have become a vital tool in the relay of information in the most visual way possible. Below are my top 5 reasons why you should start using infographics today.

1. They are great Attention Grabbers
Infographic-on-Infographics

When you are browsing for information on the internet, sometimes it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. Reading through dozens of articles and papers to find one good statistic is very time consuming, and consumers are most likely not going to read a long article if they are not interested in the topic. Hence, the infographic. Infographics are the first entirely visual way of conveying a lot of information to a consumer at once. Even if the consumer may not be interested in the topic, they are sure to take a glance at an image. If you create an infographic that has bright colors, big pictures, and is laid out in a legible way, there is a much greater chance of consumers understanding your message. Infographics are the best and quickest way to grab someone’s attention, right off the bat.

 

2. They hold your interest

 

The attention-grabbing part is easy. Keeping a reader interested is another story. Human’s attention spans have decreased significantly in since the dawn of the internet (fun fact: A human’s attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s). It is extremely important to create content that will not only grab a reader’s attention, but also keep it. 40% of people respond better to visual content (Source), so including infographics in your visual marketing strategy would definitely keep your readers’ attention more than other forms of content.

 

3. They are easy to follow

 

One really great thing about infographics is that you are able to pick and choose what information YOU want to relay to consumers. Infographics include your most important pieces of information. By pairing an image with a statistic or a fact, the reader is able to absorb this information better and will be able to move throughout the image until they understand the entire message that you are trying to convey. Infographics are simple, but since they are so easy to follow, it forces the reader to stay interested in the topic and has them looking for more information in the image.

 

4. They make your information Memorable
illustrations-help-with-instructions

When someone looks at a piece of information, it is more likely to stick in their memory if it is paired with an image. That is why infographics have become so successful. When a reader looks at an infographic, they are able to retain the information much longer than if they were just reading plain text. Since you (hopefully) want your information to be remembered in the minds of your readers, this is exactly why you should be including infographics into your visual marketing strategy!

 

5. They’re super easy to share with your network!

 

Infographics are liked and shared on social media 3X more than any other type of content (Source). This means that if you were to start incorporating infographics into your marketing strategy, your content will probably be shared much more frequently than it currently is. Who wouldn’t want their content to be shared more often? Infographics are typically posted as a normal image, which makes it easy for readers to copy and paste one into their own posts, or share it with their friends.

 

If this has not persuaded you to start using infographics in your visual marketing strategy, maybe this will. HERE are some amazing examples of powerful infographics. Maybe they will spark an idea for your own infographic!

The Top 5 Filters on Instagram for Advertising

Brands are constantly finding new ways to advertise themselves to the public through social media. Photos are the primary way of getting the attention of customers and with Instagram, it has become even easier to do so! But before a brand starts posting to the public, they need to make sure they’ve got the right filter beforehand.

The better set up a company has on their Instagram feed, the more likely they will receive engagement from their fans. The design of Instagram photos have to be engaging, flow together as one unit and pop with color. GAP, Starbucks and Urban Outfitters are perfect examples of Instagram feeds that truly grab your attention and reel you in to double-tap their images.

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A company can curate any content they wish, but if it doesn’t have the right aesthetic and proper filter, their advertising will fail miserably. However, if it picks one or two Instagram filters and sticks with them consistently, their ads will glow like the top of the Chrysler building.

Our team at Post And Promote has identified the top five filters a brand can use to market themselves to a wider audience and make their ads come to life through social media.

For lifestyle shots, white backdrops and extra sunlight or any photo taken outdoors:

  1. Gingham

If you’re going for an all black and white theme but want to keep the brightness up a bit:

2. Moon

For clothing lines and any food photography:

3. Reyes

For photos involving wood, counter tops, inanimate objects, or nature:

4. Slumber

If you’re trying to stay classic and keep your photo pretty simple:

5. Sierra

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While Instagram was the first to originate the “filters”, we find that most brands are using VSCO Cam (a photo editing application) to edit their ads and social media. Chances are most fashion lines and restaurant chains are using professional photos that are photoshopped but if a company is on the rise, they will often head to VSCO to edit their iPhone shots before taking them to Instagram.

Some of the best picks we’ve seen? C1, F2, HB1 and HB2. These filters work well with every type of advertisement ranging from lifestyle, wellness, food, sports and so on. While the app and other photo editing tools like it may cost money, don’t worry! You can always revert to our top 5 filters in the Instagram app itself.

Just remember, keep your advertisements consistent with your color and shape!

How Instagram’s New Account Switching Feature Can Help You Manage Your Brand’s Identity

instagram_acct switching

Instagram pleased the entire marketing world last week when it announced that it would begin letting users switch between accounts without signing out. This long-awaited new feature should bring a tear to the eye of any brand manager on Instagram who has almost posted a personal update on their brand’s page!

ADweekly reports that the company had been testing the feature on both Android and iOS platforms for months, but they officially announced the upgrade on their own company blog last Monday.

Previously, Instagram only allowed users to post from one account at a time, which forced users to create entirely new accounts if they wanted a secondary profile and switch between the two every time they wanted to post something new.

Apps like Twitter and Facebook took care of this problem a while ago, allowing users to connect multiple profiles or handles to the same account, but Instagram lagged behind.

According to TechCrunch, this feature caters well to teenagers and young adults who want to distinguish between the private (and often innapropriate) photos they share with friends and the more polished image they present to the public.

But the same principle applies to businesses. Marketers are figuring out that just as individuals present a certain image based on their posts, so do brands, and it’s important to create a strong identity.

View this post on Instagram

Friday is for denim. #tgif #loveloft

A post shared by LOFT (@loft) on

For many companies, personal photos have no place on their feed. Women’s clothing store LOFT’s profile shows a clean, professionally shot array of images that feature models wearing their apparel. Their photos are free of filters, text and for the most part, even faces. It’s sleek and non-regional, which works for a large national retailer.

This isn’t the perfect model for all companies; it can feel cold and impersonal. Sometimes more intimate pictures can help a brand’s identity, not hurt it.

Molly’s Cupcakes, a Chicago-area bakery, has incredible variety in the pictures they post on their account. Some are cutely designed text posts announcing specials or store closings. Others are images of their employees having fun on the job (The gram above is a photo of owner John Nicolaides and a famous fan). It’s sweet and advances the brand’s image as a friendly and quirky place to stop by.

So while the new app switching option is a powerful tool for marketers, it’s up to them to decide what to include – and what to leave out – in their brand’s account.

But at the very least, this might save you from posting your latest Friday night selfie to your company’s account! Check out complete instructions on how to add a second account on Instagram’s help center.

Does your company prefer to keep personal shots off Instagram, or are they a part of your story? Tell us in the comments!