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Site structure: the ultimate guide

Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Site structure: the ultimate guide

Site structure: the ultimate guide

Your site needs to have a defined structure, because without it, it’ll just be a random collection of pages and blog posts. Your users need this structure to navigate on your site, to click from one page to another. Google also uses the structure of your site to determine what content is important and what is less relevant. This guide tells you everything you need to know about site structure.

Table of contents

Why is your site structure important?Importance for usabilityImportance for SEOHow to set up the structure of your siteIdeal site structureYour homepageNavigationTaxonomiesContextual internal linkingContextual linking for blogsContextual linking opportunities for online shopsLanding pagesSearch intentCornerstone content pagesProduct landing pagesMaintaining your site structureEvaluate your menuRethink your taxonomyClean up outdated contentAvoid keyword cannibalizationInternal linking with Yoast SEOSite structure: in short

Why is your site structure important?

Structuring your website is crucial for both its usability and findability. Many sites lack a sound structure to guide visitors to the information they’re looking for. Having a clear site structure also leads to a better understanding of your site by Google, so it’s incredibly important for your SEO. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Importance for usability

The structure of your website has a significant impact on the experience for your visitors (UX). If visitors can’t find the products and information they’re looking for, it’s not very likely they’ll become regular visitors or customers. In other words, you should help them navigate your site. A good site structure will help with this.

Navigating should be easy. You need to categorize and link your posts and products so they are easy to find. New visitors should be able to instantly grasp what you’re writing about or selling.

Importance for SEO

A solid site structure vastly improves your chances of ranking in search engines. There are three main reasons for this:

a. It helps Google ‘understand’ your site

The way you structure your site will give Google vital clues about where to find the most valuable content on your site. It helps search engines understand what your site mainly is about or what you’re selling. A decent site structure also enables search engines to find and index content quickly. A good structure should, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.

b. It prevents you from competing with yourself

On your site, you might have blog posts that are quite similar. If, for example, you write a lot about SEO, you could have multiple blog posts about site structure, each covering a different aspect. Consequently, Google won’t be able to tell which of these pages is the most important, so you’ll be competing with your own content for a high ranking in Google. You should let Google know which page you think is most important. You need a good internal linking and taxonomy structure to do this, so all those pages can work for you, instead of against you.

c. It deals with changes on your website

The products you sell in your shop likely evolve over time. So does the content you’re writing. You probably add new product lines as old stock sells out. Or you write new articles that make old ones redundant. You don’t want Google to show outdated products or deleted blog posts, so you need to deal with these kinds of changes in the structure of your site.

Are you struggling with setting up your site’s structure? Don’t know what the best strategy is to link from one post to another? Check out our Site structure training, part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription. Before you know it, you’ll be able to improve your rankings by creating the best structure for your site!

How to set up the structure of your site

So, how do you construct a solid site structure? First, we’ll look at an ideal site structure; then we’ll explain how to achieve this for your own site.

Ideal site structure

Let’s start by looking at an ideal situation: if you’re starting from scratch, how should you organize your site? We think a well-organized website looks like a pyramid with a number of levels:

1. Homepage

2. Categories (or sections)

3. Subcategories (only for larger sites)

4. Individual pages and posts

The homepage should be all the way at the top. Then, you have some sections or category pages beneath it. You should be able to file all of your content under one of these categories. If your site is larger, you can divide these sections or categories into subcategories as well. Beneath your categories or subcategories are your individual pages and posts.

An ideal site structure looks like a pyramid. On top you’ll find the homepage, right below that the main sections or categories, possibly followed by subcategories. On the ground you’ll find all the individual posts and pages.

Your homepage

On top of the pyramid is the homepage. Your homepage should act as a navigation hub for your visitors. This means, amongst others, that you should link to your most important pages from your homepage. By doing this:

Your visitors are more likely to end up on the pages you want them to end up on;You show Google that these pages are important.

Further down this article, we’ll help you determine which of your pages are essential to your business.

Beware not to try to link to too many pages from your homepage, because that will cause clutter. And a cluttered homepage doesn’t guide your visitors anywhere. If you want to optimize your homepage further, there are a lot of other things you can do. Read Michiel’s article on homepage SEO to find out what.

Navigation

In addition to having a well-structured homepage, it’s also important to create a clear navigation path on your site. Your site-wide navigation consists of two main elements: the menu and the breadcrumbs.

The menu

First, let’s take a look at the menu. The website menu is the most common aid for navigation on your website and you want to make the best possible use of it. Visitors use your menu to find things on your website. It helps them understand the structure of your website. That’s why the main categories on your site should all have a place in the menu on your homepage.

Furthermore, it’s not always necessary to put everything in just one menu. If you have a big site with lots of categories, this may clutter your website and makes your main menu a poor reflection of the rest of your site. Where it makes sense, it’s perfectly fine to create a second menu.

For instance, eBay has one menu at the top of the page – also called the top bar menu – and in addition to that, a main menu. This top bar menu links to important pages that aren’t categories in the shop, like pages that have to do with the visitor’s personal account on the site. The main menu reflects the most important product categories on eBay.

Finally, just like on your homepage, you shouldn’t add too many links to your menu. If you do, they will become less valuable, both for your users and for search engines.

Read all about optimizing your website’s menu here or take our site structure training that includes lots of examples!

Breadcrumb trail

You can make your site’s structure even clearer by adding breadcrumbs to your pages. Breadcrumbs are clickable links that are usually visible at the top of a page or post. Breadcrumbs reflect the structure of your site. They help visitors determine where they are on your site. They improve both the user experience as well as the SEO of your site, as you can read in Edwin’s guide on breadcrumbs.

If you use a WordPress site, you can use one of the many breadcrumb plugins that are available. You can also use our Yoast SEO plugin, as we’ve implemented a breadcrumb functionality in our plugin as well.

Taxonomies

WordPress uses so-called taxonomies to group content (other CMSs often have similar systems). The word ‘taxonomy’ is basically a fancy term for a group of things – website pages, in this case – that have something in common. This is convenient because people looking for more information on the same topic will be able to find similar articles more easily. You can group content in different ways. The default taxonomies in WordPress are categories and tags.

Categories

You should divide the blog posts or products on your site into a number of categories. If these categories grow too big, you should divide these categories into subcategories, to clear things up again. For example, if you have a clothing store and you sell shoes, you can decide to divide this category into a number of subcategories: ‘boots’, ‘heels’, and ‘flats’. All of these subcategories contain products, in this case shoes, of that specific type.

Adding this hierarchy and categorizing to your pages helps your user and Google make sense of every single page you write. When implementing your category structure, make sure to add your main categories to the main menu of your site.

Read on: Using category and tag pages for SEO »

Tags

Your site’s structure will also benefit from adding tags. The difference between a category and a tag mostly has to do with structure. Categories are hierarchical: you can have subcategories and even sub-subcategories. Tags, however, don’t have that hierarchy. Tags just say: “Hey, this article or product has a certain property that might be interesting for a visitor.” Think of it like this: categories are the table of contents of your website, and tags are the index. A tag for the online clothing store mentioned above could be a brand, for instance, Timberlands.

Keep on reading: What is the difference between tags and categories? »

Try not to create too many tags. If you add a new unique tag to every post or article, you’re not structuring anything. Make sure each tag is used at least twice, and that your tags group articles that genuinely belong together.

Some WordPress themes display tags with each post, but some don’t. Make sure your tags are available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article or in the sidebar. Google isn’t the only one that likes tags: they are useful for your visitors too, who may want to read more about the same topic.

Read more: Tagging post properly for users and SEO »

Contextual internal linking

Site structure is all about grouping and linking the content on your site. Until now, we mostly discussed so-called classifying links: links on your homepage, in your navigation and taxonomies. Contextual links, on the other hand, are internal links within the copy on your pages that refer to other pages within your site. For a link to be contextual, the page you link to should be relevant for someone reading the current page. If you look at the previous paragraph, for instance, we link to a post about tagging, so people can learn more about it if they’re interested.

Your most important pages are probably often very relevant to mention on several pages across your site, so you’ll link to them most often. Just remember that not only the page you’re linking to is relevant, the context of the link is important as well.

Google uses the context of your links to gather information about the page you’re linking to. It always used the anchor text (or link text) to understand what the page you’re linking to is about. But the anchor text isn’t the only thing Google looks at. Nowadays, it also considers the content around the link to gather extra information. Google is becoming better at recognizing related words and concepts. Adding links from a meaningful context allows Google to properly value and rank your pages. Yoast SEO Premium makes internal linking a breeze by automatically suggesting relevant content from your site to link to.

Contextual linking for blogs

For blogs you should write extensively on the topics you’d like to rank for. You should write some main articles (your cornerstone articles) and write various posts about subtopics of that topic. Then link from these related posts to your cornerstone articles, and from the cornerstone articles back to related posts. In this way, you’ll make sure that your most important pages have both the most links and the most relevant links.

The following metaphor might help you understand this principle: Imagine you’re looking at a map of a state or country. You’ll probably see many small towns and some bigger cities. All towns and cities will be interconnected somehow. You’ll notice that small towns often have roads leading to the big cities. Those cities are your cornerstones, receiving the most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. There are some roads (links) leading to these smaller towns, but not as much as to the big cities.

Keep reading: Internal linking why and how »

Contextual linking opportunities for online shops

Contextual internal linking works differently on an online shop with very few to no pages that are exclusively meant to inform. You don’t explore a specific topic on your product pages: you’re selling a product. Therefore, on product pages, you mostly want to keep people on a page and convince them to buy the product. Consequently, contextual linking is far less prominent in this context. You generally shouldn’t add contextual links to your product descriptions, because it could lead to people clicking away from the page.

There are just a couple of meaningful ways of adding contextual links to your product pages:

link from a product bundle page to the individual productsa ‘related items’ or ‘compare with similar items’ sectiona ‘customers also bought’ sectiona ‘product bundles’ or ‘frequently bought together’ section.

Learn all about setting up a great (internal linking) structure for your online store with our Site structure training, part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription. We’ve included lots of examples from real websites!

Landing pages

Landing pages are the pages you want your audience to find when they search for specific keywords you’ve optimized for. For instance, we want people who search for ‘free SEO training’ to end up on the page about our free training called ‘SEO for beginners’. You need to approach the content of your most important landing pages differently than your other, regular pages.

Here, we’ll discuss two types of landing pages: cornerstone pages and product landing pages. They’re both pages you’d like people to land on from the search engines, but they require quite a different approach. But first, we’ll shortly go into search intent, because you have to know what your audience is really looking for.

Search intent

When setting up your site structure, you need to think about search intent. It’s about what you think people are looking for when they enter a query into a search engine. What do people want to find? And: what do they expect to find?

Take the time to think about different possibilities in search intent, as you might want to cater to different types on your site. Are people just looking for an answer to a question or a definition? Are they comparing products before purchase? Or, are they intending to buy something right away? This is often reflected in the type of query they make. You can also use the search results pages to create intent-based content.

When you have idea of the search intent it’s essential to make sure your landing page fits the search intent of your audience. Pages can answer more than one search intent, but you need a clear view for at least your most important pages.

Read all about search intent and why it’s important for SEO.

Cornerstone content pages

Cornerstone articles are the most important informational articles on your website. Their focus is to provide the best and most complete information on a particular topic, their main goal is not to sell products.

Because of this focus, we usually think of blogs when talking about cornerstone content. Of course, that doesn’t mean it can only be a blog post. All different kinds of websites have cornerstone articles! Rule of thumb: if an article brings everything you know about a broad topic together, it’s a cornerstone content article.

In this article, Marieke explains what cornerstone content is and how to create it.

Product landing pages

Product landing pages significantly differ from cornerstone articles. The latter are lengthy, where product landing pages shouldn’t be that long. Rather than complete articles, they should be focused. These pages only need to show what your visitors need to know to be convinced. They don’t need to hold all the information.

You obviously want to rank with these pages though, and that means they need content. Enough content for Google to understand what the page is about and what keyword it should rank for. Where cornerstone articles could be made up by thousands of words, a couple of hundreds could be enough for product landing pages. The main focus of the content should be on your products.

Michiel listed all the essentials of your product landing page here.

Maintaining your site structure

Structuring or restructuring your content doesn’t always have high priority within everything you have to do. Especially when you blog a lot, or add other content regularly, it might feel like a chore. Although it isn’t always fun, you have to do it, or your website might become a mess. To prevent that from happening, you need to not only fix your site structure but keep an eye on it while adding new content. Site structure should definitely be part of your long-term SEO strategy.

Evaluate your menu

When your business goal or website changes, your menu also needs to change. When you start thinking about restructuring your site, planning things visually will pay off. Make a flowchart.

Start with your new menu one or two levels deep and see if you can fit in more of the pages you have created over the years. You’ll find that some pages are still valid, but don’t seem relevant for your menu anymore. No problem, just be sure to link to them on related pages and in your sitemaps, so that Google and your visitors can still find these pages. The flowchart will also show you any gaps in the site structure.

Read on: Optimizing your website menu »

Rethink your taxonomy

Creating an overview of your categories, subcategories and products or posts will also help you to rethink your site’s taxonomy. This could be a simple spreadsheet, but you can use more visual tools like LucidChart or MindNode too.

Do your product categories and subcategories still provide a logical overview of your product range or your posts and pages? Perhaps you’ve noticed somewhere down the line that one category has been far more successful than others, or maybe you wrote a lot of blog posts on one subject and very few on others.

If one category grows much larger than others, your site’s pyramid could be thrown off balance. Think about splitting this category into different categories. But, if some product lines end up much smaller than others, you might want to merge them. Don’t forget to redirect the ones you delete.

In the unlikely event you have built your HTML sitemap manually, update that sitemap after changing your site structure. In the far more likely event you have an XML sitemapre-submit it to Google Search Console.

Keep on reading: The structure of a growing blog »

Clean up outdated content

Some outdated articles you might be able to update and republish, to make them relevant again. If an article is outdated but no one reads it anyway, you might opt for getting rid of it altogether. This could clean up your site nicely.

What you should know in that case, is that you should never just delete a page or article. If Google cannot find the page it serves your user a 404 error page. Both the search engine and your visitor will see this error message saying the page doesn’t exist, and that is a bad experience and thus, bad for your SEO.

Be smart about this! You need to properly redirect the URL of the page you’re deleting, so your user (and Google) lands on a different page that is relevant to them. That could even improve your SEO!

Avoid keyword cannibalization

Your website is about a specific topic, which could be quite broad or rather specific. While adding content, you should be aware of keyword cannibalization. If you’re optimizing your articles for keywords that are all too similar, you’ll be devouring your own chances of ranking in Google. If you optimize different articles for similar key terms, you’ll be competing with yourself, and it’ll make both pages rank lower.

If you suffer from keyword cannibilization you’ll have some work to do. In short, you should research the performance of your content, and probably merge and redirect some of it.  When merging posts, we recommend creating a new draft by cloning one of the original posts with Yoast Duplicate Post plugin. This gives you the freedom to work on your merged post without making these changes to a live post. Read the guide by Joost to learn more about keyword cannibalization and how to fix it.

Internal linking with Yoast SEO

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this advice? Yoast SEO has some handy tools to make internal linking so much easier.

Yoast SEO’s text link counter visualizes your links so you can optimize them. It shows the internal links in a post and the internal links to a post. You can use this tool to enhance your site structure, by improving the links between your related posts. Make sure your cornerstones get the most (relevant) links!

Yoast SEO Premium helps you with your internal linking as well. Our internal linking suggestions tool will show you which articles are related to the one you’re writing, so you can easily link to them: just by dragging the link into your editor!

The internal linking suggestions even include other content types

Moreover, our tool allows you to indicate which articles you consider to be cornerstone content on your site. This way those articles will be shown on top of the internal linking suggestions. You’ll never forget to link to them again.

Read more: How to use Yoast SEO for your cornerstone content strategy »

Site structure: in short

As we have seen, there are several reasons why site structure is important. Good site structure helps both your visitors and Google navigate your site. It makes it easier to implement changes and prevents competing with your own content. So use the tips and pointers in this guide to check and improve your site structure. That way, you’ll stay on top of things and keep your website from growing out of control!

Want to get improve your site structure, but don’t know where to start? Get our Site structure training! It’s part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription. We’ll guide you through the process step by step. 

Keep reading: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

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Managing Algorithmic Volatility

Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Managing Algorithmic Volatility

Managing Algorithmic Volatility

Upon the recently announced Google update I’ve seen some people Tweet things like

if you are afraid of algorithm updates, you must be a crappy SEO
if you are technically perfect in your SEO, updates will only help you

I read those sorts of lines and cringe.

Here’s why…

Fragility

Different businesses, business models, and business structures have varying degrees of fragility.

If your business is almost entirely based on serving clients then no matter what you do there is going to be a diverse range of outcomes for clients on any major update.

Let’s say 40% of your clients are utterly unaffected by an update & of those who saw any noticeable impact there was a 2:1 ratio in your favor, with twice as many clients improving as falling.

Is that a good update? Does that work well for you?

If you do nothing other than client services as your entire business model, then that update will likely suck for you even though the net client impact was positive.

Why?

Many businesses are hurting after the Covid-19 crisis. Entire categories have been gutted & many people are looking for any reason possible to pull back on budget. Some of the clients who won big on the update might end up cutting their SEO budget figuring they had already won big and that problem was already sorted.

Some of the clients that fell hard are also likely to either cut their budget or call endlessly asking for updates and stressing the hell out of your team.

Capacity Utilization Impacts Profit Margins

Your capacity utilization depends on how high you can keep your steady state load relative to what your load looks like at peaks. When there are big updates management or founders can decide to work double shifts and do other things to temporarily deal with increased loads at the peak, but that can still be stressful as hell & eat away at your mental and physical health as sleep and exercise are curtailed while diet gets worse. The stress can be immense if clients want results almost immediately & the next big algorithm update which reflects your current work may not happen for another quarter year.

How many clients want to be told that their investments went sour but the problem was they needed to double their investment while cashflow is tight and wait a season or two while holding on to hope?

Category-based Fragility

Businesses which appear to be diversified often are not.

Everything in hospitality was clipped by Covid-19.
40% of small businesses across the United States have stopped making rent payments.
When restaurants massively close that’s going to hit Yelp’s business hard.
Auto sales are off sharply.

Likewise there can be other commonalities in sites which get hit during an update. Not only could it include business category, but it could also be business size, promotional strategies, etc.

Sustained profits either come from brand strength, creative differentiation, or systemization. Many prospective clients do not have the budget to build a strong brand nor the willingness to create something that is truly differentiated. That leaves systemization. Systemization can leave footprints which act as statistical outliers that can be easily neutralized.

Sharp changes can happen at any point in time.

For years Google was funding absolute garbage like Mahalo autogenerated spam and eHow with each month being a new record. It is very hard to say “we are doing it wrong” or “we need to change everything” when it works month after month after month.

Then an update happens and poof.

Was eHow decent back in the first Internet bubble? Sure. But it lost money.
Was it decent after it got bought out for a song and had the paywall dropped in favor of using the new Google AdSense program? Sure.
Was it decent the day Demand Media acquired it? Sure.
Was it decent on the day of the Demand Media IPO? Almost certainly not. But there was a lag between that day and getting penalized.
Panda Trivia

The first Panda update missed eHow because journalists were so outraged by the narrative associated with the pump-n-dump IPO. They feared their jobs going away and being displaced by that low level garbage, particularly as the market cap of Demand Media eclipsed the New York Times.

Journalist coverage of the pump-n-dump IPO added credence to it from an algorithmic perspective. By constantly writing hate about eHow they made eHow look like a popular brand, generating algorithmic signals that carried the site until Google created an extension which allowed journalists and other webmasters to vote against the site they had been voting for through all their outrage coverage.

Algorithms & the Very Visible Hand

And all algorithmic channels like organic search, the Facebook news feed, or Amazon’s product pages go through large shifts across time. If they don’t, they get gamed, repetitive, and lose relevance as consumer tastes change and upstarts like Tiktok emerge.

Consolidation by the Attention Merchants

Frequent product updates, cloning of upstarts, or outright acquisitions are required to maintain control of distribution:

“The startups of the Rebellion benefited tremendously from 2009 to 2012. But from 2013 on, the spoils of smartphone growth went to an entirely different group: the Empire. … A network effect to engage your users, AND preferred distribution channels to grow, AND the best resources to build products? Oh my! It’s no wonder why the Empire has captured so much smartphone value and created a dark time for the Rebellion. … Now startups are fighting for only 5% of the top spots as the Top Free Apps list is dominated by incumbents. Facebook (4 apps), Google (6 apps), and Amazon (4 apps) EACH have as many apps in the Top 100 list as all the new startups combined.”

Apple & Amazon

Emojis are popular, so those features got copied, those apps got blocked & then apps using the official emojis also got blocked from distribution. The same thing happens with products on Amazon.com in terms of getting undercut by a house brand which was funded by using the vendor’s sales data. Re-buy your brand or else.

Facebook

Before the Facebook IPO some thought buying Zynga shares was a backdoor way to invest into Facebook because gaming was such a large part of the ecosystem. That turned out to be a dumb thesis and horrible trade. At times other things trended including quizzes, videos, live videos, news, self hosted Instant Articles, etc.

Over time the general trend was edge rank of professional publishers fell as a greater share of inventory went to content from friends & advertisers. The metrics associated with the ads often overstated their contribution to sales due to bogus math and selection bias.

Internet-first publishers like CollegeHumor struggled to keep up with the changes & influencers waiting for a Facebook deal had to monetize using third parties:

“I did 1.8 billion views last year,” [Ryan Hamilton] said. “I made no money from Facebook. Not even a dollar.” … “While waiting for Facebook to invite them into a revenue-sharing program, some influencers struck deals with viral publishers such as Diply and LittleThings, which paid the creators to share links on their pages. Those publishers paid top influencers around $500 per link, often with multiple links being posted per day, according to a person who reached such deals.”

YouTube

YouTube had a Panda-like update back in 2012 to favor watch time over raw view counts. They also adjust the ranking algorithms on breaking news topics to favor large & trusted channels over conspiracy theorist content, alternative health advice, hate speech & ridiculous memes like the Tide pod challenge.

All unproven channels need to start somewhat open to gain usage, feedback & marketshare. Once they become real businesses they clamp down. Some of the clamp down can be editorial, forced by regulators, or simply anticompetitive monpolistic abuse.

Kid videos were a huge area on YouTube (perhaps still are) but that area got cleaned up after autogenerated junk videos were covered & the FTC clipped YouTube for delivering targeted ads on channels which primarily catered to children.

Dominant channels can enforce tying & bundling to wipe out competitors:

“Google’s response to the threat from AppNexus was that of a classic monopolist. They announced that YouTube would no longer allow third-party advertising technology. This was a devastating move for AppNexus and other independent ad technology companies. YouTube was (and is) the largest ad-supported video publisher, with more than 50% market share in most major markets. … Over the next few months, Google’s ad technology team went to each of our clients and told them that, regardless of how much they liked working with AppNexus, they would have to also use Google’s ad technology products to continue buying YouTube. This is the definition of bundling, and we had no recourse. Even WPP, our largest customer and largest investors, had no choice but to start using Google’s technology. AppNexus growth slowed, and we were forced to lay off 100 employees in 2016.”

Everyone Else

Every moderately large platform like eBay, Etsy, Zillow, TripAdvisor or the above sorts of companies runs into these sorts of issues with changing distribution & how they charge for distribution.

Building Anti-fragility Into Your Business Model

Growing as fast as you can until the economy craters or an algorithm clips you almost guarantees a hard fall along with an inability to deal with it.

Markets ebb and flow. And that would be true even if the above algorithmic platforms did not make large, sudden shifts.

Build Optionality Into Your Business Model

If your business primarily relies on publishing your own websites or you have a mix of a few clients and your own sites then you have a bit more optionality to your approach in dealing with updates.

Even if you only have one site and your business goes to crap maybe you at least temporarily take on a few more consulting clients or do other gig work to make ends meet.

Focus on What is Working

If you have a number of websites you can pour more resources into whatever sites reacted positively to the update while (at least temporarily) ignoring any site that was burned to a crisp.

Ignore the Dead Projects

The holding cost of many websites is close to zero unless they use proprietary and complex content management systems. Waiting out a penalty until you run out of obvious improvements on your winning sites is not a bad strategy. Plus, if you think the burned site is going to be perpetually burned to a crisp (alternative health anyone?) then you could sell links off it or generate other alternative revenue streams not directly reliant on search rankings.

Build a Cushion

If you have cash savings maybe you guy out and buy some websites or domain names from other people who are scared of the volatility or got clipped for issues you think you could easily fix.

When the tide goes out debt leverage limits your optionality. Savings gives you optionality. Having slack in your schedule also gives you optionality.

The person with a lot of experience & savings would love to see highly volatile search markets because those will wash out some of the competition, curtail investments from existing players, and make other potential competitors more hesitant to enter the market.

Categories: internet

How do You Develop a Content Style Guide?

Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How do You Develop a Content Style Guide?

How do You Develop a Content Style Guide?

Do you have multiple writers writing for your website? Or are you a writer yourself working on different projects like website copy, emails, newsletters and more?

The way you write matters when it comes to expressing yourself before your audience. That is why you need to know precisely what governs your style of writing.

For every brand, consistency in style, grammar, tone, and punctuation are essential tools to make your content enjoyable and engaging. All this can only be achieved if you have a content style guide – and stick with it.

Content style guide creates uniformity besides allowing your content to entice the reader. So, how do you develop a compelling style guide? Read on to find the right answers.

The Importance of Style Guide

A content style guide describes a set of organized rules that you need to follow for your copywriting.

Such rules will help you when creating website content like social media posts, blog articles, email content, eBooks, webpages and any form of online writing.  

i)It Promotes Consistency

At this age of information technology, people are getting smarter each day. This is to say that if your brand is not consistent, they will easily notice. 

For instance, if you create compelling and engaging content on one platform but submit substandard content on another, they may not recognize your brand. Therefore, you need to maintain consistency to allow your audience to easily identify your brand.

When you think about Apple’s copywriting, what comes to your mind?

It’s usually attention-grabbing, descriptive, but also sounds crisp and professional.

It’s only possible for me to describe their copywriting style because it has been consistently not only for all of its marketing efforts, but also throughout the years.

Stay consistent, and your clients will remember you better.

ii)It Gives Priority to Your Audience

The idea behind content style guides is to enable you to communicate more effectively with your audiences. What you include in your style should meet their needs and expectations in every content you create. 

Let’s look at Apple again as an example, they are a tech company and offers products with a premium price tag. Now, how can they wow the crowd and make them overlook the hefty price tag?

Copywriting wise, Apple always make sure to dash out the specs of their products in an easily consumable way, and turn it into a wow factor.

They know those willing to drop big bucks are expecting the get the best. And through their copywriting, they make sure to promise you the best.

This is the reason why your content must be relevant to their behaviors, interests, and activities. In other words, your style guide should give priority to your audiences’ needs in a more impactful way.

iii) It Encourages Good Practice

The first step in creating the best content for your target audience is to carry out a thorough research on the subject matter. 

A good content style guide is created with its purpose in mind.

Your brand, business goals, audience, and close competitors will influence your content style guide as well. This means that you should strive to get more insight into what you are trying to present to your audience. 

Apply what kind of knowledge you have acquired such as discovery sessions, stakeholder interviews, and content audits. All these give you a good starting point.

iv) It Creates Good Content

The content style guide is all about how you communicate with others. This is important, especially when creating a brand for a particular audience.

Despite the style guide being a practical resource, it is also a commitment to creating relevant content. So punctuation, formatting, and grammar should determine the quality of your work

Luckily, the content style guide helps you to keep all this in check. Other elements such as trends, personality and brand values come in later to make your content even better.

Steps to Creating a Style Guide

Here are the steps to follow:

i)Express Your Personality in Three Words

Look out for three important words that describe your personality. Also, make sure to add an explanation of what the three words mean. 

For example, a single word can have several meanings to different people. By providing the meaning of each word, you will help your audience to understand your message better.

Are you young, ambitious, and friendly? Or are you traditional, precise, and details oriented? 

With this firmly in mind, it can greatly change your brand’s image through copywriting.

ii) Find Out What Makes You Stand Out in the Crowd

In this step, you should only focus on relevant information about what gives you an edge over others.

Don’t dwell so much on controversial content in a bid to capture the attention of your audience. Just go straight to the point and state clearly what makes you or your brand unique from your competitors.

For example, TOMS is a footwear brand, but they are also known for their eco-friendly and charitable approach. Because they made sure that everyone knows about that.

Be like TOMS.

TOMS’ copywriting and marketing as a whole focuses heavily on their environmental-friendly, and charity activities. Which is what sets them apart from so many other footwear brands. 

iii)Pay Attention to Your Audience

You need to know what your audience could be thinking when reading your content. This helps you create something that will stand out to them more, and thus closer to their heart.

They might be used to their usual brands but still looking for better options. Take advantage of their situation and pay attention to what they want, can you offer a better price? Or perfects round the clock customer support? Highlight those to turn a visitor into a customer.

Also useful, is to find out as much as you can about how they communicate. 

Take advantage of their situation and pay attention to what they want. Find out as much as you can about how they communicate. 

Ask yourself if their form of communication is formal, casual or humorous. Once you have this information at the back of your mind, you will find it easy to create content that your new audience will like.

iv) Don’t Force Engagement with Your Audience

The next step in developing good content is engaging your audience. Let your tone be their guiding principle when reading through your work. 

But don’t let them feel that you are forcing engagement with them. Just relax and let everything else fall in place.

Things To Consider When Creating Your Content Style Guide

i) Choose Your External Style Book

Several established manuals for external style books do exist out there. Each of them can give you a solid foundation when creating your content. No wonder most companies use one of the following external style books to creating high-quality content:

The Chicago ManualAP StylebookYahoo Style Guide

ii) Grammar and Punctuation

After picking your external stylebook, the next task is to use the set the rules on grammar and punctuation.

With punctuation and grammar, you must take into account any common issues arising while creating content, capitalizing names, titles and many more. Also, you must know when and when not to apply abbreviations, Oxford comma and certain terms you are likely to use so often. 

Or when it’s ok to not follow the grammar and punctuation rules from the style guide.

There exist a whole debate over should there be a comma after the word “and”. This is something you should make clear when creating a content style guide.

iii)Style and Tone

Consider the following situations:

Whether to use passive or active voice.Writing in first, second or third person.How to handle legal language and jargon.

These details can really make or break the consistency of copywriting styles across your different platforms and copies, so do not leave them out.

iv) Your audience’s persona

Is your potential audience professionals? Are they baby boomers? Or are they stay-at-home moms? You should make it known in the content style guide who you are writing for, so you can write to them better.

Creating a detailed audience persona can help your copywriters to craft out more precise copies that can strike a chord with your readers. Building that much needed connection.

Developing personas of your potential customers and choosing which of them to address for each piece of content, can greatly help in creating higher quality content. (image source)

v) Types of Content

Content is available in all types but only a few are right for your audience.

In this regard, your content style guide must take outline and enlist only the most relevant content that can best showcase your brand while highly reachable for your targeted audience.

Focus more on decision making while keeping your target audience in mind. Examples of content that you may use include videos, audiobooks, podcasts, images, infographic and blog articles.

There are a lot of different types of content, choose the ones most suited for your business and can reach to the most potential clients. (image source)

vi)Formatting

Do you want first-line indent? How long should a paragraph be? Are long-winded sentences ok?

You should set some rules on formating to make sure all contents’ formating are uninformed and you do not spend precious time deleting spaces, or combining paragraphs.

Final Thought

When it comes to creating content, you need to adopt a guideline that governs your style.

The content style guide should be created meticulously, with all details and situations considered, in order to guide you throughout your work, helping you to come up with engaging and compelling content for your target audience.

I hope this piece has been helpful to help you in creating a content style guide for you and your copywriters so you can pump out more content that is consistent in quality, add points to your branding effort, and helps you connect better with your clients.

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Related posts in WordPress: make sure to suggest the best

Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Related posts in WordPress: make sure to suggest the best

Related posts in WordPress: make sure to suggest the best

Showing related posts below your post are a great way to keep visitors on your website. That’s why lots of site owners already use related posts to reduce the number of visitors that leave their site after reading an article. You could say that a related posts section is the glue that binds posts together. But how do you make sure your related posts make sense? And how should you add them? In this article, I’ll tell you all about it!

Why you should suggest related posts

There are several reasons to suggest other posts to your audience. First of all, you’d like to keep your audience on your site, read more of your content, get to know your brand better. Maybe, in the end, people will even subscribe to your newsletter or order your products. So, in the first place, you’re adding these links to other posts for your readers. As a bonus, search engines follow links too! And if you link topically related content on your site, search engines will have a better understanding of what your site is about. This helps them connect the right pages to the search terms people use in search engines.

Read more: Internal linking for SEO: why and how »

How to find related posts

If you have less than 100 articles on your site, it’s probably doable to remember most of them. Especially if you’ve written them yourself. But if you have a bigger site with lots of articles, written by multiple authors, remembering everything becomes quite the challenge. Luckily, you can use your internal search to find related posts or you can use Google to search on your site. Nowadays this is super easy; just type your site’s URL and Google will propose to search content particularly on your site.

If you’re on WordPress, you can also use Yoast SEO Premium, as it will find and suggest related content on the right-hand side of your editing screen. With Yoast SEO Premium 14.7, we’ve released a completely revised version of this internal linking tool, making it faster and smarter. When you use our plugin, you’ll see 5 suggestions of posts, pages, tags, or categories to link to while editing your content:

Internal linking suggestions in Yoast SEO

The labels on the right side of the suggestions show you what kind of post type it is (for example, a post or tag page). Just pick the ones that make sense to your readers, as almost no-one will click on unrelated content (unless it’s by accident).

Cornerstone content

Your best, most complete, high-quality articles are called your cornerstone articles. These articles deserve special treatment when adding related posts to your text. As they are your best content, people will want to read them and you want search engines to rank them high. Therefore you should always link from topically related posts to the cornerstone post on that topic. With Yoast SEO you can mark these posts as cornerstone content and they will show up on top of the internal linking suggestions. That way you won’t forget to link to them where it’s important to do so!

Anchor text and inline links

In addition to linking to your cornerstones, there are some other best practices when linking to other posts on your site. For instance, you should make sure you use relevant, on-topic, anchor texts. When you place a link in the actual text of your page, as opposed to a related post section below your post, it’s surrounded by relevant content. Therefore, these links hold more value for Google than that separate section at the bottom of your article. Also, that section might be cluttered with social share buttons, a bio, and your newsletter subscription. This makes it just that tad bit less useful for Google.

Do add a read more section!

So, should you add related posts at the end of your post? Please do! You can do this complementary to the posts you’ve linked in your copy. You could, for instance, select that one cornerstone everyone should read, or another article related closely to the post people just read.

Of course, you can do this manually, but using a plugin can save you lots of time. If you have Yoast SEO Premium, you can use our Related Links block to add all 5 of the internal linking suggestions in one go! You can do this by clicking on the plus sign in the WordPress Block editor and searching for Yoast. Of course, you can customize which links will be in the block, so make sure to check them! As you know your audience and what they will want to read best. Check out how the Related Links block works here:

Useful right? We added this feature to our plugin with our recent 14.8 release! But that’s not all. Because we have another type of block that you can use while linking to related posts. Or two actually.

Meet the subpages and siblings block

The subpages block, which is a block that lists (and links) to the child pages of the current page. And the siblings block, which lists and links the siblings of your current page. And as always, make sure to check whether it fits into your page, as you know this best. This video shows you what these look like:

Both the related links block and subpages and siblings block are features of our Yoast SEO Premium plugin. Be sure to check it out if you’re interested in adding relevant links to your posts using a plugin!

Interested in some related posts?

That’s it for this article! But while writing this, the Internal Linking tool suggested I add a link to another article. So, let’s just use that one in case you want to read more about Internal linking: why and how? See? It works kind of perfectly.

The post Related posts in WordPress: make sure to suggest the best appeared first on Yoast.

Overcoming Webmaster Depression

Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Overcoming Webmaster Depression

This year is a rather easy year to be depressed. 😉

COVID-19, fearmongering media, polarized hyper-charged social media, mass unemployment, lockdowns that killed exercise routines and social connections, loss of hope / purpose / meaning, a guy who stuck a gun in the belly area of a pregnant woman overdosing on fentanyl shortly after he passed counterfeit currency, that broader background being utterly ignored so outrage could fuel widespread rioting with a man in dreadlocks kicking a man sitting in the street unconscious & other bonus random drive by shootings where actual heroes are murdered at random, cities being burned down, communist anarchy, social “justice” movements founded on the idiotic idea of improving society by ripping apart the family unit, etc.

This post is not a suicide letter, but an ode to reality of accepting today for what it is. 😀

pic.twitter.com/OWBHGa5eKR— Zero Gravity Media (@zerogravityhxp) August 12, 2020

Last year was the first year where I managed an office with a bunch of employees in it. When the office opened my email inbox had under 2,000 emails built up in it over a 16 year period of working on the web. Far from inbox zero, I am now above 20,000. I think in a Bill Gates interview about a half year ago I smiled after hearing his sort of EGT was how his email inbox was doing. I timed that office opening almost perfectly for COVID-19 so I could have all the stress and cost associated with training a team, setting up a ton of computers, creating workflow, … and then none of the benefits as the office would get shut down shortly after things began to operate smoothly. 😀

By the end of last year a was a bit (err…lot) on the fat side from working too much, too much stress, and exercising too little. My weight and the length of my fuse are reciprocals.

In the past I used to harness negative energy into a form of rage to fuel drive, but now that I am over 40 I find it much harder to live that way. I’ve already had a number of near death experiences (including one when my wife was pregnant with our only child) and think at some point living that rage-drive way is just shitty. Just say no to endless rage.

So when it was obvious this year was largely going to be dog crap, I started to look internally instead of externally & figured it made more sense to improve health & mood than to fight the gravity of the global depression we are currently living through.

Exogenous Shocks

When things change out of nowhere they can end up dramatically changing the social and economic order.

Many such changes are utterly arbitrary and orthogonal to the concepts of fairness, justice, human decency, etc.

Some parties are politically connected & shielded from actual market forces.

As a self-employed person living overseas I am certainly not one of those protected parties. That said, my family and the people who work for me look to me and hope I can help shield them from some of the crap reality served up this year.

As a rule, when exogenous shocks happen those who are not politically connected get screwed hardest.

Smaller firms tend to under-perform larger firms: “As the earnings season draws to a close, companies within the Russell 2000 stock index — the small-cap benchmark — have reported an aggregate loss of $1.1bn, compared to profits of almost $18bn a year earlier, according to data provider FactSet. Meantime, the much bigger companies within the benchmark S&P 500 index have posted a 34 per cent aggregate drop in earnings, to $233bn.”

Poorer people are more likely to lose their jobs.

Emerging markets tend to get hit harder than developed markets. Which only adds to the powder keg of instability as the food price inflation tied to falling incomes makes many people rather desperate.

etc.

As people get desperate violence increases & many governments get overthrown.

Central banks printing cash to prop up the financial markets only increases the divide further.

Congratulations @federalreserve pic.twitter.com/8HxhLH9il5— Sven Henrich (@NorthmanTrader) August 17, 2020

That increased income & wealth inequality makes “the system” only feel that much more fraudulent, which in turn acts as a powder keg to fuel more arbitrary misdirected violence.

Tesla now has a $340 billion market capitalization. They remain unprofitable outside of harvesting tax credits.

Beyond fueling increased violence, the sky high numbers for FOMO stocks also lead some people to feel like they are failures for only slightly succeeding or just getting by.

Others pile in to trashy cryptocurrencies in an attempt to catch up where they only further compound their losses.

Waiting Things Out

It is worth noting many of the jobs that are gone are gone for good.

We may very well be facing a global depression:

“The pandemic has created a massive economic contraction that will be followed by a financial crisis in many parts of the globe, as nonperforming corporate loans accumulate alongside bankruptcies. Sovereign defaults in the developing world are also poised to spike. This crisis will follow a path similar to the one the last crisis took, except worse, commensurate with the scale and scope of the collapse in global economic activity. And the crisis will hit lower-income households and countries harder than their wealthier counterparts. … In all of the worst financial crises since the mid-nineteenth century, it took an average of eight years for per capita GDP to return to the pre-crisis level. (The median was seven years.) … The last time all engines failed was in the Great Depression; the collapse this time will be similarly abrupt and steep.”

If you can’t afford to feed your family of course you have to solve that problem first. But if you are not absolutely financially desperate then this can be a good year to win in ways other than finances & only worry about money after other things are in a better place.

This is a good year to find meaning through various types of self-improvement and doing lots of small & kind things for the people around you. Yesterday was a good day to buy your wife flowers. So is today. Tomorrow is a good day to buy a friend a surprise gift.

One of the best books you can read about developing positive personal habits is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. It is 8 years old now but it is still a great read.

Pushing for broad structural changes in a crisis through ideology which removes ordinary feedback loops often ends up creating only further injustice with the campaign “hero” looking like their polar opposite. Ideology pushed hard enough wraps around to the other side.

When things are absolutely screwed the world over it is better to focus on improving yourself and your family rather than promoting arbitrary extrajudicial justice and burning things down further.

Here are the steps I took to improve a good bit so far this year.

Coronavirus Lockdowns

When I saw a video of a guy walking down the street in Wuhan cough blood and fall over dead I immediately ordered facemasks for everyone in my extended family. I also bought facemasks and gloves into the office for workers. As it turns out gloves were largely a non-winner because using them is more likely to spread virus and bacteria, but the intent was good.

Cygnus recommended taking the supplement quercetin & so did Dr. Zev, so I do that.

Our government does not want us to treat covid early. If I get covid and no hcq access-I would take IMMEDIATELY quercetin 500mg three times a day for 7 days and elemental zinc 50mg one a day for 7 days, and z-pack. Every American home should have quercetin and zinc.— Dr. Zev Zelenko (@zev_dr) August 16, 2020

When lockdowns were announced I hoarded months worth of baby formula so I know my daughter would be ok & bought her a couple birthday presents in case the lockdowns were extended repeatedly. They were, so that worked out ok.

When lockdowns ended I bought a ton of different toys for my daughter so I could share them with her and make up for the limited outside contact for the time being. I also brought my lead graphic & web designer a dual monitor computer to his house to improve his efficiency.

Any day where there is not a lockdown I try to make the most of it knowing another couple months or quarter year can disappear arbitrarily.

Making the most out of the day for me often means doing something positive on the health front & meaning front right away. Things like getting food for my daughter or going for a walk are big wins early in the day as we tend to slow down and get tired as the day drags on.

Health / Fitness

Early in the year when I could use the gym I was walking at a brisk pace for about an hour a day while reading books and listening to podcasts.

After gyms were forced to be closed I started walking outside. Initially this was often to get groceries or various baby supplies, though I continued to walk daily even when there wasn’t a real direct need just to keep mood up with all the ridiculous crap going on in the world. I used to think the Philippines was way too hot when I had to drive everywhere, but even if it is hot as hell it isn’t bad to be out in the sun and heat so long as you are only walking especially if the walk has a purpose which helps your loved ones in some way.

Walking regularly with nothing else going on can be boring as hell, of course, so to offset the boredom I bring my iPhone and have some Airpod Pro earbuds with their killer noise canceling features. When nobody is near me I sometimes pull down my face mask and jog or sprint for a while to add variety to the day. I also sometimes make people’s ears bleed by singing along in an effort to share the joy of whatever I am listening to. 😀

There are many awesome acoustic songs on YouTube. Revisiting unheard versions of songs you liked a long time ago can make the lyrics more powerful.

Some of the spoken-word song introductions are quite powerful: “everyone wants you to forget you are gonna die, because if they convince you your not gonna die you waste your time doing what they want you to do. Spend money on what they’re selling. … one day I’m gonna die, but before then I’m gonna live, live, live, the way I want to live and I hope you do too.”

Whenever I exercise I usually have caffeine as well. I view it a bit like a band aid or kick start, but I try to only use it either explicitly when walking or when intensely focusing on work.

If my back hurts from sitting at the chair too long that is a cue to get up and take a break even if it is a short one to go play with my daughter.

Sometimes I will walk two or three times throughout the day to break up the monotony.

Most my exercise is walking or jogging, but occasionally I will do a few push ups or sit ups.

In a world of gloom it is hard to look in the mirror and see a steaming pile of garbage which is not well maintained and feel good about yourself.

You know what sacrifices you have made and what the costs were, but it is easy to go down the path of resentment if outcomes are subpar and beyond your control in the short term.

If you don’t feel alive you aren’t. 😀

It’s a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give
But you’re not mine to die for anymore
so I must live

Diet

I try to eat salad, Indian food, quiche, nuts, beef jerky, and all sorts of other foods where carbohydrates are sort of only incidental and are not core to the dish.

Anything that looks/smells/feels/sounds like sugar, rice, potatoes, bread, derivatives thereof, etc. I consider to be poison / systemic inflammation / weight gain and try to skip it.

I also consider drinking calories to be a disaster as the glycemic index on things like a soda are through the roof.

If you are fat and eat a lot of carbs you are repeatedly spiking your blood sugar, then it crashes, then you are hungry again. This habit & addictive cycle works on some of the same neural pathways that hardcore drugs do.

Sometimes I still do eat a bit of peanut butter or chocolate or frozen chocolate dipped in peanut butter, though I try not to use it meal replacement style very often & try not to be “full jar now empty” Aaron. Three tips on that front are to eat peanut butter using a chop stick so you eat it slower, eat small pieces of chocolate, and freeze the chocolate before eating so it takes a while to chew and you realize just how much you are eating. 😀

When I wake I often wait at least 4 or 5 hours before eating my first meal. In some cases I stretch that out to 6 or 8.

Communicating

I know a lot of people are in a bad state this year, so I try to offset that at least slightly by overcommunicating.

I send my mom pictures or videos of my daughter every day as she told me those help her sleep better at night and her watch even shows her blood pressure is lower and she feels much more well rested the next morning. I have bought my daughter a ton of extra clothes to wear just so my mom gets a bit more variety in the pictures and my daughter will have a ton of memories to sort through when she is older.

Our daughter has quite a bit of energy so sometimes she makes communicating with my wife hard. Sometimes we have better luck texting back and forth if something is urgent and then discuss it in more detail over email or when our daughter is taking a nap.

A lot of people around me have recently went through hardships beyond the financial uncertainties many are facing.

Our web designer’s mom had a heart attack then got COVID-19 but I think she is ok now.
Our lead writer had a friend younger than I who after going to the hospital with COVID-19.
Our lead programmer’s parents recently had their house broken into with some of their sentimental jewelry stolen & he is the glue guy for the whole family.
One of my buddies recently broke up with his long time girlfriend.

I am sure there are a lot more similar stories that I have not been told yet. So as a rule of thumb I sort of consider that if people have historically been good its ok to give them more leeway this year & be extra kind.

Mental Health

One of the cheapest & easiest wins in terms of quality of life is setting your grounding from a perspective of feeling lucky so that you are appreciative & try to be a better version of yourself. Episode 504 of This American Life shares an inspiring story about Emir Kamenica.

“These stories we tell about ourselves, they’re almost like our infrastructure, like railroads or highways. We can build them almost any way we want to. But once they’re in place, this whole inner landscape grows up around them.

So maybe the point here is that you should be careful about how you tell your story, or at least conscious of it. Because once you’ve told it, once you’ve built the highway, it’s just very hard to move it. Even if your story is about an angel who came out of nowhere and saved your life, even then, not even the angel herself can change it.” – Michael Lewis

I generally am not a fan of taking prescription drugs to solve symptoms of larger underlying problems as in many cases those can cause additional bonus problems. I get that some people need various drugs to get by and survive, though outside of caffeine I typically try not to drink much or do much of anything else that can add more instability or create more bonus issues.

The above said, I think my baseline mood (especially if I am not in great health) tends to be a bit darker than average.

The early web was quite cool and you could do things like email Tim Berners-Lee and get a response, or someone would read your site and see you mentioned Carl Sagan and shoot you an email like this one:

I wrote the first modern book on depression in 1980. It was the first book to present depression as a biochemical disease, rather than a ‘mental’ illness (whatever that is). And, I was the one who introduced Carl Sagan to television as a local TV personality in L. A., Carl was a good family friend who came to watch a taping of my PBS show, he got really intense when he realized what a medium for communication TV was, and I introduced him to the GM of the station, that’s how he got to TV. He was more of a scientist than an actor, I coached him on TV persona. He was a very intense person, and did not have a big ego; he was always open to new information, whether it came from experiences or ideas. He would have loved living now.

To solve both depression and weight gain problems, try an over-the-counter nutrient called 5HTP. The Walmarts here sell the least expensive and best pills. Take about nine a day for about nine days, you will notice you haven’t felt the urge to eat all day and you don’t have as much depression symptoms; the griffonia seed from which 5HTP is made increases serotonin in the brain.

Then a follow up after I asked about the FDA ban of L-Tryptophan:

Now something gets clearer! When tryotophan was banned because of one supposedly contaminated batch, I used every tiny bit of influence I had as a journalist, talked to every politician I could get in touch with. It was like going up against a brick wall. I wrote articles, did everything, could not understand at all why the nutrient was being banned for one bad batch in Japan and why resistance to overturning the ban was so solid. I even tried to obtain the animal version, and was told it ‘wasn’t the same,’ yet according to a chemical analysis, it was. Now I understand….

My book is “Depression, How to Recognize It, Cure It and Grow From It, Prentice Hall hardback, Simon Schuster paperback.

She also mentioned

Depression research is such big business that I feel they don’t want to find a real cure. The way the research should have gone is to study the chemical makeup of depression, then match the medication effect to different brain hormones (as well as cortisol-though it’s not a biogenic amine, it’s a definite precursor), and find accurate ways of testing which hormone or combination thereof is/are out of balance, so the correct medication can be prescribed right off the bat. So, if it’s a seratonin imbalance, the doc gives one medication, if it’s monomaine oxadase, the patient gets another, and so on. Prosac is like a huge blanket device, rather than an accurate laser beam going to the exact place it is needed.

Depression research really hasn’t progressed that much in the last 20 years, imho.

I know a big part of my improved mood was from taking 5-HTP along with Vitamin B & Vitamin C just before bed. When I take those I can fall asleep a bit quicker, sleep about an hour less, wake up feeling more refreshed, and am less hungry the following morning. If I had to guess, I would say the 5-hydroxytryptophan contributed to my recent 40 pound weight loss more than anything else did.

Anyhow, I would not recommend 5-HTP for anyone who is on SSRIs, MAO inhibitors, or many other drug classes (talk to your doctor first, etc.). But I figured a lot of people feel like crap this year so I should mention it has worked well for me.

Before writing this blog post I also recommended it to a few other people.

Our lead content writer was down after her friend died & I recommended it to her. She said she felt a difference the very next day.

Our backend developer took some after I told him about it and said his personal doom loop he was going through was better within 2 days.

I do not think it is a magic cure-all or would work for everyone, but if you are a bit down combining a bit of 5-HTP with exercise, healthy diet, sleep, etc. can help you improve your worldview and outlook a bit to get through the challenging times we are going through.

My only complaint (glass is always at least half empty :D) would be that as I have discarded that sort of rage cycle I find it easier to be distracted and harder to focus on work. If you love what you do focus comes automatic, but if you don’t then you do sometimes have to trick yourself a bit into being productive if you literally could be retired for life. But I suppose most people would say that is an absurd “problem” to complain about.

My only solution to the above is watching MJ on MJ. 😀

I’m going to tweet this & pin it to my page so I can watch it every single day

When MJ talks about winning & leadership has a price, he’s talking about sacrificing a part of who you are for all that your team can become.

A Championship Standard!! pic.twitter.com/IbK95jFTVY— Jaycob Ammerman (@Jammer2233) May 13, 2020

Ending on a Positive Note

Destruction leads to a very rough road but it also breeds creation
And earthquakes are to a girl’s guitar, they’re just another good vibration
And tidal waves couldn’t save the world from Californication

If you are reading this blog post you are almost certainly involved in some part of web development, content production, internet marketing and/or e-commerce.

Ultimately as the world is reshaped you will benefit as long as you get through the current period as literally *everything* is moving online.

This chart on e-commerce continues to amaze me. pic.twitter.com/zW4EwKHW1N— David Schawel (@DavidSchawel) August 17, 2020

Given that the big platform monopolies are now getting the PR black eyes they deserve for their locked down ecosystems there is a good chance the web will be a much better place in the next half-decade.

The number of people rushing to become their own bosses is at a record level. Many will fail, but many will innovate and create new markets as they have no choice but to succeed. As more things move online, attention merchant platforms keep breaking culture into smaller and smaller chunks to fuel increasingly distorted views of reality that cater toward confirmation bias and rage.

At some point people will tire of the feed-based never-ending stream and want things they can complete. The growth of Neflix and their streaming competitors reflects the desire for something longer and more in-depth.

Some of legacy print media brands with high cost structures are now recycled selling marked-up garbage in parallel markets.

The combination of these trends will drive an increased appreciation for authenticity & the desire for human connection.

Long ago my original SEO mentor stated:

This is what I think, SEO is all about emotions, all about human interaction. People, search engineers even, try and force it into a numbers box. Numbers, math and formulas are for people not smart enough to think in concepts.

I think the best brands, the best sites have a large portion of their founders personality in them. Never be afraid to be yourself, after all there are 1/2 billion people on the www, not all of them have to agree with you. Concentrate on the ones that share your views, concentrate on making their experience the very best it can be, the rest forget them.

Or to put it another way, the best sites say – this is what we do, this is how we do it, if you don’t like it go somewhere else.

Ultimately though I think it comes down to desire and the will to win.

He later sold his business for a life changing sum, so unlike his favorite football club, I guess he had the will to win. The question remains if he will purchase the football club and “fix” them. 😀

Categories: articles

Tips for Effective SEO Project Management

Posted by on Aug 20, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Tips for Effective SEO Project Management

Tips for Effective SEO Project Management

Project management and SEO, what do they have to do with each other? Isn’t SEO just about some geeky technical magic that will get your site more traffic? 

SEO is a relatively young field, which has grown significantly in the last 5-6 years. Most of the people I know who are not very familiar with the industry, just refer to it as “that SEO thing” and how can I blame them? Therefore, project management might not be seen as a main element when thinking about SEO. In reality, whoever works in SEO will know that project management is actually a large and crucial part of our daily job. 

This post comprises a series of tips and suggestions for effective SEO project management, with a stronger perspective on the agency side of things, based on our long experience in the digital marketing space.

Don’t miss the downloadable project kick-off checklist to help you get started on an SEO project with one of your clients! A comprehensive guide that covers a spectrum of SEO (and non-SEO) questions, which we find extremely useful when starting on a project.

Let’s get to it with some simple FAQs.

What is SEO Project Management?

It is simply, project management that involves any SEO work. We refer to it as any day-to-day practice that involves planning, executing, monitoring, and finalising the work of our SEO team to accomplish a specific goal within a specific timeframe. 

Why does Project Management matter in SEO?

Without project management, it would be impossible to develop a functional relationship with clients. Effective project management provides a series of invaluable benefits for your SEO team, from a stress and health perspective, to a communication and expectation management point of view. Furthermore, it creates a deeper relationship with your clients.

What is the difference between SEO Account Management and Project Management?

Differently from project management, SEO Account Management focuses on the overall success of a certain SEO account, rather than just a specific project. While the outcome of project management is determined by a defined target, successful account management relates to a successful relationship with the client.

In reality, there is a very fine line between the two and this post covers some elements of account management as well. At the end of the day, we like to think that project management is about getting things done.

What skills are needed for Project Management?

It boils down to three core skills:

Communication skills: Having the ability to communicate clearly and concisely with team members and clients is key to successful project management. 

Organizational skills: Organization is at the centre of every project management activity: planning and monitoring tasks, while coordinating people.

Time Management skills: Every project has a timeframe: working within that time frame is crucial for a project to be successful. 

#1 Project management is an SEO skill

The success of an SEO strategy is not limited to your ability to execute tactics. It’s also dictated by your ability to manage projects, people, clients, and external factors. As your strategies become more complex, learning how to manage a project is invaluable. A successful project manager handles expectations (internal and external), puts out fires and work to get buy-in on ideas.

#2 Have a plan

SEO strategies can be very complicated and involve a lot of stakeholders, between team members, clients and other third parties. Here at Distilled, we do our best to evaluate what a project looks like, before getting to it: it all boils down to having a clear plan of action. 

This process can normally be broken down into the following components.

Project Kickoff

This is the initial face-to-face or call with the client. This is the meeting that “kick-starts” the project (or relationship as a whole) and aims to cover an exhaustive list of topics in order to have a much better understanding of what should be delivered and how value can be provided.

Goals and expectations are discussed and often defined here, followed up by a series of emails to confirm what agreed upon. 

It is helpful to have a clear list of points and questions you want to cover in a kickoff meeting: I always prefer to come prepared, so I put together a list of questions that we tend to cover for all our projects.

Keen to see what that looks like? 

Our project management template contains an extremely comprehensive list of SEO and Digital Marketing questions we normally ask during a kick-off meeting, which help us get an exhaustive picture on a project / client.

Pro tip: use a collaborative document to keep track of meeting/call notes, from the very first kick-off; it will come handy when you need it to trace back what was discussed in the past. This could be internal (shared among your team only) or external (shared with the client) depending on the relationship and objectives.

Regular catch-ups: internal and external

Depending on what works for you, regular catch-ups can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

The formula that works for me, as an SEO consultant, is to have a mix of monthly and weekly catch ups – this would look something like this: 

During the first week of the month, I would have an internal catch up with the team to discuss briefs, potential challenges and define internal deadlines;

The above is followed by a weekly catch up, either a team meeting or individual meetings to discuss recent work, obstacles and share a general update on everyone’s schedules and progress;

Once a week, I would arrange a client call / face-to-face meeting to share a general update, discuss the status of our work and discuss any questions they might have come up in between calls;

Once every quarter, I would arrange a face-to-face meeting to recap what was done in that quarter, discuss strategy and future of the account.

At the end of the project, I would organise a slide deck to present to the client (and any involved third-parties) which looks back at work delivered and breaks down the main findings and actions.

This is an iterative process that allows a project to be adapted to changing demands. It would be nice to walk into a project with a complete and accurate set of requirements for a project, but that rarely ever happens. 

Regular catch-ups allow you to have a good understanding of the overall picture, no matter what changes or delays affect your project, so to react accordingly.

#3 Use the Right Tools for the Job 

Having the right tools to manage your project is key, but there is no need for a complicated system. Before providing a list of tools and suggestions, it is important to clarify something: proposing change and effective ways of working is part of our job, but ultimately it is worth considering the tools that your client is comfortable with/already uses.

They will see you as an extension of their business, and it will be easier to impact change.

These are some of the tools we use at Distilled to manage projects.

Tracking time

We use a custom-built internal software; however, other great tools to track time are the following: Toggl, Hour, Harvest–  they all have a free version with their own limitations.

Sharing documents & files

Google Drive is extremely effective (and free!) to do the job – most of our work is now just on the drive: from Google Docs to Sheets, its offering makes it very easy to share any piece of work with others.

What are the main alternatives to Google Drive we recommend? Dropbox is an excellent tool, and extremely easy to use with its desktop application; OneDrive by Microsoft is not bad either, in case you prefer to work with the Office package.

Pro tip: Due to some client limitations to access any of the major tools above, I recently came across Airtable which can work like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organise any projects you might be working on.

Communication 

For internal communications, Slack has really revolutionized the market: its highly organised structure makes internal communications so efficient that you will never want to use anything else. Forget your messy inbox, conversations in Slack happen in dedicated spaces called channels.

For external communications, Google’s offering is still very powerful: Gmail & Google Hangouts constitute a great option. As for video conference tools, Zoom seems to have separated itself from the competition, even if a lot of our clients still use Skype.

Should you go back to your client and propose a new communication tool? Maybe – what works for me is to normally prioritize whatever ways of working / platforms the client is more comfortable with, and then potentially suggest alternatives if there is a need / opportunity.

Pro tip: We also use Slack as an external communications tool with some clients, as it has replaced emails in many ways.

Project management platform

I am a bit biased: Trello’s clean and simple interface is a no brainer (my colleague Chris talks about Trello in his post here). Its system of boards, lists and cards allow individuals and teams to monitor a project and collaborate in an effective manner.

I like to use boards for different work areas – this could look like the below, where I separate my technical SEO projects from content, analytics or CRO tasks.

There are hundreds of alternatives to Trello, I personally recommend checking out the following: Monday.com, TeamWork, ProofHub.

What about when working with developers? 

It is part of our job to effectively communicate with devs and help them “get things done”. Jira is a major project management tool, used by a lot of our clients. Basecamp, Asana & Youtrack are some other popular software I came across over the last few years.

#4 Teamwork is key

The outcome of a project highly depends on teamwork: learning how to work successfully in a team is no joke. Every project is different, so is every team.

From briefing to quality assurance, even tasks that seem simple can vary broadly depending on the people you work with. Learning how to work with your colleague determines how likely your project is to be successful.

It may take a while, but leveraging individuals’ strengths and weaknesses will make the difference. Balancing talent is something every project manager should work towards.

How to assess team members’ strengths & weaknesses

Let’s be clear: there is no magical way to get this right straight away, it takes time to develop team chemistry and assess an individual’s skillsets.

Some useful ways I came across over the years are the following:

Ask for feedback from others: you can get an idea by checking in from people who they have worked with before;

Frameworks can help: models such as the t-shaped model can be very valuable when evaluating people’s know-how;

Listen, observe and simply ask: getting people to work on something that they are genuinely interested in / good at is likely to impact the quality of the final output.

Appreciate your team members’ work

We try our best to create a culture of feedback: this allows our team members to work and progress in a much peaceful environment and in a faster manner.

Part of this philosophy includes being very vocal about work appreciation: taking the time to appreciate someone’s job, either privately or publicly, is something that goes a long way. A tool that comes really handy for this purpose is 15Five: it is a “continuous performance management suite that allows you to coach your employees as fast as you sprint.”

Managees spend about 15 minutes a week answering a series of questions which focus on personal productivity and team-wide morale. On the other hand managers spend circa 5 minutes to go through all responses, which trigger real conversations that translate into improved comms and overall ways of working. It is a great way to evaluate weekly performance reviews and get a sense of the company’s morale. Furthermore, the tool can be integrated with Slack, using a dedicated channel for public praises:

#5 Knowledge sharing within the team

I am a big advocate of knowledge sharing: both internal and external. For all my projects, I encourage my team to share findings, deliverables and news regularly in order to maximise the team potential and optimise our work.

Creating a culture of knowledge sharing is something that goes beyond project management per se, but it can really help daily work and different challenges, whatever they might be. One of the most beneficial tactics we use is a centralised location for our deliverables – we take advantage of Google Drive to create folders where to store documents, broken down by topic.

What about knowledge sharing with the client? 

That is important too! I like to update my clients with digital marketing news which I think could be relevant for the project we are working on, even if they are not strictly-SEO related.

#6  Offer value to the client

There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart

 As SEOs, we set high standards and KPIs for our clients – these can sometimes be quite ambitious when starting to manage a project.

As a project manager, my job is to make sure the client is satisfied with our work, while doing my best to achieve the predefined SEO goals. This means sometimes I have to do things that aren’t optimal.

Transparency on your projects goes a long way. Trying really hard to sell clients on things they do not need, or simply saying yes to everything they ask for might not be the right strategy when looking to deliver the optimal value on a project.

#7 Know Your Tactics & Resources

Before you can come up with your tasks, you need to know the tactics required to meet project objectives and the resources you have available. SEO resources may include time, money, bandwidth, and talent.

Having a clear plan of the resources and tactics needed will make the difference. There is often a degree of estimation, as it is hard to exactly predict what obstacles your team will come across the way. The more experience in the field, the better your skills will be when finalising your plan.

Here at Distilled, we use a flexible approach for resource and tactics allocation, which can slightly vary from consultant to consultant.

Personally, I like to lean on the following:

Personal experience, based on similar projects – pretty self-explanatory. For instance: if I am planning a backlink audit for a site, I check how much time and the level of experience it was required to perform such an audit for a site of similar size and complexity.

Ask internally – if you need help, chances are someone in your team might have worked on a similar task at some point in their career. Ask for feedback, and gather as much info as you need to help you make a decision.

Check your knowledge-sharing database – having a centralized location where SEO deliverables are saved is very helpful, especially when you need to plan a task that was at some point done for another client / by another team. I like to use Google Drive for this purpose! Learn from your team members and apply the feedback.

Always allow a few hours extra – briefing and QAing are two very crucial parts of every task. Make sure to plan enough time to brief a task properly, and to review any last minute changes before you ship a piece of work. It’s better for you to spend a couple extra hours reviewing something than your client having to spend time spotting errors, which is a waste of their time.

This is a screenshot of how our Google Drive folder looks like:

Conclusion

Project management is a vital skill for today’s SEOs, despite how technical our industry might look from the outside. Hopefully, our tips can inspire a few tweaks in your daily work or at least start a conversation on some of the above subjects.

Here at Distilled, we are always curious to hear other people’s opinions on the topic, so please get in touch with us on Twitter to share your views!

If you interested in downloading our project kick-off Checklist, do it here

15 Essential Steps to Secure WordPress Against Malware Attacks

Posted by on Aug 20, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 15 Essential Steps to Secure WordPress Against Malware Attacks

15 Essential Steps to Secure WordPress Against Malware Attacks

Secure WordPress Against Malware Attacks is an essential part of a webmaster’s role. It’s your virtual property that you need to secure to ensure that it’s not vulnerable to attacks and exploitation. That said, there are many individuals who disregard security as a secondary concern. For businesses, regardless of whether they’re big or small, security is the exact opposite of that. You might be less inclined to focus on security because you don’t have time, or aren’t skillful enough to touch on a topic as complicated as security. It’s justified if you feel that way. If there’s one thing non-technical webmasters dread the most, it’s the “under-the-hood” settings of their website.

Let’s make one thing clear: WordPress security is very easy. In this short article, we aim to show you just that! By the end of this, you will have gained significant insights on security and will be ready to implement those insights on your own site.

WordPress Security: Why Does it Matter – Let’s look at some statistics so you can get a factual picture of why security matters.

According to Wp-WhiteSecurity, 73.2% of all WordPress installations are vulnerable to security breaches. Fortunately, with free tools, you can detect them.

Panda Security states that 81% of web attacks are due to insecure passwords, poor login and password combinations.
Smashing Magazine says that the four most commonly used WordPress exploits are Pharma Hacks, Malware redirects, password access, and backdoors.
WordFence states that 70% of your WordPress security can be accounted for if you’ve taken measures against securing your site against brute force attacks, and plugin vulnerabilities.

Also states that security matters because WordPress websites face approximately 91,000 attacks per minute with a 100,000 sites being hacked every day. Hackers don’t discriminate and are ready to pounce on the opportunity if they feel your site is vulnerable. To ensure its security, you need to be proactive in your steps in countering these hacks.

But what are the possible attacks you will encounter? Let’s take a look at the most common forms of attacks.

How Hackers Work Their Way into Your Website

The following are nine of the most common WordPress hacks that can damage your website.

Brute force attacks – Exploiting weak passwords, this attack aims to take full control of your site through automated scripts that try to guess the admin and password of your site.
Backdoors – Backdoors aim to gain access to your site at the server level. This attack can even damage other sites running on the server as well.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) – Injecting malicious code on your website, hackers attempt to break it by ruining the codebase (HTML, PHP, and CSS).
Malicious Redirects – A form of link spamming, this exploit redirects your website users to dodgy websites through changing the links within your site content.
Phishing – This one exploits your site to gain access to your personal information like credit cards, bank accounts, and other identities.
Malware Attacks – This is an umbrella term used to signify all the hacks that fall under the category of viruses, rootkits, spamming, and other intrusions.
DDoS Attacks – A well-coordinated attack that injects hack bots into a website. The quantity of the bots is so much that it overwhelms your site’s server, reduces performance, or brings it down entirely.
Defacement – Hackers gain access to your site to ruin the layout of your site by changing the HTML or CSS content of your site. Similar to XSS, but political in nature.
PHP Mailers – This one uses PHP (WordPress’ programming language) commands to take control of the mailing server to send phishing emails.

From all of this, it should be clear why WordPress security is important. While these attacks can harm any site, WordPress is a major target for the hackers since statistics show that 90% of all infected sites are running on WordPress.

Protecting Your Site from Hacks

The attacks we’ve mentioned above are the worst-case scenario of what can happen to your site. Fortunately, the ever-active WordPress community has made sure that you can deal with these hacks. Here are some of the steps you can take to protect your site from hacks.

1. Install a Powerful Security Plugin

The following are some of the plugins you can install on your WordPress to ensure security.

iThemes
All in One WP Security & Firewall
Shield Security
Wordfence

All of these plugins come equipped with a variety of different features that take your site’s security to the next level. Here is a short list of such features:

Firewall for WordPress
IP blacklisting and blocking
Malware scans
2FA (Two Factor Authentication)
Security alerts for emails
Security recommendations
…and more.

All of these plugins are easy to install and easy to set up. Even if you don’t have time or the skill, the configuration wizards of these plugins will ease you through the entire process.

2. Perform Malware Scans

If you’re seeing quick drops in traffic or some performance issues, then its recommended that you perform a quick site scan.

You can use online health check tools like Virustotal to check your site for any discrepancies.

If you see some problems take the necessary precautions to prevent it. Even if you don’t, it’s always beneficial to run a site check once in a while.

3. Invest in Secure Hosting

You should also protect yourself at the server level by choosing a host that promises the following features:

Regular backups
Malware scanners
Security against DDoS attacks
Latest OS, server software, and hardware
…and more.

If you want to take things further, then we would recommend you to select a managed WordPress host that takes care of your site at the server level. All in all, investing in a good hosting service can pay dividends in the future.

4. Set an Uncommon Login and a Strong Password

CLU, also known as Complex, Long, and Unique is the way to go with both your login credentials and passwords. Using symbols, capital letters, numbers, and more in your passwords will ensure safety from Brute Force attacks and others malicious hacks.

With usernames, don’t just rely on the regular old “admin”. It’s common and provides an easy gateway for hackers to access your site.

You can use a site like Passwords generator to help you come up with a good password.

5. Keep Your WordPress and Plugins Updated

Constant updates on your phone’s apps and software are a common occurrence. It’s there to help protect your apps and phone from security vulnerabilities.

Similar with WordPress, you need to constantly update your plugins and the WordPress versions (as soon as it comes out) to ensure top notch security.

6. Disable XML-RPC

XML-RPC itself isn’t harmful since it allows you to connect to web and mobile applications. However, it opens serious doors for hackers to penetrate your site.

In simple terms, hackers can exploit XML-RPC by using a call function that lets them fly under the radar without knowing the hacker has tried thousands of passwords and login combinations on your site.

iThemes security does a good job of protecting you against these brute force attacks. If you’re not using XML-RPC, then the security plugin can even remove its functionality entirely.

7. Use latest PHP version

The PHP version you’re using on your site is detrimental to your WordPress security. Similar to WordPress, PHP also regularly releases new versions that promise better WordPress security.

As of this writing, the latest PHP version being used is 7.4.5. If you haven’t already updated your PHP, do so right now.

Besides the obvious benefit of getting more security, you are also gaining significant benefits in terms of performance boosts.

We have a special PHP Upgrade service.  See details of this service at https://www.wpfixit.com/product/wordpress-php-7-compatibility-service

8.  Limit Access Control

The most vulnerable parts of your website are the index.php, functions.php, and wp-config.php files.

The wp-config file in particular is very vulnerable since it can facilitate a multitude of attacks on your site. To protect your files, you should ideally hide them, remove any controls for file-editing, change the database prefix (wp_), and restrict user access to PHP files.

The WordPress Codex has a detailed list of how you can keep your files secure, so be sure to check that out.

9. Eliminate Spam and Its Various Types

Spamming is a curse upon the internet. Spam comments, splogs (entire blogs of spam filled with questionable links), trackbacks, and pingbacks, are some of the varieties of spam on the internet.

Fortunately, preventing spam is easy with the help of built-in plugins like Akismet and WordFence.

10. Activate Two Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a great way to ensure the log-in security of your website. While it is a time-consuming process (access factor code from email), it is well worth the risk if you’re not sure about your site’s security.

WordFence is perhaps the best plugin for creating a two-factor authentication process on your site.

11. Hide your WordPress version

This is a rather small consideration, but if hackers know your WordPress version and find out that’s it’s not the latest one, they can perform a hack on it.

If it’s an older version and somehow you forgot to update it, then it gives hackers serious ground to hack your site.

12. Manage your WordPress user permissions

If you have multiple users on your sites like editors or developers, then it is recommended that you manage their user-roles correctly. Giving them full permissions will only increase your chances of a hack.

So, try to manage your user roles and their permissions correctly. Additionally, keep a check on the users to ensure that they are people you know. You can use a plugin like User Role Editor for that purpose.

13.Log Out Idle WordPress Users

Users who are logged in but aren’t active pose a crucial security risk. The site becomes prone to hijacking. Their session can be hacked, their passwords changed, and other account changes can be made.

To ensure that a user is locked out when he/she is inactive, you can use a plugin like Inactive Logout and configure the plugin to logout any users who are idle.

14. Limit Login Attempts

With the default WordPress installation, users can login to a site as many times as they want. This makes your site vulnerable to hacks since hackers can try an infinite number of login password combinations without the fear of being locked out or their IP blocked.

To limit login attempts, you can use a plugin like Login Lockdown to restrict the number of attempts a person can log in to your site.

15. Monitor your site security

Once you’ve finished with making your site secure, all you have to do is constantly monitor and keep active in blocking any threats that come your way. Plugins like WordFence can go a long way if you are proactive about your security.

The plugins can prove useful in blocking plenty of different attacks which include, but are not limited to, the following:

Brute Force Attacks
Lockouts
User roles, logins, and permissions
Version management (update alerts)

Additionally, you can view the Google Search Console for more information on your security and site performance.

Conclusion:

Even if you don’t have the skill or time, we hope that this article proved a good gateway to you in the world of WordPress security. If you’re a newbie looking to get your site developed with the latest security standards, then try hiring a competent WordPress developer to complete your project.

The post 15 Essential Steps to Secure WordPress Against Malware Attacks appeared first on WP Fix It.

Introducing WordPress Take Action Today – WP TAT™

Posted by on Aug 19, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Introducing WordPress Take Action Today – WP TAT™

Introducing WordPress Take Action Today – WP TAT™

We just made taking action on your site easy as pie!

The web is jam packed with WordPress information and there is so much to filter through and implement on your site.  We decided to create an easy and simple way for you to TAKE ACTION each day on your WordPress site.

With great excitement, we would like to introduce a new segment of our blog called WP TAT or WordPress Take Action Today.  This will consist of us publishing very simple tasks that you can execute in a matter of minutes making your WordPress site better in many different areas.  These tasks will not require you to be a developer or have any advanced knowledge of WordPress.  They will be easy to do and powerful for the overall experience of your website.  New WP TAT™s will be published Mondays – Fridays.

Check out an example below of what a WP TAT™ might tell you what to take action on.

Audit Installed Themes – WP TAT™

Having installed themes on your site that you are not using can open your site up for security issues and take up server space. If you don’t need it, don’t keep it. Follow the steps below to audit and remove un-used themes installed on your site.

Login to your site
Visit Appearance>Themes
Click on any inactive theme thumbnail to enlarge details
Click delete link in lower right hand corner
Repeat for each inactive theme

*If you are using a child theme, be sure you do not delete the parent theme.

So if you would like to get these delivered to your inbox as they are released, simply fill in the form below and you can start Taking Action Today on your site with WP TAT™.

Current Subscribers

Simply fill out the form below with your name and your email address and this will instantly subscribe you to our WP TAT™ campaign.

This way you will never miss a new post and never miss out on these valuable FREE tips to make your WordPress life better!

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First Name *

Email Address *

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Mobile SEO: The ultimate guide

Posted by on Aug 13, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Mobile SEO: The ultimate guide

Mobile SEO: The ultimate guide

We are addicted to our smartphones. For many people, the smartphone is the first thing they check when they get out of bed in the morning and the last thing they look at before they go to sleep. People use them for everything – it’s become huge! Mobile phones have dramatically changed our lives, the way we use the web and, consequently, it has changed SEO. Mobile SEO helps you to reach customers and satisfy their needs while enjoying the experience. This guide to mobile SEO tells you everything you need to know to deliver the perfect mobile experience.

Table of contents

What is mobile SEO?Why is mobile SEO so important?Mobile SEO vs. desktop SEOGoogle’s mobile-first index is liveHow to improve mobile SEOMobile SEO toolsMobile SEO is designing for performanceResponsive design vs. dynamic serving vs. separate domainImprove site speed of your mobile siteThink about implementing AMPProgressive Web Apps (PWA)Focus on user experienceOptimize for localFinetune your mobile contentWrite for the small screenWrite better meta descriptions and titlesPrepare for voice searchAdd Schema structured data to a mobile siteA mobile SEO guide full of tips

What is mobile SEO?

Mobile SEO is all about offering an exceptional experience to visitors of your mobile site. It’s about making your mobile site load quickly and without issues, and presenting stellar content that matches the users search intent. In today’s mobile-first world, it’s incredibly important to have flawless mobile site.

Why is mobile SEO so important?

Mobile SEO is crucial because it helps you reach your your customers in the right place at the right time and and give them the very best experience. Mobile traffic has now eclipsed desktop traffic. Billions of people have discovered the enormous advantages of the smartphone. Our whole lives are in these devices – it’s almost scary to see how attached we’ve become to our smartphones. Many people call it an extension of themselves and something they can’t live without. To reach these people you need a mobile SEO strategy.

Mobile does not necessarily mean on-the-go. Studies have found that people often grab the nearest device to look something up quickly and more often than not, that’s their smartphone. They use it to inform themselves about products before making the decision to buy something, any time, any place. According to research by Google, smartphone users have a higher buyer intent than desktop users. They’re focused and ready to buy. It’s your job to be there when they are looking for your products or services.

It is easy to see mobile SEO in terms of solving technical problems or content issues, but it is also very much a user experience and branding thing. Getting a bad experience from a brand on a mobile phone might scare away a potential customer forever. Offering a great experience increases the chance of consumers recommending your brand.

According to Google research, negative mobile experiences can really hurt your brand

Mobile SEO vs. desktop SEO

There’s quite a difference between desktop SEO and mobile SEO, but the goals are often comparable. You want to reach your audience and convert them into paying customers. In some ways, desktop SEO tactics also work for mobile SEO, but in a slightly different form. Three major themes still apply: focus on performance, user experience and content. In desktop SEO, you’ll often focus more on the general public, while mobile SEO can also have more of a local focus.

What is different, though, is the results you get on mobile versus desktop. For the same search query, different results may pop up depending on what device you are using. Plus, there are other factors that influence the mobile search results, like the location you’re at. This means that getting a good ranking for your product or content on desktop doesn’t guarantee the same result on mobile. When evaluating your performance on mobile, alway keep an eye on the mobile search results.

In addition, it is always a good idea to regularly check what Google is doing on mobile, in general, but especially in your niche. Google is continuing its push for so-called rich results — often powered by structured data — and these are more prominent on mobile. Think about it: searching for flights, events, jobs, movies, music, products and even simple facts will trigger a Google-owned rich result. We’re going to see a lot more of this going forward.

Google’s mobile-first index is live

The importance of mobile SEO is made even clearer by Google’s 2016 announcement of the mobile-first index. In July 2019, Google switched to the mobile-first index and by March 2021 all sites should be indexed mobile-first. What does this mean? For the first time, Google will determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of the site instead of the desktop version.

A smartphone version of Googlebot will crawl your mobile site and determine if its performance, content and user experience are up to scratch. If so, you might get a better ranking. If it is lacking, other sites might rank higher and you could lose out. Even if you’re not focusing on mobile you will still be judged by your mobile site, so now’s the time to take action.

What’s more, in January 2018, Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches from July of that same year:

“The “Speed Update” applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

Check Search Console to see what Google used to crawl your pages

Things have changed

Right now, Google uses mobile-first indexing when evaluating sites. To get Google to discover and understand it properly you must keep your mobile site crawlable by taking down all possible barriers such as poorly loading scripts and not blocking stuff in your robots.txt. It also has to load lightning fast if you want to be indexed well.

Google’s Gary Illyes wrote a blog post detailing some of the things you should take care of for the mobile-first index. These include offering the same awesome content on both the mobile and desktop site, investing in structured data, offering the correct meta data, checking your hreflang set up and making sure that your servers can handle the increased crawl rate. In July 2020, added another post with even more possible improvements like making sure that you serve images and video in the proper format.

You can no longer present less information on your mobile site than on your desktop site. Your content has to be identical on both, because you will only rank based on the information on your mobile page. Don’t hide stuff! Michiel wrote a post about the so-called mobile parity. Or, like former Googler Maile Ohye told us in an interview:

“To “optimize” for the mobile-first index, make sure that what you serve to mobile users is the version of the content you’d want Google to index, not a pared down version, or a version that gets updated later than desktop, or a version that redirects to the mobile homepage.”

Maile Ohye

Don’t forget to tell Google your site is mobile-friendly. You can add a viewport declaration – if you’re using responsive design – or a Vary header when using dynamic serving. More on this later – or in Google’s developer documentation.

Read more: 5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing »

A new Google ranking factor: Page Experience

In May 2020, Google announced a ranking factor called Page Experience. While Google has been advocating site speed for years, the page experience update adds something new: user experience. For the first time, Google takes into account how users experience a site. Does the site load quickly? Are there images or slow-loading ads blocking the rendering of a mobile site harming the user experience? The new Core Web Vitals metrics help you make sense of the perceived page experience and prioritize improvements. Somewhere in 2021, the new page experience algorithm will see the daylight.

How to improve mobile SEO

Mobile SEO is – just like regular SEO – all about making sure your site is crawlable and findable. Also, you need stellar performance, great content and a flawless UX. To get it right, you need to know how your site is currently performing and what your visitors are doing right now. For example, will people use the same keywords on mobile to find you? People often change how they search while using a mobile device. And what do you want people to do? Offering to navigate to the nearest Whole Foods is less than ideal when you’re on a desktop machine. It makes total sense on your smartphone, though.

Mobile SEO tools

You need to become best friends with Google Search Console. Its search tools are legendary and a big help if you want to find out how your site is doing in the search results. For instance, by using the Search Analytics feature, you can see how mobile and desktop users use words to find what they need. Are you targeting the right words? Should you focus on something else?

Googlebot needs to be able to crawl your JavaScript, CSS and image files to index it properly. There is a handy tool for this inside Search Console: URL Inspection. This tool lets you see exactly how Googlebot sees and renders your content. When the screen doesn’t align and the tool lists errors, you’ve got work to do.

Search Console lets you check how Google sees your mobile site

Mobile Usability tool

Another Google Search Console feature that makes your life easier is the Mobile Usability tool. This tool checks your site and presents an overview of posts and pages that don’t follow Google’s mobile-friendly rules. This is an excellent way to start improving your mobile SEO.

Other tools

Some other great tools to up your mobile SEO game are Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, Rich Results Test, Lighthouse, Analytics, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Ryte, ScreamingFrog, and SimilarWeb.

Read more: Google Search Console: Search appearance
Read more: DIY: Test your mobile site

Mobile SEO is designing for performance

The number one thing you should be focusing on when you’re trying to improve mobile SEO is performance. Performance almost entirely boils down to site speed. It’s a no-brainer: the faster your site is, the happier your users will be. It’s well known that a site has to load within a couple of seconds or your visitors will give up and go elsewhere. If you combine this with the fact that sites are only getting bigger, it’s clear you have your work cut out.

Better get to work on that page load time

Optimizing performance, however, is a continuous process. Your site will never be fast enough because there’s always more you can improve – and that’s ok. By keeping a close watch on how your mobile site is performing, you can immediately jump onto every opportunity to improve it. Google loves fast sites, and so do your customers.

Read more: How to improve your mobile site
Read more: Page speed as a ranking factor, what you need to know

Responsive design vs. dynamic serving vs. separate domain

While developing your mobile site, you’ll have three options: responsive design, dynamic serving, or a separate site on a subdomain. Google prefers responsive design because you only have one site that adapts to the device it’s used on. There’s only one code base, so maintenance is easy. According to Google, using responsive design will make your site eligible for addition in the new mobile-first index. Always let Google know that your site is mobile-friendly by adding the meta name=“viewport” declaration in the head of your documents.

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>

Dynamic serving takes a different approach. It uses server-side technology to serve a different version of your site to mobile users, depending on the way they access your site. The URL stays the same, but the files sent are completely different. You need to add the Vary header to get Google to crawl your site. This way, Google immediately knows that it will receive mobile-optimized files from somewhere else. A Vary header appears like this when a browser makes a request:

Vary: User-Agent

The third option is a separate mobile site on a different URL – usually an m. domain – and with different content. Google supports this method, but only if you make the correct connections between your regular desktop domain and the mobile domain. Use rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” to tell Google how these pages are connected. More on these different types and how Google uses them on this Developers page. Or you can read our rel=”canonical” ultimate guide.

Improve site speed of your mobile site

One of the most importants aspects of mobile SEO is improving site speed. PageSpeed Insights shows you exactly how fast your site loads on both mobile and desktop. It also suggests performance improving enhancements. Use this alongside the Developer Tools in browsers and the Core Web Vitals Report in Search Console to see how your site is rendering its contents.

Among other things, PageSpeed Insights looks at the three current Core Web Vitals metrics:

CLP (largest contentful paint): The largest contentful paint happens when the largest element of a requested page appears on the screen. A good grade gives users the feeling that the site loads fast. A slow site can lead to frustration.FID (first input delay): The first input delay is the time between the first interaction of a user with an element on the requested page and the reaction of the browser to that input. How quickly your page reacts to input is of utmost importance for it to appear fast and responsive.CLS (cumulative layout shift): The cumulative layout shift measures the total time of movement on screen that happens during loading. This gives you an idea if stuff is jumping around which could make your site appear jerky.

Type in your URL and Insights will give you two scores: one for mobile and one for desktop. These will be different. If your score is red, you have much work to do. Orange means an average performance and green is good. It’ll give you suggestions on enhancing the performance of your site. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll be on the right track.

I hear you thinking:

“Nobody has a score of 0/100, right?”

Well, think again. A combination of factors can do your mobile site a lot of harm. Find a bad hosting provider, install WordPress on a crappy shared hosting platform, activate thirty plugins and upload a hundred non-optimized images to your blog and you are going to score badly. Even huge sites with big budgets score badly. But these things can be fixed. Run PageSpeed Insights and other speed analyses tools and follow their advice.

What can you do to improve your site speed?

Optimize images and use fewer imagesInvest in quality hostingUpdate PHP version to PHP7Keep your redirects in checkFix render-blocking content above the foldPrioritize visible contentOptimize and minify CSS, HTML and JavaScriptCache your assetsUse a CDNMake the transition to HTTP/2Upgrade to HTTPSLoad fewer assets like JavaScript librariesLoad fewer ad serversImprove server response time

To help you, we’ve listed five things you can do to boost your Core Web Vitals. When improving your page speed, you should always ask yourself if you need all these assets, libraries, images, plugins, theme features and so on. The famous saying “less is more” is still as valuable as ever.

Read more: Site speed tools and suggestions »

Think about implementing AMP

The Google-led open source project AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, has one goal: loading your pages as fast as possible. It’s been around for some time now. In the beginning, AMP was used on static posts, like blogs or news articles, that didn’t need interaction from the user. For e-commerce purposes and other dynamic types of pages, AMP fell short – until a year or so, that is. Today, AMP is capable of powering canonical sites, with more to come. Look into what AMP could do for your site and how you might implement it. Not every site needs it, but the ones that do could gain a lot from it.

Read more about implementing AMP with WordPress »

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

PWAs offers another way of targeting mobile users. A progressive web app (PWA) is an all-in-one solution that works on all devices, for all users. It’s the perfect crossover between the app world and the web world. The web app works like an app, without the need to publish it in an app store. PWAs combine the load speeds of mobile sites with the best functionality of a native app. When done correctly, a good PWA might fool users into thinking they are using a native app. Google has a must-read blog post if you want to know how to create indexable PWAs.

Thanks to technologies like service workers, the browser can do a lot more in the background, while keeping the front end updated in real-time. This makes it a good option if you need an app, but can’t justify the cost. There will be a lot happening with progressive web apps in the next couple of years. Every major browser — both mobile and desktop — now supports service workers, even Apple’s Safari on MacOS and iOS. There are, however, still some kinks to be ironed out before Apple’s implementation is solid.

Focus on user experience

Besides being easily found and lightning fast, your mobile site should offer an enjoyable user experience — especially now Google will factor it into their algorithm. Find out which common tasks your customers have on your site. What is their search intent? Try to remove any obstacles and make sure users can achieve their goals quickly. There’s a lot you need to consider when optimizing user experience. Here are a couple of things you need to think about:

First and foremost: don’t forget your customer!Make your site mobile site useful and enjoyableFix your font size: your typography needs to be top notch.Keep enough room between the clickable elements.Make your sub-menu clickable, so users don’t automatically go back to home instead of the submenu.Put your phone number on the homepage and make it clickable. This way, people can call you if they want to do business.Don’t make users pinch and zoom to see – and use – your interface.Make your buttons large enough for fingers.Fix your forms: bad forms are unusable on mobile.Cut the clutter.Test, adjust and test again!

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

Optimize for local

While we use our smartphones a lot in our homes, these devices become even more useful when we’re out and about. Google found that 76% of people who searched for something nearby visited a related business within a day. 28% of those visits led to a sale.

To cope with that local demand, or so-called near me searches, you need to work on your local SEO. Local search results can look very different from regular desktop searches, so you have to know what to target and how to target it. Here are some ways you can improve your local SEO for mobile:

Write locally oriented content: It’s one of the best things you can do to improve local rankings.Build local links: Ask, and ye shall receive.Google My Business: Sign up and fill in your details. Here, you can keep your NAP data up to date, respond to reviews and upload photos, among other things.Reviews: Ask your customers for reviews, mark them up with structured data and present them on a particular page on your site. This does wonders.Photos: Take beautiful pictures of your business and add them to Google My Business.Schema.org: Add structured data for NAP details, products, reviews, etc. and you get mobile rich search results like rich cards or carousels.Contact details: Make sure your contact information is always correct and up to date. If not, fix it.Yoast Local SEO for WordPress plugin: This plugin can do a lot of the hard local SEO work for you.

Read more: Ultimate guide to small business SEO
Read more: Local ranking factors that help your business’ SEO

Finetune your mobile content

Smartphone screens are small. On that screen, text gets truncated and wrapped in a seemingly never-ending stream of paragraphs. Users have to scroll endlessly. Text on a mobile screen has the potential to give any web designer a headache. But the design – and use – of text is of crucial importance to the success of your site. If your site is unreadable or just plain ugly, people will not read your 1,000-word article. Hell, maybe not even your 100-word summary. Fix your typography.

People read a lot on their smartphones, but you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. You also need to make sure that your content is up to scratch.

Read more: Optimize your mobile content

Write for the small screen

Always keep the restrictions of the small screen in mind when creating or editing content. Don’t use too many long sentences, keep your paragraphs to around four sentences and break up text using bullet points, lists and headings. Nothing is more daunting to your visitor than a massive block of unformatted text. Check your content on a smartphone to see how it looks and find ways to improve it. The Yoast SEO Premium analysis can help you improve your content.

Read more: Copywriting for mobile

Write better meta descriptions and titles

Google shows less information in the search results on mobile than on a desktop. Your meta descriptions and your titles will be truncated if you make them too long. Think about that when you optimize your posts and pages. You lose several characters when optimizing your meta descriptions and titles for mobile. In Yoast SEO’s snippet editor, you can switch between a mobile and desktop preview. This way, you can compare the differences between the two and find the perfect middle ground. Yoast SEO also uses the titles and meta descriptions to fill your structured data, so make it clear to search engines what your page is about.

Read more: The Google preview in Yoast SEO

Prepare for voice search

When working on your content, you should account for voice search. Yes, it’s been around for a while, but with the advent of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home assistant, things are moving faster. More and more people are using their voice to perform actions on the web, and your content has to provide the answers. If done correctly, you might kill two birds with one stone: you’ll not only respond to questions mobile users have, but it might also lead to so-called featured snippets or answer boxes on desktop searches. Getting a featured snippet almost guarantees your content to be a top answer for assistants. Curious what’s powering conversational search?

To prepare for voice search, you need to take a good look at your current content. Ask yourself, does it answer any question a user might have? If not, change it. Find out which questions people use to find your content and optimize for that. Use Google’s autofill or tools like Answer the Public or AlsoAsked.com to find ideas for questions to answer.

Read more: How to prepare for voice search

Add Schema structured data to a mobile site

Structured data is incredibly important. By using structured data in the form of Schema.org to describe elements on your site, you can open a line of communication with search engines. Structured data makes it clear to search engines what all the different elements on your site mean. If done correctly, search engines can use this data to give you highlighted search results, known as rich results or rich snippets. This way, your site immediately stands out from the crowd, which could lead to a higher click-through rate.

Structured data allows for many new ways of presenting search results. The rich results we see in the carrousel, for instance, uses data you can add to your mobile site. The result is a snippet that is mobile-optimized and very attractive to click. Since Google is heavily investing in improving and expanding the types of rich results these might turn out to be your ticket to enhanced visibility. Try to get those featured snippets!

Structured data is one of the most important topics to get your head around. See our structured data course for an easy way to learn how to add structured data to your mobile site. This course is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription

Yoast SEO takes care of your Schema needs

A mobile how-to rich result

Adding Schema to your site has always been a struggle — but not any more! Yoast SEO is making it easy for you. The popular SEO plugin automatically adds an extensive list of Schema structured data properties to your site. Not only that, Yoast SEO also ties everything together in a neat graph. This graph makes it incredibly easy for a search engine to understand the true meaning of your site. That’s not all, because the free Yoast SEO structured data content blocks turn the WordPress block editor into a helpful tool to craft FAQ pages and how-to articles — with more block types to come. Both of these Schema types have a relatively easy to get rich result on mobile attached to it as well.

Read more: Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide

A mobile SEO guide full of tips

This ultimate guide to mobile SEO gives you a lot of pointers to improve the performance of your mobile site. Mobile SEO should always be a work in progress because there are always new developments, but also technologies arrive and are superseded. The world is always changing, and you need to keep up. If you do, the rewards can be great.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your smartphone, check your site on a mobile browser and find and fix those issues. Use this mobile SEO guide well, because this is an important time! This is the time to take action because if you don’t, you might get left behind.

Keep reading: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

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6 Ways To Make Your Email Campaigns More Engaging

Posted by on Aug 12, 2020 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 6 Ways To Make Your Email Campaigns More Engaging

6 Ways To Make Your Email Campaigns More Engaging

Email marketing is all about engagement and engagement is all about relevance. The more customers find your message to be relevant, the better you can engage a customer.

Acquiring an email is half the battle won. The next challenge for marketers like you is to reach the customers’ inbox. Make customers open the email – take action.

If your customers are not engaging with the email, it’s unlikely they will feel inspired to act. Like a domino effect, you’ll notice a gap in the email conversion rate curve.

Sounds like your problem?

If that’s the case, its time to build a robust email engagement strategy that helps you increase conversions.

In this guide, you’ll learn the best ways to improve email engagement.

Let’s get started.

What is email engagement?

Email engagement measures how your subscribers interact with your email campaigns. How many open your emails, how many people click on a link within the email, and how many people converted because of an email are the most common email engagement metrics.

How to measure email engagement?

Measuring email engagement is important because without having a clear idea of how your email campaigns are performing, you won’t know what to improve.

The best way to accurately measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns is to combine the data provided by your email marketing software with a couple of Google Analytics reports.

Email Engagement Metrics

Your email software will tell you key metrics like:

Email open rate: What percentage of your subscribers opened your emails.
Click-through rate: What percentage of your subscribers clicked a link in your email.

Google Analytics will tell you what specific actions on your website (such as purchasing a product), your subscribers performed after visiting your website by following a link in your emails.

Resources to Learn More

How to get more email subscribers – 10 proven ways to get more people to subscribe to your list.
How to improve your email open rate – 15 easy tweaks to get more people to open your emails.

How to increase email engagement?

These are the six most effective ways to make your email campaigns more engaging:

Know your customers
Segment your email lists
Personalize your approach
Create dynamic content
Keep it interactive
Test, Test, Test

1. Know your customers

Every customer journey is unique. Not every customer will have the same expectation and intent to subscribe. To craft relevant emails, you need to gather as much information about your customer.

Your ultimate aim should be to build comprehensive buyer personas – a composite look of your ideal prospects and customers. It includes information such as customer contact data, descriptive data, and behavioral data.

You can also add their preferences and intent. Based on what action they take and how they behave, you can craft content to propel them through all the stages.

Email Sales Funnel

Below are the types of emails you can send at each of the five stages of the customer lifecycle.

The Awareness Stage: It’s the first stage of the customer lifecycle. In this stage, potential customers begin to explore your product or service. They browse through your website or App.

It’s not yet about email. They may start to follow your brand on social channels or make direct visits to your website.

The Interest Stage: At this point, you can get on board the new customers with a welcome email. Impress them sharing exciting content—for example, articles, blogs, newsletters.

The Consideration Stage: The consideration stage is where your customers’ begin to research to ensure that they will make the best possible selection.

Before making a purchase decision, they start comparing your product and service with competitors.

Sending them case studies, product comparison reports are great email candidates for this stage.

The Intent Stage: At this stage, you can email them some of your best customer reviews, testimonials, and reviews.

Send emails, including relevant offers and discounts. It is at this stage they will make a decision to purchase your products or not.

The Purchase Stage: Once customers make a purchase, you can send thank you emailers, customer support, and follow-up emails.

Additionally, eCommerce businesses may also send order notifications, delivery updates, and product recommendations.

Retention: Now, when you’ve successfully converted a prospect into a customer. Your next aim should be to nurture them further. Build long term relationships to turn them into brand loyalists and advocates.

At this stage, you can send them emailers wishing them on their birthday or anniversary. Consider sharing exclusive and valuable content. Send industry-related updates, latest product, and service-related information upgrades, latest offers, and reviews.

2. Segment your email lists

The secret behind some of the most successful email campaigns is email list segmentation. When done right, email segmentation can improve all the email campaign KPIs and increase revenue.

Email segmentation is one of the best techniques to make your email campaigns targeted and relevant.

What is email segmentation?

It merely means dividing email list into groups and subgroups based on customer demographics, demographics, psychographics, and behavior.

Traditionally, marketers used basic demographics like age, gender, location, etc. to segment email lists but today, email list segmentation can go beyond demographics.

Email List Segmentation Options

For example, you can group emails of customers who haven’t opened your email in the last 60 days.

Or let’s say you want to target some of your best customers who purchased above $10,000 previous Black Friday. In short, the options to segment email lists are endless.

Here are few out of the box techniques you can consider to segment your email lists:

Buyer Persona – Buyer Personas are a composite look of your ideal customers. It includes customer contact data, descriptive data, and behavioral data.

For example, you may want to list customers who faced a similar kind of challenge in the past or want to list customers who share the same birthday, anniversary date, etc.

Engagement – Based on how your customers engage with your email campaigns, you can consider segmenting email lists based on open rate and conversion rate.

For example, you can list customers who’ve been inactive for the last six months and drive a re-engagement campaign.

Stages of the customer journey – We’ve already discussed how important it is to align your email marketing strategy with the buyer’s journey.  Based on what stage your customer is, you can draft relevant emails and dynamic content.

For example, you can group emails of customers who downloaded a new eBook and are ready to move to the next stage.

Order Value – Every customer has their way of interacting with your product and service. Not all customers spend the same on your product.

You can consider targeting customers with lower order value by running a targeted email campaign offering them relevant discounts and offers.

Visa Vi, you can also list customers’ emails with higher-order value to drop a “thank you” note for being a loyal customer.

3. Personalize your approach

The next step is to personalize your emails. Personalization, in terms of email marketing, is all about exercising timely one-on-one communication using relevant content.

Email Personalization Benefits

Some of the basic email personalization includes tactics like using a customer’s name in the subject line, creating dynamic content – Copy, design, and images – based on a customer’s gender, location, or other things you know about them.

Some of the advanced tactics include integrating a customer’s recent purchase history, browsing history, and tracking their website behavior to drive relevant campaigns.

Here’s what you can think of personalizing while sending your next email campaign.

Content – Every customer journey is no less than a story. Besides using the customer’s name in the subject line, you can create a personalized message referring to the buyer persona.

Copy – Use unique customer information to compliment your content with personalized Copy. For example, use details like customer name, last product purchased, birth, etc. to create action-driven text.

Images – Based on the type of customer you’re interacting with, you can personalize the image as well.

For example, if you’re targeting companies through an email campaign, you can use their logo in the image.

Also, if you’ve permission to store pictures of customers, you add their photos as well.

4. Create relevant content

In successful email campaigns, the content serves as a muse encouraging consumers to share their thoughts, ideas, opinions, and experiences.

Connect with your customers in a personal and human way, ensuring two-way communication. Refer to the buyer persona to craft personalized and relevant content.

Example of Good Email Content (Source: Optinmonster)

For example, you can share newsletters with links to your best blogs, how-to articles, case studies, webinars, etc.

Below are three ways to make your email content more engaging:

Start from the subject line – Use personalized subject lines that appeal to your customers. Keep the headline crisp, short, and to the point. Use relevant words to strike a chord at an emotional level. Adding emojis is another excellent way to grab attention.

Create Dynamic Content – Keep changing your content as per your customer’s behavior, preferences, and intent. Maintain a conversational tone to connect in a personal way, ensuring two-way communication.

Don’t take design for granted – Design can help enhance the customer experience (CX) further. A well-designed email with the right combination of creative layouts, imagery, and call to actions (CTAs), is responsive.

Here are best practices to ensure an appealing design:

Use grids to guide your customers: Use an Inverted Pyramid design to help customers focus on what’s most important.

Include imagery, graphics, and colors: Grab your customer’s attention by adding colors and graphics as per your brand’s visual guidelines.

Make it easy to read: Use borders, geometric shapes, layouts to showcase what is important. If you’re sending newsletters or any other format which demands lengthy content divide each section effectively.

Make the CTAs stand out: Get your best copywriters on the job to write effective CTAs. Use a box to highlight your CTA rather than a hyperlink. 

5. Keep it interactive

Interactive elements are not only fun but also an effective way to increase conversions and click-through rates.

Think outside the box. Find creative ways to utilize these interactive elements in different ways.

For example:

QR Codes: Use QR codes to make your emails look more attractive and engaging. You can use them to reveal special offers, discounts and as invitation passes to an event, etc. Try to create a QR code now for one of your upcoming campaigns.

Increase email engagement with QR Codes.

Polls and Surveys: Embed surveys, polls, and reviews in your email instead of sending just a survey link. These are effective ways to gain valuable customer feedback and information and a great way to express that you care!

Videos: Share your content using videos. Distribute content of all sorts creating videos of different genres.

For example, send your customers videos of live events, webinars, product demos, and training programs. You can also do podcasts and video interviews, and so on.

Scratch cards: Take advantage of the curiosity gap using scratch cards in emails to treat your customers with a unique experience. Instead of sending discounts, rewards, or any offer directly, use scratch cards to help customers reveal themselves.

Hamburger Menu: Ever noticed an icon with three lines piled on another? Mostly used as an icon to website menus, these are also known as hamburger menu. Add these to your email layout to increase click-through rates.

6. Test, Test, Test
Importance of Email Testing (source: SendGrid)

Review your email to prevent embarrassing errors such as typos, repeated, and spam words. Alongside, send a test email to check how each email client displays your email.

There are more than a thousand email clients across the globe. Each supports different features and requires different coding your HTML. Below are six things to test before sending an email

Subject Line: Ensure your subject line stands out and is error-free.

Images: Send a test email and preview your email in all relevant email clients. Often, the images you use can be blocked by email clients. Check for broken images.

CTAs: Check if CTA buttons are working correctly.

ALT text: Text below images help customers understand the content even if the image is blocked. So don’t miss out on the ALT text.

Devices: Given that you’re using a responsive email design, preview your email on mobile, desktop, and tablets.

Interactivity elements: If you’re using GIFs, surveys, polls, or any other interactivity elements in your email design, ensure they’re working correctly.

Key Learnings

Customer engagement is pivotal to marketing. It’s the same in the case of email marketing. The more customers engage, the better you can convert and build relationships.

Only when your customers open an email, click on the calls to action (CTA), a conversion takes place. Hence it’s vital to ensure a higher open rate and click-through rate to increase email conversion rate.

Not only that, but engaged customers also allow you an opportunity to build better relationships. The more relevant your email is, the better you can engage a customer.

The best way to stay relevant to your customers is to know and listen to them. Understand their needs, interests, and expectations at each stage. Only then can you make your email campaigns more engaging.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

Gather as much data about your customers as possible via digital as well as physical channels.
To create winning email campaigns, use personalization to make your email more effective and engaging.
Segment your list based on your campaign goals to enhance conversions from your email campaigns.

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