How a World-Class Museum Inspires Millions of Followers on Social Media

Every year the British Museum welcomes millions of people through its doors. And on social media they attract equally large crowds—nearly 4 million followers between their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter handles.

In this episode of our Hootcast podcast, the British Museum’s senior digital marketing manager Kate Carter tells us how they keep their millions of fans engaged on social media.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • Storytelling strategies for social media
  • Ways you can challenge and educate your audience
  • How to engage a large following

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you don’t have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of our conversation below.

Q&A with the British Museum’s senior digital marketing manager Kate Carter

When you think of a museum you don’t immediately think of social media. So, what is the British Museum’s mission and main goal on social media?

It’s essentially interpreting the museum’s mission, which is we are a museum of the world, for the world. We have over two million years of human history brought together under one roof here in London, which includes some of the greatest cultural achievements of every culture that has ever existed across two million years. We’ve got over eight million objects, a repository of human achievement from across the world.

And so, social is kind of the perfect space really for us to be trying to tell that story. The audience we have across Twitter and Instagram is in the millions. We hope that that will continue to grow. And it’s hugely international; it’s between 80 to 90 percent overseas. So, what we believe we’re doing with social is really fulfilling our mission, which is to bring this world collection to the world.

How do you measure your success on social, what are your KPIs?

It’s something we’re constantly re-evaluating. We started off with the usual metrics around how many followers we have and then trying to make that grow, which is still important.

Increasingly, we’re looking at the number of interactions that we’re generating and the rate of engagement for different platforms. How fast is the growth, how engaged is a percentage of our followers with the content that we’re posting.

We’re benchmarking more and more against our peers as well, so we compare ourselves not just against other museums in London or the U.K., but across the world. We look at who is doing that really well and make sure that we’re constantly trying to be up there amongst the best.

So you’ve gone from measuring social following to also looking at engagement and diving a little bit into competitor analysis as well.

And also looking at our responsiveness, so the customer service part has become an increasingly important, too. We’re now looking at how many people have tweets, you know, when they have questions, how many of those are we replying to, how quickly are we replying, how much added value are we bringing to people by being able to respond to feedback or being able to answer those questions to be able to navigate our website etc.

So, like you said, you’re a museum of the world, for the world, and your social following definitely reflects that. You have over a million followers on Twitter and Facebook and almost a million on Instagram.

We were thinking you likely have two separate audiences, people who come into the museum and they follow you and are fans, and then people who are also fans who may never come and may want to learn about the history you share. How do you balance that experience on social?

It’s really interesting that you define it like that because I guess the way I like to think about it is that everyone in the world is someone who has maybe visited the British Museum once in their lives or potentially will one day visit. And maybe that visit becomes something that we can provide through a virtual reality experience. I don’t believe there’s anyone out there who might be choosing to follow us or engage with us on social who has no intention of ever stepping through our doors in some form.

I like to think of it more as a continuous lifetime relationship that we have with people, that they’re either hoping one day to come or they’re physically here right now, they’re planning their visit onsite. We still get comments from people on Facebook saying I came to that exhibition in 1972 and I had the most amazing time and there’s a lot of nostalgia for that. It can be a really special visit for people.

Yeah for sure. So even the people who may have not come yet you would still consider like an aspirational audience rather than defining that bucket as people who may never come.

Exactly. Because that’s reading into the sentiment that we see in the comments on our content. People talk about how much they’d like to come or how much they loved coming in the past. And so, that’s really informed my way of thinking about that audience. And rather than putting them into a box of assuming that they’ll only have this relationship with us through interacting with our Facebook posts, I like to think that there could be potentially something more substantial that we can offer them.

And like you said even offering like a virtual tour, that in and of itself is a form of visiting the museum.


Do you find since you’ve really ramped up your social, that it’s been an important way for you to reach out to young people to discover the British Museum and learn about historical collections that they might not otherwise see?

Absolutely, we obviously see the trends and audiences that are engaging with us on social that might be different to the ones that we’re picking up through other more traditional methods like surveys.

And by channel there are big differences. So our Instagram audience is, you know, on average much younger than our Facebook audience, which doesn’t mean that we necessarily think about the content differently because we think about people more in terms of their areas of interest rather than grouping them by age. But certainly looking at the youngest end of the spectrum and thinking about how we engage kids and young people; we do a lot of programming around that.

We have an amazing schools and families program. We have the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre in the museum, which has this incredible program of digital-based activities for young people. Increasingly, we’re looking at how we integrate social media into those experiences but also how we use social to better promote them as well.

That’s something that a lot of brands can learn from. I think we get hyperfocused on targeting millennials or a certain age demographic and making assumptions about what they would want to see. So you’ve actually noticed through sharing content that you see a wide range of interest across age groups based on different types of content.

Yeah, exactly. And you receive different audiences for exhibitions we might be putting on, for example a live broadcast we’re doing. You can bring together a community of people who might seem demographically quite diverse by those sort of traditional categories but have a really shared interest, something like history or art is something that does connect across those different segments. There are people here who are real history buffs, who read a lot in their spare time or people who are specialists working in the field, they can all have that shared interest even though they’re in kind of very different places in their lives.

Do you have any channel-specific strategies or tips that you could share?

I think we realized that by becoming more channel-specific, that in itself has made us more successful across the board. A couple of years ago we were in a situation where we were cross-posting a lot. We were thinking about what are we going to share on social media on Wednesday and would adapt that message, like we would edit the characters down to fit it on Twitter. We might think of the image differently for Instagram but essentially we were sharing the same kind of stuff.

Now we plan totally differently. We plan every channel separately as well as thinking about what’s coming up this week, next week, next month etc. We’re also thinking about what does that trajectory look like on Facebook and on Instagram and we do different climatic series of content on the different channels and they really kind of standalone now in a way that I think has helped them all grow and become more engaging.

You do a lot of cool stuff on Facebook and with Facebook Live as well, do you think you could tell us a little bit about that?

Facebook Live has definitely become really important to our strategy. We’re trying to do a lot more live broadcasts. We find that they do something quite special that other video formats don’t do, which is that sense of bringing people together around a moment. And just for that kind of maybe half an hour or something that you’re broadcasting, you know, you manage to bring together thousands of people who are all over the world.

We did a few live events recently where we had comments from people in over 90 countries, which is phenomenal to see. And what we always do is get people to tell us where they’re watching from so you can see comments flooding in from all these different cities and states and countries. I think the audience get a kick out of that as much as we do because it feels exciting to have that sense that somehow these people are collectively experiencing something even though they are in completely different environments.

Would you say that one of your goals is to connect people from around the world, around one central experience or one learning experience?

Yeah, I mean I don’t want to start sounding like we’re Facebook connecting every human on the planet. But yeah, I think there is something about that. And I guess for us it’s that we have such a range of experiences to offer, you know, the content, the collection, from contemporary art to ancient sculpture and everything in between.

We feel like we are in this really privileged position of being able to offer this series of unique experiences that people can choose to come together and be a part of if they follow us and choose to tune in.

What are some ways that you’re using Instagram? Do you do anything with the stories, is it just images? What are your strategies around that?

Yeah I think we’d like to do more with Instagram stories, we’re definitely ramping it up. It’s sort of similar to that realization we had a couple of years ago around being more channel specific. I think that Instagram news feed and Instagram stories are two different channels. Now that we’ve separated them a bit more in our minds that’s really helped with loosening up and being a bit more creative with Instagram Stories. We try to use them to be a bit more playful, a bit more spontaneous. It changes things knowing that it’s only going to last 24 hours and that it’s ephemeral. Whereas, with our feed, there’s a lot more thought that goes into that in terms of the image selection and the length of information we share.

We try and make sure that each post has a really quality story to tell and a visual that’s strong and enduring and that they sit together. We tend to post things in threes so that they have the sense of this automatic journeys, which is quite a considered approach I guess, whereas Instagram stories is, as I say, something that feels much more ephemeral.

I really like the 360 virtual tour that you guys have on your Facebook. Would you mind dabbing a little bit more into that?

Yeah, sure. This has been a collaborative pilot that we’ve done with Oculus. So, we’ve kind of worked with them directly and it’s you can say it’s on our Facebook page at the moment but it’s the first of its kind experience where you’ve got an interactive 360 virtual reality experience directly with a newsfeed. You don’t have to go outside of your newsfeed to experience it.

So, it works if you’re using a Facebook app on your phone but if you want to go all the way into immersing yourself then you can put that phone into a Samsung Gear VR headset and then you feel like you’re walking around the galleries.

We were really getting a kick out of trying it out. And I think it’s such a cool way to offer that experience to people who haven’t been to the British Museum or who would love to come but haven’t had that in-person experience.

Yes. What was exciting for us about it is that VR still feels like something that a lot of people don’t have the devices yet and it still feels like people are in the early stages of exploring that. And what’s nice is this really puts it straight into people’s phones and puts the museum at your fingertips.

We notice that you use long captions to describe a scene or provide a lot of context for what people are seeing. How does that fit into your digital strategy around storytelling or education or both?

We are the custodians of this amazing collection and lots of the objects are visually stunning in their own right and maybe it would be enough to look at them. But with every object there’s a story behind it, there’s a reason why it has this particular status that it’s now part of the British Museum collection.

For us it’s about bringing the people to life that are a part of the object’s story. So, who made it, who was it made for, who’s worn it, who’s used it, how is it used? How might that relate to something that’s happening today? And we try to kind of bring the objects to life with that human aspect. And that does require a few words to sort of tell that story.

I can imagine too that providing that context for people also helps them to appreciate what they’re seeing more as well.

I think so. I just personally I feel that it’s when the curators start describing an object to me that I get excited about it. That’s the stuff we want to capture in a bottle and share with our followers on social. Not everyone finds world history instantly accessible. If something is not really familiar to you in your culture it sometimes takes a little more of an explanation to relate to an object and kind of get inside the heads of the people that made it thousands of years ago.

Yeah for sure. I mean I definitely have the same experience when I have a better understanding of what I’m seeing. I have so much more of an appreciation for what it is and where it’s come from. So how do you feature exhibits on social? What makes certain exhibits social media friendly or do you not divide out exhibitions that way or do you have certain ones that you choose?

I think every object that’s in the collection has a story to tell and therefore has its place on social media. And over the years hopefully you’ll get around all eight million of them.

Our selection criteria in terms of what are we posting now, is about trying to find balance. We’re always making sure that we’re being representative and sharing a range of objects that come from different parts of the world, different cultures, and different religions. We try to have a balance in terms of things that maybe were made or are about men and women, so the diversity of the collection is something that’s really important.

It would be easy for us to default to sharing the things that we know are super popular. You know, we could look at our analytics on social and see okay, people love Egyptian stuff and we could just only talk about that and it would go really well. But it would be neglecting our duty to actually share some of the lesser known parts of the collection. And there are some amazing objects that are far less famous that have incredible stories to tell. Part of the job is unearthing some of those and bringing them into the spotlight as much as the ones that we know have huge appeal and that people want to see and we’ll always continue to share on a regular basis.

In that way you are really important educators and using social to educate as well, not just get the highest engagement on every single post but also to inform your audience.

Exactly. We want to take the audience on a bit of a journey with us. Something that’s really important to us is that sense that people trust the British Museum and that they trust us to take them to places that they might not have gone themselves. So, whether that’s a culture they’ve never heard of or an aspect of the past that might surprise them or the fact that the museum is continuingly making new acquisitions from around the world to carry on telling that story of humanity. And that’s one of our challenges as well as one of the real joys is trying to get that across, there’s so much to share.

I think that’s something any business or brand can learn from the British Museum is that if you’re telling stories and you’re actually generating interest and educating and sharing things that are genuinely engaging then it resonates with people instead of just being talked at or told things to.

Do you have any stories of a strategy or campaign that really worked well, something that you did that you saw a huge engagement or really good results from?

Something that really worked really well for us was based on the Rugby World Cup and the Football World Cup. We did some really cool object pairings where every time a match was played we took an object from each of the countries that was playing and paired them up. So we’d have two different necklaces or two different helmets, something like that. And you can see visually the fact that these two countries have this kind of shared history, they have things in common, but also that they have distinct styles.

That worked really well. People really responded to that and we got a lot of interest not just from the public but some of the football teams themselves. The official World Cup account shared one of our posts and some embassies around the world who were supporting their teams. And that was a really nice way of us bringing something into a much bigger conversation that perhaps no one else could do.

I think that’s the tricky thing about getting a campaign right is working out what you can bring that’s unique—and sometimes the answer to the question is nothing and therefore you have to step away and let other people take the stage. That’s been a big learning for us as well is trying to figure out what we can bring that will add something really special as opposed to just jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of it.

Yeah, I think that’s really good advice for brands out there to make sure that any campaign that you build is relevant and that, as you said, you are adding unique value to people’s experience. Thank you so much for joining us today. You’ve given us so many good insights.

Thanks for having me.

Listen to the Full Episode

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8 Essential Skills a Social Media Manager Must Have

There’s not one secret recipe to becoming an amazing social media manager (if only it were that easy), but making sure you have the full range of essential skills to do the job well certainly helps.

And it’s a good time to be getting in the game. Social media manager was number 42 in CNN and PayScale’s list of the top 100 careers for “big growth, great pay and satisfying work.”

It makes sense. As people look to connect with brands on social media, companies need social media managers who can help grow their business online.

Whether you’re already an experienced social media guru or you’re just getting started, by the end of this post you’ll have everything you need to create compelling content and understand how it relates to your business’s bottom line.

(P.S. If you’re a hiring manager looking to add a social media-savvy team member, these are the skills you want to look for.)

The most important skills for social media managers (and the tools to help you get there)

1. Writing and editing

Whether you’re writing Instagram posts or Pinterest captions, words matter. Good writing can boost engagement, extend your organic reach, and help social media managers create an unforgettable brand.

Think of a few brands with strong social media followings—All Birds, Old Spice, Taco Bell. Love these brands or hate them, a distinct writing style is part of why they gained a following online.

But fear not! If writing doesn’t come naturally to you, there are tools that can help. One of our favorites is the Hemingway App, which helps you eliminate extra words and get straight to the point.

And while there’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned edit of your posts, creating a brand style guide may also help.

2. SEO

Understanding the link between search engine optimization (SEO) and social media reach can be a bit confusing. Google suggests that social signals do not overtly affect your SEO rankings, but the full picture is more complicated.

Content that has a high social reach and gets lots of shares, likes, and comments is likely going to get similar engagement metrics that will be read by Google’s algorithm and positively impact your rankings. This is a correlation rather than a causation, so while you don’t want to build your social media plan around SEO, it’s a good idea to be aware of the common mistakes that social media managers often make.

Luckily, there are some great SEO tools out there. LSI Graph will identify relevant keywords and phrases according to what’s been searched on Google along with your primary keyword. This comes in handy if you’re looking for related topics to write about.

But, if you feel overwhelmed by the intricacies of SEO, remember that it’s all about creating great content that people will like and share.

3. Customer service

I know I personally hate waiting on hold, so I often take to social media to engage with brands or air my complaints. And I’m not alone. According to a study by J.D. Power, 67 percent of consumers use social media to ask specific questions or find help resolving problems. That’s huge!

So it’s important for a social media manager to have some basic customer service skills like:

• Be timely. Over 72% of people who tweet their complains, expect a response within 1 hour.
• Know how to find and monitor conversations relevant to your business. (Tools like Hootsuite and Talkwalker allow you to set up social media streams that monitor conversations and keywords across several social networks.)
• Don’t wait for a complaint. Be proactive when it comes to engaging your followers.

And that’s just the beginning. Check out the full list of customer service skills here.

It helps that consumers love brands who respond to them. A customer who enjoys a positive service experience with a brand on social is nearly three times as likely to recommend the brand to a friend.

So being active when it comes to customer service actually helps the other half of a social media manager’s job—connecting with consumers to build brand awareness.

The bottom line? The job of a social media manager is also to be a community manager, so acing customer service is win-win for your customers and your business.

4. Design and photo editing

Thanks to the smartphones we all carry in our pockets, anyone can be a photographer now. That’s why it’s more important than ever for a social media manager to have a good eye for design and the ability to recognize and create images that are on-brand.

After all, people remember 65 percent of a message when it’s accompanied by an image and only 10 percent when it’s not.

But you don’t necessarily need to have a degree in graphic design to create awesome visual content for your social feeds. As a starting point, there are tons of sites that offer free stock photography and there are lots of other tools to help with data visualization, fonts, and much more.

Hootsuite Enhance is a free tool that takes the pain out of remembering optimal image sizes for every different social network and can help automatically crop and store images for all your social media accounts. Easy peasy.

5. Analytics and reporting

Business is a results driven, well, business. So being able to prove a return on investment is a must-have skill for social media managers.

With a tool like Hootsuite Impact, social media managers can accurately measure the ROI of social media across paid, owned, and earned social channels. The tool connects to existing analytics systems so you can integrate social data with the rest of your business metrics. It also makes it easy to produce executive reports, and delivers plain-language recommendations to optimize your social media strategy.

Understanding how to prove and improve return on investment is also a huge selling point when it comes to landing a job as a social media manager.

6. Video creation

Video content is unquestionably an important way to reach your audience.

Over 500 million people are watching video on Facebook every day, according to Cisco’s research into global IP video traffic. And four years from now, video content is poised to account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic.

The bottom line? Social media managers need the skills to create compelling content for platforms like Instagram Stories, Facebook Live broadcasts, and Snapchat Stories. And with all these options, you’ll also need to know how to optimize video for all of your different social media channels.

A tool like Animoto can help beginners create compelling video content. But check out the rest of our social video toolkit here for even more tools that will have you mastering video in no time. Did I just hear someone say Spielberg?

7. Paid social basics

Understanding the relationship between organic and paid social is a huge asset for a social media manager. After all, one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal is your organic social presence.

You’ve got a focus group at your fingertips that isn’t afraid to let you know when they like something and when they don’t. And this lets you test new ideas and products, and ultimately put your advertising money behind the best one.

So whether you’re running a paid social ad campaign or just trying to figure out which posts to boost, understanding how you can use social ads to increase your reach or boost your organic ads is a powerful skill for any social media marketing professional to have.

You might also want to invest in a tool like AdEspresso, which lets you create and test hundred of ads in minutes. You’ll never have to wonder if a different headline or photo might have made all the difference in your campaign.

8. Research and planning

If you thought research skills stopped being useful once you left high school, think again. After all, you can’t tailor content to your audience if you don’t know who they are or what they want.

Plus, as a social marketer and expert in your field, your reputation is on the line. Make sure that all your data and ideas come from credible sources.

We’ve got some tips and tricks that’ll make it easier to find results you can trust. But, when it comes to online searches, the best tool, or at least the best place to start, is learning how to refine your results. This will not only save you time, but make your results more accurate.

The other half of research is understanding how your findings fit in to a larger plan both for your social media accounts and for your business as a whole.

This may seem obvious, but things move fast in the world of social media and sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in the right-this-second. Regular planning will help you keep your eyes on the big picture and ensure that your social media goals are aligned with your business goals.

Need help getting started with some planning tools? Check out these helpful templates to start building your own social media strategy and editorial calendar.

Master these 8 essential skills and you’ll be one step closer to becoming a social media manager. Use Hootsuite to easily manage all your social channels, collect real-time data, and engage with your audience across networks. Try it free today.

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Event recap: State of Search with Brainlabs

A graphic with the words PPC chat live in pink and blue, framing a conical flask with a brain floating inside it.

On February 22nd, leading digital media agency Brainlabs hosted the latest in its series of PPC Chat Live events at its London HQ.

With speakers from Google, Verve Search, and of course from Brainlabs too, there were plenty of talking points to consider and digest. In this article, we recap the highlights from an enlightening event.

The theme for this edition of PPC Chat Live was ‘the state of search’, with the focus squarely on the trends set to shape the industry in 2018 and beyond. The speakers delivered a wide variety of presentations that reflected on the industry’s beginnings, not just for nostalgia’s sake but also to illuminate the future too.

Brainlabs has carved out a position as an innovative, data-driven search agency and this tone was carried through the evening, all ably assisted by Pepper the robot receptionist.


Although paid search took up the majority of air time, there was still plentiful room for ruminations on the evolving role of SEO and what the nature of search tells us about the modern consumer.

Digital assistants: empowering or simply enabling?

Peter Giles from Google opened the evening with a thought-provoking talk on the impact of new technologies on the way people find information.

Peter noted that the increased accuracy of voice-enabled digital assistants has led to a range of changes in consumer behavior. Some of these could be seen as empowering, while others perhaps play only to our innate laziness and desire for a friction-free life.

There were three core behavioral trends noted within this session:

Increased curiosity

Because people have access to an unprecedented amount of information, they are more inclined to ask questions. When the answers are always close to hand, this is an understandable development.

Google has seen some interesting trends over the past two years, including an increase of 150% in search volume for [best umbrellas]. What was once a simple purchase is now subject to a more discerning research process.

best searches

Higher expectations

Although there is initial resistance to some technologies that fundamentally change how we live, once we are accustomed to them we quickly start to expect more. In 2015, Google reported that it had seen a 37x increase in the number of searches including the phrase “near me”.

Consumers now expect their device to know this intent implicitly and Peter revealed that the growth in “near me” phrases has slowed considerably.

Decreased patience

As expectations grow, patience levels decrease. In fact, there has been an increase of over 200% in searches containing the phrase “open now” since 2015 in the US. Meanwhile, consumers are coming to expect same-day delivery as standard in major metropolitan areas.

consumer patience

Throughout all of these changes, Peter Giles made clear that brands need to focus on being the most helpful, available option for their target audience. By honing in on these areas, the ways in which consumers access the information are not so important.

The more significant factor is making this information easy to locate and to surface, whether through search engines, social networks, or digital assistants.

The past, present, and future of PPC and SEO

Brainlabs’ exec chair Jim Brigden reflected on the history of the paid search industry, going back to the early 2000’s when most brands were skeptical of the fledgling ad format’s potential.

In fact, only £5 million was spent on paid search in the UK as recently as 2001. The industry’s growth, projected to exceed $100 billion globally this year, should also give us reason to pause and consider what will happen next. The pace of change is increasing, so marketers need to be able to adapt to new realities all the time.

Jim Brigden’s advice to budding search marketers was to absorb as much new knowledge as possible and remain open to new opportunities, rather than trying to position oneself based on speculation around future trends. Many marketers have specialized in search for well over a decade and, while the industry may have changed dramatically in that time, its core elements remain largely intact.

This was a topic touched on by Lisa Myers of Verve Search too, when discussing organic search. For many years, we have discussed the role (and even potential demise) of SEO, as Google moves to foreground paid search to an ever greater degree.

Myers’ presentation showcased just how much the SEO industry has changed, from link buying to infographics, through to the modern approach that has as much in common with a creative agency as it does with a web development team.

Just one highlight from the team at Verve Search, carried out in collaboration with their client Expedia, was the Unknown Tourism campaign. Comprised of a range of digital posters, the campaign commemorates animals that have been lost from some of the world’s most popular tourist spots.


Such was the popularity of the campaign, one fan created a package for The Sims video game to make it possible to pin the posters on their computer-generated walls. Verve has received almost endless requests to create and sell the posters, too.

This isn’t what most people think of when they think of SEO, but it is a perfect example of how creative campaigns can drive performance. For Expedia, Verve has achieved an average increase in visibility of 54% across all international markets.

The core lesson we can take away here from both Jim Brigden and Lisa Myers is that the medium of search remains hugely popular and there is therefore a need for brands to try and stand out to get to the top. The means of doing so may change, but the underlying concepts and objectives remain the same.

The predictable nature of people

For the final part of the evening, Jim Brigden was joined by Dan Gilbert, CEO of Brainlabs and the third most influential person in digital, according to Econsultancy.

Dan shared his sophisticated and elucidative perspective on the search industry, which is inextricably linked to the intrinsic nature of people.

A variety of studies have shown that people’s behavioral patterns are almost entirely predictable, with one paper noting that “Spontaneous individuals are largely absent from the population. Despite the significant differences in travel patterns, we found that most people are equally predictable.”

As irrational and unique as we would like to think we are, most of our actions can be reduced to mathematical equations.

That matters for search, when we consider the current state of the industry.

After all, companies like Google excel at creating rational systems, such as the machine learning algorithms that continue to grow in prominence across its product suite.

As Dan Gilbert stated, this gives good cause to believe that the nature of search will be fundamentally different in the future.

Our digital assistants will have little reason to offer us a choice, if they already know what we want next.

That choice is the hallmark of the search industry, but Gilbert sees no reason to create a monetizable tension where no tension needs to exist.

Google’s focus has always been on getting the product right and figuring out the commercial aspect once users are on board and this seems likely to be the approach with voice-enabled assistants.

dan gilbert

In fact, the technology is already available to preempt these decisions and start serving consumers content and products before they even know they want to receive them. The field of predictive analytics has evolved significantly over the last few years and the capability to model out future behavioral trends is already in use for companies like Netflix and Amazon.

The inflection point for this technology is dependent on people’s readiness to accept such a level of intrusion in their daily lives, rather than any innate technological shortcomings.

History suggests that, while a certain initial resistance is to be expected, ultimately we will grow accustomed to this assimilation of technology into our lives. And, soon after, we will grow impatient with any limitations we encounter.

That will create a seismic shift in how the search industry operates, but it will open up new and more innovative ways to connect consumers with brands.

Related reading

Vector graphic of a document with a key superimposed on top, and a red circle with a line through it on top of that.

15 actionable SEO tips to improve your search rankings

Google’s RankBrain is an algorithm that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to rank results based on feedback from searcher intent and user experience.

Diving deep to learn what makes RankBrain tick, here are 15 actionable tips to improve your SEO rankings.

Optimizing keyword research

Keywords have long been the foundation to high-ranking SEO content.  Most of your content, whether it be blogs or website copy, begin with hours of definitive keyword research you could rank for, and outrank your competitors for.

However, RankBrain has in some ways changed those run-of-the-mill SEO keyword research strategies you may have used in the past. It is all about searcher intent when it comes to the future of ranking, so it’s time to adjust your keyword research strategy.

1. Rethink synonymous long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords were once effective, before Google used semantic analysis and understood the meaning of words. You were able to compile a list of long-tail keywords from Google’s “related searches” at the bottom of a SERP and create a page for each keyword.

Unfortunately, synonymous long-tail keywords are not as effective in the RankBrain SEO world. RankBrain’s algorithm is actually quite intelligent when it comes to differentiating very similar long-tail keywords. Instead of ranking for multiple keywords, it will deliver pretty much the same results to a user.

For example, the long-tail keywords, “best automation tools for marketing” and “best marketing automation tools” will return the same results to satisfy searcher intent.

So what do you do instead of leveraging those long-tail keywords? Read on to find out how to do RankBrain-minded keyword research.

2. Leverage medium-sized keywords

Since long-tail keywords are on their way out, you should begin optimizing for root keywords instead. Root keywords are  the middle of the pack search terms with higher search volume than long-tail.  They are more competitive and may require more links and quality content to rank.

For example, let’s say you are crafting an article with “lemon tea” as your primary keyword. Your keyword research should look something like:

You’ll notice that there are a number of medium sized keywords to choose from. Interestingly, the primary keyword “lemon tea” only nets about 3,600 monthly searches.

However, medium sized keywords like, “benefits of lemon” and “honey lemon” drive around 8,000 to 9,000 monthly searches.

Using medium sized keywords in the RankBrain SEO world will also automatically rank your content for a number of other related keywords. If you want to optimize your content for highest SERP position possible, use medium-tail keywords.

3. Add more LSI keywords

Now before you toss out the idea of long-tail keywords altogether, it is important to understand that they still have some benefits. For instance, they help you identify the LSI keywords RankBrain loves to rank content for.

This doesn’t mean you should keep using those synonymous long-tail keywords, but you should leverage the LSI potential of them. These would be any words or phrases very strongly associated with your topic.

Using the previous “lemon tea” example, you can easily identify a number of excellent LSI keywords for that primary keyword. How? Good question!

One way is to use Google’s “related searches” and note any words in bold blue.

You can also use Google’s drop down to help you identify commonly searched for LSI keywords.

You can also use a handy little LSI keyword finder tool called LSI Graph:

Simply type in your primary keyword and LSI Graph will return a number of LSI Keyword rich phrases for you to choose.

Between Google and LSI Graph you can compile a number of powerful SEO LSI keywords like:

  • Disadvantages
  • Ingredients
  • Powder
  • Benefits
  • Weight loss
  • For cold
  • Brands
  • Recipe

These LSI keywords will give you more keywords, and pages, to rank for, as long as they are not synonymous like in the case of those traditional long-tail keywords.

Optimizing title tags for higher CTR

Organic click-through-rate (CTR) is a major signaling factor. In fact, the very nature of RankBrain is all about how users interact with the content provided in the SERPs.

Want to improve your SEO rankings? First improve your CTR!

What can you do to ensure your content is netting the CTR it deserves in order to get ranked accordingly? Well, there are actually a number of CTR hacks to improve your SEO rankings.

4. Make your title tags emotional

Putting a little emotion into your title tags can have a big impact on your CTR. Most searchers will land on page one of Google and start scrolling through titles until one hits home emotionally.

In fact, a study by CoSchedule found that an emotional score of 40 gets around 1,000 more shares.

Emotional score, what is that? CoSchedule actually has a Headline Analyzer to ensure your blog titles, email subject lines, and social posts are appealing to your audience’s emotions.

Drawing from our “lemon tea” example, let’s say you type, “7 Lemon Tea Benefits” into the Headline Analyzer. Not a great title, and these were the results from the analyzer tool.

A score of 34 will get me near 1,000 shares, but it could definitely be better. The title definitely needs a bit more emotion and it needs to be longer.

Let’s try it again. This time with the title tag, “7 Lemon Tea Weight Loss Benefits for Summer,” which did much better.

It can be challenging to pick a title that brings about emotion. The best way to nail down the perfect title tag is to think like your audience, research other high-ranking titles like yours, and use online tools.

5. Use brackets in your titles

This is definitely an easy one to implement to quickly improve your CTR and SEO rankings. By using brackets in your post titles, you are drawing more attention to your title among the masses in SERPs.

In fact, research by HubSpot and Outbrain found that titles with brackets performed 33 percent better than titles without.

This was a study that compiled 3.3 million titles, so quite a large sample. A few bracket examples you can use include, (Step-By-Step Case Study), (With Infographic), (Proven Tips from the Pros), or (How I Got X from Z).

6. Use power words

In the same mindset of developing more emotional title tags to increase CTR, power words are, well, powerful. They have the ability to draw searchers in and will make your headline irresistible.

Power words include:

  • Insane
  • Effective
  • Case study
  • Fast
  • Proven
  • Best
  • Definitive guide
  • Scientifically

For example, these titles in page one Google take up the top three positions.

Increase your CTR and improve your SEO rankings by adding power words into your post titles. But don’t forget about those numbers either.

7. Use more numbers and statistics in titles

Lists are great, but don’t shy away from adding numbers and statistics to your titles. Numbers in titles highlighting percentages from research or a certain number of days can have a big impact on your content’s CTR.

Your headlines could look something like these:

For example, let’s say you are writing content about a new study outlining the benefits of a low glycemic diet for decreasing acne. If the study found 51 percent of participants to have decreased acne after 14-weeks, your title could be, “New Study Found a 51% Decrease in Acne after 14 Weeks.”

You can also combine your numbers with power words for the perfect CTR storm. Like this:

With your title tag optimization efforts well under way, it’s time to focus on those very important description tags.

Optimizing description tags for higher CTR

Title tags are not the only aspect of a higher CTR to improve your SEO rankings. Someone may have stopped scrolling at your title, but may read your description tag just to be sure your content is click-worthy. This makes optimizing your description tags a priority.

8. Make your description tag emotional too

Just like your title tag, you want to keep the emotional juices flowing if a searcher reads your description tag. This can be done in a similar fashion as your title tag, using those powerful emotion words that satisfy searcher intent in a meaningful way.

Here’s one example:

Not exactly stirring up the emotions you would want if searching for information on how to increase your website’s conversion rates.

Now how about this one:

This description tag points out a problem that many business owners have, traffic but not so many conversions.

And finally this description tag:

This longer form approach puts conversions into emotional perspective. It is personal and has a very clear emotional call to action.

9. Highlight benefits and supporting data

Why would anyone want to click on your content based solely on the description tag? This is the mindset that will take your CTR to the next level. Don’t be afraid to highlight the benefits or the supporting data you are serving up.

This is a great example of highlighting where the content data is coming from, as well as the benefits.

Creating content after an industry conference is the perfect way to highlight key takeaways for your audience. It is also makes developing those emotional description tags easy.

10. Make use of current AdWords content

One description tag hack many people fail to leverage is using keywords and phrases placed in multiple relevant AdWords description tags. If you want to optimize your description tags for improved SEO rankings, this CTR hack is a must.

For example, if your content was about marketing automation tools, you could run a quick Google search and find a number of ads. Then examine them to find recurring words or phrases, like “ROI.”

This would be a pretty good indicator that you should place ROI somewhere in your description tag. After all, companies are paying thousands of dollars to have these ads up and running daily, so capitalize on their marketing investment.

11. Don’t forget your primary keyword

This should be a no-brainer, but still happens. Placing your primary keyword in your description tag solidifies that your content is indeed going to fulfill searcher intent.

Like these examples:

Be sure to place your primary keyword as close to the beginning of your description as possible. You can also sprinkle in a few of your LSI and power keywords as well, if it reads naturally.

Reducing bounce rate and dwell time

The RankBrain algorithm looks at your content CTR and will rank it accordingly. However, if your content isn’t quality after a user clicks on it, they will “bounce out” quickly and keep searching.

This ultimately weeds out any clickbait and emphasizes the need to have a very low bounce rate and long searcher dwell time on page. The more you optimize for these two very important factors, the more your SEO rankings will improve.

But what is dwell time? Well, this is how long a searcher will spend on one particular page. Like anything sales minded, you want them to stick around for a while.

In fact, the average dwell time of a top 10 Google result is three minutes and ten seconds, according to a Searchmetrics study. How do you get searchers to stick around for three minutes or more? Develop quality, authoritative content that satisfies searcher intent.

12. Place content above the fold

When someone is searching for an answer to their question on Google, they want their answer immediately. This makes having your content (introduction paragraph) above the fold crucial to keeping bounce rate low.

An example of what could cause a quick “bounce out”:

You’ll notice that there is no content to be found but the title tag. In fact, the brand logo takes up much of the above the fold area. This could be problematic.

Instead, get your content front and center once a searcher lands on your post or page.

This will showcase your introduction right from the get go, making the searcher read on. But how do you hook them? Well, highly engaging introductions.

13. Develop concise and engaging introductions

By making your content above the fold, your introduction will be the first thing readers will see. This makes hooking them with a concise and engaging introduction essential. This will keep them reading and reduce bounce rate while increasing dwell time.

There are three main elements to a powerful introduction: Hook, Transition, and Thesis.

The intro hook should pull in the reader. It is specific, brief, and compelling. For example:

Introduction Transitions are usually connectors. They connect the hook to the posts content and supports the title (why a searcher clicked in the first place). An introduction looks like this:

The thesis of any post introduction strengthens why the reader should keep reading. Normally, if your transition is powerful, the thesis will simply fall into place. For instance:

Spend some time on your introductions. These are in many ways the most important element of any content and will improve your SEO rankings in the RankBrain world.

14. Long, in-depth content ranks

One way to improve your SEO rankings is to develop longer, more in-depth content. Long-form content also increases your backlink portfolio, according to HubSpot research.

More links and higher position on SERPs will definitely have an impact on your SEO rankings. If a reader makes it through your entire post, dwell time will definitely be in upwards of three minutes.

More in-depth content also showcases your expertise on the topic you’re writing about. This makes you and your brand more authoritative in your industry.

15. Make content easy to digest

You know that long, in-depth content improves dwell time, ranks better, and nets more backlinks. But how do you make 2,000-plus words easy to digest for your readers?

The best way to keep your readers from experiencing vertigo on page is to break up your content with lots of subheadings and actionable images. For example, you can do something like this:

Subheadings are very clear and there’s an actionable image that guides readers on just “how-to” achieve the answers to their questions.

Another important tip for breaking up your long-form content is to keep paragraphs very short and concise.

Paragraphs can be two to three sentences long, or simply one long sentence.

The main aim is to ensure readers can avoid eyestrain and take in all the authoritative information you outlined in your content. This will keep readers on page and increase your dwell time, thus improving your SEO rankings.


If you are ready to adapt your SEO strategies to new developments in AI and the evolution of Google’s algorithms, follow the tips above to start seeing improved rankings.

As algorithms evolve, so should your strategy. Have you tried optimizing for RankBrain? What are your favorite tips?

Related reading

SPI 306: Rise of the Youpreneur with Chris Ducker

Today I have a very special guest: Chris Ducker of and Youpreneur, and author of the new book Rise of the Youpreneur!

Chris and I have been friends for eight years now. He’s been on the show before but we’ve never gotten this deep. A lot of people may not be familiar with the side of Chris we’re going to be talking about today. We’ll be discussing a time in Chris’s life when he was actually hospitalized due to burnout. That event, and everything that happened after, ultimately led Chris to a successful, enjoyable, and fulfilling business.

Chris understands how to be the best version of you, how to portray that so that you can hire people, coach people, and get your audience to trust you. This translates into every facet of his business: branding, content, and how he interacts with his audience. He’s going to be sharing some of his strategies today—you won’t want to miss out.

We’re also talking about legacy. What happens to your business when you’re no longer here? This is important. Online business hasn’t been around for a long time, and it’s necessary to have these kinds of conversations so that we can continue to make an impact in the long-run. What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind? How do we do that?

Today’s episode is packed and personal. You may even want to give it a second listen so that Chris’s experiences really sink in. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Chris Ducker for joining me this week. Until next time!

Top 10 Podcast Recording Tips to Sound Like a Podcasting Pro

Podcasting is one of the most powerful ways to build your brand and audience. Here are my top 10 recording tips for producing professional, engaging episodes that will keep your listeners coming back for more.

Top 10 Podcast Recording Tips to Sound Like a Podcasting Pro

I believe podcasting is one of the most powerful tools available to build your brand and your audience. And when it comes to creating a great podcast, the real magic happens when you’re recording.

Over several years and hundreds of episodes, I’ve uncovered several crucial tips that have helped me improve my craft and produce podcast content that keeps people engaged and coming back for more. And I wanted to share those tips with you!

Without further ado, just click on the video above, or read below for my top 10 tips for recording a killer podcast episode!

#10: Watch Your Mouth!

This tip is really important—be consistent with the position of your mouth relative to the mic when you’re recording. If you drift away from the mic or even look away briefly, that will reflect directly in the sound quality of your episode. I’ve recorded hundreds of podcast episodes, and I still forget this sometimes! The key is to stay consistent throughout the whole recording. It can help to have a cue to help you here, so I always remember to have the tip of my nose or the tip of my lips touching the pop filter when I’m speaking. That’s how I know the sound quality will be the same throughout the entire episode. It takes some practice, but you’ll get used to it!

#9: Stay Out Of the Red

This tip has to do with your sound levels. Your levels will show up as a little scale in the application you’re using to edit. Usually this is a series of bars that go from green to yellow to red, depending on how loud you are. There’s one basic rule of thumb here: Do not go red! You don’t want to record in the red—because once you go red, you can’t go back. You’re much better off recording in the green and the yellows, because it’s easy to go back and bump up the levels in your software later on if you need to.

The best practice here is to try and get as close to red as possible without actually going into that range. This’ll give you get a great volume level without distorting the sound. If you’re using a portable sound recorder, it can be a little bit easier to control the levels, as the recorder will usually have a button or knob you can adjust on the fly to tweak your levels. But if you’re recording into software, it might not be as obvious how to adjust your input levels. So make sure to identify ahead of time where to do that in whatever application you’re using. Then, before you start recording, run some tests to calibrate your levels. Speak naturally, record a couple of run-throughs to see where your levels are running, and adjust accordingly. And remember, don’t go into the red!

#8: Keep it Consistent

One of the most common questions I get is “How long should my podcast episodes be?” This is actually a pretty common question for any sort of publishing platform, whether it’s a book, a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode. The simple answer to all those questions? As long as it needs to be. How much time do you need to get across your message? There’s no magic number, really. It all depends on what kind of content you’re going to produce, and on your style, too. There are plenty of great podcasts out there that are just three to five minutes long. And there are some podcasts that are longer—twenty minutes, thirty minutes, sometimes even an hour. You know your audience and the type of content you’re putting out there. Whatever show length you feel is right for you and your audience is the right answer.

That said, whatever show length you decide on, my main piece of advice is to stay consistent. You don’t want to record twenty minutes with one episode, five minutes the next episode, and then one hour the next one. Getting into a nice rhythm will be helpful for you, AND for your listeners so they know what to expect and know how much time to allot for listening to your show each time.

#7: Grab Them With Your Intro

I definitely recommend having an intro. It’s great for branding purposes, but there are different ways to approach it. And again, just to reiterate, this is your show. You can do whatever it is that you want to do with it. You have a lot of freedom here.

Now, as with any sort of presentation, whether it’s a blog post, podcast, video, or even a live presentation, the best thing you can do at the beginning is to tell your listeners or readers what they’re about to experience. This helps them understand what to expect, and gives them something to look forward to. For a podcast episode, you could even include a little teaser of the show’s content, to get people intrigued about listening all the way through. If you haven’t heard the SPI podcast before, I start each episode with a voice over saying, “This is the Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn, session number [X],” followed by some intro music. Then I spend about a minute going over about what I’m going to talk about and who I have on the show as a guest that episode.

The next thing to think about when it comes to your intro is music. Music can be a great way to set the mood and “grab” the listener right off the bat, but you also need to be very careful. The last thing you want to do is get in trouble for using music you don’t own, and to which you don’t have the rights. The key here is to look for music that’s royalty-free, which means you have the right to use it for any purpose. There are different variations of royalty-free music, so whenever you find something you like, make sure you go over the terms and conditions on the site where you found it. You can even contact the support team of that site to make extra sure you’re allowed to use the music for your show. It’s better to be safe than sorry here! Thankfully, there are lots of sites where you can find great royalty-free music. I got my music from Even though it’s mainly a photo site, they also have a music section. There’s also, and you could do a search on Google for other royalty-free music websites.

#6: Charm Them With Your Outro

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. In addition to your intro, your outro is very important. And frankly, I see a lot of podcasters missing the ball on this one. Remember, your outro is the last thing people hear and remember when they’re listening to you. So put it to good use. How do you do that? You provide a call to action. It’s as simple as that. Keep the engagement going. The listeners who have tuned into you for the entire length of your episode are primed for you to tell them how to take the next step, whether that’s to subscribe to your list, purchase something, or even just leave a review or subscribe, which is helpful for your rankings in iTunes. Whatever that call to action is, it’s so important to have it in there.

Now, you can keep the call to action the same for every episode if you want to, but I actually recommend changing it up each time, just so that people who listen to other episodes have different options for how to follow up with you. Maybe they already subscribe to your email list, or they’ve already left your podcast a review, so you want to be sure to give them something new.

#5: Wow Them With Your Website

It’s important to direct people from your podcast back to your website.  Why? Because people can’t click on what they’re listening to! It’s really smart to remind people to come back to your website, because that’s where all the action happens.

The best place on your website to direct people to is your show notes. Your show notes are a collection of links, summaries, an episode transcript, and/or other helpful resources related to a specific episode. Show notes are a great resource for your audience, because they provide an alternative to memorizing all of the great stuff you mentioned in your podcast episode. Instead, a listener can just come to your blog and find it all in one place.

What’s the best way to direct people to your show notes? Add a mention or two in the episode audio, telling people to come to your website and directing them to find the show notes for your podcast episodes. The outro is a great place to do that, but consider adding reminders elsewhere in your show, too. In my case, visitors to can click on “Podcast” in the navigation menu and scroll down to find the show notes for a particular episode.

If you wanted to make it even easier, you could get fancy and use a redirect. If you have a WordPress blog, this is actually really easy. I use a plugin called Pretty Links to do this. It’s one of my favorite plugins, because it allows me to take any link, no matter how long and ugly it is, and turn it into something pretty and much easier to remember. With my episode show notes, for instance, the URL on my blog might be something unruly like If I mention that particular URL on the show, it’s going to be really hard for people to remember. But using Pretty Links, I can set it up so that when people go to, they’ll get redirected to the long URL with my show notes. Super easy! And I’ve used this system for a while, so my listeners are used accessing my show notes with this format.

Finally, this goes without saying, but when you direct people back to your blog or your show notes, make sure you leave a good first impression. Do something to get them to come back for more. You collect their email addresses and get them to subscribe. Again, the blog is where all the clicking action happens.

#4: Say Yes to Segmentation

My next tip is to break up your show into different segments. This is an especially good idea if you are going to produce a longer show, say, in the forty-five-minute to 1.5-hour range. It’s totally fine to have longer episodes like this, but if you do, you have to be a bit more careful about how you break up the content so it’s more organized and digestible. Think of it like reading a book. If a book didn’t have any chapters at all and was just one huge chunk of text, it would be a pain to read. Having chapters and sections and paragraphs lets the reader know what to expect so they don’t feel overwhelmed, and also gives them room to breathe—some space at points to reset a little bit.

It should be the same for your podcast episodes. One of my favorite shows is Internet Business Mastery. There are many reasons why I became hooked on this show, but one of the main things I loved about it was they broke up their relatively long show into different segments. They started with their intro, where they talked about what the show was about, the episode number, and things like that. Then they did a short personal piece where Jeremy and Jason would just chat for a little bit. Then they would go into the featured segment, and at the end they would mention a short tip or resource. Between each of these segments, they’d have music to denote each new section. They used this structure in every episode, so it helped set expectations each time you listened. So, if you’re going to be producing a longer type of episode, think about breaking your episode into different chunks to keep your listeners listening and give them room to breathe a little bit!

#3: Forget the Fluff

This tip is simple: minimize the fluff. And what is fluff, exactly? It’s the extra stuff people talk about that doesn’t really have anything to do with the focus of your episode, that’s not going to be helpful to your audience—that’s just a waste of time, basically. What counts as “fluff” is going to be different for every audience, so the key is to think about it from your listeners’ point of view. Ask yourself, what do they want to listen to? They want to listen to stuff that’s going to help them, of course, so you want to get the meat of your content as quickly as possible.

That said, personal stuff is also pretty important, because that’s what people can connect to. That’s why I include a lot of personal stuff in my show. I talk about my kids and my family, as well as my hobbies and things I like to do, because that’s what helps me connect on a deeper level with my audience beyond just the content I produce. A lot of people come up to me in conferences and tell me stories about their personal lives before they talk about anything business related. So, the personal stuff and the stories, that’s what people remember and what lets them connect with you. But you don’t want too much of it. For me, the right amount is one or two little personal things at the beginning of the show or toward the middle. Just use your common sense. I’ve listened to shows in which the first ten minutes was about something I have absolutely no interest in, and I stopped listening. So be careful.

#2: Avoid Over-Editing

My next-to-last tip is to not edit too much! You’re gonna make mistakes when you record. But it’s really easy to notice them all, because you’re the one recording them. When you’re producing your shows, it can be really easy to edit too much, to hear all those mistakes and want to go in there and try to connect everything—to slice and dice and splice everything. Don’t do that. It’s a waste of time, and the more you rely on editing, the less you’re gonna actually improve as a person behind the microphone. You’ll have to do a certain amount of editing, for sure. You’re going to have to edit in your interviews. You’re going to have to edit your intros and jingles and things like that. And yes, there will always be a couple of clear mistakes in the middle of your recording that you’ll need to edit out. Fix those. But don’t try to make it “perfect.”

So trust me here. Don’t go too crazy with the editing. If you just force yourself to do it without editing too heavily, you’ll find it actually helps you improve in your craft. I’ve become such a better speaker behind the microphone, partly because I force myself not to edit my shows and rely instead on improving my craft of speaking. It will happen over time. It won’t be overnight, but you’ll get better. If you go back to my very first podcast episode, well, it sucks. I don’t like listening to it. And even if you go back to my first videos, I dare you to, because they’re just terrible. I cannot listen to them without cringing. But over time, I’ve gotten much better, and it’s because I don’t edit my shows too much. It just improved me so much.

#1: Have Fun!

The last tip here is to just have fun! Podcasting is amazing. At no other time in history have we been able to produce a show from the comfort of our own home or even on the road, something millions of people can listen to and listen to you, and it’s just so amazing. It’s such a wonderful time and opportunity, and the more you have fun with the process, the more your audience is going to pick up on that and have fun with it themselves. And here’s the thing: once you’ve produced a large number of shows, you’re going to reach a point where you’re just not having fun anymore. I’ve reached that point myself, and every podcaster I’ve talked to has reached that point where they just say, “Oh. I gotta record another episode . . .” But when you hit that point, just think about when you first started, and think about the possibilities. Because podcasting has the ability to open up so many doors. It has for me. Just remember why you’re doing it in the first place, and try to just have fun with it. If you find you’re getting bored with it, add something new, or try something different for a little while.

Well, those are my top 10 recording tips to help you improve your podcasting! I hope you find them helpful. If you’re thinking of starting a podcast and need a helping hand to get things off the ground, go to and access my free 3-day mini course that’ll walk you through everything you need, step by step, to get your podcast up and running.

How To Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps

LinkedIn is the world’s largest and most active professional networking platform, with over 13 million companies vying for the attention of more than half a billion users.

Once seen primarily as a job-seeking tool, the platform now offers a rich media experience that businesses cannot afford to ignore. Many LinkedIn users log in daily just to bask in the knowledge of thought leaders and stay on the pulse of their respective industries.

As such, your LinkedIn Company Page represents a huge opportunity to steer the conversation in your field, carve out a space for your brand, and attract top talent in the process.

Here are six steps you can take today to optimize your LinkedIn Company Page and improve your presence, authority, and recruitment prospects.

1. Tell your story in pictures

Update your profile image

Your profile image is first thing people searching for your company on LinkedIn will see, so make a good impression. Company Pages with profile pictures get six times more visitors than those without.

Choosing a profile image is straightforward: take your company logo (the same one you’re using on your other social media channels) and resize it to fit with LinkedIn’s requirements.

screenshot of Hootsuite LinkedIn company page

Ideal LinkedIn Profile Image Specs

Set the tone with your profile banner

The profile banner above your company logo offers a bit more room for creativity, as there are no hard-and-fast rules for using this space (other than some sizing requirements).

Ideal LinkedIn profile banner specs

  • 1536 x 768 pixels
  • PNG format
  • Maximum 8 MB
  • Rectangular layout

How you choose to hang your Company Profile banner is up to you. Here are two completely different examples of company profile banners, and why they’re successful.

Sephora: simple, sleek and stylish

Screenshot of Sephora Company Page on LinkedIn

Even a simple graphic can add some much-needed flair to LinkedIn’s standard template. Sephora’s banner displays the clean black and white stripes that frame many aspects of their branding, both in-store and online.

Air Canada: active, engaging and actionable

Air Canada LinkedIn Company Page

Air Canada’s banner takes a more actionable approach, advertising their involvement in the 2018 Seoul Winter Olympics. It includes bilingual hashtags for a current social media campaign and reps Canadian colors, driving social engagement.

2. Use keywords

Write an “About us”

Carefully-selected images will hook a prospect, but it takes words to reel them in.

A well-optimized “About us” section on your company page is a tightly worded paragraph (2,000 characters or less) telling visitors everything they need to know about your company. Use simple, accessible language informed by keyword research to outline your business goals in words anyone will understand.

Like your other social profiles, the “About us” on your Company Page should answer six basic questions (which I’ve adjusted slightly for the LinkedIn platform):

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you based?
  • What do you offer?
  • What are your values?
  • What is your brand voice?
  • How can people contact you to learn more?

To see an “About us” done right, look at Shopify. Their bio accurately describes the scope of their main product without ever slipping into yawn-inducing wordiness.

My favorite part is how they snuck in “Being awesome” as one of their specialties. This is how you have fun with LinkedIn while keeping things professional.

Screenshot of Shopify LinkedIn Company Page

How to Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps | Hootsuite Blog

Remember, LinkedIn is a professional space, and like every social media platform, it has its own set of unwritten rules. Don’t be the company sharing memes from five years ago in an effort to market to Generation Z.

How to Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps | Hootsuite Blog

Tailoring your content to a business-minded audience doesn’t mean it has to be boring; just read the room, and plan accordingly.

3. Create Showcase Pages

If the Company Page is a birds-eye view of your business and its core values, then Showcase Pages zoom in on your day-to-day activities.

These highly-customizable pages are essentially tailored news feeds on specific aspects of your organization. Depending on their interests, visitors might come here for content about your company’s individual brands and product ranges, ongoing charity efforts and sponsorships, or regularly occurring events like meetups, conferences, and expos.

Post, post, post

Real talk: Showcase Pages require upkeep. They have their own distinct sets of followers, separate from your Company Page. If you want these pages to be successful (and stay that way), ensure they’re regularly populated with articles, videos, slide presentations, and any other content that provides your followers with significant, long-term value.

Screenshot of Amazon showcase pages on LinkedIn

Showcase Pages are a great place to share Sponsored Content and get more value from targeted advertising.

You can target your posts by location and a recommended number of two other fields, including: industry, company, job type, seniority, group, school, and more. Because people following your Showcase Pages have already shown an active interest in that area of content by subscribing, they’re more likely to read it and share among their networks.

Here’s one last secret about Showcase Pages: they’re surprisingly underused. Capitalize on this! Even one Showcase Page puts you a step ahead of the competition, but you can have up to 10—enough to give you a serious advantage.

4. Build a career page

Glassdoor reports that 69 percent of job seekers are more likely to apply to a company that makes an active effort to promote its culture online. LinkedIn Career Pages are an amazing way to bolster your recruitment efforts by showing your company culture in its best light.

Located under the “Life” tab, Career Pages feature customizable modules where you can display high-quality images, videos and articles about the day-to-day at your organization. Try to include a URL in every post: LinkedIn reports that posts with links get 45 percent more engagement.

How to Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps | Hootsuite Blog

How to Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps | Hootsuite Blog

Consider employee perspectives

If you’re looking for ways to frame your company as a think-tank for fresh ideas, look to the Career Pages “Employee perspectives” section, where you can publish thought leadership articles written by employees.

According to a survey by Jumpstart HR, the vast majority of job seekers value personal growth opportunities over anything else when considering a new workplace. By sharing content produced in-house, you’re showing your current employees that their perspectives are valued, and telling future talent that there’s plenty of room for recognition—and the opportunities that come with it.

How to Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps | Hootsuite Blog

Explore other features

The Careers Page has a ton of other features, too many to list out in one blog post. Here are the major ones you should be aware of:

  • Create a virtual “meet the team” section from employee profiles
  • Collect and share employee testimonials
  • List the causes your employees care about and support on their profiles
  • Promote diversity by listing spoken languages
  • Track your recruitment analytics to improve your hiring process

How to Give Your Business a Complete LinkedIn Makeover in 6 Easy Steps | Hootsuite Blog

Like Showcase Pages, you should update your Careers Page regularly. This is a space to proudly represent your company as a hub of excellence and new ideas, so post whenever you can; the goal is to have people clamoring to work for you.

With a good enough Careers Page, you might even win over a few employees from the Dark Side…I mean, your competitors.

5. Collect and give endorsements

More than a billion peer-to-peer endorsements have been given on LinkedIn, the platform’s most powerful (and sometimes controversial) form of social proof. Gather recommendations whenever possible, and don’t be shy to ask for them—it’s almost always mutually beneficial.

Ask employees

If your employees haven’t connected with your Company Profile, encourage them to do so, and be sure to write them a great recommendation from your personal profile in return. Your employees’ networks will be notified of work anniversaries, new job opportunities, and other updates about your business. When they share content to their own networks, it’ll also appear with your company name attached.

Ask associates

Some of the most valuable endorsements will come from your B2B interactions—76 percent percent of B2B buyers prefer to work with recommendations from their professional network.

Whenever you have a positive interaction with another company, whether that’s a vendor, an account manager, or someone you met at a networking event, reach out to them for a connection and recommendation, and offer one in return.

This “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” approach almost seems like cheating, but it’s a perfectly valid way to cement business relationships and grow your network. Just make sure you’re following endorsement etiquette by only endorsing people and businesses you have actually interacted with, for skills you can honestly attest to.

Ask customers

Another way to build your brand and gather recommendations is to engage directly with customers and followers. If someone comments on an article you’ve shared on your Company Page, or messages you with an inquiry, use it as an opportunity to create a dialogue and win an endorsement.

Similarly, if a customer posts about a positive experience they had with your company on another social media platform, you could message them privately and ask if they’d endorse your LinkedIn Company Page, too. Even if you don’t get the endorsement, the positive public interaction is its own form of social proof.

6. Keep Tabs on the competition

LinkedIn publishes an annual list of the 10 best Company Pages. Visit every one of those profiles and study how they’ve optimized their pages, especially if they’re direct competition.

Once your Company Page is set up, optimized and delivering a steady stream of content that follows these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to networking greatness.

Optimizing your company’s presence on LinkedIn is easier with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can easily manage all your social channels, collect real-time data, and engage with your audience across networks. Try it free today.

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Everything Social Marketers Need to Know About Generation Z

Marketers can no longer afford to undervalue Generation Z.

At an estimated 60 million, they make up 25.9 percent of the U.S. population. And while they have a reported $44 billion in buying power alone, when you factor in their influence on parent and home purchases, their real spending power is closer to $200 billion.

Who are they? Gen Z includes those born in the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. In other words, Gen Zers are today’s teenagers and the fastest growing cohort of tomorrow’s trendsetters.

Here’s what marketers should know if they want to be “in” with the cool kids.

A long list of Gen Z stats that matter to marketers

They want marketers to get personal

Gen Zers have never known a phone that wasn’t smart or an ad that wasn’t targeted. They know brands have more access to customer data, and in exchange, they expect highly personalized interactions.

In Google’s report on Gen Z, 26 percent of teenage shoppers said they expect retailers to offer a more personalized experience based on their shopping habits and preferences. By comparison, only 22 percent of Millennials and 11 percent of Baby Boomers share that expectation.

But, they’re protective of their privacy

Gen Zers may crave hyper-personal experiences on social media, but they’re also keen to protect their privacy. They’re more inclined to cover the webcam on their laptops.

Marketers need make sure they connect with Gen Zers on their own terms so that they don’t come across as creepy or too invasive. Less than one-third of teens say they are comfortable sharing personal details other than contact information and purchase history, according to IBM’s survey Uniquely Gen Z. But 61 percent would feel better sharing personal information with brands if they could trust it was being securely stored and protected.

They give feedback

Though they prefer to keep private, Generation Z is offering more feedback than any other cohort. Almost half of Gen Z shoppers say that they give feedback often or very often.

Most of the time they’re writing comments on retailer websites, but they’re also reviewing on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, so brands with strong social listening strategies will curry more follower favor.

They’re more guarded on social media

Having learned from previous generations that what goes on the internet stays on the internet (forever), Gen Zers prefer to browse as anonymous voyeurs.

Apps such as Snapchat, Whisper, Yik Yak or Secret are popular among teens for their ephemerality and privacy. On sites like Twitter or Instagram, teens may use aliases or create separate accounts to maintain different social media personas. And where private channels are available, such as Instagram’s direct message option, teens will probably use it instead of publicly tagging friends.

More established sites like Facebook, where it’s harder to conceal your identity and hide from parents, are less popular with teens. While they still use the site, 34 percent of US teens think Facebook is for “old people.”

However, anonymity creates a challenge for brands trying to create personalized content for Gen Zers. To develop accurate audience personas, brands should focus on private and direct channels to engage one-on-one with teenagers. Facebook Messenger has proven so effective for brands and users that Facebook is planning to spin-off a standalone Instagram messaging app called Direct.

They use different networks for each stage of their shopping journey

Market research shows that 85 percent of Generation Z learns about new products on social media and are also 59 percent more likely than older generations to connect with brands on social, too.

Instagram is the most popular app for brand discovery, with 45 percent of teens using it to find cool new products, followed by Facebook, which comes in at 40 percent. Before making a purchase, Gen Zers are two times more likely than Millennials to turn to YouTube.

YouTube is also the platform of preference when it comes to shopping recommendations, ranking first among Generation Z with 24 percent, followed by Instagram at 17 percent and Facebook at 16 percent.

Meanwhile, in real brick-and-mortar stores, teens are most likely to turn to Snapchat to document their shopping experiences.

Understanding how teens use social media throughout their shopping process is key to engaging them on the right platforms with the right message.

They’re OK with more ads on social

As digital natives, Gen Zers have developed a high tolerance for digital ads.

For example, even though 39 percent of teens think YouTube has too many ads, the video platform remains the most popular with this generation by far. There’s even more room for brands to advertise on Instagram and Snapchat, where only 11 percent of teens think there are too many ads.

Infographic from Forrester: % of US youth who say a social network has too many advertisements

That catch is that Gen Zers also tend to have way shorter attention spans. On average, marketers have about 8 seconds to reach a teen before they keep scrolling. So videos should deliver early impact and content should be packaged in bite-sized formats.

They want the option to opt out

Because of shorter attention spans, teens do not like non-skippable ad formats like pre-rolls and pop-ups. Perception flips to positive, however, when advertisers offer the option to play or not play an ad. And Gen Zers are the quickest to exercise that control, clicking skip on video ads after only 9.5 seconds, versus Gen Xers who wait 12.6 seconds.

And the option to opt in

Likewise, when brands provide incentives for interaction, Gen Zers will actually opt-in: 41 percent show a positive reaction to mobile ads that offer rewards. The creators of trivia app HQ quickly realized that reciprocating engagement with perks comes with its own rewards in the form of 1.9 million users.

They’re open to new concepts like virtual reality

Teens aren’t only open to engaging with brands: they’re ready to engage with new concepts, too.

In a poll by Accenture, 73 percent of Gen Z shoppers say they are currently using, can’t wait to try, or probably will try voice-activated ordering in the future. They’re also most enthusiastic about the potential of virtual reality.

This openness to experimentation gives marketers opportunities to surprise and delight teens with creative campaigns and concepts. Live video, 360 video and other formats have proven popular with younger viewers.

And anything that makes shopping seem easier or faster will have added appeal. For example, 71 percent of respondents aged 18-20 express interest in auto-replenishment programs.

They trust social influencers as much as mainstream celebrities

Celebrity endorsements are meaningful to teens, but they lose their luster if they don’t seem genuine or authentic. Likewise, teens expect a celebrity to be upfront with branded content and have a low tolerance for product placement.

When asked about their most acceptable type of branded content 79 percent of Gen Zers thought a celebrity talking about why they like a brand was “always acceptable or sometimes OK.” Least acceptable is when a celeb shows a brand in a post but doesn’t say anything about it.

And while nods from actors, athletes and musicians may bring star power to ad spots, there’s a new type of celebrity in town: internet stars, a.k.a. social influencers. Depending on the product, online celebrities can hold more sway with Gen Zers than more traditional celebrities.

For example, internet stars outshine mainstream celebrities when it comes to beauty product and tech gadget endorsements. Only when it comes to clothes and accessories do mainstream celebs squeak by with 43 percent of influence, versus 41 percent for online influencers.

Infographic from Nielson: Influence of Celebrity Endorsements

They’re the most culturally and socially diverse generation

For Gen Zers, RuPaul’s Drag Queens are role models, Teen Vogue is woke, and “girl bosses” are a done deal. For the most part, Generation Z welcomes diversity with open arms and expects marketers to do the same.

And it’s not just that they’re more liberally minded. Census data show that in the U.S., Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse population in history. When asked about workplace values, 76 percent rank a job with a company that is diverse and inclusive as important. In Britain, 1 in 10 respondents aged 16-22 say they are “equally attracted to both sexes.”

Brands looking to tap the cultural zeitgeist should take note of backlash over controversies like Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad, or Dodge Ram’s Super Bowl spot featuring a Martin Luther King Jr. speech. It’s not always easy to get it right, and this socially active group is quick to let companies know when they’ve got it wrong (see point on “giving feedback” above).

There’s a gender factor

Brands should also keep in mind which platforms are more popular among males and females. Girls are significantly more likely to use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr, according to a survey from AdWeek and Defy Media. On the other hand, Boys are more inclined to spend time on Twitch, TV, and Reddit. They are also 24 percent likelier than girls to state that they can’t live without YouTube.

Then there’s the cool factor. Boys tend to measure the “coolness” of something based on fads and friends, whereas girls determine something is cool based on how it makes them feel.

Infographic from Google: What's Cool? According to 400 13-to-17 Year Olds

They’re more optimistic about their future than we think they should be

For Gen Zers, the outlook is bright. More than half of the cohort believes that they are going to be better off than their parents. That’s a stark uptick from earlier research that found only 27 percent of 2016 high school graduates felt the same way.

Perhaps Generation Z has good reason to feel positive about the future, given that they’ve already proven they’re fiscally responsible. 85 percent agree that it’s important to save for the future. Only 37 percent describe themselves as spenders versus 63 percent who call themselves savers.

Nonetheless they’ve embraced the Millennial YOLO mantra, prioritizing fun and experience over sacrifice. Their top three priorities include enjoying life, finding a great job, and becoming a better person.

Older people, meanwhile, are more pessimistic about the future for Gen Zers. Among Baby Boomers, 54 percent think life will be worse for Generation Z. But as we’ve seen with events like Brexit or the 2016 U.S. election, there’s a growing gap between young and old when it comes to their future outlook.

That age gap is something marketers should keep in mind, especially if it means that they could be underestimating the consumer confidence of this young and bullish generation.

Connect with Generation Z using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can easily manage all your social channels, collect real-time data, and engage with your audience across networks. Try it free today.

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Migrating HTTP to HTTPS: A step-by-step guide

On February 8th 2018 Google announced that, beginning in July of this year, Chrome will now be marking all HTTP sites as ‘not secure’, moving in line with Firefox, who implemented this at the beginning of 2017.

This now means that the 71% of web users utilizing either browser will be greeted with a warning message when trying to access HTTP websites.

Security has always been a top priority for Google. Back in 2014 they officially announced that HTTPS is a ranking factor. This was big, as Google never usually tells us outright what is or isn’t a ranking factor, for fear of people trying to game the system.

In truth, every website which stores user data shouldn’t need an extra incentive to prioritize security over convenience. In a previous article for Search Engine Watch, Jessie Moore examined the benefits and drawbacks of migrating your website to HTTPS, and determined that on net, it is well worth making the move.

However, if you are yet to make the switch, and nearly 50% of websites still haven’t, we’ve put together this guide to help you migrate to HTTPS.

1. Get a security certificate and install it on the server

I won’t go into detail here as this will vary depending on your hosting and server setup, but it will be documented by your service provider. Let’s Encrypt is a great free, open SSL certificate authority should you want to go down this route.

2. Update all references to prevent mixed content issues

Mixed content is when the initial page is loaded over a secure HTTPS connection, but other resources such as images or scripts are loaded over an insecure HTTP connection.

If left unresolved, this is a big issue, as HTTP resources weaken the entire page’s security, making it vulnerable to hacking.

Updating internal resources to HTTPS should be straightforward. This can usually be done easily with a find-and replace database query, or alternatively using the upgrade-insecure-requests CSP directive, which causes the browser to request the HTTPS version of any resource called on the page.

External resources, plugins and CDNs will need to be configured and tested manually to ensure they function correctly.

Should issues arise with external-controlled references, you only really have three options: include the resource from another host (if available), host the content on your site directly (if you are allowed to do so) or exclude the resource altogether.

3. Update redirects on external links

Any SEO worth their salt will have this at the top of their list, but it is still incredible how often this gets missed. Failure to update redirects on external links will cause every link acquired by the domain to chain, where the redirect jumps from old structure to new, before jumping from HTTP to HTTPS with a second redirect.

Each unnecessary step within a sequence of redirects allows Googlebot more of a chance to fail to pass all the ranking signals from one URL to the next.

We’ve seen first-hand some of the biggest domains in the world get into issues with redirect chains and lose a spectacular amount of visibility.

If you haven’t already audited your backlinks to ensure they all point to a live page within a single redirect step, you can get some big wins from this activity alone.

First, make sure you have all your backlink data. Do not rely on any single tool; we tend to use a minimum of Majestic, Ahrefs and Google Search Console data.

Next, run all referred pages through Screaming Frog to check the page still loads and do the following depending on the situation:

  • Any ones which return a 4XX will need to be mapped to the secure version of the most relevant page still active on site.
  • Any ones which go through multiple steps before resolving to a page will need the redirect updated to just point to the secure version of the destination page.

Finally, any which are working will be handled by the global HTTP to HTTPS redirect so do not require additional action.

4. Force HTTPS with redirects

Again, this will vary wildly depending on your setup. CMS’s such as WordPress and Magento will handle this for you automatically within the admin panel. Otherwise, you may need to update your .htaccess or webconfig files with a rule redirect, but this will be well documented.

One common issue we see with rule redirection is separate rules for forcing HTTPS as for forcing www. This will cause chains where first www. is added to the URL then HTTPS is forced in a second step.

Ensure you update any rule redirects to point to HTTPS as the destination to prevent this issue.

5. Enable HSTS

Using redirection alone to force HTTPS can still leave the system vulnerable to downgrade attacks where hackers force the site to load an unsecure version. HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) is a web server directive which forces all requests for resources to be loaded through HTTPS.

You will need a valid SSL certificate, which must be valid for all subdomains. Providing you’ve do this, you’ll then need to add a line of code to your .htaccess or webconfig file.

6. Enable OCSP

Online certificate status protocol improves upon the certificate revocation list (CRL). With the CRL, browsers had to check the CRL for any issues with the server’s SSL certificate, but this meant downloading the entire list and comparing, which is both inefficient from a bandwidth and an accuracy perspective.

The OCSP overcomes these inefficiencies by only querying the certificate in question, as well as allowing a grace period should the certificate have expired.

7. Add HTTP/2

Hypertext transfer protocol is the set of rules used by the web which governs how messages are formatted and submitted between servers and browsers. HTTP/2 allows for significant performance increases due, in part, to the ability to process multiple requests simultaneously.

For example, it is possible to send resources which the client has not requested yet, saving this in the cache which prevents network round trips and reduces latency. It is estimated that HTTP/2 sites’ load times are between 50%-70% improved on HTTP/1.1.

8. Update XML sitemaps, Canonical Tags, HREF LANG, Sitemap references in robots.txt

The above should be fairly explanatory, and probably would have all been covered within point two. However, because this is an SEO blog, I will labor the point.

Making sure XML sitemaps, canonical tags, HREF LANG and sitemap references within the robots.txt are updated to point to HTTPS is very important.

Failure to do so will double the number of requests Googlebot makes to your website, wasting crawl budget on inaccessible pages, taking focus away from areas of your site you want Googlebot to see.

9. Add HTTPS versions to Google Search Console and update disavow file and any URL parameter settings

This is another common error we see. Google Search Console (GSC) is a brilliant free tool which every webmaster should be using, but importantly, it only works on a subdomain level.

This means if you migrate to HTTPS and you don’t set up a new account to reflect this, the information within your GSC account will not reflect your live site.

This can be massively exacerbated should you have previously had a toxic backlink profile which required a disavow file. Guess what? If you don’t set up a HTTPS GSC profile and upload your disavow file to it, the new subdomain will be vulnerable.

Similarly, if you have a significant amount of parameters on your site which Googlebot struggles to crawl, unless you set up parameter settings in your new GSC account, this site will be susceptible to crawl inefficiencies and indexation bloat.

Make sure you set up your GSC account and update all the information accordingly.

10. Change default URL in GA & Update social accounts, paid media, email, etc.

Finally, you’ll need to go through and update any references to your website on any apps, social media and email providers to ensure users are not unnecessarily redirected.

It does go without saying that any migration should be done within a test environment first, allowing any potential bugs to be resolved in a non user-facing environment.

At Zazzle Media, we have found that websites with the most success in migrating to HTTPS are the ones who follow a methodological approach to ensure all risks have been tested and resolved prior to full rollout of changes.

Make sure you follow the steps in this guide systematically, and don’t cut corners; you’ll reap the rewards in the form of a more secure website, better user trust, and an improved ranking signal to boot.

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HTTP2 (1)
Vector graphic of a clipboard with graphs on it with the title 'Audit', and a magnifying glass hovering over it.

Are keywords still relevant to SEO in 2018?

What a useless article! Anyone worth their salt in the SEO industry knows that a blinkered focus on keywords in 2018 is a recipe for disaster.

Sure, I couldn’t agree with you more, but when you dive into the subject it uncovers some interesting issues.

If you work in the industry you will no doubt have had the conversation with someone who knows nothing about SEO, who subsequently says something along the lines of:

SEO? That’s search engine optimization. It’s where you put your keywords on your website, right?”

Extended dramatic sigh. Potentially a hint of aloof eye rolling.

It is worth noting that when we mention ‘keywords’ we are referring to exact match keywords, usually of the short tail variety and often high-priority transactional keywords.

To set the scene, I thought it would be useful to sketch out a polarized situation:

Side one:

Include your target keyword as many times as possible in your content. Google loves the keywords*. Watch your website languish in mid table obscurity and scratch your head wondering why it ain’t working, it all seemed so simple.

(*not really)

Side two:

You understand that Google is smarter than just counting the amount of keywords that exactly match a search. So you write for the user…..creatively, with almost excessive flair. Your content is renowned for its cryptic and subconscious messaging.

It’s so subconscious that a machine doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Replicate results for Side One. Cue similar head scratching.

Let’s start with side one. White Hat (and successful) SEO is not about ‘gaming’ Google, or other search engines for that matter. You have to give Doc Brown a call and hop in the DeLorean back to the early 2000s if that’s the environment you’re after.

Search engines are focused on providing the most relevant and valuable results for their users. As a by product they have, and are, actively shutting down opportunities for SEOs to manipulate the search results through underhanded tactics.

What are underhanded tactics? I define them by tactics that don’t provide value to the user; they are only employed to manipulate the search results.

Here’s why purely focusing on keywords is outdated

Simply put, Google’s search algorithm is more advanced than counting the amount of keyword matches on a page. They’re more advanced than assessing keyword density as well. Their voracious digital Panda was the first really famous update to highlight to the industry that they would not accept keyword stuffing.

Panda was the first, but certainly not the last. Since 2011 there have been multiple updates that have herded the industry away from the dark days of keyword stuffing to the concept of user-centric content.

I won’t go into heavy detail on each one, but have included links to more information if you so desire:

Hummingbird, Latent Semantic Indexing and Semantic Search

Google understands synonyms; that was relatively easy for them to do. They didn’t stop there, though. Hummingbird helps them to understand the real meaning behind a search term instead of the keywords or synonyms involved in the search.


Supposedly one of the three most important ranking factors for Google. RankBrain is machine learning that helps Google, once again, understand the true intent behind a search term.

All of the above factors have led to an industry that is focused more on the complete search term and satisfying the user intent behind the search term as opposed to focusing purely on the target keyword.

As a starting point, content should always be written for the user first. Focus on task completion for the user, or as Moz described in their White Board Friday ‘Search Task Accomplishment’. Keywords (or search terms) and associated phrases can be included later if necessary, more on this below.

Writing user-centric content pays homage to more than just the concept of ranking for keywords. For a lot of us, we want the user to complete an action, or at the very least return to our website in the future.

Even if keyword stuffing worked (it doesn’t), you might get more traffic but would struggle to convert your visitors due to the poor quality of your content.

So should we completely ignore keywords?

Well, no, and that’s not me backtracking. All of the above advice is legitimate. The problem is that it just isn’t that simple. The first point to make is that if your content is user centric, your keyword (and related phrases) will more than likely occur naturally.

You may have to play a bit of a balancing act to make sure that you don’t up on ‘Side Two’ mentioned at the beginning of this article. Google is a very clever algorithm, but in the end it is still a machine.

If your content is a bit too weird and wonderful, it can have a negative impact on your ability to attract the appropriate traffic due to the fact that it is simply too complex for Google to understand which search terms to rank your website for.

This balancing act can take time and experience. You don’t want to include keywords for the sake of it, but you don’t want to make Google’s life overly hard. Experiment, analyse, iterate.

Other considerations for this more ‘cryptic’ content is how it is applied to your page and its effect on user experience. Let’s look at a couple of examples below:


Sure, more clickbait-y titles and descriptions may help attract a higher CTR, but don’t underestimate the power of highlighted keywords in your metadata in SERPs.

If a user searches for a particular search term, on a basic level they are going to want to see this replicated in the SERPs.

Delivery to the user

In the same way that you don’t want to make Google’s life overly difficult, you also want to deliver your message as quickly as possible to the user.

If your website doesn’t display content relevant to the user’s search term, you run the risk of them bouncing. This, of course, can differ between industries and according to the layout/design of your page.

Keywords or no keywords?

To sum up, SEO is far more complex than keywords. Focusing on satisfying user intent will produce far greater results for your SEO in 2018, rather than a focus on keywords.

You need to pay homage to the ‘balancing act’, but if you follow the correct user-centric processes, this should be a relatively simple task.

Are keywords still relevant in 2018? They can be helpful in small doses and with strategic inclusion, but there are more powerful factors out there.

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