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Yoast SEO 6.2: Passive voice checks for French and Spanish

Since launching the readability analysis way back when we’ve been steadily adding support for more and more languages. Today, with the release of Yoast SEO 6.2, we’re expanding our knowledge of languages again by introducing passive voice checks for the French and Spanish languages.

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Improving language checks

At Yoast, we firmly believe that readability ranks. We’ve developed several tools to help you write awesome articles that please both readers and search engines. The readability analysis is one of our most popular tools. It checks whether your writing is up to scratch. The tool determines how readable your content is and suggests improvements to make sure everyone can enjoy your articles. We use our vast knowledge of languages to offer advice tailored to your situation and language used.

Currently, we can check texts in several languages. We offer full support for English and German, while Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish have varying degrees of support. We’re always looking to expand our knowledge of languages. In Yoast SEO 6.2, we’re growing our support for French and Spanish: we can now run a complete passive voice check in both languages.

Passive voice French and Spanish

You might know that using the passive voice often in your text makes it appear distant and your messages will become less apparent. Sentences become longer and more complicated. Readers have to think harder and longer about what you have to say. Our passive voice check keeps your passive voice in check. As of today, we’re doubling the number of languages we can check for passive voice. French (La voix passive) and Spanish (La voz pasiva) join English and German. More languages are on the way.

English German Dutch French Spanish Italian
Transition words
Flesch reading ease
Passive voice
Sentence beginnings
Sentence length
Function words (for Internal linking and insights)

Security improvements, bugfixes & enhancements

In every release, we try to fix annoyances both big and small. By fixing these bugs, we make sure that Yoast SEO keeps running without fault. With every enhancement, we add we try to make it easier for you to use the plugin. One of the most significant improvements in Yoast SEO 6.2 is the hardening of our security. We’ve adopted several stricter code checks that enforce a more rigorous security policy. This means that our code is less prone to outside manipulation.

Thanks for using Yoast SEO

So there you have it. Yoast SEO 6.2 adds two new passive voice checks – French and Spanish – and several other improvements. So, if that’s your mother tongue or just a language you use regularly, you’ll be delighted with this new addition. Wondering what else is new? Check out the changelog on WordPress.org. Don’t forget to hit that update button!

Read more: ‘SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

The post Yoast SEO 6.2: Passive voice checks for French and Spanish appeared first on Yoast.

5 Social Media Trends to Expect in 2018

It’s the start of another year, which means you’re probably back in the office after vacation, hard at work on your New Year’s resolutions.

And if you’re a marketer, you may also be fine-tuning your strategic plan for success in 2018.

But before you finalize your social media strategy for the year, it’s important to look at what’s ahead to ensure that you’re allocating your time and efforts appropriately.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into what we think social media managers should expect in 2018, and how to plan for these changes.

1. Live video content will only continue to grow.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced changes to its News Feed algorithm that will once again shift the type of content users to be from their friends and family — instead of the Pages they follow.

In other words, posts that spark the greatest amount of discussion among users — especially when shared by those in their own personal networks — are expected to rank better.

And the one type of content that Facebook highlighted as seeing the most engagement? Live video.

According to Facebook, live videos receive 6X the engagement as non-live ones, which bodes well for their sharability and potential for such engagement as comments and Likes.

On top of that — perhaps to help boost this engagement — Facebook’s VP of Product, Fidji Simo, announced last week that the channel would be introducing a Watch Party feature, in which a group of Facebook users can all watch the same video at the same time. However, it’s worth noting that Watch Parties can take place even if the video isn’t streaming live.

“With everyone watching, commenting and reacting to the same moments together,” Simo’s statement reads, “it creates a shared viewing experience for video that helps build the kind of community and engagement we’ve seen with Live.”

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fphoto.php%3Ffbid%3D10154965097952063%26set%3Da.415427007062.200610.576027062%26type%3D3&width=500

So, does this indicate a decline in live video? Not quite. The only real shift that we expect to see is a potential rise in engagement with live videos after they’ve already ended — that is, a group of users who missed the broadcast who all missed it can watch it together later on.

Usership data aligns with these moves by Facebook. According to Social Media Examiner, 61% of marketers plan to increase their uses of live video, and 69% are eager to learn more about it. And in 2017, the number of marketers incorporating live video into their strategies increased by 14%.

So where should you be planning to focus your live streaming efforts in 2018? Well, if Facebook is an important part of your overall social media strategy and you’re looking for ways to adapt to the latest algorithm changes, live video is a great place to start (if you haven’t already).

Otherwise, you’ll want to consider where your audience already spends time on social media — and try to connect with them on those networks.

As for what to broadcast, there are a lot of brands out there that are nailing this strategy across several use cases. For example, many brands are using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to live stream events. This approach aims to keep your followers engaged with your brand by bringing an event they otherwise might not be able to attend directly to their screens.

At INBOUND 2017, for example, HubSpot shared Facebook Live interviews with speakers so our followers who couldn’t join us in Boston still had the opportunity to learn from the experts:

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Brands can also use live video for customer service by hosting Q&A sessions and product demonstrations. These videos drive engagement because hosts can ask for comments, questions, and feedback from the audience.

2. Messaging apps will become a critical communication method.

If you’re only thinking about messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat as alternatives to traditional text messaging, think again — messaging apps are used by 4 billion users worldwide, and there’s a tremendous opportunity for brands to leverage this presence.

More specifically, many brands are using messaging apps to communicate one-on-one with customers, which is completely changing the way customer service gets done. These apps provide a faster and easier way for customers to get the assistance they need, rather than being placed on hold or waiting for a returned email. Deploying messaging for customer service is more scalable and cost-effective for businesses, and by providing a better experience for the customer, brands can solve their problems quickly and retain them more easily.

When HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar wrote about how buyers want to talk to your business in 2018, messaging was one of the three major channels he cited. It’s less about “starting the conversation,” he wrote, “but more about automating it in a way that’s managed on the back end, to determine which human might be needed to respond to a particular question.”

For example, Hyatt uses Facebook Messenger for 24-hour customer service, where guests can make reservations, ask questions, and get recommendations for their trips:

hyatt.jpg

Source: Digiday

So far, this theory is well-supported by the stats: nearly a quarter of all apps that are downloaded are abandoned after just one use — but that number is 11% lower for those with in-app messaging features.

AppUserRetention1

Source: Localytics

In 2018 and beyond, marketers should anticipate less social networking — especially when considering Facebook’s recent changes — and more messaging for instant, real-time connection with audiences.

3. Virtual reality will find its way into more and more marketing experiences.

Virtual reality is still somewhat new to the marketing scene, and in 2018, we predict the market will get even more popular.

According to the Consumer Technology Association’s 2018 Tech Trends to Watch, virtual reality is expected to see an 18% increase in revenue, and a 25% increase in units sold. 

What’s unique about virtual reality is that it encourages engagement by offering an immersive, memorable experience unlike any other medium — and brands are quickly recognizing that value.

For example, TOMS uses virtual reality to shed light on the mission and impact customers are having. Its mission, “One for One,” refers to its pledge to match with each pair of shoes purchased a new pair for a child in need around the world. While visiting children who received new shoes during a trip to Peru, TOMS shot the following 360-degree virtual reality video to create a firsthand account of the impact this initiative is making:

What’s so great about this video is how transportative it is. Most customers might not be planning a trip to Peru, but all of them can see the direct impact of their purchase. The experience is improved when they use a VR headset or viewer, but the video is still viewable on mobile or desktop devices, so the brand can effectively share its story.

If you’re already allocating resources to developing more live video this year, continue experimenting with different formats — including virtual reality — to see which audiences respond best to.

4. More channels will make it difficult to monetize (and therefore, weaponize) content.

When Facebook announced the aforementioned changes to its News Feed, we predicted that it was largely the scrutiny it’s received since it was discovered that the network was weaponized to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And with Pages expected to receive less engagement, that also means it will become more difficult for brands to monetize any Facebook content — especially since it could require a greater spend on Ads to help that content reach the right audience.

But Facebook wasn’t alone in this scrutiny. Just last week, it joined Twitter and Google in appearing before U.S. Congress to explain how these networks will combat the extremist content that is said to have influenced the election and more.

Google, who partook in that testimony, owns YouTube — which the day prior to this appearance announced significant changes to its Partner Program (YPP) that would make it more difficult for Creators to monetize videos

Instead of only requiring 10,000 lifetime views, Creators must have accrued 4,000 hours of watch time over the past year, in addition to 1,000 channel subscribers in order to participate in YPP. YouTube has also faced a high amount of scrutiny over the past year, most recently after one of its highest-earning creators, Logan Paul, posted graphic and offensive content to his channel.

In other words, as social channels are under more and more pressure to make their networks safer to use — that seems to be translating to it becoming more difficult for brands to gain visibility on them.

We don’t anticipate this scrutiny diminishing anytime soon, which means that this trend is something marketers should keep in mind for 2018. But in the face of these higher barriers, the best way to be discovered on social media continues to be by creating high-quality, personalized content that’s relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach.

That philosophy has always been core to the inbound methodology that we first introduced to marketers to help them become discovered by way of creating valuable content that their audiences might be searching for. And it still remains relevent, but has become applicable to a greater number of channels.

5. Voice search and AI will change the way users discover brands and content.

Voice-controlled personal assistants are being built into everything, from smart speakers, to TVs, to mobile devices.

And as the development of autonomous vehicle technology continues to progress, it’s almost certain that voice activation will be built into self-driving cars, too — after all, many vehicles already come with voice-powered capabilities that allow drivers to make phone calls, for example, without removing their hands from the wheel.

All the while, these voice-powered devices that respond and fulfill our verbal commands are learning more about us. They’re learning to differentiate our preferences and tones in households with multiple people, and they’re beginning to proactively know what information we might request.

Consider that 72% of voice-activated speaker owners already say that these devices have become part of their daily routines. As the type of content available for discovery on these devices continues to grow, along with the ways we look for it, it might not be long before they change the way we browse and consume content on social media.

After all, you can already ask Alexa to read your Twitter feed, for example — and that’s just one social media capability on one connected device.

As this type of technology continues to evolve and is adapted by more users, marketers can prepare in a number of ways. To start, begin thinking about what type of social media content can be optimized for consumption via a smart speaker, for instance. Creating a solution to a need that the user might not know it has is core to marketing — what type of information or content might your target audience seek on social media that’s easier when delivered in this manner?

If you need a little help getting started, check out this data from Google on the type of information users would like to receive from their voice-activated devices.

Source: Google

Social media is constantly changing, and one prediction we didn’t include above is to prepare for anything. And if you’re not sure where to get started with your social media plan, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.

The Strange Thing That Happens In You Brain When You Hear a Good Story — And How to Use It to Your Advantage

 

In the classic tale In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, a group of sailors were “zagging” off the coast of South America in 1821 when they came across something ghastly. They were in a whaling ship named the Dauphin, under the command of a captain named Zimri Coffin. One day on the horizon a small boat popped into view in the middle of the ocean. Here’s an account of what the Dauphin crew saw:

Under Coffin’s watchful eye, the helmsman brought the ship as close as possible to the derelict craft. Even though their momentum quickly swept them past it, the brief seconds during which the ship loomed over the open boat presented a sight that would stay with the crew the rest of their lives …

First they saw bone — human bones — littering the thwarts and floorboards, as if the whaleboat were the seagoing lair of a ferocious man-eating beast.

Then they saw the two men.

They were curled up in opposite ends of the boat, their skin covered with sores, their eyes bulging from the hollows of their skulls, their beards caked with salt and blood. They were sucking the marrow from the bones of their dead shipmates.

Quick! Think about how you read that. How did your actual physical surroundings feel as you pictured the salt-caked beards of the cannibal shipmates? Did someone in the room with you happen to cough while you read this? Do you recall any background noises outside? Any trucks or sirens?

Chances are your brain pulled you fully into the story. Your imagination filled in the scene, and your present circumstances and surroundings faded into the background of your consciousness. This is what Jonathan Gottschall, who shares this anecdote in his wonderful book The Storytelling Animal, calls “the witchery of story.” It’s what our brains have been biologically programmed to do.

We’re hardwired to be pulled into good stories. Think about the last time you watched a movie or read a book and were suddenly snapped back to reality by a loud noise in the room. You hadn’t realized that you’d lost most awareness of your surroundings. You didn’t notice when the line between reality and the story world inside your brain began to fade. That process — which we go through every night while we sleep — is a survival mechanism that helps us do a better job of storing information in our memory.

We also know the areas of your brain that light up when you hear or see a story.

Something surprising happens when information comes from a story rather than just simple facts: More of our brains light up. When we hear a story, the neural activity increases fivefold, like a switchboard has suddenly illuminated the city of our mind.

Scientists have a saying: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” When more of your brain is at work at a given point of time, the chances that your brain will remember the work it did increases exponentially.

Pretend, for example, you are in high school health class, and your teacher is giving a slideshow presentation. The first slide features a chart filled with stats on how many people die or are ruined every year from drug use. The teacher says, “Drugs are dangerous.”

In this moment, the areas of your brain responsible for language processing and comprehension will be working to absorb this information.

Now say the teacher takes a different approach. She puts up a slide with a photograph of a handsome teenager. “This is Johnny,” she says. “He was a good kid, but he had a lot of family problems that made it hard to be happy some days. He was quiet and got picked on a lot. So he started hanging out with some of the other picked on kids. One day, one of them offered him drugs. He started doing lots of drugs to make himself feel better. Ten years later, he looked like this — ” cut to a photograph of a sickly looking mid-20s young man with missing teeth. And then, the teacher gives the same message as the first: “Drugs are dangerous.”

During this lecture, all sorts of areas of your brain will be active. Areas that help you imagine what Johnny’s life is like. How he feels. How you might feel some of the same things.

Unsurprisingly, the second kind of presentation — the story — is a lot more memorable. Students who see that presentation are going to be more likely to think about Johnny next time someone offers them drugs. No matter what choice they make, they are more likely to remember the message that drugs are dangerous.

Do you see where we’re going? When we get information through stories, we engage more neurons. As a result, the story is wired into our memory much more reliably.

Imagine how this could change your next presentation.

Stories Generate Empathy at the Chemical Level

A few years ago, scientists packed a bunch of people into a movie theater to see exactly how stories work on our brains. They put helmets on the participants’ heads, strapped on monitors to measure their heart rate and breathing, and taped perspiration trackers onto their bodies. The participants looked around nervously, laughed as they made small talk, and fiddled with their helmet straps.

And then a James Bond movie began.

As the movie played, the scientists closely monitored the audience’s physiological reaction. When James Bond found himself in stressful situations — like hanging from a cliff or fighting a bad guy — the audience’s pulses raced. They sweated. Their attention focused.

And something else interesting happened: At the same time, their brains synthesized a neurochemical called oxytocin.

Oxytocin sends us a signal that we should care about someone. In prehistoric times, this was useful for figuring out if a person that was approaching you was safe. Were they a friend, or were they going to club you on the head and steal your woolly mammoth steak? Through oxytocin, our brains helped us identify tribe members whom we should help survive. Because that would help us survive, too.

Our heart rates rise when James Bond is in danger because our brains have decided that he — this familiar character — is part of our tribe. We generate oxytocin when we see him, which makes us empathize with his story when we watch it. And, circularly, the more of his story we experience, the more oxytocin our brain secretes.

That means that we’re not just watching James Bond. We’re putting ourselves in his shoes. At the deepest physiological level, it means that we really care.

Oxytocin levels can actually predict how much empathy people will have for someone else.

Stories Bring Us Together

It’s hard to learn someone’s story and not feel connected to them. The oxytocin we get from stories helps us care, whether we like it or not.

This is basically the premise of the film The Breakfast Club. A group of misfits is forced to come together for detention one Saturday. After sitting miserably for a while — hating each other — they start to share stories about their personal lives, their parents, and, of course, their dreams. Over the course of the movie, they form a bond. When they leave detention and go back to their different worlds, they remain closer than before. They aren’t necessarily going to be best friends, but they now understand and respect one another. You can imagine them standing up for one another against a bully or becoming close friends after high school, when the artificial boundaries of their cliques start to disintegrate.

But even more interesting, we don’t even need to share our own stories to build a relationship with someone. Sharing almost any story makes a difference. In a 2011 research study in New Zealand published in the Journal of Teaching and Teacher Education, researchers put kids from different racial and economic backgrounds together for a series of story time activities. The scientists found that even when the kids weren’t sharing their own stories — when they were simply reading storybooks — they developed empathy for one another. They felt more connected. And as they grew up, they were less racist and classist than other kids.

Storytelling, the researchers concluded, “fostered empathy, compassion, tolerance and respect for difference.”

This is why it makes sense that people still go on dates to the movies. On the surface, a movie is a terrible date. Both people experience the movie separately. It’s a parallel activity that doesn’t involve interacting with your date at all. And yet, it becomes a shared experience. Because your brain is wired to remember experiencing the movie’s story more deeply and vividly than other experiences, that story becomes subconsciously more meaningful to you — even if the movie was bad. And the fact that you and your date experienced the same story together actually brings you closer.

This is another way storytelling played a part in how we survived as a human species. When we were first building civilization, we grouped up in tribes. We had this magnificent brain, but we had to protect it against saber-toothed tigers and poisonous berries and thousands of other things that could kill us at any moment. We had to work together to survive. We had to hunt together, gather food together, make shelter together, and pass on lessons that we learned so that our descendants would survive, too.

But how could we do that, when we didn’t have a written language to record what we’d learned, how we’d survived? The answer, of course, was stories.

Evolutionary biologists say that the human brain developed the ability to tell stories — to imagine them and to dream them — around the same time as our ability to speak. Storytelling was an essential piece of the development and endurance of language.

And so we would gather as tribes at the end of our workday. We would take the wide world of stimuli from our time hunting and gathering and building. And we would package it all into stories — the stories that helped us remember and care.

This is an excerpt from the Amazon #1 New Release, The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming Into the Void, and Make People Love You by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow. Order it today to take advantage of some awesome pre-order bonuses.

Why Search Agencies Should Embrace the Adjacency of Email Marketing

Posted by davidmihm

As someone who’s spent virtually his entire career in local search, I’m by no means an early proponent of email. But in my interactions at marketing conferences, studies of industry research, and social media conversations, I get the feeling that many of my peers are even further down the adoption curve than I’ve been.

With this post, I encourage you to take a hard look at email marketing for yourselves, or an even harder look if you’ve already done so. If you’ve focused exclusively on offering SEO and SEM services to clients in the past, I hope I’ll convince you that email should be a natural and profitable complement to those offerings.

And if you’re a local business reading this post, I hope many of these points convince you to take a look at email marketing yourselves!

Making the case for email

High ROI

With a return on investment (ROI) of 44:1, marketers consistently rate email as the top-performing channel. According to Campaign Monitor, that ROI has actually increased since 2015, and it’s particularly true for B2B companies. Despite the supposed unpopularity of email among millennials, it remains far and away the most-preferred channel by which to receive communication from a business.

Just plain cheap

The fact that email’s so cheap helps the denominator of that 44:1 stat a bunch. Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, as are MailerLite and SendinBlue, and many other providers offer plans under $10/month depending on your number of subscribers.

It’s also cheap in terms of time cost. Unlike social media where daily or even hourly presence performs best, email allows you to duck in and duck out as you have time.

As far as the numerator, average open rates far exceed social media reach on most platforms. And even if they don’t open, ⅓ of people report purchasing based on an email they received from a brand (!). Search provides better purchase intent, but the top-of-mind awareness and referral potential from email is unmatched.

Makes other channels more effective

Gathering customer email addresses is essential for other critical forms of local business marketing already — you need an email address to ask for a review, build lookalike audiences, and make customer intelligence solutions like FullContact most effective.

Actually offering something of value, whether that’s a discount code, loyalty program, whitepaper, or newsletter subscription, increases the odds of earning that email address for all of those purposes.

Last best option?

Frankly, the number of organic digital channels available to small businesses is shrinking. Facebook’s latest announcement signals a tough road ahead there for businesses without the budget to Boost posts, and Google’s expansion of its Local Service Ad program to verticals and locales across the United States in the next couple of years seems inevitable to me. Now is the time to start building an email program as these monetization pressures intensify.

Why agencies should offer email

Your customers know it works.

Local businesses might be more aware of email’s potency than some of the agencies that are serving them. Email consistently rates among the top three marketing channels in industry surveys by the Local Search Association, StreetFight, Clutch, and more.

At the very least, email requires barely any client education. Unlike the black box of SEO or the complexity of PPC, by and large, small businesses inherently understand email marketing. They know they should be sending emails to their customers, but many of them just aren’t yet doing it, or are doing it poorly.

It’s a concrete deliverable.

Unlike so much of the behind-the-scenes work that leads to success in SEO, clients can actually see an email campaign delivered to their inbox, as well as the results of that campaign: every major Email Service Provider tracks opens and clicks by default.

It leverages existing offerings.

I already mentioned some of the ways that email marketing complements other channels above. But it can tie in even more closely to an agency’s existing content offering: many of you are already developing full content calendars, or at the very least social content.

<pitch>(For those clients whom you’re helping with social media, their newsletter can be built using Tidings with no additional effort on your part.)</pitch>

Building email into your client content strategy can help their content reach a deeper audience, and possibly even a different audience.

It’s predictable.

Though you could argue that the Gmail and Apple Mail interface configurations are algorithms of a kind, generally speaking, email marketing is not subject to wild algorithmic changes or inexplicable ranking fluctuations.

And unlike Google’s unrealistic link building axiom that great content will naturally attract inbound links, great content actually does naturally attract more subscribers and more customers as they receive forwarded emails.

You can expand it over time.

Unlike SEO for local businesses, which generally includes relatively easy wins up front and gets progressively harder to deliver the same value over time, email marketing offers numerous opportunities to expand the scope of your engagement with a client.

Beyond fulfilling the emails themselves, there are plenty of other email-related services to offer, including managing and optimizing list sign-up, welcome emails and drip campaigns, A/B testing subject lines and content, and ongoing customer intelligence.

Tactical ingredients for success with email

Use a reputable Email Service Provider.

Running an email marketing program through Gmail or Outlook is an easy way to get your primary address blacklisted. You also won’t have access to open rate or click rate, nor an easy way to automate signups onto specific lists or segments.

Be consistent.

Setting expectations for your subscribers and then following through on those expectations is a particularly important practice for email newsletters, but also holds true for explicitly commercial emails and automated emails.

You should be generally consistent with the day on which you send weekly specials, appointment reminders, or service follow-ups. Consistency helps form a habit among your subscribers.

Consistency also applies to branding. It’s fine to A/B test subject lines and content types over time, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot from a brand perspective by designing every email you send from scratch. Leave that kind of advanced development to big brands with full in-house email teams.

The other reason to be consistent is that designing for email is really, really difficult — a lesson I learned the hard way last year prior to launching Tidings. Complex email clients like Microsoft Outlook use their own markup languages to render emails, and older email clients can’t interpret a lot of modern HTML or CSS declarations.

Choose a mobile-first template.

Make sure your layout renders well on phones, since that’s where more than 2/3 of email gets opened. Two- or three-column layouts that force pinching and zooming on mobile devices are a no-no, and at this point, most subscribers are used to scrolling a bit to see content.

As long as your template reflects your brand accurately, the content of that layout is far more important than its design. Look no further than the simple email layouts chosen by some of the most successful companies in their respective industries, including Amazon, Kayak, and Fast Company.

Pick a layout that’s proven to work on phones and stick with it.

Include an email signup button or form prominently on your website.

It’s become a best practice to include social icons in the header and/or footer of your website. But there’s an obvious icon missing from so many sites!

An email icon should be the first one in the lineup, since it’s the channel where your audience is most likely to see your content.

Also consider using Privy or Mailmunch to embed a signup banner or popover on your website with minimal code.

The specific place of newsletters

Plenty of people way smarter than me are on the newsletter bandwagon (and joined it much earlier than I did). Moz has been sending a popular “Top 10” newsletter for years, Kick Point sends an excellent weekly synopsis, and StreetFight puts out a great daily roundup, just to name a few. As a subscriber, those companies are always top-of-mind for me as thought leaders with their fingers on the pulse of digital marketing.

But newsletters work far beyond the digital marketing industry, too.

Sam Dolnick, the man in charge of the New York Times’ digital initiatives, puts a lot of stock in newsletters as a cornerstone channel, calling them “a lo-fi way to form a deep relationship with readers.”

I love that description. I think of a newsletter as a more personalized social channel. In the ideal world it’s halfway between a 1:1 email and a broadcast on Facebook or Twitter.

Granted, a newsletter may not be right for every local business, and it’s far from the only kind of email marketing you should be doing. But it’s also one of the easiest ways to get started with email marketing, and as Sam Dolnick said, an easy-to-understand way to start building relationships with customers.

For more newsletter best practices, this ancient (1992!) article actually covers print newsletters but almost all of its advice applies equally well to digital versions!

A great option or a strategic imperative?

Facebook’s ongoing reduction in organic visibility, Google’s ongoing evolution of the local SERP, and the shift to voice search will combine to create an existential threat to agencies that serve smaller-budget local businesses over the next 2–3 years.

Agencies simply can’t charge the margin to place paid ads that they can charge for organic work, particularly as Google and Facebook do a better and better job of optimizing low-budget campaigns. More ads, more Knowledge Panels, and more voice searches mean fewer organic winners at Google than ever before (though because overall search volume won’t decline, the winners will win bigger than ever).

Basic SEO blocking-and-tackling such as site architecture, title tags, and citation building will always be important services, but their impact for local businesses has declined over the past decade, due to algorithmic sophistication, increased competition, and decreased organic real estate.

To grow or even maintain your client base, it’ll be critical for you as an agency to offer additional services that are just as effective and scalable as these techniques were a decade ago.

As a concrete, high-margin, high-ROI deliverable, email should be a centerpiece of those additional services. And if it just doesn’t feel like something you’re ready to take on right now, Tidings is happy to handle your referrals :D!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

How to set up a cornerstone content strategy with Yoast SEO?

On your site, you’ll probably have a number of articles that are most dear to your heart. Articles you really want people to read. Articles you want people to find with Google. At Yoast, we call these articles your cornerstone articles. How do you make sure these articles pop up in a high position in the search engines? And how could the Yoast SEO plugin help you set up a cornerstone content strategy? I’ll tell you all about that in this blog post.

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What is cornerstone content?

Cornerstone content are those articles that you’re most proud of. The articles that reflect the mission of your company and the ones you definitely want to rank for. In general, cornerstone content are lengthy articles and they tend to be informative.

Perhaps you’ve never put much thought in using a cornerstone content strategy. It is worth your time though. Think about the blog posts on your site. Which articles are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? Choose these to be your cornerstone content.

Read more: ‘What is cornerstone content?’ »

What does Yoast SEO do with cornerstone content?

Two things are important for a successful cornerstone content approach:

  • Cornerstone content should be lengthy, well-written and well-optimized articles.
  • Cornerstone articles should have a prominent place in your site’s structure.

Yoast SEO will help you take care of both of these things!

1. Write awesome articles

The SEO and readability analysis in Yoast SEO will give you feedback on your writing. If you consider a post to be one of your cornerstone content articles, you should check the box ‘this article is cornerstone content’ beneath the focus keyword input field.

Indicating that an article is cornerstone content, will make the SEO analysis and the readability analysis a bit more strict. For example, we propose to write at least 300 words for a normal post. If a post is cornerstone content, we want you to write at least 900 words.

Our SEO analysis will help you optimize your blog post for the search engines. For cornerstone content, you have to go the extra mile. Make sure you use the focus keyword enough, mention your focus keyword in a few headings and optimize your pictures. Readability is equally important though. Our readability analysis helps you to, for instance, use enough headings and to write in short, easy to read sentences and paragraphs.

Keep reading: ‘How our cornerstone analysis helps you create your best articles’ »

2. Incorporate cornerstone content in your site structure

You have to link to your cornerstone articles to make them rank high in the search engines. By linking to your favorite articles, you’ll tell Google that these are the ones that are most important. That way, you won’t be competing with your own content for a place in the search engines.

Yoast SEO can help you link to your cornerstone content articles. If you use our premium plugin, you can use our internal linking tool. This tool will make linking suggestions for other posts based on the words you’re using in your post. The posts you’ve marked as cornerstone content articles – as described previously – will always appear on top of our list of suggestions. That way, whenever you’re writing about a specific topic, you’ll find the right cornerstone article to link to.

Using our internal linking tool will remind you to link to your cornerstones whenever you’re writing a new post. As a result, your cornerstones will stay on top in your linking structure. And that’s what they need to start ranking.

Read on: ‘How to incorporate cornerstone content?’ »

Cornerstone content strategy made simple with Yoast SEO

Your cornerstone content strategy consist of two elements. Your cornerstone content articles should be informative, nice to read and well-optimized. In addition to that, they should have a prominent place in your site’s structure. Yoast SEO helps you carry out both these things.

Don’t forget! You should update your cornerstone articles once in a while. On the post overview page of your WordPress install, you can use Yoast SEO to filter out your cornerstones. It’s a good idea to browse through these most precious articles every other month. Just make sure these articles are still up-to-date and get enough links. They deserve that little bit of extra attention!

Read more: ‘Why you should buy Yoast SEO Premium’ »

The post How to set up a cornerstone content strategy with Yoast SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

An Investigation Into Google’s Maccabees Update

Posted by Dom-Woodman

December brought us the latest piece of algorithm update fun. Google rolled out an update which was quickly named the Maccabees update and the articles began rolling in (SEJ , SER).

The webmaster complaints began to come in thick and fast, and I began my normal plan of action: to sit back, relax, and laugh at all the people who have built bad links, spun out low-quality content, or picked a business model that Google has a grudge against (hello, affiliates).

Then I checked one of my sites and saw I’d been hit by it.

Hmm.

Time to check the obvious

I didn’t have access to a lot of sites that were hit by the Maccabees update, but I do have access to a relatively large number of sites, allowing me to try to identify some patterns and work out what was going on. Full disclaimer: This is a relatively large investigation of a single site; it might not generalize out to your own site.

My first point of call was to verify that there weren’t any really obvious issues, the kind which Google hasn’t looked kindly on in the past. This isn’t any sort of official list; it’s more of an internal set of things that I go and check when things go wrong, and badly.

Dodgy links & thin content

I know the site well, so I could rule out dodgy links and serious thin content problems pretty quickly.

(For those of you who’d like some pointers on the kinds of things to check for, follow this link down to the appendix! There’ll be one for each section.)

Index bloat

Index bloat is where a website has managed to accidentally get a large number of non-valuable pages into Google. It can be sign of crawling issues, cannabalization issues, or thin content problems.

Did I call the thin content problem too soon? I did actually have some pretty severe index bloat. The site which had been hit worst by this had the following indexed URLs graph:

However, I’d actually seen that step function-esque index bloat on a couple other client sites, who hadn’t been hit by this update.

In both cases, we’d spent a reasonable amount of time trying to work out why this had happened and where it was happening, but after a lot of log file analysis and Google site: searches, nothing insightful came out of it.

The best guess we ended up with was that Google had changed how they measured indexed URLs. Perhaps it now includes URLs with a non-200 status until they stop checking them? Perhaps it now includes images and other static files, and wasn’t counting them previously?

I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s related to m. URLs or actual index bloat — I’m interested to hear people’s experiences, but in this case I chalked it up as not relevant.

Appendix help link

Poor user experience/slow site

Nope, not the case either. Could it be faster or more user-friendly? Absolutely. Most sites can, but I’d still rate the site as good.

Appendix help link

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Nope, no ads at all.

Appendix help link

The immediate sanity checklist turned up nothing useful, so where to turn next for clues?

Internet theories

Time to plow through various theories on the Internet:

  1. The Maccabees update is mobile-first related
    • Nope, nothing here; it’s a mobile-friendly responsive site. (Both of these first points are summarized here.)
  2. E-commerce/affiliate related
    • I’ve seen this one batted around as well, but neither applied in this case, as the site was neither.
  3. Sites targeting keyword permutations
    • I saw this one from Barry Schwartz; this is the one which comes closest to applying. The site didn’t have a vast number of combination landing pages (for example, one for every single combination of dress size and color), but it does have a lot of user-generated content.

Nothing conclusive here either; time to look at some more data.

Working through Search Console data

We’ve been storing all our search console data in Google’s cloud-based data analytics tool BigQuery for some time, which gives me the luxury of immediately being able to pull out a table and see all the keywords which have dropped.

There were a couple keyword permutations/themes which were particularly badly hit, and I started digging into them. One of the joys of having all the data in a table is that you can do things like plot the rank of each page that ranks for a single keyword over time.

And this finally got me something useful.

The yellow line is the page I want to rank and the page which I’ve seen the best user results from (i.e. lower bounce rates, more pages per session, etc.):

Another example: again, the yellow line represents the page that should be ranking correctly.

In all the cases I found, my primary landing page — which had previously ranked consistently — was now being cannabalized by articles I’d written on the same topic or by user-generated content.

Are you sure it’s a Google update?

You can never be 100% sure, but I haven’t made any changes to this area for several months, so I wouldn’t expect it to be due to recent changes, or delayed changes coming through. The site had recently migrated to HTTPS, but saw no traffic fluctuations around that time.

Currently, I don’t have anything else to attribute this to but the update.

How am I trying to fix this?

The ideal fix would be the one that gets me all my traffic back. But that’s a little more subjective than “I want the correct page to rank for the correct keyword,” so instead that’s what I’m aiming for here.

And of course the crucial word in all this is “trying”; I’ve only started making these changes recently, and the jury is still out on if any of it will work.

No-indexing the user generated content

This one seems like a bit of no-brainer. They bring an incredibly small percentage of traffic anyway, which then performs worse than if users land on a proper landing page.

I liked having them indexed because they would occasionally start ranking for some keyword ideas I’d never have tried by myself, which I could then migrate to the landing pages. But this was a relatively low occurrence and on-balance perhaps not worth doing any more, if I’m going to suffer cannabalization on my main pages.

Making better use of the Schema.org “About” property

I’ve been waiting a while for a compelling place to give this idea a shot.

Broadly, you can sum it up as using the About property pointing back to multiple authoritative sources (like Wikidata, Wikipedia, Dbpedia, etc.) in order to help Google better understand your content.

For example, you might add the following JSON to an article an about Donald Trump’s inauguration.

[
          {
            "@type": "Person",
            "name": "President-elect Donald Trump",
            "sameAs": [
              "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki\Donald_Trump",
              "http://dbpedia.org/page/Donald_Trump",
              "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q22686"
            ]
          },
          {
            "@type": "Thing",
            "name": "US",
            "sameAs": [
              "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States",
              "http://dbpedia.org/page/United_States",
              "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q30"
            ]
          },
          {
            "@type": "Thing",
            "name": "Inauguration Day",
            "sameAs": [
              "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_inauguration",
              "http://dbpedia.org/page/United_States_presidential_inauguration",
              "https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q263233"
            ]
          }
        ]

The articles I’ve been having rank are often specific sub-articles about the larger topic, perhaps explicitly explaining them, which might help Google find better places to use them.

You should absolutely go and read this article/presentation by Jarno Van Driel, which is where I took this idea from.

Combining informational and transactional intents

Not quite sure how I feel about this one. I’ve seen a lot of it, usually where there exist two terms, one more transactional and one more informational. A site will put a large guide on the transactional page (often a category page) and then attempt to grab both at once.

This is where the lines started to blur. I had previously been on the side of having two pages, one to target the transactional and another to target the informational.

Currently beginning to consider whether or not this is the correct way to do it. I’ll probably try this again in a couple places and see how it plays out.

Final thoughts

I only got any insight into this problem because of storing Search Console data. I would absolutely recommend storing your Search Console data, so you can do this kind of investigation in the future. Currently I’d recommend paginating the API to get this data; it’s not perfect, but avoids many other difficulties. You can find a script to do that here (a fork of the previous Search Console script I’ve talked about) which I then use to dump into BigQuery. You should also check out Paul Shapiro and JR Oakes, who have both provided solutions that go a step further and also do the database saving.

My best guess at the moment for the Maccabees update is there has been some sort of weighting change which now values relevancy more highly and tests more pages which are possibly topically relevant. These new tested pages were notably less strong and seemed to perform as you would expect (less well), which seems to have led to my traffic drop.

Of course, this analysis is currently based off of a single site, so that conclusion might only apply to my site or not at all if there are multiple effects happening and I’m only seeing one of them.

Has anyone seen anything similar or done any deep diving into where this has happened on their site?


Appendix

Spotting thin content & dodgy links

For those of you who are looking at new sites, there are some quick ways to dig into this.

For dodgy links:

  • Take a look at something like Searchmetrics/SEMRush and see if they’ve had any previous penguin drops.
  • Take a look into tools Majestic and Ahrefs. You can often get this free, Majestic will give you all the links for your domain for example if you verify.

For spotting thin content:

  • Run a crawl
    • Take a look at anything with a short word count; let’s arbitrarily say less than 400 words.
    • Look for heavy repetition in titles or meta descriptions.
    • Use the tree view (that you can find on Screaming Frog, for example) and drill down into where it has found everything. This will quickly let you see if there are pages where you don’t expect there to be any.
    • See if the number of URLs found is notably different to the indexed URL report.
  • Soon you will be able to take a look at Google’s new index coverage report. (AJ Kohn has a nice writeup here).
  • Browse around with an SEO chrome plugin that will show indexation. (SEO Meta in 1 Click is helpful, I wrote Traffic Light SEO for this, doesn’t really matter what you use though.)

Index bloat

The only real place to spot index bloat is the indexed URLs report in Search Console. Debugging it however is hard, I would recommend a combination of log files, “site:” searches in Google, and sitemaps when attempting to diagnose this.

If you can get them, the log files will usually be the most insightful.

Poor user experience/slow site

This is a hard one to judge. Virtually every site has things you can class as a poor user experience.

If you don’t have access to any user research on the brand, I will go off my gut combined with a quick scan to compare to some competitors. I’m not looking for a perfect experience or anywhere close, I just want to not hate trying to use the website on the main templates which are exposed to search.

For speed, I tend to use WebPageTest as a super general rule of thumb. If the site loads below 3 seconds, I’m not worried; 3–6 I’m a little bit more nervous; anything over that, I’d take as being pretty bad.

I realize that’s not the most specific section and a lot of these checks do come from experience above everything else.

Overbearing ads or monetization?

Speaking of poor user experience, the most obvious one is to switch off whatever ad-block you’re running (or if it’s built into your browser, to switch to one without that feature) and try to use the site without it. For many sites, it will be clear cut. When it’s not, I’ll go off and seek other specific examples.

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10 Logo Design Trends to Watch for in 2018 [Infographic]

We demand a lot from logos.

They have to be simple, yet still convey the ethos of the brand in a way that resonates with consumers. They have to be timeless and distinct, but still modern and consistent with contemporary graphic design trends.

It’s a lot to ask of a single symbol. As any designer will surely tell you, designing a logo that meets these varied expectations is no easy task.

To help you prepare for the new year, Logaster created the infographic below detailing their predictions for the most influential logo design trends of 2018. Keep an eye out for these design approaches in the coming year:

logo-trends-2018-UPDATED.png

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