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How to Optimize Your SEO Strategy for Voice Searches

How to Optimize Your SEO Strategy for Voice Searches

Did you know that one in five searches on a mobile device are voice? And there is little reason to doubt that this number will continue to rise as the months pass.

Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google will be at the forefront of voice search… but will your business?

In this article, we take a look at how to optimize conversational voice searches so that you aren’t left trailing your rivals. The time to adapt to this accelerating trend is now, and here is how.

Long tail is the name of the game

Picture it; you and your friends are eating dinner together when one of you has a fab idea – you should all go to Cancun for a vacation.

As you’re chatting about it, one of you opens up your phone and asks Google for the cheapest Cancun deals while having a sip of wine. Once you’ve got this information, you ask Alexa to book you a hotel:

How fun is this? Very.

Just like you talk to your friends, you can now also talk to your phone. And this is key to mastering voice search: you have to understand how humans talk to each other.

This has taken some of the onus away from keywords for online businesses as they seek to grapple with the rise of voice search. Keywords and algorithms still matter, but so too does natural human language. Ironically, as we enter 2018, it’s less about the rise of robots and more about the rise of humans.

Neil Patel recognized this a while ago when he told us to start thinking like humans again. Instead of focusing on short-tail keywords like “MacBook Pro,” you should start trying to second guess how your customers would frame a question related to your product, niche, or service via long tail keywords.

For example:

Best prices on used MacBook Pro

Long tail keywords have always mattered. They are essentially your best weapon for destroying your rivals. And now that the focus has shifted to voice search, long tail keywords are what will help you put some real distance between you and the competition.

Think of it like this: most voice searches are questions in the form of long tail keywords. This is how humans talk. We don’t coldly mumble “MacBook Pro” to each other. To outdo the competition, you need to pick the right long tail keywords that help you build better traction. To tighten your grip on voice search, you need to look for super-refined keywords, such as our example above and its variations, as per the image below.

The more queries you target related to a specific keyword, the more you can dominate your niche. People – though they’ll look perplexed if you tell them – talk using long tail keywords. It’s how we interact with one another, and it’s how we search the Internet.

Aim to rank on featured snippets

Not all search results include a featured snippet, but of the 1.4 million queries that Google tested, almost 30% do.

Featured snippets are a key part of SEO in general because they appear at the top of SERPs. If you can rank on featured snippets, you’re right in the face of your prospects. Now that voice search is emerging, featured snippets will matter more and more. Why? Because an individual’s mobile device reads out the top search result. If there is a featured snippet, this will be read out.

The key to ranking on featured snippets is answering questions with in-depth answers. Here are some example questions:

What are featured snippets?

 How does blood sugar affect diabetes?

 How do I invest in stocks and shares?

 As we’ve already explained, these are long tail keyword phrases that people are asking into their phones. It’s then up to you to provide answers that explicitly include the conversational keyword phrase, before answering the question with in-depth content that the reader and Google will find valuable. The stronger your content is, the better chance you have of ranking on featured snippets.

To improve your chances of ranking, include the long tail keyword query at the start of the article, as well as in the URL and title.

Go longer with titles and descriptions

Things are getting longer on Google in a move that seems almost designed to anticipate the rise of voice search. What do I mean? I’m referring to Google increasing the width of search results.

In the past, title lengths were cut at 60, while description length per line was cut at around 80. Now, you can go long, with 70 characters for your title before Google truncates it with an ellipse and 100 characters per line for your description.

This all means that you can now employ natural long tail keywords in both your title tags and meta descriptions without worrying as much about being cut off with an ellipse. Since individuals who use voice search tend to ask questions, including queries in your title tags and answers in your meta descriptions can help you get more site visitors.

Moz are taking advantage of longer meta descriptions

Focus on local search results

89% of smartphone users search for a local business at least once a week. When we are in need of a local service, such as a plumber, we can open our phones and ask Google to recommend the best local plumbers. Google returns the results, we make a choice, and arrange an appointment. It’s that easy for customers. But are you making it easy for them to find your business?

Optimize your conversational voice searches by focusing on possible local queries your customers might have. Here are some examples:

Artisan food market in Munich

 Handmade vintage goods in London

 Best-rated pizza restaurant in Toronto

The language needs to be natural, and it should relate to your local area while also matching – as closely as possible – your customers’ queries. Just remember to use phrases and words like the ones you yourself would use.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to anticipate exactly what your customers are asking via their device, which is why a Q&A section is well worth adding to your site. There, you can add a number of long tail keyword voice search queries while providing your customer with relevant, valuable answers. By doing this, you’re improving the odds of you hitting the bullseye with a long tail query used by your customers, and you’re also expanding your semantic core.

Understand user intent

This is important because Google looks for the intent behind a person’s search queries. If you understand why a user is asking the questions they’re asking, you can build related content of such high quality that Google will eventually recognize you as an authority and rank you highly. Maybe you aren’t spot-on with a keyword phrase, but if your content is related and valuable, your site flourishes.

How does this relate to voice search? If you understand conversational voice searches, you can understand more about who is behind a search, as well as why they’re searching.

For example, if I ask Google to “show me the best Black Friday deals on computers near me,” it says a lot about my intent. It says that I’m ready to make a purchase, but that I also want informational content that compares deals.

The more you know about conversational voice searches and user intent, the more you can create great content that is both keyword rich and offers enough value to the reader so that it satisfies Google. To understand more about user intent, check the related searches at the bottom of search results for a specific query. These give you an insight into the individual behind a search, including what they are really looking for.

Google loves the user more than anyone else and cares massively about matching them up with quality content. SEO matters, but understanding the user is more important.

Set up a Google my business account

A handy tip is to use the phrase “near me” in your content. Why? Because this is exactly what individuals say when they ask Google or Alexa or Siri for local business results. Example:

“What is the best BMW dealership near me?”

If your company is on Google My Business, it could show up at the top of “near me” queries

Of course, many businesses will be using the conversational phrase “near me” in their content. So how will users find your page? A person’s mobile device looks at where said person is actually located and pulls up the nearest BMW dealership to their physical location, provided the dealership is listed in Google My Business.

Submit your site to Google My Business; it doesn’t take long at all. There are other online directories you might want to consider too, including Bing Places For Business. Pick a super specific category, and this will boost your chances of showing up when someone voice searches for your niche.

The future and why it’s important

Google is changing more than ever, and the search engine giant is moving away from Search as it seeks to make it easier for Internet users to find the information they want.

A few factors have instigated the change, one of which is the fact that Facebook now enjoys a massive influence over Internet traffic. As such, Google has had to adapt, and conventional ways of directing traffic and gathering data are being replaced. Search traffic is not the king it once was.

Moreover, Search can frustrate the user. At the moment, there is a long and often bumpy road between a user making a search and finding the right information. Between search queries and the end path are the results, and while Google’s I’m feeling lucky button was meant to cut out this middleman, it didn’t work out.

Instead, Google has now set its websites on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The use of AI – of which voice search will play a key role – will shortcut a user’s path from query to information so that there is only one step – the get-info step. As such, users will be able to avoid the Web altogether.

Combined with the fact that more and more sales are being carried out on mobile devices, it’s clear that voice search is going to play an increasingly dominant role in how the Internet is shaped in the coming months and years. This means it’s time that you got on board, and we hope this article has helped. Feel free to discuss in the comment box!

Guest Author: Aljaz Fajmut is an internet entrepreneur and founder of Nightwatch — a search visibility tool of the next generation. Follow him on Twitter: @aljazfajmut

The post How to Optimize Your SEO Strategy for Voice Searches appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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High-level search marketing: How to keep your momentum from the holiday season going

Businesses tend to have a huge marketing push right before, and often during, the holidays, but often times these marketing campaigns fizzle out after the new year.

It’s easy to dial back your marketing efforts and budget after a busy season, but if you’re smart you’ll keep that momentum up well into the first months of the new year.

Here’s how you can keep up your push in marketing efforts in 2018.

Start email marketing campaigns early and target right

If you played smart during the holidays, your email leads should’ve increased significantly. The best practice is to act fast. Your new leads may have purchased their holiday gifts already, but that doesn’t mean they’re done shopping. Understand that your customers want to hear from you, so it’s best to act fast.

This starts with targeted email campaigns. Instead of doing the hard work yourself, use the help of marketing automation software to determine which content fits each audience. For example, automation software looks at the previous purchases of customers and prompts emails for similar products.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo it with the emails. This will turn your customers away quicker than they came. Offer valuable content in your emails early on and you’ll keep your customers coming back.

Some ways to add value to your email marketing campaign:

  • Reach out to customers who purchased their products as a gift. Use similar product suggestions for future gift purchases
  • Contact customers who left an abandoned cart. Customers often use their shopping carts as a “wish list” of sorts. Reach out to those customers to see if they plan to complete their purchase
  • Offer a discount to entice customers to purchase. Free shipping adds tons of value. Make your discount exclusive to email subscribers to further add value.

Continue to use paid ads

You already have your paid ad campaign underway from the holidays. Don’t let those ads go stagnant as you start the new year.

Leading up to (and during) the holidays, ads from all over are competing. That energy slows down as the holidays end. Take advantage of both lower competition and less expensive ads during the aftermath of the holidays.

This is a new year, which means it’s the right time to switch up your strategy. You’re no longer in holiday mode, but laying out the foundation for the rest of the year.

Do you normally bid second position keywords throughout the year? Change your strategy and look for keywords that are first position. The holiday campaign may have busted your budget, but that doesn’t mean you should pull back on your paid ads. You’ll actually spend more money in the long run, and completely kill your momentum from the holidays.

Keep your paid ads running throughout the year, so you’re not halting traffic and trying to build it back up after you run your ads again.

Take advantage of keywords around new year’s resolutions

“New year, new me” is the mantra for most people after the holidays are finished. A new year means a fresh start, and regardless of your market, customers focus on improving their health and well-being. Use these trends to benefit your business. This means creating impactful content that’s valuable to customers and their goals for the new year.

Use your content to promote your products and services in a way that appear useful to your customers. How can you portray your products as a tool for achieving customer goals? This tactic is possible to spin no matter what industry you’re in.

For example, let’s say you’re a company that specializes in green cleaning products. Cater your content towards improving health and keeping chemicals out of the home.

You know keyword choice is imperative when working on your search marketing campaign. Take advantage of new year resolutions by choosing keywords that match. For instance, words like “get healthy” and “get organized” are keyword phrases that tend to pop up as the new year approaches.

Look at last year’s organic keywords. Which were the best performing, and which could you stand to ditch?

Take a peek at your competitors’ keywords, too, to see what they’re ranking highly for. Incorporate these keywords into your blog posts and social posts to drive traffic to your company’s website.

Review your data and strategize for the upcoming year

No doubt about it, the months of January and February are slow months for everyone, no matter your industry. The best way to push forward is to take a look at what worked and didn’t work during the holiday season.

It’s also a great time to learn more about your new customers. This gives you great leverage to start working on your campaigns throughout the new year.

Look at things like your timing and segments. Who responded well to specific emails? Which groups brought you the most ROI? How was the timing of your campaign? When looking at your new customers, figure out which of these groups fit well for your business.

As far as your website goes, A/B testing will tell you which pages of your website responded well with your customers. Test your non-holiday specific landing pages and compare them to your holiday pages.

Notice the shift between the two and apply those shifts to your new year campaign. Take this information and tweak the things that didn’t work and apply those changes to your upcoming campaigns.

The takeaway

After the surge of the holidays, most SEOs and marketers feel they’ve exhausted their resources and budget. This doesn’t have to be the case. The success of a holiday campaign should continue well into the new year. Keep these things in mind during your slow months and you’ll keep the momentum up to prepare you for spring and busier selling seasons.

How do you keep your momentum going into the new year? Let us know what has worked for you in the comment section below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

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The Marketing Revolution No One Predicted

marketing revolution

Think back to the revolutions throughout history that shaped the world.

The advent of machinery, then information technology and then the internet all had a profound impact on the way we do business.

But first, let’s consider how these historical revolutions impacted businesses over time. With the industrial revolution the emergence of industrial technology and its new tools allowed businesses to scale.

One machine did the work of 100 men.

Trucks and tractors took over from horses and transformed agriculture, mining and construction forever.

However, as we transitioned into knowledge industries, it was the scaling of information and its management that became the challenge.

That’s where the software revolution came in.

The emergence of computers allowed business software to be applied to the workplace. Keyboards on the desk replaced pens behind the ears and messy hand written ledgers.

As the cost of computing fell and personal computers became ubiquitous, enterprise software platforms started to spread through the fabric of business.

The rise of the internet also produced another twist in the tale – the emergence of cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS). However, marketing, despite being a core function of business, was left in the dark in the early days of this software revolution.

But this is now changing.

At Dreamforce 2017 I sat down with Cambell Holt, Chief Customer Officer, at Mercer to discuss how Mercer is harnessing this new marketing revolution to engage customers and boost sales.

They are transforming what is happening in their business right now.

The marketing revolution

Marketing was always an art.

You hired an agency, gave them a brief and they went off into their creative dens to brainstorm and make works of art called advertising. Then you spent big bucks on mass media campaigns.

But the rise of social media networks and the mobile web changed everything in marketing by enabling democratisation. You could now publish your own content, such as videos and articles. Then you could grow your distribution on social networks and have direct access to target prospects and customers. This was the tipping point for the marketing revolution.

Then marketing technology started to make its mark.

Over the last 10 years we have seen the rise of platforms and automation technologies, which have put the power of marketing back in the hands of the company.

The ascent of marketing tech – case study

I was able to get some great insights from Cambell about how this marketing revolution was impacting Mercer and one of its key services – creating and managing superannuation funds for organisations.

With the rise of digital technologies the challenge has been to transform Mercer into a business where they have control over its marketing functions. Over the last four years Cambell has focused on transitioning the brand to focus on the customer and his key tool of choice to do that at scale was marketing software.

In the past they owned their technology and built it themselves but realised they couldn’t achieve excellence or scale quickly with that approach. Their new tactic was to become renters of best in class technology rather than the owners. This enabled them to focus on the customer instead of building technology.

By combining the power of Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud and their own insights and analytics tool called “Mercer Edge”,  Mercer was able to achieve two key optimisation:

  1. Segmentation – Building databases that allowed them to segment customers according to different categories.
  2. Personalisation – Using those lists they have been able to send the right content, at the right time, on the right device that was relevant to the prospect.

So how does the tech create a better customer journey?

Doing those tasks manually would be impossible. So machines do the scaling of the marketing effort. In applying and using the smarts within the software, they found certain triggers that they identified as critical in the customer buying journey. These could be as simple as opening an email or logging onto the website.

It can even be as granular as the software sending a message to the call centre, which triggers a call to a prospective or existing customer because they have hit an age threshold, such as retirement.

The key takeaway

Thanks to the marketing revolution, marketing software and its importance to a business has moved from nowhere to everywhere. Marketing cloud is now seen as being as important as the accounting and finance system.

Cambell told me that for him, marketing software now delivers more value than any other enterprise software system. Not only does it enable increased prospect and customer engagement, it also grows sales.

The results

Using segmentation and personalisation Mercer has achieved impressive results in the past four years:

  • Doubling sales conversions
  • Increasing customer engagement by 120%
  • Producing digital customers which are 350% more valuable than traditional customers

These are numbers that every CCO or CMO wants to take to the CEO.

The future

So what’s the next revolution?

The ability of marketing technology and automation to provide insights and scale business is now becoming obvious.

The future holds even more promise and possibilities. As artificial intelligence matures and evolves to the next phase, it will collect and manage the data at scale and use it to improve sales and profitability. This will be done using predictive analytics, machine learning and other emerging technologies to provide crucial insights for business.

Regardless of how technology evolves, the key to business success is always delivering an exceptional customer experience.

The post The Marketing Revolution No One Predicted appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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20 Amazing Star Wars themed Illustrations


This weeks post is a showcase of  the infamous world wide phenomenon star wars. Luckily a lot of designers are also huge fans of star wars, so we was able put together an inspirational post to get your creativity flowing of some of the very best Star Wars inspired designs and illustration. I hope you […]


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How to Write Blog Post Introductions That Make the Rest of Your Post Irresistible

How many people are actually reading your blog posts?

It is reported 43% of readers say they skim through posts.

If you want people to consume the content you’re writing, get them hooked during the introduction.

Take a second to think about the goal of each article you publish.

Are you just trying to get page views?

I see businesses and bloggers make this mistake all the time.

They’re happy just to get page views on their blogs and don’t care whether people are reading them.

But that strategy is very inefficient.

Yes, getting people to click on your post is half the battle.

You need to take the proper steps to market it correctly and promote it through all your distribution channels.

Your blog is the perfect opportunity to promote more content associated with your website or brand and engage with your readers.

But this can’t happen if they don’t actually read it.

You could be getting even more clicks and page views by utilizing internal links throughout your post.

Maybe you can make some money by including some affiliate links as well.

Here’s something else to consider.

How long does it take you to write each post?

image1 1

As you can see from the data, the average blog post takes over three hours to write.

That number is steadily on the rise, so you can expect it to take you even more time in the future.

It’d be a shame for all that hard work to get skimmed over and not read.

As an experienced blog writer and expert in this industry, I know what it takes to write successful posts.

It all starts with the introduction—literally.

I’ll show you how to write blog post introductions that capture the attention of your readers and get them to read your entire post.

Start with a strong hook

The hook is the opening line of your introduction, and you have a few options to consider.

Your hook could be a full sentence, single word, question, or phrase.

In case you forgot, I’ll remind you I got your attention in this post by starting it with a question.

After you come up with a winning opening line, you need to lead the reader into a transition.

The transition line or lines should provide some sort of clarification about the direction and content of your article.

Your content should be relatable, and the intro should reflect that.

Include a somewhat obvious statement that will get your readers to agree with you.

Speak directly to the reader. Talk about a situation they might be in that brought them to your post in the first place.

Address their problem, which you’ll eventually offer a solution to.

But keep it general—you don’t want to narrow it down too much and alienate the rest of your audience.

Here is a recent blog post I wrote about customer acquisition strategies as an example:

image2 1

Let’s break this down:

Sentence A is an obvious statement the reader can agree with.

Sentence B is a transition to show what the post is going to cover.

Sentence C is addressing a problem the reader might be having.

Sentence D speaks directly to the audience.

Remember, you want to keep these points general enough to reach a wide audience but specific enough to make the reader feel you’re speaking directly to their situation.

Look back at a little trick I used in the example above.

First I said “new businesses,” but a couple of lines later, I said “companies that have been in business for a while.”

This covers all my bases and speaks to the majority of possible readers.

Include facts to back up your claims

If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know I like to include lots of statistics and data to back up what I’m saying.

I do this throughout my posts, but I include it in the introduction too if it fits.

Scroll back up to the top of this post to see what I mean.

Including recent data from high quality and reputable sources shows you’re credible.

The reader will know that while you may be giving your opinion or taking a certain stance on a topic, you’re at least showing facts to support it.

This sets up the rest of your blog post.

If you’ve got statistics in the introduction, the reader can assume you’ll include additional facts throughout the rest of the content (which you should).

Numbers, in general, seem to speak to people.

Before you can get someone to read your introduction, you need to get them to click on your post in the first place.

Take a look at the starting headlines of the most engaging blog posts:

image3 1

Half of the top 20 headlines start with a number.

You can capture the attention of a reader with numbers in your headline, then draw them in even further with statistical information in your introduction.

You don’t have to wait to add images

As you can see, I’m a huge advocate of using pictures, graphs, infographics, and other images throughout blog posts.

It’s a great way to break up your content and make it easier for readers to skim through—a very common way for people to read blog posts.

But that doesn’t mean you need to wait until the middle of your post to start including images.

I’m not saying you need to put a picture after your opening line, but you can absolutely use photos in your introduction.

You can even add a photo to separate the title and the first line of your introduction.

Here’s an example of how I implemented this strategy on my blog.

image7 1

Notice the opening lines of my introduction here as well.

It fits the criteria of hooking the reader with a question, which I discussed above.

I used an image earlier in this post. It’s a visual representation of the amount of time it takes people to write a blog post, also making a point that you’re wasting time if nobody is reading it.

We just talked about the importance of using data in your introductions, which is why I used a statistical graph earlier.

Blogs with relevant images have 94% more views than posts with just text.

That number is astonishing.

It shows people want illustrations of points they are reading about.

Don’t make them wait. Give them what they want right away, and add an image to your introductions.

Be direct, but don’t give it all away

There’s a certain art to this.

You don’t want to talk in circles during your introduction.

Make direct statements.

But you also don’t want to sum up your entire article either.

I’ve had bloggers tell me they write the body of their content first, then go back and sum it up in the introduction.

I don’t agree with that strategy.

Your introduction shouldn’t serve the same purpose as the executive summary of a business plan.

It should signal what the rest of the post is about to get people to read the whole thing.

Save your summary for the concluding paragraphs.

Instead, try to hint at what’s to come.

Tease the reader to pique their curiosity.

Let’s look at an example.

Here’s a snippet from the introduction of a blog post discussing whether mobile app developers should launch their apps on the Apple or Android platform first:

image5 1

Look at how the author sets this up.

They do a fantastic job of stimulating curiosity.

The three underlined sentences all basically say the developer needs to decide between Apple and Android.

But right before the introduction ends, the author throws a tease, saying there is a way to launch on both platforms at the same time—without giving the answer of how to do it.

It’s implied the solution will be offered in the post, so the viewer will have to continue reading if they want to find out what to do.

You can implement the same technique in your introductions.

Bring up a topic the reader wants to learn about, saying something like “but we’ll get to that later on.”

It’s more effective than saying “this is how you do X, Y, and Z.”

Now the reader has no reason to continue because they already have all the information they came for.

Preview your introductions when you’re promoting the content

Think about how you’re driving readers to your blog.

Are you sending out a link that includes only the title?

Add the beginning of your introduction to these promotions as well.

Take a look at how Conversion XL does this with their Facebook posts:

image4 1

The opening lines of the introduction can entice their Facebook followers to click on the article.

It’s more effective than using the title only.

If you visit their website, they do the same thing here:

image6 1

Now they’ve included even more of the introduction.

The reader has seen enough now to be intrigued to continue reading the entire article.

This strategy illustrates the points we discussed earlier: a strong opening hook, piquing curiosity.

I recommend using this method whenever you’re emailing your post to subscribers as well.

The preview text can give them that extra incentive to click on the full article and read the entire post.

Write a long introduction, but not too long

You shouldn’t feel restricted while you’re writing an introduction.

Choose your words carefully, but don’t think your intro needs to be limited to just a few lines or a paragraph.

Write.

While the opening few lines may be the most important, you can still hook the reader with the rest of your introduction.

Talk about your personal experience, and explain what qualifies you to be an expert on a particular topic.

Nobody wants to hear about ways to start a business from scratch from someone who has never done it before.

If you’ve been part of ten successful startup companies, now is your chance to brag about it (if it’s relevant to the topic).

Your blog posts should be long.

Take a look at how the length of your post impacts social shares:

image8 1

Aim for at least 2,000 words on every blog post, but try to get over 2,500 if you can.

The word count also affects your search ranking on Google’s algorithm.

You’re limiting yourself if you keep the introduction to just 50 words.

It’ll be much more difficult for you to reach the desired word count that way.

Don’t be afraid to write an introduction that’s up to 300 words, but don’t ramble for 500 words.

I’d say, all your intros should be at least 150 words or so.

Conclusion

Driving traffic to your blog is great, but it’s not enough.

To fully engage with your audience and promote more content, you should be trying to get people to read through your entire blog posts.

After all, you spend so much time and effort writing them. Why let all of that meaty content go to waste?

While it’s inevitable that people will skim through your posts, your introduction can entice them to read more.

Start off with a strong hook. Get your readers to agree with your stance on the topic.

Speak directly to them by explaining a scenario or problem they may be currently experiencing.

Use data to show your blogs are informative and credible.

You can include an image in your introduction as well.

Let readers know what the rest of the post will discuss, and hint at a solution without giving the answer.

This will stimulate their curiosity and get more people to continue reading.

Preview your introductions when you’re promoting blogs on your website, social media pages, email campaigns, or any other distribution channel.

Don’t be afraid to write a long introduction.

Follow these tips, and you’ll increase the number of people who actually read your blogs.

What hooks do you use in an introduction to capture the attention of your readers?

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5 Tried and Tested Ways For B2B Companies To Stand Out On Instagram

5 Tried and Tested Ways For B2B Companies To Stand Out On Instagram

Instagram is a dream for businesses that have visual evidence of their product or service in action. Users can passively scroll through pictures and double tap to show their appreciation. It’s very simple to show off visually.

For B2B businesses that provide more intangible services, it’s a little more challenging. These businesses rely on relationships, word-of-mouth referrals and hard data to communicate the value of their consultancy, bespoke service or support – all the things you can’t easily take a picture of.

So can B2B businesses use Instagram? If your business is in a industry like consulting, finance, deal making or IT, should you just skip it?

Of course not. You too can take advantage of Instagram and use it to connect with your audience and reinforce what you and your team are great at. You just need proper set-up, planning, and a great bank of images to fill in the gaps.

Here are some B2B Instagram tips to consider:

Don’t do any of these things…

Before we dive into what you should do, I thought I’d share the top three types of cringeworthy Instagram posts to avoid.

1. Avoid the ugly. Popular Instagram channels are filled with beautifully constructed shots often with amazing light, balance, and composition. While you may not be an expert photographer or be able to hire one, you should think twice before posting ugly images. The ‘before’ image of a pre-renovated property or a pre-decluttered office should be shared with caution.

2. Don’t share flyers. Pictures of event flyers or website pages often don’t translate well into a square image – they are often too crammed with info and cropped in all the wrong places. Certain elements and information can certainly be used but they should be put into a separate design that is created especially for the square image format.

3. Links never work in captions. While you may be tempted to share your latest published article in an Instagram post, it’s quite pointless – the link won’t work. The text will stay static. Instead, link to it in your bio or create a unique visual that goes with your article (but fits well within the square format) and use the caption to reiterate a summary of key points.  

Getting started

For proper set-up, you will need three things: a 160-word bio including a link to your website or business, a good quality version of your logo which shows up well in Instagram’s little circle icon, and at least six well-planned, visually appealing images.

Once you have posted a grid of six images so your Instagram doesn’t look totally empty, you can follow others on Instagram who are in similar industries to you so that your stream initially is filled with relevant images which can provide post inspiration.

You will get much wider reach for your posts if you use hashtags, so one useful habit is to have a few lists of hashtags saved in your phone’s Notes app to copy, paste and edit where relevant.

Here are my top five tips for successful B2B Instagramming.

1. Plan for consistent activity

Social media is a commitment, and whichever channel you choose to use for your business, it requires consistent activity. If you neglect this, and your feed is empty or inactive, then anyone who clicks on your B2B Instagram profile will be disappointed. They will go from thinking, ‘Ooh, they use Instagram, how exciting!’ to ‘Oh, not much happening, how disappointing’.

It’s definitely possible to do a great job with Instagram without it taking over your life – you just need to be organized and do some planning!

2. Get everyone on board

Gather your team together and get everyone on board to get some buy-in, and more importantly, assistance.

One person should be in charge of posting images, along with all that goes along with it – cropping, filtering, writing captions, hashtagging – but original images can be contributed by anyone in your team. I recommend creating a WhatsApp group for sharing potential images or setting up a folder in Dropbox. Just make sure you agree on who is posting and how often, and what the guidelines for images are.

3. Understand ‘evergreen’ vs. ‘spontaneous’

If the aim of your company’s Instagram is to show off how great you are, then you need to think of different ways of showing this. Variety is the spice of life and advertising your services, sadly, should be last on the list.

Think creatively: find fun ways to show your team in their daily lives, and make images and videos of you guys doing what you do – out with clients, out at events, interacting with each other, delivering your product or service. Of course, not every day is a photo shoot day. Sometimes you’re too busy, and sometimes, the entire team has a bad hair day.

This is when you’ll need ‘evergreen’ images (and videos – don’t forget Instagram can have up to one-minute videos). These aren’t images that are perpetually green, but rather images that aren’t time-sensitive. They may include branded images that have quotes or sayings that resonate with your company values, images of completed projects or testimonials from clients. A bank of evergreen images means you can stop getting stuck in ‘I had nothing to post today so our Instagram was quiet’ mode.

Evergreen:

Spontaneous:

4. Create ‘content buckets’

Of course, how you creatively arrange your Instagram pictures in terms of frequency and style is up to you. The content bucket method works extremely well for many businesses. People will generally access your Instagram images in two ways:

  1. One at a time, as they scroll through, in between those shared by other accounts they follow
  2. In a grid, if they look at your profile.

The aim is to not have all images be the same as each other. A variety of image types means that you don’t risk boring your followers. Imagine if all your images were inspirational quotes, or they were all team selfies? It would never work!

Here’s how you can ensure good variety:

  • Create folders on your shared drive, or in Dropbox, named after the type of images you’d like to share – for example, Team at Work, Behind the Scenes, Wise Words, Our Portfolio, Team Pets, Quotes, Clients Testimonials, Tips & Tricks, Stats & Numbers, Events, etc. Try for five different folders.
  • Fill these up with as many images as you can of each type. Some of these may be just ideas in raw form – for example in the ‘Wise Words’ folder, you may just put a spreadsheet with a list of famous quotes by people who you think had smart things to say and get these designed into images later.
  • Create branded images. For some ideas like quotes, you might want to enlist the help of a talented designer. Note: with quotes and sayings, be sure to credit whoever originated the saying, if you can. And it’s also fine to ask the team to contribute things they always say at work – to clients for example! Put these branded images into the shared folder, handy for the main person who posts images.
  • Since Instagram allows multiple images in a post, some of the posts can have groupings of images that have something in common with each other.

5. Embrace ‘Instagram stories’

These are temporary images and videos that you can share which show up in the top bar for people who follow you. Not everyone is doing these, so if you do, it’s another chance to be noticed.

Stories disappear after 24 hours and don’t stay in your feed so it gives you a certain freedom. You may take a video of someone in the team or do a bit of talking to the camera about who you’re meeting that day, or something you saw on the way to work that gave you unexpected inspiration. Take this footage or these images with your normal phone camera, and then click on the little plus sign on your profile avatar, and choose from recent images/footage to add to stories. The extra cool thing about stories is that you can actually see exactly who viewed your stories if you want to be nosy.

One final point about quality…

Sadly, some of the B2B Instagram channels I have seen make it necessary for me to point out that your design, composition, and typography should be impeccable – it reflects how professional you are as a company. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation on your hashtags.

Good luck, and happy B2B Instagramming!

Guest Author: Keren Lerner is the CEO and founder of Top Left Design, a London based design and marketing agency. Founded in 2002, Top Left Design specialises in bespoke designed websites, brands, and marketing material with integrated marketing advice. Keren regularly speaks about design and digital marketing at seminars and workshops for industry organisations across different industries (property, HR, interior design, travel, food, film, finance, and law). She advises on social strategy and communication and trains businesses and teams on how to effectively market themselves online.

The post 5 Tried and Tested Ways For B2B Companies To Stand Out On Instagram appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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How to make sure your social media marketing is on track for 2018

A new year brings new challenges in social media marketing. Luckily, this is the best time of the year to review your social strategy.

2018 is officially here and this means that we need to plan our social media strategy for the year ahead. Every new year requires the necessary adjustments to ensure that we’re still using every social platform effectively.

If your social media marketing didn’t go as planned in 2017, this is the perfect opportunity to analyse what went wrong.

If you had a successful year with your social strategy last year, then you can still explore new ideas and achieve further success in 2018.

We’ve created a checklist to help you review your social media marketing and keep on top of the latest trends.

1. Analyze audience

Are you reaching the right audience? A closer look at Audience Insights on each platform can help you understand if you need to expand or narrow down your reach.

2. Analyze the platforms that you’re using

Use your insights from the past year to assess the effectiveness of each platform in reaching your goals. You don’t have to be active on every social network if it isn’t working for you – now is a good time to assess if you want to dial it back on certain platforms, or even stop using them altogether.

3. Measure your existing ROI

What’s your current social media ROI? Is it where you need it to be? Analyse your return on investment and get ready to set your expectations for 2018.

4. Review KPIs

Do your KPIs fit your goals for 2018? Now is a good time to update your KPIs if you want to change your social media marketing and strategy. Use your last year as a benchmark and aim for more ambitious, yet still realistic, targets.

5. Organize your new social calendar

It’s the right time to plan ahead and update your social calendar with the upcoming campaigns. Save time during the year by keeping an overview of what’s coming up.

6. Review the frequency of your social posting

Are you creating enough content? Do you create too much? Explore whether you need to focus on quality rather than quantity.

For example, Twitter may need more content than Facebook or Instagram, but you should still test whether your posts lead to the desired level of engagement. If not, reducing their frequency might lead to more people interacting with the posts you do make.

7. Mix up your content

Are you creating different content types? Maybe you can make 2018 the year that you invest in video, or experiment with GIFs in your brand marketing. Mixing up your content types can liven up your social presence, as well as taking advantage of the trend towards more visual content on the web.

It doesn’t have to create more work for you – some smart repurposing of your existing content can convert it into different formats without much additional effort.

8. Align social media with UX

As social media marketing becomes more complicated, a good user experience to the pages that you’re promoting becomes more important. If you want to bring new people to your landing pages you need to make it as easy as possible for them to navigate and proceed to the next steps.

9. Optimize your social content for SEO

Social media may not be an official ranking factor for SEO, but it can still contribute to your authority. Build your social presence, aim for engagement and add genuine value to your content.

10. Involve social media in your marketing funnel

As social reporting becomes more advanced, it’s easier to analyse whether social media brings you any conversions. Add to your new year’s resolutions to improve your ROI and improve the number of conversions that come from social media. A closer look at the leads’ journey will help analyse how social media contribute to your marketing goals.

11. Align social media with your business goals

Is your social presence reflecting your goals? If your marketing strategy is focusing this year more on engagement rather than awareness, how can you use social media towards this goal?

Also, if your business needs to improve sales, how can you use social media to make it the first point of contact for potential leads? If you start aligning your social media marketing with your business goals, you can reduce the likelihood of wasting your time with your social posts.

The major social media trends of 2018

If we had to predict the biggest trends in social media for 2018, then we’d focus on these:

The (continuing) rise of Instagram Stories

 Instagram has seen great growth in 2017, and all the latest features indicate that it’s gearing towards an even more successful year. As it’s already one of the most popular platforms for users, brands are flocking there to make the most of its engagement.

Appealing visual content will be crucial, especially after Instagram’s decision to get rid of the chronological news feed. This means that brands need to try harder to show up in users’ newsfeeds.

The biggest bet of the year for Instagram is Stories and their impressive growth over the past year. There have been more than 300 million daily active Stories users and many brands have already experimenting with campaign promotion through Stories.

What makes this feature even more interesting now is the fact that Instagram has recently introduced “Highlights”, which allows users to retain their Stories for more than 24 hours. For marketers, this means that if you feel that a particular story could be used for a longer period, whether it’s for engagement, product promotion, or a live coverage, then you can highlight it to showcase it on your profile.

As Stories were designed as an ephemeral feature, it will be interesting to see if their popularity remains now that is no longer the case. However, for brands, Highlights provide a great opportunity to benefit from this engaging feature over a longer period of time.

Video marketing

Video content has been used quite extensively on social platforms during 2017. As more tools show up to simplify the creation of video content, 2018 is a great year to be investing in video.

The best videos combine eye-catching visuals and an engaging narrative to grab the user’s attention and keep it for a longer period than text and even images can achieve. However, just because you’ve produced a video doesn’t necessarily mean you can achieve this.

It’s important to keep in mind that most successful videos are:

    • Short
    • Use captions
    • Capture the audience’s attention from the first seconds
    • Tell a story to keep the audience interested

Moreover, it might be a good idea to experiment with videos of different lengths to test what works better for each platform. Different social audiences respond to different types of content, and you don’t have to post the same video on every single network.

How about creating a full-length video and splitting it accordingly for every social platform?

Augmented reality as part of social media

During 2017, we’ve seen the rise of Augmented Reality in social media, with Snapchat and Instagram investing in filters and fun yet engaging features. Snapchat is already monetizing its AR Lenses by making them available to brands, and Instagram is sure to quickly follow suit.

Moreover, we predict that 2018 will be the year that it becomes much easier to create AR content. Facebook has already introduced AR Studio, and Snapchat has launched their own Lens Studio, in a bid to facilitate the creation of AR content on their platforms.

Both are aiming to make AR content accessible to a wider audience, increasing the opportunities for engaging content. As with Pokemon Go, more brands are ready to explore how AR can improve their digital strategy and we’re expecting more successful use cases during 2018.

Chatbots for customer service

Facebook’s chatbots have also seen growth in 2017, with more than 100,000 monthly active bots now in use across the site.

Despite some initial concerns by marketers as to whether a bot can be used as part of a social strategy, more brands have quickly realised that a successful bot can improve customer service. Whether it be to provide information, answer questions, or allow customers to more easily place an order, there are several ways to involve a bot in your digital strategy.

However, while bots can save you time and be helpful, it’s equally important to maintain a human element in your interactions. Many brands have seen success with a hybrid strategy of letting bots deal with straightforward queries, and passing the interaction on to a human agent if it requires more intricate handling.

Overview

All in all, social media marketing in 2018 is a much more complicated beast, a far cry from the days when we would count likes as an indication of success.

From social video to ephemeral content, augmented reality to intelligent chatbots, the components of social media marketing are unlike any other marketing channel, and as such they require a thorough knowledge of the overarching trends and how to apply them, an understanding of the different platforms, specific goals and dedicated tracking of the important metrics.

A closer look at the latest trends now will save you time spent trying to decide where to focus your efforts further down the line. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pivot and readjust your priorities at a later stage. Take advantage of the start of the year to get ready for another successful year in your social media marketing efforts.

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Update on Pawn Storm: New Targets and Politically Motivated Campaigns

In the second half of 2017 Pawn Storm, an extremely active espionage actor group, didn’t shy away from continuing their brazen attacks. Usually, the group’s attacks are not isolated incidents, and we can often relate them to earlier attacks by carefully looking at both technical indicators and motives.

Pawn Storm has been attacking political organizations in France, Germany, Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States since 2015. We saw attacks against political organizations again in the second half of 2017. These attacks don’t show much technical innovation over time, but they are well prepared, persistent, and often hard to defend against. Pawn Storm has a large toolset full of social engineering tricks, malware and exploits, and therefore doesn’t need much innovation apart from occasionally using their own zero-days and quickly abusing software vulnerabilities shortly after a security patch is released.

In summer and fall of 2017, we observed Pawn Storm targeting several organizations with credential phishing and spear phishing attacks. Pawn Storm’s modus operandi is quite consistent over the years, with some of their technical tricks being used repeatedly. For example, tabnabbing was used against Yahoo! users in August and September 2017 in US politically themed email. The method, which we first discussed in 2014, involves changing a browser tab to point to a phishing site after distracting the target.

We can often closely relate current and old Pawn Storm campaigns using data that spans more than four years, possibly because the actors in the group follow a script when setting up an attack. This makes sense, as the sheer volume of their attacks requires careful administration, planning, and organization to succeed. The screenshots below show two typical credential phishing emails that targeted specific organizations in October and November 2017. One type of email is supposedly a message from the target’s Microsoft Exchange server about an expired password. The other says there is a new file on the company’s OneDrive system.

Figure 1. A sample of a credential phishing email Pawn Storm sent in October and November 2017

Figure 2. Second type of credential phishing email that was sent by Pawn Storm in November 2017. The logo of the target organization has been removed from the screenshot and the color was changed as not to reveal the source.

While these emails might not seem to be advanced in nature, we’ve seen that credential loss is often the starting point of further attacks that include stealing sensitive data from email inboxes. We have worked with one of the targets, an NGO in the Netherlands targeted twice, in late October and early November 2017. We successfully prevented both attacks from causing any harm. In one case we were able to warn the target within two hours after a dedicated credential phishing site was set up. In an earlier attack, we were able to warn the organization 24 hours before the actual phishing emails were sent.

Olympic Wintersports Federations

We have seen several International Olympic Wintersport Federations, such as the European Ice Hockey Federation, the International Ski Federation, the International Biathlon Union, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation and the International Luge Federation, among the group’s targets in the second half of 2017. This is noteworthy due to the timing correlation between several Russian Olympic players being banned for life in fall, 2017. In 2016, Pawn Storm had some success in compromising WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) and TAS-CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport). At that time, Pawn Storm sought active contact with mainstream media either directly or via proxies and had influence on what some of them published.

Political targets

In the week of the 2017 presidential elections in Iran, Pawn Storm set up a phishing site targeting chmail.ir webmail users. We were able to collect evidence that credential phishing emails were sent to chmail.ir users on May 18, 2017, just one day before the presidential elections in Iran. We have previously reported similar targeted activity against political organizations in France, Germany, Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States.

Beginning in June 2017, phishing sites were set up mimicking the ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) of the U.S. Senate. By looking at the digital fingerprints of these phishing sites and comparing them with a large data set that spans almost five years, we can uniquely relate them to a couple of Pawn Storm incidents in 2016 and 2017. The real ADFS server of the U.S. Senate is not reachable on the open internet, however phishing of users’ credentials on an ADFS server that is behind a firewall still makes sense. In case an actor already has a foothold in an organization after compromising one user account, credential phishing could help him get closer to high profile users of interest.

The future of politically motivated campaigns

Rogue political influence campaigns are not likely to go away in the near future. Political organizations have to be able to communicate openly with their voters, the press and the general public. This makes them vulnerable to hacking and spear phishing. On top of that, it’s also relatively easy to influence public opinion via social media. Social media platforms continue to form a substantial part of users’ online experience, and they let advertisers reach consumers with their message.

This makes social media algorithms susceptible to abuse by various actors with bad intentions. Publishing stolen data together with spreading fake news and rumors on social media gives malicious actors powerful tools. While a successful influence campaign might seem relatively easy to do, it needs a lot of planning, persistence, and resources to be successful. Some of the basic tools and services, like ones used to spread fake news on social media, are already being offered as a service in the underground economy.

As we have mentioned in our overview paper on Pawn Storm, other actors may also start their own campaigns that aim to influence politics and issues of interest domestically and abroad. Actors from developing countries will learn and probably adapt similar methods quickly in the near future. In 2016, we published a report on C Major, an espionage group that primarily targets the Indian military. By digging deeper into C Major’s activities, we found that this actor group not only attacks the Indian military, but also has dedicated botnets for compromised targets in Iranian universities, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Recently, we have witnessed C Major also showing some interest in compromising military and diplomatic targets in the West. It is only a matter of time before actors like C Major begin attempting to influence public opinion in foreign countries, as well.

With the Olympics and several significant global elections taking place in 2018, we can be sure Pawn Storm’s activities will continue. We at Trend Micro will keep monitoring their targeted activities, as well as activities of similar actors, as cyberpropaganda and digital extortion remain in use.

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs):

  • adfs[.]senate[.]group
  • adfs-senate[.]email
  • adfs-senate[.]services
  • adfs.senate[.]qov[.]info
  • chmail.ir[.]udelivered[.]tk
  • webmail-ibsf[.]org
  • fil-luge[.]com
  • biathlovvorld[.]com
  • mail-ibu[.]eu
  • fisski[.]ca
  • iihf[.]eu

Post from: Trendlabs Security Intelligence Blog – by Trend Micro

Update on Pawn Storm: New Targets and Politically Motivated Campaigns

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Here’s how, and why, the Spectre and Meltdown patches will hurt performance

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Getty)

As the industry continues to grapple with the Meltdown and Spectre attacks, operating system and browser developers in particular are continuing to develop and test schemes to protect against the problems. Simultaneously, microcode updates to alter processor behavior are also starting to ship.

Since news of these attacks first broke, it has been clear that resolving them is going to have some performance impact. Meltdown was presumed to have a substantial impact, at least for some workloads, but Spectre was more of an unknown due to its greater complexity. With patches and microcode now available (at least for some systems), that impact is now starting to become clearer. The situation is, as we should expect with these twin attacks, complex.

To recap: modern high-performance processors perform what is called speculative execution. They will make assumptions about which way branches in the code are taken and speculatively compute results accordingly. If they guess correctly, they win some extra performance; if they guess wrong, they throw away their speculatively calculated results. This is meant to be transparent to programs, but it turns out that this speculation slightly changes the state of the processor. These small changes can be measured, disclosing information about the data and instructions that were used speculatively.

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Skype finally getting end-to-end encryption

Enlarge (credit: Skype)

Since its inception, Skype has been notable for its secretive, proprietary algorithm. It’s also long had a complicated relationship with encryption: encryption is used by the Skype protocol, but the service has never been clear exactly how that encryption was implemented or exactly which privacy and security features it offers.

That changes today in a big way. The newest Skype preview now supports the Signal protocol: the end-to-end encrypted protocol already used by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Allo, and, of course, Signal. Skype Private Conversations will support text, audio calls, and file transfers, with end-to-end encryption that Microsoft, Signal, and, it’s believed, law enforcement agencies cannot eavesdrop on.

Presently, Private Conversations are only available in the Insider builds of Skype. Naturally, the Universal Windows Platform version of the app—the preferred version on Windows 10—isn’t yet supported. In contrast, the desktop version of the app, along with the iOS, Android, Linux, and macOS clients, all have compatible Insider builds. Private Conversations aren’t the default and don’t appear to yet support video calling. The latter limitation shouldn’t be insurmountable (Signal’s own app offers secure video calling). We hope to see the former change once updated clients are stable and widely deployed.

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http://ift.tt/2D1lCrk Source: https://arstechnica.com




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