Twitter Analytics: A Guide for Marketers

Why do Twitter analytics matter?

Why was Freaks and Geeks cancelled after 12 episodes—when the show was clearly just very ahead-of-its-time? Why did they get rid of Pepsi Blue?

The point is, Twitter marketing strategies—just like TV shows and soda flavors—are measured by their success (or lack thereof). If they aren’t working, something must change.

Twitter analytics will let you know if your efforts are paying off, and if they aren’t, they will provide insight into what needs to be improved.

What are Twitter analytics?

Analytics, on its own, refers to data and statistics that gauge the performance of your social media marketing efforts.

What does this look like on Twitter? It’s often represented in likes, Retweets, Tweet impressions, favorites, and replies—most commonly known as engagement. This is an example of the kind of metrics that give you insight on how your social media content is performing.

Benefits of using Twitter Analytics

1. Learn about your audience

The better you know your Twitter audience, the easier it will be to engage them.

Luckily, there’s a wealth of data about the people following you on Twitter. In the Tweet activity dashboard, the Audiences tab gives you a look into demographics, location, and even common interests of those who follow you.

Twitter Analytics: A Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

Interests is particularly telling when it comes to what your audience is into, since the categories can get pretty specific:

Twitter Analytics: A Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

Let’s say 77 percent of your audience is interested in music. This is where you might try to loop in something about what’s currently happening in the music industry and tie that into your next social media campaign.

After all, curating and sharing relevant content with your audience is one of the best ways to boost engagement.

2. Post at the best time

When we say post at the best time, we mean when people can actually see the content you’ve worked so hard to produce. The more people that see your Tweets, the more opportunity there is to boost engagement, drive traffic, and gain potential new followers.

So, how do we figure out the best time to post on Twitter? An important thing to consider is geography.

Twitter analytics can show you where the bulk of your followers live around the globe. On the Tweet activity dashboard, this is shown through the Country and Region lists. Once you figure out where most of your audience comes from, you’ll be able to upload content when they’re actually online, and share news relevant to their region.

Twitter Analytics: A Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

For more info on when to deliver content, we’ve written about the best times to post on each social network.

3. Replicate your success

Twitter analytics will show you your top-performing Tweets. More often than not, these metrics are laid out in a bar graph or chart for a simple breakdown. You’ll find an overview with stats on impressions, engagements, and engagement rate.

On the Twitter platform itself, the Tweet activity dashboard offers a look at Tweets that were a hit within the last 28 days, the last week, and in previous months:

Twitter Analytics: A Guide for Marketers | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Twitter.

Take a long, hard look at the Tweets with a large number of impressions and the most interactions (replies, likes, and Retweets)—these are the ones fuelling the most engagement. This is where you can check for commonalities. What kind of content was each Tweet—image or copy? Was there humor involved? A product review? Were hashtags included? What was the CTA, if there was one?

Analyze the data and use it to create even more engaging content for your audience going forward.

What can you measure with Twitter Analytics?

You can measure a variety of audience actions in Twitter Analytics. Options include:

  • Detail expands: How many people clicked on a Tweet to view more details
  • Embedded media clicks: How many people clicked on a photo or video in a Tweet
  • Engagements: Total number of times a user interacted with a Tweet—clicks anywhere on the Tweet, including Retweets, replies, follows, likes, links, cards, hashtags, embedded media, username, profile photo, or Tweet expansion
  • Engagement rate: Number of engagements divided by impressions
  • Follows: How many users followed you directly from the Tweet
  • Impressions: Times a user is served a Tweet in timeline or search results
  • Link clicks: Clicks on a URL or Card in the Tweet
  • User profile clicks: Clicks on the name, @handle, or profile photo of the Tweet author

Still stuck? Twitter’s help page will take you through the technical definitions and processes of the analytics dashboard.

Twitter analytics tools

1. Tweet activity dashboard

As mentioned above, the Tweet activity dashboard is available to all kinds of users—individuals, brands, businesses, you name it. Integrated right in the platform, it provides Twitter users with information that can be used to tell how Tweets are performing in terms of engagement, clicks, and more.

2. Hootsuite Analytics

You saw this one coming. While the Tweet activity dashboard is great on its own, Hootsuite Analytics lets you compare the key metrics of all your social media profiles side-by-side. Our analytics tool also lets you build an unlimited amount of reports and will keep tabs on how your team is performing on social media.

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

3. Tweetchup

Another free Twitter analytics tool, Tweetchup hosts a fun user-interface and allows you to look up any Twitter handle and see their metrics. This is awesome if you’re thinking of doing a bit of competitive analysis.

4. Twitonomy

Twitonomy is a comprehensive Twitter analytics tool that, like Tweetchup, gives you an overview of your competitors and their social media performance—but to an even greater degree. It’s been highly reviewed for being so extensive, as it even lets you backup and export your Twitter interactions into an Excel spreadsheet or PDF file to keep for your records.

5. Tweepsmap

Tweepsmap offers an aesthetically-pleasing visualization of where your followers are located. Illustrated on a world map, this Twitter analytics tool shows you where your audience lives by country, state, or city. Bonus: they also show you the percentage of followers living in each location for an even easier read.

Twitter analytics give you insight into how people are interacting with your content, allowing you to optimize your strategy for maximum engagement.

Gain insight into your Twitter efforts—and your other social media endeavors— with Hootsuite Analytics. Try it free today.

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How Companies Will Use Social Media In 2017

Let’s travel back to a simpler time, shall we? It’s November 6, 2007, and Facebook has just launched something called Pages. Now, companies can have an official presence on the network, just like real people! The first day, 100,000 Pages launch, with brands from Coca-Cola to Verizon to Blockbuster getting onboard. In the years afterward, millions of companies raced to build up audiences they can reach directly and on-demand, through the sheer magic of social media.

Fast-forward to the waning months of 2016, and the magic is a little harder to feel. Certain corners of the social world have become uglier places, with some in the business world calling for a draw-down. But the pitfalls of political partisanship weren’t the only things companies struggled to circumnavigate last year. From a more practical standpoint, it turned out that just having an audience on social media doesn’t mean you actually get to reach it.

And as we head into 2017, the fact that social media is paying ever fewer dividends to many brands and their marketers is becoming more apparent. So what comes next?

How we got here

Starting in 2012, Facebook began to curtail the percentage of a Page’s followers that actually see a brand’s updates. At first, it was cut to around 16 percent. Later, it was reported that large brands who post to Facebook were reaching as few as two percent of their audience, or just one in every 50 of their own followers. After the latest tweaks last summer, the average reach for some branded posts has been cut again by half.

This isn’t part of some grand conspiracy. More content than ever is being shared—photos, GIFs, videos, and more—and the space in our news feeds is at a premium. So Facebook prioritizes, using its own algorithms to auto-select what we see. Content from friends and family members takes precedence, meaning that company updates, more often than not, don’t make the cut.

Facebook is hardly alone in elbowing companies to the social margins. Users of Instagram, which the social network owns, now have their feeds curated by algorithm, with the order optimized based on “relationship with the person posting.” Even Twitter, long celebrated as the place to see real-time, streaming updates in the raw, is increasingly algorithm-driven, with the “best Tweets” auto-selected to appear at the tops of users’ feeds.

To lovers of the free-wheeling early stages of social media—where the only limit to a company’s reach was creativity and cat-GIF curation—these changes add up to nothing short of an obituary. The days of being able to engage with users for free on social media through so-called “organic posts” are undeniably numbered.

This is hardly a secret or a news scoop. We’ve known it for years, in fact. But many of us have been in a state of denial. It’s time to come to grips with the hard truth that 2017 presents us with: social media as we know it may not be dead, but it’s surely dying. This doesn’t mean businesses should give up the ghost, though. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

The social paradox

Social media is more pervasive than ever and poised for a unique metamorphosis. It’s about to be reborn over the course of this year as a hyperfocused business tool—more targeted, simpler to use, and possibly more effective than before.

If that sounds Pollyanna-ish, think again. A curious thing has happened as companies’ ability to reach users organically on social media has tanked: the power of social media to influence buying decisions has surged. In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, McKinsey recently surveyed 20,000 consumers in Europe and found that social recommendations are behind more than a quarter of all purchases made. This is well above the 10 to 15 percent that’s been estimated in earlier research. And in the majority of cases, the McKinsey report found, these social updates had a direct impact on buying decisions.

For companies, this presents a thorny challenge. Social media has never been more influential, but getting updates in front of users has never been more challenging. To shun Facebook and other networks altogether is to ignore the more than 2 billion users around the globe who rely on social media for news and updates. But to embrace them requires jumping over ever-higher hurdles in the hopes of connecting with customers.

But there are some viable solutions. Not surprisingly, paying for social media ads is a big part of the equation—just as Facebook, for one, has intended. There’s more to the story than bowing to the social network’s business model, though. Some of the most innovative companies are increasingly taking a three-pronged approach—blending paid social media ads with strategies that tap customers and even their own employees to spread content further and more effectively than before.

Put your money where your post is

In a new report, Gartner’s industry analysts are unusually blunt: “Sustained success in social marketing now requires paid advertising.” And they’re right. It’s absolutely true that, like it or not, pay-to-play is becoming the foundation of effective social strategies, with more than 80 percent of companies reportedly planning to deploy a social ad campaign in the next year.

All the major social platforms now have their own “native ads”—promoted posts and updates designed to look just like the real things, distinguished (sometimes barely) by tiny disclaimers. The good news is that once you get over the initial sticker shock of ponying up for Tweets and Facebook posts, paid social media actually presents some clear advantages for businesses.

After all, the social platforms that are pressuring companies to pay for reach still want to keep them happy in exchange. So instead of blasting out updates, brands can now target both followers and non-followers with a high degree of accuracy. Yes, you have to pay for that, but the data captured by networks now lets companies zero in, not just on specific demographic groups, but on “lookalike audiences,” similar to those of competitors. Ads can then be optimized depending on a campaign’s goals—from views to click-throughs and more—and budgets can be allocated more exactingly.

To be sure, aspects of these new capabilities have already proved to be potential ethical minefields. Facebook has come under fire in recent months after revelations that it allowed some advertisers to exclude certain ethnic groups. The company responded with some changes to its approach, but it’s highly likely that as precision improves, the line between effective ad targeting and naked discrimination will continue to be debated—as well it should.

But that’s a challenge that the most innovative marketers and inclusive brands can rise to, as many have done in the past when faced with thorny social issues impacted by technology. And to help, they’ll have more data than ever to guide their choices, because the return on this social investment can finally be tracked and quantified. Paid social media analytics tools (my company offers one of them) can give a real-time window into results, with instant feedback on the cost per view, click, and other metrics. While the work of creating and bidding on these ads has put off some users in the past, a host of online platforms can now simplify the process of deploying paid campaigns. Put simply, advertising on social media is effective, scaleable, and increasingly DIY.

Unleash the social media army on your payroll

Paid ads offer a surefire way to reach a desired audience on social media—for a price. But there’s another critical and generally overlooked route to getting the message out that comes with no extra cost: your own employees.

Employee advocacy—inviting coworkers to share brand messages on their own social media accounts—can have a range of benefits. For starters, you expand your reach, often exponentially in the case of large companies. Plus, because messages are being shared from personal accounts (rather than the company’s), they generally reach a higher percentage of followers. Not to mention that content shared by employees reportedly gets eight times more engagement, on average, than content shared by brand channels—and is re-shared 25 times more frequently.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to encourage employee sharing. It should never be obligatory, for starters. Employees have to actually want to share company news, and it needs to be relevant to their own followings.

And the process of sharing has to be dead simple. Asking employees via email or Slack to post something on social media, for instance, is a clumsy workaround and rarely sees results. As an alternative, we here at Hootsuite developed a “one-click” option where companies can send pre-approved updates via mobile app to employees, who then just tap to send.

Inspire customers to create

“User-generated content” has been a buzzword for a while now, but it’s worth understanding why it still makes so much sense on social media. On one level, it taps into users’ basic impulse—the one at the heart of social media’s appeal in the first place—to create and engage, rather than sit on the sidelines passively.

For companies, it’s a way to build ties with customers while leaning on users for crowdsourced inspiration and creativity at the same time. Plus, encouraging your own customers to create and share branded content represents a sort of end-run around algorithms that limit the reach of posts from corporate accounts.

But how do you incentivize users to generate all this clickable content? Well, an old-fashioned contest never hurts. Close to home, for example, we recently challenged our followers to post photos from unique office settings as part of our #IWorkFromHere campaign, to highlight how the Hootsuite app lets businesses manage social media on the go. More than 1,400 people shared entries—from locales as exotic as the Andes Mountains and the cockpit of a helicopter—for a chance to win roundtrip flights anywhere in the world. The result: 2.2 million people a day saw these posts, which translated to more than 2,000 new mobile users.

Online tools now make it easy to plan and deploy contests to create user-generated content, though some common sense is always advisable. (Among many cautionary tales is #McDstories, a memorable 2012 effort from the fast-food giant that saw users flood the Twitterverse with… well, not exactly the kind of content the company had hoped for.) Asking for user-generated content always entails some risk, but it also lends a crucial layer of authenticity and excitement that’s often missing from branded efforts.

The “reachpocalypse” is upon us. But for businesses, the decline of organic social media reach needn’t be a doomsday scenario—quite the contrary. The new social media order that’s taking shape in 2017 promises companies the kind of precision and measurable results long expected from traditional channels like print and broadcast. Social media had a rough year in 2016, but things are looking up.

Get more out of your advertising dollars by using Hootsuite to create, manage, and optimize your campaigns. Ads options are available for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Learn more and create your ad today.

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YouTube Tips: How One Entrepreneur Grew From 0 to 23 Million Views

In 2009, Graham Cochrane was unemployed. The startup he worked at had gone out of business. And with a wife and newborn daughter, he needed to find a new way to make money.

With little left in his savings, Cochrane began writing articles about his passion: music recording and mixing. While he was trained as an audio engineer, he faced steep competition. From global publishers like Guitar World and Modern Drummer to household brands like Fender and Roland, there’s no shortage of experts offering online tutorials and tips.

Today, he makes between $35,000 to $75,000 per month from his website, The Recording Revolution.

On his site and YouTube channel, he offers free content and premium courses to help musicians record and mix music at home. He doesn’t have a marketing team. His business is fueled by YouTube videos, blog posts, and email content—all created by Cochrane from his home studio.

I personally discovered Cochrane on YouTube a few years ago. I was teaching myself how to mix and record music. I recently reached out to him for an interview about his YouTube strategy.

How did he get started? What strategy advice does he have for brands and businesses trying to grow their business with YouTube?

What you’ll learn in this interview:

  • The core principle in Cochrane’s YouTube strategy that helped him grow from zero to 23 million YouTube views.
  • His simple system for coming up with new YouTube videos.
  • Why he doesn’t focus on video launches or worry about complex promotional plans.

You can find out more about Cochrane’s story on The Recording Revolution website or by visiting his YouTube channel. Read the Q&A below for insight into how he’s built such a successful business using YouTube.

Starting with 0 YouTube subscribers

Millions of musicians watch your YouTube videos, read your blog, and subscribe to your emails. What advice would you give a new artist or brand looking to build an audience on YouTube?

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. 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.

What’s the No. 1 mistake you see other businesses or artists making with YouTube?

The biggest mistake is this: not having an email list and not focusing on growing it.

The goal isn’t to gain a massive YouTube following. The goal is to grow your business (i.e. sell). In order to do that, you need an engaged email list. It is still THE best way to sell your product or services these days.

Too many people want a massive YouTube following with lots of comments and engagement. I care more about those YouTube viewers clicking over to my site to join my email list so I can give them even MORE free content and, of course, offer them something to purchase should they so choose.

Tracking the ROI of YouTube

You create a lot of content on YouTube. But you also have a blog, email list, Facebook Page, and Twitter account. Do you spend a lot of time analyzing where your traffic comes from and tracking the ROI of social media?

I honestly have never paid attention to where my traffic comes from. I’ve just made content that I know my audience wants and needs and I’ve put it out where people will find it (Google search and YouTube).

My written articles get picked up by Google. My videos get picked up by YouTube. My hope is that I create content that is SO good that people want to share it, mention it or mention me. This is how my brand has spread.

YouTube publishing and promotion tips

What software do you use to record your YouTube videos?

If it’s capturing my screen for software tutorials I use ScreenFlow. I edit right in the same program. If I’m on camera, I use Final Cut Pro X to edit it all together. But to be honest I started with the free iMovie for years!

How do you come up with new ideas for YouTube videos? Do you conduct SEO research?

I listen to my audience. I pay attention to the words and phrases they use. What frustrations are they having right now? What desires or hopes do they have in this niche?

If I’m not sure of the answers to those questions, I do something super powerful: I ask them! And I literally write down what they say. I will also copy and paste interesting comments people make on my site or on social media and keep it as a nugget to bring out for a video later. I keep a running list of topics I want to cover.

When that inspiration dries up, I’ll interact with students and fans again to fill it back up!
An amazing thing happens when you ask people what they need and want and then you go and make it for them—they think you read their mind!

After creating a new YouTube video, what’s your promotional strategy?

I have days that I post consistently (Monday and Thursday right now). I then share on Facebook and Twitter and of course email to my mailing list.

But videos are small pieces of a larger puzzle for me. I’ve found that big launches or campaigns aren’t important to reaching my audience. Instead, each video is part of a larger on-going effort to provide valuable advice to my audience. So, there’s no launch for a new video.

Developing your YouTube strategy

You create a lot of YouTube content—but I think that the true source of your success is the fact that every piece of content you create connects back to ONE simple message: you don’t need a lot of expensive gear to create good music. Every YouTube tutorial, every blog post, every email seems to support and express that message. Do you agree that having an underlying brand message has been the No. 1 factor in your success?

You’re absolutely right, James. I’m very clearly making a statement with each video. I have a clear opinion and worldview about my niche. And that is super important because it forces people to react. Either negatively (they don’t agree with me so they leave) or positively (they agree and they love me even more for it). It’s how I build loyalty and trust.

My little tribe is filled with mostly like-minded people. It’s very intentional. I don’t try to create content for EVERYONE. I try to create content for a specific type of person and let THEM decide if they dig what I’m doing.

If I just made content that is so ‘balanced’ and ‘normal’ then I wouldn’t be that interesting. Why would anyone pay attention to what I’m doing? This isn’t an act. I really share my real opinions on things. This is how I see the world of audio. So it’s natural for me. I just press into it fully and don’t try to appeal to everyone.

Did you start out with your core brand message? Or did you just start creating content and discover your core message over time? 

I think it was a bit of both. I knew exactly what I was going to create content on. It’s even built into the name of my site, The Recording Revolution!

So yes I had a clear voice early on. But it wasn’t that strong in the beginning. (And by voice I mean my message and brand). After months and years of creating content, I solidified my message a lot more and have become a stronger brand because of it.

I think you need to figure out that message before you start. But also know that it will develop and become more refined over time.

YouTube tips

Are there any small tricks or techniques you think have helped your YouTube videos rise to the top of search results?

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

This can give you a better idea of what to use for your video title and what words to use in your description.

Do you have any final tips for brands and businesses trying to find success on YouTube?

One big thing to understand is that YouTube has changed. YouTube no longer promotes videos and channels based on views but rather on minutes watched. They call it “Watch Time” and that is the currency of YouTube. This is to prevent people from posting stupid short three-second videos with clickbait titles and racking up views that mean nothing.

Now the goal of a YouTube channel is to create LOTS of content and LONG content that people really want to watch. If you can keep people watching you will be rewarded by the algorithm.

You can find out more about Cochrane at The Recording Revolution website or by visiting his YouTube channel.

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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10 Unexpected Ways to Use Pinterest

You’ve probably seen a lot of people share recipes or product wish lists on Pinterest. And while there’s nothing wrong with a classic, tried, tested, and true approach to your Pinterest strategy, it’s always fun to shake things up.

Think outside of the box when it comes to your time on Pinterest with the following ten ideas. 

10 surprising ways to use Pinterest

Find a job

Looking to land your first job in social media? If you need help with a resume, interviewing skills, or personal branding, Pinterest has you covered. As my post 5 Ways Pinterest Can Help Your Career explains, ‘Simply typing “resume’ into the search bar results in thousands of free and paid templates, as well as links to numerous articles providing tips and tricks for creating the perfect resume and cover letter.”

This rings true for other areas of your job search you need help with too. Search for ‘job interview,’ and find boards dedicated to interview etiquette, practice questions, tips on how to answer the toughest questions, and even interview outfit ideas.  

Gain new skills

Whether you’re trying to land that dream job, work towards a promotion, or simply want to stay ahead of the curve, Pinterest is the perfect place to gain new skills.

One of the main ways I use Pinterest is to search for educational resources and knowledge-building posts. Leading institutions and organizations use Pinterest to share their content, so it’s a hotbed for quality information. As my above-mentioned post 5 Ways Pinterest Can Help Your Career explains, “A simple search for boards entitled ‘free course’ will garner hundreds of results from organizations and schools, as well as personal users who have used Pinterest to bookmark free courses and classes for themselves.”

Highlight your business culture (and recruit talent)

If your company is on the search for top talent, your Pinterest board can come in very handy. With the visual nature of the network, you can easily showcase your workplace culture to prospective employees.

Our own #HootsuiteLife board serves as a great example of how to show off your company’s culture with Pinterest. Post photos of the office, team-building events, and employees. The more compelling your workplace looks, the more people will want to work for you.

Run a contest

If you’re looking for more interactions, engagement, and referrals for your business, you might want to consider running a Pinterest contest. A Pinterest contest can come in many forms, but the most popular is the ‘Pin It to Win It’ format.

This type of contest lets your fans pin your brand’s content to their Pinterest board in exchange for a chance to win a prize. They can also pin their own image, which creates valuable user-generated content for your business.

If you need help running a Pinterest contest, Hootsuite Campaigns allows you to spread your brand’s contest across your fans’ boards, collect user-generated content, and enable form-fills and social sharing to generate leads and broaden your reach.

Build relationships with other brands

Pinterest offers a way to visually represent your relationships. Followers can see what you’re pinning, and where your Pins are coming from. Take this visibility and use it to build and nurture relationships with other businesses.

Partner with a brand that is relevant to your audience, and start sharing their Pins. In return, they will share your content and expose it to their audience. This mutually beneficial relationship is a powerful way of getting more exposure for your brand, which will ultimately improve your bottom line.

As job and career site The Muse shared in our post Using Pinterest for Business: Secrets from Top Bloggers, “We’re all about partnerships here at The Muse, so when it comes to maximizing content on Pinterest we recommend partnering with a brand that has a similar demographic, but offers a different angle on content (that still appeals to your audience). For example, we partnered with our friends at Greatist and pinned their health content, while they pinned our career advice content. It’s a win-win!”

Showcase the history of your brand

Regardless of whether your brand has been around for one year or 50, you can start a Pinterest board to track the history of your business. This is not only a fun way for your audience to see how you’ve grown and changed over the years, but allows you to keep a visual archive of your brand.

In our blog post Using Pinterest for Business: Secrets from Top Bloggers, Apartment Therapy CEO and founder Maxwell Ryan shares, “Internally, Apartment Therapy editors use our Pinterest account as a visual archive of our best photos, and it’s how we can easily snag the perfect lead image for an upcoming article.”

Share user-generated content

Your business’s most valuable assets is its customers. Showcase how much they mean to you with a dedicated Pinterest board. This gives you the opportunity to show appreciation towards your customers, as well as have a constant stream of new content for your channels.

At Hootsuite, we shine the spotlight on our amazing Ambassadors with our Hootsuite Ambassadors Pinterest board. Our global community of social media enthusiasts, professionals, and brand advocates are important to us, so we share their content, relevant interactions, and the great things they’re doing around the world.

Compile reading lists

The Pinterest board format makes for an easy way to share a reading list with your followers. Create a board (or two, or three) organized by theme and save books and articles you think your audience will find helpful.

As explained in my post Not Sure What to Post on Social Media? 10 Content Ideas That Work, “To put together a list, think about books you’re actually reading or have read recently, or crowdsource ideas from your colleagues. Alternatively, share a reading list put together by your business’ CEO. People love seeing what content the best and brightest leaders are consuming.”

For examples of reading lists on Pinterest, check out those from Architectural Digest, Neal Schaffer, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Plan corporate events

Pinterest is a go-to resource for planning parties and special events, but this doesn’t have to be solely for personal affairs. Create a Pinterest board to help plan your next corporate event and you essentially have a presentation-ready visual to show your boss.

You can use Pinterest to search for corporate event inspiration, and to organize your own ideas to help you stay on track. A simple search for “corporate events” will provide you with tons of inspiration and ideas that will truly set your next workplace event apart.

For some corporate event inspiration, check out the Senate House Events Pinterest board, this popular How to Build An Event Budget Pin, and this Perfect Planning for a Corporate Event infographic.

Customize the buying experience

As social selling moves to the forefront of marketing strategies around the world, Pinterest is one network that should be on your radar. Thanks to Pinterest’s API, brands can provide a truly customized buying experience for their customers.

Topshop was the first retailer to use this to launch an app when their developers built Pinterest Palettes, an interactive discovery tool that looks at a person’s boards and Pins to uncover their personal color palette. These palettes made shopping easy, and gave users buying recommendations based on the colors of their Pinterest Palettes.

With this tactic, Topshop saw a 260 percent increase in impressions, a 17 percent bump in Pins created from their website, and a 262 percent increase in Pinterest engagement in the form of saves and clicks.

There are many different ways to grow and engage your audience on Pinterest. Don’t be afraid to test out some of these less-common strategies and tactics—you never know where your next great idea will come from.

Save time, maximize your reach, and work more effectively on Pinterest with the Tailwind for Pinterest app in your Hootsuite dashboard.

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Five proven SEO strategies for retailers to use in 2017

hybrid seo

Optimizing your ecommerce site for better rankings should be a top priority for any growth-focused business owner.

Being on the first page is no longer enough to generate enough traffic, CTR, and sales, for 2016 and 2017, the main goal should be to rank 1 and I will tell you why.

In 2011, a research conducted by Optify and published by Search Engine Watch showed that “websites ranked number one received an average click-through rate (CTR) of 36.4 percent; number two had a CTR of 12.5 percent; and number three had a CTR of 9.5 percent.”

This report illustrates vividly the value of holding the number 1 spot in search results.

In the article below, I will be sharing five proven SEO strategies for retailers to rank their ecommerce sites in 2017.

1) Use LSIs

Among the best practices for SEO in 2016 and 2017 is the use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. LSI’s keywords are phrases or words closely related to the main keyword or phrase of your page or content.

Adding these keywords to your web pages will improve your SEO for a variety of search terms. Bear in mind, visitors will always use different or a combination of terms in search engines but optimizing your web page with LSI’s allows you to rank easily for closely related keywords.

For example, when optimizing a coupon website for keywords, LSI’s such as promotion codes, discount codes, discounts and deals can be sprinkled over the content in your coupon offers or category description.

Finally, there won’t be a need for LSI’s on a squeeze page with no content but for product description and large e-commerce stores like Amazon, LSI’s will surely get on the good side of search engines.


2) Write Long Descriptions For Products and Pages (1000+) and Sprinkle Keyword 3 – 5x

According to SERP data from SEMRush, longer content tends to rank best in Google. This is because search engines (Google) wants visitors to understand the value on your page, more content on your web pages allows search engines to crawl and provide value to web users.

I understand it is impossible to write up to or more than 1000 words for every page on your e-commerce site (don’t sweat it) simply write in-depth 100 words for products or category pages.

After writing your in-depth descriptions, include your main keyword at least 3 times in your descriptions. Doing this, give signals to search engines as to what the page is about.

For example, if your web page is about “Winter Skips” then you need to include that exact phrase at least 3 times in the fully written description.

Avoid poorly written or duplicate product descriptions (many retailers are guilty of this crime), hyperlink properly to internal pages or related items.

3) Use Neuromarketing Hacks To Maximize Page CTR

There is no point stressing out the need to include your main keyword in your page’s title tag. But do you know adding a prefix before your main keyword can actually skyrocket your CTR from search results?

Prefixes or Click Magnets such as “Cheap”, “Buy” and “30% Off” can increase your CTR and help you show up for long tail search queries. It is advisable to use prefixes for every product page as visitors punch in more precise queries such as “cheap winter skips” or “Nordstrom deals”.

Bear in mind, Google presumably uses organic CTR as a ranking signal according to Paul Haahr, well if they don’t, more click-throughs = more sales so you don’t lose in any way.

For example, almost every page with title tags on ChameleonJohn contains click magnets such as “30% off”, “Free Shipping” or “Up to 60% off” which generate more clicks (since we all like discounts).

For optimal results, include creative (and appropriate) click magnets into your title tags and descriptions tags and put longer phrases in description tags since you have more room for words to gain more clicks and sales.

4) Use Date Modifiers For Coupons

For businesses in the coupon industry, best practice will be to include date modifiers (2016, 2017) on each coupon page to show visitors that the coupons are fresh. For example, Kohl’s coupon page shows the last updated date including an expiry date for each coupon offer.

This allows search engines to crawl in-depth, provide comprehensive search results and rich snippets for visitors.

5) Implement Product Review Schema by Displaying Rich Snippets in Google

Rich snippets were first launched in 2009, they offer a way of adding more information to a search listing which could be in form of a star rating of a review or price of an item.

Webmasters can markup web pages with making ecommerce sites eligible for displaying rich snippets in search results. Using structured data markup allows search engines to crawl and display page content comprehensively even though Google does not guarantee rich snippets for every website.

For clarification purposes, rich snippets do not affect site rankings but the use allows for comprehensive search listings for visitors, an increased CTR and indirect SEO benefits such as easily indexable web pages and detailed metadata.

Laurynas Skupas is the co-founder and CEO of ChameleonJohn

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Top three programmatic trends in 2017


Programmatic is a game-changing technology in the advertising industry.

According to ZenithOptimedia Programmatic Marketing Forecasts, it will grow by an astounding 31% in 2017 – and that’s faster than social media (25%) and online video (20%).

At the same time, marketers using automation is on the rise: Dun & Bradstreet Report predicts almost 70% of B2B marketers plan to increase spending on programmatic advertising in 2017.

So what can we expect from the year ahead and how should advertisers be prepared to take advantage of programmatic? RTB House – a global provider of retargeting technology powered by deep learning algorithms – has put together 3 top trends in the upcoming year.

#1 Cross-device campaigns will get in power

According to Global Mobile Consumer Trends Research, we check our phones around 40 times per day. With more than 78% of the global consumers owning smartphones (76% in developed countries and 81% in emerging markets), mobile programmatic ads are on the upswing.

Rising device penetration and increased mobile usage is a huge advertising opportunity which marketers simply can’t ignore. 2017 will be the year of mobile programmatic not only in the US, where eMarketer predicts that mobile will represent nearly 75% of all programmatic ad spending, but also in other markets across the globe.

Programmatic video is also on the rise. It will amount to about 60% of all digital video ad spending in the US according to eMarketer, and accounts for almost a quarter of video ad spend in Europe.

The UK will remain the market leader in programmatic digital display ad spending, expected to account for more than three quarters of all buys in 2017, so by 2018 programmatic direct will account for 52 per cent of the programmatic total and £2.03bn.

By 2020 desktop spend is projected to be £3.17bn, compared with mobile’s £8.99bn.

The programmatic mobile and video market has been shaky in the past, but device saturation and market maturity seems to put publishers and advertisers in a comfortable place with buying and selling mobile and video ad inventory.

In 2017, brands will be even more eager to run activities that reach consumers on every one of those screens and planning a cross-device campaign will be a common and effective strategy.

#2 Header bidding will revolutionize buy/sell auctions

Header bidding (or pre-bidding) helps publishers better decide which partners they choose work with.

Unlike waterfall auctions, which have long been the standard of buying and selling ads, header bidding means all bids are made at once.

This allows for a more democratic access path to the publishers ad inventory, which creates a win-win for both publishers and advertisers. The price usually goes up, awarding publishers more money. At the same time, it gives advertisers a more even shot at the inventory they most want.


In traditional waterfall methods, publishers are not able to choose their partners – they are placed into tiers based on how much money they have spent historically. The more they’ve spent, the higher tier they occupy.

When an impression goes up for auction, it is first offered to the highest tier; if that tier doesn’t bite, the same impression is pushed down to the next tier.

This repeats until someone makes a bid. But this process doesn’t always get the publisher the true value for their impression. Nor does it give advertisers equal footing to bid on the impression they want. And here is where header bidding concept steps into the game.

In 2017, header bidding will be more accessible than ever, thanks to rapid developments in the technology that allows them. Buyers will be highly incentivized by the lower costs of impressions technology fees, while publishers enjoy higher profit margins from their inventory.

#3 Deep learning will boost retargeting quality to new heights

According to Juniper Research, machine learning algorithms which are employed in programmatic advertising to enable more efficient bids in RTB networks are expected to generate around $42 billion in annual advertising revenue by 2021, up from around $3.5 billion this year.

Deep learning (a branch of machine learning based on algorithms that attempt to model high-level abstractions in data) has made significant strides in 2016 and will be on the radar of many forward-thinking advertisers in 2017. It’s now being used in many industries beyond software.

These algorithms are the backbone of image or speech recognition, and in 2017 their application will have a great influence on programmatic advertising campaigns.

Thanks to deep learning methods which are employed by innovative retargeting technology providers, advertisers will be able to predict user behaviour, calculate the probability of purchasing, and measure value more accurately.

Programmatic buying and selling powered by deep learning will yield a higher value of conversions and enable advertisers to run advertising campaigns that are extremely effective without larger budgeting.

Daniel Surmacz is the COO of RTB House and a contributor at SEW

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32 Useful Facebook Page Apps for Your Business

If you’re thinking about how to improve your Facebook strategy and aren’t sure where to start, these apps for your Facebook Page can help.

Here’s why: Facebook apps don’t require a ton of effort and they’re super handy. They let you customize your existing Facebook Page in a way that enhances the experience for your customers. We’ve listed 32 apps—organized by different categories—to get you started.

Facebook Page app suites

1. Heyo

Heyo allows you to easily create contests and campaigns for Facebook with customizable templates.

2. Ripe Social

Ripe Social offers 11 apps to build a custom Facebook Page. It’s an affordable way to build a custom brand on Facebook, with a-la-carte options to choose from.

Facebook tab apps

3. Pagemodo

Pagemodo will help you create custom tabs for your Facebook Page. If you’re looking to add a welcome page, show maps, offer coupons, and feature your products, you can quickly and easily create professional Facebook tabs for your business.

4. Tabfoundry

Tabfoundry offers an easy way to build contests and custom tabs on your Page. Instead of pre-determined tabs, Tabfoundry gives you a blank canvas with handy drag-and-drop widgets. The Tabfoundry Campaigns app is free with a Hootsuite account.

5. TabSite

TabSite allows you to build promotional tabs for Facebook, which includes things like contests, sweepstakes, lead capture, and video. You can create tabs in a matter of minutes.

Facebook email capture and contact form apps

6. MailChimp

By integrating MailChimp with your Facebook Page, you can grow your email list and share your campaigns. Once you’ve integrated MailChimp with your personal Facebook profile, you can run MailChimp on your Pages.

7. AWeber

AWeber allows you to sync your email marketing campaigns to your Facebook Page. With the app you can quickly and easily place an AWeber web form on your Facebook Page to capture leads.

Facebook e-commerce apps

8. Facebook Shop

With Facebook Shop, an app developed by Shopify for your Facebook Page, you can sell products directly on your Page and allow customers to go through the complete checkout process without ever leaving Facebook.

9. Storefront Social

With Storefront Social you can start a Facebook Store and start selling all over the globe. You can add products to your Facebook shop, customize your offerings, publish to your business Page, and set up a checkout system.

10. Shopial

Shopial lets you connect your online store to Facebook in just a few simple steps. You can advertise your products, create ads, and get reports for them.

Facebook contest and promotion apps

11. Woobox

Woobox allows you to create sweepstakes, coupons, and contests for your Facebook Pages. You can easily install a campaign as an app for your Page and Woobox has ready-made campaigns to get you started.

12. Shortstack

With Shortstack you can build engaging campaigns, contests, and promotions for Facebook. You can set up voting and entry restrictions within the app.

13. Wishpond

Wishpond offers 10 apps that make it easy to create social promotions for your business on Facebook. You can run sweepstakes campaigns, photo contests, video contests, and referral promotions.

Facebook quiz and poll apps

14. Polls for Facebook

Setting up a poll with Polls for Facebook only takes a few minutes. You can create fully customizable forms, expand your reach, and chart your results.

15. Polldaddy

Polldaddy has an integration with Facebook that allows you to run Polldaddy surveys, quizzes, and polls through your Facebook Page. Any polls you create in Facebook will be available for you to view and manage in your Polldaddy dashboard.

Facebook video streaming apps

16. Livestream

Livestream allows you to stream live videos from your Facebook Page. Whether you’re broadcasting a conference, TV show, or educational lecture, Livestream will allow you to share your videos in real time and track their performance.

17. YouTube Tab

YouTube Tab lets you display your latest YouTube channels’ videos in a tab in your Facebook Page.

Facebook blog and RSS apps

18. Networked Blogs

With Networked Blogs you can automatically publish your blog posts to Facebook. In just a few simple steps, you can integrate your business’s blog with Facebook and showcase your brand in a visually appealing way.

19. is an easy way to integrate your RSS feed into your Facebook Page. The app also allows you to share your blog content across all your social media networks.

20. Page Yourself

Page Yourself allows you to customize your Facebook Pages to include elements like your blog. You can drag and drop elements and uniquely position your content.

Facebook scheduling and posting apps

21. Hootsuite’s Scheduler

With Hootsuite’s scheduling options, you can control the timing of your outreach, post at the best times of day, and plan campaigns out in advance—all while saving time in the process. Post to your Facebook Page or multiple social networks at once.

Facebook fan apps

22. Fan of the Week

The Fan of the Week app awards points to fans based on their liking activity on your Page. It will give you a real-time list of your biggest fans.

Facebook testimonial and review apps

23. Boast

Boast makes it easy to collect and display customer video reviews and testimonials on Facebook. After customers provide their feedback, you can collect and share it—all through your Facebook Page.

24. Tradable Bits

Tradable Bits’ fan customer relationship management (CRM) tool allows you to collect information about your fans’ demographics, contact preferences, interests, purchase history, and friends on Facebook.

Facebook customer service apps

25. Zendesk

The Zendesk app for Hootsuite allows your customer support team to manage, create, edit, and share tickets on social from one central location.

26. Live Chat for Facebook

LiveChat offers an integration for your Facebook Page so that you can easily chat with your customers on social and let your website visitors log in to chat with their Facebook accounts.

Facebook insights and analytics apps

27. Hootsuite Insights

Hootsuite Insights allows you to understand the discussions happening around your brand with real-time analytics. Gauge sentiment, join conversations sooner, watch trends, and track your performance.

28. 76Insights

76Insights app for Hootsuite lets you know which articles and posts resonate most with your audience. You can filter posts and share the best performing content to your Facebook Page.

29. Hootsuite Analytics

With Hootsuite analytics, you can measure and share the impact of your social media efforts. It will help you understand your Facebook activity, create real-time reports, and measure team performance.

Facebook recruiting apps

30. Work for Us

Work for Us is a recruiting app for Facebook that will let you post jobs and hire directly from Facebook.

31. Smartjobboard

With their Facebook recruitment app, Smartjobboard allows you to create a personally branded page on Facebook that features jobs from your main job board.

32. Jobcast

Jobcast lets you build branded career sites within your Facebook Page and automate your social sharing.

Choose the right Facebook Page apps for your business

Not every app will suit your business needs. But when you find the right ones, you can save yourself a lot of time by automating processes so you can better engage your customers.

Manage your Facebook presence by using Hootsuite to schedule posts, share video, engage with followers, and measure the impact of your efforts. Try it free today.

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CTR as a ranking factor: what we know so far and how to action it

For the last two years there has been much discussion and debate around whether click through rate (CTR) is something Google uses to determine where to rank a site.

It all began way back when Rand Fishkin did an interesting experiment which provided some evidence behind his theory that CTR is in fact something that could influence rankings.


This theory makes sense; why wouldn’t Google be looking at user based signals to improve search results?

Just as we do user testing on our websites to increase the number of conversions, Google will surely want to be looking at user signals to ensure they are fulfilling their goal of ‘organising the world’s information’ in the correct order in SERPs.

Why CTR is not a ranking factor, from Google

However, many times when Google, and more specifically Gary Illyses, has been questioned on this we have received the response of the opposite. That Google does not use CTR as a ranking factor due to it being a ‘noisy signal’ and something that could be gamed by spammers.

See this response from Gary Illyses in an interesting interview with Kwasi Studios:


We also received the same response from Gary when he mentioned the topic in June 2015 at SMX Advanced.

At the event Gary did, however, say CTR is being used for personalisation, meaning search results change if you frequently click on the same site. This can be especially useful for ambiguous terms.

For example, if a user searched for ‘Jaguars’ a ‘Query Deserves Diversity’ (QDD) algorithm will take effect and display results for the car brand, the Jacksonville Jaguars as well as the animal.


If the user then clicks on the car brand and does that frequently, Google will be more likely to show the Jaguar car brand due to the high CTR for the Jaguar site. Other than that, Gary says click data is not being used.

Why CTR is an indirect ranking factor, from Google

Due to this negative feedback received from Google around the topic, some have dismissed CTR as something that Google does not make use of.

However, conversely we have had other statements from Google that specify they do in fact use CTR in some circumstances.

The primary evidence we have from Google that CTR is being used for more than just personalisation is in this excellent presentation by Paul Haahr titled ‘How Google Works: A Ranking Engineer’s Perspective’.

If you have not watched the presentation yet, I highly recommend it! You can find a video of it here.

From this video, we can gather Google is using click through rate, but not to adjust rankings directly. They are instead using it indirectly in controlled situations to validate the quality of search results.

They are also using it to verify that an algorithm change has the desired results. ‘Controlled situations’ means they are taking a portion of search results, testing changes and using CTR as a metric to measure if the changes had the desired impact on improving user engagement.

Following what Google has said regarding CTR, this means that it is not being used in a way to directly change search results. It is instead being used to test whether changes to direct ranking signals such as content and links are improving user engagement and the quality of search results.

This is explained in this slide on Paul Haahr’s presentation:


Other ways Google is measuring the quality of search results

As explained in the presentation, CTR is only one of the ways Google is testing search results are showing up in the correct order.

They are also taking a more manual approach with human rater experiments. This is where Google will show an actual person a search result that has an experimental algorithm change on it, and they get them to score the page based on whether the needs have been met (does the page fulfil user intent), and the quality of the page.


What this means is gaming the system explained here by artificially increasing CTR becomes virtually impossible, as along with live experiments, there is a manual review of pages before algorithm changes take place.

I am sure CTR and human rater experiments are only some of the ways Google will be testing algorithm changes.

While this was never mentioned as a user engagement metric in the presentation, there is a high chance they are also paying attention to pogo sticking and dwell time. If this is true, it makes metrics such as average time on site and bounce rate important things to consider.

Here is a bit of data sourced from our in-house ‘Roadmap’ technology that looks at over 160 potential ranking factors and shows correlations in search performance.

And yes, I know correlation does not mean causation, but it can give us a good indication what Google is taking into consideration when ranking sites. Here is how average time on site correlates:


Source: Stickyeyes Roadmap

Of course, this does not mean Google is directly creating algorithms that change rankings based on things such as average time on site.

It does, however, inform us that Google is favouring sites that searchers stay on.

This metric could be used in a similar way to how Paul Haahr explains Google uses CTR, where they will adjust traditional signals such as content and links depending on whether the user stays on the site or not. Again, this is all speculation with a bit of data to back it up.

Why CTR Is a direct ranking factor (sometimes), from Rand

Despite what we know is 100% correct, as Google has confirmed it, we still have Rand Fishkin’s CTR experiments that say Google is not telling us everything they use click data for.

This is where we have to speculate based on the information the SEO community has managed to get out of Google.

Thankfully some insight into this was given by Googler Andrey Lipattsev in a Q&A show back in March 2016 when Rand questioned him on it. Here is Andrey’s response to Rand asking why exactly that happened:

“Andrey: It’s hard to judge immediately, without actually looking at the data in front of me. But, in my opinion, my best guess here would be the general interest that you generate around that subject, and you generate exactly the sort of signals that we are looking out for, mentions and links and social tweets and social mentions, which are basically more links to the page, more mentions of this context. I suppose it throws us off for a while until we’re able to establish that none of that is relevant to the user intent, I suppose.”

From Andrey’s response, I believe he is explaining part of Google’s algorithm that is a temporary ranking factor that identifies hot topics or searches and then adjusts rankings accordingly depending on social signals, and possibly user behaviour.

We already know Google tries to push rankings up for fresh content, and this algorithm seems similar to the freshness algorithm (announced way back in 2011).

When this ranking change occurs, it is more than likely that Google applies the technology they have to combat click fraud in Adwords. I believe this experiment that came to the result the CTR was not a ranking factor by using bot traffic backs this up.

What we know – summarised

From all of the above we can summarise what we know into the following things:

  1. Firstly, CTR does seem to have an immediate and temporary impact on rankings in some cases. This is more than likely due to an algorithm that aims to spot trending content and hot topics, and then adjusts rankings depending on which page is the most popular and seems to be fulfilling user intent. Again, this ranking change is temporary, and I imagine will be tough to try and game. It worked so well when Rand ran his experiment because he did it with actual people, not bots. In this instance, CTR is a temporary direct ranking factor.
  2. Secondly, Google is using CTR in live experiments to quality-check their results. This is not being done across all search results but in a controlled manner across a portion of different SERPs. Based upon the results, Google will then adjust other algorithms to do with links, content, etc. In this case, CTR is an indirect ranking factor.
  3. Thirdly, Google is using CTR to personalise results for individual users.

How to improve click-through rate

It is evident user engagement and sending users to the correct website is important to Google, because of this we also know optimising CTR is something we should be doing.

The rest of the post will be about how to identifying click through rate opportunities, and then how to improve it.

Finding low CTR terms

The only reliable data we have on CTR comes from Google itself in the Search Console search analytics report.

To help with identifying these terms I have made this CTR Opportunity Analysis template Google sheet. This sheet finds out what the average CTR is for keywords ranking position 1 – 100 from a GSC export, and then compares each keyword against your site’s average CTR for that position.

This allows you to identify if there is a significant opportunity to improve click-through for a particular query. You can see whether there is an opportunity as it will tell you in the ‘Optimise CTR’ column.

If you rank higher than position ten it will simply say ‘Improve Rankings’. If you have your own data on average CTR for it each position, there is a hidden sheet called ‘CTR Ref’ where you can fill this information in. You could also replace it with data from this Moz CTR study.

To find queries that that have a low click through rate do the following:

  1. Navigate to the search analytics report in GSC.
  2. Add the below filters (change country depending on your location, you may also want to add a device filter if desktop or mobile is your focus):


  1. Download the results as a CSV (bottom left of the page). Then open up the CSV and format the position column so it has 0 decimal places (this will make more sense after the next step).
  2. Make a copy of this spreadsheet by going to File > Make A Copy.
  3. Paste the corresponding columns from the Google Search Console CSV into the template. At this point, you can scrape Google for each keywords position instead of relying on GSC’s average position if you want to.


  1. Once you have this information set out like the above you can then filter the ‘Optimise CTR’ column to only show results that return a yes.
  2. Next, you can sort from high to low on impressions. The high-impression keywords that also return low scores on the ‘CTR Difference from Average’ are your top opportunities for optimising CTR.
  3. Copy one of these keywords, and head back to Google Search Console. In the queries filter add a filter for that keyword exactly.


  1. After that select ‘Pages’ in the filter bar at the top to show pages ranking for that keyword.
  2. The page listed first should be the page you need to optimise.

Top ways to optimise for CTR

By now, we have the keywords and pages that we need to optimise for. We just need to go through the process of actually improving our pages. Here are some different things you can do to improve CTR:

  • Adjust title tags to contain the words or phrases you are getting a low CTR on. You can improve this further by combining your SEO focused keywords with other call to actions that will entice users to click your listing. Another thing you can do is compare your listing to what is currently in the titles for Adwords listings. What is in these titles has usually been optimised and tweaked heavily to improve CTR, because of this taking inspiration from them is a good idea.
  • Optimise meta descriptions to include terms you are trying to improve CTR for. Including the term means they will be bolded in search results which will increase the chance of them being clicks. It is best practice to optimise each description individually to increase the chance users will click it, so try to avoid generating these based off of a couple of variables if possible. Again, for meta descriptions you can also look towards Adwords listings for inspiration.
  • Optimise URLs to include target keywords. Similar to meta descriptions including target terms in URLs means they will be bolded.
  • Add relevant schema markup to the page to generate rich snippets on your listing. This can have a pretty dramatic effect on CTR, especially for schema markup that substantially enhances your listing such as review and product markup.

Once you have done any or all of the above, check how organic traffic changes. Then go back and retest something different. You can rinse and repeat this process until you are seeing diminishing returns from improving CTR for a page.

Final words

Overall we can say that CTR is something that is being used by Google one way or another. Rand seems to have uncovered ways in which it is used directly and temporarily to modify search results.

Paul Haahr from Google has informed us it is used indirectly to measure the quality of search results. Because of the above, and because it can simply increase organic traffic, CTR is something you should be taking into consideration when optimising your site.

Along with focusing more on click through rate, SEOs need to become more aware that while getting a site technically fit for purpose, writing great content, and building quality links is important.

We should also spend more time thinking about user engagement and UX, as they are both becoming a more and more important aspect to consider when trying to perform well in search results.

Let me know how the CTR Opportunity Analysis template works for you, and any thoughts you have on CTR or user engagement as a ranking factor in the comments!

Sam Underwood is a Search and Data Executive at Zazzle Media and a contributor to SEW.

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12 companies hit with a Google manual penalty


Just in case you’re ever tempted to try a few black-hat practices to manipulate your search positions in Google, here are 12 tales to persuade you otherwise.

Whether using cloaking, unnatural paid-for links, doorway pages, spam or hidden links, Google is swift and brutal with a manual penalty. Even if the transgression isn’t necessarily your own fault.

In fact for some of the following well-known brands, they’re merely guilty of not paying enough attention or not being educated enough when it comes to what Google cracks down on.

There’s some great advice here about what to do when hit with a manual penalty, but for now, let’s check out the circumstances of 12 high profile cases and the damage meted out by the penalty.

For more information, you can check out the full infographic and blog post from Digital Third Coast.

Please note: the following ‘present-day’ traffic loss predictions were calculated using SimilarWeb’s data by Digital Third Coast.

The Washington Post

In October 2007, The Washington Post was caught selling links on their blog without adhering to Google’s best practice when included paid-for links. The paper’s PageRank value dropped from PR7 to PR5 and was likely restored after a couple of months.

washington-post google penalty

Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 76.4 million.


In March 2005, WordPress was penalised for the use of doorway pages. These are webpages used for spamming a search engine by creating multiple pages for specific high-value phrases but they just send visitors to the same destination.

WordPress hosted 168,000 articles about high-cost advertising keywords, written by a third-party, and were penalised by Google for two days. During this period, WordPress didn’t rank for its own name and its PageRank was reduced to zero.

wordpress penalty

Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 10.08 million.


In March 2013, the BBC was penalised for unnatural links on a single page, although the details haven’t been confirmed. Rumour suggests it wasn’t the BBC’s fault, rather a RSS feed scraper. The page was downgraded by Google in rankings.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 3.52 million for one day.


In February 2006, BMW was caught manipulating search results for the term ‘used car’ by redirecting searchers to the regular BMW company page when they clicked through.

For this, the site was completely removed from search results for three days.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 71,600.


In April 2013, Mozilla was penalised for hosting a webpage with 12mb of spam from 21,169 user comments. This isn’t Mozilla’s fault, but it’s a lesson to us all to make sure any user generated content in comment sections is cleaned up.

The page was downgraded in rankings, and Mozilla ended up removing the offending page all together.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 1.25 million for one day.


Back when Genius was known as Rap Genius, the company was very publicly penalised by Google for asking bloggers to provide lyrics in exchange for unnatural links promotion.

This led to a 10 day ban, where Rap Genius didn’t rank for its own name and suffered a drop in PageRank.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 3.8 million.


This one is a little mysterious, as neither eBay nor Google has confirmed the details, but in 2014 the company received a manual penalty and an unspecified drop in rankings.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 6.11 million for one day.


In February 2011, Overstock offered discounts to schools in exchange for links back to their own sire and artificially raise their rankings for specific products.

This led to a two month ban on the company ranking for its own brand name.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 12.17 million.

JC Penney

Showing that a penalty isn’t necessarily the fault of the company, but rather an errant SEO using black hat tactics, JC Penney suffered a huge drop from the first SERP for multiple search terms thanks to ‘copious paid links’ found on unrelated sites. This lasted two months.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 12.33 million.

The Home Depot

In 2012, The Home Depot asked its partners to link to their site with recommended anchor text. If this wasn’t bad enough they also suggested that these links could be hidden (i.e. using white text on white background, placing text behind an image).

This led to a two month drop from the first SERP for many of its product pages.


Today this penalty would lead to a potential loss of traffic of around 37.13 million.

But who punishers the punisher?

Well it may surprise you to learn that the answer to this question is Google.

Google really isn’t shy of making an example of itself, based on the following self-transgressions…

Google Chrome

Google was guilty of buying links to promote its own browser in January 2012. Although they claimed this was accidental, Google still penalised itself with lowered rankings for the Chrome homepage for a two month period.


Google AdWords

Google AdWords was found guilty of cloaking in July 2010. A spokesperson stated that, “some Google support pages were inadvertently showing different content to the Google crawler than to users.”

So again, this is more of an accident, but to set an example Google still punished itself with degraded ranks for an unknown period of time.


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Instagram content best practice: winning examples from global brands

instagram logo

This month saw the release of the 2016 cross-border business handbook: Going global with Facebook. It is a good body of research for budding social media marketers looking to use such services to connect with consumers across international regions.

What with the data in the report having been collected by Facebook and the title of the document seemingly only referring to Facebook, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the research covered anything other than Mark Zuckerberg’s flagship service.

But it is the Instagram-related trends buried deep in the latter pages which I wanted to cover today.

After all, there’s more to social media than Facebook. Instagram is proving a successful service for brands and organisations to engage with their audiences. And in the process, some are using content in a number of interesting ways.insta1

Mercedes-Benz share how they’re organizing things neatly

In order to promote their new compact SUV, the handbook details how Mercedes-Benz recently took to Instagram to leverage its rich visual functionality and highlight the space-saving design of the GLA vehicle.

Taking influence from the widely-used #ThingsOrganizedNeatly hashtag, the brand did just that. They used the GLA’s custom cargo mat on which to organize items relevant to trips that potential customers would make. These sponsored posts were also cross-targeted with users on Facebook.

The campaign resulted in a 14 point lift in recall for Mercedes-Benz Instagram ads, a 54% increase in site visits from both Instagram and Facebook ads, as well as a 580% increase in site visits when combined with Facebook direct response ads.

Qantas use seasonal photo and video imagery to engage emotionally

Shaping marketing campaigns around the seasons is nothing new, but airline Qantas looked to Instagram to connect with a younger audience itching to travel and returning home this summer.

insta2According to the report, Qantas are the first Australian brand to run a video and photo campaign on the service. They sought to present ‘quintessentially summer moments’ such as surfing, cricket and going on road trips with additional 15 second video clips of real people reuniting at airports during the season.

In response, the brand saw a 30 point lift in ad recall and a 4 point lift in message association.


CCTV News re-appropriate existing content to give it a new lease of life on Instagram

The Chinese broadcaster successfully used Instagram to recycle the best of their existing content and to reach a US audience.

By curating memorable moments from a range of CCTV News documentaries and films into 15 second Instagram blips, The handbook details how they managed to portray themselves as a destination for quality and wide-ranging world news with a unique perspective.

The videos really connected with the younger end of the US audience, reaching 3.7m people and seeing a 6 point lift in ad recall among 25-34 year-olds as well as a 4 point lift in brand awareness.

Birchbox jump on the unboxing trend

Beauty product subscription service, Birchbox, have also recently used short video clips on Instagram to drive engagement and promote their boxes.


The brand adopted the recent online video trend of ritual unboxing and showed their actual staff members receiving boxes and trying out the products they contain. The videos also reflected the tropes established in “let me show you” style blog posts.

As a result of the campaign, Birchbox saw a 12 point lift in brand awareness and a 26 point lift in ad recall.

Instagram best practice

The above examples were just a few of the brands featured in the report which have successfully made use of Instagrams’ specific content-led functionality. The handbook also cites what it considers to be best practice for using the service…

  • On brand: Those who are doing best on Instagram have best identified their brand’s unique point of view and are ensuring that the content they create quickly reflect the brand – either via “a logo, an iconic brand element, or a brand colour.”
  • Consistent: Users need to be able to scan a brand’s Instagram page and quickly identify a message from a selection of photos and video stills. Consistent messaging “across both paid and organic content” is really important.
  • Concept driven: All of the brands succeeding on Instagram according to the handbook have concept driven campaigns. This can be “a specific visual treatment, or a theme” and some which we’ve seen work really well reflect trends already proving popular on social media such as hashtags and unboxings.
  • Well crafted: Bold uncluttered imagery that is well-considered works well on Instagram. Quality composition and style can be achieved with careful planning and without the need for big budgets. Remember, Instagram is something of a product of high-resolution mobile screens – so ensure any content works in this context.

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