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10 Things to Do Before You Start Writing that Viral Blog Post: A Pre-Writing Checklist

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10 Things Before Writing Viral Blog Post - Eminent SEORemember the days when blogging consisted of sitting down at your computer, throwing your thoughts onto the screen and posting online for the world to see, and people read it?

At least I hear that’s what happened. But I’ve never been a blogger in such simple times. When modern-day bloggers write a blog post – or any content for that matter – it’s competing with an ever-growing mountain of online information and faces the very real possibility of never being seen by another single person.

Content marketers these days don’t have the luxury of simply writing something and hoping that it will get seen. If you want your content to be read and shared online, you need a powerful plan to make it stand out from the crowd.

Do I Really Need to Pre-Plan My Blog Posts?

Most Effective Messages Win-Win For You And Audience - Eminent SEOYou definitely need a plan. It’s usually best to create the plan before you start writing, simply for efficiency’s sake. That being said, there are times when you might want to begin by simply getting all your thoughts on a topic down on paper, and then develop the plan afterwards.

Either way, you will need to modify the content so that it not only communicates what you want to say, but also hits home for your readers.

Investing time in a plan will help you achieve a much better ROI on the time you spend actually writing your content.

I’m going to give you an inside peek into the process I’ve created, improved and used again and again for the last nine years to create outstanding content. You’re welcome.

Pre-Writing Checklist

Pre-Writing Checklist For Writing Viral Blog Post - Eminent SEOThis is the step-by-step list I go through before I write a blog post – or any important piece of content. I’ll explain how each step works and how thinking about each angle ahead of time will help set your content apart from your competitors who aren’t doing this.

1. Company Objective (i.e., What’s in It for Me?)

This one is super easy because this is where everyone writes from by default when planning a piece of content. This is simply what you the writer (or the company you represent) what to accomplish with your content.

It can include things like:

  • Sharing your message on a certain topic
  • Educating clients and potential customers
  • Ranking for a search term
  • Creating a gated offer to get people to sign up for your email list

The Company Objective is whatever reason(s) you have for writing the content. It doesn’t matter if your goals are selfish or altruistic; in fact, they may be both. The important thing in this stage is to be honest and clear with yourself about why you’re investing resources in creating this content.

Don’t worry: Your audience won’t see this information. It’s for your eyes only.

2. Writer’s Stance

This is a step I added recently, and is really an extension of step 1. This is where you give your opinion, your position on the topic. Whereas the Company Objective is practical – what you want to accomplish – the Writer’s Stance is about what you want to say. It stems from your deeply held beliefs about the topic.

It’s OK – in fact, it’s good – for this to be emotional and opinionated. Remember that your audience has many other sources for their information. What can you bring to this topic that no one else can? What’s your unique take on the subject? What do you want to say that no one else is talking about – that needs to be addressed? Why does what you have to say really matter?

3. Audience

Next, you want to clearly identify who you’re writing this content for. The more specific you are, the better, because it will allow you to create a more targeted and impactful message.

If you have buyer personas that you use in your marketing, identify which one this is for primarily. It’s OK to have content that is for multiple audiences, if need be, but designate which one is the primary audience and which is the secondary audience.

It is also helpful to identify which part of the buyer stage this content is targeted to. For example, are you writing for an existing client, or a prospect? If they’re a prospect, are they in the early information-gathering stage, or in the almost-ready-to-buy stage?

4. Audience Objective (i.e., What’s in It for Them)

This is a critical step, and it’s one that most people skip without realizing it, because they’re so focused on their own objectives for creating the content.

Quite simply, you’re answering the questions:

Why will my audience care about this? What’s in it for them? How will they benefit from reading this?

Put yourself in the mindset of the person you identified in step 3, and be really honest with yourself as you ask these questions. Would I read this if I were them? Would I care? Would I share it?

If the honest answer is “no,” don’t panic. This is actually a good thing, because it means you just dodged a bullet. If you had gone ahead and written the article only because of the reasons you wanted to write it, then while you might be quite satisfied with it, your audience would probably ignore it. That’s no bueno.

But when you recognize that you’re missing the WIIFT (what’s in it for them) element, this gives you the opportunity to figure out what would make the piece relevant to your audience, and then plan your writing accordingly.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this stage enough. If you do no other planning before you write, do these first four steps. Do it every single time you write anything where you need to influence others to pay attention and take action.

I realize you’ve probably heard about the importance of the WIIFT principle before, but if you’re not using it on a regular basis, then you’re likely missing the mark in a lot of your communications. All people – myself included – communicate by default from our own point of view.

It takes conscious effort to shift your thinking to see the situation from another perspective. And that shift can make all the difference.

5. Emotions to Evoke

In this step, you’re asking yourself how you want the reader to feel when they read your article.

Whereas the Audience Objective is often very practical – they want to learn something – there should also be an emotional component.

In fact, when you do this step, you may end up going back and refining your Audience Objective, because the biggest thing your article may be able to do for your audience is help them feel better, or feel more certain about what they need to do next. Knowledge is powerful, but emotion is often the extra kick people need to motivate them to take action.

6. Main Message

Now that you know what’s in it for you, what’s in it for your audience, how you feel about the topic and how you want to make your reader feel, it’s time to identify your Main Message.

This is the main idea, the thesis statement, the single most important point of your communication. Like The Highlander, there can be only one. (If you’re not old enough, or geeky enough, to know that reference, don’t worry about it, just keep reading.)

Yes, you will have other ideas in your article, but those go in the next step. Feel free to brainstorm both your Main Message and Key Points at the same time.

7. Key Points

Once you’ve identified the Main Message, you can flesh out the key supporting details – just like you learned in writing class in school.

In practice, however, I find that I often start outlining and then get on a roll and end up writing paragraphs of content. If this happens to you, just go with it. Get out whatever comes to you.

Once the ideas are out on paper (metaphorically speaking) you can easily copy and paste to separate the outline points and put any content you wrote into your actual post draft.

The point of outlining is to organize the flow of your ideas, not to stifle your creativity. So keep this process as tight or loose as feels comfortable for you.

8. Call to Action (CTA)

This is another one of those steps that people commonly leave off, because they get so focused on writing the content that they forget to ask the reader to do something at the end.

There are many types of CTAs, including these popular choices:

  • Share your opinion in the comments.
  • Sign up for a free guide to learn more.
  • Take the first step to applying this advice now.
  • Learn about our services.
  • Read one of our other posts on a similar topic.
  • Call us to find out how we can help you.

Remember in step 3 how we identified which stage in the buyer’s journey your audience is in? This is one place where it becomes very relevant.

If someone is just getting started educating themselves on the topic, you probably want to send them to additional information, like another blog post or an eBook. But if they’re near the ready-to-buy stage, then asking them to visit your services page or call for a quote may be more appropriate.

9. Keywords

While your content should be written first and foremost for real human beings, it’s also a good idea to consider which keywords you would like your article to rank for. In fact, if online traffic is an important part of your business, then this isn’t optional: It’s an essential part of planning your blog post.

One common mistake that many people make when they’re focused on SEO is that they write for the keyword and not the reader. By doing this entire pre-planning checklist, you can be sure to do both. An article that speaks deeply to audiences will do well on social media, and if it’s also SEO optimized, it will do well in organic search – the best of both worlds.

Looking again at your audience and audience objective, think about what that person would search for if they were looking up information on your topic. Make a list of a few different search variations. Try to identify specific terms, because it will most likely be easier to rank well for long-tail keywords than general, umbrella terms.

10. Google-Tested Headline Ideas

Once you know your main message – which is optimized for your audience’s needs and emotions – and the keywords they’ll use to search for information, you can start brainstorming headline ideas.

Writing great headlines is an art and science in itself, and beyond the scope of this article. However, there is one tip that I picked up recently from a co-worker (thank you Zach) that is so simple and obvious that it’s easily overlooked. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been doing this all along.

Copy your favorite headline idea, and paste it into a Google search and see what comes up. Read the top-ranking posts and evaluate them. How are the messages the same? How are they different?

And perhaps most importantly, what are they leaving out? Where is the gap in information that’s currently being served up by Google that you can fill with your article?

Your goal with this exercise is to find ways to set your content apart and not be just a copy of something that’s already been written. Because the thing that’s already ranking will keep ranking at the top, not yours, unless you have something better to offer.

How Long Does the Pre-Writing Process Take?

Good Blog No Longer Online Diary - Online Publication - ESEOSo now that you’ve gone through the whole pre-writing list, you’re probably wondering, how long will this take?

Expect this pre-writing process to take about an hour. It can certainly take less than that, but plan the extra time just in case. You may even find as you’re doing your research and strategizing that you come up with ideas for multiple posts, such as a series, or with different angles and audiences in mind.

Yes, I’m asking you to spend an hour of planning before you even start writing a word of actual copy.

Think that’s too much of an investment? Maybe it’s time to update your idea of what a blog post is.

In the early days of the internet boom, people would just throw their random thoughts up on a blog and publish it for the world to see. And unfortunately, a lot of people still do that – and still think that’s what blogging is. Please, please, for all of our sake, don’t be one of them. The last thing we need online is more junk.

A good blog is no longer an online diary; it’s an online publication. Each post is an article. You should treat it as seriously as you would being asked to write an article for a print publication.

Do you like reading stuff online that clearly didn’t have much effort put into it? No. And no one wants to read your stuff if you’re not going to put in the effort to make it worth their time.

This process will help you ensure that you’re writing something people actually want to read, that is written for a specific audience, addressing a topic that matters to them, and giving them something they can’t get anywhere else. That is the only way you will get any traction online these days.

It’s CTA Time, Baby

OK, let’s say you agree with me that we need high-quality content online, and you want to only publish outstanding content on your blog. But…you’re a busy person, and the reality is that you just don’t have the time to put in that much work. Eminent SEO to the rescue!

Writing outstanding content is what I and other talented writers here at Eminent SEO do all day long. And you can hire us to write your blog for you! How cool is that? Problem solved. And because we use this process, we can tailor it to your voice, brand and audience.

So go ahead and click the link below to learn more about the type of content writing services we provide, or simply contact us to tell us what you need.

Let Us Write Your Content!

Sara Korn

Finding creative ways to give both readers and clients what they want is why I love being a writer! As a Content Strategist at Eminent SEO, I listen to clients and put myself in the shoes of their customers to create compelling marketing messages that drive engagement.

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A/B Testing Cracks the Code of Online Intelligence

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A-B Testing Code Of Online Intelligence - Eminent SEO

Digital marketing is a wide-open, challenging space. For business owners, advertising and editorial campaigns are the fruit of sales initiatives meant to entice audiences and feed their hunger for products or services. Will they bite? It depends – on a lot of unknowns.

Marketing plans, in their infancy, are like seedlings: tiny, thought-provoking concepts that require warmth, love and attention to reach their full potential.

In the earliest stages of development, online presence is a collaborative process using the talents of web developers, content strategists, graphic designers, writers and more. There many human touchpoints along the way, though each embraces a common fear: the unknown.

Who is our audience?
What if our brand has no appeal?
What if the messaging is off target?
What do customers care about today, tomorrow or at 6:32 p.m. on Thursday night?

With the best marketing director, creative director and product managers that money can buy, no marketing campaign can bank on success before it happens. How do you know what creative strategy and market positioning is guaranteed to work? You don’t. But here’s where you’ll find the clues.

The Benefits Behind A/B Testing

A-B Testing Nutures Your Baby - Max Monster Egg - ESEOIf you’ve never considered adding A/B testing to your marketing plan execution, it will provide more clarity than you might think. A/B testing could also bring more questions to light, but there’s clarity in that too.

Time efficient? Cost effective? Boosts ROI? Definitively.

Perhaps you’ve tried A/B testing before but weren’t happy with the results. Isn’t that the point though?

Digital A/B testing measures more of what you need to know and streamlines marketing efforts. It forces you to delve deeper into the details of your product or service offering, audience, brand and goals. A/B testing allows creative ideation to meet with user reality – and that’s the sweet spot.

There are added benefits to ongoing A/B testing as it helps you keep a pulse on your audience and if or when your business garners relevance.

Online Marketing Without A/B Testing Is Like Target-Shooting Blind

Doing digital A/B testing measures more of the efficacies in new product or service launches and is highly recommended, even for a soft launch. Unless you’d rather bite your nails to the quick, suffer from a bad case of insomnia, take your chances on performance, and pray you still have a job when the campaign goes sideways.

Your vision for success is only as clear as the ability to target succinctly and deliver. Everything else is noise. A/B campaign rolling is the only fair and true test to measure creative messaging and audience engagement.

Know-It-Alls: Digital A/B Testing Measures More than Ego

There’s a sanctity in “being right.” Coming up with award-winning creative messaging might get you kudos from your industry peers but if it doesn’t convert your audience to act, it is so wrong.

Business-minded narcissists and braggarts can use the A/B online platform to measure just how right they are. But digital A/B testing measures more than ego. When ideas align with A/B measured results, you show a knack for marketing intuitiveness and then have just cause to say, “I told you so.”

A/B Test Everything, Often

As consumer wants and needs change with the tide of online influences, so too should your marketing outreach. What works in the summer of 2017 will most likely vary greatly from what works the winter of 2018. A/B testing allows you to stay current and top-of-mind.

To better understand the basic process of A/B testing, use the following steps as a mental illustration.

A/B Testing Mental Process:

  1. Pick a product or service
  2. Decide what you’re testing for
  3. Forecast the right answer/approach (ego ergo here)
  4. Predict the anticipated response
  5. Live with the truth and consequences
  6. Adjust where needed
  7. Test again

The knowledge you can acquire through A/B testing is astounding. You can even generate love, at first sight.

A/B Testing Gives You a Second Chance at First Impressions and More

A-B Tests Can Measure Audience Design CTAs - Eminent SEOIt’s been said that you can never get a second chance at making a good first impression. With A/B testing, you can in five seconds.

The right messaging entails many variables. Focus on who will receive the messaging, and that should dictate design and layout, colorization, verbiage and tone, and the call-to-actions applied.

With A/B testing, you can alter any single aspect of your messaging to discover what works best.

If you’re not sure of who your target audience is or if your business has multiple types of consumers and prospects, A/B testing is the perfect forum to segment your market reach through:

  • Demographics
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Education
    • Average household income
  • Psychographics
    • Personality
    • Values
    • Opinions
    • Attitudes
    • Interests
    • Lifestyles
  • Geotargeting

It’s a Matter of Time

Keep in mind that some user behavior is a direct result of predictable timing. You can use this to your advantage during A/B testing.

For example, industries that are entertainment-centric would probably fare better by marketing on Thursdays when consumers are thinking about the weekend. If your luxury product offering might appeal to middle America, A/B test its marketability within two days of the 15th or 30th of the month (paydays).

Finding Value in Pricing

Price points can dictate a do-or-die success rate for a product launch or rebrand campaign. To get a better idea of what monetary number consumers will accept or reject as a purchase point, explore your options with A/B testing.

Use the other elements of measurability:

  • Messaging
  • Audience
  • Timing
  • How they create a consumer’s perceived value

This type of value is then weighted against competitors’ offerings, product benefits, misgivings and price.

Choose focal points that promote your value and segment them within the A and B rollout. Note the psychology behind numbers and how they affect human behavior. For most people, $39.99 is more pleasing than a $40.00 price point.

SEO Makes It Easier on You and Your Audience

Why not give consumers what they’re searching for? If they don’t know you exist, how can they find you? Instill A/B varied keyword campaigns to find out what people are looking for. You’ll gain important insights as to what consumers want and how they look for it online.

A Good Approach Sets Up a Smooth Landing

Pay-per-click ads and social media posts aren’t the only places that A/B testing can prove to be constructive. As long as you’re evaluating the strength of the initial ad or post, complete the campaign assessment by A/B testing the corresponding landing pages.

Use the same seven-step mental process shown earlier in this article as a guide to formulate variances in landing pages. You may want to do two sets of the testing, A/B and A/B, to measure the performance of banner designs, headlines or call-to-actions.

To read more about A/B testing and other optimization tips for landing pages, click the button below:
Read 8 Tips for PPC Landing Pages

The Patience and Virtue of 90 Days

A-B Tests Take 90-Plus Days For Results - Eminent SEOIt might be asking a lot of anyone to exercise patience in the creation, execution and measurement of digital content. Consider this: Just because user behavior indicates impulsivity at a click or swipe doesn’t mean the artists behind the content should be just as reactionary, though the attraction to do so is understandable.

Let’s say you’ve worked hard on every aspect of a given product launch. You launch the online campaign. You’re not getting the anticipated results, even with A/B testing.

Give it time. Oh the difference 90 days can make to judge marketing effectiveness, engagement and conversion rates.

Consumers’ interests ebb and flow with pop culture trends, seasonal changes, employment adjustments and the best reason of all: just because. Your business representation online should be solid. If your digital presence shifted as quickly as consumer interest, you’ll find that it’s hard to tell what’s working and what isn’t. It might feel as though you’re spitting into the wind. Only you know where that spit’s been.

Give your current marketing campaigns three months to season. If they’re not bringing you the results you’d hoped for, there’s no reason to start from scratch. Make small changes to what you already have, then A/B test again and run those versions live for another 45 days.

A/B Testing Refines Virtual Imperfections

In the quest for perfection, we tend to home in on the details of marketing initiatives and adjust them, based on measured performance. No matter how diligent you are about using A/B testing, there is one truth that cannot be changed and must be accepted:

User behavior is measured; human behavior is not.

The intuitiveness about online use provides the data needed to structure marketing campaigns. The quirkiness of human behavior cannot be adequately measured as it comes from individual thoughts, emotions and dreams that flow with changes in personal life circumstances.

Is there an A/B test available to measure that? Technology moves mountains…

Great A/B Testing Is Born with Purpose

Marketing content at its finest should inform, entice and draw engagement to elicit brand awareness, customer loyalty and commerce (direct, deferred and referred).

A/B testing isn’t meant to replace original campaign strategy or ideology, but to measure or tweak it. Based on performance numbers, your strategy, positioning and content can be realigned.

Imagine how much more your business could thrive, faster, by partnering with a one-stop digital shop that knows how SEO and creative content work best, collectively, from day one.

A/B Test Us

Melanie Stern

Looking at the world through word-colored glasses, I am continuously in awe of how we evolve as people in business. We strive to communicate in a direct approach and, when we see fit, through subliminal channels. As a content strategist, I look forward to sharing all perspectives to help entertain, enlighten and engage more in others.

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4 Ways News Websites Fail to Deliver the Optimal User Experience

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How News Websites Can Deliver Better User Experience - Eminent SEO

By design, news organizations have the resources to research, report on and publish an online story much quicker than the average B2B or B2C business is able to produce and publish a blog post. And for that, news-focused websites are generally rewarded by being featured more prominently in search engine result pages, trending social media timelines and several other areas of the internet.

Being that news outlets offer relevant, almost up-to-the-minute content, they’re often able to get away with not following the SEO best practices that the rest of us publishers strive to adhere to. Are we envious? A little.

However, all of our years of studying SEO has led to many valuable takeaways on user experience, and we now know that building a better user experience can positively affect search engine results in a number of ways.

So, my objective here is not to critique the content of what news organizations are offering these days. Instead, I want to focus on the presentation of said news. I believe that building a better website user experience (UX) will lead to improved reader loyalty and more page views, and I have a few suggestions on how news websites – whether catering to local, national, international or niche audiences – can make that happen.

Loyalty to Specific News Websites Is Declining

Raise your hand if your preferred method of consuming news is by visiting the homepage of a news website each day and then clicking on several articles of interest.

I’m guessing for everybody who read that, less than half of you actually raised your hand – or at least mentally raised your hand. If you did, there’s a good chance you’re not a big fan of social media – or at least use it sparingly. That’s because social media is altering the way we consume news, even though television is still a major source of news to many Americans.

The Game Is Changing

News Consumption Stats Websites Apps Social Media - Eminent SEOPeople are getting more and more comfortable with learning about the news through social media, and in many cases, they won’t even need to click through to a separate website to have a basic grasp of what the news of the day is. News websites are still a big part of that conversation, but no one organization has a monopoly on click-throughs and reader trust.

An early 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 62 percent of U.S. adults get news through social media, with 18 percent saying they do so “very often.” That means only 38 percent of American adults aren’t on social media or don’t come across news through this medium.

Compare this to four years earlier, when only 42 percent of adults reported using social media to consume news.

In the same Pew survey, 35 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said social media was the “most helpful” source of information about the then-upcoming presidential campaign. Despite the rise in online and social media usage, there were still more people in the survey that said they would rather watch news (46 percent) than read it (35 percent) – although the TV news watchers trend 50 years old or older.

Also worth noting is a 2015 Pew survey in which 49 percent of people younger than 35 years old who come across news on either Twitter or Facebook reported that these platforms were either their most important source or “an important source” of news.

The news industry looks like it is becoming a cutthroat contest of which media outlet can collect the most scraps off the table in social media. Likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc. are all good and well, but the goal is to entice a social media user to click through to the full article (and then to a few other articles), especially if that person doesn’t regularly visit said website.

Where the User Experience Is Lacking

Not every website is guilty of the following user experience deficiencies, and I’m not going to call out any specific website, but I want to elaborate in general on what news sites can and should do to enhance their UX. I’ve identified four major areas that media outlets should consider regarding the online user experience they offer readers.

1. Subheaders

Subheaders aren’t just good for SEO. They help break the article down into digestible pieces for the reader.

Newspaper journalism was already big on short paragraphs. When news outlets started producing online content, they were already ahead of the game when it came to paragraphs that eschewed the traditional five-to-seven-sentence structure.

Shorter paragraphs became even more critical when users started consuming content on mobile.

So, most media outlets were positioned well in that department, but many are still following the school of thought that the article only gets the one headline, followed by paragraph after paragraph until the report concludes. That’s going to become more and more of a problem as readers’ attention spans continue to decrease.

Check out the second half of this article for example:

NPR Article Screenshot - ESEO

Although examples like this are aplenty, many news websites are starting to get the hint and have begun breaking up their longer articles with full-width images, charts, pull quotes or even (gulp) ads. But shouldn’t they time to add subheaders in addition to these images or ads?

It’s time to embrace the H2s and H3s that content management systems afford the publisher. The New York Times has done so, but others are lagging behind. News organizations’ web teams should utilize subheaders and work in keywords of notable individuals or heavily searched topics: These will give their articles a little more staying power in the search engine results, especially long after the publish date.

Highly descriptive and enticing subheaders will also help with keeping readers on the page longer and hopefully getting them to the bottom of the article, which is where the next two suggestions come into play.

2. What the Reader Should Do When Finishing the Article

As copywriters within a marketing agency, the death knell for us would be allowing the readers of our clients’ websites to reach the bottom of a page and ask, “OK, what do I do from here?”

This is why we put a lot of time into our final calls to action (CTAs), trying to leaders visitors to a strategic place after they’ve finished reading any page on the site. We don’t always direct readers to call the client. Sometimes we link to another page on the site, or we may encourage the visitor to subscribe to the blog or just leave a comment on the page at hand.

I’ve noticed many websites are lacking in this area. You get to the bottom of the article, and it either has limited or uninspiring options for where to go next. Many media websites have those spammy Outbrain articles at the end of the page. I get it: You have to pay bills. But even if that stream of advertising is something you must keep, you still need to have ways to entice the reader to visit another page or area of the site.

If all you offer are outbound articles or even unrelated articles from elsewhere on your site, it will leave many readers with a hollow feeling once they reach the end of an article. They might consider clicking on the homepage to start over, or simply flee from the website at that point.

Some news websites offer related articles once the user reaches the end of the page, and I think this is a good direction to go in. However, I think this area needs to be highly visual and carefully curated considering the article at hand. For example, a straightforward news report can lead to an opinion piece on the very same topic, or vice versa. Or if the article at hand is an update on a previous report, the earlier article could be the featured related article.

3. Comment Sections

I know moderating comments is probably the bane of existence for news web teams, but it’s undeniable that these user messages spur interaction and discussion. Having comment sections is one way to solve the “what do I do from here” question that comes up when reaching the end of an article. Comment sections certainly can keep readers on the site longer, and they sometimes encourage the reader to revisit the same page several times over.

Interestingly, I saw many news websites ditch their comment sections over the last couple of years, but they’re starting to make a comeback on many sites – particularly after the last presidential election concluded.

Web teams seem to have realized that they can still offer the commenting experience without making it a fixed and indelible part of a particular article. There’s nothing worse reading an article then immediately seeing a trollish, irreverent and easily visible first comment as if it’s a permanent part of the page.

This is why most websites now keep the comment section hidden until the user manually clicks to open it up. Nothing wrong with that.

Building a Productive Commenting Experience

Yes, comment sections have the potential to devolve into a sea of hostility or fruitless conversation. This is why it’s important to employ third-party tools like Disqus that can help cut down on some of the spam and trolling. Or even better, make users sign in with their Facebook account so they have to put their name behind whatever they post.

Such commenting tools won’t be a fail-safe solution to ridding all spam, bullying, etc., but they can automate at least part of this process for web teams. That being said, it would still be worthwhile for news orgs to assign at least some level of comment-moderation duties to employees.

Even with the potential drawbacks, user comments have a chance to enrich the news-consumption experience for readers. You’ve probably seen some comments that add to the background of the article at hand. Or maybe they discuss another side of the story that the article failed to mention. Or maybe they point out a spelling or factual error that the web team can quickly correct.

Most media outlets will find that allowing users to comment on any article, even if the option is hidden at first, will enhance the user experience for their audience and far outweigh any disadvantages that comment sections harbor.

4. Too Many Gimmicks

Better User Experience Equals More Page Views - Eminent SEOThankfully, many media sites appear to be abandoning the practice of having a separate story load as soon as the reader reaches the end of a particular article. Nothing more annoying than a website assuming you’re going to want to read whatever it spoon-feeds you next.

While this practice might have helped certain websites gain artificial page views, it must not have been working well: Many organizations seem to have fallen out of love with this tactic. I would imagine that high bounce rates and negative feedback influenced the decision.

Other gimmicky practices need to be reevaluated: Pop-up ads and prompts are a good place to start. If the website lives off a paywall model, then it makes sense to deliver a pop-up to a new user to tell them to either sign up or how many free articles they have left for the month.

In almost any other case, however, pop-ups need to be evaluated to see if they’re returning any reasonable ROI. If not, it’s time to 86 them. It’s not as if they make the user experience more enjoyable anyway.

Auto-play videos are another potential annoyance to consider. If a television news station has them on its website, fine. That makes sense. But in most other cases, it’s going to aggravate much of the user base.

Who’s Your Audience

Ultimately, user experience is going to come down to identifying and understanding your audience and then delivering the content they crave. This will get the page views moving in the right direction.

Readers will likely forgive the lack of subheaders and such if their favorite news websites continue to cover the stories that they want, and if the sites provide insight, images and/or interactive multimedia that competitors can’t offer.

What do you enjoy most about your favorite site for news? How do you think it could provide an even better experience as a user? Let us know in the comment section below.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Director at Eminent SEO – I enjoy writing, editing and photography. My goal is to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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The Marketing Agency of 2020: A New Paradigm Is Around the Corner

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The Marketing Agency of 2020 A New Paradigm Is Around the Corner

As the next decade approaches, the relationship between marketing agencies and their clients is evolving. On the surface, the goals of marketing agencies and their clients are the same: to attract more leads, customers and sales for the client. But when you look past shared good intentions and see how the traditional agency-client relationship operates, you’ll see that what incentivizes them is often at odds.

Let’s take a look at what savvy marketing directors and business owners need to consider as they evaluate their current agency providers and seek to maximize their marketing investment in 2020 and beyond.

The Old Paradigm: We’re In This Together … Mostly

In the current model, marketing agencies are contracted to do X amount of work per month, or to complete a project-based contract such as a new website or product launch. The model is deliverables-focused. Why? Because an agency has to know what they’re producing and how much they’re getting paid for it in order to manage costs and logistics.

Clients, on the other hand, are results-focused. They’re less concerned with how many blog posts or emails or social posts their agency produced this month and more focused on how many leads and sales they got from their investment.

After all, the whole point of marketing is to drive sales. For the client, marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) are leads and conversions. So ideally, from the client perspective, an agency should be compensated based on KPI results that prove the investment with the agency was worthwhile. And in a way, that’s what’s happening already, since a client isn’t going to renew their contract if they’re not seeing results.

Agencies know this, and they want to get results for their clients, both so they can keep the contract and because they take pride in their work. But there are a few challenges that make it difficult to realistically hold agencies fully accountable for KPI results.

Challenge #1: Factors beyond the control of the agency can influence results.

The fact is not all the factors that result in leads and conversions can be controlled by the agency. In most cases, the client has in-house marketing staff that is also partially responsible for meeting KPIs. There might be other agencies or contractors who also make contributions. Most marketers are too busy implementing projects to do the work of tracking who gets credit for what. Market fluctuations independent of the agency or the client also influence results.

There’s always a certain amount of risk in business: You come up with a great idea, you try it, and then you find out if it works … or doesn’t. And sometimes it doesn’t, despite the best intentions and hard work of everyone involved.

While agencies can promise to put their best effort into a project, they can’t guarantee it will have the desired result. This leads agencies to be focused on the thing they know they can guarantee: deliverables.

Because of this reality, it’s important that clients and agencies talk openly about what is and is not in the control of the agency, and the client.

Challenge #2: Results can take time to manifest.

Especially in today’s content-saturated marketplace, both online and offline, it can take months or even years to break through the noise and show up consistently enough to gain the trust of consumers. Oftentimes, clients will jump ship before campaigns have had enough time to gain traction. On the other hand, some companies keep doing the same thing over and over, hoping to see results that never come.

So clients and agencies need to begin their conversations not just by setting goals, but also by having a candid discussion about:

  1. How long a campaign will be given to achieve results
  2. How much money the client is really willing to invest in a project (it almost always takes longer and costs more than you think it will).

There are usually many more great ideas than there are resources to implement them, so clearly defining the top priorities is essential for managing budget and expectations. Investing in a few assets and giving them adequate time to produce results is usually a superior tactic compared to trying to do everything right away.

Challenge #3: Innovation is risky.

Clients want agencies to be innovative and come to them with out-of-the-box ideas … but those types of ideas are risky and don’t always work. If an agency’s compensation is tied to results, then it isn’t necessarily in the agency’s best interests to take risks. This happens with in-house marketing teams as well. By default, everyone is incentivized to play it safe. This also reinforces an emphasis on deliverables.

If clients want their agency to come to them with innovative ideas, it’s important to talk up front about how the risk will be handled, keeping in mind that both parties have to maintain profitability.

It’s also wise to have a process in place for vetting and prioritizing innovative ideas, and making sure there is a balanced mix of tried-and-true strategies with new strategies being implemented.

The New Paradigm: Fully Aligned Marketing Agency and Client Interests

Strong Agency-Client Relationships Thrive On 4 Principles - Eminent SEOTo overcome these challenges and become truly aligned, marketing agencies and their clients need to focus on improving communication and expectations in four key areas:

1. Realistic Expectations Regarding Results-Based Performance Metrics and Goals

As mentioned previously, it’s important at the beginning of an agency-client relationship to:

  1. Clearly define the client’s KPI goals
  2. Discuss realistic timelines and budgets to achieve those goals
  3. Clearly identify who has control over what (and which factors are out of both the client and agency’s control)
  4. Make sure the correct metrics are being measured

It’s important to discuss which metrics will be tracked, what information can be gleaned from those numbers, and ensure that those metrics directly influence or result from the big picture marketing goals. Just because a metric is available does not necessarily mean it is valuable.

2. Monthly Budgets with Flexible Deliverables

There are some tasks that need to be done regularly each month, and there are times when flexibility is needed to capitalize on timely opportunities. At Eminent SEO, we often see opportunities we can take advantage of on behalf of our clients, but sometimes it’s not in the budget.

For this reason, we’ve begun working up front with clients to establish flexible budgets that can be used for a default deliverable, such as weekly blog posts, but which can also be channeled (in whole or part) into another area if a better use for that budget presents itself. For clients with limited budgets, the entire budget may be flexible, each month focusing on the next priority in the queue, starting with the low-hanging fruit.

This allows us to pivot quickly based on sound strategy, take full advantage of the creativity of our team, and keep everyone alert for opportunities to make the most of our client’s marketing dollars.

3. Collaboration and Mutual Respect for Multiple Perspectives

In-house marketing staff members are experts on the company brand and immersed in the day-to-day reality of their industry. This gives them an insider perspective, yet it can also make it difficult for them to see their organization the way others do. Agencies provide a valuable outside perspective that can help identify opportunities to hone messages and marketing activities.

Close collaboration between the agency, the client’s in-house team and any outside contractors is essential in order to achieve success without tripping over one another and working at cross purposes.

Within an agency, there should be team members who are experts in the client’s brand and voice, so that the client doesn’t have to expend resources redoing work submitted by the agency. At Eminent SEO, we have our writers, designers and strategists assigned to cross-functional teams that specialize in messaging and production for each client we serve.

4. Balance of Risk-Taking and Safe Marketing Methods

Do you want your agency to manage your day-to-day marketing activities, implement innovative new campaigns, or both?

Clients who answer this question up front and communicate it to their agency will see better results from their agency because it sets clear expectations. Consider the following:

  1. Manage day-to-day marketing activities – Success is measured by high-quality work delivered consistently on schedule, using techniques that are already known to be effective.
  2. Drive innovation – Success is measured by finding new tactics that get results, with the understanding that there will be more failures than successes, but that successful new tactics can be amplified over time by moving investment into those areas.
  3. Both maintenance and innovation – Separating agency activity into separate budgets for routine work and innovative work allows for more accurate tracking and expectations of ROI.

Together at Last

It’s natural for a client to expect its marketing agency to be accountable for results. By shifting to a more collaborative approach in setting expectations, and working with an agency like Eminent SEO that takes this same collaborative approach, clients are more likely to see the results they’re looking for, including:

  • Agency efforts aligned with client’s business goals
  • Clear expectations for all involved
  • More effective use of marketing budget
  • Results-oriented reporting
  • Increased innovation
  • Faster response to market opportunities
  • Stronger working relationship

Read more about price-structure flexibility and six other traits of an evolving marketing agency:

More on the Marketing Agency of the Future

Sara Korn

Finding creative ways to give both readers and clients what they want is why I love being a writer! As a Content Strategist at Eminent SEO, I listen to clients and put myself in the shoes of their customers to create compelling marketing messages that drive engagement.

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The Good, the Bad and the Rankings: A Straight Shootin’ Discussion About Ethics in Digital Marketing

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Ethics in Digital Marketing - Eminent SEOThe modern internet is very much akin to the Wild West. For every honorable, upstanding SEO expert, there are at least twice as many “outlaws.” In other words, there are unscrupulous practitioners that will stop at nothing to claim high search engine rankings and rustle up as many user views as possible.

Reflecting this rise of desperado digital marketing in the early 2010s, Sheriff Google started deploying deputies to clean up the streets. Since then, enforcers like Penguin and Panda have become incredibly sophisticated at sniffing out unethical digital marketing techniques and penalizing the offenders.

But what about these bad “dotcombres” is so offensive that the Sheriff Google feels it necessary to ding their search rankings? Some of the most common penalties assigned to websites that have violated Google’s webmaster guidelines are in response to:

  • Sparse, poorly written content
  • Numerous deceptive backlinks
  • Heavily spammed queries
  • Multiple doorway or interstitial pages

Organizations risk more than the ire of Sheriff Google (and subsequently penalized search rankings) when they opt to use questionable techniques. Unethical SEO and digital marketing tactics can also cost an organization thousands of potential customers or leads.

Whether an organization is managing its own online presence or handing those duties off to an SEO professional, it’s vital that decision makers understand the signs and cost of unethical digital marketing.

Defining Ethical SEO

SEO Practices Not OK Corral - Eminent SEOEthics can be difficult to define, especially in an ever-evolving environment like the Wild Web. However, most webmasters and users can agree that an upstanding website is transparent, helpful and honest. Advertisements, if any, should be straightforward rather than duplicitous. Content should be accurate, helpful and relevant.

That’s why organizations performing their own digital marketing should develop a list of ethical SEO best practices. Likewise, discussing the topic with potential digital marketing professionals should provide insights into that company’s position when it comes to ethical SEO.

The following are a few rules of thumb that outline the general principles of ethical digital marketing:

  • SEO professionals must always honor the webmaster guidelines of each search engine.
  • SEO professionals must commit to creating a positive, functional user experience.
  • SEO professionals must present user content accurately and without embellishment.
  • SEO professionals must always properly cite content generated by a separate party.
  • SEO professionals must communicate realistic expectations to their clients about search engine rankings.

Questionable vs. Ethical SEO Strategies

Wanted Bad Dotcombre Crimes Against SEO - Eminent SEOWhen it comes to Western movies, deciding who is ethical is a breeze. Good guys wear white hats. Villains wear black hats. Nobody else wears hats. Simple, right?

Thankfully, distinguishing between ethical and unethical SEO techniques isn’t very complicated either. As a rule, ethical (or “white hat”) SEO strategies will prioritize user experience, follow search engine guidelines and produce consistent, long-term results.

On the other side of the spectrum, unethical (or “black hat”) SEO strategies are only concerned with short-term gains. They tend to focus on taking advantage of search engine algorithms rather than serving the needs of potential visitors.

Examples of ethical SEO techniques include:

  • SEO site optimization
  • High-quality content production
  • Guest blogging
  • Internal linking

Conversely, examples of unethical SEO techniques include:

  • Stuffing keywords
  • Spammy blog post creation
  • Hidden text placement
  • Paying for links

The Consequences of Unethical SEO Techniques

Organizations that implement spam-heavy or manipulative SEO strategies risk heavy penalties from Google and other search engines if their unethical strategies are discovered. The subsequent search rankings loss could considerably damage a company’s long-term success in attracting new customers.

That’s why it is so important for SEO practitioners to hold themselves to extremely high ethical standards. The wrong move could cripple an entire marketing strategy. That being said, organizations in need of digital marketing services must search for a partner that can deliver on their promises.

What to Expect from Ethical SEO

New SEO experts are constantly riding into town. How do you tell a straight shooter from a dang varmint? A public commitment to ethical digital marketing is certainly a good place to start. Thankfully, there are multiple angles that organizations can explore to evaluate the ethics of a particular SEO practitioner.

Here are just a few things to look for when trying to figure out if an SEO company is committed to ethical practices:

  • Communicates realistic expectations – SEO optimization is a long-term strategy. In some cases, it can take weeks or months for a website to reach its desired search ranking. An ethical SEO practitioner will communicate a realistic time frame for the results the client has asked for. Organizations should remain wary of SEO professionals who promise overnight results.
  • Uses solely sustainable techniques – Search engine algorithms, especially those developed by Google, are constant changing. As a result, some techniques that may have worked well in the past are no longer effective, and may even lead to penalties if used. Ethical SEO practitioners keep a close eye on the industry and never knowingly recommend an outdated SEO strategy to clients.
  • Prioritizes user experience – Keyword stuffing is, or should be, a thing of the past. These days, search engine algorithms are far more concerned with the presence of accurate, high-quality content rather than keyword density. An ethical SEO practitioner will take the same approach as they recommend solutions for a client’s website.

Understanding Ethical SEO Will Help You Know Whom to Trust

Organizations that understand the importance of ethical SEO can make smarter decisions about whom to trust with their online presence. Doing so also protects their long-term digital marketing strategy from the hawk-like gaze of Sheriff Google.

As commerce becomes increasingly digitized, the importance of ethical SEO is only going to increase. Be sure to bookmark or subscribe to our blog for more helpful updates on SEO best practices and other relevant digital marketing topics.

Remy Albillar

As a content writer at Eminent SEO, I specialize in producing high-quality copy for a long list of digital mediums, including websites, emails, blogs and social media. I got my career started right out of college producing SEO-driven content for a marketing agency based in Tucson, AZ. I’ve since worked as a copywriter within numerous industries. I’ve written the first half of a personal memoir and earned my master’s in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, MA.

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Be Careful Not to Choke on Your Aspirations, Content Writers

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Are there any audiences less forgiving than readers on the web? Many content writers ask themselves this question on a regular basis, and their assumptions aren’t far off.

According to data collected by publishing intelligence firm Chartbeat, a majority of users (55%) spend less than 15 seconds on a web page before moving on to the next one. Dang! Talk about the importance of a first impression.

After reading this report and reflecting on how hard it can be to hook and engage online readers,  I was reminded of another audience with even less patience than readers on the web: the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader.

After all, who could forget how quickly the iconic Star Wars villain dismisses information he deems inconsequential or subordinates who have lost his confidence. If you equate “bounce rates” to “being strangled to death with the Force” then the parallels are actually pretty hard to ignore.

It’s important to note that much like Imperial officers, content writers are enthusiastic about providing their audience with valuable information. Unfortunately, our eagerness to please and grand designs for our copy sometimes can get in the way of providing the audience with the answers they are actually looking for.

So let’s take a closer look at how a handful of Star Wars characters meet their demise at the hands of Darth Vader and see what their deaths can teach us about the wrong ways to engage with a demanding audience.

Don’t Mislead Your Reader

Capt Raymus Antilles Darth Vader Dialog - Eminent SEOThough technically a member of the Rebel Alliance, Captain Raymus Antilles has the distinction of being that very first person we see being throttled by Lord Vader in the opening minutes of “A New Hope.” He is quite bold in telling Vader that his ship is merely on a harmless “diplomatic mission,” considering the last scene of “Rogue One” features the Sith Lord watching them jettison away from the docks of Vader’s personal flagship. And to be fair, he isn’t lying, from a certain point of view.

However, his word choice certainly isn’t intended to guide his audience to the truth. In this way, Captain Antilles provides a great example of what happens when you underestimate the intelligence of your audience.

As a content writer, you may sometimes feel tempted to quote data or a report that doesn’t entirely support your argument. You may be in a rush to meet a deadline or feeling frustrated with the research process, and settle on quoting evidence that, at best, has some tangential relevance to the point you are making in your copy. This is the way of the Dark Side.

Taking this approach assumes that your reader not only knows less than you about your subject, but also lacks the presence of mind to check your references. If you’re found out, your credibility with your audience is shot for good and your reputation as a writer is put into jeopardy.

While this outcome may be less dramatic than your trachea being crushed by Darth Vader’s prosthetic metal hand, the consequences of misleading your audience are very real.

Don’t Get Personal or Political

Admiral Conan Motti Darth Vader Dialog - Eminent SEOAdmiral Conan Motti gets choked about 30 minutes into “A New Hope” during a debate among Imperial officers aboard the Death Star about how to deal with those dastardly rebels. Ignore the fact that Admiral Motti’s extreme skepticism of the Force makes absolutely no sense given that the Jedi Council was the galaxy’s most influential nonprofit just 20 years prior. Instead, focus on his obvious misstep in anticipating the experience of his audience.

Death Star Other Planet - Eminent SEOAdmiral Motti might have been able to persuade Vader to his side if he had stuck to verifiable claims about the military and strategic value of the Death Star. Instead, he allowed his own personal distaste for Vader’s religious background to color his rhetoric.

As copywriters, we should always be aware of how our personal biases can influence how we write and what we write about.

First and foremost, we must remember that we are representatives of our clients. Part of our responsibility is to make sure the client’s voice and perspective trump our own when producing copy for their website or a digital asset.

We must also acknowledge the potential for our personal biases to color our writing, and that our readers are capable of seeing through our mistakes. After all, an easy way to lose your audience is to make them feel like your copy is antagonistic toward something they hold dear. If that audience includes an evil space wizard, you might lose your audience and get choked to death.

Don’t Expect a Fair Shake

Admiral Kendal Ozzel Darth Vader Dialog - Eminent SEOIf you’ve been writing for the web for any period of time, you’re well aware of the importance of the opening line. Hooking readers is key to keeping them on the page. At the same time, a carefully curated opening line can do wonders to disarm a personal bias that might prevent a reader from fully engaging with the rest of your page.

Admiral Kendal Ozzel demonstrates life-threatening ignorance of these principles in his abrupt conversation with Lord Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Remember that shortly before Vader summons Admiral Ozzel onto video chat, the Sith Lord had been stewing in his personal chambers over the officer’s tactical blunders during the siege of Hoth.

It seems pretty clear that Vader is Facetiming the admiral specifically to choke him to death with the Force and promote his nearby subordinate. If Ozzel had any chance of avoiding his grisly fate, it would have to be with his opening line.

Unfortunately, Ozzel did not anticipate that his audience was entering the conversation under the influence of a powerful negative bias. He led with a bland, predictable opening that probably encouraged Vader to snuff him out that much faster. More importantly, he lacked sufficient familiarity with his audience to anticipate these negative feelings and subvert Vader’s expectations.

We as content writers must learn from Ozzel’s errors if we have any hope of improving bounce rates and user engagement on our pages. The opening line matters.

Don’t Fail to Deliver

Director Orson Krennic Darth Vader Dialog Rogue One - Eminent SEOOrganization and delivery are key to producing high-quality content. These qualities are equally critical when it comes to designing and manufacturing an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Director Orson Krennic learns this lesson the hard way during “Rogue One” after reoccurring spells of incompetence lead him to a potentially deadly encounter with the Sith Lord.

Leah Max Vader Spaceships - Eminent SEOAs content writers, we can draw out a few useful nuggets of information by examining Krennic’s near-death-by-Force experience with Vader.

First and foremost, it is clear from Vader’s tone that Krennic had under-delivered in the past with regard to the development of the Death Star. As a result, the trust of his audience (Darth Vader and, more importantly, Emperor Palpatine) had already began to erode.

Content writers can likewise compromise the goodwill of their audience by promising one thing in titles and headers then failing to follow through in the copy.

Second, Krennic’s first reaction when confronted with feedback from his audience was to deny wrongdoing and deflect blame. This course of action results in him being strangled by a mystical energy field that controls his destiny.

Similarly, content writers have a choice when they fail to live up to the standards of their audience. They can either run from blame or take responsibility and commit to improvement.

(Don’t remember Darth Vader’s affinity for choking insubordinate members of the Empire – both by hand and by Force? Watch a “highlight reel” here.)

Trust DARTH

We’ve discussed in detail all the wrong ways to approach your audience as a content writer. But what can we take away as far as positive examples? Unfortunately, the Galactic Empire is such a dysfunctional workplace that it’s extremely difficult to find positive examples within the organization of successful, consistent communication.

Instead, I’ve devised a simple mnemonic device to help fellow content writers remember the lessons we’ve learned from the Empire’s finest:

DARTH Standard For Web Copy - Eminent SEOBy following the DARTH Standard, content writers can feel confident that their copy will meet the needs and expectations of their audience. Writers will have to continue to adapt their tone and style to each client, but approaching this challenge with the right mindset will make it much easier to engage your audience before they make the jump back into hyperspace.

Got some of your own tips for managing your audience’s demanding expectations? Reach out with the Force and leave a comment below!

Remy Albillar

As a content writer at Eminent SEO, I specialize in producing high-quality copy for a long list of digital mediums, including websites, emails, blogs and social media. I got my career started right out of college producing SEO-driven content for a marketing agency based in Tucson, AZ. I’ve since worked as a copywriter within numerous industries. I’ve written the first half of a personal memoir and earned my master’s in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, MA.

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What Is Neuromarketing and Is It Better Than Traditional Marketing?

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What Is Neuromarketing - Eminent SEO

Neuromarketing has been around for a few years now, and regardless of whether you’re familiar with the term, you’ve probably read or heard about some of the insights marketers have learned from it.

But what is neuromarketing really, and how much do you need to know about it? Is it replacing traditional marketing research, as some have suggested, or is it just a passing fad?

Getting Into the Minds of Consumers

Neuromarketing is simply neuroscience applied to marketing. Researchers use technologies that observe brain activity and biometrics (such as heart rate, eye tracking, galvanic skin response, facial coding, etc.) to determine how people respond physiologically to marketing messages.

Neuromarketing examples might include:

  • Tracking eye movement to see which parts of a webpage grab the user’s attention first
  • Using EEG imaging of the brain to determine one’s emotional response to an ad or product
  • Determining which version of an ad generates the most brain activity, as seen in an fMRI scan

The goal of neuromarketing is to better understand consumer behavior by gaining insight into the reactions and decision-making happening at the unconscious level. Since 90 percent of the information that comes into the human brain is processed unconsciously, neuroscience gives us valuable insight into automatic human responses that influence consumer behavior.

By contrast, traditional marketing research methods involve consumer surveys, focus groups and external observation to gather data about what people think, feel and believe. These traditional methods are better at revealing conscious decision-making processes.

The Pros and Cons of Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing Gives Insight Into Consumer Behavior - Eminent SEOThanks to neuromarketing research, marketers no longer have to rely as heavily on consumer self-reporting. For starters, it can be difficult to get people to participate in surveys and focus groups. And even when there’s a lot of feedback given, the results can be biased or inaccurate. Neuromarketing bypasses conscious thinking and identifies automatic reactions that tend to be universal across the population.

On the other hand, because these findings are so generalized, there is still a need for traditional research to understand a target audience in greater detail. And even though consumers’ decisions can be greatly influenced by their subconscious responses, what they consciously think and feel still matters – a lot.

Neuromarketing can be used to help your marketing messages appeal to human beings as a whole, while traditional methods help you hone your message for a specific audience.

You will still need to do plenty of trial and error to see what actually works for your target audience, in your market, with your products. Sorry, neuromarketing is not a magic bullet. Honing in on an optimized marketing strategy will always involve work.

Advantages of Neuromarketing

The biggest advantage of neuromarketing is that it can fill in the gaps left by traditional marketing methods, because neuromarketing provides insight into situations where consumers say they want one thing, but then act (i.e., buy) in a different way.

Neuromarketing has an advantage because it:

  • Does not rely on consumers to willingly and accurately report emotions,
  • Can closely tie physiological reactions to specific parts of an ad or message, and
  • Provides insight into automatic responses that take place at the subconscious level.

Limitations of Neuromarketing

However, it’s important to keep in mind that variances in how individuals process information and the limitations of testing can make it difficult to generalize results with certainty. Limitations include:

  • The high cost in doing neuromarketing research means it is conducted with small sample sizes and often funded by corporations, which could introduce bias into the results.
  • Since brain science is still evolving, there’s not a completely reliable way to connect the marketing stimuli to the emotions triggered.
  • Reactions observed in a lab test environment may be somewhat different than they would be in an actual buying environment.

For more information on how neuromarketing works, check out this enlightening TEDx Talk by SalesBrain cofounder Patrick Renvoise:

Why We Need Neuromarketing AND Traditional Marketing

A key point to remember is that people are naturally contradictory in nature. Human beings often say one thing and do another, and think one way and feel the opposite at the same time. We also may hold one view consciously while subconsciously believing something else.

This doesn’t mean that all people are hypocrites. It’s just that humans are complicated creatures with many competing desires, who live in a world where we’re constantly being sent conflicting messages. In fact, one of the biggest opportunities for marketers is to help relieve this internal conflict – either by guiding people through their options so they can make a clear decision, or by providing a new option that allows them to have their cake and eat it too.

Although all the stimuli humans encounter are filtered through the unconscious processing system first, the conscious decision-making process is also important. Traditional marketing research has given us plenty of valuable insight into why people make the buying decisions they do – or at least why they think they make them.

So while it may be tempting to get caught up in a debate over which type of research gives us better data – traditional or neuromarketing – savvy marketers would be wise to utilize both, because each method measures different factors and gives us different information, all of which is valuable to some degree.

Findings from Neuromarketing Research

The neuromarketing field is still new, and much of it has confirmed things that we already knew either through observation and experience or via traditional marketing methods. Few studies have been published, and the companies that are doing their own research aren’t often willing to share their findings.

Some of what neuromarketing has revealed is unexpected, but most is not. For example:

  • Emotions drive biases and subconscious decision-making.
  • Visuals are processed more quickly than words.
  • Images of celebrities, beautiful women, children and puppies are universally appealing.
  • Faces of any type draw the eye better than other kinds of visuals, and convey important emotional information such as mood, status, etc.
  • Messages that consumers find irrelevant reduce their positive responses.
  • Marketing elements that consumers can personally identify with create a positive response.
  • When a consumer purchases a product from a brand he or she is loyal to, the reward center of the brain gets activated.
  • Prices with round numbers (like $100) are processed more easily, yet numbers like $99.99 are perceived as a better deal.
  • Certain colors elicit particular emotional reactions.
  • The first and last parts of a message are especially important in setting the context for how a message is perceived.
  • Social norms such as reciprocity can be invoked to influence behavior.
  • Avoiding pain is often a stronger motivator than seeking pleasure.

Conclusion

Neuromarketing is a new and evolving science that can help marketers better understand consumer behavior in order to improve their:

  • Packaging
  • Pricing
  • Brand positioning
  • Promotion strategies
  • New product development

Both traditional and neuromarketing research can give us valuable insight into how humans process information and make decisions, consciously and unconsciously. As the science of neuromarketing improves, more reliable results should be available in the future.

However, information from both sources will always need to be applied thoughtfully and strategically, taking into account a company’s unique target audience, market, products and goals. Along with this will be the need to test out best practices in specific situations to see what’s really working.

Sara Korn

Finding creative ways to give both readers and clients what they want is why I love being a writer! As a Content Strategist at Eminent SEO, I listen to clients and put myself in the shoes of their customers to create compelling marketing messages that drive engagement.

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Why Well-Written Social Media Copy Makes a Difference

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Why Well-Written Social Media Copy Makes Difference - Eminent SEO

To succeed in the social media sphere, businesses must populate their various accounts with consistently strong writing (in addition to strong imagery). It might surprise you to learn, however, that not all social media managers deem themselves writers.

The good news is that writing social media copy isn’t complex. Nevertheless, learning how to write for social media is worth it. Here are some tips on how to write better content for social media – and why it matters.

Why Writing Well Matters

Writing For Facebook & LinkedIn - Eminent SEOEach social media post communicates a business’ brand to its clients. A well-written post paints a positive and polished image of a business, communicating to users that this business has something valuable to say and/or offer.

Meanwhile, a social post that is unfocused or disorganized reflects poorly on a business, hurting any rapport the company had built with existing or potential customers. Poorly written content doesn’t do a business justice and can undermine an organization’s success. Therefore, well-written social media posts are important.

Conciseness

A successful social media writer is informative yet concise. A large amount of value has to be communicated in as few words as possible. A strong social media post compels the reader’s attention with carefully calculated word choice. In short, writing well for the internet involves learning the right style, which we’ll get to later.

Consistency

Social media writing must be consistent. A Facebook page must share the same message a connected Twitter page does. Businesses should give an even level of attention to all social media accounts (unless one platform is clearly fostering better results). If a business is raving about a 50 percent off deal on all products on Twitter but crickets are chirping on its Facebook page, then there is inconsistent communication. The only exception is if the company is pushing a platform-specific offer.

Tailoring the Message to the Platform

On the other hand, consistency in content does not mean universal writing styles for all social media websites. A Facebook post has a 63,206-character limit while Twitter allows no more than 140. A LinkedIn post is intended to be formal and informative, while a tweet’s purpose is to be eye-catching and clever.

The same style and word choice of writing will not work for all social networks, but there must be common ground regarding communicated content over all platforms. This makes mastering the art of social media copywriting all the more challenging.

How Long Can the Social Media Copy Be?

This is the wrong question. Instead of asking how long a social media post can be, you should ask how long the post should be. A tweet can be up to 140 characters, but it shouldn’t be your business’s standard to run every tweet right up until the limit.

Finding the ideal character count for a specific Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn post may sound impossible, but thankfully, researchers have done the heavy lifting to produce ideal word count figures. Here are the findings:

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Character Post Limits - Eminent SEO

  • Twitter: Post limit: 140 characters. Ideal post length: 71–100 characters. Keep in mind that including any link removes 24 characters. Also, many social media experts recommend using 1–2 hashtags per tweet.
  • Facebook: Post limit: 63,206 characters. Ideal post length: 40 characters. The 60,000+ character limit includes the content that stays hidden unless the user clicks “Read More.” In reality, the character limit before the “Read More” link shows up is only 400.
  • LinkedIn: Post limit: 600 characters. Ideal post length: 25 words. As mentioned earlier, it’s recommended to keep your LinkedIn copy more straightforward and professional than on other platforms.

How Should Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn Posts Be Written?

Each social media network is unique. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posts have different end goals and different audiences they attempt to reach, and keywords can be specially utilized for each. Therefore, your social media copy should be tailored to fit these expectations.

Here is how the different social media networks operate, and how you can make the best use of keywords on each.

Writing for Twitter

Twitter is essentially a news platform camouflaged as social networking. There is a heavy emphasis on retweeting and content circulation. Twitter is the epitome of something “going viral.” A business that intends to share blog posts or promote website content should find Twitter to be a valuable tool.

As a rule of thumb, resharing article headlines as Twitter post copy should be used in moderation. It is best to tailor the social copy to the content an article is conveying. This entails giving a synopsis of the story or a unique insight, rather than a regurgitation of the article’s headline. In general, try to write complete sentences and clear thoughts on Twitter.

Using Twitter Hashtags and Emoji

Getting Your Hashtag On - Eminent SEO

It is a well-known rule to include hashtags at the end of a post. This will ensure they receive extra attention than they would otherwise. A healthy hashtag limit is 2–3 per post, so do not overuse them. Focus on using important keywords as your hashtags. With a high enough volume of sharing, the keywords can become successful.

In the same way hashtags should not be overused, neither should emoji. However, these icons can be beneficial addition to tweet copy when used economically because they add character to the content.

Including URLs

URLs are helpful to add to tweets. Adding them about 25 percent of the way into the tweet is better than including it at the tail end, according to research. This requires formulating a short introduction, embedding the URL, and then adding a longer explanation.

Writing for Facebook

Laptop Writing For Social Media - Eminent SEOFacebook distributes the most website referral traffic. The audience’s expectation of reading a   Facebook post is for both news and entertainment. Going forward, Facebook will continue to place a greater emphasis on video content.

Keywords are difficult to track through Facebook, but not impossible. You can use keywords in your Facebook status updates, and then click the “See All” option near “Insights.” This should help you quantify the number of users your keywords are reaching, and how viral these terms are.

Contrary to popular opinion, Facebook posts should be short: 40 characters short, believe it or not. Facebook also lowers promotion-heavy posts in its feed. This means posts that include phrases such as, “Act Now!” or, “Purchase Now!” should be avoided because Facebook’s algorithm will flag it. The tone of a Facebook blurb for a blog post or article should be concise, witty and conversational.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a business-centric site, so a company’s content needs to appeal to this mindset. LinkedIn is the site of choice for professional content and business article sharing. As a side note, LinkedIn created LinkedIn Pulse in 2015, which is a content publishing and distribution feature.

LinkedIn writing is clear, concise and respectful. The most important rule for LinkedIn writing is remembering that a professional audience is reading the post. Avoid confusing language, get straight to the point and maintain a professional voice.

For keywords, the most important places to use them are in your location, your professional headline (120 available characters), your personalized URL, your summary of experience, and your overall profile summary. Use these spaces to advertise yourself and your business for best results.

Social Media Copy Can Make or Break Your Business

Stellar social media copy should be a weapon in every business’ arsenal. The written word powers social media (although images and video help, too). Guiding this power effectively through deft writing skills and audience reconnaissance leads to success in the social media realm.

Eminent SEO can help give your business’s social media efforts a boost – either through consulting or even taking control of your many social accounts, ensuring that each receives plenty of enticing, head-turning content every month. Click to learn more about our Social Media Marketing Services, or simply call 800.871.4130 today.

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Is Keyword-Rich Anchor Text No Longer Necessary?

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Is Keyword-Rich Anchor Text No Longer Necessary - Eminent SEOAsk any SEO specialist about anchor text, and you may unwittingly spark a lively debate. It’s often a source of both angst and confusion.

With the Google Penguin series of algorithm updates, knowing anchor text best practices is even more important. Here, let’s look into all about anchor text, its role in SEO, and how to make it work for you.

Anchor Text Defined

Anchor text is simply any text that is clickable on a webpage that links to another place on the web. For example, in the phrase, “Eminent SEO can help improve your email marketing strategy,” the anchor text (“Eminent SEO”) links back to our website.

If this link were featured on another website, then you have an example of a process called “link building,” and it’s good for SEO. However, the phrasing can either help your search engine rankings or harm it. The difference is in how you approach your own website’s anchor text, as well as that on other sites that link to yours.

Different Types of Anchor Text

Five Types Of Anchor Text - Eminent SEOSay we’re trying to rank for the keyword “marketing strategy.” There are several types of anchor text that other websites might use to link to ours:

Exact Match

An exact match only anchors the exact keyword we’re looking for:

Example: Eminent SEO can help you hone your email campaign, an essential part of your marketing strategy.

Partial Match

A partial match (also known as a phrase match) anchors the keyword in a phrase:

Example: Eminent SEO can help you hone your email campaign, an essential part of your marketing strategy.

Branded

Branded anchor text would link back to our company, Eminent SEO:

Example: Eminent SEO can help you hone your email campaign, an essential part of your marketing strategy.

Naked URLs

A naked URL has no unique anchor text, just a web address:

Example: Eminentseo.com can help you hone your email campaign, an essential part of your marketing strategy.

Generic

Generic anchor text provides instructions, but does not include any branding or keywords.

Example: Eminent SEO can help you hone your email campaign, an essential part of your marketing strategy. Click here to go to their website.

How Anchor Text Influences Search Rankings

Search engines such as Google use anchor text as a factor in determining a page’s topic and how it should rank. In other words, using the anchor text “marketing strategy” should indicate to Google that the page on the other end of the link is a good fit for that search engine query.

In theory, the more times we score a backlink with the anchor “marketing strategy,” the higher we should rank for that query. But SEO is rarely that simple.

The Problem with Early Anchor Text

When Google’s search algorithm was less refined, the search engine relied heavily on anchor text, perhaps too much so. Around 2008, the company explained that it thought anchors provided more accurate descriptions of websites than the sites themselves. While the practice was sound in theory, it proved to be too easy to manipulate.

SEO specialists could easily cheat the system back then and tie certain adjectival phrases to a specific group or individual. Fair or not, two of the more famous “Google bombs” prior to 2010 were the association of the search phrase “miserable failure” to George W. Bush and “worst band in the world” to Creed.

Google’s Crackdown on Some Keyword-Rich Anchor Text

As a result, the search engine giant began to crack down on the way people could use anchor text for search engine optimization. The largest shift came in 2012, when the first Google Penguin algorithm update released. Its aim? Punishing low-quality and manipulative practices for link building.

Anchor text was one of Penguin’s primary targets, and companies who pursued exact match anchors aggressively saw their Google rankings plunge overnight. The Penguin update was a sort of Black Tuesday for SEO practitioners, who then had to come up with another way to put their websites at the top page of web results.

Companies, too, became twitchy about anchor text, some believing that only branded anchor text was allowed – and that all others would be punished by Google.

How Does Google Punish Anchor Text?

Original Google Penguin Update Affected 3 Percent Of Websites - Eminent SEODoes Google punish everything but branded anchor text? In a word: no. But there’s a right way and wrong way to include anchor text.

Over-optimization of anchor text, for example, is frowned upon. Search engines such as Google and Bing want backlinking to occur naturally. In other words, links should only be in your content if they make sense or if they lead to relevant content. If you have too many links, or if your links look contrived, the Penguin filter could demote the page.

While this sounds harsh, in reality, the original Google Penguin update only affected some 3 percent of websites. If own your content contains links in less than 50 percent of the copy, chances are you will not be affected by Penguin.

What About Link Quality?

Penguin also punishes links that don’t lead to authoritative websites. This discourages rank inflation. Quality backlinking to reliable information ensures your page is relevant. Don’t use anchor text just to grab a keyword. It looks unnatural to Google and will hurt your ranking.

Exact and Partial Anchor Text Still Wields Influence

So, does Penguin punish exact and partial keyword anchor text? A study by Ahrefs sought to find the answer. The study involved analyzing 51 keywords in competitive niches from finance to health, both exact matches and partial matches. Ahrefs found that both exact and partial keyword anchor text continue to have some influence on the top spots in Google searches.

The key here is density. For exact keyword matches, aim for it to be in no more than 1 to 2 percent of all anchor text. Partial matches are more forgiving: 30 percent of anchors containing a keyword phrase are safe from Google penalties.

Anchor Text Best Practices

Google Has Over 200 Ranking Factors - Eminent SEOThe (not-so) final word on anchor text: It continues to influence the top spots in Google searches, especially in competitive niches. But … it’s not as heavily weighted as it used to be since Google now has more than 200 ranking factors.

Don’t be afraid to use keyword-rich anchor text in your own web content, though. If done well, it will help your search engine rankings. Observe some basic best practices:

Make Your Links Relevant

We talked a little bit about the importance of link relevancy in SEO, but it’s more easily understood with an example.

Say you own an aromatherapy store, and you love to blog about it. Ever eager to share your passion with others, you spend a little time each day reading about the newest in aromatherapy. You find an article about a study linking aromatherapy to increased levels of mood-boosting serotonin in the brain.

When you write a blog about this later, you could link back to the study in a couple of different ways:

“To read the study, click here.”

OR:

“A study outlines the effect of aromatherapy on the brain.”

SEO best practices dictate the second phrase (“effect of aromatherapy on the brain”) is more effective, because it is relevant to the topic at hand. Remember, search engines are interested in producing results that are beneficial to the user.

Vary Your Keywords

Google is wary of keywords and anchor text that appear over and over again. If your site’s backlinks all contain the same keyword-rich anchor text, it’s usually a sign those links weren’t acquired naturally.

Shoot for a variety of keyword anchor text, and don’t use the same one each time. This is where the statistics for partial match and exact match keywords come in. In general, try to earn only a few exact keyword matches. Partial keyword phrases are more forgiving, but variation helps in each phrase or term.

And when you’re linking internally or externally, don’t make your anchor phrases too long. Best practice dictates that they should be eight words or fewer for maximum benefit.

For example, if your aromatherapy store is the only store in Atlanta selling sustainable, ethically sourced essential oils, you might want others to link to your website with the keyword phrase “sustainable essential oils in Atlanta.” However, you want the keywords to be varied so you can avoid Google penalties. Similar phrases like these might help:

“Here’s a great site for sustainable essential oils.”

OR:

“Buy quality sustainable oils in Atlanta.”

Each anchor phrase carries pieces of the original keyword, yet they’re varied enough to pass the Google algorithm’s muster.

Bottom Line: Don’t Disregard the Power of Anchor Text

Although dwindling to a degree, anchor text continues to carry weight for current search engine algorithms. Early over-reliance on anchor text has led to a crackdown on the way we use anchor text for SEO purposes. Your mission is to keep earning relevant backlinks with varied keywords, which will help your site earn a place near the top of Google’s rankings.

Search engine optimization is essential for the success of your website. Eminent SEO can help optimize your content (including external links) as well as review your backlink profile. Just call 800.871.4130 if your company needs help with better content and earning stronger backlinks.

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Keep Your Domain Game Strong: Setting Up Your HTTPS Address Improperly Can Cause SEO Issues

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Setting Up Your HTTPS Address - Eminent SEO

Be honest: Have you ever tried to fix a problem and accidentally made it worse?

Perhaps you were trying to update your operating system on your computer to make it run faster, only to realize that the new OS isn’t compatible with all your most-used programs.

How about when you’re out to eat with friends and ask the waitress to separate the checks, only to find that you or someone in your party inevitably ends up paying more than they wanted, leaving sour moods and subpar tips for your sweet-natured server.

Or, maybe you added salt and spices to your favorite recipe, only to find out the you’ve ruined the flavor that you grew to love.

Well, when it comes to search engine optimization, there are a few ways that changing up the recipe can result in a less potent presence. Your website may not be broken, but improving your SEO is no simple fix.

The shift from HTTP to HTTPS has left many websites with losses that boil down to improper implementation. Let’s take a moment to address the most common SEO mistakes related to this upgrade, why they’re problematic for your website, and how to fix them.

Everybody’s Switching for the Weekend

34 Percent Google Search Results HTTPS - Eminent SEOAccording to the tech news website Search Engine Land, Google has been making a push for sites to move from HTTP to HTTPS, and reportedly 34 percent of Google search results now begin with an HTTPS prefix.

To give a little context for readers unfamiliar with the differences between HTTP and HTTPS, the former stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and describes the process of data exchange between your browser and the server of the website you are visiting. HTTPS contains the same acronym with an added “S” that stands for “secure.”

HTTPS sites are encrypted, which means they have an added security measure to protect confidential online interaction and transactions. Switching to HTTPS makes your site more secure, and Google anticipates many more sites making the switch to this type of domain in the coming years.

Why Would That Affect My Search Visibility?

By switching to HTTPS but keeping your HTTP site live, you run the risk of producing the same content, which would be counterproductive for your search engine rankings. Imagine cloning yourself, and then giving your clone the same name, address, phone number and social security number as you. Many of us are unwittingly doing this with our websites and their search visibility.

While the result is the same – keywords being searched and the user being led to your site – in the competitive field of SEO, the path that leads to your site is a significant factor in determining your site’s search rankings. The overlap of material on two different sites is called duplicate content, and is the biggest mistake web developers make when switching to HTTPS.

Two Roads Diverged in the Woods

Do you know about canonicalization? It’s the simple fix for multiple URLs that lead to the same piece of content or, more commonly, to the same website.

For example, the URL https://www.homedepot.com/shophammers links to the same content as https://www.homedepot.com/store/?home_improvement/hammers. Canonicalization is the process of creating tags so that all similar content points to a dominant site or page. This eliminates the chance of making search engines choose between different pages when delivering a search result.

Link Dilution

Predictably, this is called link dilution – when a single page appears to receive less traffic because it’s being split up between multiple sources. This is the problem that your website faces without canonicalization.

Think of Puff Daddy and all the names he’s gone by over the years. Basically, if he wants to gauge how much search volume he has garnered, then he’ll find a way to point names like “P. Diddy,” “Diddy” and “Sean Combs” to the name he’s going by now. If he’s not able to canonicalize all of his past and alternative names to his current moniker, then he won’t have an accurate picture of his total search volume.

Puff Daddy Mase - ESEO

Basically, proper canonicalization tells search engines which content you’d like them to see and judge for ranking purposes. Will there be alternative URLs out there that basically show the same content? Perhaps, but properly canonicalizing your content means that one source will get all the credit for the alternative versions, and then you’ll have a clearer picture of all related web traffic.

Searching Everywhere for You

These can be difficult concepts to understand, and it gets even more complicated when you consider crawl budget. When Google evaluates your website, it sends its search “spiders” (what better creature to navigate a web, right?) to help the search engine index all topics related to your site: keywords, headlines, synonyms, etc. It also gives you the results in an order that it thinks is most relevant to your search query.

For every website that Google encounters that might contain information useful to you, it searches all the subpages as well. This is known as your crawl budget – the number of subpages Google will sift through to find information useful to the searcher. When you have duplicate content and haven’t taken advantage of canonicalization, the search engines are working twice as hard to find the same information.

Imagine you’re a librarian, and someone asks you to highlight every mention of the word “cake” in the entire library. Now also imagine that someone has made copies of every book in the library, and you still have to find every mention of the word “cake,” including in the copies. You can imagine how much tougher the job would for the poor spiders doing basically the same task!

Give those spiders a break by tightening up your crawl budget and taking advantage of canonicalization. There are plenty of sites tell you more about indexing and crawl budget. Take some time to look those topics and learn more. Google lays it out pretty fantastically here.

What You Need to Do When Setting Up Your HTTPS Address

If You Dont Have Time To Do It Right John Wooden - Eminent SEOTo fix link dilution and other possible errors, Tony Edwards of Elite SEM, in an article for Search Engine Land, suggests 301 redirecting all HTTP URLs of your unsecured website to equivalent HTTPS versions.

This ensures that for every HTTP page of yours discovered by search users, they are automatically redirected to the new HTTPS site. This simple trick minimizes duplicate content and decreases link dilution.

Here are a few more steps that Edwards suggests to fix all of these issues:

  1. Ensure your HTTPS site version is added in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. In Google Search Console, add both the www and non-www versions. Set your preferred domain to the HTTPS version.
  2. 301 redirect HTTP URL versions to their HTTPS equivalents sitewide.
  3. Ensure all internal links point to the HTTPS versions sitewide.
  4. Ensure canonical tags point to the HTTPS URL versions.
  5. Ensure your XML Sitemap includes the HTTPS URL versions.
  6. Ensure all external links to your site that are under your control, such as social profiles, point to the HTTPS URL versions.

As far as the old HTTP version of your website, you might as well “noindex” or delete every page from Google’s crawlers once your new HTTPS site is properly set up and you’ve 301 redirected everything. This way, you won’t have to worry about Google and other search engines docking you points for having two versions of the same site live.

Remember This

The internet is becoming exponentially more sophisticated. Don’t let your business suffer by neglecting to optimize your website for search engines (and users). Make your website secure by switching to HTTPS, but also be sure to take extra precaution and avoid the pitfalls discussed above. You, and your business, will be happy you did.

If you need help with setting up your HTTPS address, Eminent SEO can help you find a reputable certificate authority and take charge of the paperwork and many steps involved with making the upgrade. Just call us at 800.871.4130 to learn more!

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Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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