Could Facebook Instant Articles neuter your content marketing?

Using a mobile phoneFacebook Instant Articles (FBIA) is a new mobile format developed by Facebook and made available to everyone last week. It allows your readers on Facebook to access your content instantly without leaving Facebook, using the Facebook mobile app.

It’s quicker and more mobile friendly than linking to a website and Facebook believe if readers can access your content faster they’ll be more likely to consume it rather than leave because of slow load times.

Together with the latest Google algorithm update in May, it could be seen as another indication of how important mobile access to the internet has become, but as I’ll address later, it could also lead to a change in how and where content marketing works.

Is Facebook Instant Articles for You?

Some large publishers are already publishing Facebook Instant Articles, including Buzzfeed, The New York Times, National Geographic, the Guardian, and NBC News. Use the Facebook app for iPhone or Android to take a look at what they are publishing. Get an idea of the type of material they are using with FBIA and whether your content will work in the same format. If your content is best accessed via a desktop monitor then FBIA may not be for you.

What You Need for Facebook Instant Articles

If you decide you could use Facebook Instant Articles there are some things you should have in place first.

  1. A Facebook Page
  2. The Facebook Pages app to preview your instant articles on your smartphone.
  3. If you want to automate the publishing of your content to FBIA you’ll need an RSS feed that displays the full content of your articles.
  4. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site you can use an official plugin or the PageFrog plugin to publish your content directly from WordPress to Facebook Instant Articles.
  5. You’ll need 10 articles to submit to Facebook for approval before publication can begin.

If you don’t have 10 articles resist the temptation to quickly put some together. If you’re going to use Facebook to spread your content you’ll want it to be good quality material.

You can sign up here and there is a step by step guide by Social Media Examiner.

How FBIA could neuter your content marketing

The basic idea of inbound content marketing is that it gets the attention of your prospects, and draws readers to your website or squeeze page. As a massive source of traffic Facebook has played an important role in this process for many online.

However Instant Articles cuts this flow of traffic and keeps it on Facebook. There are no links to websites, sales pages or squeeze pages.

This is a coming trend. Google and Twitter have recently launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and LinkedIn is also working on a version of mobile friendly content that will keep readers on their site.

It seems that the big platforms are going to become dead ends. Our ability to convert readers to customers using content is going to be reduced.

At the moment I think it’s too soon to see what we can do about this. There may be an opportunity within the process that hasn’t yet revealed itself, or perhaps someone will come up with or further develop a platform that will be more content marketing friendly.

As always the internet keeps us on our toes.

Six Free and Useful Keyword Research Tools To Get More Traffic

In last week’s post (How to distinguish between great and useless keywords) I wrote about the importance of keyword research in identifying useful keywords. This week I want to suggest some free non-Google resources that can help you with keyword research that you may not be aware of.

Seed Keywords

I’ll start with an unusual tool that approaches keyword research from a different angle.

One way to discover keywords your potential customers may be typing into Google is to ask them. Seed keywords is a tool you can use to generate keyword ideas from your target audience.

You create a question like “If you were looking for ideas to solve problem X, what would you search for?” Seed Keywords then creates a unique URL that you can direct people to. People see your question and enter the keyword phrases they would use. Seed Keywords then organises these into a list so you can view the results for each keyword or download the data in CSV format.

Wordtracker

This tool gives you the top 10 keywords with the highest search volume, competition for those words and the Key Efficiencty Index, which is based on the relation between search volume and competition. If you want to do further research there is a risk-free 7 day trial for one of three packages they offer.

Keyword Discovery

This tool compiles data from a number of tool bar browsers and over 200 search engines. It generates a list of the top 100 keyword phrases for the keyword you enter and the search volume for each suggested phrase over the last 12 months. You have to subscribe if you want to see more results.

Wordstream

This keyword research tool allows 30 free searches and returns thousands of keyword suggestions listed according to their relative search frequency. Once you have the results you can filter out phrases that contain unwanted keywords. Your final keyword list can then be emailed and downloaded in CSV format.

Keyword IO

Choose which Google version (i.e. based in which country) you want to use and the language then enter a search term. This keyword tool then generates hundreds of long-tail keyword suggestions from your single search term. Highlight the keywords you want to focus on and use a copy button in the bottom right of the screen that lets you copy to a clipboard.

If you want keyword search volumes, CPC, or competition stats you can subscribe. Alternatively use the clipboard feature to paste the keywords into Google Planner or something similar.

Niche Laboratory

Enter a search term and this free tool generates a report. This includes a list of keywords, a list of LSI keyword phrases associated with the niche linked to your search term, a phrase usage chart and a keyword tag cloud. There is also a list of top ranking websites for the search term, supplied from Bing with their title tags, meta descriptions, and a website competition matrix which gives you an idea of how much effort the competition for the search term have put into SEO and social sharing. There is also a bank of related images, lists of products, niche forums, and related items from Google News. All information that might be useful if you are doing keyword research to establish whether it is worth entering a new niche.

As I mentioned at the start of this post creating high quality content is important, but neglecting keyword research will deny you the chance of more search engine traffic. I hope you find the above list helpful. Please add any suggestions of your own in the comments below.

How To Distinguish Between Great And Useless Keywords

Keyword definition highlightedIn simpler times keywords were a specific word or two that people searched for and you could rank for if you stuffed them into sentences until the keyword density was right. Now there’s long-tail keywords, semantic search, and an unknown number of other factors in the algorithm. Many have found it all so complex that they’ve just gone with the advice ‘just create high quality content’. However, ignoring the importance of keywords means you could be missing out on a lot of traffic.
One of the many pitfalls of keyword research is not being able to distinguish between keywords that can get you lots of traffic and ones that are a waste of time.

Before you start keyword research you need to understand your target audience, the content of the page you are finding keywords for and how the content serves your target audience. Armed with this information you should be able to make an educated guess of the words and phrases your audience will use when looking for the type of content, service or product you are offering.

Having made a list of posible keywords and phrases you need to use a tool to discover how many searches there are for the words and phrases you’ve selected.

Probably the most well known of these tools is the Google Keyword Planner. It’s generally believed this is not as good as the Google Keyword Tool and you have to remember it’s aimed at people advertising with Adwords, but it can still be useful. Ignore the request for billing information and you can use it as a keyword research tool.

The tool will show search volume data for your keywords and phrases, and suggest other keywords too. You’ll also get the number of average monthly searches and the level of competition for each keyword or phrase.

Ideally you want a word or phrase with lots of searches (which means higher interest and demand) and low competiton.

Another approach you should try is to check which keywords your successful competition is using. However if they have a page rank of 4 or above it’s likely to be hard to compete with them for that word or phrase.

Even if you identify useful keywords you can still misuse them, effectively making them useless. Place your keywords in your titles, anchor text, any HTML based text, and within the body of your content.

Once you have done your research and written your content using the keywords correctly, it’s time to publish and monitor the traffic it receives. Over time you’ll get a better idea of what works and it’ll be easier to distinguish between great and useless keywords.

10 Tips For Driving Traffic From Pinterest To Your Blog

Pinterest Shiny Icon

You should be using images with your blog posts. You should also be using social media platforms appropriate to your audience and business. If that means it’s appropriate for you to be using Pinterest here are ten tips to help you drive more traffic to your blog.

1. Identify Useful Keywords

Identify the keywords that are relevant to your blog and any other online presence you want to link through Pinterest. If you use the correct keywords your pins will appear as the result of searches and when people are looking at images and boards that are related to your content.

2. Choose Your Username Carefully.

Pinterest allows you to have a username that is a keyword. If your username is a keyword related to your niche your boards will be displayed among the results when anyone uses that keyword in a search.

3. Optimise Your About Section

Use keywords when writing your About section in Pinterest. You can write about your background story, why your content would be useful or of interest to your readers, and any other reasons that will encourage people to consume your content. Then go through what you have written and insert relevant keywords where possible without overdoing it. This will help people find your work when searching in your niche.

4. Create Themes for Your Boards

Create boards that gather images related to a keyword relevant to your niche. Use boards the way you would use categories on your blogs.

5. Optimise Your Descriptions

Use the description of each pin wisely. Including relevant keywords and URLs will help you gain and direct more traffic.

6. Use ALT Tags

Whenever you put an image on your blog you should set up an ALT tag for it. Pinterest is no different. An ALT tag should describe what the image is showing and include some keywords that people in your niche would be looking for. For example, if you are working in the photography niche don’t just put ‘This is a picture of the Moon’. Add more detail so there is more chance that a search by someone in your niche will include your work in the results, for example ‘Nighttime photography picture of the Moon taken with a Canon EOS 20D’.

7. Use Unique Hashtags

Pinterest is a social media site, so it supports hashtags. Currently there is no official limit to the number of hashtags you can use. However users have been finding that searching Pinterest using hashtags can often produce results dominated by the keyword in the description rather than the hashtag. Until this improves we might as well stick to keywords and only use hashtags for words or phrases unique to you. For example your brand, name, or for an event with a unique hashtag.

8. Use Watermarks

A watermark with your logo and/or URL will discourage others using your unique images as their own. If the image is used by someone there is an obvious way to track down your blog or website right there in the corner of your image.

9. Link to your blog

Link each pin you create to your blog or website. Ideally to a specific, relevant page. You should be creating blog posts with images, and then pin to a board from your blog so that visitors always link back to your site.

10. Re-pin Images with your Keywords

Search your keywords on a regular basis and re-pin other people’s boards and pins that also carry your keywords. You can also follow them and their followers to help build a following of your own and increase interactions.

I’ve said before that trying to be on every platform is a mistake. However if you have decided Pinterest is right for you, following the above tips will help you drive traffic to your blog or website.

How to grow blog traffic with efficient blog hopping

Feedly page of resultsBlog hopping (also known as blog commenting)is a traffic generating method where a blog owner visits other blogs in their niche, leaving comments on blog posts and getting links back to their own blog. The idea is to increase the links to their blog and get an increase in traffic.

The great thing about this method is that it can be done by someone new to working online and it actually works. The drawback is that if you are not organised you can lose track of which blogs you have visited, revisit posts you have already commented on, and spend so much time on this method that you don’t make progress in other areas of your online business.

So here are some tips to help you blog hop more efficiently.

Firstly you need to identify and list appropriate blogs to comment on. You may start with a pool of blogs belonging to people you have met at an online hub, like a Facebook Group or forum. However, you’ll want to increase your blogging circle, especially you are new to blogging and the hub is a place for people with as little experience as yourself. Nearly everyone will be starting from scratch and you’ll only end up with a small circle of people leaving low quality comments on each others posts.

You can search for blogs in your niche by Googling the niche keyword + blog. Also look for experts in your niche and see if they have a blog. Add these to your list.

Next you want to consider how active the bloggers are. If you are part of a group of people new to blogging there are going to be some who give up and stop blogging after a while. The most active will make themselves known when they announce their latest blog post or visit your blog to comment. At this stage you can comment on their blogs. After a few weeks those who give up will simply stop posting.

Once you have reached this stage it’s time to weed out those who have stopped posting and start getting organised.

You can waste a lot of time visiting blogs that have not posted since your last visit. To overcome this you need a resource where you can see when a blogger has published their latest post.

Feedly is a site where you can follow blogs and organise them into categories of your choice. The site suggests blogs for various niches and you can add blogs from your list too. Once it’s set up you only have to login to Feedly to see the latest posts from the blogs you are following. They can be viewed in their categories or as a list with the most recent posts at the top. The list includes the title and the first few words of the post. This overview helps you quickly decide if it is a topic you could leave a comment on and is a great time saver.

You can login to Feedly using your Google or Facebook accounts. The basic version is free and I’ve found that adequate for this purpose, but there are paid upgrades available. One advantage of upgrading is you can receive alerts so you know instantly when new content is posted. This can help you be an early commenter, increasing your visibility to those visiting the blog later.

On many blogs when you leave a comment you have the option to receive an email if replies are made. Take advantage of this as it means you can follow up on any replies, giving you an opportunity to further engage with other blog readers.

Blog hopping is a long term traffic method. Ideally you should leave comments on different blogs in your niche every day. However you may want to allocate more time on days when you post on your own blog to quickly get a healthy number of comments.

When blog hopping set yourself a target and use a timer to ensure you do not spend too much time on this task. For example, you could allocate one hour to this method. At first you may aim to spend ten minutes per post and only reply to six posts a day, but eventually you will become faster at reading and replying to posts and could get it down to six minutes per comment, giving you ten new links to your blog each day.

Could the above help you with your blog hopping? Are there other steps, methods or resources that you’ve found improve your blog hopping efficiency? Let us know in the comments below.

Is Your Site About To Disappear From Google?

Person typing on mobile phoneIn the last couple of years we have moved beyond the desktop/mobile tipping point. According to the UK Office for National Statistics 68% of adults used the Internet ‘on the go’ in the year to August 2014. Of those 58% used a mobile phone or smart phone, and 43% used a laptop or tablet.*

As more and more people access the web with a mobile device rather than a desktop there was always going to be a case for having a mobile friendly website. Recently Google made that case inescapable.

Earlier this year Google made the following statement: “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.“

The underlining is my own. Let me explain why I have highlighted these parts of the statement.

Firstly, Google hardly ever gives advanced warning of changes to its algorithm. Usually they make a change and let us run around like headless chickens trying to understand what’s happening and come up with a solution. To give a specific date is almost unprecedented.

Secondly, you will notice this only applies to searches performed on a mobile device. Google has become the number one search engine and retained that spot by being customer friendly. It makes sense that if you are searching using a mobile device you will want the results to be mobile friendly. The first hint that Google was heading in this direction was when they started labelling mobile friendly sites in their search results last year. At the time it was thought this was an indication that Google would start making mobile friendliness a ranking factor, so this is a direction they’ve been heading in for some time.

Lastly, the use of the phrase ‘significant impact’shows that Google expects this new ranking factor to push non-mobile friendly websites off the front pages of their results.

So is it time to panic and get a mobile friendly site by April 21? Well, that depends on your prospects. Take a look at your analytics and see how many are viewing your site using a mobile device. If the vast majority are, then I suggest it’s time to take action.

*Office for National Statistics: Internet Access – Households and Individuals 2014

On Page SEO – Does Yours Need a Tune Up?

On Page SEO H1 tagsOn page SEO today is a lot different from what it was just a few years ago. Today Google is looking for good quality content, good navigation, and a focus on helpful content rather than space given over to promotion and advertising. Social media has also become an increasingly important ranking factor.

If you haven’t been keeping up to date with the latest changes it could well be time to update your on page SEO. So what are the basic changes you should be looking at?

Title Tags

Your title tag is still by far the most important tag on the page. It should have your primary keyword inside and if you have to mention a brand name make sure it’s after your post title. The second most important tag is the H1 tag and again if possible have a keyword in that tag as well. Other tags you put on the page are less important now, but the use of alt tags on images are still good practice.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is another important factor in on page SEO. It will help keep people on your website, which will reduce your bounce rate and increase the time people spend on your site, which in turn will help boost your rankings. Good internal linking also helps spread your ‘link juice’ and page rank throughout the site. Ideally you want to link to other pages and sites from within your content, not just in sidebars.

Content

Don’t overdo the amount of advertising on your site. Google now uses content space versus ad space as a ranking factor. Also make sure you have some social media buttons on your site, both for good SEO reasons and for more social media traffic.

As far as a content goes Google now prefers in-depth, useful content, so try to provide good, high quality content that solves a problem and creates a resource that people want to read.

Finally if possible add an image or two to your content. It helps improve your site quality as well as attracting and keeping people’s interest.

If you haven’t taken a look at your on page SEO recently have a look at the five or ten pages of your site that get the most traffic and start incorporating these best practices if you haven’t already done so.

Are You Optimising Traffic From This Email Message?

Email messageEmails offer a great opportunity to generate traffic to your website. The most common method is to include a link within the body of the message you are sending out, but there are other opportunities too.

The most obvious is to include links to your blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts after your signature at the bottom of the email. You can also include ads. Just write text ones for those who don’t receive your HTML emails. But I’ve recently spotted one opportunity that is often missed.

I get too many emails. It’s my own fault because I like to keep my finger on the pulse and see what’s happening in the internet marketing world. The good thing about this is I have plenty of information to look at. Yet only recently did it occur to me that it’s been a while since I analysed the emails themselves rather than just read the content. That’s when I spotted the confirmation emails.

If you’ve ever made a purchase online or subscribed to a newsletter you will almost certainly have received a confirmation email. These tend to follow a template, probably because the most popular autoresponder services provide one. The template usually includes an opportunity to enter your name, address and website URL, but I’ve yet to see a confirmation email that includes the links you usually find in the follow up emails – your blog, Facebook account, etc.

Surely this is a lost opportunity. Of all the emails you send the confirmation email is one of the most likely to be opened. The recipient has only just finished purchasing or subscribing. They’re bound to be enthusiastic about reading your communications.

If you use an autoresponder take a look at the confirmation emails you send out. Could you encourage further reader interaction without distracting them from subscribing? If you sell online are you making the most of your first communication with your new customers?

Part of generating traffic is giving people plenty of opportunities to visit your site. Make sure your emails are optimised to be part of that process.

The Mindset For Generating Free Traffic

IM Myth: Traffic for freeThere are a number of methods to get traffic to your website that work quite quickly. Unfortunately many of these require a financial investment. The versatility of the internet means there are ways to get traffic without any financial cost, but it usually means you have to put in more time and effort. Even on the world wide web there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

This means that although you don’t need a sackful of cash you will need the proper mindset. Generating more traffic for your site will take long-term drive and perseverance.

That’s why I want to look at the approach or mindset you need to have to make these methods successful.

The first thing to realise is that it may take time. Unless you know and can work with some online marketers who are already successful, building a decent flow of traffic without spending money is not a push button business. Don’t believe you’ll be in your swimwear on the beach overseeing an online empire by the end of the month.

Producing written content requires at least a basic ability to write. Don’t become overwhelmed by the thought you have to be well read or able to write a book of publishable standard. You need to be able to communicate. That means if you can imagine sitting down with a friend and discussing the topic, you can write well enough for a blog or Facebook post or YouTube script. Just make sure you don’t make basic grammatical or spelling errors in anything people are going to read. The most common mistake I see on the internet is the misuse of the words it’s and its, and there, their and they’re.

Your material needs to be interesting and entertaining. This comes with practice and experience. Finding your own voice really does happen, but may take some time.

People expect to be reading something written by a person who knows their subject. That requires you to adopt the mindset of an expert. This does not mean you have to know everything about everything connected to a subject, but it does mean you have to know more than your reader. You also need the confidence that such expertise would give you.

Think back to when you were at school. A teacher at the front of a class rarely seemed unsure about their subject. Your history teacher would never have said the second world war started about 1940. Your science teacher would not have told you Newton might have discovered the law of gravity. You need to have equal certainty about your subject. Never use the words perhaps or maybe. When writing an article or post you are the teacher now. Have confidence in your knowledge of your subject.

You should take a similar approach when interacting on forums and online communities. You are likely to be communicating with a certain group or demographic that has a more than average interest and knowledge in a topic. You need to establish your credentials as an expert so look out for posts where you can offer an insight. Remember, one of your objectives for taking part in forums and other online commuities is to build trust and a reputation for your expertise, knowledge and insight.

Most of the above boils down to having a belief in yourself and the methods you are using to generate traffic. Be sure of your sources of information and realise that no matter how inexperienced you may feel, you have a unique and valid take on your topic. Remember, even a newbie has a point of view that others can find helpful.

Don’t be Everywhere Now, Stop Spreading Yourself so Thin and End Overwhelm

Be like a postage stamp - stick to one thing until you get thereLast week I listened to a webinar that encouraged me to be “everywhere now”.

The “be everywhere” idea says that you should try to be on as many platforms as possible to drive traffic. However, I don’t think this is necessarily the best advice. In fact, I believe it’s an example of the inappropriate advice we sometimes get from the experts.

I say this because a lot of the advice that we find online is not appropriate to the stage our business is at. We may not have the resources or the abilities required to successfully follow the methods we are taught.

The root of the problem does not lie with the experts. Perhaps they could target their webinars and courses better, but the ultimate responsibility lies with that part of the audience who decide to tune in and follow inappropriate advice.

Be Everywhere Now

It seems like the best advice. If you look at the most successful internet marketers it appears they do have a presence on multiple platforms, they do have sales funnels packed with numerous products and they complete scratch that and they do incredibly successful JV campaigns with other well-known names in the industry.

So it seems sensible to follow their lead.

However, this doesn’t take into account the maturity of your business, your resources or your abilities.

For example, if you are to successfully follow the “everywhere now” approach you will need to know how each platform works, how to get the best from them and how to source content on a regular basis.

Outsourcing

Whenever you get a list of tasks like this the usual solution offered is to outsource the work. However this is another example of advice that can be inappropriate to your business.

To start with you need to know exactly what you want the outsourcer to do. This implies a familiarity with the tasks, so you probably have to be quite good at it yourself. That implies a certain level of education and experience. These take time.

Next you have to find someone to outsource to. If you’ve ever had to hire someone in the “real world” you’ll know this also takes time and effort. You’ll need to find someone who is reliable, can communicate effectively and has the right skills. If they don’t have the right skills you will have to train them, and even if they do have the required skills you’ll still probably have to explain the approach you want them to take so that it fits your brand.

If you can get past these hurdles you then have to be able to pay them. This can be a challenge if your business is not yet generating enough revenue.

The Solution

It all comes down to what stage you are at.

Whether we are considering learning to drive, mountain climbing or internet marketing you should operate at the level appropriate to your abilities and experience. It’s not worth enrolling on an advanced driving course if you haven’t mastered clutch control, it’s a bit premature learning how to camp at the top of Everest if you’ve just recently started hill walking, it’s no use learning how to drive traffic from multiple platforms if don’t yet have a blog. Especially considering the rapid pace of change online which could mean the best practice for using the platforms could change by the time you start using them. You have to fit your targets and learning experiences to your current situation.

So if you are still holding down a full-time job you may find it challenging enough to keep your blog up to date, let alone build a presence on multiple platforms. If you’re planning to launch your first product it won’t be easy attracting the attention of high-profile JV partners.

The key is knowing when to focus on certain goals. This is a great strategy for beating overwhelm. If you are in your early days keep to one core money making method and get good at it. You can do this as a one-man (person) band and with only one or two platforms that are most effective at driving traffic. Once you have sufficient income and experience then move to the next stage for your business. Don’t diversify until you are ready.