Posts about search engine optimization

What is Google’s Semantic Search?

Google’s semantic search attempts to improve on the search formula intended to produce relevant search results for web users by creating rules that define a searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of search terms.

Every language harnesses the power of semantics to define, clarify, process, and change the meaning of words or words in combination. Since language is the tool that the everyday web user employs to scour the boundless frontier of sites and pages on the Internet, it only makes sense that Google’s inimitable search algorithm would begin to evolve just as language does.

So how does Google develop ways to emulate the intricacies of language? Most of what happens at Google offices is a closely guarded secret, but we can certainly make educated assumptions based on the state of current semantic search capabilities and how they fit into indexing and organizing the web.

What is Semantic Search Technology?

Google is not the only company working on a semantic search engine. Specialized database searches and site-search tools also take advantage of semantics to make sure they are operating at their optimal efficiency and customers don’t drop off when they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Semantics is born of thousands of minute neuro-processes that work in conjunction to create a final meaning. Fortunately, those innumerable processes fit fairly neatly into a few underlying concepts that developers use to create quantifiable semantics.

Complex Ideologies

These are features of our world that our brain processes instantly and without effort — which means we usually take them for granted. Computers have a harder time than we do nailing these down.

leverage monster demonstrating complex ideologies with green bookContext

There are relevant constraints that help us define a word, phrase, or sentence more narrowly so we can produce a reply that makes sense to our interlocutor. We call these restraints context. Search queries are no different – we expect a reply from the search engine that fits the context of the thing or idea we search for. To recreate context, engine developers rely on data and assumptions.

For example, a search for “virtual reality headset” is most likely submitted by a young person or a tech industry professional, an assumption we can make based on the demographics of searchers. A search for “Etta James” is likely submitted by someone older since we can harness data that says the height of the artist’s popularity occurred in the 1960s.

Search results from a semantic search engine can be refined based on these data and assumptions – as long as the search engine understands them. Marketers are already taking advantage of the importance of context in defining searches by focusing efforts on context marketing, wherein marketers match their target markets with demographics reflected by searches.

Intent

If you start talking about oil and how it affects the health of every nation, your conversation partner can probably assume that you mean crude oil. But when a search engine sees the keywords oil and health, it may think that you want to know about how olive oil affects your physical health.

An effective semantic search will strive to guess your intent. A successful system is already visible in countless Google SERPs. If you type “What is it called when you think you have a disease but you don’t?” into a search engine, you will get results for hypochondria. Even though keywords like disease are very ambiguous in this sentence, the engine is still able to parse your intent, among other remarkable things.

Variation

Variation in language use can be regional, age-specific, industry-specific, or rely on any number of demographics. Semantic search engines must be prepared for language variation and know how it fits into searches. They have to know that people searching for elevators likely live in North America, but those looking for information on lifts are probably looking for UK-related articles.

Location

From city size to climate, economics to local leadership, countless concepts can affect search results based on location. Google does a fantastic job of indexing and prioritizing business-related searches, and its deep integration with the Maps application is a prime example of how location fits into the semantics of a search.

Linguistic Considerations

Since we rely on typing queries into a search engine in our mother language rather than code, the semantic search engines have to translate what we say into a form it can understand, then produce results based on what it thinks we mean. There are a few phenomena of language used in our search queries that are difficult to reproduce outside of the human brain.

Synonyms

Search engines can make educated guesses about the user’s intent and offer synonyms for keywords, but subtle differences in meaning can produce irrelevant results. Engines must learn what nuances exist between synonyms and how SERPs should be adjusted to reflect those nuances.

Google semantic search understands that money is a broad concept of currency, even though we use it as an analogue to cash in everyday speech. But type cash into Google and you’ll find some handy places to get payday loans or turn your checks into hard currency. Google knows that while we use the terms interchangeably in everyday life, there’s a subtle but important difference when typing either term into a search engine.

Concept Matching

google concept matching with filmLike money, some keywords and queries represent large concepts with subcategories that can be rolled into one term. Searching for film will provide results based on movies because the Google semantic search formula understands that film is now a concept that is deeply intertwined with movies.

Search engines develop a notion of concept matching over time as their idea of relevance evolves. A user may become frustrated if searching for film directs him or her to a SERP that provides places to buy rolls of film, and semantic search engines must learn to anticipate such frustrations by matching concepts.

Natural Language

Long ago, AskJeeves attempted to simplify web searching by creating an algorithm that answered real questions written in natural language. As a focus, the concept never really caught on, but now more and more users are relying on natural language queries to find answers.

To tackle natural language queries, semantic search engines have to assign purpose not only to unusual terms like prepositions (in, on, around) and articles (a, an, the), but they have to learn how groups of words fit together to create abstract concepts. Observe the following natural language search queries:

  • A. I need a place to work out
  • B. I need a place to work out of

The only difference between these two queries is the word of. Because of is a preposition, it carries very little in the way of concrete meaning. However, it holds incredible influence over semantics.

Query A provides results for gyms and answer pages from users who have asked similar questions on forums.

Query B gets confused – it can’t really tell if you’re asking for a place to lift weights or a place at which you can perform your job. To us, the addition of the word of clarifies so much of the searcher’s intent, but to the search engine, of is just too abstract to be able to guess accurately what the user wants. You will still see occasional results for leasable office space, however.

Again, relevance will play a large role in helping define natural language searches. The more people search with natural language and click on what they want to find, the more narrowly semantic search engines will be able to define natural language.

Semantics in a Digital Landscape

Users and developers alike must remember that semantics as a digital feature is still very much in its infancy. It wasn’t long ago that all searches were keyword-based and keyword stuffing was a viable SEO option. However, semantic SEO is on the horizon, and smart inbound marketing teams are already ahead of the curve learning how to maximize research potential and produce quality, informative content in line with semantic goals.

Problems with Semantic Search

Semantic search is far from perfect, but it’s certainly not the fault of developers. The human brain is just too complex and powerful for us to understand its processes in full, so until we do, we can’t quantify what it does and turn it into a carbon copy artificial intelligence – which is a scary concept anyway.

Ambiguity

The problem of ambiguity, or flexible meaning in a single word, is also something second language learners struggle with. For instance, the word band can mean “a group of people,” “a strap or belt,” or “a frequency interval.” Even if Google semantic search is able to learn which is the most common meaning its searches are seeking, how can it make sure that those searching for other meanings are still able to discover relevant websites?

Content Saturation

The early days of Google search meant looking for new ways to game the system for Search Engine Optimization experts. Efforts to stuff keywords and appeal to the search algorithm caused a tidal wave of content to hit the Internet, and that content was hardly useful to users as an information source. Even worse, most of that leftover content still exists today.

Some SEOs are also still married to the idea of paying full attention to search engines rather than the user experience when developing content, so the modern algorithm that focuses on quality content marketing has to deal with old and new content that isn’t optimized for it. Data gets confused and relevance is not always clear, and it’s mostly because of the sheer volume of content available on the web.

Semantic search developers who want their engines to take the reins have to deal with confusion from content saturation. Old, poorly designed pages contain unreadable content from which search engines have to parse data. But those engines can’t learn semantics from content that has no meaning. Until semantic SEO catches on, semantic search technology will have to wade through a sea of content debris.

Answers to Personal Queries

an example of a personal query in the google search engineUntil artificial intelligence is so close to our own brain chemistry that it can simulate our senses and draw conclusions based on emotional input (which may or may not be impossible), even a semantic search engine won’t be able to answer questions that require thinking on a personal level. Ask Google What is my future like? and you’ll see an endless list of quizzes that “predict your future.”

The results are simultaneously a testament to Google’s ability to computationally understand language and proof that it’s still a robot. Still, the search engine is using semantics to try to guess what you want from it – just try to simplify the search to my future. Semantic search’s capacity to squeeze more meaning out of your search queries will only advance as search technology moves forward.

Is Semantic Search Worth It?

Yes, semantic search, once it has evolved, will provide a search experience not unlike having your own personal assistant. The search will be able to anticipate your needs based on ideologies and linguistic concepts that you harness in everyday life to gather information from human sources.

While a semantic search engine won’t ever be able to answer questions like “Where was that place I put that thing that time?” without invading your privacy, semantic search developers are working toward a concierge-style semantic search that can process more meaningful information in less time.

So keep searching knowing that each time you submit a query and find the result you need, you’re making a sound contribution to a 100% searchable Internet with semantic search.

Link Roundup: Balancing User Experience and SEO

There are a lot of articles out there that feature phrases like “UX vs. SEO”, as if user experience and search engine optimization are Batman and Superman, engaging in an epic battle to determine who should have greater influence over web design. In reality, UX and SEO strategies are both incredibly important to incorporate when designing a website. If you don’t believe me, take it from the 12 articles featured below.

New to SEO and/or Web Design? Start Here

What Everyone Ought to Know about User Experience Design

What makes for a good user experience? There are a lot of factors involved, including visual design and layout, page load speed, tone of content, and calls-to-action. These are all factors that indirectly matter to SEO, too, because when users have a positive experience on your site, you’ll get more traffic, shares, and links, which leads to higher search rankings. You can learn more about the benefits of a great user experience– and some brands that are nailing it– in this article.

The Anatomy of an Optimized Web Page [Infographic]

Visual learners should check out this infographic, which nicely breaks down all the major SEO and design elements that go into a well-optimized web page.

How Site Usability and User Experience Affect SEO

Think site usability and user experience are the same thing? The author of this article argues that there’s an important difference– site usability is about ease-of-use, while UX is about how a user feels– but that both can indirectly impact SEO. Check out the full article to get tips on how to improve your website’s UX and general usability.

Be Sure to Balance SEO and User Experience in Your Web Page Design

SEO and user experience don’t have to be at odds in a web design project. However, there are certain UX-related trends that can negatively affect search engines’ abilities to crawl a website. This post goes over some of the things to avoid– and some of the things you can do to create a site that provides a great user experience without sacrificing SEO value.

Let’s Dig a Little Deeper

The Crucial Connection between SEO and User Experience

Google frequently updates their search algorithm to “think” more like a human web user. Put another way, Google’s goal is to identify user intent in order to serve the most relevant/helpful web pages at the top of the search results page. This means that user experience is now intertwined with SEO, and SEO specialists need to think beyond keywords.

User Behavior Data as a Ranking Signal

No, search engines can’t understand human emotions, but they can use behavioral data (such as click-through-rate, navigational paths, and dwell time) to get a pretty good sense of a user’s experience with a website. This article examines the ways major search engines look at these different signals, and how it affects your search engine rankings.

Four Benefits of Aligning SEO and UX When Building Your Website

This post discusses why it pays to have web designers and SEO specialists team up. One major advantage is that SEO specialists can provide concrete search data to help designers make informed UX-related decisions. To read about some of the other benefits, check out the full post.

5 Experts Explain Why Sweet UX is Vital for Search Marketing

Still not convinced that UX and SEO go hand-in-hand? Maybe several search marketing thought leaders, including Moz’s Rand Fishkin and SEO 2.0’s Tad Chef, can change your mind. As an added bonus, this post includes links to additional educational resources recommended by the experts.

Tips for a Better User Experience and SEO Strategy

10 Tips That Can Drastically Improve Your Website’s User Experience

It’s easy to see how many of the tips in this guide– including using well-written headlines and catching your 404 errors– tie in nicely to SEO best practices.

Optimize Your Images and Make Them SEO Rockstars in 4 Steps

Images can be an important UX factor to consider (after all, most people prefer viewing a web page with eye-catching images and small chunks of text rather than a solid wall of words). Search engine bots can’t crawl images the same way they crawl text– but there are steps you can take to ensure you’re getting SEO benefits from the pictures on your site.

Site Design & Migration Tips to Avoid SEO & UX Disasters

This is a must-read for anyone who is considering overhauling and migrating their company’s website. It offers some great tips about how SEO and UX team members can work together to head off potentially costly mistakes in the early stages of development.

How to Rank Better with User Experience Marketing

This is a pretty long read, but it’s worth it–who doesn’t want to know the key to providing a delightful user experience and ranking higher in the search engine results. The article does a particularly good job at explaining how businesses can increase their web page shares–and in turn increase their rankings– by providing visitors with a fun, useful, or educational experience.

Takeaways

If there’s a through line in all the link roundup posts above, it’s this: when you design web pages that successfully educate, entertain, or help site visitors, you’ll see search engine ranking benefits. Because search engine algorithms are designed to serve the best possible results based on user search intent, UX and SEO are now closely connected.

If you’re planning a site update and need help implementing UX and SEO strategies, contact Leverage Marketing. We’d love to help you delight your site visitors and rank higher in the search engine results pages.

10 Digital Marketing Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Setting lofty self-improvement goals is a time-honored New Year’s tradition, as is breaking those resolutions partway through the year. While it might sound cynical to talk about broken resolutions when we’re only midway through January, it’s worth bringing the subject up so that we can all start thinking about how not to be in the 64% of people who fail to keep their resolutions for more than six months. If you’re setting digital marketing goals for 2016, it’s a good idea to make them tangible and specific. By setting smaller, manageable goals, you’ll be able to steadily work towards your larger goals without becoming overwhelmed. Help your marketing department get past the talking phase of goal-setting for 2016. Here are 10 actionable suggestions for digital marketing resolutions. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Add social share buttons.

This resolution is for all the businesses that regularly post great original content on their site but fail to promote it. Your content may be amazing, but it’s not likely to attract much traffic unless you promote it. There are lots of strategies for promoting your content—Buffer has a list of 11 you can try—but one incredibly easy way to start is to add social share buttons to your blog. You can do this by using an app like ShareThis, which will give you a snippet of code to embed on your site so that visitors see buttons that allow them to share the content they like on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks with one click.

2. Add calls-to-action and contact buttons.

In addition to adding social share buttons, try adding calls-to-action and contact buttons to relevant service pages and at the end of your most successful blog post. This makes it easy for site visitors to go to the next step of their research or purchasing process with minimal navigation around your site. If you regularly communicate with clients or customers over the phone, add a click-to-call button so that visitors who are looking at your site on their smartphone can call you instantly by pressing a phone icon.

3. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

In May of last year, Google rolled out their ominously nicknamed ‘Mobilegeddon’ update, which was designed to give a search engine rankings boost to sites that looked good and functioned well on all device types (desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.). If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you may be ranking lower on search engine results pages than competitors who have optimized your site for mobile. Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly? Try Google’s handy test. If your site isn’t up to date, it’s time to have a web designer make some changes.

4. Survey your new clients.

Resolve to make digital marketing decisions that are based on data, and start by surveying your clients or customers to get valuable feedback. Consider asking about how they found you, what they like about your process, and what part of your process they think needs improvement. Keep the survey short so that clients/customers know it will take very little time and energy to fill it out.

5. Join a LinkedIn group.

Joining a LinkedIn group relevant to your industry can help you expand your network and increase your authority, which is especially valuable if you’re a content marketer. You can start a discussion with members of your group to get ideas for new content, ask for feedback on an article you’re currently working on, and keep up with the industry news that other members are sharing, just to give you a few ideas. To get started, go to LinkedIn’s Group Directory and search for terms related to your industry or target audience. Once you’ve found at least one group that you like, set a goal to stay relatively active in discussions throughout the year (otherwise, you won’t get much out of the group).

6. Do a quick GA analysis.

If you’re still putting off going into Google Analytics to see how your site is performing, the time to stop is now. Anyone who has anything to do with a company’s online performance can benefit from taking a look at Google Analytics every now and then. Whether you’re a copywriter, designer, web developer, social media specialist, or a manager, owner or junior level employee

At the very least, go into the Behavior section of reporting and Check out the pages with the most pageviews, highest bounce rate and pages with the highest average time on page. This will give you an idea of which pages are performing the best and worst overall and then you can go about analyzing them and try to make the worst pages perform more like the high performing pages.

7. Audit your site’s page load speed.

Did you know around 25% of users leave a website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load? That number only gets lower as time goes on. Google provides a free page load speed tool for web developers to check the load speed of their company’s web pages. Use this free tool to check your website to see if there are any major improvements to be made. The Page Speed Insights tool will also let you know how your site performs on mobile, and it will tell you what changes to make to improve the overall speed of your website. Read more in our blog about improving your page load speed.

8. Audit your online listings.

Review your company location, name, address, hours, etc. online. Make a list of all the places your company’s basic information is listed such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp and others. Be sure to do a search for your company and make sure that someone else hasn’t incorrectly posted your information. Make changes as needed. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer or prospect trying to find you than calling a wrong number or showing up at the wrong location.

9. Check your site’s meta data.

Use a quick SEO tool like SEO Spider to pull up all the pages on your website and do a quick review of the title and meta description tags on all the pages. Ideally, your title tags shouldn’t be longer than 60 characters and your descriptions should be under 170 characters. Make sure the tags are giving the right message to your audience and to search engines. In other words, make sure appropriate keywords are included. If you have the time, look at your H1 tags as well.

10. Update your search ads.

Review and update any ads you may have running from last year. Make sure they are still relevant and linking to an appropriate landing page or web page. Nothing makes people bounce faster than landing on an irrelevant web page or clicking on an offer that has expired.

 

If you have a team to help you, these 10 resolutions can be taken care of in just a couple of days. If the overall state of your website and online presence aren’t so great, these could take a lot longer, but it is well worth the time to go through all of these and make sure your site and your company are ready for the year. Acting as the online marketing team for many of our clients, we go through at least these basic housekeeping points to get our partners started going in the right direction and to start the year off right, so should you.

 

Co-authored by Madeline Jacobson & Natalie Parra-Novosad

5 Ways Networking Can Improve Your Content Marketing

Content marketing isn’t something that happens in a vacuum. Inspiration and tips for your content marketing can come from unexpected places, including networking events. The next time you’re debating whether it’s worth going to that after-work professional get-together, consider these five ways networking can jumpstart your content marketing efforts.

Find New Ideas for Content

Sometimes when I’m trying to come up with new ideas for content, I’ll go to Quora, see what digital marketing-related questions are popular, and write a blog post addressing one of those questions. You can generate content the same way at networking events, with your fellow attendees in the place of Quora commenters.

Pay attention to the questions other attendees ask about your company or industry and the conversations that start as a result. Keep in mind that these are probably some of the same topics that interest your potential online customers. After the networking event, jot down some notes about questions that came up multiple times or particularly engaging conversations you had, and use these to fuel new content for your company.

Connect with Interview Subjects

You’ve probably met someone in your industry who has unplumbed depths of knowledge on a particular professional subject or a fascinating story about their journey down their career path. Why not follow up with them to see if you can interview them for a blog post, short video, or podcast episode? Interviewing leaders in your field is a great way to produce authoritative content and get new insights on industry topics. It’s also a good way to strengthen a professional connection—your interview subject is much more likely to remember you after you produce a piece of content around them than they would be if you only spoke briefly at a networking event.

Connect with People Who May Want to Share Your Content

If you’re dedicating time and energy to producing great content for your company, you should also be promoting that content to make sure the right audience discovers it. And content promotion is a lot easier if you have other industry bloggers and media connections in your corner. Get to know people who write for publications that frequently share the type of content you create, and they may share some of your highest-quality work with their audience—or even let you contribute an article to a high-traffic site.

As with all aspects of networking, remember that this should be a two-way street. Don’t ask for a social share or guest post just because it will help your company—show your peer how this kind of exchange can be mutually beneficial.

Leverage Live Events for Content

If you’re hosting or even just attending a large networking event, you’re sitting on a goldmine of potential marketing content. You can, at the very least, write a blog post or press release summarizing the most important takeaways from the event. If you’ve invited a speaker, or if someone from your company is leading a presentation or workshop, you can film or record their presentation and use it as a video or podcast. Need an example of how to create content around a live event? Check out Content Marketing Institute—they do a great job of crafting articles and press releases about their online Content Marketing World conference.

Learn Content Marketing Lessons While Networking

Content marketing and networking have a lot in common (check out this Small Business Trends article if you don’t believe me). One lesson from networking that I’ve found particularly useful in content marketing is that you should give to others, rather than just thinking, “What’s in it for me?” You won’t make too many meaningful professional connections if you open every conversation by asking for a favor. Similarly, if you try to use a “hard sell” approach in content targeted at people who are just beginning the research phase, you risk turning potential customers off.

Build a connection by offering your assistance first: for example, you could share a relevant blog post from someone you met at a networking event or write your own how-to guide to walk potential customers through a task that’s giving them trouble.  When you take the time to build trust with your network connections, they’re more likely to offer their help, and when you build trust with potential customers, they’re more likely to move past the research phase and make a purchase.

Want more tips on digital marketing strategies? Subscribe to our newsletter or contact us directly.

10 Best WordPress Plugins for SEO

You’re certainly not alone if you’re using WordPress to power your website: as of 2014, 74.6 million sites were using this CMS platform. WordPress is a popular choice in part because it’s relatively intuitive for non-developers. Unfortunately, just having a WordPress site doesn’t mean that your pages are automatically optimized for search engines. The good news is that there are many WordPress plugins that will help you improve your on-page SEO and organic search engine rankings. These plugins can make your life easier by letting you make changes to your website without having to manually change a large amount of code, but if you’re not already fairly familiar with WordPress, it can be overwhelming to wade through the 29,000+ available plugins to find the ones that are going to be best for your site.

Many of our clients at Leverage Marketing have WordPress-supported sites, so I talked to our SEO team to get their recommendations for some of the best WordPress plugins. Here are ten that they’ve found particularly useful.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

Cost: The basic version is free, and Yoast SEO Premium starts at $69 for one site. Premium comes with several extra features, including tutorial videos, a 301 redirect manager, and Google Webmaster Tools integration.

With over one million active installs, Yoast SEO is easily one of the most popular plugins for WordPress. It’s an SEO management tool that’s pretty easy to figure out even if you don’t have a background in online marketing. With Yoast, you’re able to add title tags, meta descriptions, and sitemap.xml (which helps search engines like Google crawl your site) to all your web pages and blog posts. Yoast will even let you know how well you’re doing: after you enter meta information, they’ll tell you whether your SEO value is good, okay, poor, or bad, and they’ll offer tips to improve your on-page SEO if it’s not looking so great. You can also see a search snippet preview so that you know what your page will look like in the Google search results.

Optimizely

Optimizely

Cost: The Starter Plan is free. You’ll need to request a quote for the Enterprise Plan.

A/B testing your headlines is a valuable SEO strategy; by pitting headlines against each other and seeing which gets more clicks, you can choose the more successful headline and drive more traffic to your site. If you run these tests manually, you’ll need some coding know-how, but Optimizely has a plugin that helps you do A/B tests on any WordPress-powered site, no developer experience necessary.  There are several different plans at different price points, but all plans let you run unlimited experiments. Some of the more expensive plans include extra features such as visitor segmentation, geo-targeting, cross-browser testing, and multivariate testing.

Simple 301 Redirects

Cost: Free

If you’ve recently migrated your website to WordPress and changed your URLs, you’ll need to make sure that people who have previously visited or bookmarked your original site are redirected to the new one. You’ll also need search engines to figure out that your old URL has changed so that the new URL can be properly indexed, preserving the SEO value of your old site. The Simple 301 Redirects plugin lets you do this seamlessly just by entering your old and new URLs. The basic version of this plugin is effective for most smaller sites that don’t require a lot of redirects, but larger sites should use the Bulk Uploader add-on.

Redirection

Cost: Free

Like Simple 301 Redirects, Redirection is a WordPress plugin designed to set up (you guessed it) 301 redirects. However, it also does a good job of tracking how many people who try to visit your site are getting 404 errors (those ominous messages that say a webpage was not found). This can help you find problem areas on your site and redirect users who are getting 404 errors.

Akismet

Akismet 2

Cost: The basic plan is free, and the Enterprise plan is $50 a month. The Enterprise version can be used on unlimited sites and comes with 100,000 monthly checks.

Allowing comments on your blog posts is a great way to encourage reader engagement, but your credibility will take a hit if most of your comments are spam. Because manually deleting a large quantity of spam comments can be labor-intensive, many WordPress users let the Akismet plugin do the work for them. Akismet automatically checks comments and filters out ones that look like spam, helping you maintain your credibility, save disk space, and keep your site running fast. You can also review the comments that were caught or cleared and see the number of approved comments for each user. Newer versions of WordPress already have Akismet built into them, so you may not even need to download the plugin.

ShareThis

ShareThis

Cost: Free

Social sharing is a small but significant SEO ranking factor, and a high amount of social engagement can drive more traffic to your site. To get more people to promote your content, you need to make it as easy for them to share as possible. ShareThis lets you create small and large social sharing buttons for 120 social media channels. That’s probably way more buttons than you’ll ever need, but it’s nice to know you can easily add buttons for all the most popular networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, plus some niche networks that might appeal to your target audience, such as Tumblr and Reddit. Additionally, you can get analytics reports from ShareThis and use a feature called CopyNShare to track when a visitor copies your page URL.

BackupBuddy

Cost: The basic Blogger package is $80 per year. It backs up two sites and includes 1GB storage space.

If you’ve ever experienced the pain of losing something you put a lot of time into because your website got hacked or your server crashed, you’ll want to add the BackupBuddy plugin. Even if you haven’t experienced this pain, you should still add BackupBuddy so that you never have to worry about losing anything on your site. BackupBuddy is quick to set up, and you can schedule backups to an offsite storage destination as often as you want so you don’t have to remember to do it manually.

Sucuri

Cost: The Basic plan is $199.99 a year, and the Pro plan is $299.99 a year. The Pro plan is PCI and SSL compliant, which is especially important to online businesses that store credit card information.

Sucuri is a website security plugin that includes features such as remote malware scanning, security blacklist monitoring, and website integrity monitoring (essentially making sure there’s not any weird behavior that might be an attempted hack). If the plugin detects something suspicious, they’ll notify you immediately via your preferred communication channel. They also provide fast customer support if you do have any security issues that need resolving.

WP Smush

WP Smush Pro

Cost: The basic version is free, but photo file sizes are limited to 1MB. Smush Pro starts at $19 per month and can compress images up to 32MB.

What happened the last time you tried to go to a webpage that was loading at an excruciatingly slow rate because of a large image file? If you’re as impatient as me (and the average internet user), you probably bounced from the page. And chances are, that’s what’s happening on your own website if images are slowing down your page load time. In addition to losing traffic, you may also be hurting your SEO value, since site speed is a factor in rankings. Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice your visual content to reduce your load time—you can just add the WP Smush plugin. This image optimization tool lets you condense images as you upload them or ‘bulk smush’ images that are already slowing down your site. As mentioned in the cost section, the free version of the plugin should be sufficient if most of your photo files are under 1MB. If you have a lot of large photo files, you may find it worthwhile to pay $19 a month for Smush Pro’s 60% average compression rate on image files as large as 32MB.

Jetpack

Jetpack

Cost: Free

Jetpack was created by Automaticc, the same company that created WordPress, and it’s not so much an individual plugin as it is a bundle of useful plugins. With its dozens of features, there are probably some tools that you won’t really need (not everyone needs to be able to post mathematical expressions on their blog, for example). However, there are some features that will appeal to a wide range of website owners, such as the Aksimet-backed contact forms, concise analytics with no additional load on the server, the option to create email subscriptions for blog posts and blog comments, and alerts as soon as downtime is detected. If you’re looking for a lot of features that you can control from one space, Jetpack is a good choice.

Have any questions about the plugins described above, or need help improving your site’s SEO? Contact us!

How We Track Marketing Attribution & Revenue

The Real Deal with Bob Kehoe

When it comes to seeing the positive results of your efforts, I think I’m no different than most worker bees.

Like the chef who churns out an evening’s worth of top-of-the-line food for his or her hungry patrons, the sales team who lands that big, sought after client, or the carpenter whose long hours and sweat resulted in that nice new building addition, I am elated when the fruits of Leverage’s labor turns out to be noteworthy growth for our clients.

Recently, my team gave me yet another noteworthy reason to sing their praises.

A short time ago, we assumed the online reins of a specialty computer manufacturer and sales company.  What they’re selling is way above and beyond the high-end laptops being sold at Best Buy (I know all too well about those as of late, having just forked over no small amount of change for one for my college-bound daughter, but that’s another story). This company’s clientele includes major film and television networks, visual effects companies, and big-name engineering and architectural firms. On the low end, their computers start in the $4K ballpark.

The manufacturer’s previous experience with a digital marketing firm was an exercise in futility: after a year with our competitor, they saw little, if any, return on their investment, most notably when it came to tracking any revenue generated from or attributed to their website.

Enter Leverage Marketing. And Bizible.

Recently, Leverage has entered into a partnership with Bizible, who offers, among other things, top-notch programs that allow marketers and their clients to use cross-channel marketing attribution data. Basically, Bizible helps marketers figure out how to assign credit to different touchpoints on the customer journey, such as SEO, PPC ads and landing pages, in order to streamline marketing efforts, as you can see in the image below. Like Leverage, Bizible casts a wide net with the industries their products can serve: real estate, health care, and manufacturers such as our computer client are just the tip of the iceberg.

Bizible-marketing-attribution

After only a couple weeks, our computer client started seeing notable results, thanks to both Leverage’s innovative and meticulously constructed game plan and Bizible’s dynamic software. Or, as one of the client company’s head honchos put it, “we went from working in the dark to having stadium lighting.”

Bizible allows us to track all of our marketing efforts and allows us to properly attribute success to the appropriate channels.

Bizible-revenue-tracking

Despite my penchant for giving props to Leverage and other colleagues whenever possible, there is a part of me that also has a glass-half-empty mindset: basically, if it’s too good, I wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. But with Bizible, that shoe never dropped. The equation is simple: in this case, Leverage’s innovation plus Bizible’s program equals success.

Excuse me now while I rest my arm. It’s admittedly a little sore from all the back-patting I’ve done here. If you’re missing tracking of your marketing efforts, you’re not alone. According to the 2015 State of Digital Marketing Report, one-third of marketers say they don’t know what digital marketing channel makes the biggest impact on revenue.

Give us a call to discuss how we can set up attribution tracking for your business. You should know what marketing channels contribute most to your bottom line. Otherwise, you might as well be playing blackjack with your marketing budget.

7 Ways To Conquer Summer Hospitality Marketing Online

School’s out, leisure travel’s up. If you work in the hospitality industry, summer is probably your busiest season. But are you getting as many visitors as you could from your online marketing efforts? If your online marketing went into hibernation this winter and failed to get a fresh start this spring, it’s especially important to make some changes now.

Here are 7 actionable tips to help travelers find your site when they’re booking their summer trip.

Update your website content to reflect the season.

As a hospitality business, failing to keep your website updated is kind of like leaving your Christmas lights up year round… only worse. Not only does an infrequently updated website look bad, it’s also likely to rank lower in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than sites that regularly add new, original content—and that means visitors are less likely to discover you organically.

Of course, SEO value isn’t the only good reason to add fresh summer content to your site. Chances are, visitors who land on your site are already contemplating a summer getaway, and having visual and written content that aligns with their wants will help convince them to book. Try adding bright outdoor photos taken on or around your property, and consider writing summer guides letting visitors know what there is to do in your area this time of year.

Make sure your site is optimized for mobile.

According to a recent update from Google, mobile searches have outpaced desktop searches in the US and 9 other countries. On top of that, sites that are mobile-friendly (i.e. are easy to read and navigate no matter what size screen they’re on) rank higher in the SERPs than those that are not optimized for mobile.

Even if they convert on a desktop computer, many of your prospective guests will begin their summer travel research on a phone or tablet, so you need to make sure your site utilizes responsive design and looks good on all screen sizes.

Pay attention to the window between booking and traveling.

Many hotels and vacation rental companies are discovering that the window between when a guest books a room and when they arrive has narrowed considerably in the last several years. To figure out when your PPC ads for summer travel will be most effective, you need to figure out the average window for your business. For example, if the 4th of July week is typically your busiest time of year, and you determine that your guests book 30 days out on average, you should start running PPC ads for this holiday weekend in early June.

So how do you find your business’s booking window? Look at historical data from recent summers, as well as emerging trends in your booking system. You should also pay attention to when competitors are increasing their PPC spend.

Spruce up your local SEO.

Location matters, online and off. When most vacation-goers start planning a trip, they search for some combination of a place name and a venue, such as “Las Vegas hotels” or “best restaurants Atlanta”, so you need to make sure your business is ranking for relevant local searches. Here are a few things you should be doing for local SEO to increase the return on your summer hospitality marketing campaigns:

  • Claim your business listing on as many relevant places as you can, including Google, Bing, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and UrbanSpoon (for restaurants)
  • Make sure your Google+ business page is completely filled in
  • Make sure your name, address, and phone number are structured as data on your site so that search engines can easily categorize them
  • Research keywords that have a relatively high volume of traffic but low competition from other area businesses (e.g. “Austin hotels” is a very broad search, while “Austin hotels near South Congress” is a more specific search that will likely have less competition)
  • Try to get your business listed in well-ranked niche and local directories

Target staycationers.

Don’t forget about local web users who aren’t traveling far but still want to take a mini-vacation. According to a 2015 Skift survey, 62% of Americans don’t plan to take a big summer vacation this year because they are too busy or can’t afford it, but 33% of Americans say they will still take short trips on the weekend.

Consider crafting PPC ads that are specifically targeted to people within your city or state. Use your site and social media to promote a special discount rate or package deal for locals. Add content to your blog that gives readers tips on how to be a tourist in their own city. There are great hospitality marketing opportunities for businesses even when travelers are sticking closer to home.

Use retargeting ads with compelling incentives.

Taking a summer vacation is a big decision, and most people don’t commit after just one short perusal of a hotel or vacation rental company’s website. Keep in mind that people who visit your site are likely in the research phase, and be ready to remind them about your accommodations as they move closer to the decision-making phase.

You can stay top of mind by retargeting ads to people who have visited your site without converting—just make sure the ads give them a good reason to choose you. For example, for people who looked at your ‘Rooms’ page, you might create an ad offering a one-week only discount on a standard room.

Invite summer visitors back again.

The end of this vacation season doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship with your summer guests. Encourage guests to follow you on social media or subscribe to your email newsletter (try offering an incentive, like a special discount for subscribers), and keep sharing engaging content about your facilities and region that will make them want to come back again next year.

It’s impossible to fit a complete guide to online seasonal hospitality marketing into one blog post. Want to learn more? Share your question or comment below, or contact us to start a conversation.

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There are a multitude of digital marketing tools out there to choose from. It can be time-consuming and daunting to evaluate all the options, but great tools are necessary to get the job done. The Leverage Marketing team has picked out some of our favorite tools in an effort to help you make the best choice and waste less valuable time when it comes to finding new tools for your company or marketing department. These tools are some of our favorites because they aren’t just passing fads. They’ve stood the test of time and will be around for a good while to help you be more competitive online. Read more

Top Tips for SEO in 2015 Video | Leverage Marketing

With each passing year, the online marketplace becomes more important to a business’ survival. According to comScore, in the first quarter of 2014, 198 million U.S. consumers purchased something online – that’s 78% of Americans aged 15 or older. Are you sure your 2015 SEO strategy will help you reach that massive audience? Each year the rules of search change and technology advances, providing new opportunities to get in front of your customers before your competition. Ensure you are ready for 2015 by following our SEO tips today.

Check out our top tips for succeeding with SEO in 2015

Check out our top tips for succeeding with SEO in 2015

Mobile: Speed-Up or Fall Behind in 2015

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In early 2011, Google made a change to its algorithm, called “Panda,” in order to improve its ability to evaluate the quality of content on websites. Since early 2011, Google has made 27 updates to Panda. That’s a whole lot of attention to one particular facet of Google’s secret sauce…makes you think it must be pretty important, doesn’t it? Google wants content on the websites it serves to be unique and valuable. If you can’t remember the last time you REALLY looked at your content, it’s time to revisit it and make sure it’s relevant and better than ever to meet Google’s rising standards.

Hummingbird Good, Penguin Bad

Over the past few years, Google has gone to great lengths to improve the content visitors find through its engine with its updates to Panda. At the end of 2013, it went even further by introducing Hummingbird. Hummingbird changed the way Google interprets user intent – it was like upgrading Google’s search engine from a V4 to a V8. It’s meant to interpret the spoken and more natural sounding queries that users make of its search engine, and provide content that corresponds to those needs. A semi-maintained company blog doesn’t cut it anymore for quality content – best SEO tips 2015 practically requires that your site needs to be answering questions and hosting interesting conversations to get Google’s attention. And if people are talking about and linking to your site online, it should be for that reason. Otherwise, Google’s Penguin update is coming to get you. Do you have spammy links from directories, or articles still posted across the web on 50 different generic directories? In 2015 your best SEO strategy is getting those cleaned up – or Google’s link-targeted Penguin update is going to clean you up, and off, their engine.

Great information on a technically sound website that can be accessed with the snap of a finger everywhere and anywhere – that’s what Google is looking for in 2015 for SEO.

Do you think your site can pass the test? If you’re not sure, Contact Us today and we will audit your site and let you know the specific steps you need to take to improve your search engine optimization in 2015.