Brand Authority Basics: 5 Reasons Why You Should Write Articles for Your Brand

Why Do I Have To Write Articles? I’m a Businessperson.

As the fierce arms race to control Brand Authority in the online marketplace continues to ramp up, it’s only becoming more and more important to find an angle that sets your brand and your offering apart from your competition. For some retail brands, this can be accomplished by establishing themselves as a price leader in their market segment, or by offering a unique product that their competitors simply can’t match. But when it comes to the internet, and a lot of the service-based brands and companies that now exist, some of these age-old differentiating tactics no longer apply.

Why Do I Care About Brand Authority?

In a new age where knowledge is king, a brand must set themselves apart by demonstrating that they are more authoritative and knowledgable in their field than anyone else. One great way to demonstrate this is by curating and creating written content, on topics that directly relate to your brand and business. You don’t need to be the next Hemingway to write short to medium-form articles that can actually help your existing customers, attract new customers, and build brand authority at the same time.

Here are just five simple reasons why you should be writing articles for your brand:

  1. Authority – By positioning yourself as a leader and a source of knowledge in your industry, people will naturally gravitate towards your brand. Additionally, depending on your industry, there may be little competition when it comes to written articles and knowledge online. If you’re a landscaper in Scottsdale, AZ, there is likely not a huge amount of online competition writing watering guides, landscape design advice, etc. Those are easy ‘ins’ you can take advantage of quickly!
  2. Credibility – Along with this authority naturally comes a trust and understanding that you know what you’re talking about! This is a very valuable tool, professionally, and gaining the trust of current or potential customers is a gift that should be valued and respected. Make your content and writing actionable; the more valid and useful solutions you present to your audience, the more you will be seen as a leader.
  3. Recognition – Building brand recognition that increases the association of your brand or name to quality work or service is the entire point of marketing! You want people to sell you, for you. If you can become a recognized name, the snowball effect of recognition leading to discovery will begin to take place, paradoxically exposing even more new potential customers to your brand, and the identity of that brand.
  4. Loyalty – The more you build rapport with your customer base, the more loyal they will likely be to your brand. A business that continues to provide value after the initial transaction is miles ahead of the competition, and no amount of shiny marketing materials or up-front value adds can beat a strong and ongoing relationship that is beneficial to the customer.
  5. Perceived Value – When you continue to provide value past the initial relationship, you are building the perceived value of the brand/product in the customer’s eyes. By going beyond the tangible benefits of whatever the customer has purchased, you can make them feel like they are getting more for their money.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, and only covers a few basic reasons why blogging for a business is beneficial to your brand authority and identity, but it should give you more than enough good reasons to get out and start writing articles for your brand today!

Mobile SEO Tips – Preparing Your Site for Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update

This post was written for UpCity’s SEO Blog. It has been syndicated here.

Some people are calling it ‘mobilegeddon’, others are calling it ‘mobile-pocalypse’, but no matter what you call it, Google’s Mobile Algorithm update, slated for April 21, is purported to be the biggest, most significant algorithm update to date. Industry experts predict that some 15-20% of mobile queries will be affected, and many speculate that even desktop rankings will suffer as a result.

By arming yourself with the information we’ve been able to obtain ahead of launch, you can position your web properties to be fully prepared for Google’s changes.

Mobile Friendliness is no Longer an Option

Google has been slowly moving towards this eventual reality for a long time, but most digital marketers did not expect them to draw such a clear and abrupt line in the sand. With this new update, sites that are not optimized for mobile will be actively penalized in mobile results, and webmasters can expect to see fringe falloff in desktop results as well.

However, it’s not as bad as some marketers have predicted. Last week, Google clarified the mechanics surrounding the new algorithm rollout in a Q&A session that centered around the new update and mobile-friendliness in general.

How To Prepare for Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update Now

As with most Google updates, we won’t be able to assess the full impact until the change has been made. However, there are a few key points that we are certain of now:

  • The algorithm rollout begins April 21st, though it will take 3-7 days to be reflected globally.
  • There is no longer a sliding scale ranking system for mobile-friendliness. Your site either is or isn’t, there is no longer a middle ground.
Google's Mobile-Friendliness Testing Tool in action.
Google’s Mobile-Friendliness Testing Tool in action.
  • You can check whether your site passes Google’s mobile-friendly requirements right now by checking for a ‘Mobile-Friendly‘ label next to your SERP entries. If you’d prefer to check on a page-by-page basis, check the mobile-friendly testing tool, which should match the live Google search results. We discourage the use of mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools, as they can be delayed based on crawl time.

Mobile-Friendliness Will Update in Real Time

At SMX West, Google’s own Gary Illyes fleshed out some more details about the operational mechanics of the algorithm change, which gives some better insight on how webmasters will be able to rebound from ranking losses caused by the update.

You can check mobile-friendliness right in SERP results by looking for the 'Mobile-friendly' tag next to results descriptions.
You can check mobile-friendliness right in SERP results by looking for the ‘Mobile-friendly’ tag next to results descriptions.

Illyes explained that the algorithm runs and scrapes in real time, so that in theory, you will experience organic performance increases the minute your site becomes mobile-friendly and Google has a chance to crawl it. This should ease some concerns about the ability for sites that previously ranked extremely well to adapt to the new algorithm without seeing a permanent hit to SERP performance.

The Mobile Algorithm is Page-by-Page, not Sitewide

Illyes also clarified how the algorithm will treat sites that may be mostly mobile-optimized, yet still have a handful of assets that are not. Because the algorithm assigns value at the page-level, you will only see a performance hit on those pages that aren’t optimized. If you have a site with 20 pages, 5 of which are not mobile-friendly, you’ll still be able to rank and benefit from the update for the 15 pages that are ready to go. For webmasters that maintain e-commerce sites, or other properties with high page count and specialized content, they can breathe easy knowing that being less than 100% mobile-friendly won’t be an organic search death sentence.

The Short List: What Should You Be Doing To Prepare?

If you’re just looking for the CliffNotes version, here’s what you absolutely need to know:

  1. Your first priority should be to make your website mobile-friendly as soon as possible. A responsive design is best, both from a usability standpoint, and from Google’s point of view.
  2. Run an audit in Google Webmaster Tools to address any mobile usability issues.
  3. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendliness Test Tool to identify any problem areas with your site or content.
  4. Begin monitoring your site analytics with a fine-toothed comb starting now. By giving yourself a deep understanding of how your site performs and behaves in organic search now, you will be able to better mitigate any negative performance changes after the flip is switched on April 21st.

HTTPS and You: Does HTTPS Really Affect SERP Rankings?

Introducing HTTPS – Whether You Like it or Not

http vs https

As all SEOs should know, Google announced in August 2014 that they would be adding a ranking factor to their SERP algorithm based on whether or not a site was serving a secure or insecure page. As is typical with Google, they didn’t add anything more, leaving many of us wondering: Just how much does HTTPS really matter?

Well, now that the dust has settled a bit, one month later many SEO experts are ready to look back at August’s data and draw some initial conclusions.

So, Does HTTPS Affect SEO Performance?

Well, that totally depends on what context you’re asking that question in. Do you run a banking or finance website? Do you deal with users’ sensitive information? Then yes, you should definitely be using HTTPS, amongst other safeguards. But what about if you run a personal fitness blog, or a fashion website? Does HTTPS affect SEO performance? According to Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics, not enough for anyone to notice:

In a nutshell: No relationships have been discernible to date from the data analyzed by us between HTTPS and rankings nor are there any differences between HTTP and HTTPS. In my opinion therefore, Google has not yet rolled out this ranking factor – and/or this factor only affects such a small section of the index to date that it was not possible to identify it with our data.

The short version: There was barely enough of a difference for the change to be statistically significant in reporting, leading SEOs to believe this is nothing more than an additional, minute ranking factor, used primarily to tip the scales one way or another in the case of a very tight ranking battle between two sites. But don’t expect HTTPS to be winning you any top spots on its own.

So friends, don’t go running out to upgrade to a secure server and dish out for a certificate unless you have a legitimate security need for HTTPS/SSL. One thing is for sure: HTTPS is not going to push you to the top of page 1. Sorry, pipe dreamers!

 

7 Tangible Skillsets That Make You a Rockstar Job Candidate

7. Proven Technical Writing Ability

No, I’m not referring to the science fiction short stories that you put together when you went through a phase after reading “Ender’s Game” for the first time.

While no doubt exhibiting a level of creativity, that type of writing isn’t exactly marketable for the broad host of companies that are actively seeking to hire in this saturated market.

Rather, I’m referring to analytical, fact-based writing, devoid of flowery details, which highlights specific results while fostering a discussion without bias.

Writing in the vein of experimental research reports and having those reports published demonstrates that you have a sufficient grasp of the English language and the aptitude to provide a professional-level report.


6. Statistics

Everyone entering the job market should have a sufficient, elementary understanding of statistics. Things like averages and statistical significance can prove to be vitally important for decision-making, both professionally and personally.

Cost-to-benefit analysis on your purchase decisions can shift your personal finances to healthier levels and can give structure and reasoning to whatever judgments you make.

The scope of statistics in the workplace is so broad that there is really no way to explain its value beyond saying every single market in every single industry uses it with intense regularity.


5. In-Depth Software Familiarity

Writing “Microsoft Word” or “PowerPoint” on a résumé as one of your skills is redundant. Nascent sea otters understand how to use these modules.

On the other hand, a solid grasp of Microsoft Excel, Access, Publisher and other less widely known programs is valuable and somewhat unique.

Having a breadth of experience working with commonly employed software (other than the obvious ones, like the aforementioned MS Word) will show you that you can work your way around computers sufficiently, which is a standard ability in today’s workforce.


4. People Skills

This may seem qualitative, which as I mentioned, I’m trying to avoid, but having the ability to interact in a professional environment with minimal awkwardness is what separates you from a paycheck or the front door.

For in-demand fields, where the majority of applicants come from technical backgrounds, this is paramount.

I’m not suggesting that you change your identity if you are an introvert by nature, but be well versed enough to understand that the extreme version of that personality type isn’t exactly lauded in many professional environments. Learn to interact with people.

This should go without saying, but social ability is a huge trait that is rarely paid the attention it deserves.


3. Specific Industry Familiarity

I know this looks nebulous, but let me explain: You should be familiar with the industry into which you are seeking entry. If you are going to work in a publishing house, you should know the top players in the overall market.

If you are going into finance, you better believe they will expect you to know their top competitors. I classify this as a tangible skillset because you must actively learn and integrate it into your life if you are set on entering one specific industry.

Not only does it show qualitatively that you are aware of the competitive landscape, but it also lets the employer know that you are enthusiastic without explicitly mentioning it.


2. Reading Comprehension

Why is this so high on the list? You would think it is obvious enough, but spend five minutes on the comments section of a popular article and you will find that most people have trouble interpreting what they actually read and then hate-write from a position of ignorance.

This is extremely important if you’re dealing with reports that aren’t explicit with their results.

Things like yearly revenue details, research publications and even sarcastic columns all require a fundamental level of reading comprehension that has somehow escaped so many people who are trying to find work.


1. Programming Ability

Increasingly, companies across the entire job market are integrating, or have already meshed, their business with an online presence that the staff maintains.

You will become instantly important if you can understand the back and front ends of the language used to program the sites, databases and whatever else is relevant to the company.

Ability to code in C++, JAVA, Drupal, MATLAB and a host of other languages demonstrates that not only can you add value to the online presence for a company, but also that you are sufficiently intelligent enough to grasp the logic behind the coding languages.

Additionally, if you plan to work in an analytical field, you can design experiments and basic software that will allow you to complete your tasks with much greater ease than powering through everything manually.

If you weren’t exposed to this in college, consider learning for free through the vast offerings of online-only classes that teach you the basics of coding with step-by-step modules.

High school students are enrolling in computer science classes, which means that when they enter the job market, many will likely bring a standard level of programming ability that is otherwise still missing from the overwhelming majority of Generation-Y job applicants.

Protect your future self by becoming versed in a code language or two.

Quick Monday Tip List: Keeping Your Blog SEO Friendly!

Hey everyone, and happy Monday! I wanted to share some short reminder tips on how to keep your blog SEO friendly, both when maintaining existing content, and when creating and curating new content! Sound off in the comments and let me know if you have any other great tips that help keep your blog in tip-top shape!

 

1. Responsive Design:

You want your blog to respond and conform to any / all devices that the user may be using. This creates just one URL, causing any inbound links to only link to one domain rather than multiple domains. This helps boost your Google ranking, in turn boosting your SEO ranking.

 

2. Create content that’s relevant to your keywords. Below are a few tips to follow when writing:

  • Write your content for people, not so much for what you think a search bot would like. It should be natural and captivating.
  • Write something unique that your readers won’t be able to find anywhere else on the web.

3. Link Internally:

Linking internally to your blog or event to the HB website helps show the validity and relevancy of your blog content.

 

4. Consider the “scanners”

Most people, when browsing blogs or reading posts tend to skim through.  Make it easy for users to read:

  • use shorter sentences
  • use bullet points & lists
  • use relevant images.

 

5. Font size matters

The larger the text on the page, the more importance is placed on it by Google. When crating headers and sub-headers, make sure to use your primary and secondary keywords.

 

6. Images:

A good image can help strengthen your content and lower your bounce rate. Make sure you save the image files as keywords rather than “image384773”.

 

7. Share, share, share!

Once all of your blog content is optimized and ready, make sure to share it on all of your social media channels.

At Long Last, Google Releases Google Analytics for iOS

After lagging behind Android for years in terms of native app development for Google Analytics, Google has finally released Google Analytics for iOS. The first party Google Analytics app comes with support for some of the best features of Analytics, including Real Time traffic view, secondary factor drilldown, and beautiful graphic-based display of information. The Google Analytics app is available for devices running iOS 6.0 and up, and is optimized for iPhone 5/5s and iPad.

iphone-google-analytics-app

 

Features at a Glance:

 

Tapping the bar icon in the upper left corner opens the options that are available in the left hand menu in the web version of Analytics. Users can choose to drill into Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions.

iphone-google-analytics-app-realtime

Segment filtering is also easy, by tapping the circle with a plus sign icon in the upper right corner. When a segment is selected, the icon turns orange. You cannot use custom segments in the app or do anything custom at all really. This is just the basics, but it’s clean and easy to use.

Google Officially Launches International Targeting in Webmaster Tools

After an initial beta testing period for a new International Targeting feature, Google has officially announced its inclusion into the Webmaster Tools suite, allowing for href-lang tag markup to be used to denote which version of a page should be served for a given locality. Because of the relative low adoption of href language tags up until now, implementation and syntax is often incorrect when using these tags.

International Targeting Error Reporting

Webmaster Tools can now help to detect some of these syntax errors, and help you to display the proper version of a given page for every viewer. The built-in reporting helps identify these common issues:

incorrect_backlinks-600x304

  • Missing return links: annotations must be confirmed from the pages they are pointing to. If page A links to page B, page B must link back to page A, otherwise the annotations may not be interpreted correctly. For each error of this kind Google may report where and when Google detected them, as well as where the return link is expected to be.

incorrect_language-600x306

  • Incorrect hreflang values: The value of the hreflang attribute must either be a language code in ISO 639-1 format such as “es”, or a combination of language and country code such as “es-AR”, where the country code is in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format. In case Google indexing systems detect language or country codes that are not in these formats, Google will provide example URLs to help you fix them.

(photo and info sourced from Search Engine Land)

WordPress Releases 4.0 Beta – Here’s What’s New

If you’ve been feeling like it’s been too long since a major version release of WordPress, Automattic has answered your prayers with the beta release of WordPress 4.0. As with any beta product, Automattic urges you to use a staging or test environment while trying out WordPress 4.0, as this release is nowhere near stable enough for everyday production server use. If you’re a little queazy about using preproduction builds, don’t fret! The full initial release of 4.0 is slated for some time next month. To get your blogging glands salivating, here’s a list of some of the new features you can expect to see in WordPress 4.0:

 

Preview Embedded URLs

WordPress 4.0 Beta allows for previews of embedding via URLs in the visual editor and the “Insert from URL” tab in the media modal. Try pasting a URL, such as a YouTube video, onto its own line in the visual editor and see a live preview of what it will look like.

Media Library Grid View

The Media Library now has a “grid” view in addition to the existing list view. Clicking on an item takes you into a modal where you can see a larger preview and edit information about that attachment, and you can navigate between items right from the modal without closing it.

Improved Plugin Install Experience

WordPress is freshening up the plugin install experience. When searching for plugins and viewing details, you’ll see some early visual changes as well as more information.

Other Changes

  • The editor intelligently resizes and its top and bottom bars pin when needed.
  • Some improvements to how your keyboard and cursor interact with TinyMCE views such as the gallery preview.
  • Widgets in the Customizer are now loaded in a separate panel.

To test WordPress 4.0, try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin. If you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the WordPress support forums.

Best Practices: Google Shopping Campaigns and PLAs in 2014

Google Shopping listings have been updated yet again, in lockstep with Panda 4.0, and as a result there are some guideline changes when building new product feeds that take advantage of enhanced tagging ability, sorting and grouping by product performance, and more! Check out the highlights below:

Best Practices for an Optimized Shopping Campaign Feed

Ensure “product data is complete, fresh and accurate”

  • Upload data regularly to keep information current
    • Once a day, or depending on changes, schedule frequent uploads
  • Feeds should be kept updated to reflect any new price changes and availability
  • “Product eligibility can improve your impressions”
  • Match the data feed to the information found on your website
  • Submit Unique Product Identifiers

Keep “titles, descriptions and images user-friendly”

  • Use high-quality, clear images for products
    • Use white, gray or light gray backgrounds
    • Avoid watermarks and logos
  • “Relevancy can improve your click through rate”
    • Use Search Query Reports to hone relevancy of products’ keyword lists
  • No keyword stuffing

Keep “product type and custom labels in good shape”

  • “Bid based on your product group’s relative value”
  • Organize your inventory by product type for easy management of your shopping campaigns
    • Create a product catalogue or taxonomy
  • Five custom labels are available and they make management control of new and old products that much easier
    • Each product can be assigned up to 5 labels

Resource: AdWords Best Practices Series on Search Engine Land

Updated Specifications for Data Feed Attributes

  • Landing Page Policy
  • Image Quality Recommendations
  • Attribute Character Limits

Resource: Google Merchant Center Product Feed Specification

Social Media and SEO Smackdown: Comparing Social and Search (Infographic)

Though SEO and Social Media both pertain to hugely different aspects of any online presence, their philosophies and core goals often go hand in hand. When cultivating an SEO/Organic Search strategy, you should always have your Social Media goals and expectations in mind when shaping your decisions.

The infographic below from Orbit Media Solutions gives you 7 differences between social media marketing and SEO, while also demonstrating why they complement and depend on each other in so many ways.

 

7-reasons-why-social-media-marketing-and-seo-should-be-done-together