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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Medium vs. Facebook Notes

Since the LiveJournal era of the late nineties, we’ve seen a proliferation of different ways to publish your own content online. Blogging has come a long way, particularly as a marketing technique. And it continues to evolve, now with a growing focus on readability and shareability. The two platforms receiving the most attention these days are Medium and the newly redesigned Facebook Notes.

While posting about your fascinating personal life is a fun way to use these sites as a kind of public diary, the professional possibilities are worth exploring. I took one previously published blog post of our own and posted it to both platforms, to good, bad, and outright ugly results.


While many blogging sites like Blogger focus on long form content, and Twitter provides a microblogging platform of 140 characters or less, Medium aims for, well, medium-length pieces.

Launched in 2012, Medium is the brainchild of Twitter co-creators Evan Williams and Biz Stone and “was introduced as a new publishing platform where both paid and unpaid writers could post pieces on any subject and of any length.” Used by over 17 million per month, including current President of the United States Barack Obama, to say Medium is catching on would be an understatement. Features that set Medium apart from other blogging sites include the categorization of posts by topic or theme rather than author or author’s popularity, the clean aesthetic, and the collaborative community focus.

The latter has become so important to the site that Medium’s co-creator Evan Williams recently stated that “Medium is not a publishing tool. It’s a network.” However, Jonathan Glick of Sulio used Medium as an example when he applied the term “platisher” to describe this kind of hybrid between a publisher and a tech platform. This is where Medium’s ambiguity lies. Nobody can pinpoint quite exactly what it is, or more importantly, what its value is. To satisfy some of this curiosity, I took to the site and got publishing.

The good


First, the good. Medium is undeniably stunning. The homecoming queen of blogging platforms, its uncluttered aesthetic is not only visually pleasing, but allows for an incredibly enjoyable writing process. The amount of blank space around the words, the large header image, and the simple font style all contributed to the nerdy joy I experienced while editing my post. “A place for everything, and everything in its place” is a phrase that came to mind before I published, because there are no unnecessary features on Medium. There are no distractions from the content on the page, making Medium a primary example of good communication design.


Further enriching the publishing process, was the feature that Medium calls WYSIWYG, or “What You See Is What You Get.” There is no switching back and forth between preview mode and your text input to see how your post will look when made live because the way it shows up as you’re writing and adding images or links reflects the end result.


The post I was sharing through Medium included embedded Tweets, so I was looking forward to seeing how the platform handled this. The answer? Beautifully. Like WordPress, Medium recognizes URL links to Twitter content and seamlessly embeds the tweets within your content. The ability to add a regular link was also incredibly intuitive, as I simply needed to double click on a word to add a hyperlink, or hover on the page, click on the little plus sign and then on the <> symbol.


The final notable feature of Medium that sets it apart from many other blogging and media sites, is the statistics component. Under the drop down menu, there is a stats area that shows the amount of views, reads, and recommendations your post has garnered. You can also see where traffic is coming from by clicking on the referrers link, which provides invaluable information to you and your overall content strategy.

The bad

Title image formatting

While the majority of Medium’s features were extremely easy to use, there was one area that proved a bit tricky. When it came time to take advantage of Medium’s large header image format, finding out how to add this photo initially had me at a loss. I clicked around, hoping that, like the other features, the header image option would miraculously appear, but that was sadly not the case. Eventually I turned to the FAQ section of Medium which helped with this, but I wish it had been more intuitive like the rest of the writing and building process had been.

Minimal look = minimal features

While the clean, simple look is what makes Medium so appealing to many writers and publishers, this does come at a bit of a price. The editing features available currently include the ability to bold, italic, use two header sizes, add a block quote, links, and, as of October 7th,  drop caps. If you’re looking for anything more, this isn’t the place.

The ugly

Nobody read my post

While writing, editing, and posting in Medium was a mostly positive experience, it felt like a set it and forget it experience. In other words, I didn’t get much engagement. After over a week on the site, my post received only seven views and three full reads. As mentioned above, over seventeen million people use Medium each month, so with a dismal seven people clicking on my article, I became interested in how this number could grow. According to Medium success story Greg Muender, these are some ways I could have rivaled the 42,000 reads he got within twenty four hours with his first post:

  • Create a debate: His blog post, titled “I lasted 37 hours on Android” created a debate between iPhone and Android users.

  • Foster virality: Asking people to respond to the debate on Twitter with a designated hashtag, Muender encouraged the discussion to evolve.

  • Get syndicated: After reaching 10,000 views, Muender found his article on Digg’s front page, and in the top 20 on Medium. He used this traction to cross-post on LinkedIn and Reddit, again giving the post an extra push.

  • Pictures are paramount: Muender used five high quality images throughout his post to tell his story.

  • Engage with your audience: Muender knew that in responding to each and every one of his audience’s comments or questions, they will become more likely to follow him, continue reading his content, and share it with their own networks.


Facebook Notes is all grown up. You may remember Notes (or not) as a place for your high school friends to post attention-grabbing questionnaires about themselves. In August 2015 Facebook revamped the feature in an attempt to drive engagement. As Wired writer Brian Barrett explains, “The longer people are writing and reading, the more time they’re spending in their News Feed and Facebook, and the less likely they are to be distracted by some other Internet experience.”

It’s hard to ignore the resemblance between Facebook’s newly overhauled Notes section and Medium, which is why I took to the platform with the same blog post I shared on Medium, sat back, and waited for the likes to roll in (or not).

The good

A pretty face

Facebook’s Notes section definitely got a makeover. The new Notes looks clean, simple, and… a lot like Medium. However, this isn’t a bad thing. The new format adds an extra touch of beauty to Facebook, with the large grid, blank space, header image, and minimal distractions. All the important real estate in your Facebook feed is occupied by information (Whose birthday is it? What are the top headlines today? Any events going on? Whose baby is that?), but that experience is part of why we love Facebook—endless distractions! Notes is different. It shows that Facebook knows where to silence the noise. The focus is on the content of the Note itself, allowing for undistracted reading, which is a designed benefit for both the reader and the writer.

Drag and drop images

When compared to Medium, Facebook Notes definitely made it easier to add the all-important title and title image. It’s a simple drag and drop, and requires no further instructions.


A definite positive of the Facebook Notes concept is the fact that you have a built-in audience of about 500 of your nearest and dearest. After posting the Note, I had 11 likes (Full disclosure: one was from my mom) and a positive comment (not from my mom). While not amazing, it definitely felt like an improvement when compared to the response received on Medium.

The bad

Adding Notes

As I did not have Notes on my Facebook profile originally, I first had to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt to figure out how to add the feature. However, when I found the Facebook help section about Notes, it answered all of the questions I had, in the simplest terms, so I was ready to get posting in no time.

Awkward preview text

A minor thing that I didn’t love about Facebook Notes, was the fact that when shared on your timeline, the preview cuts the post off. Again, not a huge deal, but when the product was so well designed in most other aspects, it would have been nice to have the preview text be something you could edit or remove.

The ugly

No embed support

One frustrating part of the Facebook Notes experience for me was the lack of embedding abilities. While I didn’t expect Facebook to allow me to embed the sixteen tweets I included in the original post, some kind of option for embedding links would have greatly enhanced my experience and the overall look of the post.

No spell check

Although I was sharing a post that had previously been edited and published, I accidentally typed something in the Facebook Note that I meant to type in another window. Facebook Notes did not catch this typo and I only caught it once it was published. If you’re a sloppy speller, this could be a worrisome omission, especially if using Facebook Notes for publishing professional content. However, this is nothing else if not a good reminder to religiously check your own work for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Overall, there were definite positive and negative aspects to each publishing platform. As each continue to evolve, it will be interesting to see which grows in popularity for content marketers, personal self-publishers, and their respective captive audiences.

Inside #HootsuiteLife: Inside The Making of our Employer Brand Playbook

By Ambrosia Vertesi, Hootsuite’s Global VP of Talent, and Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify Talent

This is the 5th post in our HR Open Source [#HROS} initiative (formerly #HootHROS]. You can learn more about #HootHROS here, but the aim is to work out loud and share behind-the-scenes looks at how some of our social HR projects come together, and what we learned from them.

How do you help nearly 1,000 employees spread around the globe to understand, live, and bring an employer brand of a hyper growing global start-up to life each and every day?

This is one of the questions that keeps our Talent team, and surely many others, up at night. Hootsuite has experienced four years of explosive growth, growing from 20 to nearly 1,000 employees, and seeing our operations grow from one to nine countries (and counting) during that time.

We’ve always been an organization with strong values, but scaling our Employer Brand with this type of growth takes more than a compelling Employer Value Proposition (EVP). We needed to find a way to iterate on our current frameworks. To articulate and capture what makes Hootsuite special, and make it easy for current and future employees to sing from the same sheet of music.

Our answer was to develop an Employer Brand playbook, “A Guide to #HootsuiteLife.” The playbook was developed to share the why, what, and how we approach Employer Brand; including examples of Employer Brand campaigns and how our peeps can bring them to life. Focused primarily on equipping our talent department, we also wanted to build something that our employees felt equally empowered by.

Let’s face it, the field of Employer Branding (EB) is changing rapidly. So much so that probably by the time we post this it will be different. New platforms and tools enter the market every quarter. This playbook is designed to be iterative, reviewed, and refreshed in real time so we can update as we pilot and adopt new approaches, and shed old ones.

The following #HROS case study is a breakdown of how we built it, what we learned, results, what we got wrong, key takeaways, and the playbook itself. This one goes out to our entire talent team who shed some sweat to make this share for you all.

What We Did

Our aim was to build a playbook that made it easy for members of the Hootsuite Talent (HR) team to understand the why and how behind our Employer Branding efforts, as well as provide actionable and specific details on how they can participate in driving our EB efforts.

We set out to build a deck that illustrated everything from our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and values, how we live them, to Employer Brand (EB) channels, and specific guidance on how to represent and contribute to Hootsuite’s EB efforts.

Anticipated Outcomes

  • Develop a cohesive and comprehensive global playbook to support our Employer Brand efforts
  • Allow all internal stakeholders (within and outside the Talent team) to easily understand our Employer Brand mission
  • Develop and reinforce our Employer Value Proposition (EVP)
  • More effectively onboard new hires across our Talent team
  • Support the team when sourcing in the global market with positioning and resources
  • Provide a resource for our Executive team to understand why/where/how we’re focusing our Employer Brand efforts
  • Enhance our capability to hire awesome talent

How We Did It

The Employer Brand playbook was born from an idea from our VP of Talent, Ambrosia Vertesi. Brand and social are always core to how we have scaled rapidly, but we placed an increased emphasis on our building our Employer Brand in Q2 of 2015. As we beefed up our EB efforts she saw a need and opportunity to make sure our efforts were documented for full internal transparency, and ensure our Talent team all fully understood what we were working towards, and the role they each played in success outcomes.

The project was jointly led by our CSR Strategist, Aki Kaltenbach, and Employer Brand Strategist, Lars Schmidt. They kicked off the project with Ambrosia by discussing an outline of what would be included, key stakeholders, necessary data and metrics, and ideal outcomes.

We’re breaking down the playbook below, and including the full deck at the bottom. Note: removed some proprietary content in the deck below, but included the slides with high-level overviews so readers can replicate as they see fit (c’mon, we can’t give EVERYTHING away. Didn’t you read that hypergrowth opening?). #SharingIsCaring

Building Our Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Our first step was streamlining our Employee Value Proposition. Our company values were well-known internally (and externally through our Culture Manifesto).  We wanted to make it powerful, yet simple and easy to follow. We built our EVP as a model that cascaded from Organization → Team → Individual. It was important for us to show all three components of the employee experience, and reinforce how our individuals peeps impact the entire ecosystem.

Hootsuite Employee Value Proposition

At HOOTSUITE, we’re revolutionizing communications via social and transforming messages into meaningful relationships.

OUR TEAM is comprised of passionate, egoless peeps having fun building something bigger than themselves.

Each day, YOU will bring our core values to life through your actions and collaboration with our team, customers, and our community.

The next section focused on our values. We wanted to do more than state them, we wanted to show examples of how we live them. This was an important addition suggested by our Executive team in one of our early walkthroughs of the playbook in progress. Showcasing our B Corporation status was another way to reflect this, and future new hires who may not be familiar with #BCorp know why it’s written into our charter.

We spent the majority of our time developing the “what” and the “how” sections. The aim here was to clearly and concisely explain what we’re trying to do with our EB efforts.

The aim of Hootsuite’s Employer Branding efforts are to:

  1. Attract and retain the top fucking talent out there!

  2. Ensure our team is singing the same song when speaking to candidates.

  3. Inform prospect decisions by sharing an open view of our employee experience

  4. Provide an inclusive global representation of Hootsuite through storytelling

  5. Lead the way in Social HR and share our work openly both internally and externally

One of the key sections here is the Global – Local Market Positioning. As Hootsuite has grown and entered new markets, our story—and thus our EB positioning—is a bit different. We worked closely with our global talent leads to understand how we’re positioned in each region; including stage, culture, local positioning, and local EVP. This allows all of our global talent colleagues to understand the value proposition in each region and helps us tailor our EB messaging.

Screenshot 2015-09-21 22.10.59.png

The next section of the Employer Brand playbook begins breaking down the “How” of our EB efforts. This section is the meat of the playbook. It covers topics including success measures/KPI’s, EB pillars, tone of voice, channels, communities, departmental branding assets, tools, and how to represent Hootsuite on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Screenshot 2015-09-14 22.23.59.png

We also included some campaign examples in this section to show how we develop, design, and execute EB initiatives. We’re not very bureaucratic, so we try to empower our Talent team to come up with ideas. This provides them with the framework so they understand any stakeholders and/or approvals they may need to work with on EB programs.


We’re just formally launching the employer brand guidelines, so the metrics we’re sharing reflect the impact of an increased emphasis on Employer Brand holistically as of April 2015.

  • 50 percent increase in applications per position [Q2 > Q1]

  • 53 percent increase in #HootsuiteLife engagement (our anchor EB asset) [Q2 > Q1]

  • 61 percent increase in @HootsuiteLife Twitter follower growth [Q2 > Q1]

What We Got Wrong

One of our core values is “leading with humility.” That’s one of the reasons we include what we got wrong in each case study to share our missteps and learnings.

  • Our initial draft of the EB playbook didn’t include a very clear call to action to our team. We could have started with that in our “why” analysis.
  • We went through several versions of the EVP before we had the language tight and simple. We started by just taking our existing and reframing to our talent team. Their feedback simplified it—we should have started there.
  • The Global/Local EB positioning is a really key component to this roadmap. Providing our regional leads a template of what we were looking for them would have helped with time-zone communication and collaboration delays.
  • It is a huge topic for us and we have an abundance of resources we still couldn’t include without making it somewhat unreadable. We need to explore one centralized place that is more user-friendly than a PPT with hyperlinks.

Key Takeaways for HR

Having an Employer Brand playbook has helped rally our Talent team around our strategies and efforts. We don’t have a huge budget to work with and the clearer we know who we are and are not as well as how to utilize that for results, the more likely we are to be set up for success in hyper growth.

So far, it has also contributed to much deeper conversations going into 2016 planning and resource mapping. Having recently hired four new leaders onto our team, it has expedited their ability to tailor their early days strategies to what would work in our business. And finally, we are lucky to have a great relationship with our marketing team, but this visibility has helped them realize what our key drivers are roadblocks are so they can partner.

While not a requirement to be successful in your Employer Branding efforts, a digestible guideline ensures that all stakeholders are aligned and working towards the same goals. It’s particularly valuable for growing global organizations, where things can get away from you quickly, as it helps all stakeholders understand their role in driving Employer Brand.

Download the playbook

Want To Contribute To Open-Source HR (#HROS)?

There are three ways to join the #HROS community.

  1. Supporter: This engagement level is for individuals. Participation is easy. Supporters openly share resources, blogs, white papers, etc that they find educational and inspirational using the #HROS hashtag.

  2. Volunteer: We’re in the early stages of #HROS. As we grow, we’ll need to call upon others that share our passion for helping the HR community to step forward and help the initiative.

  3. Member: This designation is for member companies. To become a member, you must encourage your HR team to become Supporters of #HROS (above), and commit to sharing at least two case studies each year.


Additional #HROS Case Studies

Rethinking Candidate Experience

How We Built A New Recruiting Report For Leadership

Social HR: How to Design and Execute a Global Employer Branding Campaign in 5 Days

Leading With Purpose: How Hootsuite Became a B Corp

Learn More About Open-Source HR

What mobile users really want from a business’s website

Most business owners are already well aware that they need a mobile-friendly website.

It’s no longer simply the information provided by a site that matters to prospective customers and to Google, it’s how that information is presented.

Poor presentation, as well as a dearth of information, can actually drive prospects away and straight toward the competition.


In August, HubShout surveyed 450 people to discover just what mobile users look for in a business’s website. Overall, the respondents’ answers indicate just how important it is for businesses to develop informative and well-designed mobile responsive websites.

The results on what mobile users are searching for, along with what they do and don’t want to see, make it abundantly clear just what a business’s mobile site should look like.

Of those who took the survey, 93% said that they use a smartphone, meaning that they have the ability to navigate a touchscreen with the swipe of a finger. This emphasizes the importance of drop-down menus and click-to-call capabilities on mobile sites.

Additionally, 94% have used their phones to search for a business at some point. Although just 6% have never used their phones for this purpose, the majority (nearly 61%) use their phones to look up businesses frequently, if not daily.


What mobile users are searching for

Respondents were also asked about the types of businesses they tend to search for. At the top of the list:

  • 90% search for local restaurants
  • 64% need entertainment options, like movies and events
  • 58% want to find retail businesses while on their phones

mobile-search-businesses-2More than 40% of respondents also indicated that they search for local businesses related to health, beauty, and fitness, such as salons or yoga studios; medical services, such as doctors and urgent care facilities; and automotive-related businesses, including repair shops and gas stations.

Between about one-fifth and one-third indicated that they also search for other services at some time or another, such as home repair, travel, recreation, and professional services, with lawyers and accountants in the latter category.

The mobile search volumes for these categories differ for a reason.

Restaurants, movie theaters, entertainment venues, and maybe even a good hair salon are all on-the-go needs. Although searches for lawyers and accountants made up 21.5% of respondents’ searches, these may be services that are more considered purchases, meaning that they require more research than a quick jaunt to Google or Yelp.

What mobile users do want to see

Based on this research, respondents were allowed to select everything that they like to see on mobile websites. Overwhelmingly, contact information and business hours were must-haves.

A whopping 88% of people want to see business hours prominently displayed on a website. Nearly 85% want to be able to see a phone number, especially one that is click-to-call, and 82% will need an address and/or driving directions to be visible.

Also considered necessities: a display of prices, for more than 70% of respondents, and a menu of products or services for 67%. Almost 39 percent of those surveyed also wanted to see photographs on the site.

Features such as testimonials, videos, social media profile links and informational articles or blog posts were less popular, but they were sought after by between 10-20% of respondents.

In other words, the more easily navigable information a business can have on its website, the better it is for both current and prospective customers.

What mobile users don’t want to see

Nothing kills a business’s chances of attracting customers quite like bad web design. It’s the online equivalent of a boarded-up storefront or poorly-stocked shelves.

For mobile websites, where screen space is at a premium, the design needs to pack a punch, but also have the pertinent information that searchers need.

So what really irks mobile users when they look up a business on their phones? Again, the research indicates that lack of information and poor responsiveness are definitely top concerns.

The three biggest pet peeves on mobile websites:

  • 46% are annoyed when they can’t easily find business hours
  • 42% expect to see a phone number and address on the first screen they encounter
  • 34% don’t like it when the mobile site doesn’t include all of the information from the desktop site

The survey also found that non-responsive or poorly-sized text is an issue for many mobile users. Having to pinch, squeeze and zoom to read text, not being able to click on links, and having information that is too big or too small to fit the screen were also named as sins of mobile web design.

Businesses also need to keep in mind that mobile websites are displayed on, well, mobile phones. One-quarter of respondents said they didn’t like it when websites didn’t display click-to-call phone numbers, in case they like what they see and actually want to get in touch.

In addition to the information and display of a website, poor performance and navigation can also deter customers from using a business.

Nearly 72% of respondents said they would leave a website if it was slow to load, and about two-thirds (67%) said that difficulty or frustration with the website’s navigation would also force them to swipe right and head back to their search results.

Cluttered layouts, hard-to-find phone numbers, addresses, and business hours, and difficult-to-read text were all common frustrations. And 30% said that a website that simply doesn’t look good on their phones would be enough to make them leave.

What’s the big deal for small businesses?

This survey found that 78% of people have discovered a new business when searching on their phones. That gives small businesses, in particular, the chance to compete when they have solid SEO campaigns to get clicks from local search users.


But what do mobile users do when they don’t get the information they need? In short, businesses run the risk of losing those customers entirely.

Those surveyed were asked what they would do if a business’s website didn’t have the information they were looking for.

More than half (55%) said they would look for another source of information about that business: a Yelp listing or Facebook page, perhaps.


The others weren’t so kind. Nearly 39% of respondents said they would simply look for a similar business instead, and an extreme 6 percent would refuse to do business with a company that has a poor mobile website.

These results indicate two things. For one, businesses can lose nearly half of their potential customers if they don’t have decent mobile sites.

On the other hand, customers who go to look for another source of information on a business could stumble upon information about a competitor and decide to use their services instead.

Either way, the results point to one major conclusion: small businesses are at risk of losing customers if they don’t have an informative and easy-to-read mobile website.

But what about actually having a well-designed mobile-friendly website? It turns out that that also has favorable results with consumers.

  • 72% of users find that a high quality mobile site makes a good impression
  • 61% think a good website means a company wants their business
  • 55% said that businesses with good mobile websites care about their customers
  • 49% actually want to do business with a company that has a good mobile website

Online success for small businesses is no longer about simply having a mobile website. In fact, these days that may be the easy part!



What really matters is having a site that is well-optimized with contact information and business hours prominently displayed. Having additional information about goods and services, so customers know what to expect, is another key takeaway from this research.

Going mobile is no longer a “maybe” for businesses. On top of that, they also need to have a site that is optimized for both search engines and humans.

What is an authority website and how can I become one?

Well the pedantic answer to this would be, “Not till until you adopt a less useless form than that of human being and become a well-regarded publishing website” but we’ll get into my erroneous grammatical choices in a different article. On another website.

For the beginner’s out there, let’s answer a few questions…

What is an authority website?

An authority website is a site that is trusted. It’s trusted by its users, trusted by industry experts, trusted by other websites and trusted by search engines. 

And yes it is a rather nebulous term.

Which websites have authority?

All the ones you’d expect… Major news publishers, such as The Guardian, BBC, The Huffington Post, as well as industry blogs and popular well-regarded sites such as *cough* this one *cough* 

If you’re a niche website, but still highly regarded, you can still be an authority as much as the more general publishers above.

Who decides which sites have authority?

Trying to think of a less snarky reply then “who do you think?” but it’s a struggle. But yeah, Google, other search engines.

So why should I care?

A link from an authority website is very valuable. 

Google treats a link from another website to your site as a vote of confidence. Google will therefore rank you higher based on that vote. Therefore the more good quality links you have the better. 

One link from a high authority site has more value than many links from a bunch of low authority sites.

And how do I get these links?

You have to be creating content that’s at last equal to the quality being created by the authority site.

The key is to build your audience, not links. These should just come naturally.

The Guardian probably isn’t going to link to your seldom updated David Hasselhoff fan-site with single-paragraph-long, deeply repetitive posts. 

However if you create a David Hasselhoff fan-site containing relevant, entertaining, helpful content and you’re publishing at a regular rate… well… who knows?


How can I improve my own site’s authority?

It’s impossible to ascertain exactly which elements Google prioritises over others when it comes to ranking search results. The only thing that we can really be sure of is that the quality of a website’s content will always be the top priority. 

Your content needs to engage visitors; keeping them enthralled by the page and then offering them clear, relevant navigation to other areas of your site.

Your content should be detailed, but not wordy. Easy to read, well formatted, full of high quality images and generally just be a pleasure to consume.

It’s not an exact science, but a good rule of thumb is not to publish anything you wouldn’t be happy to read yourself.

It also helps if you’ve been around for a while and have amassed a body of still relevant evergreen content, but that doesn’t mean an established site can become complacent. 

If this website started publishing nothing but single-paragraph-long, deeply repetitive posts on a former Knight Rider actor, then you can be sure that another, younger, more relevant search marketing site would take our place on the search engine results pages.

Can I check the authority of mine, or anyone else’s sites?

There are various tools around. Moz has an Open Site Explorer which will give your site a score out of 100 based on its own various metrics.

Let’s take a deep breath and check our own score…



Do remember however that this is a score from Moz, not necessarily Google, so treat this like an educated guess.

Should you audit your disavow file?

In October 2013, Google gave us the Disavow tool.

This allowed webmasters to instruct Google not to count the link metrics that flowed either through certain links or from certain domains.

If you’ve had a manual penalty or have been dealing with Google’s Penguin algorithm, you’ve probably filed a disavow file.


For the last two years, I have reviewed a large number of disavow files, which often harm sites’ rankings. In some cases, I have suggested auditing the disavow file to determine whether it should be modified and resubmitted.

Here are some possible scenarios in which a site owner may make the decision to thoroughly review their disavow file.

Have you relied on link auditing software to make disavow decisions?

Some link auditing tools can be quite helpful when it comes to organizing your links. But it is vitally important that you take this well-organized list and manually review the disavow suggestions the tool has made.

I have seen far too many businesses blindly take the report generated from one of these tools and submit it directly to Google. Usually when this happens, a large number of unnatural links go undetected and are not disavowed.

Viewing the backlink profile for a site that had relied on an automated tool for disavow decisions recently, I discovered unnatural links from 965 new domains that had not been disavowed. It’s no wonder this site was still struggling with Penguin.

However another problem that I have seen, is that these automated tools will often flag really good links for removal. In one case, an automated tool flagged some valid press mentions – from BBC News, The Guardian, and other great news sources – as unnatural links.


It’s important to remember that the disavow suggestions made by these tools are suggestions, therefore, they need to be reviewed manually.

As such, if you have relied on an automated tool to make disavow decisions, it may be worthwhile to review your disavow file and see if you have accidentally disavowed some good domains. If you have, you can remove those lines from your disavow file and resubmit it.

Google should eventually start to count the link equity from these good sources again. However, it may take a while for the links to start helping again.

For more on this subject read Can you disavow links you have previously disavowed?

Were you super aggressive while removing links for a manual action?

If you’ve ever tried to remove a manual unnatural links penalty from your site, you know that Google can be pretty strict when it comes to giving you that beautiful “spam action revoked” message.

After each failed attempt at reconsideration, site owners often trim away at their links, eventually becoming so desperate that they end up getting rid of almost all them. In many cases, there were some unnecessary disavow decisions.

Auditing a disavow file after an overly aggressive link pruning can be tough. You certainly don’t want to try to game the system and reavow links that are unnatural. But if you feel that you have disavowed links that were actually valid, it may be worthwhile to have another look at your link profile.

A word of caution: If you decide to reavow links, be careful. It may be a good idea to have an impartial party review your reavow decisions to make sure that these links really are decent ones.

Did you hire an inexperienced person to do your link audit?

Sadly this is a very common experience. Knowing which links to disavow can be difficult to determine. No one can accurately predict exactly which links Google wants to see disavowed.

Some decisions are easy, especially when the link is outright spam, but sometimes it can be hard to decide whether to disavow a link or not.

I’ve seen cases where, while performing a link audit, the SEO company decided to disavow every link that was anchored with a keyword.


The issue with this is that not all keyword-anchored links are unnatural. If a major news publication wrote about your company and legitimately linked to you using your keyword as the link anchor, this is a good thing.

Additionally, I’ve witnessed people disavow every single directory link pointing to the site. While directories certainly can be a source of unnatural links, there are many directories that are valid citations and good links. Removing or disavowing links from good directories can destroy your rankings, both in the organic rankings and in the local pack.

I’ve even had cases where small business owners blindly trust an SEO company to do a link audit, only to have that company disavow every single link pointing to their client’s site.

Final thoughts:

My intention in writing this article is not to advise people to try to game Google by reavowing links that were self-made for SEO purposes.

Instead, I would urge you to review your disavow file to see if perhaps you have been too aggressive in disavow decisions. You may find that reavowing some decent links that were disavowed in error eventually results in a positive difference in your rankings.

What do you think? Have you disavowed links in error? What are your experiences and thoughts on reavowing links? Let us know in the comments below. 

5 Tricks to Keep Customers Longer on Your Product Page

You know, it’s only logical:

Customers need to spend more time on product pages to buy.

The average 15 seconds just isn’t enough to communicate all the information you want them to know about a product. Read the content. And decide if the product is for them.

So how do you tie them longer to the page?

Here are my 5 suggestions.

Mesmerize With a Stunning Design

The data says it all:

According to this Stanford study, 94% of visitor’s first impressions of a website were based solely on the visual design.

Just a quick glance is enough to make a snap judgment about whether you even want to view the page or not.

Clean and logical layout with every element easily identifiable will always entice users to view the page.


A cluttered page, overloaded with content on the other hand will push them away from viewing the product. And that’s regardless of how much they’d need or want it.


But I admit:

The above example might be too extreme.

However, many stores still feature cluttered and ancient looking designs. If yours is one of them, invest in a good theme or custom design.

You should see a results almost instantly.

Write Engaging Product Descriptions

You know:

Features, facts and stats do sell…. But only to customers deeper in the buyer’s journey.

When you’re trying to hold someone on a page though, you need to build connection with them. Engage them. Raise their interest.

And facts and figures will never help achieve it.

Stories on the other hand….

Just take a look at this product description from MethodHome:


“a handful of hydration.

any hand wash can clean, but our nourishing hand wash goes one step further. it moisturizes too. and your hard working hands deserve nothing less. we hand-selected nutrient-rich botanicals, like seaweed and kelp extracts, and combined them with our unique, naturally derived hydrating complex. the result is a fabulous formula that leaves your skin feeling soft, smooth + luxuriously clean. and our heavenly, nature-inspired scents mean your nose is in for a treat too.”

It’s simple, captivates you from the first sentence and… communicates all aspects of the product you need to know.

And contains no dry talk.

Of course you should always tailor the description to your target audience. If you sell medical equipment to laboratories, you’ll need to focus on technical details. For the majority of consumer products though, a story will captivate visitors more than facts.

But wording isn’t the only way to keep the users longer. The way you present it could achieve a similar effect.

Here are a couple of suggestions for that:

  • Use short paragraphs, 2-4 sentences max.
  • Break content into sections with subheadings
  • Use lists to organize information
  • Style key words on a page bold.

All of these will make the copy easier to scan. This however won’t result in visitor skimming it and moving on.

You see:

Readable copy does not intimidate.

And thus, your reader will naturally want to stay longer on the page. Absorb the wording but also, discover what other information they could find on the page.

Captivate Visitors with Images

I’m sure you’ve heard this old adage before:

An image is worth a thousand words.

But what happens if you show visitors more than one image?

It’s a known fact: images could alter our behavior. And there’s plenty of research to prove it:

Simply placing a poster featuring a pair of staring eyes beside a honesty box makes more people to actually put money into it (source).

A study conducted at the University of Newcastle found that displaying images of companionship increased the participants desire to seek help (source).

And lastly, according to a joint-study on the effect of images in TV ads, conducted by researchers from University of California the George Washington University found that images using non-rational connection with the ad’s topic actually dumb our rational thinking, leading to higher emotional purchases.

All in all, we’re influenced by images and that’s that.

This also means that both the type and quantity of images you use on product pages could affect your visitors’ behavior:

Use image that highlights why people would buy the product

Remember the original Mac Air ad? The image below quickly became synonymous with it:


(Here’s the full ad if you want to see it)

Notice that it doesn’t really feature the product.

Or boast about it in any way.

But it’s clear as hell that the Mac’s so small, it would fit into an envelope.

Now ask yourself, why would anyone buy a Mac Air? For portability, isn’t it?

And there you have it…

Offer More than One Image

Next, play on the visitor’s curiosity. If the first picture engaged them with the main benefit of buying a product, they might be likely to check what the others contain.

But if you feature just that one image… they’ll have nothing else to do on the page.

Grab Their Attention with Videos

There’s plenty of stats on how videos improve conversions:

  • According to Invodo, 52% of shoppers confess that watching product videos positively affects their buying decision.
  • 40% are likely to visit a store’s site after seeing a video on a 3rd party site (source), and
  • 46% of shoppers are likely to want to find out more about a product after seeing a product video (source).

But there’s more…

Visitors who watch videos spend on average 2 minutes longer on a page than those who don’t (source), and

Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video on an online retailer’s site.

Case closed.

Expand Page Content with Reviews


Many online retailers fear reviews.

Some want to avoid negative feedback. Others, not getting any at all.

In truth though, not including reviews on product pages only hurts conversions.

And as always, there’s plenty of data to prove it:

  • 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. (source)
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (source),
  • 63% of customers prefer buying from a site that features customer reviews (source) and
  • According to Reevo, reviews help increase sales by up to 18% (source).

But how review keep visitors on a page?

It’s simple – because they keep them engaged.

Reviews provide unbiased and unedited insight into how well a product has served others. And reveal the quality of your service.

Most customers will at least stop and flick through reviews, in turn remaining longer on the page.

Final Thoughts

Often the secret to increasing conversion isn’t a better product, lower price or free shipping. Keeping a visitor just a bit longer on a product page could allow them to consume more content and in turn, increase the chances for making a purchase.



How Canada’s leading hospitality brand built its social media strategy

“Having a digital-first strategy helped our company achieve its most successful year in Canadian history,” says Humza Teherany, the chief innovation officer at Compass Group Canada.

Compass Group is a global food services organization that operates cafeterias and cafes at universities, hospitals, and corporate campuses. It is the sixth largest employer in the world with over 500,000 employees in 50 countries. It is also the largest franchisee owner of brands like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and Pizza Pizza.

We spoke with Humza to discuss how the organization uses digital—and, more specifically, social media—as a differentiator amongst competition. Compass Group Canada is setting new sales growth standards for business to business (B2B) companies by using digital to become more relevant, cost-effective, and consumer-focused.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of space you’re in,” Humza tells us, “Everybody likes to go into a retail store and have some sort of “wow” moment. Whether you’re buying a coffee or an iPad, people remember those experiences.

“Our customers want great experiences and social media can be a big part of that. We think of social under the lens of marketing. Great marketing drives business results.”

 Humza Teherany via Compass Group Canada
Humza Teherany via Compass Group Canada

“Great experiences drive our same-store sales growth and bottom line”

The organization is no stranger to technological innovation to improve services. In the past, teams have launched mobile payments and apps to eliminate customer lineups as well as highly-targeted marketing campaigns that offer products at just the right moment. This year, Compass Group Canada built an industry-leading platform called Digital Hospitality. This customizable mobile experience platform aims to improve the consumer and retail operator experience based on data.

As another important component of their marketing efforts, Compass Group uses social media through the Hootsuite platform to understand customer sentiment and to discover what resonates most with their audience. For example, Humza and his team engage customers who may not have come into the cafe through great marketing and engagement on social media.

“We’re not using social media to constantly sell, but to engage people,” Humza says. “We want to draw people into our retail locations and bring them back time and again. We do that through marketing, promoting, and engaging on social.”

Compass Group Canada uses Hootsuite to collaborate with many major college and universities across the country. For example, they have access to one million out of three million higher education students. Growth in consumer engagement, even by a few percentage points, helps us grow and provide services that people love.

Great experiences drive our same-store sales growth and contribute to the bottom line. A great social program that includes marketing and listening supports that. If we engage people with amazing experiences that cover mobile and social—and use analytics to understand exactly what’s taking place—then we lead the marketplace. This is why we chose Hootsuite.

– Humza Teherany

Social media data drives new business development

Compass Group Canada also uses social media to drive new business development. They do this by understanding intelligence about prospective customers with Hootsuite via uberVU. “When we show up for an RFP to compete for our services, we’re not just competing on price or chefs or food quality,” Humza recently told The Globe and Mail in a piece about the company’s innovation.

Staying on top of technological innovation

Compass Group Canada aims to be the most progressive, digitally connected company and uses Hootsuite to achieve this goal from an educational and tool perspective. Starting with a select group of university customers such as McGill University, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto Mississauga, and Trent University, the company empowers local marketing managers to create great retail and customer service experiences for consumers.

Together, Hootsuite and Compass Group Canada developed a social playbook as a resource for social media managers to understand guidelines, content, engagement, and measurement. This allowed executive teams to give local managers autonomy to build their own content and be creative, while having control of scale.

Local marketing managers listen in on social conversations and use Hootsuite to understand sentiment and feedback. They use that information to drive decision-making around menus, special requests, and offers.

Final thoughts

Without social media, Humza believes they’d be missing a great opportunity. “Without having a business partner like Hootsuite to help us navigate and decide what to do next in this ever-changing space, we’d never know if we should change our tactics, tie it into our regular field marketing, or update business strategies based on new technologies,” he says.

In closing, Humza advises other B2B organizations to:

  1. Fail fast, learn, and change

  2. Use great software—large user-bases like social networks constantly pull data, so make sure you understand the software and know how to use it

  3. Find a great partner—you need someone who gets it and understands what’s happening now and in the future—that’s why Compass Group chose Hootsuite

“In order to gain an edge on the next big thing, you need a great business partner,” Humza says in closing.

Elite SEM maintains perfect record at U.S. Search Awards

Elite SEM was named the best large agency at Pubcon’s U.S. Search Awards last night, a title the New York search marketing firm has secured all three years.

This year saw a record number of entries, judged in marathon sessions by 30 search professionals from companies including Google, Bing, Lego, and Orbitz. Zach Morrison, president of Elite SEM, thinks part of his agency’s repeated wins could be rooted in generally high approval ratings: 97 percent employee retention and 90 percent client retention, with Employee and Client Net Promoter Scores of 89 and 45, respectively.


“[When Elite SEM was started] we wanted to break the agency status quo and do something unheard of: putting the account managers first,” says Morrison. “Our goal was to treat them like the heroes they are to the agency and to their clients. This win is a testament to the fact that our business model is thriving.”

Morrison leaves Las Vegas today flattered and excited, but he’s not alone in that. “Best large agency” was only one of 22 categories in the awards. RankHammer, a Dallas agency with just two principal officers, was named the best small agency.

Several individuals were recognized as well. Maddie Cary from Point It and 97th Floor’s PJ Howland were named the young search professionals of the year, while Bill Hunt of Back Azimuth Consulting earned the best consultant award, as well as the lifetime achievement award. In addition to being one of Search Engine Watch‘s most popular columnists, Larry Kim, founder and chief technology officer of WordStream, is also the search personality of the year.

“I think it’s great to work in an industry where people are just so willing to help each other out, and give up their best secrets and tips on how to do great marketing work,” says Kim, echoing what Elite SEM’s chief executive (CEO) Ben Kirshner said last year. “You would never see the CEO of Lexus recommending Volkswagen cars, but that’s how this community operates. That’s why I love what I’m doing.”

Other winners include:

  • Best Use of Search, Retail: ZOG Digital, Barefoot Wine’s SEO campaign
  • Best Use of Search, Finance: Catalyst, HSBC’s “Dominating in Deposits”
  • Best Use of Search, Travel and Leisure: Go Fish Digital, Reston Limo’s Luxury SEO campaign
  • Best Local Campaign: Top Spot Internet Marketing, Klein Custom Pools’ local SEO campaign
  • Best Low-Budget Campaign: aimClear,’s display PPC campaign
  • Best Use of PR in a Search Campaign: MerkleRKG, JetBlue’s Fair Options
  • Best Use of Social Media in a Search Campaign: aimClear, Airbnb’s “Wall & Chain”

  • Best Integrated Campaign: Location 3 Media, Westwood College’s “How Integrated Digital Campaigns Increased Student Application Volume at a Lower Cost per Application”
  • Best Mobile Campaign: HotelTonight, using deep linking to accelerate growth in mobile search marketing
  • Best PPC Campaign: Point It Digital Marketing
  • Best SEO Campaign: Geary LSE, “Monkey Sports Hits a Homerun”
  • Best Innovation, PPC: cClearly’s paid search targeting platform
  • Best Innovation, SEO: Majestic
  • Best PPC Management Software: Optmyzr, PPC Reports and Tools
  • Best SEO Software: Linkdex
  • Best Search Software Tool: Productsup, Product Data Management & Optimization Platform
  • Best In-House Team: Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, search and auction media team

How to Maximize Social Campaign Conversions

Whether you’re running a social media campaign to generate leads, collect user-generated content, or just have fun with your fans, its conversion rate—the ratio of people who go on to enter once they’ve visited your campaign—decides its success. It’s the number that you take to your supervisor, the number you honor by writing case studies, and the number you drink to when you’re ready to celebrate.

If you want to celebrate with champagne, not commiserate over with lager, discover how to to conceive, design, and launch your campaigns to the greatest effect with our enterprise webinar Create Engaging Social Campaigns that Convert.

Hosted by Richard Hungerford, director of Hootsuite Campaigns, and Tori Tait, director of content and community at The Grommet, this webinar explains the basics of designing, launching, and promoting social marketing campaigns to maximize conversion. Learn which campaign build will help you achieve your goals, how to harness conversion copywriting, how to maximize the impact of your visual components, and listen to Tori explain how The Grommet engaged tens of thousands of viewers to participate in their holiday sweepstakes campaigns.

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Richard and Tori explore the value of an email, which prize to offer your fans, and how to know that your campaign is incentivizing your truest fans. When will you see engagement dip? How do you know what your target engagement rate should be? For the answers to these questions and others, watch the webinar here.

With just one click, you’ll learn:

  • How to know—and maximize—your social campaign bandwidth
  • When to experiment with the color of your online branding
  • How to use every inch of your online real estate to promote to best effect

Play the Webinar Now