How to (Really) Get Thousands of Free YouTube Subscribers

To win the attention of YouTube’s algorithm, you need lots of subscribers. Today, I’ll show you real ways to get free YouTube subscribers. No tricks. No hacks. Just tactics that work.

Over the last few years, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have stolen the social video spotlight. But YouTube is still an incredible marketing channel, receiving over 30 million visitors per day and 5 billion daily video views.

According to GlobalWebIndex, one in four YouTubers watched a branded video last month. It’s not just millennials using YouTube, either. Google shows that YouTube reaches 95% of online adults age +35 in a month. And according to new demographic data from Google, YouTube’s reach continues to expand to older audiences.
In this post, you’ll learn eleven ways to start getting YouTube free subscribers. If you’re just starting to build your YouTube channel or looking for some ways to optimize existing content, this post is for you.

11 ways to get free YouTube subscribers

1. Stop hacking. Start promoting.

If you search “how to get free YouTube subscribers,” you’ll discover a delightful subgenre of social media advice dedicated to ‘hacks and glitches for YouTube.’ These shortcuts—often sold in sensational headlines like ‘how to get millions of free YouTube subscribers’—promise to teach you a hidden trick that will flood your channel with free YouTube subscribers (the truth is YouTube hacks only exist if your definition of a “hack” is a little-known feature).

One of the most popular YouTube tutorials for getting free subscribers comes from a young expert named JustKyptic.

During my research for this post, I have to admit—his headline hooked me. According to Mr. JustKyptic, he’s discovered a YouTube glitch that gets you thousands of free YouTube subscribers in just a few seconds.

I had to watch.

Free YouTube subscribers

If you watch the video, you’ll learn JustKryptic’s YouTube hack.

As he shows, you can open up your developer tools in Google Chrome. As you may know, clicking “view” > “developer” > “view source” reveals the HTML source code for any webpage.

Free YouTube Subscribers

Next, Mr. JustKryptic clicks on the “YouTube subscriber count” button. And with a flick of his wrist, he changes his YouTube subscribers from 500 to 1000. He warns against changing it higher as YouTube might ban your account.

I’m sure you can spot the error?

JustKryptic is only editing the source code on his own Chrome browser. Only he can see that his YouTube subscriber count has increased—this is not a real change made in YouTube but is simply on his own personal browser.

At the end of the video, he admits this is a prank.

I watched five more of these YouTube hack videos. And most followed the same format: they were a prank.

So if you’re searching for YouTube hacks, you’re likely wasting time. But you still need subscribers.

If you have a new or unknown YouTube channel, you need to gain some sort of traction. Without the attention of YouTube’s algorithm, your videos won’t appear in search results or appear in recommended lists.

So how can you get the organic ball rolling? I asked this question to Gianni “Luminati” Nicassio, a founding member of the indie-band Walk Off The Earth. Gianni used YouTube to catapult his unknown band into a global act, earning over 634 million organic views from YouTube.

His advice for new YouTube channels? Be ruthless about promotion. “If you’re getting started, don’t shy away from the grunt work,” says Gianni. “Creating engaging content is only half of the process. You need to get ruthless and promote, promote, promote.”

“Start with your Facebook friends and shamelessly (but still with some class) ask them to share your video. Then, find out where your audience is hanging out and start targeting those sites. Go to blogs that relate to your content and share your video. Or reply in the comment sections of the related video.”

Your task: Stop wasting time looking for YouTube shortcuts. Instead, build a plan to promote your YouTube channel. Start with manual tasks. And once you have some traction, free YouTube subscribers and organic traffic will begin to appear.

2. Follow the 1×4 content schedule

I wanted to know how to build a YouTube following from scratch, so I interviewed Graham Cochrane, the founder of the popular YouTube channel “The Recording Revolution.” Cochrane went from unemployed to creating a 7-figure business around audio engineering tips. YouTube has been a key distribution channel for him.

Cochrane says publishing frequency is key.

“The BEST thing you can do with YouTube (or any content creation for that matter) is to make a lot of content and make it consistently. I’ve made at least one video a week for seven years.”

This frequency helps you retain subscribers (another important metric for YouTube) as well as helps you attract new free YouTube subscribers.

“People come to expect your content. You create a dependable rhythm like your favorite TV show. You know it comes on every week. Plus, when you create more content you increase the number of places people find you online. Instead of seeing your brand for one or two YouTube searches, you start to appear again and again in search results.”

A simple formula that works is this: 1×4. Publish four YouTube videos every month. That breaks down to one video every week. It’s an easy number to remember and you’ll soon see new YouTube subscribers trickling in.

Your Task: Commit to a publishing schedule. An easy formula: one YouTube video every week for a total of four a month.

3. Stop talking. Start delivering.

YouTube explicitly states: “channels and videos with higher watch time are more likely to turn up in search results and recommendations.”

How can you increase your watch time? There are lots of tips and tricks online. But the most important principle is this: value your viewer’s time.

According Gianni Nicassio (the viral master I mentioned earlier), you need to deliver value right away. “We’ve found that the first eight seconds of your video are the most important. The click-away rate in those precious seconds is staggering. If you make music videos, start playing music right away. If you are teaching something or explaining a product, start delivering information.”

Nicassio recommends you skip straight to the content and then promote your products at the end. “Don’t tell people about your day, don’t talk about other videos that you’re making or where to buy the song. Just play the song and tell them the supplementary info after the song or in the description.”

Your Task: Shorten your intro. Skip the flashy intro and theme music. Make sure the first eight seconds of every video hook viewers.

4. Convert searchers to subscribers with playlists

You work hard to acquire a first-time viewer. The viewer needs to search for a relevant keyword, see your video in YouTube’s results, and click your result. To turn these casual viewers into subscribers, use YouTube playlists. These boost content consumption, retain subscribers, and boost your watch time.

Instead of creating miscellaneous playlists, create a track of content for new users to watch. In other words, treat your viewers as a cohort, segmenting your audience into groups of users that will move through your content.

Create playlists for three types of cohorts:

  • New viewers—what content should a new viewer watch first? I recommend creating a YouTube playlist that says. “New to this YouTube channel? Watch these first.” This playlist needs to introduce the viewer to your channel and deliver your best, funniest, or most helpful videos that will convert them from a searcher to a subscriber.
  • Task-orientated viewers—If you offer educational content, a large portion of your audience will be looking to solve specific problems. This might be learning a specific skill or fixing a problem. Cochrane (the YouTube expert quoted above), for example, has specific playlists that help his audience complete different music tasks. These playlists increase content consumption as well as remind people that your channel is a good place to look later if they encounter a challenge. You can see Cochrane’s playlists below or by clicking here.

  • Topic-focused viewers—By creating playlists that comprehensively cover a specific topic, you’ll attract one of the most profitable type of viewers: content bingers. These viewers are looking for collections of videos on a specific topic and will methodologically work their way through your playlists. A good example of this comes from Google Analytics’ YouTube channel. You can watch a collection of videos on “TV attribution,” “Google Data Studio,” or master the basics of “Google Tag Manager.”

free YouTube subscribers

It’s easy to create a playlist in YouTube.

  1. Start with a video you want in the playlist
  2. Under the video, click add to
  3. Click create new playlist
  4. Enter a playlist name
  5. Use the drop down box to select your playlist’s privacy setting. If it’s private, people can’t find it when they search YouTube
  6. Click create

Your Task: Create YouTube playlists based on three viewer cohorts: first-time viewers; task-orientated viewers; and topic-focused viewers.

5. Expand your search net with Pinterest

Most of your subscribers will discover your channel by either searching in Google or via YouTube’s search bar. Pinterest is also a visual search engine, making it a perfect match for your YouTube strategy.

Not every business or brand is right for Pinterest. To determine whether your customers live on Pinterest download our helpful audience worksheet.

  1. Hire a designer to turn a few of your best YouTube videos into Pinterest-friendly images. For example, if you run a YouTube cooking channel, you might have a Pinterest visual that offers tips for proper knife techniques or quick tips about baking. On each visual asset, link to your YouTube channel and tell people they can watch the full video there.
  2. Collect these graphics and create an SEO-focused Pinterest collection. For example, you could turn your topic-focused playlist into a Pinterest collection. Target a high-volume keyword with your Pinterest collection—such as “Healthy summer recipes” or “Photography 101 tutorial.”
  3. Consider investing some budget in Pinterest ads. They are quite effective and will help boost your visibility. This is optional as people will naturally discover your Pinterest collections via search.

Your task: Build SEO-focused Pinterest collections that link back to your YouTube channel.

6. Add a mention in Amazon Reviews

Is your YouTube channel about a product category such as electronic gear? Or maybe it covers a topic that lots of books have been written on such as gardening, arts and crafts, or fashion. Leave reviews on popular Amazon products and mention your YouTube channel.

Let’s say you have a YouTube cooking channel. You could leave reviews for popular cookbooks—such as The Joy of Cooking or a new book out by a celebrity chef—and tell people that you’ll be testing out a few recipes on your YouTube channel. Or if your YouTube channel is about hiking gear—you can mention that you’ve reviewed a popular piece of equipment on your channel.

According to Amazon’s review guidelines, you’re not allowed to post URL links to external sites. So if you include a link to your YouTube channel, your review will be banned.

But you can mention your channel—such as “I also reviewed the Joy of Cooking on my YouTube channel ‘Cookin’ with James and Owly’”—and gently promote your channel. YouTube also allows you to post video reviews of products. If you leave a video review, end the video with a subtle shout-out to your YouTube channel.

Your task: Find popular books or products related to your YouTube channel. Add a genuine and thoughtful review on Amazon. At the end, mention your YouTube channel. Note: it’s against Amazon’s policy to include a URL. But you can mention your YouTube channel name so that people can search for it in Google.

7. Promote your YouTube channel with Facebook Groups

Over the last year, I’ve been rediscovering Facebook Groups. You can find a group for most topics and interests. For example, #TeamofOne is a community of social media consultants and strategists. I also follow a copywriting group, as well as groups related to my hobby of music production.

You can find relevant Facebook Groups by searching “YOUR KEYWORD” with the filter of “Groups” in the Facebook search bar. To browse different groups and sort by interests, use Facebook’s discovery feature. If you sell local products, you can find local buy-and-sell groups here.

Your task: Find 10 to 20 relevant Facebook Groups and add a comment, telling people about a YouTube video you’re proud of. If you don’t want to do this manual work, outsource to a freelancer using Upwork.

8. Promote with Subreddits

Reddit users organize themselves into subreddits. These are communities based around a topic. Find 10 to 20 subreddits and tell people about your YouTube channel.

If your content is horrible and not relevant to the subreddit, Redditors will make fun of you and kick you out of the subreddit. A good rule of thumb for marketing, though, is to only promote and advertise once you have an amazing product. Otherwise, as marketing legend Dan Kennedy puts it, “marketing only increases the speed people find out your product is awful.”

Your Task: Find 10 to 20 subreddits and post a link to a YouTube video you’re proud of. I wrote a comprehensive guide to finding subreddits here.

9. Create searchable titles

I also asked Cochrane if he had any simple optimization techniques that people tend to overlook. He recommended spending a few minutes creating SEO-focused titles and descriptions.

“The best thing you could do is create YouTube titles and descriptions that have the most relevant search terms in them,” says Cochrane.

“An easy way to test is to start typing into the YouTube search bar the words you WERE going to use in your title. Which search results come up? Now try other words (one word at a time because YouTube will autofill based on popular search terms) and you can see what other people are ACTUALLY typing into YouTube and see how many results those search terms give you.”

Your Task: Use YouTube’s autofill feature to create SEO-friendly titles and descriptions.

10. Translate popular videos

It’s hard to find a winning YouTube formula. But once you hit gold, you need to focus your efforts on replicating success.

After publishing for a few months, you’ll likely have a few videos that resonate. I recommend translating these popular videos to a few languages (such as German, French, and Spanish). This helps you rank in international markets, gain new free YouTube subscribers, and expand your reach. It’s always a good idea to add subtitles to every YouTube video as well.

Your Task: Hire a translation company to turn your top-performing YouTube videos into international hits.

11. Expand your reach with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

YouTube is a fantastic way to attract free subscribers. And often what works on YouTube can also work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter video.

Expand your reach by publishing your YouTube videos on different social networks.

With Hootsuite, you can do this pretty quickly. Use Hootsuite to upload and schedule your YouTube videos—and then publish that same video to other video networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

It’s also easy to use our video integrations—such as the amazing tool Vidyard—to access detailed video and conversion data.

You can learn more about how Hootsuite makes social video management easy here.

Your Task: Once you’ve mastered YouTube, republish your best video content to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Hootsuite can help here, letting you manage all social video networks from one fast platform.

Related YouTube resources

Grow your YouTube audience faster with Hootsuite. It’s simple to manage and schedule YouTube videos as well as quickly publish your videos to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

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The 5 Key Ingredients of a Perfect Facebook Post

No two Facebook posts are created equal. Of the many ingredients that go into each one—visuals, compelling copy, headlines, and timing—there are countless variations. There is no perfect Facebook post, but there is such a thing as a perfect Facebook post for your brand.

To find out what goes into a successful Facebook post, I spoke with Hootsuite’s social media marketing specialist, Amanda Wood, and social media marketing coordinator, Christine Colling. They shared tips on:

  • How to get your content seen by working with Facebook’s News Feed
  • How to write attention-grabbing posts
  • The type of content that gets the most engagement
  • The role of timing in a perfect Facebook post

Continue reading to discover how you can create the perfect Facebook post for your brand.

5 components of a perfect Facebook post

1. Great copy

Copywriting is one of the most useful skills a social media manager can have. Writing clear and concise copy lets your audience spend more time paying attention to your key message—rather than deciphering what you’re trying to say. Wood and Colling share three tips to keep in mind when writing Facebook posts.

Keep it short

“Our audience’s time is important to us so we get our message across in as few words as possible,” explains Wood. “We keep headlines under 20 words and use a maximum of 50 words in the description for optimal link clicks.”

Use emoji

If your brand voice allows for it, Colling suggests using emoji in your copy. She says: “You can use emoji to show a reaction to content rather than explaining something. Emoji help emit emotion and take the place of too many words.”

Tease the content

When creating a Facebook post, keep your audience top of mind. Wood says, “You should always be thinking about how you can save your audience time, while providing valuable content. For example, when we share a link to a blog post that contains 10 tips, we give away four.”

This way, the audience is able to easily determine whether the link is one they want to click. If the tips we share aren’t what they’re looking for at that time, they can scroll past. On the other hand, if the teaser content looks like something they’d be interested in knowing more about, they can click through and continue reading.

For more expert writing tips, read our post 7 Key Strategies to Write Clickable Content for Every Social Network.

2. Compelling visuals

When you combine great writing with attractive visuals, you’re well on your way to creating the perfect Facebook post.

Wood and Colling recommend that social media managers:

  • Add a variety of media formats to Facebook posts. Rather than just sticking with images, try mixing things up with video content, blog links, GIFs, or other rich media assets relevant to your organization.
  • Create new social assets to use instead of preview images. Facebook automatically pulls a preview image from the content when you’re sharing a link. Instead of accepting whatever shows up, Wood suggests creating a separate social asset to offer additional information to your audience.
  • Be strategic with video content. Colling recommends finding a length that works for your brand, but says shorter videos often work best. “We keep our videos under a minute and make sure we’re adding value,” she explains. “Hootsuite’s social videos aim to be educational and provide information to our audience.”

Colling also suggests experimenting with Facebook Live video. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes Facebook Live videos as they are happening so they appear higher in users’ News Feed.

3. Uses the algorithm to increase reach

In 2016, Facebook Pages experienced a 52 percent decline in organic reach. If you understand the way the Facebook algorithm works, it can help alleviate some of the impact this has surely had on your content.

According to Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of Product Management,, the algorithm looks at each post individually and predicts whether a user will be interested in—and how likely they are to share—the content. Each post is given a relevancy score based on:

  • Who posted the story (ie. if someone likes and comments on another user’s posts, Facebook will infer you are interested in the content)
  • How many interactions the post has (if a post has many likes and comments, Facebook determines it is more popular and of more interest)
  • When the post was originally created (more recent posts are given priority, unless another variable shows to be more significant.)

Mosseri explains the best ways publishers (that’s you!) can get more engagement by working with Facebook’s algorithm:

  • Try things. Mosseri says this is the most important step towards dominating the News Feed. “What’s best for your audience might not be best for another company’s audience,” he explains. “Experiment, make mistakes, try long form, short form, video, and different tones.”
  • Write compelling headlines. Mosseri, unsurprisingly, suggests publishers avoid clickbait headlines. Instead, he advises brands give their audience a clear sense of the content behind the link.
  • Avoid being overly promotional. Nobody wants to get bombarded with branded content, so you risk losing your audience’s interest if you take this route.

Our social media team find video content gets the most engagement, but this won’t necessarily be the case for all brands.

For more on using the algorithm to your advantage, read our post The Facebook Algorithm: What You Need to Know to Boost Organic Reach.

4. The timing is right

The perfect Facebook post for your brand is about more than just the content. Wood explains, “Even if you have the best content, if you’re posting at a time when your audience is asleep or inactive you aren’t going to see great results.”

So know when and how often to post.

To find the optimal time to post, Colling recommends testing a variety of times to see where you get the most activity. She explains, “It’s also important to know your audience and whether they’re in different time zones. We try not to post before a certain time so we can reach our North American audience at the end of the day, and our Asia-Pacific and European audiences as they’re waking up or having lunch.”

Find your Facebook audience’s sweet spot with The Best Time to Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Brands should also know how often to post. Wood explains, “We share twice a day on Facebook as we have a large audience across different time zones. We found this was the amount that works best for our audience and content. While we used to post eight times a day, we saw a significant increase in engagement after we cut down our number of daily posts.”

5. These common mistakes are avoided

For every perfect Facebook post, there are 10 that don’t quite make the cut. Wood and Colling agree that these less-than-stellar posts have certain qualities in common:

  • They are overly promotional. Always approach your Facebook content with an audience-first mindset. Instead of thinking how your brand can benefit, think about how you can help or solve problems for your Facebook audience.
  • They are too long. Think about what your main message is, and stick to it. Nobody has time to read or watch unnecessarily lengthy content.
  • There’s no CTA (or too many). The CTA compels your audience to complete an action, so if you aren’t providing one you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for click-throughs and engagement. But, if you offer too many CTAs on one post, there’s a good chance your audience will get overwhelmed and fail to click anywhere. Learn how to write an effective CTA.
  • They use images optimized for other platforms. Show your audience that you’ve put some thought into your content by using visuals that actually fit Facebook’s image guidelines.

Every brand will have a different formula for the perfect Facebook post. With the tips above, you can figure out what works—and what doesn’t—for your audience.

Create and schedule your perfect Facebook posts with Hootsuite. Try it free today.

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PPC 102: Seven tips to improve your paid search campaigns

Once you’ve got the basics of PPC down, how can you improve on those efforts further? Here are seven tips to take your campaign to the next level.

We recently gave eight tips to help beginner search marketers get their first campaigns off the ground, with our article ‘PPC 101: Eight tips to get started‘. This is the sequel to that course, PPC 102, with seven more tips to help you improve on what you’re already doing.

You don’t have to be a PPC expert to create a successful campaign with strong ROI. All you need is the time to understand how PPC works and to improve your efforts in a series of small but effective steps.

Set up conversion tracking

It’s really important to be able to measure your PPC efforts and this can be achieved by setting up the tracking pixels on your pages. Right before you start with PPC ads, you can add a conversion code to your site to be more prepared for the analysis of your campaigns.

This will allow you to understand which ads work better for your audience, bringing you closer to conversions. It can be extremely useful for PPC beginners to learn what counts as an effective PPC ad and whether their first attempts can bring them closer to ROI.

Conversion pixels make analysis of your campaigns more specific by offering the right insights on the ads that make leads and sales easier.

Focus on quality keywords

Keyword research is among the first steps to take when planning a PPC campaign. The end result of this can be a long list of keywords to explore, but do you really need to test them all? It’s tempting to try all of them until you find the most successful ones for your business, but it’s usually more effective to focus on the most important ones for your goals.

Quality keywords are not the same for every business or even every campaign, and this depends on what you want to achieve. These may not even be the most popular, but they will probably have more chances of converting than the rest.

Focus on what you define as quality keywords, even this is quite a limited pool. This will save you both time and budget.

Learn more about your audience

As we mentioned in PPC 101, it’s important to find your audience before you set up a PPC campaign. This tip is helping you take the understanding to the next level. Once you do find the ideal audience for your ads, it’s good to spend the right time to learn as many things as possible about them.

It might be useful to develop personas that help you understand your audience’s habits to be able to create more effective ads that lead to higher conversion rates.

Once you understand your audience, it’s time to analyse how they function in all the stages of your funnel. Where does your target audience sit as part of your sales cycle? How does that affect your ads and your set goals?

For example, it’s different targeting new prospect leads comparing to past customers you want to retarget and this can be reflected in your planning for your next PPC ads.

Set a landing page that matches your ads

Every PPC ad should lead to a relevant landing page to ensure that the audience is exposed to the right details after clicking on an ad. This may include more information about the product, answering questions, offering options for the next steps and most of all, speaking the same language as the ad.

It’s not just about creating effective PPC copy for your ad – it’s equally important to maintain consistency between the ad and the landing page your audience visits. This increases the chances for more conversions, as users can feel that the message resonates throughout all the pages.

Focus on the image of your ad

A successful PPC ad consists of compelling copy, but also an appealing and relevant image. As the internet becomes more visual year by year and people become accustomed to visual content, an image can significantly aid the effectiveness of your search ads.

Pick carefully the image you’ll use in every ad, aiming for:

  • visual appeal
  • relevance
  • high quality

It would be ideal if an image could create an association with a product or a company, as this could increase the chances for a long-term experience.

Be careful though, as the image still has to be relevant to the ad. Visual appeal on its own cannot increase conversions if the image is irrelevant to the ad.

Optimize your ads for mobile

As more and more users increase the time they spend on mobile devices, they are exposed to more advertising on mobile. We often talk and think of mobile optimization in terms of optimizing mobile websites, but optimizing your mobile ads is just as important.

According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2017, internet advertising saw a growth of 22% the last year, with mobile advertising contributing significantly to this increase.

This serves as a good reminder of why all PPC campaigns should be mobile-optimized to target a growing audience.

The process of mobile optimization for a PPC ad includes paying special attention to:

  • ad copy
  • ad image
  • habits of mobile users
  • landing page

Once your campaign is underway, an analysis of the conversions can tell whether mobile users found the ad interesting enough to click on it. 

Explore PPC ads holistically

PPC advertising can be very useful by itself, but it’s still more effective to consider as a component part of your entire digital marketing strategy.

It’s not just about launching a successful PPC campaign to reach the desired results, as these will still be aligned with your broader marketing and sales goals.

For example, a PPC campaign can lead to more improved results when it’s aligned with SEO strategy, social media marketing and email marketing.

A multi-channel approach is more popular among marketers these days, as it is more reflective the way people consume content and sees ads through multiple channels and devices.

The acquired data from a holistic approach to your marketing allows you to see how other channels interact with your PPC ads. It also helps you to understand your audience and create even more effective PPC ads in the next campaign.

Overview

Here are some tips to keep in mind when improving your PPC campaign:

  • Install a conversion pixel before you start your campaign
  • Only focus on quality keywords
  • Learn as much as possible about your audience
  • Make sure your landing page matches the expectations that your PPC ad sets
  • Pick the right visual for your ad
  • Create mobile optimized PPC ads
  • Think of PPC holistically.

Related reading

7 subtle on-site issues no SEO should miss

Vector graphic of a laptop displaying a search result for 'your website'. A magnifying glass hovers in front of the laptop screen, enlarging the search result.

Your on-site SEO could be broken without you realizing it.

We all know some of the basics. Content is king. Users come first. Avoid thin content, keyword stuffing, above-the-fold advertising, etc.

But not all on-site SEO issues are so obvious.

Here are seven on-site issues that are very easy to miss.

1. Excessive listing (Not, not this kind)

You are currently reading a “list post.” List posts grab attention. Survey research by Conductor suggests that headlines with list numbers are preferred over others. Likewise, CoSchedule analyzed 1 million headlines and found that list posts were by far the most likely to get shared.

So don’t stop making list posts.

But there’s a particular kind of listing that can just trash your site’s rankings.

In 2013, Matt Cutts from Google had this to say on how listing can be interpreted as keyword stuffing:

“Keyword stuffing is almost like a grab bag term to describe a lot of different things…You can be repeating…You can use different words. You know: so you’re talking about ‘free credit cards,’ ‘credit cards,’ ‘weight loss pill,’ you know, all sorts of stuff…it can even be almost gibberish-like…”

So while a list of facts, statements, or opinions draws shareability, simply listing a series of short phrases in succession can be harmful. Avoid long lists of phrases, whether separated by commas or in a numbered list. Search engines expect some degree of elaboration.

As with almost any rule, there are exceptions. Just be aware of the pitfalls, put UX first, and use discretion.

2. Accidental cloaking (even if users can see it)

Cloaking is bad, bad, bad.

Harry Potter may use an invisibility cloak for good, but as far as search engines are concerned, cloaking is inherently evil.

Google explicitly forbids cloaking, defining it as follows:

“…the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines…”

It should be obvious why. If a search engine is suggesting a URL based on content that the user can’t see, the user is bound to be disappointed.

But cloaking doesn’t always happen on purpose.

Here are a few ways cloaking can happen by accident:

  • Poorly formatted CSS places content off-screen, where users can’t see it
  • Text foreground and background colors are identical, or nearly so
  • Content is hidden or covered up by JavaScript.

I always recommend against giving search engines the benefit of the doubt. For example, avoid matching foreground and background colors, even if the text is visible to the user due to other formatting elements. Google can misinterpret it, or rightly consider it cloaking on devices that can’t handle the additional formatting.

Also, avoid this related issue: “sneaky redirects”. Google defines them as:

“It’s a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines to redirect a user to a different page with the intent to display content other than what was made available to the search engine crawler.”

I’ve seen way too many sites unintentionally cloak content in this way. There are only two ways you should redirect a URL: with a 301 or, if it’s legitimately temporary, with a 302. Anything else runs the risk of being dependent on the device or the user-agent, which runs the risk of being seen as cloaking.

Don’t do it.

3. Links with no anchors

This is just another form of accidental cloaking, but it’s so common and so easy to miss that I’m placing it in its own section.

This is an easy mistake to make. You type an “href” link in html and you forget to include the anchor text. Or maybe you intend to update the anchor text, delete it, and forget to add the new anchor text.

Unfortunately, an innocent mistake like this will result in a link to a URL that is invisible to the user, but visible to the search engines.

You know what that means…it’s cloaked.

Keep an eye out for this one.

4. Excessive bolding and other formatting

Shoving your keywords into “bold” or “strong” tags doesn’t exactly happen by accident, but it’s the kind of thing that is encouraged often enough that otherwise innocent webmasters might do it, thinking that it’s just standard or even best practice.

It’s not.

You can find plenty of correlative studies showing an association between bolded keywords and rankings, but you need to keep something else in mind.

Bolding is often used as a feature of content structure.

If your content is structured around specific ideas, it’s only natural that you will have bolded subheadings that feature keywords related to that idea, in much the same way that it will show up naturally in h2 or h3 tags.

This does not mean that you should parse your content and bold your keywords.

Bolding and italicizing certainly play a role within primary content, but it is for emphasis (see?) or to make the content easier to skim. It should not be used to simply bold your keywords wherever they appear.

Need evidence?

Brian Chang tried putting his keywords inside “strong” tags. The result? His rankings tanked a few pages. Want to take a stab at what happened when he removed them? That’s right. His rankings recovered.

Inspired by this, Sycosure ran an experiment and saw similar results. Their rankings plummeted, although they did recover before removing the formatting.

In short, while results are unpredictable, bolding your keywords is unlikely to improve your rankings by any significant amount, but it is likely to hurt your website in a way that makes it not worth the risk.

5. Frames

Frames and iframes display content from other URLs on a single page, with one URL for each frame. This breaks the entire conceptual framework of the web: one page for each URL, one URL for each page.

Google warns webmasters not to use frames and iframes:

“Google supports frames and iframes to the extent that it can. Frames can cause problems for search…Google tries to associate framed content with the page containing the frames, but we don’t guarantee that we will.”

Google’s support subdomain goes on to recommend that if you must use frames, you should place alternate content within the NoFrames tag, but I would strongly recommend avoiding them altogether. Frames break web standards and are likely to cause problems that extend even beyond SEO.

6. Links to penalized sites

Matt Cutts has stated quite explicitly that “Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods.”

Unfortunately, it’s not at all obvious when you’ve linked to a bad neighborhood or a penalized site.

You may have linked to a site that appears authoritative but that uses a lot of spammy SEO tactics. You might have linked to a site that used to be trustworthy but was since acquired by nefarious people, or that otherwise went downhill. Or you may have simply been careless and used the first source you could find to support an argument, without realizing that the site was spam nirvana.

Whatever the reason, innocent webmasters end up linking to bad neighborhoods more often than they realize.

Google can be forgiving here but, as I keep saying, don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. They won’t always do the same for you.

This tool can help you catch links to bad neighborhoods on your site.

I also recommend taking these very important steps:

  • Except for your own social media profiles, the standard of quality for site-wide links in your navigation should be extremely high
  • Don’t allow trackbacks on your blog
  • Your on-site content guidelines should be very concrete about the standards needed for citation. Specifically, only cite authoritative or primary sources
  • Review your site’s external links periodically.

That said, do not remove all outbound links on your site. This is a very bad idea. A case study by Reboot Online makes it very clear that authoritative outbound links are good for your site. Your site should not be a dead end for links.

7. Nofollow

Don’t confuse the nofollow and noindex tags!

I see this one a lot.

Most sites will need to hide some pages from the search engines for one reason or another: to prevent duplicate content issues, to hide paywall content, to hide back-end content, for split tests, and for any number of other case by case issues where content needs to be there for users but where it will be problematic for search engines.

Always, always, always use this if you have to block your own content from search engines:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow">

Never, never, never use this on your own content:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">

Remember how I said earlier that almost all rules have exceptions? This one doesn’t.

The “nofollow” tag tells search engines not to pass PageRank through the links. It does not prevent PageRank from being divided by the number of links on the page, and you cannot stop the PageRank damping factor.

When you use “noindex, nofollow” you are telling Google to throw away all the PageRank that flows into the noindexed page. When you “noindex, follow” you are telling Google not to index the page, but to pass the PageRank forward so that the links back to your site inherit that PageRank.

Likewise if you “nofollow” a link to one of your own pages instead of using “noindex.” Don’t do it!

So there you have it. Have your own on-site issues to share? Let’s hear them in the comments.

Related reading

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AdWords Editor 12: Everything you need to know

Google has launched AdWords Editor 12, the latest upgrade to its essential software for sophisticated PPC practitioners.

Complete with a new look and a raft of useful features, it is a welcome upgrade and marks the biggest improvement to the platform since version 11.0 launched in 2014.

Below, we have summarized everything you need to know about AdWords Editor 12 and also delved into what this update tells us about Google’s current and future strategy.

What is AdWords Editor?

AdWords editor is a free, downloadable application that allows users to edit campaigns in minute detail outside of the AdWords platform. This has the advantage of providing more control over edits, but also the very significant ability to work on campaigns even when a user is offline.

Originally released in 2006, the pace of improvement has relented a little of late. AdWords Editor 11.0 was released way back in 2014, bringing with a raft of much-requested changes like the ability to make bulk updates to multiple ad groups or campaigns at once.

We have seen helpful improvements since then all they way up to version 11.8, particularly the ability to connect up to five AdWords accounts to one email address, added late last year.

Nonetheless, we have been kept waiting until now for an update worthy of the version 12 moniker.

So, what’s new in AdWords Editor 12?

First impressions are, as is so often the case, guided by aesthetics. Editor has a new look that aligns it with the rest of Google’s product suite, which is a surprisingly late alteration for a company so committed to consistent cosmetics.

The importance of this contemporary mien is confirmed by Google’s own announcement, which led with: “AdWords Editor 12 offers a fresh look and new features.”

But let’s dig deeper and get to those “new features”, as there is a lot below the surface that is worthy of examination too.

Maximize conversions bidding support:

The ‘maximize conversions’ bidding option was released last month on the web version of AdWords, so this is hardly a surprising launch in version 12. Even so, it is still very welcome and provides the option for users to allow Google’s advanced machine learning technology to set bids automatically within real-time bidding auctions. This means advertisers can get as many of their defined ‘conversions’ as possible for their daily budget.

Available at the campaign level within Editor, maximize conversions is found within the ‘Bid strategy’ drop-down list:

Small screenshot of the Bid strategy dropdown list, with Manual CPC ticked at the top and Maximize conversions highlighted further down.

Custom rules:

AdWords Editor now includes a host of custom rules, designed to ensure advertisers follow Google’s lengthy list of best practices. Editor will now let users know if their campaigns fall below Google’s standard before they are uploaded to AdWords. This is a pretty handy insight into what Google expects and wants to see from ad campaigns.

A list of the rules included are listed in the screenshot below and, as the name suggests, there is plenty of room for customization.

New fields for responsive ads:

A slew of new, editable fields have been added for responsive ads, including logos, promotion text, price prefixes, and CTA text.

Increased multimedia UAC support:

Universal App Campaigns make great use of Google’s machine learning technology. Advertisers can upload their creative assets and Google automatically generates the most appropriate video or image to promote the app to users across its range of products, including the Google Display Network, Search, and YouTube. Support is now provided for up to 20 videos or images within AdWords Editor 12, a significant upgrade.

We can expect to see version 12.1 sometime very soon, so we should really view this as the beginning of a process rather than a finished product.

Evolution, not revolution

That said, there is still a sense that, for all its launch has been heralded, version 12.0 hasn’t delivered the newsworthy, paradigm-shifting features of its predecessor.

There are commonalities across the updates in Editor 12, nonetheless, and they are representative of Google’s wider business strategy.

The phrase “machine learning” invariably crops up in any Google update now and it appears in abundance in relation to the newest AdWords Editor. The application provides more control to advanced users, no doubt, with its customizable fields and filters.

This sense of control for account managers becomes evermore illusory, however, as the essential workings of the machine reside on Google’s side of the fence.

Universal App Campaigns and Maximize Conversions serve as ideal harbingers of a new, AI-led approach to bidding, targeting, and personalization. Google provides access to these features, for a price, which levels the playing field for a wider group of advertisers. The differentiating factor between these campaigns will likely come down to the human element, often led by the meticulous work done in AdWords Editor.

In that sense, this update is a very significant marker of where the industry stands in 2017. The opportunities to gain a competitive advantage through old-fashioned PPC expertise are more valuable than ever, as machine learning tightens its grip over all aspects of paid search, from account structure to creative delivery.

AdWords Editor 12 may not have introduced these notions, but it certainly serves to solidify them.

Related reading

Here’s how RankBrain does (and doesn’t) impact SEO

In the past couple of weeks there has been a reinvigorated fervor surrounding artificial intelligence, with “AIO” (Artificial Intelligence Optimization) rearing its head on agency websites and blogs.

HTTPS and mobile first seem to be cooling as topics, so attention is turning to RankBrain.

The reality of this however is that artificial intelligence optimization is seemingly a paradoxical notion. If we imagine that Google is a child, when the child goes to school and reads a book, we want the child to learn and understand the information in that book. If the book isn’t “optimized” for the child to learn – structured information, images, engaging, positive user experience etc. – then the child won’t learn or understand the content.

Optimizing for RankBrain isn’t something new, or complicated. The tweet above from Google’s Gary Illyes on June 27 2017 echoes this. So why is there this need to turn RankBrain optimization into a product of its own, when the practices aren’t anything new?

In this post I’m going to explore exactly what RankBrain, and isn’t, as well as how the pre-existing concepts and practices of good SEO (as outlined by Google’s guidelines) apply to RankBrain.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain uses a form of machine learning and is used by Google to process unfathomable amounts of qualitative data (written content) into quantitative data (mathematical entities), vectors that the algorithm and other computers can understand.

15% of all queries that Google processes are new, so it’s common for RankBrain to encounter a query or phrase it hasn’t seen before. Using previously processed data in vectors and shards, RankBrain looks to make an intelligent guess based on similar queries, and similar meanings.

The number of new queries has reduced from 25% in 2007, but volume has increased exponentially thanks to the rise of smartphones and increased internet penetration rates globally.

Simply put, RankBrain:

  • Interprets the user query
  • Determines search intent
  • Selects results (items) from the databases

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a computer science and was defined in 1959 by Arthur Samuel as follows: “Machine learning gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed”. Samuel conducted the initial research into this field, which evolved from pattern recognition studies and computational learning theory.

Machine learning in essence explores the construction of algorithms and makes predictions based on data and statistical frequencies. Machine learning has been used in a number of software applications prior to Rank Brain, including spam email filtering, network threat and intruder detection and optical character recognition (OCR).

While this is a form of artificial intelligence, it’s not a high functioning form.

Association rule learning

ARL (association rule learning) is a method of machine learning for discovering relationships between variables in large databases using predetermined measures of interestingness.

This has previously been used by supermarkets to determine consumer buyer behaviour, and is used to produce loyalty coupons and other educated outreach methods. For instance, through store loyalty/points cards, a store can gather data that when analyzed can predict buying patterns and behaviors.

ARL can also be used to predict associations, for example if a user buys cheese slices and onions, it could be assumed they are also going to buy burger meat. RankBrain uses this principle in providing intelligent search results, especially when a phrase can have multiple meanings.

An example of this is an English slang term “dench”. If a user searches for dench it can have three meanings; the slang term, a line of clothing, or the actress Judi Dench. The term can also be associated with individuals, such as professional athlete Emmanuel Frimpong and rapper Lethal Bizzle.

As the query is ambiguous, Google’s own search quality evaluator guidelines explain that the search engine will show as many variations as deemed possible in order to satisfy the users search intent as best they can.

Concepts of association rule learning

The main concepts and rules of ARL are Support, Confidence, Lift and Conviction, but for the purposes of RankBrain I’m going to focus on Support and Confidence.

Support

Support in ARL is the measure of how frequently the item in question appears in the database. This is not the same as keyword density, or the number of times keyword variants appear.

Confidence

Confidence of ARL is a measure of how often the rule has been found to be true. This is based on associative terms, i.e. if a user searches for “POTUS”, then there is an X% chance that they may also search for, or find, Donald Trump a satisfactory result. They may also find Barack Obama, George Bush or Abraham Lincoln satisfactory results.

Confidence can often be confused with probabilities, as the two principles with regards to organic search are quite similar (if a user searches for X, then Y and Z can also be valid).

RankBrain uses association rules to satisfy user specified minimum support, and user specified minimum confidence at the same time, and both support and confidence are generally split into two individual processes:

  1. Minimum support threshold is established and applied to all frequent items in the database.
  2. Minimum confidence constraints are applied to the frequent items, in order to form rules.

Using these rules, RankBrain helps Google prioritize which ranking signals are most relevant to the user query, and how to weight those signals.

RankBrain and SEO

RankBrain was launched in a dozen or so languages (as confirmed by Gary Illyes on Twitter in June 2017) ranging from English to Hindi, and its sole purpose is to help Google provide more accurate results and an overall better search experience for users, satisfying their queries.

The main difference between the pre- and post- RankBrain world is that before RB, Google’s team of software engineers would amend and alter the mathematical algorithm(s) that determine search results and rankings, and this algorithm would remain constant until an update was made. However, Rank Brain is a part of the core algorithm and is used by Google for all searches (as of 2016), meaning that there is constant change and fluctuation.

This means that search results are now reactive to real world events, as well as a lot more volatile outside of the big algorithm update announcements.

“Optimizing” for RankBrain

Given how RankBrain interacts with the core algorithm and other ranking signals, there may be a need to change strategic focus (especially if the strategy is built on backlinks). But RankBrain is not a “classic algorithm” like Panda and Penguin.

With the classic algorithms, we knew how to avoid Penguin penalties and thanks to guidelines, we know how to satisfy Panda. RankBrain on the other hand is an interpretation model that can’t be optimized for specifically. There are, however, a number of standard SEO practices that are now more relevant than ever.

Doorway pages are dead

The idea of writing content with a “focus keyword” and producing one page for one keyword are outdated. The Hummingbird updated killed this in 2013, and RankBrain has taken this one step further.

I’ve seen this practice still being used in a number of sectors. When creating content and URL structures, both user experience and keyword matrices should be used, with the focus being on creating high value and resourceful pages.

Different queries = different weighting factors

Because of the way RankBrain has changed how certain variables and ranking factors are weighted for different queries, it’s no longer a practical approach to take a one size fits all approach with queries (and query categories).

Taking queries that trigger Venice results and the map pack out of the equation, some queries may demand high velocities of fresh content, shorter content, longer content, lots of links… The new weighting model that RankBrain presents means that there will need to be deviations from the standard best practice.

Internal linking structures

We know from Google’s search quality evaluation guidelines that Google considers main and supplemental content when ranking a page; this extends to pages within a URL subdirectory and pages linked to from the main content.

It’s standard to optimize internal linking structures so that link equity is passed to key pages on the site (as well as deeper pages), but it’s also important to include a good number of internal links to improve the user experience.

What does the future hold?

When RankBrain was first launched in 2015 it only handled around 15% of queries, but by the same time 2016 Google’s confidence in the algorithm had grown, and it let RankBrain loose on all queries. This will have been a phased rollout and responsible for a number of changes we saw in 2016.

As RankBrain learns on the job, it will only get better at understanding semantic and concepts, and relationships between topics and queries. This will benefit voice search results accuracy as well as traditional search results pages and now cards.

In summary

In conclusion, a number of leading figures in the SEO community (including Gary Illyes and Rand Fishkin) have come out in various ways highlighting that RankBrain isn’t something that can’t be specifically optimized for.

That being said, understanding how the RankBrain algorithm works is important to understanding the ranking volatility in your (or your client’s) verticals.

Related reading

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8 Simple Ways to Generate Leads With Social Media

Before we can talk about lead generation on social media, let’s define exactly what we mean when we talk about leads. Leads are, quite simply, potential customers who have expressed some interest in your product or company and have provided contact information you can use to follow up with more information. You can then pass these leads directly to your sales department or engage with them using a tailored content marketing program.

Why is it important to think about how to generate leads on social media? Consider that 90 percent of top decision-makers say they never respond to cold calls. On the other hand, 76 percent of buyers are ready to have a conversation on social media.

If you’re not providing your sales team with a steady stream of potential new customers, you’re doing your business a disservice. And you’re doing yourself a disservice, too, because lead generation metrics are a key way to prove the value of your social marketing efforts to your boss.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of lead generation using social media specifically is the ability to focus on highly qualified leads through advanced targeting. After all, eMarketer analysis shows that improving the quality of leads is the most significant goal for B2B marketers, while simply increasing the quantity of leads comes in third.

8 Simple Ways to Generate Leads With Social Media | Hootsuite Blog
Image via eMarketer.

8 tactics for lead generation using social media

So how do you go about using social media for lead generation? Let’s look at some of the best ways to start filling the sales funnel for your team.

1. Share links to gated content

Gated content is exactly what it sounds like—content hidden behind a virtual gate. If the content is valuable enough, interested readers will be willing to provide some basic contact information in exchange for access.

When using social media for lead generation, you can promote gated content by sharing a link to a landing page where potential readers provide their information before gaining access to the content.

Some people who click through to the landing page will click away without accessing your content—maybe they were mildly interested in the information but not so interested that they feel it’s worth sharing their contact details. But those who are truly interested and understand that they will gain significant value are willing to overcome this minor hurdle, qualifying themselves as more than casual readers in the process.

Assuming your content is relevant to your product or industry (and it certainly should be), those interested readers who complete the landing page form become great leads.

Here’s what a post sharing gated content looks like in action.

Promoting gated content directly to your followers is one of the easiest ways to gather detailed information about prospects using social media lead generation tools, so it also plays a secondary role in many of the other lead generation tactics discussed below.

Keep in mind that gated content can take several forms, and you should experiment to determine what works best with your particular audience. For B2B marketers, eMarketer analysis shows that white papers, webinars, and case studies are generally most effective.

8 Simple Ways to Generate Leads With Social Media | Hootsuite Blog
Image via eMarketer.

2. Run contests

Here’s the thing about contests: The prize up for grabs has to fulfill two important criteria. First, it has to be valuable enough that people will actually be interested in entering the contest. But second, it has to be valuable specifically to the people who have the highest potential to become your customers, and not much value to anyone else.

If the prize is not valuable enough, no one will enter your contest. But if it’s so generically valuable that everyone who sees the contest will want to enter, you’ll gather loads of contact information but no qualified leads.

After all, anyone might be interested in entering a contest to win a free iPhone or trip to Hawaii, but their contact information is about as valuable as what you would find in a phone book. They have expressed no interest in you, your company, your product, or even your content—just lots of interest in big fancy free things that anyone would enjoy.

So, what should you offer as your contest prize? An extended trial of your product could be a good option, or an upgrade to a higher tier of your service. After all, those prizes only have value to people who are genuinely interested in using your product. If you sell physical products, you could give away some of the products themselves.

There are a couple of different ways to allow people to enter a contest for lead generation through social media:

  • Enter by retweeting/sharing/liking/following: These are the easiest contests for people to enter, so you’ll likely get a large number of entrants. But since entrants only share the information that’s already publicly available on their social media profiles, this is not a great option for lead generation. And keep in mind that if you regularly ask for likes, comments, and shares, the Facebook algorithm may view your posts as spam and decrease your News Feed distribution.
  • Click through to a landing page: Since this involves an extra step, you’ll get fewer entrants than for a contest that just requires retweeting or liking. However, you can gather information through a contest entry form—as in the IKEA example below—that will turn your contest entrants into qualified leads.

3. Use social media advertising

While organic social media posts can be targeted to some extent, social media advertising takes targeting—and therefore the ability to collect leads from laser-focused groups of potential customers—to a whole new level. Using highly specific target audiences to promote gated content is a great way to keep advertising costs low while ensuring the leads you collect meet certain desirable criteria.

But beyond simple targeting, social media advertising has evolved to include specific social media lead generation tools: ad formats specifically designed to help marketers collect leads directly within social networks.

Facebook lead ads

This specialized ad format offers a low-commitment, low-barrier way for potential customers to connect with your business without leaving Facebook. As with a gated content offer, the potential customer provides information in exchange for something of value. That something of value can be either digital—like a newsletter, white paper, or coupon—or something that’s delivered in real life—like a product demonstration at a brick and mortar store or a test drive.

One great advantage of Facebook lead ads over a regular gated content offer is that Facebook automatically populates the lead form with the user’s contact information, so it can take as few as two clicks or taps for a potential customer to connect. You choose how much information you need, so you can get enough information for the lead to be useful, but not ask for so much that it scares the user away.

8 Simple Ways to Generate Leads With Social Media | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Facebook.

You can connect the generated leads directly to your CRM or mail program, or download them to pass along to your sales team.

Looking for inspiration? Head on over to our post that highlights seven brands making great use of Facebook Lead ads.

Instagram lead ads

Since Facebook owns Instagram, Facebook lead ads can also appear on Instagram, as long as the ads meet Instagram’s design requirements. However, lead ads behave a little differently on Instagram than they do on Facebook.

Instagram can only pre-populate the lead form with email, full name, phone number, and gender. If you want to collect additional information, the user will have to type it in.

Since Instagram lead ads only appear on mobile, and it takes 40 percent longer to fill out a form on a mobile device than on a desktop, you should only request additional information if it is critical for your initial sales efforts.

Another key reason to keep it simple? While users scroll down to fill out each lead form section on Facebook, on Instagram each section is a separate screen, providing more opportunities for users to click away.

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms also make it very easy for potential customers to share their information, since they are pre-populated with details from the user’s LinkedIn profile.

Since LinkedIn is primarily a professional networking site, the pre-populated information can include work details like job title, company, and seniority, as well as education details like degree, school, and field of study, giving you an extremely rich set of data about each lead. That said, LinkedIn recommends sticking to three or four key fields to maximize conversion.

Like Facebook lead ads, LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms require no typing at all to complete, making them easy to complete even on mobile devices—which is a good thing, since LinkedIn Lead Gen forms are only available on mobile (and only for Sponsored Content campaigns). Lead Gen forms for desktop and Sponsored InMail campaigns should roll out later this year.

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms just launched in April, but they are already seeing good results. According to LinkedIn itself, 90 percent of the 50 businesses in the pilot project exceeded their cost-per-lead goals.

4. Use Facebook custom tabs

Your Facebook Business Page is a great venue for lead generation on social media. After all, data from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research shows that among U.S. millennials who follow brands on Facebook, 66 percent do so to get coupons or discounts, and 37 percent do so to participate in contests. That’s great news for marketers, since coupons, discounts, and contests are all great social media lead generation tools.

Tabs are basically menu items that appear in the left column of your Facebook Page. Most Facebook Business Pages already use at least some of the standard Facebook Page tabs, such as About, Events, and Photos. But fewer use custom Facebook Page tabs, which can be a great way to highlight contests and offers used for lead generation on social media.

If you work with a developer, you can create custom tabs from scratch, but there are also plenty of Facebook Page apps that will help you create custom tabs, including lead generation forms, without knowing any code or investing in social media lead generation software.

8 Simple Ways to Generate Leads With Social Media | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Marketo on Facebook.

5. Host a hangout, webinar, or live video

We’ve already mentioned that webinars are one of the best-performing types of content for gated content offers. Google+ hangouts and live videos on social media are additional video options that can be used for lead generation through social media.

There are two approaches to generating leads with live video, hangouts, and webinars. The first option is to present the video as gated content, requiring interested viewers to register in advance by providing their contact information.

The second approach is to open the video up to a wide audience and generate leads from that audience in one of two ways:

During the video, direct viewers to offers, contests, or other social media lead generation tools on another platform, such as a landing page on your website or a custom tab on your Facebook page

Encourage live interaction by offering a reward for participation, then be sure to follow up with those who leave comments. The follow up could be as simple as directing people to resources related to their comments (including gated content), or you could encourage them to reach out to your team on social media with any further questions. Since these people have already expressed interest in your content and expertise, this simple post-video contact could generate more leads than you expect.

Keep in mind that the more specialized or niche your video, the fewer leads you will likely generate, but the more targeted the leads will be.

6. Use geotargeted search

For brick-and-mortar businesses in particular, using social media for lead generation is all about going local. Most local businesses already know about geotargeting for social media posts and ads to reach the audiences closest to their business while maximizing their social media efforts and ad spend. But far fewer businesses are taking advantage of geotargeted social search to uncover local leads.

Think about this: You’re managing social media for a chiropractic practice in downtown Vancouver. Who are the greatest leads for that business? Anyone in downtown Vancouver who has a sore back. Luckily for you, a sore back is just the kind of personal detail people tend to share on social (especially if that sore back was acquired by participating in a fun activity like skiing or sailing).

Geotargeted social search can help you find these exact people and reach out to invite them to your business or direct them to a special offer lead generation form.

Larger or online companies can benefit from geotargeted social search, too. For example, you could use geotargeted search to track the tweets coming from the venue of an industry conference—whether or not you’re actually there. You could then reach out to the people tweeting from the event with a custom offer, like a trial of your app, or just to say hello and establish a connection to develop over time.

There are a couple of ways to geotarget your search:

  • Twitter advanced search: On the Twitter advanced search page, enter your search terms, then scroll down to Places and select an appropriate geolocation to target your search. Learn more in our post about using Twitter advanced search for lead gen.
  • Hootsuite: From within the Hootsuite dashboard, click on the search icon (the magnifying glass) in the upper right corner. Enter your search term, then click the compass arrow icon in the right of the search field to find tweets nearby.
  • Hootlet Chrome Extension: Once you install the Hootlet Chrome Extension, you’ll see an option for Tweets Near Here when you click on a location in Google Maps or Yelp.

Learn how to get even more out of Hootsuite with free social media training from Hootsuite Academy.

7. Use targeted social media listening

Social media listening is all about keeping a virtual ear to the ground to understand what’s happening in your industry, and who’s talking about you and your competitors online. It’s an important source of actionable insights—including potential leads who are looking to engage with businesses just like yours.

By using search streams to monitor important keywords and handles in your industry, you can uncover conversations people are having about relevant products and services, or even specific features. You can then reach out to the people behind these conversations to make a connection, share information that’s helpful (maybe even gated content), and establish a relationship that will position your brand as the go-to resource when they are ready to buy.

We’ve got a whole post on how to get set up effective social media listening that shares all the details.

8. Engage in social selling

Social selling combines elements of social listening, lead generation, and sales practices, but is essentially all about establishing and building relationships.

A recent survey by CSO Insights and Seismic found that one in three B2B professionals said that social selling tools increased the number of leads they had to work with. In fact, lead development was the number-one purpose for which B2B professionals said they used social selling tools.

8 Simple Ways to Generate Leads With Social Media | Hootsuite Blog
Image via eMarketer.

Check out the video below for an overview of the key concepts of social selling, or head on over to our post Social Selling: What it is, Why You Should Care, and How to Do It Right for a detailed breakdown of exactly how social selling techniques and tools can be incorporated into your efforts to use social media for lead generation and nurturing.

Hootsuite can help you generate leads using social media. Try it free. 

Learn More

With files from Evan LePage.

8 SEO Tools Social Marketers Should Be Using

Search engine optimization is probably one of the most misunderstood marketing practices today. According to Hootsuite’s resident SEO expert, Zak Ramdani, “Most marketers tend to think of SEO like they think of the ozone—they know it’s important but they don’t really understand it.”

So… what is SEO and why does it matter?

Ramdani, also known as The Great SEO Owl at Hootsuite, says SEO is about getting your content seen by the right people. It’s about making content discoverable so others will find it and share on social organically.

To make sure your content is being seen and shared, we consulted Ramdani on the best SEO tools out there.

The Best SEO tools according to an expert

Best backlinks analysis tool

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a backlink analysis tool—meaning it crawls the web looking for relationships between two websites. A backlink is a link from one website to another, and a credibility indicator to search engines. On the Hootsuite blog, we want to link to credible sources of information and vice versa.

Ramdani’s favorite thing about Ahrefs is that it’s comprehensive and is the world’s largest backlink database. Plug in any URL into Site Explorer and you’ll see all its backlinks along with some useful SEO metrics—like how hard it’d be to rank in the top Google search results for a specific keyword.

Best new tool

LSI Graph

LSI Graph is an exciting new SEO tool which functions uniquely as a “latent semantic index”—also known as a keyword generator. LSI Graph brings up semantically relevant terms based on themes, related terms, and according to what’s been searched on Google along with those terms.

LSI Graph helps you discover popular and related queries, which comes in handy when you’re researching a niche topic or looking for something new to write about.

Ramdani tested out the platform with a search for “how to get more Instagram followers.” Results suggested “fast and free,” “hack,” “cheat,” and “instantly” as related terms.

This goes to show that people want a quick and easy way of gaining Instagram followers. At Hootsuite, we take these results and create content about why maybe it’s not the best idea to purchase Instagram followers—as we did in our post Want to Buy Instagram Followers? This is What Happens When You Do.

Best source code tool

NerdyData.com

NerdyData.com offers the technical makeup of sites. Instead of looking for words, NerdyData.com searches for source code. You can search for things like images URLs, plugins, title tags, meta descriptions, and any kind of pattern in web code.

How does this help SEO? Let’s say you’re looking for sites that mention your competitors but not you. With NerdyData.com, you can search for your competitor’s URL without mention of your own. Once you find all sites referencing your competitor, you could reach out and offer them your content so that they’ll include you in the future.

Like we mentioned on backlinks, by having these sites reference you, they’re giving you a vote of confidence that you’re a trustworthy source—which ultimately helps with your search ranking.

Best web crawler tool

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a crawler that analyzes the makeup of any website and checks for common SEO issues such as identifying page titles and meta data that are too long, too short, or duplicated on the site. This makes it a great SEO audit tool, as well as useful for checking the use of keywords on a website and competitive analysis.

Send Screaming Frog to any site and it will search for the keyword or file you’re looking for. For example, when Hootsuite reached 15 million users, our web team needed to change instances of 10 million to 15 million on every Hootsuite page. Instead of manually scanning each individual page, which would have taken weeks, the team ran a custom query on Screaming Frog. The web crawler was then able to produce each page referencing 10 million.

Best performance analysis tool

WebpageTest.org

WebpageTest.org is a tool for evaluating website performance, specifically when it comes to response rate. The website runs a speed test from multiple locations worldwide, on different servers and various connection speeds. You can even control the device on which your website is queried. It then shows you the problems that are making your website load slowly and what you can do to fix them.

The Best SEO Tools for Social Media Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

WebpageTest.org is especially helpful for SEO because page speed is one of the factors used by the Google algorithm to rank pages. Improving the response rate of your website—all around the world—will make your content that much more discoverable.

Best analytics tool

Google Analytics

Google Analytics allows you to track every bit of traffic on your website, giving you a holistic view of your SEO—how people got to your website and what they’re doing after they get there.

You’ll see which terms people are using to land on your pages as well as your ranking for specific keywords, which is a leading indicator of performance. Use Google Analytics to get an overview of user behavior on your website and to gauge whether your SEO efforts are effective or not.

Google Keyword Planner

Using Google Keyword Planner is like “getting data from the horse’s mouth,” says Ramdani. One big advantage is that data is pulled straight from the Google search engine—where sites are competing for rank and visibility—so you can’t get any closer than that.

Enter a keyword or phrase into the tool, and Google will generate useful stats to guide your SEO strategy: monthly search volume, competition, and even suggested terms you maybe hadn’t thought of.

Using high-ranking terms in your content will make it discoverable. For example, for an article on Instagram captions, top words might include:

The Best SEO Tools for Social Media Marketers | Hootsuite Blog

You’d want to have the terms being most searched for—“Instagram captions” and “caption”—and include it in your copy to make your article as SEO-friendly as possible.

Most versatile tool

SEMrush

According to Ramdani, SEMrush is the most well-rounded SEO platform. It does backlink analysis, position tracking, brand monitoring, generates SEO ideas, and more. It’s also significantly cheaper than some of its competitors.

To help you get started on the platform, SEMrush provides online tutorial videos.

One of its best features? Keyword tracking. You can use SEMrush to find keywords in any geographical location and on different devices—showing you local competition against your SEO.

Use Hootsuite to keep track of when and where your social media content is being seen and shared. Have all of your social media activity—interactions, engagements, and insights—in one place. Try Hootsuite today.

Learn more.

The Best Tools and Apps for Snapchat

Over 160 million people a day use Snapchat to send or view videos, photos, and messages. That makes it one of the most popular social networks, especially with millennials.

These and other users love Snapchat’s immediacy and sense of fun. It’s easy to share and comment on rough and ready, snack-sized pieces of content—or Snaps—with groups of friends throughout the day. Snapchatters can also discover content and Stories from their favorite brands.

And marketers? Some brands have been doing some pretty interesting things on Snapchat.

Want to do more with Snapchat? The good news is that if you want to get as many of those 160 million pairs of eyeballs to swivel in your direction and open wide, there are plenty of tools and apps for Snapchat out there. (If you’re wondering, there are no integrated Snapchat third-party apps. The platform doesn’t allow them.)

Here’s our list of the best apps for Snapchat marketers to keep an eye on or give a try. We’ve grouped our apps into categories that reflect what marketers are most interested in.

By the way, if you want a primer about using Snapchat in business, have a read of our guide to Snapchat. And here are some Snapchat hacks to add to your toolbox.

The best Snapchat apps

Snapchat discovery apps

GhostCodes

An App Store-style discovery tool

One of the trickier things about using Snapchat is finding people to follow (and getting people to follow your account).

GhostCodes to the rescue. It’s possibly the easiest way to find influencers and other accounts to follow.

Search for Snapchatters by over 40 categories—from “comedians” to “college life” and from “foodies” to “fitness.” Click on a category and you get a list of the most popular Snapchatters in that category. Except they call them “Ghosties.”

Geofilter creation app

PepperFilters

Create custom geofilters in minutes

Everyone loves Snapchat’s geofilters. It’s a neat way to do some location-based marketing or add a flourish to your content. For example, you can promote that you are in a particular location for an event, or ask followers to enter a contest by sharing photos containing a custom geofilter you created.

PepperFilters is a marketplace for Snapchat geofilters. You can design a unique geofilter using their range of backgrounds and templates, graphics, and text effects.

Promote your account app

Unofficial Snapchat button

It’s a Snapchat button and it’s unofficial

Make it easy to create a Snapchat button for your website so people can follow you. This handy website lets you create a button and generate code to paste into your website.

Caption idea generator

Captiona

A tool that generates ideas for social media captions. Captiona is basically a search engine for social media captions. Simply enter a keyword that relates to the content of your Snap, and the app will generate a list of suggestions.

We recommend using the tool to get your creative juices flowing. Play off the suggestions, but don’t copy them verbatim. Aim for originality.

Instagram captions
Hootsuite’s on Snapchat! Click this link on mobile to go directly to Hootsuite’s profile or scan the Snapcode below to add Hootsuite as a Friend on Snapchat.

The 10 best Google Doodles of all time

Since 1998, Google has used its homepage to host an invariably inventive ‘doodle’.

The Google Doodle actually began its life as a humorous out-of-office message for the company’s co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. To let everyone know they had gone to the Burning Man festival, they placed the festival’s icon behind the second ‘o’ on their own company’s logo.

It is fitting that what has become a forum for sophisticated artistic and technical expression began life as a stick figure. We can trace the Doodle’s development over time from a simple stick man to an interactive multimedia hub that educates and entertains on a variety of subjects.

Google began experimenting with Doodles to mark historical events soon after the original Burning Man example and, such was its popularity, the Doodle became a daily fixture on the Google homepage.

Undoubtedly, Google has taken a few knocks recently. The record fine levied against it by the E.U. made global headlines, the Canadian government ruled that Google must de-index specific domains entirely, and its AI company DeepMind’s deal with the National Health Service in the UK has been ruled “illegal.”

That’s not the kind of damage a doodle can undo. These are important cases that raise probing questions for all of us.

Nonetheless, it is still worth reflecting on the positive side of Google’s contributions to society. That’s where the humble, charming Doodle comes in.

These sketches showcase Google at its best. They are a microcosm of the search giant’s philanthropic side, an insight into a company that (until recently) proudly held the mantra “Don’t be evil” at the core of its code of conduct.

A company with so much power over the public consciousness uses its homepage to highlight overlooked historical figures, educate the populace about important scientific theories, or just give us some really fun games to play.

For that, we should be grateful.

You can take a look through the expansive repository of over 2,000 Doodles here.

Within this article, we have selected just 10 of Google’s most amiable animations from through the years.

1. Claude Monet (Nov 14, 2001)

For the first few years of the Doodle’s existence, it tended to appear sporadically – often to mark national holidays. That all changed in 2001 with the depiction of the Google logo in an Impressionistic style to celebrate 161 years since the French painter Claude Monet’s birth.

The shimmering effect of light in the letters and the presence of waterlilies underneath serve as elegant echoes of Monet’s trademark style. Importantly, this marked a shift in direction – both thematically and aesthetically – for the Doodle.

Other noteworthy homages to artists include Wassily Kandinsky, Carlos Mérida, Gustav Klimt, and Frida Kahlo.

2. Harriet Tubman (Feb 1, 2014)

Harriet Tubman’s extraordinary life was celebrated by Google in February 2014. The Doodle features her image and a lamp, to highlight both her escape from slavery and her daring missions to rescue others from the same fate.

This feature is notable for a few reasons. In 2014, a study revealed the lack of diversity in Google’s Doodles. Although just a simple design on a search engine landing page, this was a clear reflection of the social impact Google can have. In fact, over half of all Doodles to this point were of white men.

Google took this seriously and did strike a 50/50 gender balance in 2014, giving increasing prominence to non-white historical figures too. There is a notable effort to provide a broader spectrum of historical events and figures within Google’s Doodles, beginning with Harriet Tubman.

3. Alexander Calder (July 22, 2011)

The sculptor Alexander Calder is known best as the inventor of the nursery mobile. These structures sway in the wind, changing form depending on the antecedent forces that come into contact with them.

This made Calder the perfect subject for the first Doodle to be constructed entirely using the HTML5 standard. Internet browsers had been incapable of rendering such a complex media format until this point, and this design required the work of a team of engineers, artists, and illustrators.

The Doodle, to mark what would have been Calder’s 113th birthday, lulls satisfyingly when a user clicks or hovers over its component parts.

This is therefore a particularly important piece of Doodle history, ushering in a new age of innovation and experimentation.

4. Charlie Chaplin (Apr 16, 2011)

To celebrate the 122nd anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s birth, one of Google’s resident doodlers donned a moustache and hat to pay tribute to the great comic genius of the silent movie era.

This was the first live action Doodle and it really comes across as a labor of love from the Google team. Replete with heel clicking, cane waving and bottom kicking, this 2 minute black and white film is the perfect tribute to Chaplin.

It also marks the beginning of an era of ambitious Doodles that aren’t afraid to request the audience’s attention for longer than just a few seconds. As such, the Chaplin Doodle is an essential link between the stylized Google logos that were prevalent up to 2011 and the sprawling experiences that would come thereafter.

5. My Afrocentric Life (Mar 21, 2016)

Since 2009, Google has been running its Doodle 4 Google competition. The competition encourages elementary school kids (initially in the US, but this has now expanded internationally) to design a Doodle based on the people and issues that matter most to them.

Akilah Johnson was the US winner in 2016 with her entry, ‘My Afrocentric Life’, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Chosen from over 100,000 student submissions, Johnson created the Doodle over the course of two weeks using pencils, crayons and markers.

This initiative is a great way for Google to communicate with a younger generation, and it also shows the company’s willingness to give voice to political messages.

6. Ludwig van Beethoven (Dec 17, 2015)

The greatest composer of all time was given the fitting honor of Google’s most engrossing, intricate, classical music Doodle.

Created to celebrate the 245th anniversary of Beethoven’s baptism (his exact birthdate is unknown), this interactive game showcases events in the great artist’s life (both highs and lows), and invites us to piece together movements from his most famous works.

This Doodle makes the list for various reasons. It develops a sustained narrative and invites the viewer to interact. It also features some of the greatest art in European history.

But primarily, it takes what is sometimes seen as a difficult or impenetrable form of art and makes it accessible. This is an example of Google at its enlightening, playful best.

An honorable mention should also go to the Debussy Doodle in this category.

7. St Patrick’s Day (Mar 17, 2015)

Google has an illustrious history of producing Doodles to coincide with national holidays. Everywhere from America to Algeria to Australia has been given the Doodle treatment.

However, for sheer fun, the St Patrick’s Day iterations are hard to beat. 2015 was a vintage year, featuring a family of fiddle-playing clovers designed by Irish artist Eamon O’Neill.

What makes these Doodles special is Google’s commitment to celebrating such a wide range of holidays worldwide every year. For their brave use of color, the Holi festival animations are particularly worth a look.

8. International Women’s Day (Mar 8, 2017)

Google has been honoring International Women’s Day on its homepage for many years, but in 2017 it went the extra mile to provide a comprehensive look at 13 pioneers that have shaped our everyday lives.

What makes this most interesting is Google’s desire to go beyond the names we all already know, to give light to some unseen or hidden stories.

The slideshow gives prominence to Egypt’s first female pilot and Korea’s first female lawyer, for example. Moreover, it encourages us to do our own research to learn more about each person, instead of simply spoonfeeding us a few quick facts before we move on.

9. PAC-MAN (May 21, 2010)

The Pac-Man Doodle was a phenomenal success. It deserves an article of its own, really.

Said to have cost the economy $120 million in lost labor time, it tapped into our nostalgia for one of the most popular video games of all time.

Created for PAC-MAN’s 30th anniversary, the first-ever playable Doodle replicates the experience of the old arcade game.

It was initially launched for a two-day period, as Google expected it to surpass the popularity of your everyday Doodle. The fervent response was a little more than they had anticipated, however.

Luckily, you can still play the game here.

Also worthy of mention are the immensely popular Les Paul Doodle, which now has its own standalone page, and the Doodle Fruit Games, created for the 2016 Olympics.

10. Oskar Fishinger (Jun 22, 2017)

The most recent entry on our list – and perhaps the most expansive in its ambitions – was created to mark the birthday of filmmaker and visual artist Oskar Fishinger.  He was fascinated by the links between music and vision, which he saw as inextricable.

Google’s interactive take on this is an immersive experience, opening with a quote from the artist before offering us the opportunity to create our own ‘visual music’ using a range of instruments.

The Fishinger Doodle is arresting, both visually and sonically. The perfect celebration of Fishinger’s work, in other words.

It is an enticing glimpse of the pleasant surprises we can all expect as we log onto Google every morning, as its Doodles grow evermore sophisticated, charming, and instructive.

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