How to Write a Social Media Policy for Your Company

The line between companies and their employees on social media is steadily blurring. Organizations today need a social media policy that at once helps keep the brand’s reputation intact while also encourages employee participation online.

In this guide, we’ll layout the benefits of having a social media policy and give you all the information you need to create your own. We’ll also offer up a few good examples of policies from recognizable brands that you can draw inspiration from.

What is a social media policy?

A social media policy outlines how an organization and its employees should conduct themselves online. This document helps to safeguard your brand’s reputation while also encouraging employees to responsibly share the company’s message.

Because social media moves fast, this policy should be considered a living document—ongoing updates will be necessary. But rest easy, it doesn’t need to be a 26-page opus (take a look at this simple two-pager from Adidas). The goal here is to provide employees with straightforward guidelines that are easy to follow.

Benefits of a social media policy

Whether your company is already well-established on social, or just beginning to build its presence online, all organizations should have a social media policy. Here are a few ways your business can benefit from establishing a social media policy.

Helps to protect your company’s reputation

By clearly explaining to your employees how best to represent the company online—including what they can and cannot share—you will mitigate threats to your brand reputation. To further help in this regard, a good social media policy will also explain what actions need to be taken in the event of a mistake is made or a company social handle comes under attack (by trolls or hackers).

Defends against legal trouble and security risks

Social media policies can help safeguard your organization against potential legal troubles and security risks by outlining potential threats and ways to avoid them. Your policy should also explain what an employee must do if they should accidentally put the company’s reputation at risk, or if they fall prey to a malicious attack.

Empowers employees to share company messaging

Social media policies can also be enormously helpful when it comes to brand amplification. How? They tap into your biggest advocacy group: your employees. And company messaging is often considered more credible when it comes from actual people.

With clear guidelines, companies can help their employees understand how to use social media to promote the brand. To use your social media policy as an employee advocacy tool, the document should outline best practices for sharing company content on social as well as commenting on online.

An employee advocacy tool, like Hootsuite’s Amplify, makes it easy for your employees to share company messaging with pre-approved social media content. This reduces risks to your company and ensures everything is accurate and on-brand.

Creates consistency across channels

Use your social media policy to outline expectations surrounding brand voice and tone. Having a strong brand voice is beneficial to your business as it increases awareness, showcases personality, and helps users connect with your business.

If you have public facing employees, you also need to make sure they are aware of any brand standards regarding the appearance and tone of their social media accounts. For example, you may want your employee’s Twitter handles to include a reference to your brand.

At Hootsuite, we encourage employees who interact with the public on behalf of the company to create a Twitter handle using this naming convention: @Hoot[individual’s name]. This makes it easy for customers to identify Hootsuite employees and engage with them.

This part of your social media policy should also address proper use of images, video, and other media. If your business calls for images being shared on social media to remain consistent with brand voice, you need to outline these requirements in your policy.

What your social media policy should include

Before we dive into the specific sections, we suggest breaking your social media policy into two areas:

  1. Social media policy for the company’s official accounts.
  2. Social media policy for employees.

While there is overlap between the two areas, there are aspects of both that may require specific detail.

1. Rules and regulations

This section should outline your company’s expectations for appropriate employee behavior and conduct (on behalf of the company or personal) on social media. For example, restricting the use of profanities or controversial opinions when posting about the company.

A few specifics this section may dive into include:

  • Brand guidelines: How to talk about your company and products
  • Etiquette and engagement: Outline how you want employees to respond to mentions of your brand (positive and negative).
  • Confidentiality: Defines what company information should not be shared on social media.

2. Roles and responsibilities

This section should outline who is responsible for specific social media governance tasks. You might want to create a  table broken into two columns. The first column would define a specific social media responsibility—brand guidelines, for example—and the person responsible for governing that—likely the brand manager—would appear in the second column.

Other social media roles and responsibilities to assign might include:

  • Message approval
  • Customer service
  • Social engagement
  • Security and legal concerns
  • Staff training

3. Potential legal risks

To help steer you clear of any legal blunders, your social media policy should provide clear guidelines for handling any areas of potential concern. Do your research and be sure to involve legal counsel.

A few topics that this section should cover are:

  • Crediting sources: Specify how your team is to credit original sources if they are reposting or borrowing content from an external source (Image copyright, for example).
  • Privacy and disclosure procedures: Define what is considered confidential and non-sharable (such as plans for a rebranding announcement).
  • Employee disclaimers: Require employees to include a disclaimer when publicly commenting on content related to your business that identifies them as an employee. Typical disclaimers of this kind read something to the effect of, “views expressed are mine and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer”. You may also suggest employees add such a disclaimer to any publicly accessible bio, such as Twitter or LinkedIn.

4. Security risks

From phishing scams to ransomware attacks, social media security risks are, unfortunately, all-too-common. Companies must be hyper-vigilant when it comes to protecting their online presence.

Social media policies can help safeguard against such risks by making employees aware of the threats, how to avoid them, and what to do should an attack occur.

Your policy should provide guidelines on how to:

  • Create secure passwords
  • Avoid phishing attacks, spam, scams, and other malicious threats
  • How to respond in the event of a security breach or attack

5. Accountability

At the end-of-the-day, every employee is responsible for what they publish online. Remind your people to exercise caution and common sense whether they’re posting on behalf of the company or on their personal channels.

How to implement a social media policy

Seek input. This policy should be crafted with employee participation. Taking a team approach will help ensure all your bases are covered and that everyone buys into the program.

Focus on the big picture. Social media changes all the time. Don’t get too caught up on providing specifics on each channel use.

Don’t discourage use. Your social media policy should encourage employees to be active on social and champion your brand. Avoiding creating a document of DON’Ts.

Social media policy examples

Finally, here are a number of social media policies—from both the private and public sectors—that you can use to inform your own.

Corporate social media policy examples

Government social media policy examples

Social media policy examples for the health care industry

  • Mayo Clinic Employee Sharing Policy: Short and to-the-point, this policy touches on things such as disclosures and employee disclaimers. Without reinventing the wheel, it also provides links to organizational policies such as computer usage, patient confidentiality, and mutual respect.
  • The Ohio State University Medical Center—Social Media Participation Guidelines: If you’re looking for a way to separate and define your organizational and personal use sections, this is a great example. The policy starts with a clear definition of both uses and goes into a detailed explanation of the procedures and policies that apply to each segment.

Social media policy examples for higher education

  • California State University East Bay—Social Media Principals and Engagement Guidelines: Work in post-secondary? This policy starts off with a quick rundown of basic social media principles followed by a more exhaustive explanation of its guidelines.
  • Tufts University: Like Ohio State, Tufts provides separate policies for social media activities that fall under its official banner and the personal activities of its employees. The former is quite extensive and covers everything from best practices to individual responsibility.

Hootsuite makes it easy to protect your brand across all social channels. From a single dashboard you can easily manage permissions, approve posts, edit messages, take advantage of compliance and security tools, and more.

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9 Little-Known Instagram Features You Should Be Using

When you know absolutely everything a social network can do, you can surprise your audience and better engage them.

There’s been a ton of exciting changes and updates for Instagram as of late. To help you stay on top of the latest features—and teach you how to use them—we’ve created this list.

9 things you didn’t know you could do on Instagram

1. Archive your old posts

With Instagram’s new Archive feature, you can now keep your company profile on-brand without permanently removing any outdated content.

Archive lets you move posts from your profile page into a private tab. If you change your mind and want to reshare an Archived post, it will appear in its original chronological spot.

How to archive posts:

  1. Tap three dots at the top of the post you want to archive.
  2. Choose Archive.
  3. The image or video will move into Archive tab.
  4. To repost an archived post on your profile, tap Show on Profile.

2. Add UTM links to your Instagram Stories

Instagram now lets businesses with over 10,000 followers use their new feature: adding a link to your Instagram Stories. If you’re sharing a blog post, running a campaign, or featuring contest, you can now send people directly to those pages from Instagram. You can also add UTMs to your links to monitor your traffic.

When you add a link to your story, users will see a See More button at the bottom of the screen, and can tap or swipe up to view the link.

How to add links to your story:

  1. Take a picture or video in your Stories app or import a photo.
  2. Click on the chain link in the top right corner of your story.
  3. Add your URL and preview the link if necessary.
  4. Finish any last edits to your story. Always include a CTA to the link you’ve shared.

3. Easily disclose your paid partnerships

When you’re running an influencer campaign or getting a celebrity endorsement, It’s important that your brand understands the rules and regulations surrounding such partnerships. A report shared by Buzzfeed shows that 93 percent of top Instagram celebrity ads are not FTC compliant.

With a new feature in test phase, Instagram will now make it easier for celebrities and influencers to disclose when their post is sponsored by a brand. You’ll now start to see a “Paid partnership with …” at the top of a sponsored post or story.

4. Save posts to private collections

You can now save other users’ posts to a private collection without alerting anyone. You can also organize these albums by different names, so if you’re tracking competitors, inspirational posts, or customer interactions, you can easily store and access them for future reference.

How to save a photo to a collection:

  1. Tap the bookmark icon on the bottom right of the post you want to save.
  2. If you have multiple collections, select which one you want the post to save to.
  3. You can access your collections by tapping the bookmark icon on your own profile.

How to create a new collection:

  1. Go your profile page and tap the bookmark icon
  2. Click the plus-sign icon in the right corner
  3. Enter your collection name, tap next, and save any photos or tap Done.

5. Rearrange your Instagram filters

If you’re running a campaign and need to access the same filter for different posts (or maybe you just have a favorite filter), you’re in luck. You can hide, add, and rearrange your posts to make sure that your most-used filters are most accessible.

How to rearrange your filters:

  1. Swipe right on your photo or video filters until you reach Manage.
  2. You’ll have the option to hide, add, or rearrange your filters.
  3. To rearrange a filter, tap and hold the filter, then drag and drop into new spot.

6. Replay your live videos in Stories

When you post a live video to Instagram, you can now post it to your Stories for 24 hours. Prior to this feature update, live videos disappeared when the stream ended.

When you repost the video, you don’t have to worry about losing views, comments, and likes from your live video—they will show up automatically.

How to replay your live videos:

  1. Swipe to live mode and record video.
  2. When your broadcast ends, click Share at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Your live video will be available for 24 hours.

7. Use location and hashtag Stories to reach new and relevant audiences

If you’re looking for a new way to extend your reach and find new fans, try Instagram’s location and hashtag Stories. This allows you to add a clickable location sticker to your story. Users can search and view public stories in any geographic location.

This feature makes it easy for potential customers to find your store, follow your brand during an event, or enter a contest.

How to use location and hashtag Stories:

  1. Begin your story.
  2. Click on the stickers icon in the top right corner.
  3. Select the location sticker and type in your location. A drop-down list will appear and you can choose your location.
  4. Do any final edits on your post.
  5. Click Next to post your story.

8. Enable comment block filters

If abusive or offensive comments pop up on your company profile, it can be extremely damaging to your brand. To keep comments and discussions professional, be sure to use Instagram’s comment block filter.

You can set up an automatic filter or a manual one. The automatic filter will flag and hide comments based on Instagram’s algorithms, while the manual blocker requires you to enter exact keywords or phrases that you want blocked.

How to enable comment block filters:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Scroll down to Comments.
  3. To enable automatic filter, toggle on Hide Offensive Comments.
  4. To set up a manual filter, toggle on Enable Keyword Filters and add your keyword list.
  5. Click Done.

9. Get in front of a local audience with the Places tab

The Places tab is an underutilized part of Instagram’s Search and Explore page. When you search in the Places tab, Instagram will feature the nine highest ranking posts in that location, followed by the most recent posts in chronological order.

To engage with what’s happening in your local area and get inspiration for your own location-based posts, it’s a good idea to check out the Places tab on a weekly basis.

How to search Places:

  1. Go to the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of your profile.
  2. Search for Places.
  3. Select your desired location.

By trying Instagram’s latest features and little-known tricks, you can better engage your audience and potentially gain new followers. Make experimentation part of your social strategy and start using these features.

Facebook Messenger Bots for Business: A Guide for Marketers

Move over mobile apps, messenger bots are here to stay. The latest mobile tech trend is software that pretends to be a person you can message through your preferred instant messaging platform.

And businesses and brands are turning to Facebook Messenger bots in particular—attracted by Facebook’s enormous user base—to engage with and service their customers who use the platform.

In fact, more than 100,000 bots chat to and help out people through Facebook Messenger every day.

Let’s take a look at what bots are, what you can use them for, and how you can create a successful bot. We’ll also check out some of the most popular and notable Facebook Messenger bots.

What are Facebook messenger bots?

A messenger bot is a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and converse with you. The more you chat with a bot, the more it will learn and the more useful it responses should get.

A bot is like an app, but the interface is a conversation rather than a menu. At least, that was the original intention when bots came onto the scene in 2016. Many bots today also use menus with preset phrases, such as “Tell me what’s new.”

Businesses in the travel, finance, media and entertainment, health, and retail sectors in particular have all found success with these pocket-sized personal assistants.

For example, you can open up Facebook Messenger at breakfast and ask your weather bot what Mother Nature has in store for you that day. Then you can ask your favorite newspaper bot for the latest sports or business headlines. Planning a trip? Message a travel bot for flights and hotel recommendations, to rent a car, and more.

Bots use AI technology to understand your question, find the right response, and deliver it in as conversational and “human” a way as possible.

Benefits of Facebook messenger bots for business

Bots represent the first large-scale appearance of AI technology in real life. Until then, AI was very much the realm of science fiction like 2001 a Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, and Westworld. There’s no doubt this gives bots that novelty factor that draws in many early adopters and generates publicity, which further increases adoption.

However, bots aren’t gimmicks—people genuinely find them useful. If you’re one of the 1.2 billion people who use Facebook messenger every month, it’s probably because it’s convenient and easy-to-use. And your Facebook friends use it.

Bots offer the same convenience and ease-of-use. Plus they let you perform tasks within Messenger that would otherwise require you to open an app, go online, or make a phone call. You can perform simple tasks like ordering a pizza or do something trickier like dispute a parking ticket.

Bots also deliver automated customer service in a more personal-feeling way. Type a simple “Hi” in the chat window, and most Facebook Messenger bots will respond immediately, answering questions conversationally and in real-time. It feels more like talking to a friend than a customer service agent.

From a business point of view, bots offer many benefits.

Not least is Facebook Messenger’s huge user-base. It makes sense to use a platform everyone is already using to enhance your customers’ user experience.

Customer service is a popular use of Facebook Messenger bots. It’s a way to help customers in a more personal way that incorporates your brand values and voice. It also helps you be seen as more available in the eyes of your customers.

For example, if you’re an insurance company you can enable customers to pull up policy information or even start a claim. Or a retailer can let people pull up their most recent orders, track a delivery, or find the return policy.

Businesses also use bots to help customers research their products, or to deliver content. For example, the Whole Foods bot focuses on helping people find recipes. Others provide specialized services and enable transactions.

Brands also use bots for awareness campaigns. For example, to promote their “Genius” series National Geographic used Facebook Messenger to allow people to chat to an Albert Einstein bot.

10 Facebook Messenger bot examples

Wondering how Facebook Messenger bots could fit into your Facebook marketing or customer service strategy? Here’s a roundup of brands that are good with bots.

1. SnapTravel

Finding a hotel can be a chore, especially at short notice. SnapTravel asks for your destination, dates, and budget, and messages you some deals you can book on their website.

2. 1-800-Flowers

The company that made it easy to order flowers by phone now lets you do it through Facebook Messenger. You can select the occasion, choose your flowers, add a delivery address, and place the order. The bot also lets you connect with a live customer service agent.

3. TfL TravelBot

If you’ve ever tried to get around London, you’ll appreciate this bot from the city’s transport organization. You can find out when the next bus arrives, check on London Tube disruptions, and generally try to navigate one of the world’s largest cities.

4. Trulia 

Real estate and bots are a good fit. Homebuyers often have a list of things they are looking for, and this bot lets you narrow down your options. The bot will also message you with new daily listings.

5. TransferWise

Send cash to friends or family around the world, the TransferWise bot is an instant messaging version of the app that does the same thing. Accountholders can quickly send money overseas by answering a very short series of questions in Messenger.

6. AndChill

Indecisive movie-watchers rejoice (that’s all of us, right?)! The AndChill bot is a film buff in your Messenger contacts list. Tell the bot the type of movie you’d like to watch and it will send you a suggestion and link to the trailer.

7. TechCrunch

This tech-savvy chatbot talks with you about the latest in the tech sector. To tailor your conversations, subscribe to specific topics or authors and the bot will send you news from TechCrunch about what interests you the most.

8. HealthTap

Forget long waits at the clinic. With HealthTap, medical advice is right at your fingertips. The bot offers a wide range of health and wellness advice, drawing on knowledge from a network of over 100,000 doctors.

9. Sephora

The makeup company’s bot uses a quick quiz to deliver content and products tailored to individual tastes. These include how-to guides, lipstick colors, and contouring methods.

10. Skyscanner

Another travel bot, Skyscanner helps you find the right flight at the right price, and connects you to where you can make a booking. You can set a home airport to make trip-planning quicker, and can even just type “anywhere” as the destination to get some ideas.

To check out these and other bots, just open Messenger and search for a brand name. The bot will take it from there. Remember the bots use AI, so the more you chat, the more they learn and the more useful their responses should get.

5 tips for using Facebook Messenger bots

Like any new-to-you marketing tactic, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the dos and don’ts before jumping in. Here are a few important things to consider:

  1. Have a strategy: Don’t just create a bot because other businesses have. Think about what your customers need and how they could benefit from one. Then design the bot around those specific needs.
  2. Consider the customer journey: Think about where your bot could fit in on your typical customer buying journey. Do you need a different bot for different buying stages? A bot doesn’t have to be a sale stool—it can help with customer service and research as well.
  3. Test what works: Be like a bot and learn from how your customers use it to provide a better experience. You should aim to constantly refine and improve the bot experience for your customers. For example you can test a conversation-focused interface against a more menu-driven interface.
  4. Perfect the bot voice: Bots are meant to be conversational, but the voice and tone still needs to fit with your overall brand voice. And think about “manner” as well as voice and tone. That just means using a slightly different tone of voice for different situations. For example, a reassuring tone for someone looking for the return policy. Or a helpful and encouraging tone for someone researching products.
  5. Write great scripts: Think about all of the possible questions a customer might ask and how they might ask them. Then create a variety of answers and interactions and test how they work. Use a tool like IBM’s Watson Tone Analyzer to check your tone of voice.

Tools for building Facebook Messenger bots

So, you’re intrigued enough to start thinking about creating a Facebook Messenger bot for your business? Here are some tools for building and managing a bots, including ones that don’t need any coding ability. Most of these tools have a free trial option.

Chatfuel

Chatfuel lets you build a Facebook bot without needing to know how to code. You can easily add and edit content through a WYSIWYG interface. Chatfuel’s impressive client list includes Adidas, British Airways, MTV, and BuzzFeed.

OnSequel

OnSequel is another tool that lets you easily create a bot with no coding required. Create any type of bot, including a storybot, personalbot, gamebot, and more.

Botsify

Botsify is another “no coding required” option. It’s also the only one from this list that appears to practice what they preach by welcoming you to the site with a customer service bot of their own.

Conversable

Conversable is for when you are getting really serious about bots. With a client list that includes Whole Foods, Pizza Hut, and Marvel, it offers a full-featured enterprise solution, including analytics, training, and conversation flow modelling.

Facebook Messenger Platform

The Facebook Messenger platform itself also lets you develop your own bot. It’s a little more complicated than the above options, but is well worth checking out. It offers a huge range of resources and documentation for developers.

Some ecommerce platforms even let businesses integrate Facebook Messenger bot functionality. Shopify, for example, lets users connect with customers through Facebook Messenger.

As bot technology matures, new services will appear and others will drop away. You can keep up to date with bot developments through online resources like Chatbots Magazine.

This should be more than enough to get you started with creating your first bot. Happy chatting!

How to optimize for user intent in search

User intent. Also known as searcher intent, it is a theory that unashamedly stands up to the more primitive pre-Penguin and Panda tactics of optimizing purely for keywords.

User intent and optimizing for it has come into being via a combination of three key factors:

  • Latent Semantic Indexing, Hummingbird, Rankbrain. All have fantastic and mysterious sounding names but all underpinned by the fact that Google’s algorithm is not exactly made up of high school algebra. Google is clever, real clever. The algorithm understands more than just the specific keywords that a user types into the search bar.
  • As a result of the aforementioned ability, people trust Google. They may not trust them as a business that will pay their fair share of tax but they trust the search engine to understand their query and as such will ask more complex questions rather than utilising pure keywords. To ‘Google’ is a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary!
  • The internet and Google (among other search engines) have made unfathomable amounts of information accessible to the masses. As a by product, Google is often the first port of call for more than just purchasing actions. More on this later.

Voice search has further stamped on the throttle for user intent with more and more never before seen searches due to the conversational nature of voice search. As such, if you are still basing your SEO strategy around keywords you should probably start to think a little bit deeper around user intent.

Finally, and this is an important one. Optimizing for user intent is not just about providing solutions or using synonyms. The majority of SEO campaigns are built around driving revenue and whilst rankings are great and indicative of campaign success, in reality you won’t retain clients without providing ROI.

Fully optimizing for user intent requires an understanding of how your potential customers buy via your inbound marketing channels. As a result, make sure that you have identified these sales funnels as they are crucial for capitalizing on optimizing your website for user intent in search.

User intent: An overview of the basics

What is user intent? In short it is the reason why someone is searching for something in Google. What are they actually trying to achieve as a result of typing (or saying) that search term?

Traditionally, the intent has been categorized as either navigational, informational or transactional although some like to define commercial intent or use different terminology such as ‘to buy something’, ‘to do something’, ‘to find something’, ‘to learn something’, ‘to go somewhere’ and so on.

These questions or intents can then help to you to identify your Buyer Personas and the stage that they are at within your inbound funnels. Again, various inbound funnels utilize different terminology, but I am a fan of Hubspot’s methodology:

Image credit: Hubspot

How do you figure out what the user intent is behind a search term? Honestly, it’s pretty easy. Just about everyone uses Google. Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes and ask yourself, “if I used that search term, what would I be looking to do?”

Also look at the types of search results that Google returns for a given search term; this is a great indicator of the user intent that Google itself attaches to that particular query.

Focus on VALUE for the user

Even if you don’t read on, here is a very simple tip that should permeate your entire SEO strategy. Ask yourself this question:

Does what I’m doing here add value for the user and if so, how can I make it as valuable as possible?

If you are taking into account what your user is looking to achieve and therefore providing as much value for the user as possible (forget SEO and rankings for one second), you will put yourself in a great place to have a successful campaign both now and into the future.

It is the primary focus for Google as a search engine, so you should make it your focus as well!

An easy place to start is evaluating each piece of content that you are writing. Does it complete the journey that the user is taking? If not, are there quick call to actions to pages that will? Your content will preferably be the former, providing solutions and value directly to the searcher.

In addition, if you continue to put the user first (instead of being keyword-focused) you will naturally create better, deeper, more complex and solution led content, thus satisfying the aforementioned LSI, Hummingbird and Rankbrain. Write for search engines first and you run the risk of lowering the content quality, in turn lowering the quality of your results.

How to align your SEO strategy with user intent

Targeting transactional search terms

For years SEOs have focussed on the sharp end of the funnel. and for good reason: the search terms with transactional intent bring in revenue. Let’s be clear, these search terms should remain a staple of any website focussed on ROI.

However, there are a few optimization tips associated with transactional search terms. As above, they are all focused around value for the user:

  • How easy is it to make a purchase from that specific page?
  • Are the call to actions clear?
  • Have you provided the user with all the information required to make that purchasing decision?
  • Is the language used focused around the purchase?

As SEOs, we have to make it abundantly clear to Google that if someone types in a purchase based search term, that our page is the very best result for that search term.

I hate to hammer it home, but it is the webpage that will complete the desired outcome for the user and therefore offer the most value. 

Targeting informational search terms

This is where a sit down with the team and the drawing up of a content strategy that is aligned to your user intent (and therefore inbound funnels) can unlock serious content marketing magic.

Real results you say? Surely informational searches only result in you giving away free information? Exactly.

Let me take you all the way back to the inbound methodology and the fact that people use Google as a source of information. Creating great informational content can have the following impact:

Providing value earlier in the consumer buying process

They may be wanting to research a product or service prior to making that buying decision. The more awesome information you give them the more aligned with your brand they become. When the time comes for that purchasing decision guess who they will lean more favorably towards? Of course there is a little caveat in that all other things are equal.

Earning links

Even if no sales come as a result of your informational content (unlikely), if it is good enough it will earn links as people reference the content…funnily enough to provide further value for their own users. These links will subsequently improve the authority of your website and help you rank for transactional search terms. It’s a warped digital version of karma.

Understand your user flows

This is particularly relevant for transactional and informational search terms. Top notch SEO incorporates more than just onsite optimization, content creation and link building. It should pull in all marketing channels, including design. It’s all well and good generating traffic, but it counts for nothing if the website does not convert them.

Identify your key user flows and actions that you want your users to complete on your site according to where they are in the funnel. Are they an informational searcher? The website needs to encourage them to continue their hunt for information on your website or start to transition them further down the funnel to a purchasing decision.

Really understanding user intent and user flows will only help you with your conversion rate optimization.

Adjust your appearance in search

In the same vein as design supporting CRO, your appearance in search should be aligned with the user intent. The two standard influencers here are your title tag and meta description, although additional factors such as schema markup can also be implemented.

For example, if the search term is transactional make sure that the metadata is enticing and using purchase driven vocabulary. Whereas if the search term is informational make sure that it hints towards how the information on the corresponding web page will solve the searchers’ problem.

Use your outreach skills

I thought we were talking about content here? Yes, on the whole we are but there are opportunities within link building as well. Some users will turn to Google not simply to provide them with the best result, but also a list of the options available to them. Common examples of how a small change to the wording can result in this alteration to user intent are as follows:

Tailor London > Best Tailor London

Or

Tailor London > Tailors London

The addition of an adjective or the plural version of a keyword can often result in lists being supplied by Google. Not all of the results will be these lists, but for those not already in the top results they do offer an opportunity.

Contact these sites to get listed – we saw a considerable increase in conversions by doing this for a software platform client recently.

Don’t forget local search

Mobile search vs desktop search is a mainstream conversation nowadays, with some stats showing that mobile search has a 75% chance of action being taken by the user.

With this in mind, don’t forget to optimize your local listing in order to sweep up all of the traffic (over 50% globally now) using Google via mobile devices.

Some useful tools

Keyword research is critical in identifying valuable search terms, whatever the corresponding user intent is. We have listed a few options below, hopefully you are already using these tools alongside Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer or whichever tool you use to look at traffic. These tools can provide content ideas that will drive your campaign:

Answer The Public

Using a who, what, when, why, how style format, Answer The Public will give you a list of search terms. Use these prompts to create content ideas.

Keywordtool.io

In a similar vein to Answer the Public, Keywordtool.io will display search volumes (if you pay for it) and commonly asked questions that relate to your keywords.

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo allows you to view the most shared pieces of content via social for a given subject. Don’t just rely on data fed to you, check how popular these subjects are in real life!

Google Autosuggest

Use Google’s own user oriented functionality to understand the commonly asked questions and search terms for a given subject. Start typing and let Google do the rest.

Impressions via Search Console

We always warn against purely using Search Console and Google Analytics data as the basis for decision moving forward, purely because it is reactive data.

However, you can look at search terms for which you are gaining impressions but potentially a low CTR and adjust the content accordingly. It may be as simple as making your metadata more attractive in the SERPs.

Horses for courses

The base theories will have to be adapted slightly to suit your particular needs. Some businesses may focus on impulse buys where others are deemed comparison goods and will benefit more from informative, longer sales processes. It is a ‘horses for courses’ scenario.

If you understand what you are trying to achieve via your SEO campaign, the journey taken by your user during the buying process, the various relevant searcher intents and align your strategy accordingly, it will place you in a great position to increase organic traffic and also your conversion rate.

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What does visual search mean for ecommerce in 2017?

Since the early 2010s, visual search has been offering users a novel alternative to keyword-based search results.

But with the sophistication of visual search tools increasing, and tech giants like Google and Microsoft investing heavily in the space, what commercial opportunities does it offer brands today?

Visual search 101

There are two types of visual search. The first compares metadata keywords for similarities (such as when searching an image database like Shutterstock).

The second is known as ‘content-based image retrieval’. This takes the colour, shape and texture of the image and compares it to a database, displaying entries according to similarity.

From a user perspective, this massively simplifies the process of finding products they like the look of. Instead of trying to find the words to describe the object, users can simply take a photo and see relevant results.

Visual search engines: A (very) brief history

The first product to really make use of this technology was ‘Google Goggles’. Released in 2010, it offered some fairly basic image-recognition capabilities. It could register unique objects like books, barcodes, art and landmarks, and provide additional information about them.

It also had the ability to understand and store text in an image – such as a photo of a business card. However, it couldn’t recognize general instances of objects, like trees, animals or items of clothing.

CamFind took the next step, offering an app where users could take photos of any object and see additional information alongside shopping results. My tests (featuring our beautiful office plant) yielded impressively accurate related images and web results.

More importantly for brands, it offers advertising based on the content of the image. However, despite the early offering, the app has yet to achieve widespread adoption.

A Pinterest-ing development

newer player in the visual search arena, image-focused platform Pinterest has what CamFind doesn’t – engaged users. In fact, it reached 150m monthly users in 2016, 70m of which are in the US with a 60:40 split women to men.

So what do people use Pinterest for? Ben Silbermann, its CEO and co-founder, summed it up in a recent blog post:

“As a Pinner once said to me, “Pinterest is for yourself, not your selfies”—I love that. Pinterest is more of a personal tool than a social one. People don’t come to see what their friends are doing. (There are lots of other great places out there for that!) Instead, they come to Pinterest to find ideas to try, figure out which ones they love, and learn a little bit about themselves in the process.”

In other words, Pinterest is designed for discovery. Users are there to look for products and ideas, not to socialize. Which makes it inherently brand-friendly. In fact, 93% of Pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases, and 87% said they’d bought something because of interest. Adverts are therefore less disruptive in this context than platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where users are focused on socializing, not searching.

Pinterest took their search functionality to the next level in February 2017 with an update offering users three new features:

Shop the Look allowed users to pick just one part of an image they were interested in to explore – like a hat or a pair of shoes.

Related Ideas gives users the ability to explore a tangent based on a single pin. For example, if I were interested in hideously garish jackets, I might click ‘more’ and see a collection of equally tasteless items.

Pinterest Lens was the heavyweight feature of this release. Linking to the functionality displayed in Shop the Look, it allowed users to take photos on their smartphone and see Pins that looked similar to the object displayed.

In practice, this meant a user might see a chair they were interested in purchasing, take a photo, and find similar styles – in exactly the same way as CamFind.

Pinterest Lens today

What does it mean for ecommerce brands?

Visual search engines have the potential to offer a butter-smooth customer journey – with just a few taps between snapping a picture of something and having it in a basket and checking out. Pinterest took a big step towards that in May this year, announcing they would be connecting their visual search functionality to Promoted Pins – allowing advertisers to get in front of users searching visually by surfacing adverts in the ‘Instant Ideas’ and the ‘More like this’ sections.

For retail brands with established Pinterest strategies like Target, Nordstrom, Walgreens and Lululemon, this is welcome news, as it presents a novel opportunity for brands to connect with users looking to purchase products.

Product images can be featured in visual search results

Nearly 2 million people Pin product-rich pins every day. The platform even offers the ability to include prices and other data on pins, which helps drive further engagement. Furthermore, it has the highest average order value of any major social platform at $50, and caters heavily to users on mobile (orders from mobile devices increased from 67% to 80% between 2013-2015).

But while Pinterest may have led the way in terms of visual search, it isn’t alone. Google and Bing have both jumped on the trend with Lens-equivalent products in the last year. Both Google Lens and Bing Visual Search (really, Microsoft? That’s the best you have?) function in an almost identical way to Pinterest Lens. Examples from Bing’s blog post on the product even show it being applied in the same contexts – picking out elements of a domestic scene and displaying shopping results.

One interesting question for ecommerce brands to answer will be how to optimize product images for these kinds of results.

Google Lens, announced at Google’s I/O conference in May to much furore, pitches itself as a tool to help users understand the world. By accessing Google’s vast knowledge base, the app can do things like identify objects, and connect to your WiFi automatically by snapping the code on the box.

Of course, this has a commercial application as well. One of the use cases highlighted by Google CEO Sundar Pichai was photographing a business storefront and having the Google Local result pop up, replete with reviews, menus and contact details.

The key feature here is the ability to connecting a picture taken with an action. It doesn’t take too much to imagine how brands might be able to use this functionality in interesting and engaging ways – for example, booking event tickets directly from an advert, as demonstrated at I/O:

The future

Many marketers think we’re on the brink of a revolution when it comes to search. The growing popularity of voice search is arguably an indicator that consumers are moving away from keyword-based search and towards more intuitive methods.

It’s too soon to write off the medium entirely, of course – keywords are still by the far the easiest way to access most information. But visual search, along with voice, are certainly still useful additions to the roster of tools we might use to access information on the internet.

Ecommerce brands would be wise to keep close tabs on the progress of visual search tools; those that are prepared will have a significant competitive advance over those that aren’t.

This post was originally published on our sister site, ClickZ, and has been reproduced here for the enjoyment of our audience on Search Engine Watch.

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What will Google’s expanded policy on harmful content mean for SEO companies?

Google recently announced that it will be expanding its hate-speech policy for publishers that use the company’s ad network.

It’s an effort to address concerns about ads funding inappropriate content online. While Google is constantly updating its policies, this particular update could have a significant impact on the way digital marketers select clients.

It also raises an important question for SEO companies: do we have a role to play in combating harmful content online? And how should we go about navigating Google’s new policies if so?

Google’s new harmful content guidelines

Google made the decision to change its policies for a number of reasons, one of the biggest being the early 2017 Youtube controversy. In an effort to guard against “explicit” content with its restricted mode, the company mistakenly targeted multiple LGBTQ+ creators.

In its original response to the issue, YouTube said the mode was only applied to LGBTQ+ issues that also addressed mature subjects such as sexuality and politics. But as more creators, including musical duo Tegan and Sara, Tyler Oakley, and others began to speak out, it became clear that innocent creators were getting swept up into the “explicit” content list.

And, of course, the spread of “fake news” in search results and social media forced Silicon Valley titans to confront some thorny issues. In the months since these two big issues, The Hill reported that Google banned more than 200 publishers from its search results.

According to Rick Summers, who oversees the development and implementation of Google policies impacting publishers, the new policy additions are geared toward creating a safer, more positive Internet.

Specifically, Google’s new policies will “address a more divisive and toxic online environment, where an increasing amount of content is frankly right at the edge of what we consider traditionally to be hate speech,” Summers told Recode in April.

In addition, these changes will effectively broaden Google’s definition of hate speech. Now, it will include populations such as immigrants and refugees under its discriminatory language guidelines. It will also address more directly those pages that, for example, deny the Holocaust or advocate for the exclusion of select groups of people. Previously, the policy was more selective (in the United States, at least).

According to Recode, the previous policy addressed “speech that was threatening or harassing against defined groups, including ethnic and religious groups, and LGBT groups and individuals.”

A Google spokesperson said that while the changes will be global, they will also take time to implement on such a large scale. Google’s top business executive, Philipp Schindler, penned a blog post in late March in an effort to better outline Google’s up-and-coming policy changes.

In his blog, Schindler tells readers that Google “[has] a responsibility to protect this vibrant, creative world—from emerging creators to established publishers—even when we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.”

The post goes on to discuss the controversies mentioned earlier, as well as a list of upcoming policy changes and their goals. These policies, Schindler says, will both respect the values of Google and the creators who depend on it, and help advertisers reach the audiences they need to.

But what does that mean for SEO companies?

Ultimately, it means some digital marketers may choose to be more selective when accepting new clients. It’s hard to help someone rank if they’re being excluded from Google search results.

But that also begs the question, how do SEO companies decide what defines a “good” client? Should companies even be applying ethical judgments like this to clients? If so, is the decision dependent on each company’s individual code of ethics, or is it up to Google to decide?

You know you’ve stepped into a minefield when you have to use this many rhetorical questions in a row.

The resources out there for clients seeking SEO services are practically limitless, but the same isn’t necessarily true for SEO companies seeking clients. Google has even released official guidelines for companies searching for the right SEO company:

Clients looking for reputable SEO services are often told to follow Google’s guidelines if they want to find a reputable company. Fortunately, SEO companies can also utilize that practice to vet potential clients.

Take HubShout, for instance. Here, following Google’s AdWords guidelines essentially takes the decision out of our hands. While we have values as a company, following these policies to the letter allows us to select only what Google deems “good” clients. This also ensures that no personal or political biases influence our decision making. In short, as long as a potential client meets our policy — not in violation of Google AdWords, not unethical, small business — we will take them on.

Prohibited content, according to Google, includes content that markets counterfeit products, dangerous products or services such as recreational drugs or firearms, and content that enables dishonest behavior.

In addition, content including “bullying or intimidation of an individual or group, racial discrimination, hate group paraphernalia, graphic crime scene or accident images, cruelty to animals, murder, self-harm, extortion or blackmail, sale or trade of endangered species, [or] ads using profane language,” is considered inappropriate by Google’s standards.

But as we discussed earlier, those policies may be updated in the near future, providing SEO companies with an even more extensive resource for determining which clients to take on. In the end, Google and other search engines often serve as the standard by which the vast majority of digital marketing companies must operate.

Finally, we have one last rhetorical question, and it’s a big one: Will Google’s new and improved policies actually create a safer, more accepting internet, or will they simply tuck away the dark corners of the web we don’t want to see?

Fortunately, digital marketers aren’t philosophers; it’s not our job to answer these big questions. It’s our job to help clients get onto those crucial Search Engine Results Pages.

And if there’s less hate speech and inappropriate content along the way, then hopefully the internet will become a better place to work.

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How to tell if your website is due for a redesign

Designing a functional website doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and energy (and sometimes, a lot of money) to get your site in working order.

Like any other technology, the internet changes at a rapid rate. Users are utilizing various devices to view websites. For your users to maneuver through your website, you need to constantly update and adapt.

Plus, Google algorithms are constantly changing – your website’s usability affects your Google search rankings.

In short, you may not know that your website needs an overhaul. It’s tricky to keep up with the constant changes that take place behind the scenes. Thankfully, there are signs that your website needs a facelift.

Here are some of the signs that your website needs redesigning.

High bounce rate

The analytics of your website show more than how users navigate through your website. They also show whether or not you should be optimizing your website’s design.

One of the biggest analytics you should be looking at is your bounce rate. Below is a screenshot of where you can find this on Google Analytics under the Traffic Section found in “Acquisition”:

Your bounce rate is the rate at which users are leaving your website. What would cause a user to leave a website? Some factors include:

Slow loading pages

Google promotes high-quality content and pages for their users. Their algorithms rank pages with faster loading times higher than those who have slower loading times. A faster website is not only good SEO practice, it also affects how your users navigate on your page. If a user encounters a slower website, they won’t stick around.

You can check the speed of your website with the PageSpeed Insights tool, shown below. This doesn’t necessarily mean your site needs a total redesign (a few things just may need to be improved), but it can be a contributing factor.

For more tips for getting a handle on your site speed, check out Ann Smarty’s comprehensive piece, ‘All you need to master your site speed without getting overwhelmed‘.

Technical errors

Notice that your bounce rate is all of a sudden super high? Take a look at how long users are on your page. If they’re only sticking around for a few seconds, you may have a 404 issue.

Take a look at your site from your visitors’ point of view (use different browsers, as this can also be the issue). You can also use Google’s Search Console to check the Crawl Errors.

Poor user experience (UX)

Have you ever been to a website with so many popups you couldn’t find the actual content? Google punishes those types of websites, and the average user won’t stick around if they can’t find the content they’re looking for.

This also contributes to difficult navigation, causing the user’s experience to drop significantly. Make sure that your website’s map is coherent and flows comfortably for the average user.

Mobile friendly websites

You’ve heard that more and more users are utilizing their mobile devices to access the Internet. In fact, nearly 60% of searches are carried out on mobile devices. Make sure that your website’s buttons are easy enough to access via a mobile device. Ensure that your landing pages are accessible via a mobile phone.

Google has an excellent free tool that allows you to test how well your website responds on devices like smartphones and tablets. Simply enter in your website’s landing page, and let the tool tell you how well it performs on mobile devices. The tool searches on a standard operating level (3G). For example, we did a sample search for Google’s website just to give you an idea of how it works.

The tool shows how many seconds (or heaven forbid minutes) it takes to load your website on a mobile device. It also shows you the estimated percentage of visitor loss you experience due to your loading time. You also have the option to pull up a free report that shows how you can fix any issues that affect mobile loading time.

For a more in-depth exploration of how to test for issues with your mobile site speed, don’t miss Andy Favell’s column, ‘How to optimize your mobile site speed: Testing for issues‘.

Outdated web design

Have you ever heard that by the time you purchase a brand new computer, it’s already outdated? The Internet works the exact same way. By the time you update your website, it’s already depreciating.

Remember the websites of the 90s? Blinking buttons, grayscale and neon colors, and lots of graphics? While many of those websites are still functioning, they’re not enticing the modern user to visit them. For example, take a look at www.ifindit.com.

First impressions mean everything, and this goes for websites as well. You not only lose credibility with poor web design, you lose visitors. Haven’t updated your website in a while? Here’s a quick primer on one of the most current trends in web design:

Modular design

Stemming from the simplicity of newer websites, modular design is becoming more popular. The basic principle behind modular design is to use a single, flexible template that can be adapted to different kinds of content, rather than a custom-made template tailored to each specific content type. It’s the design equivalent of the intelligent content trend in content marketing.

While modular design isn’t always appropriate for 100% of cases, in many of them it is more efficient, less resource-intensive and is an easy design for users to navigate.

Here’s an example of a modular website design by Waaark design studio:

The takeaway

Think of your website as a brick and mortar business. If the shingles are falling off and your windows are boarded up, no one’s going to stop in. Sometimes it takes a little revamping to get things going again. When you’ve spent time and money designing your website, parting with the old and accepting the new is difficult.

Chances are, you aren’t aware that your website needs fixing. If your website needs an upgrade, the signs are right in front of you. Take a look at your website’s analytics – are there issues that can be improved? Adapt to the changing times and get your website mobile friendly.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try something new with your web design. Overhauling your website may sound daunting, but taking the plunge will be worth the risk.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for NoRiskSEO, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her services at amandadisilvestro.com.

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Pump the brakes: SEO and its sweeping statements

Cartoon image of a cat with its paws over its mouth and OMG! written in a thought bubble above its head

The following article is an opinion post written by a guest author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Search Engine Watch.

Knee-jerk reactions are rarely based on sound judgement. Instead they are driven by emotion. In such scenarios, you would be better off giving due consideration prior to taking action.

The problem is that this advice is lost upon what would appear to be a worryingly large portion of the SEO world. At critical points, the SEO community has proven that they are prone to not only making knee-jerk reactions, but then vehemently defending these reactions long after the dust has settled.

It is somewhat excusable though. Search Engine Optimization is an imperfect science. Google is continually changing their fiendishly complex algorithms and will often neither confirm or deny such changes.

It’s a poker game where everyone wears masks and keeps their cards very close to their chest – and no-one shows their cards for free. Add to this the threat of your website being heavily sanctioned by one of Google’s many bizarrely-named updates due to ‘spammy’ techniques, and you can see why people are on edge.

To add to this, the amount of ‘how to’ SEO articles on the web is staggering, and can be intimidating even for those working in the industry every day. It can be a challenge to decipher which research to trust or whose advice to take. As a direct result, SEOs tend to hang on every last word released by Google.

Filter this down and the recognized names in the industry – the likes of Rand Fishkin, John Mueller, Danny Sullivan and Neil Patel, among others, hold considerable sway over how the industry acts.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s the knee-jerk nature of reactions to news or statements made by Google or the aforementioned industry experts. The community treats these like a call to arms, without considering the individualistic nature of any SEO campaign or the often countless other factors that should be taken into account.

Matt Cutt’s denouncement of spammy guest blogging in 2014 was one such example:

“Guest blogging is dead!”

In January 2014 Google’s very own leader of the crusades against spam, Matt Cutts, posted an article on his blog titled “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO”, a strongly-worded commentary on how the SEO community had used guest blogging as a manipulative SEO technique. They had ignored the distinction made by Cutts himself between high quality and low quality guest posting, a distinction that was central to the point he was making.

What followed was a deluge of articles warning readers not to engage in any sort of guest blogging. That guest blogging was “dead” and would fetch heavy penalties – irrespective of whether you were contributing heavily researched articles to major media outlets, that were then engaged with and shared on the web hundreds or thousands of times.

The reaction was so one-sided that Cutts had to add a final paragraph to his blog stating that he was not “throwing the baby out with the bath water” and that high-quality guest blogging was acceptable; marketers just needed to make sure it was of the right quality.

However, the myth of “dead” guest blogging has persisted, and you’ll still find people who fail to make the distinction.

“SEO is dead!”

Following the sudden release into the wild of Google’s pet Panda and Penguin earlier this decade, there was a surge in statements that “SEO is dead”. Many despaired, while others sought quick fixes – but there were some who realized that in fact, only the old spammy version of SEO was dead.

The quality, relevance and user driven SEO environment was actually more important than it ever was. Speaking to Josh Steimle on the subject, he had the following commentary:

“We get sweeping statements about the state of SEO because it’s human nature–we want quick fixes, easy solutions, and above all, we want safety and predictability. It’s easier to say that guest post blogging is dead, don’t do it, than it is to say that some guest post blogging is good, some is bad, and that you have to consider each situation on its own merits to determine what’s what.

“The good news, at least for SEO experts and companies who use SEO wisely, is that alarmist commentary helps separate the professionals from the amateurs, which gives an advantage to those who keep a cool head and do the work required to truly understand SEO.”

Don’t deviate from the path

The fact is that yes, technical SEO can be pretty darn complex and there are a lot of factors to consider. But isn’t that the same with any campaign, or indeed any business venture?

Many may complain that Google moves the goalposts but in actual fact, the fundamentals remain the same. Avoiding manipulative behavior, staying relevant, developing authority and thinking about your users are four simple factors that will go a long way to keeping you on the straight and narrow.

The Google updates are inevitable. Techniques will evolve, and results will require some hard graft. Every campaign is different, but if you stick to the core principles of white-hat SEO, you need not take notice of the sweeping statements that abound in our corner of the marketing world. Nor should you have to fear future Google updates.

The irony is not lost on me that I have made some rather wide-ranging statements of my own in this post. Nevertheless, I urge you to stop and take a breath before reacting to the next piece of revolutionary news that comes up in your Google alerts.

SEO will continue to be a critical marketing function for years to come, and abiding by its core pillars will prevent you from having to lose the metaphorical baby when dispensing of its bathing water.

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How to (Really) Get Thousands of Free YouTube Subscribers

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

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

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

11 ways to get free YouTube subscribers

1. Stop hacking. Start promoting.

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

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

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

I had to watch.

Free YouTube subscribers

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

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

Free YouTube Subscribers

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

I’m sure you can spot the error?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Follow the 1×4 content schedule

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

Cochrane says publishing frequency is key.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Stop talking. Start delivering.

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

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

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

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

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

4. Convert searchers to subscribers with playlists

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

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

Create playlists for three types of cohorts:

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

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

free YouTube subscribers

It’s easy to create a playlist in YouTube.

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

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

5. Expand your search net with Pinterest

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

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

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

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

6. Add a mention in Amazon Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

7. Promote your YouTube channel with Facebook Groups

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

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

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

8. Promote with Subreddits

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

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

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

9. Create searchable titles

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

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

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

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

10. Translate popular videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related YouTube resources

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

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The 5 Key Ingredients of a Perfect Facebook Post

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

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

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

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

5 components of a perfect Facebook post

1. Great copy

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

Keep it short

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

Use emoji

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

Tease the content

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

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

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

2. Compelling visuals

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

Wood and Colling recommend that social media managers:

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

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

3. Uses the algorithm to increase reach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. The timing is right

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

So know when and how often to post.

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

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

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

5. These common mistakes are avoided

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

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

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

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

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