Category Archives: Social Media Marketing

Are keywords still relevant to SEO in 2018?

What a useless article! Anyone worth their salt in the SEO industry knows that a blinkered focus on keywords in 2018 is a recipe for disaster


Sure, I couldn’t agree with you more, but when you dive into the subject it uncovers some interesting issues.

If you work in the industry you will no doubt have had the conversation with someone who knows nothing about SEO, who subsequently says something along the lines of:

“SEO? That’s search engine optimization. It’s where you put your keywords on your website, right?”

Extended dramatic sigh. Potentially a hint of aloof eye rolling.

It is worth noting that when we mention ‘keywords’ we are referring to exact match keywords, usually of the short tail variety and often high-priority transactional keywords.

To set the scene, I thought it would be useful to sketch out a polarized situation:

Side one:
Include your target keyword as many times as possible in your content. Google loves the keywords*. Watch your website languish in mid table obscurity and scratch your head wondering why it ain’t working, it all seemed so simple.

(*not really)

Side two:
You understand that Google is smarter than just counting the amount of keywords that exactly match a search. So you write for the user…..creatively, with almost excessive flair. Your content is renowned for its cryptic and subconscious messaging.

It’s so subconscious that a machine doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Replicate results for Side One. Cue similar head scratching.

Let’s start with side one. White Hat (and successful) SEO is not about ‘gaming’ Google, or other search engines for that matter. You have to give Doc Brown a call and hop in the DeLorean back to the early 2000s if that’s the environment you’re after.

Search engines are focused on providing the most relevant and valuable results for their users. As a by product they have, and are, actively shutting down opportunities for SEOs to manipulate the search results through underhanded tactics.

What are underhanded tactics? I define them by tactics that don’t provide value to the user; they are only employed to manipulate the search results.

Here’s why purely focusing on keywords is outdated
Simply put, Google’s search algorithm is more advanced than counting the amount of keyword matches on a page. They’re more advanced than assessing keyword density as well. Their voracious digital Panda was the first really famous update to highlight to the industry that they would not accept keyword stuffing.

Panda was the first, but certainly not the last. Since 2011 there have been multiple updates that have herded the industry away from the dark days of keyword stuffing to the concept of user-centric content.

I won’t go into heavy detail on each one, but have included links to more information if you so desire:

Hummingbird, Latent Semantic Indexing and Semantic Search
Google understands synonyms; that was relatively easy for them to do. They didn’t stop there, though. Hummingbird helps them to understand the real meaning behind a search term instead of the keywords or synonyms involved in the search.

Supposedly one of the three most important ranking factors for Google. RankBrain is machine learning that helps Google, once again, understand the true intent behind a search term.

All of the above factors have led to an industry that is focused more on the complete search term and satisfying the user intent behind the search term as opposed to focusing purely on the target keyword.

As a starting point, content should always be written for the user first. Focus on task completion for the user, or as Moz described in their White Board Friday ‘Search Task Accomplishment’. Keywords (or search terms) and associated phrases can be included later if necessary, more on this below.

Writing user-centric content pays homage to more than just the concept of ranking for keywords. For a lot of us, we want the user to complete an action, or at the very least return to our website in the future.

Even if keyword stuffing worked (it doesn’t), you might get more traffic but would struggle to convert your visitors due to the poor quality of your content.

So should we completely ignore keywords?
Well, no, and that’s not me backtracking. All of the above advice is legitimate. The problem is that it just isn’t that simple. The first point to make is that if your content is user centric, your keyword (and related phrases) will more than likely occur naturally.

You may have to play a bit of a balancing act to make sure that you don’t up on ‘Side Two’ mentioned at the beginning of this article. Google is a very clever algorithm, but in the end it is still a machine.

If your content is a bit too weird and wonderful, it can have a negative impact on your ability to attract the appropriate traffic due to the fact that it is simply too complex for Google to understand which search terms to rank your website for.

This balancing act can take time and experience. You don’t want to include keywords for the sake of it, but you don’t want to make Google’s life overly hard. Experiment, analyse, iterate.

Other considerations for this more ‘cryptic’ content is how it is applied to your page and its effect on user experience.

The rise of personal searches: How can content marketers take advantage?

As marketers in the ever-changing world of digital, success depends on knowing what consumers want and expect from us. After all, it’s the only way we can deliver.

So, it’s interesting to see that a recent data release from Google tells us that personalized search is becoming more and more prominent among internet users.

No longer are they turning to friends and family for personal advice and recommendations, but search engines too.

Of course, we already knew that… that’s why we work so hard at getting to know our audience and understanding their micro-moments and pain points, delivering the right content at the right time, in the right way.

But what Google is telling us is that rather than searching, “How often should you wash your hair?”, we are now searching “How often should I wash my hair?”. Changing those two little words is making the way that we use search engines far more personal than ever before.

And the data suggests that consumers now truly trust that their most specific needs can be answered by content on the web. In fact, in the last two years Google has reported that mobile searches using “…for me” has grown by a huge 60% over the last two years.

On top of this, they have also seen an 80% increase in mobile searches including “…should I?”. As a result, we really are treating search as one of our best, most trusted friends.

And that’s great news for content marketers.

For those of us working in motor, beauty, finance, fitness and pet care, it seems that this new insight is especially relevant – these are the industries in which users are most frequently turning to Google to solve their personal pain points.

How can we prepare and optimize our content for these types of search?


Creating calculators and tools is a brilliant way of targeting personal search terms and providing our users with the personalized response they are looking for. Let’s use a fitness example to demonstrate this:

This recent data circulation from Google suggests that users are starting to search for something like, “how much water should I drink each day?” in higher volumes than something like, “how much water should you drink per day?”.

Now, most of us know that the answer to this question will depend on a number of different factors including gender, body composition, activity level and so on.

What our audience is expecting from this search is a personalized answer that takes all of these things into consideration and tells them exactly how much water they should personally be drinking each day.

A water consumption calculator would do this well, and if the user wants the specificity of an individual result, they will be willing to fill in the necessary personal details to retrieve it. A blog post that simply states the average recommended fluid intake for a man or a woman as recommended by the NHS is no longer user focused enough.

Case studies and testimonials

Providing personalized content will not always be easy, and at times users may need encouragement to spend a little longer on a page to find the personalized answer they are looking for. In this instance, case studies and testimonials are a great way to push users further through their journey in the right direction.

For example, “How much money do I need to retire?” is a more complex question than our fitness example. There are so many variants that could alter the accurate and personalized response to this question, so it’s difficult to answer it quickly in a personalized way.

However, if we provide users with a testimonial or case study at the right stage in their journey – one that was created after a lot of persona research and uses someone or a situation that will resonate with them – they are likely to engage with the content.

Creating engagement via a case study will increase the likelihood that they’ll enquire with your brand for a more personalized answer, continuing their journey on their way to the personalized answer they are looking for.

Seasonal SEO and evergreen URLs: How to drive seasonal traffic year-round

Now that Christmas and the New Year are well and truly behind us, it’s time to think about next year!

While it might seem like an odd time to start planning for the holidays, this time of year is the perfect occasion to reflect on what went well during the last holiday season, how to build on it, and the steps you can take to drive seasonal traffic all year round.

Why is seasonal traffic so important?

Seasonal website traffic isn’t just a gimmick or something that can be considered a few months before the event. Many companies rely on these peak buying periods to help balance their books and flatten out their averaged revenue across the year – therefore it requires a dedicated strategy.

Interest around shopping online continues to increase year on year, with a greater swing towards mobile devices and shopping ‘on the go’. Connection speeds are faster and websites are optimizing for speed.

They’re prioritizing mobile viewing in many cases and the experience is often so rapid and easy that the concerns around clunkiness and security that once plagued online sales are quickly diminishing (if not non-existent for savvy users).

A blend of great discounts, quick deliveries, press coverage, advertising buzz and good timing has meant that events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (ironically both now dominated by online sales in the UK) are now cornerstones in many businesses’ revenue streams.

In this article, we’ll look into how some of the basics can help you slip ahead of competitors.

Permanent (evergreen) URLs

Staying active all year round plays a vital role in the success of many seasonal and time sensitive campaigns. We so often hear:

  • “Should I set up a new page for XYZ event?”
  • “We’re offering 20% off this weekend – do we need a new page?”
  • “Performance is up, so we thought… more categories!”

Well, it’s not always just a quick answer, there are plenty of factors that need to be taken into account to provide a considered (and correct) response. The trick is, this isn’t just about SEO – it rarely ever is! You have to consider all the below factors (and more) when making a new URL:

  • Time taken to manage and tag products appropriately
  • What do you hope it will rank for?
  • Will it cannibalise other keyword targeting categories?
  • Does it need to be indexed or is it for PPC/Email campaigns?
  • Will you add internal links to it – where will they go post-season?
  • Is the page going to generate backlinks?
  • Can the page be used all year (for example /clearance instead of /2018-aw-sale)?
  • Will you be printing this URL on brochures/leaflets, etc?
  • Can it be short and snappy?

What is an evergreen URL?

An evergreen URL is an address on your site that doesn’t need to change – see it as a permanent addition to your site’s internal architecture. A good example of this is a /sale page. The associated event may not always be active – but the equity of the page is not sporadically redirected to other URLs on the site throughout the year.

The dreaded dated URL

Avoid dating the URL – fashion sites are often the worst offenders for /aw16 or /ss17 (with the abbreviations standing for Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer respectively). How about just /new-arrivals, or going super short with /new-in (for example

But it’s not just category URLs that need attention and stability. There are a variety of pages that benefit from a carefully planned approach – next we’ll take a look at one of the most successful pieces of seasonal marketing (across multiple platforms) and how it impacts potential organic performance.

The search impact of Christmas adverts

Christmas adverts in the UK are a sign that the festive season is here… or they may just be a premature annoyance that definitely didn’t make me cry that one time!

Regardless, there are a few lone examples of where using a carefully considered (permanent) URL can be a viable source of generating natural links and help sell a story (…plus some merchandise).

John Lewis Christmas advert

The widely anticipated release of John Lewis’ Christmas advert is an annual event that is fast rivaling the Coca Cola lorries in terms of seasonal buzz. Other retailers have since latched onto its success and diluted the impact of these emotional shorts, but for the last three years John Lewis did something that really worked.

The below graph from Ahrefs shows how the URL received links from referring domains. Many of the links came from large influential sites including The Guardian, Huffington Post, BBC and HubSpot.

Naturally, these links occur shortly after the release of each year’s advert. This not only provided the site with authority and trust, but also provided a large amount of referral traffic.

The drop-off from these links is minimal and the pages themselves were well-crafted. What’s more, the URL itself never changed – no 404s, no redirects.

Something was missing this Christmas…

2017 saw a change to John Lewis’ approach with a separate sub-directory for content. The URL is far less marketable and the Christmas advert is less prominent. There seems to be a focus on the more commercial aspects of Christmas and event ideas, which is both a shame and a lost opportunity as the new URL has received far less buzz (as you might expect).

Competitors and other big brands have attempted a similar execution but are also being held back by inefficient URLs and a need for a little more magic. Some of the best near misses can be seen below (if any 404 or redirect to the homepage when you’re reading this, it only backs up my point!):

5 Powerful Tips For SEO On A Budget


In  my early days as a marketer, I used to dream about having an unlimited budget to implement all my ideas. OK, let me be honest: I still do that sometimes. I do it for my own digital marketing agency, Idunn, as well as for clients whose businesses I truly believe in.

But unlimited budgets are just that: a dream.

Even the biggest corporations in the world have a limited budget (albeit the limit is quite high).

So I snap out of it and work on coming up with the best strategies within the budget our clients or I have.

And you know what?

It’s actually quite rewarding!

I love looking back on how much we managed to achieve with so little. We work with a lot of bootstrapping startups, so we actually have a knack for making things work on a tight budget.

SEO on a budget is by far one of the most challenging and common issues of small and medium-sized companies. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

5 tips for excellent SEO results on a budget

Let’s take a look on how we can maximize optimization even with budget constraints.

1. Take a close look at your keyword strategy

I wrote a lot about choosing the right keywords here, but let me summarize this for you: try to go for keywords that are both easy to rank for and relevant for your business.

Here’s an example: it’s hard to rank for “hotel in Paris”, but you can rank for “hotel near the Eiffel tower” much easier. This comes with the added bonus of sending you qualified leads aka the people who are most likely to book your hotel.

Granted, you will get less visitors than if you rank for “best hotel in Paris”. But the strategy above won’t cost you an arm and a leg. And, after all, why should you care about the visitors who don’t turn into customers anyway?

2. Make sure all your information is correct

This is vital for local businesses, but also very important for any type of company. Make sure that your address, phone number, email address, contact person and ZIP code are identical on every platform you use, from Yelp to Facebook and your own website.

Make a Google My Business listing for an added bonus. This way, when people near you search for your products or services, Google will return your page as a result.

3. Write for humans

Yes, keywords are important. But not as important as keeping your readers engaged. If you take a look at the 17 factors that impact ranking, you will see that most of them speak about a great user experience.

Bounce rate, source of traffic, time spent on page and many others indicate that an unnatural writing style will chase off your visitors.

This not 2010. Google bots now understand user intent. And, thanks to innovations like Alexa and Siri, search has become more conversational.

A user is more likely to search “how do I make a chocolate cake from scratch” than “chocolate cake” today. That’s because they also know that the latter search may send them to a bakery shop. If users get specific, you have no reason not to.

4. Outsource SEO tasks

I know what you’re thinking: outsourcing means paying. And we’re on a tight budget, remember?

Of course I do!

But the kind of writing that gets you on the good side of search engines isn’t embodied by 500-word blog posts anymore. You need to go long form and in-depth. This means tons of research and a lot of time spent putting together memorable and informative pieces of 1500+ words.

And time is money. If you get this done in house, you are still paying an employee for it.

Most of the copywriting clients we work with say the same thing: it’s much cheaper to outsource to a reliable agency than to pay a full-time employee for it. Plus, it’s more easily scalable. When your budget runs out, you can pull the plug or limit your investment in content – without firing anyone.

5. Optimize and link everything

It’s quite common to have a superbly optimized blog post and forget about the smaller things. Meta descriptions, alt tags, image tags and more are equally important.

They tell Google bots that your content is relevant for the keyword you chose more clearly than an extra paragraph in your copy.

The same goes for linking. If you’re on a budget and links from other domains are an issue, make sure you do a lot of inbound linking.

It’s perfectly free and incredibly powerful. Whenever you write a new blog post, link to some of your previous ones. Ideally, the anchor text should be the same as the keyword of the article in question.

This is how you signal to search engines that your article is relevant for a certain keyword. The more links to it, the better its ranking.


Great SEO is not something that happens overnight. It’s something that you have to work on continuously. Even if you had an unlimited budget, you’d still have to constantly add new texts and review your links.

The key here is being patient. It may take you a while to see tangible results, but they will come if your work is up to par.

Whatever you do, don’t try black-hat techniques. It may be appealing to hire someone who promises to help you rank on the first position for the most competitive of keywords for a measly $200. But you won’t be ranking high for more than a week! After that, Google will bury your website so deep that you’ll have to buy a new domain in order to get another chance at visibility

How to Set Up Custom Intent Audiences in AdWords

Custom Intent Audiences in AdWords.

“Consumers are more curious, more demanding, and more impatient than ever. . . AdWords has been redesigned to help you reach these mobile-first consumers in faster and easier ways. Today, we’re introducing more innovations available only in the new experience.” –Anthony Chavez, Director of Product Management, AdWords

Last summer, Google added an array of new features to the AdWords platform including a new interface that Google noted was, “. . . the most powerful change [they’ve] made to how advertisers visualize and manage their campaigns in over 15 years.”

Following such bold changes, Google introduced exciting new AdWords features like promotion extensionsad variations, new opportunities to meet business goals.

What has many excited, however, is the new custom intent audiences.

In mid-November Google announced a variety of new sales-driving AdWords components, including custom intent audiences.

Custom intent audiences enables businesses to leverage the Google Display Network (GDN) to, “…make it easy for you to reach people who want to buy the specific products you offer–based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.”

Google explained the effects of the new audience option as followers:

The system works by employing machine learning technology to analyze a user’s current or previous AdWords efforts to produce a custom audience to target.

The automatically generated audience is comprised of the most frequently surfed URLs and keywords for a given product or service search.

While this may sound like a wholly automated marketing solution, users do have some sovereignty over the process as custom intent audiences can be automatically created by Google.

Custom intent audiences give both novice and expert advertisers the tools to successfully expand beyond the bounds of Google Display Network’s canned audience groups.

No matter which option you feel more comfortable using, each presents the distinct potential for entering scads of new, prospective consumers into a business’s sales funnel.

Where to Find Custom Intent Audiences

Once you have navigated to the Display campaign portion of the interface, you can head to the audience page to see both types of custom intent audiences.

Start by creating or selecting an ad campaign to run. Next, select the “Targeting” button just below that.

From here, you will be able to select “Intent;” this can be found sandwiched between the “Affinity” and “Remarketing” options.

Now you will be asked to choose between the automatically generated custom intent audience or to create your own.

Auto-Generated Custom Audiences

While crafting a custom audience is within the wheelhouse of some marketers, others might not feel so confident in the process.

For these folks, utilizing the automatically created audience is likely to be more their speed.

After selecting “Custom intent audiences: auto-created,” users will be presented with a myriad of possible audience options.

This is the defining feature of customer intent audiences, as opposed to the topic or placement-based options Display Network users have had up until this point.

Creating A Custom Audience

If you have opted to craft your own audience, after selecting the “Intent” option, click the blue “+” icon found near the words, “New Custom Intent Audience.”

With all your URLs and keywords in place, select “Create.”

You will then be taken back to the previous screen; here you can analyze your campaign’s estimated reach.

Feel free to play with your audience criteria until you have generated a reach you find suitable.

This high level of audience detail and identification provides business owners with a much more refined method for reaching prospects.

Get familiar with this new feature now, as it can help your brand earn tons of new leads and sales.

Will your business opt to leverage custom intent audiences? If so, do you plan on creating your own, or will you let Google do the heavy lifting?


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