What are the Essentials of Image Optimization for SEO?

You’re a great writer. You can produce killer content that people connect with. What about pictures? Do you have them on your site, or blog? Are your images optimized for SEO? Or do you just throw up whatever you have on hand at the time?

Believe it or not, there is a technique to posting images that can affect your Search Engine Optimization strategy. Done improperly, it can be a detriment to how Google and other search engines view your website. Part science and part art form, correct image optimization is ultimately about two things:

  • Making the user experience a good one
  • Appeasing the SEO gods

Achieving the second item depends largely upon achieving the first item.

Man with scruff holding a photo of a rocky shored lake, and viewing nature images on a comoputer screen.

The quality of royalty free images has vastly improved over the years.

 

Whether you’re a seasoned blogger, or just wrote your first post, the following essentials in regard to image optimization for SEO will help your content rank better with search engines.

Do I Even Need an Image?

Um…yes. Always!

Some people would consider posting anything without at least one image. But why? Humans are innately visual creatures. In fact, for those of us who do not have severe visual impairment, sight isn’t just our primary sense involved with assimilating information from the world around us. It is used at a far greater rate than all the other senses combined. And pictures have been shown to be just as, if not more effective in relaying information in certain circumstances.

Including pictorial content with a post achieves several items for the user:

Provides visual appeal: opening a page that is a sheer wall of text causes a brain to immediately tune out. Many people won’t get past the first paragraph, and your websites bounce rate will increase. Spice up your post and break up the monotony with an image.

Visuals can help clarify a topic. There’s nothing like a graph, chart, or even an on-point meme to get a point across.

Besides the obvious visual appeal for readers, search engines not only like to see that you are providing pictures, but that your images are optimized for maximum effectiveness. The metadata and descriptions associated with your picture can help increase your chances of being found in an organic search.

Where Can I Find Images?

It is considered best practice to use your own, original photos. Decent cameras are reasonably priced. Heck, some people have gotten proficient enough with their smartphone’s camera that they use this as their primary picture taking device. The biggest obstacle many people find in providing their own pictures is time. It may take too long to gather the right objects and get the lighting just right, or to go out into the wild to locate that ideal scene.

If you need to gather your visuals more quickly there are online venues designed specifically for this purpose. They come in two flavours – free and paid.

Some of the free sites like pixabay have pictures that are truly free. What’s the difference between free, and truly free? Some “free” sites offer photos at no charge, but they have a watermark on them. You have to pay a subscription, or membership fee to use the photo without the watermark. Might be okay if the mark is generic, but they usually aren’t, which makes the pic kind of useless for posting on a blog.

Some have a two-tier system. There is a small selection of free (and sometimes lower resolution) pictures without watermarks, and then if you pay a membership/subscription fee, there is a greater selection of photos which include better resolution.

Then there is truly free. There are no watermarks. There are no membership fees, or tiers. Pictures are offered at varying resolutions. The selection may not be as wide or deep as some of the pay sites, however if you are creative you can find the free sites may be more than enough to supply your needs.

Off-Page Changes

After locating the perfect picture to go with your content, there are a couple of things you will need to do with the image.

  • Change it up. When allowed to alter a pic, do it. Chances are you aren’t the only one using this picture, so by adding an effect, or overlaying some text, or cropping the image, you make it different from any other site where users may happen upon this visual. Canva is a great online tool that can help with basic alterations. If you want something a little more robust, gimp is a great picture manipulation program loaded with tons of options – and it is free! (truly free)
  • Remove unnecessary metadata. This is the part of the image that the users won’t normally see; things like the title, tags, authors, date taken, etc. In all, there are about 25 attributes that should be removed whenever possible, to help with overall page performance and not get search engines bogged down with irrelevant information.

Off-Page Information

Image optimization for SEO isn’t just about removing irrelevant items. It is also about ensuring the correct attributes are present and correctly formatted. The following items won’t usually be seen by the user but make a big difference for image optimization.

  1. File name: Never leave an image or photo file name with the default that was set by the camera or program (ie. DSC44553.png or img33224.jpg). Always change the file name to something that is relevant to the content, preferably the focus keyword. This not only helps indicate to search engines the relevance of the image to the text but can help with placing in organic searches.
  2. File format: There are several file formats that will serve for a content image, with the two main types being .jpg (this has its small size going for it), and .png (which allows for background transparency). On occasion a .gif may even be desired for animations. Remember to keep the file sizes as low as possible; use compression if necessary.
  3. Alt text: Most CMS’s media libraries will offer an extra field called alt text when uploading an image. Do not treat it as optional and leave it blank. Do not treat it as an extra field for more keywords. Instead, fill it in with a short description of what is in the picture. This field is used by programs for those who are sight impaired to give a verbal description of what the rest of us see when looking at the image. It can also help when a browser runs into problems downloading the image, by placing the alt text directly on the screen, allowing everyone to get some idea of what is supposed to be there, rather than just a blank image or file not found error.

On-Page Information

  • Give credit where credit is due. Read the terms and conditions of each site where you procure your visuals. They all have varying rules and degrees to which a picture may be used, and the way credit should be given. This not only lets search engines know you have authorization to use a picture, it can also save your hide legally in case a photographer or graphic designer sees their image on your site and challenges your rights of usage.
  • Picture size: as a general rule-of-thumb, ensure the picture is no wider than your content, and it does not fill the entire screen from top to bottom.
  • Captions: people scan titles headings and image captions (no not words imposed over the text, but words underneath a pic – relevant to the article), so a short line of relevant text under the picture can help the reader understand something if it is unclear.

Bottom Line

The biggest thing to keep in mind when setting up a picture for your content is the user experience. Is it original? Is it relevant to the content? Is it clearly, and properly labeled? Is it correctly sized on the page? Does its file size allow for rapid loading? With proper image optimization your visuals will be useful for both the reader and for search engines.

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How Google Search Rankings for Local Businesses are Different in 2019

Google search rankings – page one. The online Holy Grail.

Every business wants to be at the top of the list of search results, or at the very least, on the first page. After all, most people don’t look beyond the first page of results.

Depending on which report you read and how the data is presented, the number of people who can’t be bothered to even have a look at page two results can range anywhere from 71% to as high as 95%. Regardless of who is right with the exact percentage, it is clear that page one is prime real estate when it comes to search results.

“Content is king” was the mantra for quite some time.

Others placed large amounts of energy into link building.

SEO and Local Businesses

So, what is the 2019 roadmap for local businesses looking to secure their place with Google search rankings?

Unified Effort

Throughout the years, various single metrics have become the focus of local businesses. After all, there’s only so much time one can allocate to managing their online presence. In order to move up in Google search rankings some – especially the smaller businesses – had to pick and choose which ones would give the biggest bang for their efforts.

Google currently looks at over 200 indicators as part of their algorithm, when calculating rankings. Focusing on just one particular indicator is no longer a viable option. Fortunately for the smaller businesses there are some broad-brush strokes that can be utilized to help with their rankings, while still leaving them time to focus on their actual business.

If your business doesn’t have a lot of time or resources to devote to SEO, make sure you at least give attention to the following basic items:

  1. “Local” online presence
  2. Content
  3. Social media
  4. User experience

Local Online Presence

What makes a local business “local”? The location of course.

Don’t just place your address in the footer of your webpages and hope Google will find it when crawling your site (assuming you’ve set things up properly). Directly tell Google your address by creating a Google My Business account. This is even more important now that Google is phasing out Google+, previously a favourite among smaller local businesses.

When it comes to info the search engine giant can never get too much. Whether you are signing up for an account for the first time or have had your GMB account for years, be sure to fill in as many of the available fields as possible.

Content

While we do not recommend relying solely on content for online efforts, it is also foolish to abandon it altogether. Those who rise in Google search rankings are generally seen by their algorithm to be an expert in that particular field.

This is indicated, in part, by presenting content. Do it like you know what you’re talking about, even if you’re just starting out. Do it as often as time will allow but be consistent. It is better to post one blog a month, than to post 3 in one month, then nothing for the following two or three months.

Ensure the quality of the content is high!

This not only means being knowledgeable in your subject, it also means presenting the information in an easy-to-read format. Google will look at your spelling, grammar and syntax. Even professional writers have their work proofread. Have someone look over your content before publishing and make recommendations regarding corrections or changes. If you just don’t have the manpower, at least use an app built for this purpose. Grammarly is one of the better-known offerings around.

Social Media

Content doesn’t always have to be in the form of blogs. It can be helpful tips on social media, a recipe, a quote, even a picture. Anything that adds value to the user experience is good, and can pique interest leading to increased traffic to your site via links in your posts.

This is part of a process called backlinking – basically any link on another website that links back to your site. An increase in traffic from social media linking through to your website is an indicator that people are interested in what you have to say and see you as an authority on whatever your specialty is.

A word to the wise: as a general rule, do not use your personal social media account as your business social media account. You may wish to keep your family photos and personal info private.

For a business social media account to be most effective it should be as transparent as possible to google. Most will have the option of making it visible to the public, or even specify that you wish it to be discoverable by search engines.

User Experience

In case you haven’t noticed by now, securing a place within Google search rankings has become about the overall user experience.

While a goofy viral video can get a person or business their 15 minutes of fame, Google looks at the complete unified picture. Their main goal when presenting search results is to ensure that the user receives the information which is most relevant to their search. This not only means the quality of the information, but the way in which it is presented. You want to rank with Google because ultimately you want traffic coming to your website to buy your product, secure your services, or consider visiting you in real life.

Is your website slow to load? How is your bounce rate? Is your site optimized for mobile devices? Are pages on your site buried (more than 3 clicks away from the home page)? Is your site overloaded with industry specific jargon, or is it easy to read? Are the backlinks which drive traffic to your site from quality sites? Are the links leading out of your site relevant to the information being presented?

If you are a brand-new startup, and are familiar with these metrics, then you may want to be adventurous and create your own website with a website builder such as Wix.

If on the other hand you are not tech savvy, or a small to medium business, we recommend you secure a web designer. Having a professional build your site can make a world of difference to your search engine optimization, which directly impacts your Google search rankings. Great SEO can also improve your bottom line.

The Bottom Line

Any local business’s online efforts for 2019 should be unified across various platforms and outlets. Don’t place too much value on any one single metric or indicator. Google likes to see quality and relevance in all aspects of an online presence.

The bottom line of all this? In everything you do, keep in mind the user experience is paramount.

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What We Know About Ranking in Google’s Featured Snippets in 2019

Featured snippets. Instant answers. Position zero. Whatever you call it, it’s prime real estate in the search engine results.

But how do you get there?

Like most things in search engine optimization, there’s no magic formula that applies to featured snippets. The algorithmic scheme that selects snippets is opaque and ever-changing.

search engine optimization

But thanks to the efforts of data geeks like Rob Bucci (of STAT) and Eric Enge (of Stone Temple), we do know a thing or two about what it takes to propel part of a page into the featured snippet position.

Here’s a top-level summary of what featured snippets are, how they work, and what are considered best practices for snippet optimization in 2019.

Featured Snippets: What They Are

The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of featured snippets all comes back to Google’s bottom line.

Google wants to give searchers the best possible results, meaning the most relevant and useful content on the user’s search query. That’s what keeps people coming back to Google when there are plenty of alternative search engines – the quality of its results. Google’s army of engineers are constantly tweaking and fine-tuning search to deliver better results.

In a world where more and more people are searching on-the-go (and increasingly through voice assistants), better results means results that are instant and concise.

Enter rich answers: quick, precise results highlighted in a box at the top of the SERP below the paid listings.

Rich answers come in several different forms, including:

  • The knowledge panel, which provides detailed answers to localized product and service-based searches;
  • Direct answers, which draw information from Google’s personal data files; and
  • Featured snippets, which display relevant bits of information from third-party sources, along with a link back to the page.

Recently, featured snippets on mobile search have links that jump to the exact spot on the page the snippet came from, making it easier to see where that information came from.

Featured snippets often appear in queries that Google takes as questions: searches that open with who, what, where, why and so on. But the snippet algorithm can also catch on to queries that imply a question. It’s getting better and better at guessing the unspoken question behind the search.

If I search, “when is E3 in 2019?” for example, that’s obviously a question-based query; if I instead search, “E3 2019 date” the algorithm knows enough deliver the same answer.

Vox has a video on featured snippets that summarizes this well (and humorously).

Why Do Featured Snippets Matter in Marketing?

Put simply, featured snippets get clicks. Lots of clicks.

When a page holds the featured snippet for a high-value search query, it can lead to a sharp increase in traffic, conversion and clickthrough.

In one case, a featured snippet led to a 516% increase in organic search sessions and a 4% higher clickthrough rate for a lucrative keyword. Others have noticed a similar boost for pages on their sites that secure snippets for search terms that matter to their sales funnel.

The continual rise of voice search is another reason to give snippets a second look. Rich answers are Google’s go-to result for voice queries, where results are spoken out loud to the user in reply. Optimizing a page for snippets also serves it well in voice.

Optimizing for Featured Snippets: What We Know

Featured snippets are not an exact science, but there are clear trends to and themes as which pages are likely to rank for featured snippets.

  1. Google favours questions with multiple answers rather than one. When there’s a single clear-cut answer to a user’s search query, the algorithm can just pull from Google’s own Direct Answers database; when the answer’s more complex, it’s more likely to pull a relevant snippet from a third-party site.
  2. A good answer is a comprehensive one. Stone Temple’s data confirms that, although only 100 or so words will appear in the snippet itself, the algorithm likes to pull snippets from pages with detailed, comprehensive information. Sub-topics and tangents are a good thing, so long as they’re relevant to the page’s core topic.
  3. The fresher, the better. Snippets need to accurate and up-to-date. It’s important to keep your content current have a chance of being featured.
  4. There are patterns that lend well to snippets. It’s no trick or formula, but there are ways of structuring content to make for good snippets:
    • In the headline, tell readers they question you’re going to answer.
    • Write a brief paragraph that provides context to the content that will follow.
    • Give a point-by-point breakdown of the possible answers to the query, or, if there’s only one answer, expand on it. Depending on what best fits this specific query, this information can come in the form of subheadings and paragraphs (one subheading per point), a numbered or bullet list (one number/bullet per point) or a table (one point per row).

How to Track Featured Snippets

Long ago, in the bygone year of 2015, Google’s own Gary Illyes said there’s a chance you might someday be able to  monitor featured snippets in the Search Console. But as of 2017, he’s denied it’s something Google is working on yet. So, it isn’t currently possible to keep track of a site’s snippets using Google’s proprietary tools.

But there are several third-party sites that document how many pages on your site have featured snippets (if any) and to which search terms they apply. And the good news is, if you’re an SEO nerd, you’re probably using one or more of these tools already:

  • SEMRush
  • Ahrefs
  • Moz’s rank tracker
  • Searchmetrics
  • Advanced Web Ranking
  • SEO PowerSuite
  • Linkdex

Is It Worth Chasing After Featured Snippets?

The pages that tend to rank for featured snippets have a lot of good things going for them: they’re current, relevant, comprehensive, and structured in a way that makes it easy for readers to scan and digest the info.

In other words, they’re doing all the things great content should do.

Featured snippets come and go. You could spend weeks working on reaching that coveted spot and be dethroned by a competitor through a shrug of the algorithm days later. But in general, the steps you can take to optimize your content for snippets are things you should be trying to do anyhow – so at worse, you’ve improved your site and added value regardless.

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Key Digital Marketing Statistics to Take From 2018

2018 was a big year for SEO. Google’s constantly-changing search algorithm evaluates over 200 ranking factors, and SEO is an increasingly complex science. We’ve compiled a list of statistics that stood out in 2018 to adapt to your marketing efforts in 2019.

2018 digital marketing statistics

Better content can increase traffic by up to 2,000%

Content should be your number one priority.

Last year, we witnessed just how big an impact content has on your overall digital marketing and SEO efforts. Informative, high-quality content is the pillar of a successful SEO strategy. The better the content, the more traffic it will drive to your site.

Strategically creating website content around a keyword or set of keywords is the first step in attracting traffic to your site. Blogs are an important piece of content that can work magic for increasing traffic. There are roughly 250 million blogs online right now!

Google is responsible for 96% of all smartphone search traffic and 94% of the total organic traffic

Yes, you read that right. 96%. Only 4% of all smartphone search traffic happens on alternative search engines.

Thus, it’s of utmost importance to have a mobile-friendly and Google-friendly website to ensure users have a seamless experience. As far as we can tell, this statistic will only increase in the years to come. If your website isn’t mobile of Google-friendly, you’ll be left in the dust.

Search Engines drive 93% of website traffic

Think about this for a moment. Almost 93% of web traffic comes through search engines, and just about 75% of all searchers click a link on the first page of their search results, never bothering to move on to page two.

So, how can you get your business to rank on the search engine’s first page? You’ll need three things:

  • Time
  • Patience
  • A solid search engine optimization strategy

SEO is the leading driver of organic search ranking performance on a search engine results page. Before digital marketing took off, most marketing firms would create a brochure, meet with prospective clients and expect reasonable growth throughout their business. These days, that’s just not effective.

Today’s fastest-growing businesses are capitalizing on the digital marketing environment, and SEO plays an integral role. This will definitely be the case as we move into 2019.

WordPress accounts for 27% of websites around the world, but less than half of WordPress sites are up to date

What does this tell us? That it’s important to optimize your website for maximum performance. So, how do we do this?

  • SEO-friendly URLs:
    • Google gives more weight to the first 3-5 words in your URL. Be sure to choose wisely!
  • Titles optimized for SEO:
    • Title tags are one of the most important factors of on-page SEO. For best results, start your title with your keyword, or place it in the beginning.
  • Add modifiers to your titles
    • Descriptive words like ‘best’ and ‘review’ are examples.
  • Optimize your meta descriptions
    • Your description should complement your title. It should contain your main keyword as well.
  • Eliminate thin content
    • When we talk about thin content, we usually think of its effect on search engine ranking, but you should also be mindful of how it impacts your clients or customers. Here’s how to fix it.

SEO has a 14.6% conversion rate compared to 1.7% for traditional outbound methods.

Cold-calling and direct mail are things of the past.

In 2018, we saw a 14.6% rate of conversion in SEO marketing.

That’s high.

SEO is such an effective method, in comparison to mail or cold-calling because it’s a direct response to the things people are searching for. SEO strategies can be tailored to your specific target demographic, much more so than marketing techniques of the past.

The average attention span in 2018 is 8 seconds

8 seconds. That’s how long you have to attract a potential customer.

Each year, that time is getting shorter and shorter as a result of the brain’s ‘digitized lifestyle,’ For example, the average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds.

This means that your website, SEO strategy and social media efforts must grab the attention of the user instantly.

Looking to learn more about SEO and how it can impact your business? Contact us today to chat about your online strategy.

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5 Changes to Make to Your Google My Business Profile Before 2019

There was never a dull moment in local SEO this year, with new updates to coming to Google My Business at a rapid-fire pace throughout 2018. Now’s the time to log in and make sure your Google My Business page is current and ready for the new year.

Let’s get straight to it. The biggest updates to Google My Business in 2018 were:

  1. New dashboard for businesses with multiple locations
  2. Separate fields for Service Area and Business Address (and removing the ability to set a distance-based service area around the business address)
  3. Service menu for service-based businesses and product menu for retailers
  4. Letting businesses set ‘factual’ attributes in addition to the crowdsourced ‘subjective’ attributes (including the veteran-led and women-led attributes)
  5. Videos on the photo dashboard

5 changes to make to google my business profile

These changes affected some types of businesses more than others (some local service-based companies will have a lot of catching up to do) but all of them matter when it comes to understanding how to optimize Google My Business for a stronger local presence.

Here’s how to ensure you’re up-to-date with Google My Business in 2019.

1. Scrutinize Your Suggested Changes

In March of 2018, Google rolled out a new Google My Business dashboard for business owners with two or more listings or locations. It’s much faster and easier to navigate than the old one.

The downside? The new dashboard makes it more difficult to track and respond to Suggested Changes in a timely manner.

A Suggested Change is an addition or change to your listing that either comes from:

  1. A user manually editing your listing information; or
  2. Google’s algorithm finding information about your listing (often from third-party directory sites).

Here’s the trouble: the name ‘Suggested Changes’ is a bit misleading, since the changes don’t always require your approval before they go live.

As the listing owner, you should receive an email from Google whenever there’s a ‘suggestion’; however, those notifications don’t always make it through to your inbox.

Because of this, it’s important that you log in to check your Suggested Changes periodically, especially since the new dashboard makes it harder to notice them.

To see Suggested Changes for a Google My Business listing in the new dashboard:

  1. Log in to Google My Business.
  2. Click Back to GMB Classic in the left-hand menu.
  3. Click Google Updates in the centre column.
  4. Make sure the box next to ‘Google updates’ is set to display All.
  5. Click Resolve updates in the rightmost column to see the Suggested Changes and other updates to a listing.

2. Specify Your Ever-Growing Service Area

Before the update, local businesses could define only their service area as a kilometer/mile radius around their business address. Google realized this was a shortcoming (who actually has a perfectly circular service area?) and turned it around late in 2018.

Now, Google My Business lets you edit your business address and service area separately. Businesses can specify their service area by region, city, or ZIP/Postal Code.

If you haven’t gotten around to updating your service area, here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in to Google My Business.
  2. Click the location you’d like to edit.
  3. Click Info in the left-hand menu.
  4. Click Edit in the Service Area section.
  5. Click the X next to a service area to delete it.

3. Promote Your Outstanding Services

Early in 2018, Google began to allow businesses in select industries to list their services in detail right on the page. Later, they expanded the feature to almost all service businesses, including creative industries and the trades.

The service menu is simple, consisting of just a name, description, and optionally a price for each item. It’s a vast improvement over the previous version of Google My Business’s services, which was limited to keywords like ‘repair services’ and ‘installation services.’

Adding services to your Google My Business page is quick and easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Log in to Google My Business.
  2. Click Info in the left-hand menu.
  3. Click Edit in the Services section.

Recently, Google has begun testing a product menu feature for Google My Business as well. Chances are this will expand to more companies next year, so keep an eye out!

4. Add Appealing Factual Attributes

Attributes are Google’s name for small bits of descriptive information about a business. They include things like:

  • Service offerings (pick-up or drive-thru)
  • Atmosphere (casual, noisy, family-friendly, private)
  • Customer/clientele demographic (popular among students, business travellers, tourists)

Originally, the algorithm compiled a business’s attributes based solely on user reviews and feedback via the GMB Q&A feature – businesses couldn’t edit them.

In 2018, Google refined the attributes system by splitting them into factual and subjective attributes. Now, businesses can directly edit certain attributes. The attributes available (which include acceptable payment types, accessibility options, and whether the business is LGBTQ-friendly) vary depending on the business’s category.

Even if you’re not a GMB geek, you might have heard about the release of the women-led and veteran-led attributes – two socially-conscious tags designed to help customers support local vets, businesswomen, and even businesswoman vets.

There’s also a lesser-known family-led attribute, which could help win the favour of locavores in search of a good old-fashioned family business.

In any case, it pays to take a moment to set up factual attributes that will help customers get to know you. It doesn’t take long:

  1. Log in to Google My Business.
  2. Click Info in the left-hand menu.
  3. Click Edit in the Attributes section.

5. Upload an Excellent Video

Video is one of the most powerful mediums available to us as marketers and you as a business owner.

Online video consistently grabs more views and engagement than still images, and 90% of customers now say that video influences their buying decisions.

The addition of 30-second videos to Google My Business shows Google is serious about getting customers to convert (whether it’s making a purchase or booking an appointment) directly on the GMB platform. For businesses, it’s an opportunity to make a huge visual impact just around the corner from the search engine results page.

What’s Next for Google My Business?

Make no mistake: Google My Business will continue to extend its influence in local SEO in the year to come.

Don’t let the imminent demise of Google+ fool you into thinking GMB is on its way out. In fact, part of the reason Google is sunsetting G+ is because GMB has effectively taken over its function as a hub for customer-brand interactions.

So, what does the future have in store? Based on this year’s developments, you can expect to see even greater emphasis on conversions directly from the Google My Business platform in 2019. Additionally, you ought to pay close attention to your business’s attributes – chances are, they’ll fuel increasingly precise local search results based on ‘intangibles’ like a business’s character and atmosphere.

It’s cool stuff.

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Quora for SEO: Is it Worth Your Time?

300 million active monthly users. Engagement with the world’s top thought leaders. Growth that could surpass Twitter and Reddit. Those are the claims Quora put forth to advertisers when it launched new targeting options earlier this year. If they’re right, then Quora must be fertile ground for SEO activity – right?

Quora

In reality, the intersection of Quora and SEO is a complex (and often controversial) topic.

Let’s investigate.

What is Quora, and Why Is It So Popular?

Quora isn’t the first question-and-answer site out there, but it might just be the last.

That is to say that Quora has so far managed to succeed in areas where similar sites have failed.

Yahoo Answers, one of the first major Q&A sites, was massively popular but poorly-moderated in terms of questions and answers alike. It never came close to a reputable source of information and was often the subject of ridicule.

Google Answers surpassed Yahoo Answers in the quality of its content, but it failed to strike a chord with internet users at large; and like many Google products (see: Google+), Google Answers was closed due to ailing popularity.

The respective downfalls of Yahoo Answers and Google Answers illustrate the challenge of managing an informational site built on user-submitted content. To grow, the site must continuously attract more users who are willing to submit questions and answers; however, there’s a delicate balance between encouraging user participation and maintaining quality standards.

Set the bar for quality too high and few people will participate; set it too low and the site will attract poor-quality content, spam and trolls.

To date, Quora has managed to strike this balance through a combination of a quality-ranking algorithm and human moderators who monitor the feeds. Quora was originally moderated by volunteers from its user community, but the company has since switched to paid moderators and content reviewers who remove questions and answers as needed.

It’s easy to contribute to, but it’s not a free-for-all, either. This balance has been vital to the site’s popularity so far. Quora has even garnered attention from world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama.

What is the Value of Quora for SEO?

Another key to Quora’s success is its powerful presence on Google’s search engine results page.

Google’s RankBrain algorithm strives to deliver the highest-quality answers relevant to searchers’ queries. Quora’s upvote-driven Q&A format, which favours the most precise and comprehensive answers to specific questions, is practically tailor-made for it.

These days, whenever you make a search query in the form of a question, there’s a high likelihood of finding Quora on the first page of the results.

This trend has motivated people, brands and SEOs to try and leverage Quora to drive site traffic.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Using Quora for SEO is not as simple as plopping links into questions and answers – and in fact, that’s a good way to get banned from Quora for life.

Ways to Use Quora for SEO

Here’s the truth: Quora’s prominence on page 1 of Google’s search engine results has made it a magnet for SEO-related spam.

Spam links on Quora

Pictured: A person using Quora just for the purpose of link building.

By that we mean users posting low-quality answers solely for the purpose of driving traffic to their (or their client’s) site.

Spammers aside, there are legitimately useful and effective ways to leverage Quora’s popularity and SERP presence to your advantage.

1. Answer Questions to Drive Qualified Traffic to Your Site

All external links placed by Quora users are no-follow links. This means that if you post a link to your website on Quora, it doesn’t pass any authority onto your site.

In other words, Quora isn’t useful for backlinking.

However, when done properly, posting links to Quora can be a way to drive good, qualified traffic to your site. That’s because the questions people pose to Quora tend to be specific, with clear intent on the part of the questioner.

For example, the person asking “What are the best tennis shoes?” is likely to be interested in buying a pair of tennis shoes. The same goes for anyone who comes across the question in a Google search. If you happen to sell tennis shoes, these are exactly the people you want visiting your website – so it would be great if you could get a link on that page.

However, Quora is picky about how and when a question or answer can include external links.

According to Quora’s rules on questions and answers containing external links:

  • Helpful answers are clear and credible, and sincerely address the question asked. External links to sources can help demonstrate credibility when the answer depends on third-party facts and analysis rather than the poster’s personal experience.
  • Answers containing external links must answer the question and summarize how the reference answers the question. They cannot just point users to the link for answers.
  • Answers that drive traffic to external sites for promotional or commercial purposes and do not sufficiently answer the question are considered spam.

In sum, if a page on your site is a good source of information for a user’s question, it can be helpful and appropriate to include a link to that page in an answer. When the question is one that your ideal visitors are asking, it can be well worth your time to answer it.

2. Answer Questions to Build Credibility and Authority in Your Industry

One of the reasons why Quora has been popular among tech influencers is how it readily showcases users’ qualifications and achievements.

Right below each user’s name and portrait is their Quora credentials, intended as a way to show the world why your post is worth reading (and an implicit answer to the question, “Says who?”). It can include your education, location, life experience and other personal information. Well-known figures can even earn a verification checkmark next to their name.

This system makes Quora an excellent platform for personal and brand authority-building. It’s a fast and completely free way to publicly demonstrate expertise in your industry.

3. Use Quora to Optimize Your Site Content

Popular answers on Quora can tell you a lot about how to write great content.

The answers that rank best among users tend to be those that provide comprehensive, useful information in a way that’s easy to read and understand. When the question relates to your industry, it can give valuable clues about the information your customers are looking for and how they prefer to receive it.

Think about a question your customers or clients regularly ask. Has anyone asked and answered the question on Quora?

Does your website provide all the information contained in the top answer?

If not, that could indicate an area of your site that needs improvement.

4. Use Quora for Keyword Research

If someone is asking a question about your industry on Quora, chances are some of your customers are searching the same thing.

Quora is an excellent place to explore how people discuss your business in everyday, unfiltered language.

Questions and answers can reveal keywords and phrasing you might not have thought of yet. Plus, with a free Quora Ads account, you can see exactly how many views a question receives each week, which can help you decide if a particular keyword is worth pursuing.

5. Use Quora to Brainstorm Blog Topics

Not sure what to write about? Find an unanswered (or inadequately-answered) question that relates to your business and answer it in a comprehensive blog post.

Freshly-posted questions can be a goldmine for novel blog content ideas. The same goes for a new FAQ page, a customer knowledge base, or a glossary of industry terms.

Better yet, there are several ways find these topics without any work on your part. Add a subject or keyword to your Quora feed to have new questions delivered as they’re published. Or, follow another user who answers questions in your industry to get notified when they post – then, add your two cents.

Quora has been around for almost ten years, but it’s still fertile ground when it comes to growing your online reach and driving traffic to your website. There’s plenty of room for experimentation.

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How Can Blogs Expand Social Media Reach?

What is a blog?

Essentially, a blog is a piece of content written for your website that keeps users up-to-date with your products, services, or industry. It can range from a small informational piece to an interview, a news story, or a post highlighting an upcoming event.  Blogs are an effective tool in expanding social media reach and should be written, posted, and shared across your social media frequently.

Crafting the perfect blog by using suitable keywords and ensuring that your blog is fully optimized is crucial. But how else can blogs work for you?

blog for social media

In this blog, we’ll teach you why blogs are an important part of your overall SEO marketing strategy and how they amplify your social reach.

1. Maintain Your Position as An Industry Leader

Publishing blog posts is one way for your business to maintain its position as an industry leader. It shows your followers that you’re interested in keeping up to date with the latest developments and that they can trust you as a reliable source of industry-relevant updates and insights.

You should aim to post a blog article at least once a week in order to maintain a presence. Blogs provide value to followers; sharing them across social media reminds followers of your expertise and know-how.

For example, if there’s a new update in your industry and a reader learns about the change via a blog post that was posted to your social profile, they’ll value your presence and likely follow your page to keep up-to-date.

2. Increase Social Referrals Back to Your Website

Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are extensions of your blog. By sharing your blogs through these various channels, you’re expanding their potential reach and even reaching a new demographic of readers/potential customers or clients.

You’re also going to increase overall social referrals back to your website. Social referrals are the number of page views coming specifically from social networks and are composed of both paid and organic traffic. Posting website content like blogs across social platforms increases the likelihood of click-throughs to your website and thus leads to an increase in overall traffic.

3. Social Signals Improve Organic SEO

Social media marketing and SEO are interwoven strategies that produce outstanding results. Both are organic, inbound strategies that focus on building an identity that naturally attracts users.

A strong social media presence relies on high-quality content. Done properly, it can greatly increase your search rankings.

Using methods like social media and blog posts can continuously drive search engine traffic your way. Increasing your reputation on social media through increased engagement and high-quality content will lead to an overall increased brand presence. This will lead to an increase in branded searches on Google and an increased ranking for non-branded keywords.

4. Blogs Can be Broken Down into Pillars

Blog content can be used over and over again. That’s because blogs contain a plethora of information that can be broken down into pillar content and distributed in various ways across an assortment of social media channels.

For example, a blog post could be distributed across all basic social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Next, the blog could be re-formatted into microcontent. Microcontent consists of short-form pieces of content that’s turned into memes, quotes, stories or graphics. These can then be distributed across pillars. You can then listen, engage and monitor insights to see what content is performing best.

Once you have a solid understanding of what’s resonating with your audience, you can apply these insights into more microcontent. The cycle is never-ending and all it takes to get started is a relevant, optimized blog.

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What is Thin Content and How Do I Go About Fixing It?

Has someone warned you that your website has thin content? Worried it’s holding you back?

When people talk about thin content, they’re usually thinking of its effect on search engine ranking – but you should also be mindful of how it impacts your clients or customers.

Fix Thin Content

What is Thin Content?

Think of it like this.

You set out to the store, shopping list in hand, to get what you need for your upcoming house party. And you’ve got to do it fast, because the party’s tonight.

As luck would have it, you find everything on your list at the first store you try. You’re satisfied, and you’ll definitely return to that store the next time you’re planning a party.

But what if you struck out? What if you had to make one stop for drinks, another for cake, and a third across town for cups and plates?

Not only are you annoyed, but you probably won’t visit those stores for party supplies again – their selection is just too thin.

That’s also how people use Google’s search engine results page.

When someone makes a search query, they don’t want to have to tap in and out of three different webpages or open three browser tabs to find the answers they’re looking for. They want instant, accurate information the first time.

And since Google and other search engines want to make users happy (more users mean more advertising revenue), search engine algorithms work hard to deliver the most accurate, relevant search results that matches a user’s query.

To that end, a webpage that succeeds in the delivering relevant, quality information people want will be land a higher position in the search engine results; a page that delivers sparse, low-quality, irrelevant, unoriginal content will drop in ranking.

Thin content is content that provides little to no value to the people who find it. If search engine algorithms judge a page as having thin content (based both on the substance of the page itself and the way users interact with it) its ranking can plummet as a result.

Some people think the way to fix thin content is to add more words to a page; this can help in some cases, but there’s almost always more to it than that. The length of the copy on a page is only one of the factors that go into deciding whether a page is worth someone’s time.  A pamphlet can be thin, but so can a novel.

Signs and Examples of Thin Content

So, how do you know if your content is thin?

If a domain contains numerous thin pages across the site, you might log into Google’s Search Console one day and find a manual penalty for thin content. That means your site has been judged as one that, “appears to contain a significant percentage of low-quality or shallow pages which do not provide users with much added value.”

Another thin content warning sign is a page that fails to get good user engagement. Once you’ve ruled out other factors that could turn people away – annoying pop-ups, slow page speed, outdated or plain bad site design – it’s time to point the finger at content.

Google also provides concrete examples of pages that often qualify as being thin content: affiliate pages, automatically-generated content, doorway pages, and unoriginal content. These aren’t prima facie thin content, but they can be.

  • Affiliate pages are designed for the sole or primary purpose of getting people to visit (and purchase products/services from) another site, which earns kickbacks for the owner of the affiliate page. A common example is a list-style blog post that includes multiple links to product pages on Amazon. An affiliate page that offers little in the way of added value or information can be thin content.
  • Auto-generated content is text churned out by an automated tool. When it’s only there to influence search rankings, this type of content falls under the definition of ‘thin’ regardless of length.
  • Doorway pages exist mainly as a gateway to another page, providing minimal value and serving as an unnecessary threshold people must step over to find the information they’re looking for. These pages are often a relic of outdated SEO tactics, like the creation of numerous similar location-based pages that provide no unique insight or information.
  • Unoriginal content is a wide category that encompasses all sorts of lazy tactics: pasting articles from other pages, pulling product descriptions from a manufacturer’s site, multiple pages with all or most of the same copy (like a fill-in-the-blanks) or borrowing images and infographics from other content creators. Unoriginal content isn’t always synonymous with plagiarism – a newly-written page that reiterates existing information without adding new or interesting insight can also fit the label.

Finally, a page can qualify as thin simply for lacking in content. Conventionally, any page containing fewer than 300 words runs the risk of being thin content, but that’s more a guideline than a golden rule (some pages, like a Contact Us page, have no reason to be wordy).

The bottom line is this: if the page is lacking in value, it could be thin content regardless of length. Short pages are often thin, but thin pages are not always short.

How to Fix Thin Content

Fixing thin content is not only about adding more words. It’s about improving your content to provide the value your users are looking for.

It does often require you to put more words on the page – after all, a lengthier page has more room to explore a topic in enough depth. But the substance of your content matters more than its length. Since the Panda update in 2011, Google’s search engine algorithm has become increasingly savvy about distinguishing valuable content from thin content, regardless of length.

As Neil Patel puts it, “creating long form content does not mean cranking out irrelevant and repetitive words. Rather it’s all about Providing Value.”

The key to avoiding and fixing thin content is to understand what your audience wants, what search engine algorithms like to see, and how to cater to both in a way that contributes to achieving your goals.

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5 Common Reasons Google Could Penalize Your Website

Trying to increase your website’s ranking on Google? Heard horror stories of Google’s updates completely wiping sites off the search rankings? It happens, but not at random. Let’s have a look at what exactly a Google penalty is – and the reasons Google may drop your site in its rankings.

Reasons Google could penalize your website

What is a Google Penalty?

Let’s start with Google’s goal: to eliminate poor-quality content to refine the quality of search results.

To do this, Google released their Penguin update in 2012, which wiped some sites out of search rankings altogether. This update downgrades site rankings based on many factors (which we will chat about shortly), forcing companies to change the way they look at SEO and prioritize the quality of their content.

Subsequent updates continue to sharpen the search engine’s ability to judge the quality of a site.

Why Does Google Penalize Websites?

1. Your Website is Outdated

The design of a website plays a large factor in its site ranking. Two main design concerns are whether the site is mobile-friendly or if it is new or up-to-date. According to Forbes, “you could lose anywhere from 5-30% of leads based on this factor alone”.

When you’re building your website design, make sure you also keep meta titles and meta descriptions in mind. They help Google understand what keywords your website wants to rank for; without them, Google may not recognize your site as relevant and penalize you.

2. Poor Link Structure

What makes up link structure? Let’s break it down:

  • External links – these connect your content to other sites. You want to link to other high-ranking websites so that Google will associate your content with other high-quality sources. Additionally, these sites should be relevant – for example, if your website is fashion-themed and only links to sites about food or electronics, Google views this as a problem. Linking to low-quality or irrelevant content sites will put you straight on Google’s radar to drop down in ranking.
  • Internal links – these connect your content to other pages within your website. It gives Google an idea of how your website is mapped out and what your overall site content is like. That being said, it’s important to interlink to relevant If you’re linking your blog post about saving money to your pricey gift shop, for example, you may get penalized.
  • Backlinks – these are links from other sites that direct back to yours. The goal with backlinks is to get high-ranking websites to link back to you. It would be fantastic to have backlinks from CNN or New York Times. This is high-level, but the idea is you want to avoid fake or illegitimate websites to maintain a higher ranking.

When it comes to links, remember – quality over quantity.

3. Buying Links

Yes, some companies still buy links to their website to increase in ranking.

Google sees this as an attempt to deceive PageRank, which calculates where your site should appear in search engine results based on what content Google views as relevant and high-quality.

When you try to manipulate Google, they can catch this – and the bad links you have been buying. Buying links can even drop you off the rankings completely.

4. Your Content Has Little Value

This can be anything from not enough content, shallow content that your readers have already found on many other sites, or content obviously trying to rank for keywords. These are all the wrong way for your content to help rank your website.

Your site must offer significant content to readers. Google judges how users interact with your website. If people visit your site and immediately leave, Google will catch on that users don’t value your content and will penalize your site and it’s ranking.

5. Slow Speeds

How frustrated do you get when a page is taking 10 seconds to load? Do you abandon the page and move on?

A lot of people do – and Google notices. Neil Patel recommends using a caching plugin or a CDN right away to avoid this issue.

If you’re not sure how fast your existing site is, check out Google’s PageSpeed to see if you have room to improve on your desktop or mobile site load time.

Stay Prepared

In the end, you must always put the user experience at top-of-mind.

They’re the ones visiting your websites and, in turn, buying your products or services. The goal is to give them the most seamless experience, so they have no reason to exit your page.

Doing this will help avoid penalties, increase the quality of your traffic and number of conversions, and create a happy relationship between your website and Google.

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Optimizing Your LinkedIn Company Page to Hook Leads & Drive Traffic

LinkedIn has become an incredible marketing tool, especially for businesses who know how to optimize their LinkedIn company page.

The premiere professional networking platform is a great place to scout talent, network, and nurture sales prospects. But that’s not the only way to leverage it.

LinkedIn also has powerful search engine optimization benefits. Creating a LinkedIn company page is of the fastest ways to rank for branded keywords, and it sends strong signals to Google’s ranking algorithm.

Drive Traffic

Want to quickly and effectively optimize your LinkedIn company page? Focus on these key areas.

Why LinkedIn is Worth Your Time

LinkedIn is home to over 500 million users from 200 different countries. And those users are impressively active, with over half of them visiting the site at least once a month.

Having a dedicated company page gives you direct access to customers, clients, and talent in your industry. It’s a free platform for showcasing products and services and promoting important news.

Company pages also unlock valuable engagement assets, like how many people see your posts and what they’re saying about your company.

LinkedIn’s not only popular with professionals – Google’s ranking algorithm loves it, too. LinkedIn company pages quickly climb the rankings for branded key phrases, giving companies a free and easy opportunity to get their content in front of more searchers.

Optimizing a LinkedIn Company Page

When we talk about optimizing a LinkedIn company page, we usually have three broad goals in mind:

  1. Increasing LinkedIn user engagement with the company page;
  2. Helping the company page rank for relevant queries in search engine results; and
  3. Helping the company page rank in LinkedIn’s native search engine results.

Each of these goals can be refined and targeted to a company’s specific key performance indicators; if the company is looking for sales leads, for example, the focus will be on user engagement at specific points in the marketing funnel.

Whether you’re focusing on organic engagement or plan to boost your LinkedIn strategy with sponsored content, optimizing a LinkedIn company page should begin with these basic steps:

  1. Fill out the company profile completely.
  2. Write a keyword-rich company description.
  3. Upload high-quality photos.
  4. Link back to the company website and other social profiles.
  5. Post-industry-relevant content.
  6. Have employees connect to the page.

1. Complete Your Company Profile

Start by filling in the blanks.

When a user first enters a company on their profile, LinkedIn generates a bare-bones page for that company to serve as a hub for employees; however, the information that automatically populates the page is far from complete and not necessarily accurate.

Enter all the information someone would need to find and identify your company: its address, phone number, website URL, etc. Make sure it matches what appears on the company’s website and Google My Business page

This step increases the page’s legitimacy in the eyes of users and search engines.

2. Write a Compelling Company Description

What does your company do? What makes it unique? Boil it down into 156 characters.

The first 156 characters of a company’s description appears as the page’s meta description, or the summary that appears below the link on both Google and LinkedIn’s the search engine results page.

It helps to think of the description as an elevator pitch: a concise summary that tells people what your company is all about and entices them to learn more.

The company description can be longer than 156 characters, of course, but it’s important to make those initial words count. Be sure to include keywords and key phrases that people use to find companies in your industry.

3. Upload High-Quality Photos

The profile picture is the first impression people have of your company on LinkedIn. It appears in the LinkedIn search results, on employees’ profile pages, and above everything your company posts.

Company pages with profile pictures also get six times as many visits as those without one.

The best profile picture for a company on LinkedIn is a clear, high-quality image of its logo. LinkedIn recommends a minimum profile image size of 400px by 400px and a max of 7680px by 4320px.

You should also personalize the page with an eye-catching header image (recommended 1584px by 396 px). It can be a simple banner, a photo collage, or an image with call-to-action text. Since it always appears alongside the profile image, the header doesn’t need to include a logo; however, it should reinforce brand recognition using relevant imagery and colours.

If your ideal logo or header image doesn’t quite fit LinkedIn’s dimensions, Sprout Social’s Landscape Resizer tool is a quickly modify it.

4. Link to Other Sites and Profiles

Social media pages are most effective when they’re interconnected.

Add links to the company’s other social profiles so LinkedIn users can easily find and follow your company across the web.

In turn, add a LinkedIn button to your company website.

5. Post-Industry-Relevant Content

LinkedIn isn’t just another company listing; it’s a platform from which companies can broadcast their best content to clients, customers and industry colleagues.

Posts are one of the most direct ways to engage with viewers and followers since posts appear both on its page and the home page of each of the company’s followers.

What to post depends on the company’s goals for the social network. LinkedIn posts can be used to:

  • Showcase an awesome company culture
  • Share company news and updates
  • Publish original blog, video and image content
  • Spread the word about timely industry issues

Always include some form of visual content – those posts get 98% more engagement than text-only posts.

6. Get Employees on Board

If your business is new to LinkedIn, but your employees aren’t, chances are they’ll have already named the company in the Experience section of their profiles.

But that doesn’t always mean they are connected to the same page.

For example, the user who entered “Company Inc.” may be linked to a different page than the one who simply put “Company.”

Ironing out these inconsistencies is an important step in increasing the company page’s reach, especially for smaller businesses. The more employees who connect, the greater your reach.

About LinkedIn Sponsored Content

Once you’ve done all the above, it’s time to consider furthering your reach with sponsored content.

Sponsoring content puts your company’s posts in people’s LinkedIn feeds, appearing almost exactly like an organic (non-sponsored) post. It’s a great way to reach clients and customers, especially for B2B businesses.

LinkedIn’s advertising tools enable highly specific targeting, allowing you to aim content at specific people, companies, or positions within a company. Insight tags help to define further your audience based on who visits your site and their actions on the page, detailed conversion tracking gives a clear understanding of the value of leads through LinkedIn.

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