SEO Best Practices: Hashtags or Keywords?

With the popularity and increasing influence of social media, marketers are rushing to select or create just the right hashtags to add to their social media posts. Hashtags, although useful, are not the same as the venerable search keywords and should not be confused with each other or, so to speak, concatenated in the best SEO marketing strategy.

With the popularity and increasing influence of social media, marketers are rushing to select or create just the right hashtags to add to their social media posts. Hashtags, although useful, are not the same as the venerable search keywords and should not be confused with each other or, so to speak, concatenated in SEO best practices marketing strategy.

Each has its own place. It is my own contrarian view that the marketer has more control over the interpretation of a keyword than a hashtag. The immediacy of the hashtag creates areas of unexpected ambiguity. In this article, my recommendation is that marketers should take care in how they select and use hashtags in SEO best practices.

When to Use a Hashtag

Hashtags should be treated as ephemeral in the same vein as marketing slogans. Because they are short and often require context for clarification of their meaning, they do not have staying power.

You might say: “What about #metoo or #neveragain?” Both have huge current social significance and have garnered tremendous support for the movements they represent. Many thousands have tagged social media posts or searched social media sites for posts tagged with #metoo or #neveragain. These hashtags have been very useful in providing a vehicle for social engagement. These are examples of hashtags used exceptionally well.

However, in 10 years, will people remember what these were and what they represented? It is hoped that they represent more than just a moment in time. These are powerful examples, and few marketing programs have been able to develop hashtags that have the kind of market power that these represent. Most are barely memorable even in the moment.

Keywords, when used in site content, represent blocks of language that are more universal and not as temporal. Keywords are seldom freighted with the social baggage created by their use in social media. They are easily clarified and amplified; therefore, it is my contention that in site content and meta data keywords are preferential. This does not suggest totally avoiding hashtags in site content, but use them in conjunction with keywords to carry the main meaning.

The Law of Unforeseen Consequences

Because the social media platforms were not all launched at the same time, most individuals and organizations do not have consistent nomenclature across all platforms. This can create some startling results when hashtags enter the mix.

I am an avid sports fan, and have refereed multiple high school and collegiate events over the years. Currently, my fan fixation is the University of North Carolina’s baseball team (basketball season is over, so). The team is known as the “Diamond Heels,” a nice play on baseball’s diamond and the Tarheels. Fans can follow games and get up-to-date information on Twitter @DiamondHeels. There are also official Facebook and Instagram accounts.

One day, I popped into Instagram and did a quick search for #diamondheels. Lo and behold, there were many baseball images tagged @diamondheels, but they were intermixed with some that were not suitable for office viewing. This is the law of unforeseen consequences at work.

Social media is consumer-generated media where everyday individuals create the message. I doubt the baseball team wants its brand side-by-side with some of these images, but fans placed it there by their use of the seemingly innocuous hashtag #diamondheels. That’s because hashtags are not restricted in their use and unforeseen and unseemly juxtapositions will occur.

To prevent such occurrences, marketers must aggressively research and promote the hashtags they want to see used. In selecting hashtags, marketers need to consider just how and where they might encounter the law of unforeseen consequences and try to limit its impact.

Top 10 SEO Trends for 2016

How people use the Internet is changing, and SEO experts must evolve to stay relevant. Last year was defined by the rising importance of mobile website optimization — and while that trend will continue, expect social media, apps and Google advancements to make increasingly large impacts on the SEO industry.

Google WordleHow people use the Internet is changing, and SEO experts must evolve to stay relevant. Last year was defined by the rising importance of mobile website optimization — and while that trend will continue, expect social media, apps and Google advancements to make increasingly large impacts on the SEO industry. Technology is moving at breakneck speed. That’s great news for ambitious businesses, but bad news for folks who’d prefer to maintain the status quo.

Looking ahead, we predict these 10 SEO trends will set the tone through 2016:

1. Quality video content will become more valuable than written content.
Content is king, right? Until now, written content has been the gold standard. Going forward, though, video content will become increasingly important, and 2016 may be the year it surpasses written content. That’s because video content — which can take the form of videos, animations, dynamic infographics and more — is much more engaging and shareable than text.

Not only are videos taking over social media and many of the most popular apps, but Google is also experimenting with embedding video ads within search results. The bottom line is that social media and mobile devices are the driving force in online interaction, and social media prioritizes user experience over traditional SEO signals. That’s why video may get a leg up.

2. Search queries will change as more people search the Web by speaking into their phones.
When searching Google for running shoes, a person might type “running shoes men” or “trail running shoes” into the search bar. But that same person would likely make a completely different query if speaking it aloud: “Find running shoes for men in Seattle.” Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now — the digital assistants that are built into new smartphones — are changing the nature of online search queries. As a result, content that contains more colloquial and conversational long-tail keywords are more likely to be rewarded by Google’s ever-evolving algorithms.

3. Social media posts will be indexed by Google.
If you didn’t already believe that social media would profoundly impact search results, then you should believe it now. Google has already started to display Twitter and Facebook content in mobile search results. More social media platforms are expected to be similarly indexed throughout the next year, highlighting the importance of strong social media marketing to go hand-in-hand with SEO optimization efforts.

4. Deep links on apps will become as important as deep links on the Web.
Apps are tailor-made to thrive on mobile devices, and it’s not hard to believe that people may eventually use apps more than they visit websites. This is why Google started indexing apps, and it’s why more apps will be indexed throughout 2016. App developers can take advantage of this trend by creating sharable deep links that can be easily viewed and shared. Deep links are highly valuable for website SEO, and deep links on apps could soon be just as meaningful.

5. Local search results will become even more focused.
The proliferation of smartphones with GPS apps is driving search results to be increasingly local. Now, people have smart watches and other wearable gear equipped with that same technology. That’s why local searches are expected to become even more hyper-local as the year goes on. Want to find the best Italian restaurant near you? Coming soon, search results won’t be optimized by just city and state — they’ll be optimized by your street, neighborhood or district.

6. Real-time updates to Google’s search algorithms will keep webmasters and SEO experts on their toes.
Google usually rolls out its algorithm updates in large chunks. However, Google may start launching real-time updates to its Panda and Penguin algorithms, which were implemented to weed out thin and black-hat websites from the search rankings. Webmasters and SEO experts who already go the extra mile to stay ahead of the curve may not be significantly impacted by real-time updates, but nobody will be able to rest on their laurels if Google ups the frequency of its algorithm adjustments.

7. Top organic search positions may have diminishing returns.
Until now, a top ranking in organic search results guaranteed hefty amounts of traffic — but that was before standard results competed with video ads and social media posts for clicks. As Google places more dynamic and engaging content along with its top-ranked results — and as other search engines eventually follow suit — then those once formidable rankings may experience diminishing returns. This highlights the need to diversify SEO and social media efforts heading into 2016.

8. Google’s rich answers will make websites with unique or proprietary information more valuable.
Did you know that Google responds to more than one-in-three search queries with a rich answer? These automatic answers to people’s search queries appear to the right of the organic results, and they can completely negate any need to visit actual websites. Not only is this bad news for websites with content that’s readily available anywhere, but Google is working hard to make rich answers even more thorough. That said, websites containing unique or proprietary content could benefit greatly from rich answers, which typically include links to their sources of information. This is one more way for quality content producers to create success in SEO campaigns.

9. Page load optimization will matter more than ever.
Pages that load faster rank better in Google — that’s a known fact. In addition, large websites that load slowly may not be completely indexed by Google’s bots, effectively wasting your SEO efforts. But there’s more. Snappy, properly performing landing pages are more likely to gain traction on social media, while under-performing websites are more likely to have high bounce rates. Advertisers will also find that slow-loading landing pages are also prone to higher costs in Facebook because of the platform’s emphasis on quality user experiences.

10. Mobile website optimization will surpass desktop optimization.
Mobile Internet usage outpaced desktop Internet usage more than two years ago, and since then search algorithms have been shifting to reflect users’ priorities. We predict 2016 will be the year that mobile website optimization in certain industries will matter more than desktop optimization for overall SEO strategies. It’s not just website presentation that’s driving this seismic shift — it’s also the rising importance of apps and social media. Expect mobile optimization to not only surpass desktop, but to eventually leave it in the dust.

Want more SEO tips? Click here to get the Ultimate SEO checklist

3 Ways to Waste Time on LinkedIn, but Feel Good About It

Ever feel like beating down all those bad tips for LinkedIn that we’ve all had enough of? You know, the tips and tricks that give us a week’s worth of satisfaction—followed by that sinking feeling. “Ugh… why did I invest any time in that?!” Well, today is your day to call out those time-wasters and discover what to do instead.

Ever feel like beating down all those bad tips for LinkedIn that we’ve had enough of? You know, the tips and tricks that give us a week’s worth of satisfaction—followed by that sinking feeling. “Ugh … why did I invest any time in that?!” Well, today is your day to call out those time-wasters and discover what to do instead.

No. 1: Share Quality Content Focused on Providing Value
“I have seen little (okay, I’m exaggerating) to no success using LinkedIn,” John Reeb of the Colorado Leadership Institute told me.

“I have tried to add value to anyone who reads what I post … so that they gain some kind of expertise or learning that helps them in their day-to-day work… yet I’ve receive virtually no feedback nor any sales from it,” Mr. Reeb told me in a candid LinkedIn exchange.

LinkedIn gurus claim being seen as an expert in your field is the killer strategy. But it’s not. It’s the reward for having an effective approach.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But merely sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. Instead, start bold, truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors wouldn’t dare go near.

Give potential buyers a reason to listen to you, to care about your words-to pay attention to you. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Tell the truths you’re a little scared to tell!

Ask yourself what shocking truth can you reveal that:

  • Gives insight on an idea customers never heard before.
  • Busts a myth your clients have been told is true—that isn’t!
  • Confirms their suspicion that some sellers are telling “white lies.”

Successful social selling often means helping prospects believe in a new, more useful point-of-view-in a way they can act on. That’s where your lead generation offer plugs in. In fact, what to post on LinkedIn updates isn’t nearly as important as how you post.

No. 2: Comment Frequently on Group Discussions and Prospects’ Updates
You can’t throw a cat without hitting an expert espousing this time-wasting tip. Let the truth finally be told. Participation on LinkedIn is the cost of entry. Learning how to apply social media copywriting is the force multiplier.

Success depends less on how frequently you update your profile status, how often you participate in Group discussions or what you say. You’ll get more responses (and leads) by investing time in structuring words to be provocative.

Instead of wasting time patting people on the back, disagree once in a while. Invent ways to make potential buyers curious about your ability to solve a problem, remedy a pain or fast-track a goal.

Don’t get caught up in the popular nonsense: show you’re human, give-give-give before you get and (my personal favorite) tell a good story. As with any relationship in life, having personality and being interesting is the entry fee. It’s essential. Makes sure you know how to write social media posts so they provoke a response.

The key to turning LinkedIn interactions into business leads is following a social media copywriting process.

At the highest level, this process involves:

  • Getting to the point immediately.
  • Having something honestly new (and useful) to say.
  • Not saying too much too fast. Being a little mysterious.

No. 3: Connect With Prospects
Perhaps the most dangerous tip is connecting with prospects you don’t know. Again, self-appointed gurus are the problem, not the good people (you) using LinkedIn.

Have you ever been banned by LinkedIn for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know? Know anyone who has?

Being temporarily banned by LinkedIn for this practice is very common. Yet we never read anything about it or hear anyone talking about this problem at conferences.

Fact: If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

LinkedIn prohibits contacting distant prospects. LinkedIn is not a good place to contact people whom you don’t have (at least) a second degree connection with, and whom you don’t have specific knowledge about.

If you have a new prospect—who you’ve never spoken to-it’s probably not a good idea to request a connection on LinkedIn (outside of an InMail message). That is, until you have better proximity to the prospect … better ability to approach once they know you or have a high probability of accepting the connection request.

From a practical view, here’s why: Because this is not what LinkedIn is intended for. It’s not what the founders built LinkedIn to do for sellers.

In fact, LinkedIn wasn’t originally built with “social selling” in mind. Just like Facebook wasn’t built for marketing.

That said, LinkedIn and social selling are evolving into a great match. In fact it’s the bedrock of their growth plan as a business. But be careful. Connecting with prospects is where a lot of sellers go wrong and pay the price!

Questions about any of my tips? Disagree with my perspective? Let me know. Good luck to you!

3 Ways to Use the Spell of FOMO in Copywriting

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls, and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used, you can write copy and create messaging to leverage this basic human fear.

The term FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The acronym may be new, but classically trained direct mail copywriters have recognized the power of the fear of missing out for generations. We can use it in our copy to effectively sell because of how our brains are wired.

With mobile technology today, it is genuinely possible to become addicted to social networks because of the fear of missing out. It’s now effortless to compare and evaluate our own lives against that of our friends.

A survey last year of social media users by MyLife.com and reported by Mashable suggests:

  • 51 percent visit or log on to social networking sites more frequently now than two years earlier.
  • The average person manages 3.1 email addresses (up from 2.6 a year earlier).
  • 27 percent check their social networks as soon as they wake up.
  • 42 percent have multiple social networking accounts (61 percent for those age 18 to 34).
  • 56 percent are afraid of missing something such as an event, news or an important status update if they don’t keep an eye on social networks.

These stats suggest you’re more likely than not to be in the spell of FOMO.

But the reality is this: We’re all wired to have basic fear. And without taking inappropriate advantage of your prospective customers, there are ways you can appeal to this part of the brain—the amygdala—with messaging to make your sales programs more effective. Here are three uses with FOMO in mind as you write copy and create message positioning:

  • First to Know: If you fear missing out, you must surely want to be the first to know of an important development, new product or news. And, when you’re first to know, you’re most eager to tell others you’re first to know, and pass it along (to your benefit).
  • Inside Story: People like to have the inside scoop combined with effective storytelling. Combine the concepts of revealing your inside story with a unique selling proposition, or positioning, and the sum is greater than its parts.
  • Limited Time: When there is a limited time a product is available, it intensifies desire to acquire it now. The challenge today, however, is that it’s easy for customers to check out competition and discover that limited time appeal has its limits.

These uses also create urgency in your copy. Writing copy and messaging based on this intense human primal fear will drive higher response. There can be no question that the spell of FOMO is real and a part of your customer’s minds.