This Week in Social: Back to School with New Apps for Business

Gearing up for the fall, it’s easy to feel like your life is temporarily lost to the chaos of new projects. That may explain the surge in productivity apps and features that helps us take back control of our schedule. Let’s hope we actually learn to use them—as the Wall Street Journal reported last year, only 2 percent of our phone time was taken up by productivity apps, with the majority of the time taken up by, well, the opposite of productivity: games.

In order to help you save more time and focus on what matters, we present you with a summary of what happened this week in social media news.

Now that you have some time, don your (white) reading cap, and let’s get you caught up:

Latest from the Big 4

Every week Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ announce policy changes, updates, design tweaks, new features and other changes that can affect how you use their tools. Here are this week’s highlights:

Twitter makes its new Analytics feature available for everyone

Twitter first unveiled their robust analytics software in July, then available exclusively to Verified Users, Advertisers and Twitter Card users. This new feature provides a gold mine of engagement information, from link clicks to impressions to monthly engagement rate comparisons. This week, Twitter has opened up the feature to all users. If you’re lost in the possibilities, start by reading our handy guide on how to use Twitter Analytics for business.

Instagram wows users with new timelapse app

Just in time to catch the last summer sunsets, Instagram released a standalone timelapse app, Hyperlapse from Instagram. The new app takes hours out of timelapse creation, making it as easy as taking a smartphone video. Brands and personal users alike quickly took to their smartphones to test the new app, resulting in some amazing timelapse videos. The popularity of the new app may have contributed to a brief Instagram outage on Thursday.

We joined the bandwagon with a Hyperlapse from Instagram video of our latest #HootHire!

Facebook to reduce the click-bait on your News Feed

Facebook is about to make the Upworthy and Buzzfeed writers’ job a lot harder by cracking down on click-baiting headlines. As the social network announced on their blog, this is the result of research that shows users prefer to read articles that fulfill the promise given by the headline. Facebook developers will track how much time you spend away from the site after clicking a link, with shorter times suggesting a disappointing result—and a potential click-bait red flag.

Finally, you can import Google+ videos into YouTube

Google+ users have been frustrated with their inability to upload videos from their accounts directly onto YouTube. Google has acquired the popular video-streaming service in 2006, and several years later made it mandatory for users to sign in to the service with their Google+ accounts, while the video sharing ability between the two services remained absent. This week, a staffer on Google’s YouTube forum made the much-anticipated announcement of a more streamlined process.

Next big thing

The social web is a dynamic landscape, with new players constantly shaking things up. Whether it’s a new class of Y Combinator startup stars announcing their big ideas, or a surprise venture capital investment in an app rumoured to be the next Snapchat, this industry moves fast. This week, it’s a bit of a back-to-school edition, with new and recently updated apps that make it easier to make a productive transition into fall:

Make plans in your calendar app

Whether it’s a work meeting or a catch-up date with friends, the thought of navigating through complex schedules and finding an optimal meeting place can kill all desire to plan. A new app CalPal solves both of these problems by letting you sync up your schedule with your colleagues or friends, and work out any details via a built-in messenger function. CalPal is compatible with all existing popular calendar software (Google Calendar, iOS Calendar), and is fully available for offline use.

CalPal This Week in Social

Former Yammer execs make a workplace messaging app

Described by its developers as a kind of ‘WhatsApp for the workplace,’ Cotap attempts to meet all demands of office messaging software. Cotap has recently expanded to include a desktop version, specifically aimed at office communications. The new version of the app is also made to work with major file sharing software, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, for easier collaboration. What makes Cotap stand out among other workplace messaging software is its mobile availability; as one of its creators explained to TechCrunch, “Think of Cotap on a smartphone as replacing and improving on how a large business might have used a walkie-talkie.” So if you run a smaller business, such as a coffee shop or a retail outlet, Cotap makes it easier to talk to front-of-house staff who don’t have access to a desktop computer.

Long read: Save the Net

If it wasn’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t have a job—and I’m sure many of you reading this could say the same thing. Since we can hardly imagine our lives without Internet, we should get educated about threats to the world wide web as we know it.

This is the topic of a feature in the newest issue of Wired magazine, appropriately titled Save the Net. In it, Wired invites six major players in the tech world to explain the existing threats to the Internet, and some ways us ordinary netizens can deal with them. The topics range from surveillance, to the openness principle, to cybercrime. But all pieces ultimately address the fundamental principles of the Internet that could, if taken away, mark a dark period in the Information Age.

Not all is lost yet, however; as Mitchell Baker of Mozilla remarks in her contribution to the series, “There will always be threats to the Internet and its potential, but a global community of digital citizens will be more able and motivated to tackle those threats and recognize ones we can’t foresee today.”

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Are You Pro or Anti-Hashtag? Question of the Week

Hashtags: we love them, we hate them, we love to hate them and hate to love them. Because hashtags are such an ingrained part of the tech culture, it’s tough to find someone who doesn’t know what they mean, or even more-so, doesn’t use them. They recently were added to the Oxford dictionary and can be inserted anywhere within a sentence.

Once upon a time they were only found on your phone (remember that pound sign?), but now have a place on most popular social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest. The hashtag is likely the most popular means of categorizing content on social media. It makes your own content discoverable and allows you to find relevant content from other people and businesses.

The hashtag also allows you to connect with and engage other social media users based on a common theme or interest. But when it comes to hashtags, we’ve found that there tend to be a lot of do’s and don’ts. For example, the quantity of hashtags  how many is too many? As well as frustrating other users, the misuse of hashtags can even lead to account suspensions (in really extreme cases).

Since there is so much controversy surrounding the use of hashtags, we decided to ask our Twitter followers if they were Pro or Anti-Hashtag, and why?  We received a ton of great answers, a few of which even surprised us!  Let’s take a look and see what our followers thought about the usage of hashtags:

Whether our followers were pro or anti-hashtag, all of them were worried about overloading. #nobody #likes #a #status #that #looks #like #this #so #please #just … #dont

Our favorite though?

Aren’t we all @slakingfool, aren’t we all.

Do you have an opinion on the use of hashtags? Join the conversation and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Google Drops Authorship From Search Results

google-plus-authorshipIn a Google+ post, webmaster trends analyst John Mueller says Google has “made the difficult decision” to stop showing authorship in search results.

Google’s authorship support page, says simply, “Authorship markup is no longer supported in Web search,” and encourages webmasters to look into rich snippets to improve their search results.

According to Mueller, Google tests showed removing authorship did not generally appear to reduce site traffic or increase ad clicks.

“We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we’ve tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information,” Mueller writes. “Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results.”

Mueller says Google is “strongly committed” to expanding support of structured markup such as and he says Google will continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.

“We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience,” he notes.

He thanks webmasters for their efforts to improve their sites and says Google Search users will continue to see Google+ posts from friends and pages when relevant within the main results and on the right-hand side.

“Today’s authorship change doesn’t impact these social features,” he adds.

In June, Mueller used Google+ to announce that Google would stop showing author profile images and Google+ circle counts in desktop and mobile search results.

The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES AtlantaSES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start – to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!

Bing Waxes Lyrical on Spam Detection and Filtering

shutterstock-189362795In the latest post on the Bing blog, Bing dives into the inner workings of Web spam, what it looks like, and what Bing is doing about it.

In the post, Igor Rondel, principal development manager for Bing index quality, discusses the motivation behind spamming, and why it’s not always easy to determine intent:

There is typically a fine line between a legitimate use of an SEO technique and its abuse … even if SEO techniques are severely abused, it’s often not clear whether it’s intentional or accidental … even the most egregious spam pages may have user value and it is important to recognize that to decide on the proper course of action.

To figure out how to detect spam, Bing looks at the primary motivation of most spammers, which Rondel says is money.

“There are exceptions who are in it for other causes, e.g., politics and general mayhem, but the vast majority of the spammers are driven by their ability to monetize their efforts,” he writes.

The primary way they make money is through ads, Rondel says. And, understanding this motivation “helps us in that a spammer’s motivation is often reflected by the Web page itself and while there is no absolute sure way to pinpoint this, there are often clues that one can learn to read.”

Rondel says one of the primary facets of Bing’s work is Web spam detection and filtering; however, talking about the details of how the search engine does this is tricky without giving away information that could fuel the spammer’s goal. He writes:

Communication around spam detection is a sensitive matter, however, because unlike most other facets of search engine algorithms, we are dealing with an adversary who stands to benefit from a) detailed understanding of search algorithms and b) detailed understanding of anti-spam efforts. Therefore I hope the reader will forgive me for steering clear of specifics and instead focusing on the main themes of our detection and filtering workflow.

But there are conditions Bing uses to evaluate Web pages, including

  • The quality of the content
  • The volume and type of ads and how they render
  • The layout of the information and position of ads to text

However, when a spam page is detected, Rondel says the penalty matches the offense:

The specific mechanism that achieves this [spam filtering] is less important and could take the form of demoting the page, neutralizing the effect of specific spam techniques or removing the page/site out of the index [altogether]. The decision is made based on considerations like a) the extent/egregiousness of the spam techniques involved and b) the potential value the page presents to the users.

Rondel says spam is everywhere – in places you’d expect it, like free ringtone download pages, and places you perhaps wouldn’t expect it, like LinkedIn.

Rondel says the best thing marketers can do is focus on providing quality content:

Ultimately, search engines rank pages based on whether or not we think they content will provide value to the searcher and the best way to ensure that your pages rank well is to provide content that users actually want to see, rather than focusing on the specifics of the page structure or its link graph. Aside from the fundamentals of ensuring that your pages are well formed and that the content is easily discoverable by the search engine, the best SEO you can do as a webmaster is providing quality content.

Recently, Bing discussed its efforts to help inform searchers whether or not a page is safe to visit with its site safety page. The page helps searchers understand:

  • The reason the page is considered malicious
  • How often the URL has been scanned, the date the infection was first detected, and the date the infection was most recently detected

The next post on the Bing blog in the series on Web spam, says Rondel, will look at “one specific update we recently rolled out that focused on URL keyword stuffing and how it impacted our users and the SEO community.”

The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES AtlantaSES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start – to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!

How to Win Fantasy Football with Social Media

It’s finally draft day and you’re crammed into your friends living room or office boardroom with the same printed player ranking as nine others sitting across from you. Being part of a fantasy league is like a full time job — those who participate in fantasy sports leagues  and pools often do so with a certain addiction. Winning your league requires research, strategic risk and luck.

With training camp and preseason winding down as your draft day approaches, rosters are in flux, which means you need to stay up to date with all things fantasy football in real time. You all know the guy who proudly drafts someone only to find after that said player was cut or blew out his knee in the last preseason game — don’t be him (or her). Not to worry because I’m here to tell you a secret about how to win fantasy football that your league mates are not taking advantage of and that secret is: social media.

With a few social media tricks, you can tilt the odds in your favor on the road to fantasy league supremacy and the bragging rights that go along with it by winning your fantasy football league.

5 Tips On How to Win Fantasy Football with Social Media

Tip #1: Create Twitter lists to follow writers

Mass following a bunch of spammy writers gets clumsy and clogs up your Twitter Feed. A curated Twitter list of writers from different websites allows you to scan for the instant advice or sleeper picks you crave. This is a much leaner approach than spending time reading lengthy articles that dance around weaving metaphors before delivering any useful information. #BonusTip: Add one beat writer from each team you have a fantasy player on. These writers travel with the teams and have the closest access to players for injury, lineup and roster updates.

Tip #2: Use a social media monitoring tool for effective listening

Leading up to fantasy football drafts everyone  is listening to podcasts by Bill Simmons. But, without too much searching, you can find writers making a nice living as fantasy analysts and sharing their findings on social media. With the help of social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite you can set up search streams to organize the Twitter Lists you created after reading tip #1, monitor relevant hashtags, keywords and phrases. By doing this you’ll have the social media content to help you win your fantasy football league at the tip of your fingertips in an organized manner.

How to win fantasy football with Hootsuite

Tip #3: Learn who the sleeper picks are on reddit

Reddit is a social networking site that allows people to form discussions around certain topics. One of the topics that are great when you’re trying to learn how to win your fantasy football league is around who the sleeper picks are for this season. Even John Paulsen who was named Fantasy Pros most accurate fantasy football expert in 2010 has taken to reddit to talk about fantasy football. Simply check out this reddit thread to learn more, to win more.

How to win fantasy football with reddit

Tip #4: Join Google+ communities

You might not be using your Google+ account but, if you want to know how to win your fantasy football league this year, join a Fantasy Football League Google+ Community. This will allow you to learn from your peers and fantasy football expers. Some communities provide insight on who to pick, and some communities provide you the opportunity to participate in other people’s fantasy football leagues.

Tip #5: Participate in a Twitter Chat

Fantasy experts are also receptive to answering questions on Twitter — some even do weekly Twitter chats (scheduled and sporadic) where they answer tons of questions in one go. Don’t hesitate to fire off a quick question using the hashtag #fantasyfootball and gain new perspective on your lineup. The gap is closing, but you can still gain advantage over your fantasy foes using social media.

Win your fantasy football league with Hootsuite Pro

Start your free trial today!

How To Measure Social Media Activity And What It Means For Your Business

Proving the value of something relies heavily on how you track and measure its performance and how your report on it. When it comes to your success on social media, it starts with how to measure social media, knowing what metrics to measure, and what they mean for your business.

We have invited some pros in the analytics and social media space to share their insights on how to measure social media, the importance of measuring social media activity for your business, how to prove the ROI of social media, and more. This online panel will take place on September 4, 2014 at 9am PST via Google Hangouts.

RSVP Today

Meet our “Measuring What Matters For Your Business” Panelists:

Headshot of Tia Kelly one of the panelists who will talk about How to measure social mediaTia Kelly Headshot of Neil Patel one of our panelists who will talk about How to measure social mediaNeil Patel Headshot of Mohamed Zahid one of our panelists who will talk about How to measure social mediaMohamed Zahid


Online Panel Info:

When: September 4, 2014
Time: 9am PST
Where: Google Hangout

Want to share your thoughts during the online panel? Tweet using the hashtag #Social60 or comment on the Google Hangout event page. We hope to see you there!

7 Lessons on Teaching Social to Digital Natives: a Hootsuite Higher Education Webinar

A common assumption is that students are experts in social media, and education on the subject is not needed. After all, young people spend their spare time posting on Facebook walls, tweeting the latest news, and adding hashtags to Instagram posts. What more can you teach an audience that integrates social media in their lives so effortlessly?

To answer this question, Hootsuite hosted a webinar called #TeachSocial: Lessons from Top Social Media Professors.

Moderated by Hootsuite and Syracuse University’s Dr. William J. Ward, this panel brought together professors Alfred Hermida (UBC), Paula T. Morris (Salisbury University), and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff (UCLA), to discuss different challenges and tactics of teaching social media education. As an educator himself, Dr. Ward says “the biggest challenge of teaching social media is helping students understand how their personal social media use impacts their current and future business opportunities.” This webinar offers tools and tips (including assignments) educators can use to help the students understand the professional opportunities presented by gaining business-oriented social media skills.

Hootsuite’s growing Higher Education Program shows that there is, in fact, a lot more students need to learn about social media. Educators still need to have a pivotal role, and the panel shared some key lessons for their peers when teaching on this subject. Here are some ideas that were discussed in the #TeachSocial webinar:

7 Lessons on how to better teach social to digital natives

Lesson #1: Don’t be scared to mix it up

Alfred Hermida of UBC brings together journalism and business students, and has them work together to develop a social media strategic plan for local media partners. Mixing different disciplines not only brings about new ways of approaching social media issues and solutions, but also gives students a reality-check that they will not always have the luxury of working with like-minded team members.

Lesson #2: “Just because you can tweet, doesn’t mean you understand how Twitter works.”

Professors sometimes have the assumption they are not fit to teach social media because students are far more entrenched in the technology in their personal lives than educators themselves. But the ability to use the technology doesn’t mean it is understood; teaching the why is just as important as knowing the how. Have students look at the aims of an organization, identify their social media challenges, and think about which social media tools and strategies would make the best fit. This helps students understand the business opportunities offered by social media, instead of just using it for personal reasons.

Lesson #3: Make assignments real and relevant

Paula T. Morris from Salisbury University has students Google themselves, print out the search results, and bring them to class. Students give her feedback like “I can’t find myself” or “I don’t want to share that information with you.” But this opens conversations about SEO, and teaches how students can optimize (and de-optimize) their documented online activities. This exercise encourages students to make conscious choices and have honest conversations about the personal brand they’re putting out into the real world.

Lesson #4: Have students turn their toys into tools

Encourage students to think about social media as a tool instead of a toy. Paula T. Morris gets students to do this by challenging them to grow and manage their own personal brand; a brand that potential employers will see. Students are tasked with identifying challenges, setting objectives, and implementing strategies. They finish the project with a better understanding of using social media to achieve certain milestones, and a stronger online presence to help them stay competitive when entering the job market.

Lesson #5: Use familiar frameworks to generate new insights

Sometimes when trying to teach something new like social media, using a familiar framework helps generate better understanding. Dr. Natalie Petouhoff uses the 4 actions framework from Blue Ocean Strategy to reframe the use of social media as a strategic business tool. Using this framework, students can see how social media gives insight into generating a new value curve for companies.

Lesson #6: Listen first

Often, students (and companies) want to jump into a social media by picking a channel and interacting right away. But remember to emphasize in your lessons that it is important to first have a good grasp of the social media network to understand the environment and situation. Only with this intelligence can effective and thoughtful decisions be made.

Lesson #7: Highlight professional impact and practical skills

Ensure that students understand the difference between personal and professional use of social media. All three panelists reiterated that a different approach is required when approaching social media from a business perspective; purposeful thought, strategy, and implementation is needed. An effective way to prove this point is to assign students projects that require them to use a social media tool, such as Hootsuite, in a professional way – for real-world listening, monitoring, and engagement.

Missed the webinar? Not to worry, it’s available on-demand to watch at your convenience. 

Watch It Now

Hootsuite’s Higher Education Program provides professors with many ways to teach social media skills, in and outside of the classroom. This program is free for educators and provides access to courseware, lecture videos, webinars and tools—everything needed to teach social media effectively.

Star Ratings of a Different Color: Google Testing New Formats

When searching for a company review or local business, users have come to expect to see an orange star rating in their results.

However, Google has reportedly been mixing it up by testing additional colors, including:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Red
  • Yellow

It appears search results are still orange for most users. However, the Google experiments news blog All Google Testing says users can enable these tests by inserting updated code into their browsers.

Many of the tests collected show a five-star rating for the search results, regardless of what the actual ratings are. For example, when searching for “Foster’s Hollywood Reviews” without the test enabled, users see an average three-star rating.


However, when performing the same search in the testing environment, there are five stars across the board.


Stacey MacNaught, search director at multi-screen digital marketing agency Tecmark, took to Twitter on August 28 to share her observations, including asking why there are five-star ratings for businesses that clearly shouldn’t be there.

Below are additional examples of the new star colors from All Google Testing:





The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES AtlantaSES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start – to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!

14 Ultimate Link-Building Guidelines to Keep Safe in 2014

How do you know what link-building is safe in 2014? Is there such a thing? That’s a question most SEOs, marketers, and business owners have been trying to answer since Google Penguin first hit in April 2012.


Image source:

The only answer you can really provide is that all links should be naturally acquired as a byproduct of your brand. As Matt Cutts says above, Bing’s Duane Forrester followed up recently by stating that “You should never know in advance a link is coming, or where it’s coming from.”

People are much more cautious about link-building now, and rightly so – no one wants to leave a footprint for Google. Yet we still all need links! Everyone knows links are still a very strong factor toward organic rankings, and despite all of the algorithm updates, this still isn’t likely to change in the near future.

As an agency we have always developed our own internal guidelines to make sure that link acquisition is more natural and content-driven. Below I have listed these guidelines to share with readers:

1. Build an Audience, Not Links

Your biggest link-building weapon should be your publish button. If you publish content to four readers, unless they are the biggest influencers in your industry, it’s very unlikely to go viral!

Whereas if you have a publisher readership of more than 100,000 subscribers, it’s much more likely to resonate and have a natural outreach effect of shares/links, because you’ve got the attention of the right crowd. Being in this position is the ultimate position you want to build into, but if like most you’re not quite there yet – try leveraging someone else’s audience instead!

Look to Place Content on Sites With Clear Readership Levels.

Don’t take any of these figures too seriously individually, but this can be determined via a combination of the following:

  • Brand recognition of website
  • Number of quality comments on recent posts
  • Social engagement levels of recent posts
  • Number of Facebook fans/Twitter followers (measured against engagement levels)
  • Associations within niche (partner sites, mentions, celebrity writers)

Make It Win-Win.

Always have something to offer the publisher that they can’t get elsewhere (not money – unless the link contains a nofollow attribute and is clearly labelled as sponsored/featured, but even then be careful!) – but think about how you can create outstanding content, crafted specifically to their audience. This can be:

  • Well-researched and relevant data, a study or a news story
  • Something fun, creative or interactive
  • An expert opinion, unique angle or take on a topical/news story

Target the Content to the Readership of the Publisher, Not the Brand.

This process can be worked out with the publisher, but the following should be taken into account:

  • Who are the readers of the publisher? (Age range, demographics, intellect, level of niche interest, familiarity with brand)
  • What topics will interest them?
  • What angle will encourage them to engage with the piece? (How, what, why)
  • What will annoy them? (Overly branded content, overhyping of claims, bland content)
  • What kind of writing style will appeal to them? (lifestyle, scientific, thought-provoking)

Give Them Something That Can Send Them Your Traffic.

Think of a reason, or follow-up why people would click through to your site. If you can create outstanding content, people are more likely to be intrigued – that means they visit your site and hopefully start to read/subscribe to your content. This builds your marketing list and your own audience for future promotions.

Bear in mind that most blogs get paid on a CPM advertiser basis so they are interested in building an audience and supplying them with content that will encourage them to visit the site. If you can create a content piece that you know will resonate and be a big hit with their readers, it’s much harder for them to say no.

2. Human Engagement

Think about what great content looks like; it’s not just about publishing a piece of content that links to you from a strong domain (advertorials and guest posts do that, but it doesn’t make them good links). Great content has human engagement and trust signals, such as recognized authorship, quality comments, social shares from influencers within your industry, co-citations, and links.

Think more about the strength of the page than the domain. If readers don’t care about your links, why should Google?

Analyze how readers have reacted to your post compared to others on the site. If it’s positive, then the site is worth revisiting for future content as it’s a good fit as a target audience; if poorly, then analyze why and try again/look for other external sites to target.

  • How much content is published by the publisher per day? Did your piece get enough time on prominent pages? What’s the quality vs. quantity, or signal vs. noise ratio?
  • Did the publisher share your piece on their social profiles?
  • Did the piece perform strongly in one or two areas (G+, Twitter, comments) but not in any others?
  • Did you share it on your social profiles?
  • Could you have promoted the piece more through paid social channels? (StumbleUpon, Facebook, Outbrain, Taboola, etc.

3. Authorship

Content that is written by a recognized and authoritative author will often create better links and get more engagement than content written anonymously. Even forgetting about the debatable value of Google authorship, if you have a writer with a popular and highly targeted social following, the promotion they are able to provide should be a big boost to your content.

Any extra boost you can have from the author is also likely to increase the organic performance of that article as a knock-on effect from the links, engagement, and social attention generated beyond the level of the publisher.

  • Always have content written or associated with a relevant industry professional/expert
  • Where possible, connect the article to the authors G+ account using the rel=author attribute
  • Encourage authors to promote themselves via social media and build their personal engagement levels.

4. Anchor Text Distribution

Keep it branded where possible, and link to deep URLs where within context – as opposed to just trying to place links to top target money pages.

  • Use a mixture of anchor text that are  branded, brand + phrase, variations
  • Always make anchor text contextual, never link to transactional/commercial content unless you are talking specifically about it. Linking to studies/research is much more natural, this is an original source that is credible and adds value to your content – it’s not a placed link.
  • Don’t force it. Link to informational content if you can and then pass on that link equity more naturally internally. But if you can’t link within context, don’t – you want to build up a strong reputation as a writer, don’t risk it, the SEO value will come in time anyway – so keep it natural.

5. Avoid SEO Footprints

Avoid anything that is old-school SEO, or looks like a link-building footprint. While Google may never know for sure if a link was built or natural, they have the data (and the analysts!) to understand enough signals to give them a pretty clear indication on the common signs.

  • If placing the article is solely for SEO, it’s normally pretty obvious just in the way it’s written and the lack of engagement around the page
  • Try to avoid any of the following terms included in the post title, post URL, or on-page content: paid, guest, advertorial, sponsored, featured.

If the article is being placed for promotional/traffic value (with no intended SEO value) then paid placements are acceptable with the rel=nofollow attribute included and clearly labelled as sponsored/featured content – even then, be careful and don’t overdo it.

6. Link Out to Others

A clear sign of link-building is that you only link to your brand. Mix it up and try to add links to other informational content, news articles, etc. to add credibility to your story. This is how people write naturally to add value to the story, so think about the readers and what they want to see – rather than your own SEO objectives.

  • Ensure you link to any claims or studies that are referenced in the article
  • Link to articles that support/add value to any information given in the article

7. Topical Relevancy

If you’re a dating site and you have links from the finance sector, it looks unnatural – Google has gotten much better at identifying topical relevancy and it’s more about engagement on-page now, which means you need a targeted audience to generate interest.

  • Always establish the theme of the publisher and assess whether it is relevant to your site
  • In cases where the theme isn’t directly relevant, make sure you always have an appropriate angle that connects the publisher with the brand
  • In cases where there are multiple themes/categories within a site, make sure that the article has been placed in the most appropriate section
  • Poor relevancy is usually shown by poor engagement. If articles posted on sites have low engagement levels then that suggests the topic wasn’t relevant enough

8. Data-Driven Brand Assets

To make it PR newsworthy, you need data – run surveys, dig deep into analytics, interview influencers, etc. Make your content much more research heavy: “78 percent of people said…as reported by [brand]” is much more appealing to journalists – this is why data visualization works so well in infographics/HTML5 to get that message across. It’s a lot more time-intensive, but also means your building real brand assets, which have value in itself as long-term brand assets, it’s more sharable, and it’s a natural link target.

  • Offer publishers unique and exclusive insights or data-driven pieces – they are more likely to go for a piece that is contains something unique to them and readers react to new facts and research much better than opinions.

9. Local Link-Building

If you can have one great national idea, think of how you can spin it into lots of local angles.

For example, with a property client we created a visualization of house prices vs. travel time vs. train fares to find the best/worst places to commute into London. This generated great London/national coverage, but then opened up lots of local PR, blogger, and social opportunities afterward.

10. Creativity Wins, But be Prepared to Fail Along the Way

You need to be innovative to stand out and win. But if you’re doing something for the first time, you’ve got to face up to the fact that it might not work. No one can predict what is going to go viral before it goes viral – just make sure you learn from it and improve.

If you just follow the trusted approach that has worked for you in the past, you lose an element of creativity and end up following a templated process. If instead you can provide something that no one has ever done before, and lose the fear of failure - the potential rewards are much bigger at the end.

11. Less Is More

Volume of links should no longer be your goal. Therefore it makes more sense to focus activity on bigger projects that generate high quality but low numbers of links than vice-versa.

  • Find the most authoritative sites within a niche and create a plan to approach them. Analyze what the best content on their site is, and ask how can you create something just as good or better for them?
  • This is a longer game but it is worth it – build that list of dream sites to get links and attention from and then keep working on it.
  • Leverage connections again – too often people look for one link from one domain and then move onto the next. If you’ve found a great audience for your site, leverage it. Forget about SEO and if it has value to publish to an audience, why wouldn’t you do it? And then surely if you’ve written 34 posts on a site, that looks more natural than if you’ve only written one or two – it’s building real authorship, not a guest profile.

12. Co-Citations Are Natural

Following the above example, rather than focusing on hundreds of guest post links, some which will work and others which will set you back, test putting that effort into bigger projects/campaigns. If you can line up additional outreach/attention around the same theme, and let’s say you get 25 links on average per project – surely it makes more sense to put your efforts into promotion of a small number of bigger campaigns.

  • Rather than just focusing on the end product (the links that point directly to you), think about the signals that natural content has. Your links having their own links is a much stronger signal and the link to you becomes a by-product of great content and not the main goal.
  • If content is placed on a big publisher first as an exclusive, they should be linked to from additional outreach/coverage – with the client/brand as the original source – this is how a PR story would break and it’s how a natural link profile would often look.

13. Focus on Traffic, Not the Link

Look to run social promotion campaigns, use social advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit – and content distribution channels such as Outbrain and Taboola – to build more human engagement around the content and think about how you can get this in front of a targeted audience. If people/readers like it, Google is more likely to reward it anyway.

  • Set aside a social budget that can be used to boost engagement with each content piece
  • Ensure that the brand has posted and promoted the content on all their social profiles to get our audience engaging with it

14. What Type of Content Ranks and Attracts Links

Learning is an important step with link-building. Understanding what works best and what your competitors are doing well can prevent lost time on poor content and create better campaigns.

  • There’s some useful analysis in this post – analyzing what type/length of content ranks is important to build a more effective campaign in the future.
  • Tools like Majestic/OSE can be used to find top content pages on a domain, both yours and your competitors. But rather than looking at the link targets, learn what has worked best for them and how to make content that if promoted well it can become a link magnet over the long-term.

Of course, any link-building guidelines need to be an evolving process – but hopefully this was valuable to share and I’d be interested in seeing what other people use as their own. Please let us know in the comments!

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‘Disinhibition’ or Why All Brands Need to Be Paying Attention Online

Did you know that medical patients will reveal more embarrassing symptoms and behaviours when they’re entering the details of their condition into a computer, as opposed to talking to a real doctor? Surprising but not, right? Researchers have also found that people are more forthcoming with personal secrets when revealing them online, as opposed to when they’re speaking face-to-face, and are more inclined to ask direct questions of the opposite sex when communicating in text form (one researcher has even suggested that people are forming more meaningful relationships online because of – not despite – the platform’s limitations). People are more likely to be more forthcoming in their communications when they conduct them via the increased anonymity of an internet browser. This has been labelled the ‘disinihibition effect’, and it’s something brands need to be taking into account as more of our interactions move online.

The Disinhibition Effect

The disinhibition effect was the subject of a Slate article that looked at how educators had found electronic learning aids were helping students develop better writing habits. As per the piece, it’s even been suggested that ‘robo-graders’, which provide electronic assessments of student writing, might actually do a better job of educating than human teachers in this realm.

The logic behind this is that you’re more likely to try things out, share your rough drafts and efforts, with a computer system that doesn’t judge and won’t make assessments of you based on those early efforts. This makes the process more welcoming, as you can refine and improve your writing without having to embarrass yourself or feel hesitant about making mistakes. The computer analyses your work, gives you immediate feedback, and you can improve, without anyone ever seeing those early mis-steps.

This is the disinhibition effect in action—people are far more hesitant to put forward their output when they feel anxious about possible human evaluation. With that judgement layer removed, people are more relaxed, which makes sense, and also reveals something very important for people working in online communications.

Emboldened by Distance

Sometimes you buy something and you get it home and then you realise that it’s not quite right. There’s something that’s not 100%, it’s slightly broken, it’s not exactly what you need. Do you immediately take it back to the store? Sometimes you might not bother, right? Sometimes it’s something that only cost a couple of bucks, no point going through all the trouble. But there really shouldn’t be any trouble – retail laws in most regions stipulate that you can return something if it’s not what you want, and you definitely can if there’s something wrong with it. But the ‘trouble’ you envision is the actual process of doing it – going in, facing up, dealing with the physical exchange. Same goes for bad service – do you address bad service there and then, or do you just move on? No point making a scene, right? While you might be hesitant to confront someone there and then, you’ll still talk about it, you’ll mention it to your wife or your friends, you’ll still discuss that bad experience. It’s the distance that makes it easier, the space between you and the other party.

 Some users will even go so far as to promote their customer service complaints on social media
Some users will even go so far as to promote their customer service complaints on social media

By nature, most people avoid confrontation – and it can be quite confronting to address an issue face to face. But just that bit of distance, just enough to avoid the face-to-face exchange, is generally enough for you to feel comfortable and safe to say what you really think. This is exactly what happens in social media – the things that people might not want to say about your brand to you or your staff directly, or even note in your customer feedback forms, they’re likely still to say it some place. Once they have that distance, that space from the physical confrontation, it’s increasingly likely that they’ll voice their thoughts online, venting to friends and connections and whoever wants to hear. As more of our daily interactions shift to social networks, this is increasingly becoming the place where people go to share stories of discontent, particularly with businesses. If you want ti know what people really think of your brand, you need pay attention to social platforms. And really, you do want to know. You need to know.

Open Your Ears

This is one of the most compelling reasons for social media listening. Even if you don’t think social media is a big deal for your brand (which is probably a mistake in and of itself), it’s still worth establishing a social listening process to get some idea of what’s being said online—about you and your competitors. You might think everything is fine, while a different reputation of your business is being formed via Tweets and posts.

If people have a bad experience, the chances of them raising it on social media increase every day. If you’re not hearing them, you’re missing out on valuable insights. Plus, most people now expect you to be listening. They might not want to raise their concerns face-to-face, they may not want to give you a call, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns to raise.

Social listening is fast becoming a business imperative, something all brands need to be investing in. People’s profiles are their soapbox, their place to present their views and opinions. And unaddressed, those views can have major ramifications for your business. People are much more forthright via keyboard, much more direct. Do you know what they’re saying about you online?

For more information on social media listening, read our post “Social Media Monitoring: Your Biggest Social Media Opportunity?

Get started on social media monitoring by signing up for a free trial of HootSuite Pro!