The Spectrum Group Online Where Visibility and Transparency Connect Mon, 15 Apr 2019 03:31:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 48765153 Is It Just Black & White? Why There’s More than 50 Shades of Grey in SEO Mon, 01 Apr 2019 16:00:14 +0000

It Is Black and White

SEO can be a tricky topic to navigate, especially if you’re not following current news articles and developing technologies. The concepts are very simple: make your website easy to understand, find, and load, for the search engine. However, the ways of achieving that simple goal are almost limitless. With SEO the little changes you make on a website can mean significant improvement in organic search. Because of that, you have lots of options. However, not all of the options are “good.”  

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SEO is often split into two halves. White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. While Black Hat SEO might sound cool (Black Ops, Black Sabbath, Black Panther or Black Widow) Google doesn’t agree. Black Hat SEO is the catchall title given to SEO tactics that go against, or attempt to circumvent, the search engines rules. Most importantly, Black Hat SEO is a “practice against search engine guidelines, used to get a site ranking higher in search results. These unethical tactics don’t solve for the searcher and often end in a penalty from search engines”. doing what is best for the search engine, and ranking highly, not matching the searcher to a website that answers their query. White Hat SEO does exactly the opposite, and perhaps surprisingly, Search Engines prefer that.

Search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo have guidelines for Webmasters to follow. In a nutshell, the advice is: provide the best web page experience that contains the best answers to a search question. Following this advice enables search engines to match the search query to the most relevant content on a trustworthy website.

So what is Black Hat SEO? And is it as clear as Black and White?

When More is Not More

In Black Hat SEO the most important thing is getting as many website visits as possible. While this might sound like something you want in theory, in practice it’s slightly different. Increasing your website traffic isn’t going to help your business grow unless the people on your website are truly interested in what you offer. Sure, if you get a million random extra visits a month, odds are that some of those random visitors might buy what you sell. It’s more likely that most of them won’t be.

So why do some digital marketing agencies use Black Hat techniques to drive numbers rather than business? What’s the point? One reason is ad revenue from Google Display Ads and other display networks. They get paid money for selling ad space. Another reason is that they’re selling their services to people who don’t know any better.

If someone tells you they can double your website traffic in a month then you’re going to be interested right? Say you’re getting a thousand visits a month now and making a thousand dollars a month. Doubling your traffic should double your money, right? So it looks like a no-brainer. But as with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

SEO is never quick and results are never guaranteed. So if an agency is peddling fast and guaranteed results, that’s a sign they are wearing a black hat. They touts stats inflated with spam traffic. They target those who don’t know how to dig beyond the surface.

What’s the Harm?

So let’s say you want to test black hat SEO on your site and see what happens. Is it worth a go? You’re not going to hurt anyone else by doing it, so why not see if the magic beans will turn into a beanstalk? Wrong. If your website is ‘caught’, or in some cases only suspected, of employing black hat techniques, then you could face very real consequences.

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Google Penalties

If you find yourself facing a Google penalty, your website is in serious trouble. Depending on the severity of the penalty, you may find your website’s organic traffic has disappeared overnight. Or, you could be fortunate enough to get a hat seo falling foul of google's referee

Just to make things clear, there’s a difference between a change in Google’s algorithm and a Google Penalty. For example, Google has recently been pushing mobile websites with its “mobile first” agenda, splitting their index in two. Because of this, some websites that were not properly optimized for mobile have seen a drop in traffic. This is NOT a Google penalty. This is simply Google making changes to how they rank websites. You might have seen a drop in traffic, but it isn’t a direct punishment from Google. It’s just that your site didn’t measure up against others. In this example, you would fix your site so it’s  better optimized for mobile.

A Google Penalty will be issued when you are deemed to have broken or attempted to subvert Google’s webmaster guidelines. At this page full of general guidelines, Google also provides a detailed list of specific tactics to be avoided. Note: many of these tactics have previously been deemed Black Hat SEO techniques and are now a little outdated.

The Complete List of Google Penalties & How To Recover article from Search Engine Journal details how you can fix any of the main Google penalties. The good news is, that while it can be difficult to fix, it is possible to come back from a Google Penalty. You can do a lot of the work yourself, without needing a lot of technical knowledge. Or, you can find an agency that will do the work for you. Yup, this is a shameless plug for our agency’s service. But Black Hat tactics aren’t always as obvious as some of the ones outlined by Google. Now things are a lot more subtle…

Shades of Grey

As the public has become more aware of SEO and search engines have become more aggressive in fighting Black Hat techniques, tactics changed. The difference between White Hat and Black Hat SEO can often be difficult to see. Take a look at this email I actually received:

Someone read one of our articles and thought that it had valuable information. They wondered if we would be interested in adding a link to their similar article. Nice huh? So they sent a friendly email (with an emoji in it!). And they’re saying they’ll share our post with their “few thousand” followers” too. So it’s win-win, right? They get a link, we get a share and maybe some followers and a few extra views.

But there are a few things that set off alarm bells:

  1. We’ve never spoken to anyone at this company before.
  2. My email address isn’t publicly available on our website or linked to the blog article. So they’ve had to do some digging to find it and then sent me an unsolicited email. Not a big problem, but a lot of effort to build a link. It’s a bit fishy. Unless of course, it’s automated (which I assume it is).
  3. How many other people have received this email? Did they really just send it to me or thousands of other people? Again, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. But it does feel a little bit disingenuous. Also, if they’ve sent it to thousands of others, what could that mean for us?
  4. What do they sell? Sure, they’re not doing this simply for kicks. So what are they promoting on their website? Does it fit with the topic of our article? The answer is “not really”. They sell personalized phone or iPad cases. Which certainly can be used as marketing, or promotional, tactic but it doesn’t directly fit with an article on Buyer Personas.
  5. What’s their website’s Power Trust? PT is an indication if they follow good SEO practices. By looking at a site’s Power Trust score is one way to check the health of a website’s link profile. Their site’s PT is 8 (out of a possible 100; score exponentially increases). In conjunction with their website’s relevance and a relatively low PT, the answer to their link request is a definite “no”.

Is this Black Hat SEO? In Google’s eyes: yes. Asking for links is what’s known as a Link Scheme. Google believes that links should be produced organically and any organized attempt to generate links is considered “manipulation”.

“Google's original breakthrough in search was placing weight on links & using them to approximate the behavior of web users. -”
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This underlines how important links are to Google. If they think you are engaging in a link scheme, they take it very seriously.

So, you have to be very careful when trying to increase your website’s SEO. This email looks innocent. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with it. The content they suggest linking to is relevant. Their site loads fairly quickly. The article has had around 15,000 views. But, if you accept to put a link to their site on yours, you risk a Google penalty.

Guest Blogging, Referral Spam and Comment Spam

This isn’t the only subtle Black Hat SEO technique that tries to fly under the radar. Another that we regularly see in our inbox is guest blogging. Guest blogging, like the email above, falls under Google’s Link Scheme definition.

Guest blogging is where someone offers to write an article for your website in exchange for a link back to their own site or portfolio. From a logical point of view, this is totally fair and even common business practice. The guests on the Tonight Show are allowed to plug their book/ show/ music. This is the same deal just done online. But again, as above, Google sees this as an attempt to manipulate their algorithm.

We receive at least one guest blogging request a day through website forms or direct emails. They’re well written. They link to a website that looks legitimate. They sometimes even suggest topics or blog titles that would fit with our website. But don’t fall for it. It’s a scheme that can get you into trouble.

Another sophisticated Black Hat technique is Referral Spam. We’ve spoken about Referral Spam in the past, so if you’d like to hear more about that (and how to exclude it from your GA statistic, you can click here and here. But the TL:DR version is Black Hats send traffic to your website from their spammy sites. You then click on the sites trying to figure out why traffic is coming to your site from them. Their spammy site gets viewed by you and spams the search engines themselves forcing them to crawl their site. The dark side here — regardless of the reason — is that it skews your analytics data and makes it harder to gain insights on your website’s performance.

The final low-key Black Hat technique we’re going to cover is comment spam. Now if you’ve been running a website that contains contact forms or allows blog comments for a while, you’re probably thinking “comment spam isn’t subtle!”. Well, now it is.

Gone are the days of random comments selling NFL Jerseys or cheap knock-off handbags being fired onto as many blogs as possible. Now comment spam is very different.

Here’s an example of a recent comment received on one of our blog posts:

This comment is relevant to the article. It’s written in coherent English. It looks good enough to publish. The only “problem” is the link it includes. Which, as with the guest blogging and other tactics mentioned above, is essentially link scheme in a friendly wrapper.

The Merits of White Hat SEO

So how do you stay clear of Black Hat SEO? As we’ve already said, on the surface Black Hat and White Hat SEO can look similar. But our quick test is this: If someone promises quick results, it’s probably Black Hat. If they promise an exact outcome (X new links for your site), it’s probably Black Hat.

White Hat SEO is a long-term strategy and often a slow process. Earning credibility in any walk of life is gradual. SEO is no different. To make your website rank well, you need regularly publish content on a fast loading website while building links from other good quality and relevant websites. None of these things can be “hacked.” They’re built up over time. During the process, Google recognizes that your website provides answers to search questions, is trustworthy, and is therefore worthy on increased visibility (rankings). There’s no secret sauce or magic trick to it. And if someone says that there is, they’re probably wearing a black hat.

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How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Max Pixel
Photo credit – Bottom: PXHere

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Competitive Intelligence for Digital Marketing Fri, 15 Mar 2019 16:00:24 +0000 competitive intelligence is innate

Intelligence = Information + Insight

A fundamental step in creating a successful digital marketing strategy is understanding the competitive landscape. There’s a new buzzword on the block… competitive intelligence. While not necessarily a new concept (born in 1970s), it’s gaining popularity in the C-Suite. March 27th will bring the Competitive Intelligence and Product summit to San Francisco. So we think it’s a good time to take a look at what Competitive Intelligence actually is.

Competitive Intelligence for digital marketing intelligence was once defined as; information plus insight. Information on its own has no value, but when it’s analyzed in the correct way it can be incredibly important. Competitive intelligence is a catch-all term that is used to practice of collecting information on your competitors and turning it into actionable insights for your own company. While this might just sound like competitor analysis, CI (competitive intelligence) takes a much more holistic approach, also considering customers, competitors, distributors, technologies, and macroeconomic data.

More than the Four Ps

If you’ve ever opened a marketing textbook you’ll have heard of things like the four Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place) or SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). These frameworks help you break down what your competitors are doing by splitting aspects of their business into more manageable chunks for analysis.

Competitive Intelligence is the house that all of these separate methodologies and tactics live in. As a phrase, it has been around since the 1970s, with the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) being founded way back in 1972, so it isn’t a new practice.

Traditionally ownership of CI has been held by market research or analysis professionals rather than in-house marketers. But as the amount of information you can simply find by using Google has grown, more and more companies have begun passing the task to their product or marketing teams. However, initiating a true CI project can take 1,000s of hours, so shouldn’t be started on a whim, with some CI professionals stating they spend around 20 hours a week searching for information on the web.

Can You Do Competitive Intelligence as an SMB?

Hiring a dedicated CI practitioner is obviously not possible for all companies. But hiring an agency isn’t a catchall either. So how can you start looking into competitive intelligence without breaking the bank?

One part of competitive intelligence that you can manage yourself, with a minimum amount of resources, is keyword analysis. A simple step you can take to see what keywords your rivals are using is to “scrape” their website’s pages with the Google keyword planning tool. While it won’t give you “intelligence” per se, it will help understand the landscape and how search engine AI interpret content and match with search queries. This can be a quick project run before creating a new blog post, or something more detailed you spend time on if you’re looking to create more pages for your own site, but you’re not sure what to write about.

Another way to get on the CI bandwagon is by using technology to take some of the burdens off your shoulders. There are a number of affordable — and sometimes free — ideas and tools you can use to help you gather intel:

  1. Google Alerts – Set up Google Alerts using the names of rival companies or products. That way when they’re mentioned online, or they publish content, you’ll hear about it. If you do this we suggest you set up a dedicated folder in your inbox to send all of these messages. So you don’t drown in emails! Or build your own RSS feed for the information. Another similar tactic you can try is signing up to your competition’s mailing lists, to hear what they’re doing as soon as it’s published.
  2. Screaming Frog – Screaming Frog will run a detailed report on any website you want. One feature we use involves pulling out their meta descriptions and title tags. With this information, we get a clear idea of what keywords they’re trying to pursue as part of their SEO strategy.
  3. Social Feeds – Similar to Google alerts you can also set up social feeds in HootSuite that will monitor certain brand names or keywords. If you’re a paid Hubspot user, you can also do this in Hubspot’s marketing tool.
  4. Conferences and Events – If you’re going to be attending an event, or a conference, and one of your rivals is speaking, take the time to listen to them talk. Events aren’t all about selling and meeting customers, so dedicate some time to hearing the enemy speak. Also, events will often post talks and presentations on their social channels after the fact. So if you can’t make the conference, check to see if they’ve uploaded anything to YouTube.
  5. Check their financials – One, perhaps old-fashioned, way of looking at your competition is to run a report through Dun & Bradstreet. If the company is publicly listed you can see a wealth of financial information (and more) by signing up for D&B. If you don’t want to pay for this information (D&B isn’t free) you can find lots of financial information online using tools like Yahoo Finance.
  6. Sign up for a professional Business Intelligence tool – This website here provides a long list of Business Intelligence tools that have been user tested. BI tools aren’t always the cheapest, but if you’re launching a new product or carrying out a rebrand, it can be worth the money invested to get all of the data you need in one place, presented in a manageable format.

How to Get Started

So, now you know what it is, how can you start gathering your own competitive intelligence? Well, there are five simple steps that you need to take to get things moving.

  1. Identify Your Competition – You need to look at your own business from several different angles. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:
    1. Who does what we do? Take a broad look at all the companies that do what you do. From big to small. Local to multi-national. Then try and narrow things down from there, while also looking for any commonalities between all of the businesses.
    2. Who is where we are now? Don’t get lost comparing your company to the market leader. If you run a local organic grocery store, is Walmart really your main competitor? Compare oranges to oranges, don’t worry about the apples.
    3. Who is where we want to be in the future? Keeping the point above in mind, you don’t have to just look at companies that match who you are now. If you want to expand or to open a second location then look for competitors who have already done that. What are they doing differently to you and could that have helped them get where they are now?
    4. What other options do our customers have? If you’re an agency, could they do your services in-house? Or is there a product they could buy that would do what you do, instead of hiring an agency. Don’t just look at direct competitors. Think about the problem your company solves. Not just the solution you offer.
  2. Narrow your focus – Once you’ve done a thorough search of all of your potential competitors, focus on a manageable number to investigate in a more detailed way. Pick around four or five of your key competitors by looking at their recent growth, profitability, size, marketing strategies, and target customer.
  3. What are their strengths and weaknesses – Break down all of your key competitor’s strengths and weaknesses by looking at the different parts that make up their entire business for example; sales, marketing, r&d, production, HR, purchasing, finance? You’re looking for any angle you can find, where you can take the advantage. This is essentially the SWOT analysis mentioned above and you can see a great example of how it’s broken down in this blog post from digimind.
  4. Look at their capabilities – Go back to the four Ps of marketing mentioned earlier. Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Where are they better than you and where are they worse.
  5. What would happen if – create different scenarios and try to predict how your competition would respond. For example, if you’re selling local produce, how would your rival cope with a drought that reduces their ability to source local fruit and veg? Doing this can help put you in the mind of your rivals and give you a different viewpoint when it comes to overcoming problems.

These five steps are a good starting point for building out a comprehensive CI report on your adversaries.

Who Else is Doing it?

Everybody looks at competitive intelligence, you might have a team specifically dedicated to it, or you might just spend five minutes scanning your biggest rival’s website. When you’re doing this you are carrying out competitive intelligence analysis. Or, as your mom might say, you’re being a busybody.

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children!

Is it ethical to “spy” on your competition? This seems to be an open question at the moment, with no clear answer on where you should draw the line. Recent events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal have brought a lot of data privacy concerns back into the public eye.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we are more aware of our digital footprint. We know that we’re leaving a lot of information online and that this information is going to be analyzed to build up an online profile detailing our interests and habits. But like finding someone digging in our trash can, even though we’re ‘throwing the information out’ we’re still annoyed to know that someone is looking at it.

When you’re looking at your competitors it’s best to keep that in mind. Looking at a company’s website, and pricing page is very different from pretending to be a client and taking a meeting with them to get an idea of their pricing structure. In theory, if you want to understand your competition there is no limit as to how far you can go. From purchasing a competitor’s product or service to see how it performs to trying to steal a client list when posing as a potential new hire. However, the latter clearly falls under the remit of industrial espionage and while obviously ethically wrong, can also be illegal.

As with white and grey hat SEO, you have to draw your own line on what is, or isn’t ethical. But we think if you find yourself trying to tape a shredded document back together you’ve probably gone too far.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Regardless of if you have heard the term ‘Competitive Intelligence’ before you have probably carried out some kind of analysis on your rivals. CI provides a framework that helps you build a picture of what is going on in the mind of your competition and then focus on the gaps you can exploit with your own business.

Whether you’re thinking of digging into your competition on your own, or if you’re thinking of hiring an agency to do it, you need to know what everyone else is doing to drive your business forward. In a competitive marketplace, you can’t only be inward looking. So, put on your trench coat and trilby hat, dig out that magnifying glass, and start sleuthing!

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Ian Sane
Photo credit – Middle: anyjazz65
Photo credit – Bottom: Michael

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A Deep Dive Into LinkedIn Ads: The Professional Network Explained Fri, 01 Mar 2019 17:00:48 +0000

Is LinkedIn Different?

The big difference between LinkedIn Ads and other online advertising platforms is that it is not based on keyword targeting. It’s advertising by profile targeting (job title, geo, company info, career, academic info, etc.) With 9 billion content impressions in LinkedIn feeds every week, how do you make your brand stand out… especially if you can’t use keywords to target individuals interested in your service?

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What are your Options?

LinkedIn advertising falls into two main categories: self-service and managed campaigns. Self-service (which is the default mode) is just like any other PPC platform. You manage the campaigns, making tweaks where you see fit such as changing the ad text, upping bids, and so on. The main difference here, when compared to something like Google Ads, is that there is a minimum bid of $2 per click (or thousand impressions).

Managed campaigns however are…’managed.’ LinkedIn will pair you with a team of LinkedIn experts who basically advise you on how to get the most out of your campaign. Think of it as a kind of automated bidding strategy. Except instead of artificial intelligence (AI) telling you what to do, it’s real people back at LinkedIn HQ. Needless to say, this option incurs an extra cost. To qualify for a managed campaign you need to spend over $5,000 per month on LinkedIn Ads. Even then, you’ll have to speak to one of their sales consultants to determine if you qualify.

Types of Ad

There are three main types of ads available to LinkedIn advertisers: sponsored content, text ads, and sponsored InMail. Each of these ad types gives you quite a bit of flexibility in how you can reach potential leads.

Sponsored Content – is exactly what it sounds like. You can write a LinkedIn article, create images or a video, and then pay to promote it. Once the content has been published on your personal or your company profile, you pay to increase the post’s reach. So, rather than being limited to your profile’s followers, the ad is shown to other LinkedIn users who match your targeting demographics. As a side note, we would recommend you publish content on LinkedIn regardless of if you’re going to pay to sponsor it. Not only does it increase your visibility on LinkedIn, but it can also give you a small SEO boost.

Your content will be tagged as sponsored once you’ve paid to promote it. This is a good option if your profiles are optimized on LinkedIn and your content is engaging. If you’re not very active on LinkedIn but want to drive more website traffic, this is not the best option.

Sponsored Content Best Practices:

  • Use custom or at least non-stock-looking images to make your content stick out. Posts without images don’t get as many clicks.
  • Add CTAs to the content, so you can drive the readers to your website. If you have other related posts, link to them from the LinkedIn article for further reading.
  • Use URL tracking codes to measure site visits or conversions from LinkedIn so you can calculate the campaign’s ROI.

Ideas for how to use Sponsored Content Ads:

  • Videos:
    • Use brand-related videos to promote general awareness. This is especially useful if you’re trying to increase company name recognition or you’re re-launching your brand.
    • Use products & services-related videos in the post to generate leads. More product-focused ads can be used when you’re aware of who your target buyers are and the features/benefits they want.
  • Posts:
    • Long-form content, like an article that helps a potential reader’s personal development, is a good fit for LinkedIn. Generally, when people access their LinkedIn account they are focused on their career, work in HR, or have a specific sales-related task in mind. Remember that when you’re pushing out content to your professional network.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Text Ads – are very similar to traditional PPC display ads. When interested viewers click on the ad, it takes them straight to your website. LinkedIn text ads function in the same way any other PPC ad does. You need to provide LinkedIn with some ad text and an image to display. Then you put in the demographic parameters for the type(s) of users you want to target. As mentioned above, these ads still function well even if you’re not very active on LinkedIn.

Text Ad Best Practices:

  • Use images to attract eyeballs
  • Include a strong, clear, and specific call to action
  • Write a headline worth reading
  • Write from the reader’s perspective, not yours, because it’s all about them and their interests.

Ideas for how to use Text Ads:

  • Text ads can be great if you want to test a new product or brand name on your target buyers. You don’t have a lot of space, so it’s perfect for testing something that can be easily summarized.
  • Going back to the “why” people are on LinkedIn, personal development focused content like quizzes or downloadable white-papers/PDFs can be good content to pitch on a text ad. If a user is taking a few minutes to skim their LinkedIn they might be looking for an interesting diversion.

Sponsored InMail – A sponsored InMail is very different than sponsored content or text ads because it’s more direct. Sponsored InMails puts a message into a LinkedIn user’s private mailbox. The InMail will display like a normal direct message but it will be tagged as sponsored. As this type of ad is more direct, it is best used with a highly targeted message.

If you’re sending an InMail to a user, you need to be sure it is relevant to them. When it appears in their personal inbox there can be a sense of invasion of privacy. So, it must be worth their time. InMails can also be used to promote time-sensitive offers or events like webinars or conferences. When there’s a sense of urgency or high value, it can justify the cold outreach. So take the time for detailed research (e.g., make sure they fit your buyer personas) on your target audience before sending a message.

Sponsored InMail Best Practices:

  • Use the recipient’s name, maybe even twice
  • Keep it concise, under 1000 characters
  • State a clear and specific action you want them to take next
  • Write a subject line, stating what problem you’re solving

Ideas for how to use a Sponsored In-mail campaign:

  • Option 1: follow-up InMails with current mail lists or website visitors. The campaign reaches out to contacts you already have email information or have contacted previously on another platform. You’re testing to see if LinkedIn is where they will respond.
  • Option 2: InMail promotions specific to related user profiles
  • Option 3: brand intro InMails to specifically related user profiles
  • Option 4: downloadable white-papers & pricing sheets to related job titles. The campaign offers high value/ detailed content directly to the decision makers involved in purchasing your product.
  • Option 5: lead gen InMails promoting your services with a LinkedIn lead gen form or a CTA to a landing page with a lead gen form.

On Target

As mentioned above, targeting via LinkedIn works differently than it does on other pay-per-click platforms. LinkedIn Marketing Solutions offers these basic targeting options:  

○ Location (required)
○ Company Name (current employer listed on member’s profile)
○ Company Industry
○ Company Size
○ Job Title
○ Job Function
○ Job Seniority
○ Member Skills
○ Member Schools
○ Degrees
○ Fields of Study
○ Member Groups – up to 100 active groups
○ Member Gender
○ Member Age

When you set up a campaign, a maximum of 100 selections is permitted per targeting option. To expand the reach of your campaign, enable Audience Expansion. You can also reach customized audiences with Matched Audiences. You can also use the matched Audiences feature to help you run account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns to specific account lists using Account Targeting as well as re-engage your website visitors with Website Retargeting. Or you can match and target any contact lists or leads you’ve developed with Contact Targeting.

Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail

Even with well-crafted ads and laser-focused targeting, you need to consider a wider strategy. As well as creating your ads, you need to build effective landing pages. Otherwise, you’re wasting money on getting leads to your site without actual conversions.Notes on LinkedIn Ads

Another important but often forgotten task is tracking your results. If you’re using the Google Tag Manager tool to track other aspects of your digital marketing, then you can track your LinkedIn Ads performance there too. Without setting up tracking you won’t be able to see how well (or badly) your ads are performing which in turn makes A/B testing more difficult if not impossible.

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LinkedIn Ads In the Real World

If you want to get the best from your PPC ads, you need to remember to write from the reader’s perspective. Because… people don’t care about what you do. They only care about what they can get from what you do. This is especially true on LinkedIn where the users are business-focused compared to a more personal or casual frame of mind when using Facebook or Instagram. This advice doesn’t just go for text, it goes for pictures too. Use relevant, attention-grabbing, images appropriate for this professional setting. If you’re on a budget, check out creative commons images.

When you write personalized content, segment your audience while still making sure you’ll have enough reach. For example, divide your audience by job title, function, industry, company size, and seniority. Tailor your message accordingly and keep the targeting segments small and focused. And as always, test frequently by using variations of your ads. See what works best. Then do more of those. And repeat this process on an ongoing basis.

And one final tip: budget and bid wisely. Ensure that you’re measuring everything to improve your ROI. Use the Campaign Manager to fully track performance by monitoring impressions, clicks, costs, and to make sure you’re tracking landing pages and forms in Google Analytics. Then use these metrics to maximize your ROI by testing, testing, and more testing.

Want To Advertise on LinkedIn?

Don’t have a $5,000 a month budget for LinkedIn ads? Or, want to have a professional manage it for you? Then, we can help. The first step is a chemistry meeting… making sure that we’re a good fit. If you’re interested in hearing more, check out our PPC pricing page to see how much we charge to help you get the most out of your PPC.

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Marinal del Castel – InMail: Roger W– Bottom: Jacob Gube

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Do You Want an Online Marketing Agency? Or is it Time to Bring Marketing in House? Fri, 15 Feb 2019 17:05:42 +0000

Are You In or Out?

In the August 2018 CMO Survey by Deloitte, the biggest weakness is the ability to measure the success of digital marketing activities and working with external partners. Yet another study, this one from Bannerflow, shows that 91% of brands are bringing their digital marketing in-house. Hmmm… there seems to be a gap in what CMOs need (measurement) and what they have (lack of internal talent with analytics acumen). Let’s explore when it makes sense to outsource your digital marketing and when it’s time to bring select capability in-house.

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An Objective Point of View?

You may be wondering if this article is objective. Obviously, we are an online marketing agency. We’d love to work with you. Yet, we know that many of our clients have in-house marketing departments. There are some functions where it makes sense to have an internal and dedicated person managing marketing activities. We’ve also worked with clients as their outsourced marketing department. There’s another subset of clients where we provide deep expertise in one or two areas (e.g., link management, data analytics). As we look at the issue of outsourcing to a marketing agency versus insourcing, our goal is to be objective. We’ll provide you with details so you can make your own determination about what’s right for your organization.

We also believe in educating our clients while we work with them. Not only does it make them better marketers, doing so keeps them informed on how to move their business/organization forward. We also insist that a client own their accounts, data, and the work we complete on their behalf. Being held a technology hostage is never a good idea. As a client, you’re never sure if your online marketing agency has your best interests at heart. As your online marketing agency, we need to be a strategic partner based on trust. Hence, our motivation to be objective and forthcoming as we explore

The Pendulum Swings

As mentioned previously, the Bannerflow study cites that 91% of brands are bringing their digital marketing in-house. Outsourcing and insourcing generally tend to fluctuate depending on economic conditions. At 91% this is a significant shift. With U.S. unemployment at all all-time low, finding the right marketer for the right position can be a challenge.

Opinions often flip-flop between outsourcing being in fashion and out of it. Digital marketing is still relatively young. And it evolves quickly. It’s only natural that companies test what’s practical to perform internally and what isn’t.

The Market Matures

In the early days of SEO, it was like the wild west. New trails were blazed. Anybody who understood HTML and meta tags called themselves an expert. SEOs actively tested search engines’ ranking factors and exploited technical shortcuts (e.g., link farms, guest blogging). As each grey-hat technique was shut down by Google, marketers gained perspective on how to play the digital marketing game.

Now marketers better understand the available digital marketing channels and their corresponding strengths and weaknesses. For example, SEO is a long-term strategy that builds over time with content and links. Paid search gets traction more quickly and can gain faster results, but can be expensive. As new channels emerge and existing ones mature, the digital landscape continues to shift. And with that evolution, all types of skills are needed — content writing, data analysis, social engagement — to keep pace and succeed. However, it’s a rare individual who is adept at all those talents.

Why Wouldn’t You Outsource?

Outsourcing is a great way for companies to grow quickly with flexibility. If you’re starting a new enterprise, or you’ve just undergone a large period of growth, you might be tempted to hire a few new people. Yet hiring people is more complicated than just finding the budget. First, you have to find the right person. Then, you need to onboard them into the company’s culture and train them. Next (hopefully) you plan for their future development. So “getting someone to do your social media” isn’t as easy as posting a job opening on LinkedIn or Indeed.

Outsourcing can be a much simpler process. Armed with the right questions, you can find the right agency or consultant to fill in any marketing capability gaps. Once hired, you can spend precious time solving your marketing problems rather than technical training. That said, be prepared to spend a little time in on-boarding your online marketing agency (e.g., share documents like positioning statements, target personas, or graphics standards) and granting access to your digital marketing systems. As you work together, you’ll find the right cadence in working together and receiving the reports you need to monitor progress. And, if the time comes when you need to say goodbye to the agency, you end the contract. No redundancies, no hard feelings, no trampled dreams.

Why Would You Outsource?

As a business your staff should be your biggest asset. Training a member of your team, planning their future and sorting out their dental insurance shouldn’t be an annoyance. It should be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship that grows your company as well as the employee. An employee that understands your company and your products will always be better at selling that product than an external agency or consultant. While an agency will be able to offer insights that perhaps a staff member can’t see, thorough and insider’s knowledge of your products or services is impossible unless the agency is onsite. Even an online marketing agency  that specializes in your industry won’t have that same perspective.

So, the TL:DR (too long, didn’t read) of Outsourcing vs Insourcing: If you need things to get moving quickly, need to enhance your team with specific expertise, or want the flexibility of a team with broad experience, then outsourcing makes sense. If you want to grow things for the long-term, and you’re happy to invest in new skills throughout the relationship, then bringing your digital marketing in-house is a sound strategy.

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What Do You Need to Know?

Online marketing is a vast topic so we’re not surprised that 56% of companies feel they lack the skills to cover it themselves. So some recruitment will need to be done if you want to bring your marketing in-house. Hiring one person to try and cover all aspects of digital can be difficult. It’s a rare marketer that has both the creativity and data science chops.

We’ve categorized digital marketing into five main areas that your team will need to address if you decide to build an employee-based team:

  1. Analytics
  2. SEO
    1. Content creation & optimization
    2. Link monitoring & maintenance
    3. Technical website management
  3. Social media – content curation, creation & engagement  
  4. Paid Ads (PPC/SEM)
  5. Website maintenance

Of those five, at least three (Analytics, SEO, Social) are integral. However, PPC is a separate beast as each platform has its own nuance for management strategies that drive efficient and profitable conversions. We think PPC is an important element in a balanced digital marketing diet. Be prepared to hire a specialist (either an employee or agency), as dabbling in paid ads requires skill and experience. The final aspect, website maintenance, falls in a grey area between marketing and IT. You might have a developer, or a webmaster who keeps your site up and running, but they will need to work closely with your marketing team because anything that appears to the public is their domain.

Analytics Acrobat

Having a basic understanding of analytics is a critical component of modern marketing. Similar to reading a P&L report for managing a profitable business, your analytics reports will show your digital marketing health and progress.

Your marketing hire needs to be able to grasp the basic metrics of online marketing and know where to find them. When it comes to digital marketing, there’s no shortage of data available. The key is to zero in on those metrics that help you with decision making. Your go-to marketing person needs to be able to filter out the background noise and vanity metrics. They should focus on the statistics that matter to you. At a minimum, they should be comfortable using Google Analytics and Search Console. Ideally they should know how to set and monitor goals and be able to use more sophisticated tools like Data Studio or HootSuite to help explain your stats to those who are less ‘data minded’.

SEO Superstar

SEO is complicated. Even as an online marketing agency with more than a decade of SEO experience, we are always learning new things. Remember my comment about the digital landscape continuously evolving. As artificial intelligence and voice search infiltrates search engines, the SEO world will continue to get more complicated.

Therefore, expecting one member of your team to be an SEO expert, along with all the other skills we’re going to mention, is a completely unrealistic. However, they do need to have an understanding of these essential SEO components:

  • Website optimization for mobile and desktop performance
  • On-page (Content) optimization
  • Off-page (Links) optimization
  • Internal linking of content to show the relationship between pages
  • The significance of keywords, search intent to matched content, and mapping customer journey and conversion paths
  • Advanced technical SEO like microdata (Schema)

These basic SEO aspects are the underpinning of much of your marketing strategy. For example; if your marketer isn’t aware of keywords and search intent, they will not effectively optimize your content. In turn, that means your page won’t have the signals (keywords/search phrases) search engines need to match visitors to your website content. Nor will visitors take appropriate action once they read your content. As you can see it’s a waterfall effect.

Content Champion

Of all of the parts of digital marketing we’ve mentioned so far, this one is probably the most “creative” in a traditional sense. Content creation is a vitally important part of digital marketing. Whether it’s creating main navigation pages for your website or writing a daily blog post, you will need someone on your team who can write. Ideally, that person will be able to write regularly and at a consistent standard.

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. The perfect content marketer needs to be reading an abundance of articles from a plethora of sources. They need to be able to generate ideas, create editorial calendars, and write both short- and long-form of optimized content. Planning your content is as important as writing it. If you don’t have a goal in mind, you might as well be shouting into the void.

And once the content is written, you need to analyze its performance. A true content champion will be able to review the content they’ve created and dig into Google Analytics and Search Console data. The beauty of the web is that you can edit on the fly. If something doesn’t work, change it. The trick is figuring out what’s wrong first. Sometimes simple A/B testing does the trick; a minor tweak like changing the call-to-action button color could drive more conversions versus a total rewrite. The point here is your content marketer needs to be adept at writing, editing, optimizing and analyzing.

Link Liaison

Inbound links are like votes of confidence from other websites. Links are the most powerful signal to search engines; they indicate implied integrity and influence of the website as well as the specific content it’s linking to. Think of inbound links as superhighways that transport visitors to your website from other websites. A quality link — in reputation, relevance, authority — will bring you qualified visitors interested in what you have to offer.

Managing your website’s link profile is truly advanced SEO. A link-building professional will understand each search engine’s quality guidelines by heart. They will be hyper-aware of which inbound links help or hurt your website’s SEO. They don’t just look at the link at face value; they dig into domain authority, anchor text, and other minute details related to the link. They will also be comfortable in using multiple tools — many of them highly technical and sometimes experimental — to aggregate data to keep your profile clean as well as to identify new link opportunities.

Your link liaison needs to be ½ technician and ½ politician as they will be building business relationships that reflect upon your organization. So finding an ethical and astute link professional requires a moderate understanding of the SEO and technical ecosystem to find the right candidate. Often CMOs outsource this position to agencies like ours because proficiency takes time to build and ongoing education to keep current.

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Social Media Magician

21.7% of CMOs reported they outsourced social media activities. It’s the channel where most CMOs haven’t effectively integrated social media into their overall marketing strategy. Yet, forecasted spending on social media is expected to accelerate over the next five years. And, in the last 18 months, the use of outside agencies for social media management has increased.

Social media management as part of digital marketing is maturing. Brands that take their social channels seriously have a dedicated person or community manager. If one of your target personas include Millennials, you should already be acutely aware of their communication preferences toward texting or using public social channels to communicate directly with your brand. So your social media point person needs to adept at communicating, using multiple interfaces, and navigating etiquette protocols that vary by channel. So if you think your summer intern could do this job, think again. Your social media manager needs to be fully integrated in your marketing team and on top of industry news and trending topics.

Good company social media accounts share content that is interesting to their followers, so your hire must be actively seeking content to share on your behalf. We say a good ratio is around 80/20. So 80% of the content is from other reputable sources, and 20% is your own content (e.g., self promotional). Planning and scheduling skills here are paramount. And if you want to stand out from the crowd? The best social media accounts — ones with growing followers that are engaged — have a sense of humor. Is that too much to ask from the Political Science undergrad intern whose mom works in accounting? Probably.


The icing on the cake. The cherry on top. The creme de la creme. If you can find someone who ticks all of the boxes above, ask them about PPC. If they know their way around Google Ads (or Bing Ads, LinkedIn ads, Facebook Ads, or ….) then sign them up!

Pay Per Click advertising is a great tool to promote your business, launch new product lines, or just drive traffic towards your website. Learning how to use it isn’t rocket science (although the interface can be tricky at first), but you’ll need a good head for data. Someone who is very comfortable with Google Analytics will probably be able to pick up PPC fairly quickly. But PPC management is more than data, they need to be able to write good ad copy and craft landing pages that convert and read the market.

Another important aspect of good PPC management, and all digital marketing, is the ability to look at what you’ve done already (data) and think of ways to improve on it: new ideas to A/B test, ad variations, changing the CTA wording, adding a phone number. Being able to think proactively and make small tweaks will gradually improve all aspects of your PPC performance. And those lessons can be applied to other elements of your digital marketing.

Website Maintenance

Your website will need some love and care to keep it healthy. Whatever platform you use to host your site (WordPress, Drupal, Shopify etc) you will need someone on your team who is able to get into the back-end and make changes and updates when required. These changes could be anything from updating the site, to running A/B tests for different CTAs.

This could be a marketer if they have a technical mind, but it might not be. Much like PPC, if you can find someone who has experience working ‘behind-the-scenes’ on a website, it’s an added bonus. Even if it is slightly out of the traditional view of what a marketer should do.

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To Outsource Or Not to Outsource?

Now that you know what’s involved with the various aspects of digital marketing, you can decide if outsourcing or bringing in-house if best for your organization. Often our clients find a workable balance between full-time employees and using our agency. In our experience it’s rare to find all of the attributes and skill sets needed to manage the entire spectrum of digital marketing in one person.

When partnering with an online marketing agency, personality and skill are key components to an effective fit. You’ll be working aside your online marketing agency to tackle your biggest marketing problems and hopefully increase your marketing ROI. You’ll need a partner who can gather the data, help you interpret it, identify strategies and then execute them. Be prepared for some ramping-up time (getting things organized, setting the right communication cadence, solidify deliverables). Once everything is in place, you can then focus on getting things done.

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Bob Dass
Photo credit – MarketMatures: x1Klima
Photo credit – Content: Fredrik Rubensson

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Which 2019 SEO Trends Do You Need To Care About? Wed, 30 Jan 2019 17:00:55 +0000

What’s Trending?

January has always been a tough month. Recovering from the excesses of the festive holidays. Getting back into a groove at work. All those new year’s resolutions to break. Well, there’s another January tradition — in the content marketing world, at least — that involves predictions. What are the 2019 SEO trends? What’s this year’s next big digital marketing “thing?” What’s on its way up? What’s on its way out?

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So, to save you some time and a lot of clicks, we’ve compiled some of the more insightful “2019 Digital Marketing Prediction” posts that we’ve read. Specifically, we picked out four of the most important digital marketing trends we think will legitimately affect businesses and their SEO in 2019.

Securing the Web with HTTPS

Security has always been a concern when it comes to the internet. Creating a website has never been easier; website builders like Wix, Weebly, and removed the need to have advanced coding skills to successfully launch a site. This is great in many ways. But it does mean there are a lot of websites cobbled together by non-professional web designers. Experienced web developers understand the security underpinnings required to keep a website safe — for the visitors who browse/transact on the site as well as to keep hackers out.

So what is HTTPS?

HTTPS is essentially a certificate saying that your website has made some basic security provisions to protect your website visitors. If you want more information you can dig into the nitty-gritty in this How-To-Geek article.  Setting up HTTPS is simple; speak with your website host and they should have a process in place. It may cost a few dollars, but that’s the painless route. Or, if you want to do it yourself without becoming an NSA-level computer hacker, read our overview article and following Search Console’s step-by-step guide.

Google’s Not Secure Warning

Google now strongly urges websites to run HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) rather than HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Their suggestion comes by way of displaying a “not secure” warning on all websites that are not running HTTPS. So, if your website isn’t running HTTPS it will show as “not secure” in Google’s Chrome browser. We anticipate that this warning will become more visible to searchers over time.

While there are other browsers available, Google Chrome now commands ~ 70% market share. Business owners and Webmaster should heed this warning. It’s not about personal preference between Safari or Edge. It’s about the majority of searchers that use Chrome who will see this message and go elsewhere. Plus, it’s an issue with an easy fix.

HTTPS is not a new 2019 SEO trend, per se. We’ve been writing about it for the last two years in light of Google’s official HTTPS July 2018 deadline. However, we still see a large percentage of websites not in compliance. If your website is among those with a warning, making the switch should a priority. In-browser warnings aside, we predict that website security is going to have more influence on organic search ranking than ever this year.

Scheming for Schema

Schema tops our 2019 SEO Trend list not because it’s new but because it’s gaining traction in the wild. Originally launched in 2011, is a collaboration of several search engines — Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo!. Schema strives to improve the web by creating structured data markup Schema supported by major search engines. Markup Schema helps search engines better understand the content contained on a website so it can then serve up those results in organic search.

First, I want to acknowledge that Schema is extremely technical SEO. That said, I believe Schema will help brands improve their organic search visibility because it speaks directly to search engine bots before they index (parse search phrases/keywords) a website’s content.

Following the efforts like AMP (accelerated mobile pages) which deliver pages fast to mobile devices, Schema aims to standardize certain aspects of a website’s content or structure to make it easier for search engines to understand and correlate keywords associated with a brand. In theory, a page that has been correctly marked up with Schema will quickly inform a search engine bot (via markup tags) with data that conveys a page’s topic and intention (e.g., product information versus an event’s time and location details). The Schema markup language provides search engines what they need to know in order to match content with search queries (search terms/phrases). Ultimately, brands get better search term matches and searchers get better and faster search results.

Is Schema one of the 2019 SEO Trends?

Schema gives you a way of tagging different aspects of your website and assigning them to certain, pre-set, categories. A simplified example would be you can tag a blog post as a blog post or a product listing page as a product listing page. You can even get more granular. There are literally thousands of Schemas categories all designed to help search engines better understand a website and its content.

If Schema catches on, as we think it will, websites with markup tags will see that Google and other search engines index their pages more quickly and more accurately. Thus, pages are better matched to searches resulting in more useful traffic for everyone.

If you want to set up Schema for your website you have a number of different options at the moment. A good place to start is with Google. They have created the Structured Data Tool which allows you to test if Schema is already set up on your website. This tool also links to some guidelines on how to set up specific aspects of Schema if you haven’t already.

If you’re using WordPress for your website, there are a number of plugins you can use to make setting up Schema easier. In some cases, it can automate some of the processes for you. We use a plugin called Schema designed by Hesham; it has helped us create basic Schema but it lacks the granularity needed to really take advantage of this customized technology. It’s a place to start for a DIY option. Most of Schema pre-packaged plugins barely go beneath the tagging surface. For best results, we recommend customized markup for a website.  

Voice Search

Voice search has been on the edge of becoming a ‘thing’ for a while now without really catching on. But as sales of Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa continue to move steadily, it doesn’t seem to be a flash in the pan. So with the applications of voice search and its impact on marketing, it’s time to start preparing for it hence why it’s on our 2019 SEO Trend list.

Early applications of voice search have been slightly gimmicky. Asking Alexa to tell you what the weather is like or to tell you a joke is interesting and a bit of fun. However, it doesn’t really improve your productivity. While you’ll occasionally hear stories of people’s pets ordering things over Amazon, it seems that so far many human users don’t actually use their voice search devices for much more than turning their lights on and off. However, if the prices of the associated technologies like voice-controlled plugs drop (currently $24.99 on Amazon for 1 smart plug, almost the same price as Alexa itself), then voice search will become interesting to companies.

Hey Google!

So how can marketers stay ahead of the voice-search curve?

The big difference between voice search and traditional search is simple. Voice search is spoken. The way we talk is different from the way we type, and this is reinforced by the way that we currently address our voice devices. Saying “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google” automatically puts you into a conversational frame of mind. And we tend to ask questions. “Where’s the nearest [fill in the blank]?” So it goes to follow that the majority of voice searches carried are more ‘conversational’ and use different keywords than typed searches.

If you want to optimize your content for voice search in 2019, look at longer-tail search terms that are more natural sounding and less buzzword or jargon-packed. So instead of “cheap flights NY to LA” you might consider something like “where can I find the cheapest flight from New York to LA”. AB test long tail keywords like this could help you get a jump-start on voice searches.

Looking even further ahead we may even see a split index, where voice searches are kept separate from typed searches. This is similar to how Google split out mobile and desktop indexing. We’ll see how everything shakes out but testing keywords specifically for voice search could be a strategy worth adopting in 2019.  

AI Revolution

Automation has been “stealing” our jobs since the 1800s. 2019 may be the year where conversational AI (artificial intelligence like chatbots) really disrupts the digital marketing world and takes our jobs. Ok, not really. AI is seen by many as the next step in how we interact with our electronic devices. With AI already in use in some aspects of our daily lives, chatbots become more sophisticated and efficient both online and offline.

Tools like Predictive Text and Google’s web page translation app are examples of automation that have come from crowdsourcing data. While we don’t know a great deal officially about what goes on behind the scenes at Google, AI is helping how their search algorithm develops. 15% of searches are new, so their algorithm has to learn at a staggering pace.  From helping Google to quickly understand a web page’s content to presenting a searcher with better search results, AI will be behind the next big leap forward.

Turing Test

One aspect where Google is leveraging AI’s role is Google Ads. Throughout 2018 there were a number of AI advances, specifically with how Google decided what you should pay for certain ads. Explained simply, Google has a number of tools that will try to pick the right time for you to bid for a keyword, depending on what outcome you want. So, Google will spend your money only when it thinks there’s a high chance of you getting a click, a video view, a conversion, etc..

These tools have been around for some time, but they were, until recently, an option rather than the default setting. So, midway through 2018 when Google decided to make smart bidding the main bidding option, they were showing confidence in the AI behind the tool.

We think that this trend is going to continue: AI taking an even bigger role. As companies like Google collect more and more data, it will allow them to feed this information into machine learning tools, and then push out more efficient tools at the other end. People may not like the idea that their data being collected and mined. Could be worthwhile if it makes finding what they need easier and faster? Privacy on the web is an illusion. 2019 will mark another year where big data is used to predict and influence digital behaviors.

Four’s Company

Guessing what’s coming next is always difficult. Yet we’re confident that every business is going to be touched by the four 2019 SEO trends we’ve mentioned today. Sometimes digital marketing, and SEO especially, can feel like running on a treadmill. You’re putting in the miles but still staying in the same place. But we think that getting involved with Schema now will give you a boost as it’s still in the early adoption phases. Setting up HTTPS is a must do, if you haven’t already. While thinking about how voice search could impact your business should definitely be on your to-do list. And keep your eyes open for digital tools using AI to give you an edge, especially with Pay Per Click (PPC)

We’ll check back in mid-year to see how these 2019 SEO trends are shaping up. In the meantime, comment below and share what you think should have made it on this year’s list.

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? Are you not sure if you can cope with 2019 SEO trends?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: PublicDomainPictures

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Changes to How We Blog Fri, 11 Jan 2019 17:00:50 +0000

All Blogged Up

At Spectrum we believe it’s important to create quality content. That’s why going forward we’re going to be reducing the amount of content we share. Instead of writing for Google, to keep the SEO gods happy, we’re going to start writing content that we would want to read, aimed at our customers.

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Quality over Quantity

Over the past year we have been writing four blog posts per week. During that time a number of things have changed for us. writing for the blog

  • Our average pagerank has increased
  • Our page is crawled more regularly
  • Our content is indexed faster

But one thing hasn’t changed. Our blog hasn’t brought us any new business. So, like all other aspects of marketing we’re going to AB test blogging.

Are You Reading This?

Larger companies than us have the resources to churn out high quality content regularly, but at Spectrum, as a smaller company, we have to wear many hats. Jacks (and Jills) of all trades. So we’re going to publish less often, which will give us more time to create really high quality posts. By doing this we hope that we will be able to create content that people are interested in reading.

SEO-h No

Will doing this hurt our SEO? In short, we don’t know. We’re going to be keeping tabs on our SEO while we carry out this experiment and we’re going to try and publish a similar amount of words as before, but less often. However, if the plan is successful, we should get more visits to our website from the content. More engaged readers and that in turn will increase our SEO ranking.

Keep Reading the Blog

If you’ve been reading our blog for some time, we hope you’ll keep on doing so and, more importantly we hope that you’ll enjoy where we’re going in 2019.

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Libreshot
Photo credit – Bottom: Pexels

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Chrome Extensions for the Digital Marketer Thu, 10 Jan 2019 17:00:19 +0000

Do You Want Any Add-Ons?

Web browsers have developed a great deal in the last few years. Now with Google Chrome dominating the market it’s strange to think that not that long ago most internet users were using Internet Explorer. One of Chrome’s great features is that you can add plugins into your Chrome interface, so, much like a smartphone, if there’s a feature missing you can probably add it yourself. Here are some of our favorite chrome extensions that we use on a day-to-day basis that help us be better digital marketers.

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Plug In

  • Grammarly – Chrome has it’s own built in spell checker but it is a long way from perfect. Adding Grammarly will give you an extra level of peace of mind when you’re sending important emails or writing blog posts. The time of typos is over.
  • Google Dictionary – is another good writing related plugin. If you’re not sure of what word to use on your website, or just want to impress your boss in an email argument, get the Dictionary plugin installed and start widening your vocabulary. Another useful plugin from Google, if you’re working in more than one language, is the Google Translate plugin, one of Google’s most under-rated Chrome extensions.
  • Open SEO Stats – this super handy, free, SEO Swiss army knife of a plugin gives you all of the information you need to carry out an on page SEO audit of any website you visit. Instead of needing to run a report on a tool like Screaming Frog (who also have their own Chrome plugin if you use Screaming Frog) you can just open the plugin and check if the page has a meta description, or a title tag and much more.
  • Lighthouse – This plugin from Google is very useful if you want to run a report on a website to see how it’s performing in the eyes of Google. Instead of having to go to the Lighthouse website you can just run the report in browser, with the plugin opening a popup on the side of the page so you can check out the technical information while still viewing the site.
  • LastPass – LastPass is a password vault. If you take online security seriously and you’re using various different platforms, SaSS products and tools then you’re probably drowning in passwords and login details. So, instead of giving them all the same password and opening yourself up to a huge amount of risk, use LastPass and keep things safe. The plugin allows you to quickly select the password you need for each login page.

Open a New Tab?

Having good plugins on your browser can save you a great deal of time. If you’re not using any then just head over to the Chrome Plugin store and search for some things that you find yourself carrying out regularly during your day-to-day browsing. If you can’t find a plugin that will help you I’d be astonished.

What plugins do you use on the daily? We’d love to hear how you save time using Google Chrome.

How can we help?

Is worrying about Chrome extensions the least of your troubles? Do you need help getting your marketing in line?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Pixabay
Photo credit – Bottom: Pixabay

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How To Create a Content Calendar Wed, 09 Jan 2019 17:00:19 +0000

The Best Laid Plans

Do you need a content calendar? In short, yes. We think so. If you want to blog, even semi-regularly, you should have some sort of plan to ensure that your content keeps on track, you keep your sanity and that your writing fits with what the rest of the business is doing. So how do you build a content calendar?

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Save the Date

  • Accessible for everyone – Creating the document in isolation and keeping it locked in your safe is exactly what you shouldn’t do with a content calendar. Even if you’re going to be the only person writing the content it should be a team document. You want as much input as possible from the rest of your company, even if it’s just to get more writing prompts
  • Ideas tab – Speaking of writing prompts, have an area on the calendar for team members to suggest articles. The number of times I’ve heard “that would be a good blog” said in a meeting, but not written down the idea is staggering.
  • Aim for a at least a month in advance – If you can plan a year of content in advance then great. But don’t worry if you can’t. Ideally try and map out at least a few weeks in advance. This will take the pressure off when it comes to writing, because often thinking of a topic takes more time than actually writing about it.
  • Write it in pencil – Don’t be afraid to change the calendar if you think it needs tweaks. Sometimes an event will happen that should be written about. Don’t just stick to what’s on the plan blindly, move with current events if you need to.
  • Cite your sources – On our calendar we have space for the title or idea of the article, then also space for us to link a source, or sources, to help back up the article. This makes the writing process much smoother and helps us create more detailed, factual content.
  • Color code themes – Your blog should be on a number of key topics or themes that will interest your readers. Try highlighting each article a different color depending on their theme. Then you can see if you’re writing too much about one area of your business quickly and clearly.
  • Link it to your social calendar – As the old saying goes “ no piece of content is an island.” Your blog is part of the bigger picture, so if you are creating blog content and social content make sure they are both mentioned on the calendar. You don’t want to overwhelm your followers with information on one topic from four different platforms, but as a counterpoint, you don’t want to forget to promote your own blog on social.
  • Print it if it’s useful – Sometimes having an online only document isn’t enough. If you have space in your office why not print your calendar a month at a time. That way you can stick it on the wall and refer to it whenever you need to. It will also make it easy to quickly make a change, or add things, if an idea pops into your head. But don’t forget to update the online version too!

Content Calendar Complete

If you follow the eight steps outlined above you should be able to create a clear and consistent plan for your content production in the coming year. Having a good content calendar takes some of the pain away from writing and also helps you keep your content more closely aligned with your business goals. Do you have a content calendar? We’d love to hear how you keep your blog on track.

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Pixabay
Photo credit – Bottom: Pixabay

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Why People Click On Ads Tue, 08 Jan 2019 17:00:38 +0000

Click Here

As someone who’s worked in online marketing for a number of years, when I carry out a search I typically scroll down below the ads, and start reading the search engine results page from where the ads stop. Because of that I’ve often thought “who is clicking on the ads?” Well, judging on the amount of money Google makes from AdWords year on year, the answer is “lot’s of people.” So it was interesting to read some research from on why people click on ads.

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Clutch is an online business directory and back in December they published some very interesting research digging into who clicks on online ads and why. Finding out why someone carries out an action is hugely important if you want to motivate them to do it more often. So, let’s find out why people click on ads.

I Know What I’m Doing

First up Clutch noticed that the majority of people (77%) felt that they could tell the difference between an ad and the rest of the SERP. This is something that can sometimes become blurred a little, especially on mobile, so it’s good to know that people are aware of what they’re clicking on because if they don’t, it’s ultimately going to lead to more clicks that don’t convert.

Give Them What They Want

Clutch’s next big finding was that a third of people clicked on ads because they “directly” answered the question that they had searched for. This is great news for advertisers because it shows that we’re writing compelling ads but it obviously leaves a lot of room for improvement, and perhaps hints that spending time creating multiple long-tail keyword based ad groups might be a useful tactic for the coming year.

Text is King

Another interesting statistic is that people are much more likely to click on a text ads (49%) than either a shopping ads (31%) or a video ad (16%). Text ads take up more space on the page, and they’re shown more often than the other types of ad, but it is interesting, in comparison to shopping ads in particular, that users prefer text ads. This statistic could be used to help you split your budget/ time when working on your PPC account. Making sure you’re devoting enough time to your text ads can be difficult as they’re often seen as less ‘exciting’ by marketers.

Brands We Want to Hear About

One other finding that the Clutch study laid out was that people are more likely to click on an ad about a brand they have already heard of. This might seem obvious at first glance but actually it isn’t. You may assume a returning visitor would go directly to your website through the SERP, skipping past the ads, but Clutch’s survey seems to say that isn’t clear. A takeaway from this stat is that remarketing campaigns are useful and even though they can be tricky to set up, should be worth the effort.

It All Ads Up

The TL:DR of this blog post is; if you’re not doing PPC yet, you should consider it. If you are, focus on your text ads and set up remarketing campaigns. Pay per click advertising is here to stay and with major companies like Amazon pushing their own solutions Google will be paying close attention to their Google Ads platform in the coming months. So don’t get left behind.

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Pixabay
Photo credit – Bottom: Pixabay

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How To Improve Your Blog (Without Better Writing) Fri, 04 Jan 2019 17:00:19 +0000

Marginal Gains

Getting more out of your blog can be a difficult ask. Often blogging regularly is enough of a strain on resources that you don’t have time to take a step back and look at how your blog is doing, and if it is really engaging your readers. Well, here are some simple tips on how to get more from your blog without discussing the content itself.

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Streamline The Screen

Try to keep your blog page clear of clutter so the reader can focus on reading. Don’t litter the page with too many distracting elements. CTAs are obviously important, but shouldn’t disrupt the reading process. The same goes for popups or sidebars/ navigation bars. While they’re important, and can be useful to a blog reader, they shouldn’t be distracting from the writing.

Limit Ads

The same is especially true if your site is running advertising. Ads are designed to attract attention, so having display ads running alongside your content is going to make it difficult to read. This is especially true if these ads need to be minimized, or closed, to see all of the content on the page. Users will find it irritating and will not engage as well with your site.

Format Your Posts

Break down your paragraphs. Add in headings and subheadings. Use spaces and images to break up the content. The worst thing you can do is just dump a lump of text on the page and expect your readers to wade through it. The more you break the text up the easier it is to scan, and the more likely readers are to digest what you’ve written.

Tag Your Posts

If you’re using WordPress you can add a tag to each blog post. This will then group these posts together making it easier for a blog reader to find similar content. This is great when they’re looking for more information on a topic as you might stop them from going back to Google to search for more info.

Make Sure your Search Bar Works

Related to the point above, a good site search will mean that users don’t need to navigate away to find something on your site. The number of times I have gone back to Google to search for a particular article on a website, then changed my mind and went elsewhere is staggering. Keep them in house by having an easy to see, functioning, site search on your blog page.

Can You Improve Your Blog?

Keeping people focused is becoming more and more difficult with all of the digital distractions people have these days, so streamlining your blog is an important part of creating good content. You need readers to read it, otherwise what’s the point?

How can we help?

What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? Do you need help to improve your blog?

We are Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.

Click for a free 30-minute consultation »

Photo credit – Top: Pexels
Photo credit – Bottom: Libre Shot

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