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How to Create Infographics in Under an Hour [15 Free Infographic Templates]

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Wouldn’t it be great if creating infographics was as simple as writing regular ol’ text-based blog posts? Unfortunately, the reality is that making visual content like this usually takes a lot more time, effort, and let’s face it — skill — than the written word. Usually.

But considering the popularity and effectiveness of visual content in marketing today, you can’t just afford to throw in the towel.

That’s why we decided to take all the pain and suffering out of infographic creation. Seriously — don’t give up just yet. You, too, can create infographics that are totally free, professional-looking, high-quality, and completed in under an hour. I’m going to prove it. First things first:

Download our 15 free infographic templates here.

Then, all you have to do is provide the content to use inside them. Easy as that! In fact, I’m going to show you just how easy it is by taking one of our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint (pictured above) and creating my own, customized infographic with it. Then, I’ll explain exactly what I did so you get a sense of how easy it really is.

Would you rather watch this tutorial instead of read it? Check out the video below:

Click here to download your free infographic templates.

How to Create Infographics for Free in Under an Hour

Step 1: Collect Your Data/Content, and Choose Your Desired Template

Your first step is to collect the data/content you’ll be using to populate your infographic, and choose an infographic template appropriate for representing that data. The important thing is to choose a template that specifically works for the type of data set/content you want to present. As you saw pictured above, you can download our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint and choose whichever template you’d like. Some of your template options here include a timeline, flowchart, side-by-side comparison, and a data-driven infographic.

You can either collect third-party data or use your own original data. If you use third-party data, just be sure you properly cite your sources — just like in any other good piece of content.

To keep your infographic uncluttered by a ton of different source URLs, a great way to cite your sources is to include a simple URL at the bottom of your infographic that links to a page on your site. It can also list the individual stats used in your infographic, and their sources — such as the landing page to the full offer on which you’re basing this free infographic.

That way, your infographic looks clean and professional, yet people will still be able to access the sources no matter where the infographic gets shared or embedded. It may also even drive visitors back to your site.

For the sake of time (remember, our mission is to create an infographic in under an hour), I’m going to create an infographic based on a compilation of steps and best practices we’ve put together in our new guide, How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign in 2018. For this, I’m going to pick the “World’s Greatest Timeline” infographic template from our collection of infographic templates, which is helpful for my data set since it outlines each step of the campaign creation process in order.

This template is pictured below, and full of opportunities to customize:

free-infographic-template.pngStep 2: Customize Your Infographic

Obviously, this is the most time-consuming part — but it’s also the most fun! Simply come up with a catchy title, plug in your data/content, and adjust your font sizes and formatting. Feel free to switch up the graphics and colors, too, so they’re relevant to your brand and the data you’re providing. For other templates, you can use the simple graphs and charts provided by PowerPoint to create things like the bar graph or the pie chart. (Note: Download our free infographic templates for a cheat sheet for using PowerPoint’s various features and tools.)

To customize the look of the infographic even more, you might add or change up the colors or font styles.

Finally, I included a link to my source (which can be found here), as well as the HubSpot logo so people know who created the infographic if it gets shared in social media or embedded on other websites — which is definitely something you want, since one of the main benefits of creating infographics is their shareability.

That’s it! This whole thing took me under an hour to put together — much shorter than it would’ve taken me if I’d started from scratch (not to mention more professional looking … and less expensive than hiring a designer). Here it is:

free_infographic_template_custom-1.png

Share This Image On Your Site

<p><strong>Please include attribution to blog.hubspot.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates’><img src=’https://blog.hubspot.com/hs-fs/hubfs/free_infographic_template_custom-1.png?t=1519094621186&width=1138&height=3412&name=free_infographic_template_custom-1.png&#8217; alt=’free_infographic_template_custom-1′ width=’660px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

Step 3: Add an Embed Code and Pinterest Button, and Publish It

The only thing left to do is to publish and promote your awesome new infographic. As I mentioned earlier, we recommend using your blog to publish it (including your list of sources), including a Pinterest button for visitors to easily “pin” your infographic on Pinterest, and create and add an embed code for visitors to share it on their own websites and blogs, as we did above.

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This Simple Diagram Will Help You Tell Better Brand Stories

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The Story Funnel-Matrix
The funnel-matrix has two dimensions. The first maps loosely to the stages of a typical marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, and acquisition.

What stories you tell will depend on your current relationship with your audience –where you are as a couple, to use the obligatory marketing-dating analogy.

When you first meet someone, your conversations tend to be around things that you have in common — your shared interests and values. This is why so many people make small talk about the weather. It affects everyone, so it’s something we all have in common.

You probably won’t dive into your health problems the first time you meet someone. You probably won’t share intimate details about the people in your life.

But after you meet, you might start sharing some of those things, especially if the first date goes well. You might start to paint a picture of your dream life: where you want to live, your ideal career, where you want to travel. Though you shouldn’t hit them with a marriage proposal at this point, you’ll start to share more about yourself — what you care about and what you want.

By the third or fourth date, you’ll naturally be sharing more personal stories than before. This is the way a relationship progresses. (Notice how storytelling is such a big part of what we do when we’re dating. It’s good for more than just marketing and publishing!)

This brings us back to our storytelling funnel-matrix. In the beginning of a relationship, you should tell stories about shared interests and values. As things progress, you can tell stories about the people in your life (like your customers or employees). Finally, as things start getting more serious, you tell stories about your products and services themselves.

The second dimension of the funnel-matrix adds an extra bit of planning help to your content creation strategy. This comes straight from the playbook of newsrooms.

The idea is to divide the stories you tell into three more categories based on time: timely stories that are pertinent based on news or current events; seasonal stories that are relevant because of the time of year; and evergreen stories that will be valuable no matter when the audience sees or hears them.

Take our client American Express, for example. Amex’s OPEN line of credit cards wants small business owners to know that they care about them. Building that trust is a key element of their B2B branding, so they tell stories in various places, most notably on OPEN Forum, a content hub and newsletter that attracts millions of small business owners each month. They’re mostly interested in staying top of mind, not driving conversions or talking about Amex’s products.

Instead, they tell stories about how small business owners handle challenges like hiring and growth. These are examples of evergreen stories.

Sometimes Amex OPEN Forum spots something relevant that happens in the news and writes stories about how it affects small business owners, like new overtime laws and tax policies. These are timely + top-funnel stories.

And one day a year, American Express sponsors a holiday called Small Business Saturday, where it encourages consumers to shop at local businesses instead of big ones. To promote the upcoming holiday, Amex creates videos about small businesses around the country that are making a difference in their communities. These are seasonal stories.

Shinola’s stories of its factory workers and their mission to transform Detroit are about both values (saving American jobs) and its company/people. So they are evergreen + top/mid- funnel.

GE Reports, which tells stories of how GE invents really cool products (but doesn’t try to get you to buy those products), are mid-funnel and often timely—as the company reports on new innovations—but also evergreen because many of the stories are still interesting after the news is over.

The Groupon stories we talked about fit into the category of timely + bottom-funnel. They’re stories about product deals Groupon wants you to buy on one specific day.

Zady’s stories about the Indigo Skinny Jeans are evergreen + bottom-funnel. They’ll be around whenever you are ready for them.

The smartest brand storytellers are constantly on the lookout for data to tell them what their audiences are interested in during each stage of the funnel and each segment of the Bullseye. They obsess over it. And that’s because they know it’s their secret advantage.

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Why hacking social media algorithms is a losing strategy

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Shortcuts to social media success may be tempting, but columnist Mark Traphagen explains why they’re not the best way to proceed.

We human beings love shortcuts. From the time our distant ancestors began to walk upright, hacking was our way of life. If a Neanderthal hunter could find a quicker path to the hunting grounds, he might out-compete his neighbor for the annual mastodon haul.

Thousands of years of evolution have not dulled this impulse, and much good has come of it. The huge leaps in technology, as well as the great scientific discoveries of the last few centuries, were largely driven by the impulse to find faster, better, more efficient ways to get things done.

However, to slightly paraphrase Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings“: “Shortcuts sometimes make long delays.”

In this column, I’ll explain why shortcut “hacks” to get around or take advantage of the algorithms of social media platforms can end up causing unwanted delays in obtaining the results you want from your social media marketing.

What is a social media algorithm hack?

First, let me be clear about what I’m not referencing when I talk about algorithm hacks. I’m not talking about any overtly black hat, illegal or unethical tactics. I’m also not talking about doing anything that might violate the terms of service of a given platform.

Those practices certainly exist, but this column is about hacks that are much more innocent and do not involve any infiltration into a social platform or altering or spoofing of its code. Instead, the hacks I’m going to address are often touted as “best practices” or “growth hacks” and can be used by virtually anyone.

To get more specific, I’m talking about any tactics or practices that attempt to circumvent or overcome limits or restrictions on reach or follower growth built into a platform’s algorithms — particularly those algorithms that control what is shown in the platform’s feed and to whom.

Why did social networks develop feed algorithms?

Since most of the hacks in my crosshairs in this column have to do with countering the effects of social network algorithms, it might be useful to understand why these algorithms even exist in the first place.

The allure of free reach

When social media first became a thing, it held out a tantalizing promise that quickly attracted marketers: the potential to directly reach an unlimited audience with your marketing messages… for FREE!

Furthermore, social platforms encouraged business adoption by quickly adding brand-oriented profiles that often included special tools, analytics and capabilities enabling any company to create a scalable reach-machine.

It didn’t take long for marketers to kill the golden goose, as they too often do.

Enter content shock

It’s an unwritten but seemingly invariable law of marketing that when the cost of distribution is low, content quality goes down. At the same time, the quantity of content rises exponentially. This is the problem first explained by Mark Schaefer in his prescient 2014 blog rant titled Content Shock.

What Schaefer described as a crisis for content marketers, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter began to see as a user experience problem.

Networks apply the brakes

The growing glut of commercial content in social feeds was proving to be antithetical to the reasons most people joined social networks. Typical social media users sign up for a network for two primary reasons: to keep in touch with friends and family and to be entertained. A third reason might be to be more informed, with breaking news and analysis.

When too much commercial content gets into users’ streams, they can get annoyed and start using the platform less (or even worse, stop using it altogether). That’s obviously not a good thing from a social network’s point of view. But it gets worse.

In his January 2018 announcement about a major change to Facebook’s news feed algorithm, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg referenced research that showed people who get too much “passive content” (content that doesn’t draw them into “meaningful interactions” with others) actually have a poorer sense of well-being. Facebook has long known that unhappy users quickly become ex-users.

So, slowly but surely, most of the social networks have begun to apply some form of algorithmic control and filtering on their users’ feeds.

Some of it was relatively gentle. For example, Twitter’s feed is mostly still a chronological display of everything posted by any accounts a user follows. However, in February 2016, Twitter announced the introduction of an algorithm that would bring tweets of possible interest to a user to the top of their feed. I call this a more “gentle” algorithm, though, because users could opt in or out of it, and it only activated if the user had not visited their feed for a while.

In other cases, the algorithms dramatically changed the timelines of users. In Facebook’s case, what users see in their feed is entirely determined by algorithms, and almost no users see even close to everything that their friends post.

As a result of the application of these algorithms, and their continued tweaking, businesses have seen their organic reach on social networks decline sharply over the years.

Why do marketers use algorithm hacks?

If you followed my brief history of social media feed algorithms above, the answer to this question should be obvious. Marketers had become addicted to the free, unlimited organic reach provided by social media, and, when it began to dry up, like any addicts, they reacted in either despair or anger or both.

Also similarly to real addicts, those marketers began to pursue almost any means to bring back their “fix” of free reach.

These algorithmic hackers also had their dealers and pushers. Social media consultants, experts and tool creators increasingly shifted away from the time-proven fundamentals of real marketing to create and promote various tricks and hacks to try to bring back the “good old days.”

Parallels to SEO

In a number of ways, what was happening in the social media marketing world was a recapitulation of what had occurred in the world of search years before.

When search engines finally became useful tools and established themselves as the primary way most users access the web, it didn’t take long for businesses and marketers to realize there was gold in them thar hills. And so arose the SEO (search engine optimization) industry to help businesses get found in search.

In the beginning, search optimization was a relatively easy affair. Early search engines mostly functioned by matching up keywords entered by users with words that appeared on pages on the web. Put enough of those keywords on the right places on your pages, and you had a good chance of ranking high in search and bringing free traffic to your site.

But as more site owners began to chase the search engines, a similar thing happened to what we later saw happen on social networks, as described above. Content quality began to go down sharply, as site owners created content that wasn’t meant for humans but instead was aimed at attracting the search engines.

And so began the Cold War arms race between site owners and search engines that has existed ever since. The search engines invested heavily in increasingly complex algorithmic updates meant to ferret out better results for users, raising the incentive for some SEOs to invest almost as heavily in ways to game those algorithms.

To be fair, a great deal of the SEO industry has, whether begrudgingly or not, come to accept that the new algorithms really have made search better, and that investing in high-quality content and better user experience, the things the search algorithms now seek to reward, is a better path to long-term success.

Meanwhile, back on social…

Sadly, at least from my observations, the social marketing world has been much slower to adapt to the similar changes it is encountering. Certainly, there are examples of social media consultants, practitioners and pundits who do a great job of pointing to a better way. Unfortunately, though, it appears a great many are still doubling down on an arms race with the social networks they can never win.

Examples of social algorithm hacks

Here are a few examples of common hacks used by business accounts to try to circumvent or overcome (or even “game”) social media feed algorithms. This list is by no means exhaustive because the number of possible hacks is as large as the creativity of social marketers. In the final section of this post, I’ll explain why I think relying on these hacks and tricks is a bad strategy.

• Engagement bait. Most common on Facebook, but seen elsewhere, engagement bait is crafting a post with the sole intent of enticing users into simple, low-commitment engagement, such as a like, a share or a quick comment. Examples include “share or like if you found this funny!” or “Comment ‘yes’ if you agree!” This was a prevalent Facebook tactic because Facebook used to place a high value on engagement of any kind. However, with the advent of the latest algorithm update mentioned above, this kind of engagement does little for posts.

• Hired engagement. The aim of this hack is the same as engagement baiting: to run up engagement numbers to trick the algorithm into boosting the post. However, in this case, the post creator is paying for either real people and/or bot accounts to engage with the post. Alternatively, this may be done via private rings of people who agree to engage on each other’s posts.

• Follower growth hacking. This is the pursuit of followers for the sake of follower numbers. In other words, the goal here is to simply gain as many followers as possible, by whatever means possible, with no regard to who those followers are. There are numerous ways to do this, including paying for followers (usually via paid services that promise to bring tons of followers), running contests and incentives for new follows and gating access to content or offers with a required follow.

On Twitter, because anyone can follow anyone else, such growth hacking is rampant. In addition to the methods listed above, another common hack is to simply follow as many people as possible each day, often by means of an automated tool. Since a lot of accounts follow back anyone who follows them, it’s not hard to see how this could run up huge numbers rather quickly.

• Secret power words. Bloggers and social media pundits regularly spread the belief that using certain words or phrases in a post (or similarly, certain types of images) triggers social networks to show the post to more users. A great example of this is the idea that enticing users top post the word “Congrats!” in the comments of a post increases the reach of that post. This idea seems to trace back to a 2014 anecdote where Mark Zuckerberg supposedly ordered Facebook engineers to boost posts that had lots of “Congrats!” comments so that his niece’s birthday would outrank a co-worker’s birthday post.

But not all hacks are really hacks…

Before moving on to why I think hacks like these are bad social media strategy, I want to note that not everything social marketers call a “hack” is bad, or even really a hack. Some are just good practices taking advantage of things the social networks have provided, and even encouraged businesses to use.

An example of this would be using preferred audience targeting for Facebook page posts. This little-known feature allows you to tag a post with categories that help Facebook to show it more to the right people in your audience, which should result in better engagement and response, since not all your fans are going to be interested in everything you post.

Another so-called hack that is actually a useful best practice is optimizing your Open Graph tags. Open Graph is a set of tag standards that has been adopted by most major social networks. The tags let you customize and control how your post will appear when shared on social media, including its title, description and post image.

Why is social algorithm hacking a bad business strategy?

We’ve covered why social networks have developed reach-limiting algorithms, why marketers often try to hack through those algorithms and some of the hacks they use to do it. Now, it’s time to explore why spending a lot of time trying to hack your way around social media algorithms is a waste of time.

1. Some of these hacks work, but…

I won’t deny that some of the algo-busting hacks seem to work. But I’ll admit that with two very important caveats:

  1. They only work for a limited purpose.
  2. They usually only work for a limited time.

Some hacks might actually get you more reach or increase your number of followers or get you more engagement on your posts. But that’s all they might ever get you. Also, what if something changes on the network and your hack stops working? More on each of those points below.

2. Hacks don’t align with real business goals

Sure, a particular hack might (for a while) increase your reach on a social network. But to what end? Who are you reaching? Are they really people who have any interest in your business or any potential of becoming customers?

I’ll confess that my company indulged in a legitimate “growth hack” that ended up bringing us little value, even though this “hack” is one built into and encouraged by the platform itself. We spent a lot of money on a Facebook Page Like campaign via Facebook ads. With that campaign objective, Facebook tries to optimize your ads to be shown to people more likely to Like your page. We had a goal of getting our page up to 10,000 likes.

We achieved that goal. However, other than having a nice social proof number, we seemed to gain little business benefit from it. In fact, we may have even hurt our Facebook marketing. Since gaining all these new “fans,” we have had to all but abandon boosting our posts to our Page fans. When we do, no matter what the content or creative, we tend to get a high negative response, which destroys our relevance score and drives up advertising costs.

In other words, as stunning as it sounds, it appears that a large number of people who liked our page during the campaign don’t actually like our content!

So it appears that even Facebook’s own “hack” for followers can’t guarantee the followers it gains are truly relevant to your page’s target market. Lesson learned!

The point here is that real marketers always keep their eye on the prize: real ROI for their businesses. In part because such ROI can be difficult to measure from social media, social media practitioners have become used to evaluating success with metrics such as reach and engagement. They need to be brought back to the cold reality that reach and engagement alone, if they are not to the right people at the right time, do not produce actual business results.

3. Algo hacking locks you into a cold war you can’t win

As our friends in SEO discovered over the past two decades, almost anything they could come up with to hack organic search traffic, Google algorithm engineers could find a way to counter or penalize.

While social networks have been slower to clamp down on what they consider low-value content and tactics in their feeds, they are now going at it with a vengeance, in part driven by the bad publicity some of them received from revelations of extreme social hacking influencing recent US elections.

The aforementioned recent Facebook news feed change was perhaps the biggest wake-up call, as it virtually wiped out whatever effectiveness most of the standard algo-busting hacks had. It proved that given enough incentive, social networks can and will kill your reach if they think what you’re doing has a negative effect on their users.

Nowadays, most SEOs who work for or consult with major businesses don’t waste time trying to hack or circumvent search algorithms. They’ve learned that a cold war arms race with Google only results in a lot of wasted time and resources at best, and a complete loss of organic search traffic at worst. Instead, they’ve adopted the practices that Google’s algorithm updates were pushing them toward (e.g., quality content, better user experience, mobile optimization).

Here’s the thing: Along the way, they discovered that those practices were actually better for their businesses. It wasn’t just that they were necessary in order to stay in Google’s good graces. Creating better sites with content people actually found useful was (shocker!) better for the bottom line.

Build your social media strategy for the long term

It’s time social media marketers adopted the same attitude. Rather than wasting time chasing after the latest hack or trick to try to get some temporary gain over the latest platform algorithm update, we should realize that most of what they are pushing us toward is really better for our business in the long run.

The things that continue to work on social networks regardless of algorithm changes are the things that our prospects and customers value most:

  • Useful, engaging content.
  • Real help and interaction with real people at the business.
  • A sense that their lives are made better because they know you.

And guess what? When you are creating and doing those things, not only will you do better with the social networks, you’ll likely accomplish what you should be there for in the first place: gaining new customers and business.

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The 2018 guide to rich results in search

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Over the past few years, Google’s SERPs have become progressively more enhanced and detailed.

Users require as much information as possible before deciding which result to place their trust in and click through to. It’s therefore no surprise then that rich results have become increasingly prominent.

Rich results are essentially a way of highlighting your website’s content in the SERPs.

They are the search results which have a little extra panache, in which Google displays more information about the result rather than just the traditional title, URL and meta description. This could include a star review, specific product information or even recipe details.

In this guide, we’ll look at what’s new with rich results in 2018, as well as how to give yourself the best chance of getting them.

Benefits of rich results

Previously known as rich snippets, rich cards, or enriched results, Google have now put an end to the terminology confusion and allocated ‘rich results’ as the preferred term. You are probably already aware that these fancy pants search results require the implementation of structured data on your site.

But before we look at the how, let’s look at the why. The benefits of using structured data markup are clear to see:

  • Easier for search engines to crawl your site and understand the page, enabling them to return more relevant and detailed results. Frankly, anything that makes a search engine’s life easier is a win.
  • Increased click-through rates due to an enhanced appearance in the results. Information is more clear and it is a way of standing out from other results.
  • Decreased bounce rate due to the improved relevancy of results.

At the time of writing, the general consensus is that structured data is not a ranking factor. However, the combination of more relevant results, increased CTRs and decreased bounce rate are all factors which can indirectly lead to a rankings boost. At the very least, they will lead to increased website traffic, which is not something to be sniffed at.

Structured data & schema markup

Structured data is essentially information about a webpage and its content. There are three commonly known types of structured data: JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa.

JSON-LD is the most recommended structured data type, primarily because it is the most clean and readable format. Given that it is personally recommended by Google, it’s really a no-brainer to deploy JSON-LD as the standard format.

Wait, so what’s schema markup? While JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa are the formats, schema is the language (or semantic vocabulary). It’s the universal code for structured markup that all search engines can understand.

Structured data can be tricky to get right, especially if you’re not particularly technically-minded. Before you stand any chance of achieving those sought after rich results, Google will analyse and assess your markup to ensure it is correct.

However, it’s important to clarify that getting it wrong won’t harm your organic traffic, as long as you don’t use the markup to refer to hidden content. If you get it wrong then your rich results simply won’t show, so you’ll be no worse off than you were to begin with. Don’t be afraid of structured data, it doesn’t bite.

Rich results test

In December last year, Google announced the launch of a Rich Results Testing Tool. The primary function of this tool is to let you know whether your page is eligible for rich results.

Simply plug in your URL, hit submit and then preview the different rich results available for your page. Another handy function is the ability to share results – perfect for showing off your markup prowess to your boss, or highlighting some essential SEO flaws to a new client. Plus, if your pages are eligible for rich results, you can also Submit To Google via the testing tool.

rich_results

It is important to note that the tool is still in beta mode and therefore does not provide comprehensive results as yet. This will undoubtedly be expanded on in the near future.

Currently, only the tests for recipes, job postings, movies, and courses are supported. As a result, if your structured data markup falls outside of these categories then the test may not yet be suitable.

Until the full version is rolled out, however, don’t forget that you can still use the original Structured Data Testing Tool. Although this won’t tell you whether a page is eligible for rich results, it will tell you if your markup is valid. You can therefore address any issues with the structured data quickly and efficiently.

Patience is a virtue

One of the slightly frustrating aspects of implementing structured data is that it can take 2-3 weeks for a page to appear as a rich result. However, if you ensure that you are re-indexing your pages following structured data implementation then this will speed up the process.

On top of that, there is no guarantee that your structured data will correspond to a rich result at all. By implementing structured data, you are enabling the rich results functionality, but don’t have a right to it.

Of course, there is a whole array of other reasons why rich results may not be displaying. This could be to do with the accuracy of your structured data, including hidden content in the markup, or failing to follow the guidelines. Whereas previously you would have to wait a few weeks to know whether your markup has done the job, you can now use the new testing tool.

Final words

In short, implementing structured data should be a priority for your SEO campaigns in 2018, if you haven’t already.

The benefits of rich results are plain to see, and the launch of Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool is a further testament to the importance being placed on these enhanced search results.

Providing as much relevancy and detailed information as possible to the user in the SERPs will always be a priority to the search engines. If you can be a part of this then your website will be in the best possible position to benefit from rich results.

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How to Create an Engaging Facebook Cover Photo

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By now I’m sure you know how important it is to have an active presence on social media.

You’ve been posting more often and trying to engage with your followers. This is great, but you need to make sure you’re not overlooking the small stuff.

Often, I see business pages with cover photos that look like they were created without much thought.

This is a huge mistake.

Your cover photo is the first thing your audience sees when they view your Facebook page. First impressions can make or break the public perception of your page, which is why you need to put some time and effort into your cover photo.

Incorporating the right visual elements into your marketing strategy is important. You need to look at your Facebook page as a marketing channel.

Marketers recognize the importance of this. That’s why 74% of marketing experts use images and other visuals to enhance their social media marketing strategies.

Furthermore, 37% of marketers named visual content as the most important marketing channel for their businesses.

Creating more engaging content and coming up with visual content is a top priority for B2B marketers:

image1 2

If you’re trying to improve your visual content, your Facebook cover photo is the most logical place to start.

That’s because Facebook has over 2 billion active monthly users. This user base is growing at roughly 17% every year.

No matter what industry you’re in or what your company does, it’s safe to say your target market is active on Facebook. Now, it’s time for you to reach them.

I’ll show you exactly what you need to do to create a Facebook cover photo that engages with your followers.

Know your audience

The first thing you need to do is understand who is following you on Facebook. You may think you already have some idea because you’re assuming your Facebook audience is the same as your existing customer base.

However, this isn’t always the case, and you need to find out for sure.

How do you go about this? Facebook has awesome analytics tools built right into their platform. If you’ve never used them before, here’s how you can find out who is following your page.

Step #1: Navigate to the “Insights” tab on your homepage

image5 2

If you’re used to regular Facebook profile homepages, you’re probably not familiar with this tool. Business pages and fan pages have more options than personal profile pages have.

You’ll notice a row of tabs at the top of your screen. Select Insights to continue.

Step #2: Select the “People” option toward the bottom left corner of the Insights menu

image3 2

Your Insight menu has lots of options. You can check out various actions on the page and manage videos, events, page views, and more.

One of those choices is the “People” menu. Select that to get one step closer to seeing your audience.

Step #3: Click on the “Your Fans” tab

image2 2

Now you’ve got complete access to everyone who likes your page. You can view the numbers for these demographics based on categories like:

  • gender
  • location
  • primary language

You can use this information to come up with a cover photo that speaks to your primary audience.

For example, let’s say you discover that 85% of your fans are female, 80% of your followers speak Italian, and 75% of your fans are between the ages of 45 and 55.

If that’s the case, you should probably create a cover photo that speaks to a middle-aged Italian woman. Simple, right?

This information can definitely guide you in the right direction, but make sure you take it with a grain of salt. The data probably won’t be 100% accurate.

People lie on Facebook. In fact, research shows that more than 75% of people have lied in their social media profiles.

That said, this shouldn’t drastically skew your results. It’s still a good indication of your primary audience.

Simplicity is effective

I’ve explained in the past why websites with simple designs have higher conversion rates. The same concept can be applied to your Facebook page.

Don’t overwhelm your followers. Your image should be clear and simple. If you try to fit 20 different elements into one picture, your message will be lost.

Instead, try to come up with a clear point of focus. Your audience’s eyes should be drawn to just one element so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Here’s a great example from the Acura Facebook page:

image7 2

Acura has an entire fleet of vehicles. They sell a variety of sedans, sports cars, luxury vehicles, and SUVs. But notice that their cover photo is very simple.

Instead of bombarding their followers with 20 different cars in one image, they selected one. It speaks volumes and makes the audience think.

What is so special about this car? If you click on the photo, you’ll learn that it’s a new prototype of the Acura RDX.

Users would be less likely to click to find out more if there were many cars in the picture.

This is also related to the paradox of choice phenomenon. The more choices you give someone, the lower your conversion rates will be.

That’s why simplicity converts.

Let’s take a look at another well-known brand to see how they approach their cover photo.

Adidas is recognized across the globe. They sell clothing, shoes, and sporting equipment. Their customer base is men and women of all ages, who participate in a wide range of sports.

How can they come up with a simple cover photo that encompasses all these elements?

image8

They don’t even try, which is a smart approach. If they tried to include every sport in one picture, it wouldn’t be very effective.

In this instance, they decided to pitch their soccer cleats. It could be related to part of their overall marketing campaign.

Or maybe they used analytics to determine that the majority of their fans live in areas where soccer is the most popular sport. It might even be a combination of multiple factors.

Regardless of their reason, Adidas made the smart decision to keep things simple.

If their marketing goals change, I’m sure their cover photo will be adjusted accordingly. But I’ll discuss this idea in greater detail shortly.

Make sure you follow Facebook’s guidelines

Regardless of how you decide to approach your Facebook cover photo, it needs to follow the Facebook Cover Photo Guidelines.

Facebook is pretty strict when it comes to their rules and regulations. It’s imperative your photo abides by these guidelines, or you’ll have problems.

The last thing you want to happen is to have your account suspended for a breach of their rules. That will crush your social media marketing campaign and defeat the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish here.

I’ll quickly summarize what you need to know.

Your image should be unique and relevant to your page. For example, if you’ve got a restaurant, an appropriate image would be something on your menu.

Cover photos must be properly sized. Here are those dimensions:

  • at least 400 pixels wide by 150 pixels tall
  • 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall for smartphones
  • 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall for computer screens

Your cover photo will load as fast as possible if it’s an SRBG JPG file that’s less than 100 kilobytes, 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.

If you need help resizing your photo to meet these standards, you can use photo-editing software such as PicMonkey:

image4 2

Facebook’s rules also state that your photo can’t mislead or deceive your audience. The image also can’t infringe on someone else’s copyright.

Your photo can’t encourage or promote users to tag themselves or their friends either. It’s prohibited to tell your followers to upload your cover photo to their timelines.

Make sure you review all the Facebook Page Terms to ensure you’re not in violation of any policies.

Change it up

Don’t be boring.

Just because you came up with an awesome cover photo that fits everything I’ve talked about so far doesn’t mean you should use it for the rest of eternity.

Changing your cover photo will help keep your audience engaged. Think back to some of the examples we looked at earlier.

Acura isn’t going to promote that one car forever. Adidas won’t be promoting soccer cleats all year either.

Your photo should change based on the goals of your company and overall marketing campaign.

Try to include highly relevant images based on the season or current events. For example, you could have a red, white, and blue themed cover photo around the 4th of July.  Or maybe use an image with a pumpkin and witch close to Halloween.

Check out this example from Bose. They do a great job of accomplishing exactly what I’m referring to:

image9

With NFL season coming to a close, Bose changed their Facebook cover photo so that it’s related to the Super Bowl. This image is perfect for this time of year, but it wouldn’t be as effective in May or June.

If you don’t update your cover photo regularly, your followers may think you’re not monitoring your page.

Your cover photo should represent the overall image of your company

What’s the goal or mission of your company? Your cover photo should tell that story.

If your company works with charitable organizations or helps people in need, use an image reflecting that.

Again, first impressions matter. The first thing people see on your Facebook page should tell them what you stand for.

Your cover photo should also try to entice people to follow your page:

image6 2

Try to create brand awareness through your cover photo. If your followers like and comment on it, the image will appear on the timelines of their friends as well.

This increases the exposure of your company and improves your chances of getting more followers.

Conclusion

Your social media marketing campaign isn’t complete without an effective and engaging Facebook cover photo.

Don’t rush. Take your time and come up with something unique.

Your cover photo needs to speak directly to your audience. Use the insights feature on Facebook to find out who follows your page. Tailor your image toward those people.

Keep it simple. Your company does a lot, but your photo doesn’t need to encompass it all. Pick one theme and go with it. You can always change it later.

Make sure your photo follows Facebook’s guidelines. Otherwise, your account could get suspended.

Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind your cover photo should reflect the overall image of your company.

Follow these tips, and you’ll get more engagement with your audience on Facebook.

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How videos generate quick SEO results

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In January 1996, Bill Gates published an essay titled ‘Content is king’. Seeing where content is right now in the online space, you wouldn’t be wrong in calling Bill Gates a soothsayer.

But he couldn’t have foreseen the kind of content that would dominate the online space: video.

Videos have a hegemonic online presence.

But, why video?

People are more inclined to watch a video. Do this little experiment:

Search for Red Bull or Monster Energy or Vice in Bing. You are sure to get video results right at the top. That’s because these brands have focused their branding on video content, and hence are more likely to be popular as more and more people watch videos.

Now search for Lockheed, Gatorade or Bose, in Bing and you’re way less likely to find a first-page video result.

Not to take anything away from these brands and their popularity, but it shows when your content strategy isn’t as video focused or oriented towards emerging internet consumer trends.

Red Bull and Monster Energy have become inescapable names because they have tapped the potential of video content and published an innumerable variety of content not related to sports and other fields.

What’s in it for you?

You might not be a media and content-oriented company, but you should still consider the perks of having videos for your products and services. According to MWP, online video now accounts for half of all traffic on mobile alone, and 59% of senior executives say that they will opt for video when given the choice between video and text.

Incidentally, in understanding the ‘why’ of video popularity, we’ll also get the answer to how videos generate great SERP rankings.

Why are videos so popular?

Strong emotional connection

A video is very accessible, easy to consume and engages the audience’s attention for longer periods of time. A video contains much more information than text and images.

It conveys emotions, actions and can explain concepts and idea very easily. No wonder videos have 41% higher click-through rate than plain text, and high conversion rates and ROI on top of that.

How does it help SEO? 

The ease, accessibility, and immersion of video means that people spend a longer time watching content that you produce.

If you can make an engaging video, people spend more time on your webpage, increasing the what is called the ‘dwell time’. Dwell time was mentioned in a Bing blog way back in 2011.

Source: Bing blogs

More dwell time directly translates to Google recognizing your video and the page it’s featured on as something of value. The more dwell time you have, the better your pages will be ranked. Sweet!

According to Martech.zone, a well-optimized video can increase your chances of getting featured on the front page of Google by as much as a factor of 53.

The inherent engaging qualities of video also means that it has an astounding worldwide audience penetration.

Which brings us to:

The inescapable reach of video

Source: YouTube for Press

YouTube alone has over a billion users across continents consuming content in 76 different languages. Its reach is enormous.

Video is the go-to, easy to consume, preferred form of content for many people. According to research by Hubspot, 62% of people thoroughly consume videos, and 53% people expect more video content from any platform.

Internet video traffic is expected to grow four times and constitute 81% of ALL consumer traffic by 2021.

There is a natural inclination for search engines to favor videos due to the consumer trends in video consumption.

With so many people watching videos all the time, aided by mobile phones and ever-developing tech and techniques, video content is bound to surge your overall brand image to the top of the search results page.

Video advertising was started in Yahoo and Bing as far back as in 2015, and has been massively effective for them and their clients. But you don’t have to spend money on video ads. Simply having a market-relevant video means that your name is more likely to get featured in a top search listing.

How videos are featured in the SERPs

Google has been rolling out and beta testing many video-related features. A mere 7 months back I started noticing Google showing ‘suggested clips’ for various search results. Now, it’s an all-out feature to list relevant snippets of videos in SERPs.

A great way to feature in ‘suggested clips’ results is to make how-to videos. Your brand can be a hundred different things, but there is always room for making how-to videos.

Don’t know what to record?

Make a behind the scenes video of an event or your daily office happenings. Get some groovy editing and publish it with a ‘How to run an (industry name) office’. Whip in some humor and you’re sure to get your name thrown around SERPs.

Google’s image content readability is scarily good, and now it’s in for videos as well.

Still in beta, Google has been experimenting with identifying elements of video content to show relevant search results. It’s sure that this will be a part of their regular algorithm.

Source: The Verge

Your video content will have an immense impact on what the end user gets in their search results. This is perhaps the next peak time for getting your video content published regularly.

You might have seen a variation of this image identifying feature in other places.

If you own an Android phone, you might have come across the Google Photos app grouping together similar faces, places, and things. Or you might have seen various CAPTCHAs across the web asking you to identify sign boards, cars, buses and what have you.

Expect similar machine learning to be applied to video content, if more sophisticated. One single video can carry thousands of image elements. When Google’s Video Intelligence API catalogs all those keywords, that would give your video a huge SEO advantage. Just make sure to include elements in your video catering to the industry or keyword you are targeting.

Source

There are reasons aplenty and means uncountable to get better in video marketing and to get featured in top results. There are many nitty-gritty details to take care of, but through it all, there are some very basic rubrics that establish the foundation for good video publishing.

Up next are some simple ways to phenomenally increase the chances of getting your video content to the top of the SERPs.

Best practices for getting your video higher up the SERP

Make short videos 

Aim for 1-2 minute videos. You can easily shoot up to 4 minutes, but anything after that means you will start losing significant viewership.

Source: Wistia

Transcribe your video script

Even though Google is getting pretty darn good at parsing video content for context-based searches, transcribed text helps its bots crawl your content with more accuracy. Means you are more likely to get featured for a much broader variety of internet searches.

More platforms mean more reach. Make sure your content is omnipresent. Upload your videos to YouTube, Wistia, Facebook, Twitter, your own hosting platform, or cross-share between all the other platforms to ensure your video content is always there when needed.

Source: YouTube

Cross-share only if you can’t natively upload to other social media platforms. You will gain phenomenal relevance, recognition, organic traffic, and SEO from native uploads and virality.

One study actually showed native videos in Facebook getting ten times more shares than YouTube video links.

Optimizing videos

Keep your video metadata relevant and updated. Add relevant titles, subtext, add descriptions, tags, make transcriptions and subtitles so your video is efficiently crawled by search engine bots.

XML sitemaps

Submit a video sitemap to Google along with some information using webmaster tool. It helps you to index your page better.

Custom, high-quality thumbnails

Make custom, high-quality, topical thumbnails that catch the eye. Click-bait thumbnail images might net you immediate views, but are bad for your reputation in the long run. You can even include text to give some context for the viewer.

Conclusion

Great immersion, endless capabilities, conveys emotions, global reach, occasionally no language barriers: videos are your cornerstone for a great marketing strategy. They give you front page results, get more conversions and are rising to be the most consumed online content.

You see, in many ways, a video is much like a trebuchet.

You might have a capable marketing force that gives results, but a trebuchet enhances your tactical abilities. It lets you mount a market assault with ease, from a safe distance and gives great results. Besides, a well-made trebuchet looks pretty, much like a well-made video.

Videos are your trebuchets. They look good, carry huge SEO value and make your brand a force to reckon with. Get them.

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