About Mike Dickman

20-year marketing veteran doing my thing, one click at a time!

11 Lessons Learned from Failed Link Building Campaigns

This post originally appeared on Moz and was written by Kerry Jones.

We’ve created more than 800 content campaigns at Fractl over the years, and we’d be lying if we told you every single one was a hit.

The Internet is a finicky place. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy if your content will perform well. Sometimes what we think is going to do OK ends up being a massive hit. And there have been a few instances where we’d expect a campaign to be a huge success but it went on to garner lackluster results.

While you can’t control the whims of the Internet, you can avoid or include certain things in your content to help your chances of success. Through careful analysis we’ve pinpointed which factors tend to create high-performing content. Similarly, we’ve identified trends among our content that didn’t quite hit the mark.

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In this this post, I’ll share our most valuable lessons we learned from content flops. Bear in mind this advice applies if you’re using content to earn links and press pickups, which is what the majority of the content we create at Fractl aims to do.

1. There’s such a thing as too much data.

For content involving a lot of data, it can be tempting to publish every single data point you collect.

A good example of this is surveying. We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of not only sharing all of the data we’ve collected in a survey, but also segmenting the data out by demographics — regardless of whether or not all of that data is super compelling. While this can give publishers a large volume of potential angles to choose from, the result is often unfocused content lacking a cohesive narrative.

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Only include the most insightful, interesting data points in your content, even if that means tossing aside most of the data you’ve gathered.

One example of this was a survey we did for a home security client where we asked people about stalker-ish behaviors they’d committed. The juiciest survey data (like 1 in 5 respondents had created a fake social account to spy on someone — yikes!) ended up getting buried because we included every data point from the survey, some of which wasn’t so interesting. Had we trimmed down the content to only the most shocking findings, it probably would have performed far better.

Furthermore, the more data you include, the more time it takes for a publisher to wade through it. As one journalist told us after we sent over an epic amount of data: “Long story short, this will take too much time.”

Consider this: It shouldn’t take a publisher more than 10 seconds of looking at your project to grasp the most meaningful data points. If they can’t quickly understand that, how will their readers?

2. Turning published data into something cool doesn’t always yield links.

If you’re going to use data that’s already been reported on, you better have a new spin or finding to present. Journalists don’t want to cover the same stats they have already covered.

A great example of this is a project we created about the reasons startups fail. The majority of the data we used came from CB Insights’ startup post mortems list, which had performed really well for them. (As of the time I’m writing this, according to Open Site Explorer it has 197 linking root domains from sites including BBC, Business Insider, Fortune, Vox, CNBC, and Entrepreneur — impressive!)

It worked well once, so it should work again if we repackage it into a new format, right?

We used the startups featured on the CB Insights list, added in a handful of additional startups, and created a sexy-looking interactive node map that grouped together startups according to the primary reasons they went under.

While the content didn’t end up being a failure (we got it picked up by Quartz, woo!), it definitely didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it.

Two problems with this project:

  1. We weren’t saying anything new about the data.
  2. The original data had gotten so much coverage that many relevant publishers had already seen it and/or published it.

But of course, there are exceptions. If you’re using existing data that hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage, but is interesting, then this can be a smart approach. The key is avoiding data that has already been widely reported in the vertical you want to get coverage in.

3. It’s difficult to build links with videos.

Video content can be extremely effective for viral sharing, which is fantastic for brand awareness. But are videos great for earning links? Not so much.

When you think of viral content, videos probably come to mind — which is exactly why you may assume awesome videos can attract a ton of backlinks. The problem is, publishers rarely give proper attribution to videos. Instead of linking to the video’s creator, they just embed the video from YouTube or link to YouTube. While a mention/link to the content creator often happens organically with a piece of static visual content, this is often not the case with videos.

Of course, you can reach out to anyone who embeds your video without linking to you and ask for a link. But this can add a time-consuming extra step to the already time-intensive process of video creation and promotion.

4. Political ideas are tough to pull off.

Most brands don’t want to touch political topics with a ten-foot pole. But to others, creating political content is appealing since it has strong potential to evoke an emotional reaction and get a lot of attention.

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We’ve had several amazing political ideas fail despite solid executions and promotional efforts. It’s hard for us to say why this is, but our assumption has been publishers don’t care about political content that isn’t breaking (because it’s always breaking). For this reason, we believe it’s nearly impossible to compete with the constant cycle of breaking political news.

5. Don’t make content for a specific publisher.

We’ve reached out to publishers to collaborate during content production, assuming that if the publisher feels ownership over the content and it’s created to their specifications, they will definitely publish it.

In general, we’ve found this approach doesn’t work because it tends to be a drain on the publishers (they don’t want to take on the extra work of collaborating with you) and it locks you into an end result that may only work for their site and no other publishers.

Remember: Publishers care about getting views and engagement on their site, not link generation for you or your client.

6. Hyperlocal content is a big risk.

If you focus on one city, even with an amazing piece of content featuring newsworthy information, you’re limited in how many publishers you can pitch it to. And then, you’re out of luck if none of those local publishers pick it up.

On the flip side, we’ve had a lot of success with content that features multiple cities/states/regions. This allows us to target a range of local and national publishers.

Note: This advice applies to campaigns where links/press mentions are the main goal – I’m not saying to never create content for a certain locality.

7. Always make more than one visual asset.

And one of those assets should always be a simple, static image.

Why?

Many websites have limits to the type of media they can publish. Every publisher is able to publish a static graphic, but not everyone can embed more complex content formats (fortunately, Moz can handle GIFs).

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In most cases, we’ve found publishers prefer the simplest visualizations. One classic example of this is a project where we compared reading levels and IQ across different states based on a analysis of half a million tweets. Our Director of Creative, Ryan Sammy, spent a painstaking amount of time (and money) creating an interactive map of the results.

What did most publishers end up featuring? A screenshot of a Tableau dashboard we had sent as a preview during outreach…

8. Be realistic about newsjacking.

Newsjacking content needs to go live within 24 to 48 hours of the news event to be timely. Can you really produce something in time to newsjack?

We’ve found newsjacking is hard to pull off in an agency setting since you have to account for production timelines and getting client feedback and approval. In-house brands have a more feasible shot at newsjacking if they don’t have to worry about a long internal approval process.

9. Watch out for shiny new tools and content formats.

Just because you are using cool, new technology doesn’t automatically make the content interesting. We’ve gotten caught up in the “cool factor” of the format or method only to end up with boring (but pretty) content.

10. Avoid super niche topics.

You greatly increase your risk of no return when you go super niche. The more you drill down a topic, the smaller your potential audience becomes (and potential sites that will link become fewer, too).

There are a ton of people interested in music, there are fewer people interested in rap music, there are even fewer people interested in folk rap music, and finally, there are so few people interested in ’90s folk rap. Creating content around ’90s folk rap will probably yield few to no links.

Some questions to ask to ensure your topic isn’t too niche:

  • Is there a large volume of published content about this topic? Do a Google search for a few niche keywords to see how many results come up compared to broader top-level topics.
  • If there is a lot of content, does that content get high engagement? Do a search in Buzzsumo for keywords related to the niche topic. Is the top content getting thousands of shares?
  • Are people curious about this topic? Search on BloomBerry to see how many questions people are asking about it.
  • Are there online communities dedicated to the topic? Do a quick search for “niche keyword + forum” to turn up communities.
  • Are there more than 5 publishers that focus exclusively on the niche topic?

11. Don’t make content on a topic you can’t be credible in.

When we produced a hard-hitting project about murder in the U.S. for a gambling client, the publishers we pitched didn’t take it seriously because the client wasn’t an authority on the subject.

From that point on, we stuck to creating more light-hearted content around gambling, partying, and entertainment, which is highly relevant to our client and goes over extremely well with publishers.

It’s OK to create content that is tangentially related to your brand (we do this very often), but the connection between the content topic and your industry should be obvious. Don’t leave publishers wondering, why is this company making this content?”

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Learning from failure is crucial for improvement.

Failure is inevitable, especially when you’re pushing boundaries or experimenting with something new (two things we try to do often at Fractl). The good news is that with failure you tend to have the greatest “a-ha!” moments. This is why having a post-campaign review of what did and didn’t work is so important.

Getting to the heart of why your content is rejected by publishers can be extremely helpful — we collect this information, and it’s invaluable for spotting things we can tweak during content production to increase our success rate. When a publisher tells you “no,” many times they will give a brief explanation why (and if they don’t, you can ask nicely for their feedback). Collect and review all of this publisher feedback and review it every few months. Like us, you may notice trends as to why publishers are passing up your content. Use these insights to correct your course instead of continuing to make the same mistakes.

And one last note for anyone creating content for clients: What should you do when your client’s campaign is a flop? To mitigate the risk to our clients, we replace a campaign if it fails to get any publisher coverage. While we’ve rarely had to do this, putting this assurance in place can give both you and your client peace of mind that a low-performing campaign doesn’t mean their investment has gone to waste.

What have you observed about your content that didn’t perform well? Does your experience contradict or mirror any of the lessons I shared?

Google, Is, Okay, With, Commas, Even, In, Your, Title, Tags

This article first appeared on Search Engine Roundtable and is authored by Barry Schwartz.

I am really not sure where these ideas come from, which is why I have stuff to write daily but this guy asked John Mueller if putting commas in title tags are okay or not. John said it is “totally up to you!” Here is the tweet:

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I mean, why would you not be allowed to use commas in your titles? I am not understanding the logic of not using commas?

People, like me, over use commas, when we write. But other then that, using commas when it makes sense, even in titles, does make sense.

See what I am doing here?

So use commas where it makes sense and do not worry about how search engines will react to it. Google will handle it just fine. Make sure it doesn’t bother your readers.

Social Media Advertising Hacks

Written by Larry Kim, founder of WordStream.

Let’s start with the bad news first. It’s tougher than ever to get content noticed.

Changes to Google search results pages have further obscured content organically, especially on competitive commercial searches. Meanwhile, paid search costs per click (CPCs) are at all-time highs in established markets.

Organic reach in social media? It’s pretty much dead. Half of all content gets zero shares, and less than 0.1 percent is shared more than 1,000 times.

Additionally, the typical internet marketing conversion rate is less than one percent.

How Content Marketing Doesn’t (Usually) Work

How does content marketing actually work? Many people’s content marketing strategy basically consists of a three-step process:

  1. Create new content.
  2. Share your content on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
  3. People buy your stuff.

Nope. This almost never happens. (For a content marketing strategy that actually works, try a documented plan such as the Content Marketing Pyramid™.)

Most content goes nowhere. The consumer purchase journey isn’t a straight line—and it takes time.

So is there a more reliable way to increase leads and sales with content?

Social Media Advertising To The Rescue!

Now it’s time for the good news! Social media advertising provides the most scalable content promotion and is proven to turn visitors into leads and customers.

And the best part? You don’t need a huge ad budget.

A better, more realistic process for content marketing with promotion looks like this:

  1. Create: Produce content and share it on social media.
  2. Amplify: Selectively promote your top content on social media.
  3. Tag: Build your remarketing audience by tagging site visitors with a cookie.
  4. Filter: Apply behavioral and demographic filters on your audience.
  5. Remarketing: Remarket to your audience with display ads, social ads, and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) to promote offers.
  6. Convert: Capture qualified leads or sale.
  7. Repeat.

Promotion is sorely overlooked from many content marketers’ priority list—it’s actually the lowest priority according to a recent study of 1000+ marketers. For marketers who take promotion more seriously, The Ultimate List of Content Promotion Tools is a godsend.

You can use the following ten Twitter and Facebook advertising hacks as a catalyst to get more eyeballs on your content, or as an accelerant to create an even larger traffic explosion.

1. Improve Your Quality Score

Quality Score is the metric Google uses to rate the quality and relevance of your keywords and PPC ads, and influences your cost-per-click. Facebook calls their version a “Relevancy Score”:

While Twitter’s is called a “Quality Adjusted Bid”:

Whatever it’s called, Quality Score is a crucial metric. The way to increase Twitter and Facebook Quality Scores is to increase post engagement rates.

A high Quality Score is great: you get a higher ad impression share for the same budget at a lower cost per engagement. On the flip side, a low Quality Score sucks: you get a low ad impression share and a high cost per engagement.

How do you increase engagement rates? Promote your best content—your unicorns (the top 1-3 percent of content that performs better than everything else) rather than your donkeys (the bottom 97 percent of your content).

To figure out if your content is a unicorn or donkey, test it out.

  • Post lots of stuff (organically) to Twitter and use Twitter Analytics to see which content gets the most engagement.
  • Post your top stuff from Twitter organically to LinkedIn and Facebook. Again, track which posts get the most traction.
  • Pay to promote the unicorns on Facebook and Twitter.

The key to paid social media advertising is to be picky. Cast a narrow net and maximize those engagement rates.

2. Increase Engagement With Audience Targeting

Targeting all your fans isn’t precise; it’s lazy and wastes a lot of money.

Your fans aren’t a homogenous blob. They all have different incomes, interests, values, and preferences.

For example, by targeting fans of Donald Trump, people with social media marketing job titles, NRA members, and the hashtag #NeverHillary (and excluding Democrats, fans of Hillary Clinton, and the hashtag #neverTrump), this tweet for an Inc. article I wrote got ten times higher engagement:

Keyword targeting and other audience targeting methods helps turn average ads into unicorns.

3. Generate Free Clicks From Paid Social Media Advertising

On Twitter, tweet engagements are the most popular type of ad campaign. Why? I have no idea. You have to pay for every user engagement (whether someone views your profile, expands your image, expands your tweet from the tweet stream, or clicks on a hashtag).

If you’re doing this, you need to stop—now. It’s a giant waste of money and offers the worst ROI.

Instead, pay only for the thing that matters most to your business, whether it’s clicks to your website, app installs, followers, leads, or actual video views.

For example, when you run a Twitter followers campaign, you pay only when someone follows you. But your tweet promoting one of your unicorn pieces of content will also get a ton of impressions, retweets, replies, mentions, likes, and visits to your website. All for the low, low cost of $0.

4. Promote Unicorn Video Ads!

Would you believe you can get thousands of video views at a cost of just $0.02 per view?

Shoppers who view videos are more likely to remember you, and buy from you. Quick tips for success:

  • Promote videos that have performed the best (i.e., driven the most engagement) on your website, YouTube, or elsewhere.
  • Make sure people can understand your video without hearing it— an amazing 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound, according to Digiday.
  • Make it memorable, try to keep it short, and target the right audience.

Bonus: video ad campaigns increase relevancy score by two points!

5. Score Huge Wins With Custom Audiences

True story: a while back I wrote an article asking: Do Twitter Ads Work? To promote the article on Twitter, I used their tailored audiences feature to target key influencers.

The very same day, Business Insider asked for permission to publish the story. So I promoted that version of the article to influencers using tailored audiences.

An hour later, a Fox News producer emailed me. Look where I found myself:

The awesome power of custom audiences resulted in additional live interviews with major news outlets including the BBC; 250 high-value press pickups and links, massive brand exposure, 100,000 visits to the WordStream site, and a new business relationship with Facebook.

This is just one example of identity-based marketing using social media advertising. Whether it’s Twitter’s tailored audiences or Facebook’s custom audiences, this opens a ton of new and exciting advertising use cases!

6. Promote Your Content On More Social Platforms

Medium, Hacker News, Reddit, Digg, and LinkedIn Pulse all send you massive amounts of traffic. It’s important to post content to each that’s appropriate to the audience.

Post content on Medium or LinkedIn. New content is fine, but repurposing existing content is a better strategy because it gives a whole new audience the chance to discover and consume your existing content.

Again, use social media advertising as either a catalyst or an accelerant to get hundreds, thousands, or even millions of views you otherwise wouldn’t have. It might even open you up to syndication opportunities—I’ve had posts syndicated to New York Observer and Time Magazine.

You can also promote existing content on sites like Hacker News, Reddit, or Digg. Getting upvotes can create valuable exposure that sends tons of traffic to your existing content.

For a minimal investment, you can get serious exposure and traffic!

7. Hacking RankBrain for Insanely Awesome SEO

Google is using an AI machine learning system called RankBrain to understand and interpret long-tail queries, especially on queries Google has never seen before—an estimated 15 percent of all queries.

I believe Google is examining user engagement metrics (such as click-through rates, bounce rates, dwell time, and conversion rates) as a way—in part, to rank pages that have earned very few or no links.

Even if user engagement metrics aren’t part of the core ranking algorithm, getting really high organic CTRs and conversion rates has its own great rewards:

  • More clicks and conversions.
  • Better organic search rankings.
  • Even more clicks and conversions.

For example, research found a 19 percent lift in paid search conversion volume and a 10 percent improvement in cost per action (CPA) with exposure to Facebook ads for the financial services company Experian.

Use social media advertising to build brand recognition and double your organic search clickthrough and conversion rates!

8. Social Media Remarketing

Social media remarketing, on average, boosts engagement by three times and doubles conversion rates, while cutting your costs by a third. Make the most of it!

Use social media remarketing to push your hard offers, such as sign-ups, consultations, and downloads.

9. Combine Everything With Super Remarketing

Super remarketing is the awesome combination of remarketing, demographics, behaviors, and high engagement content. Here’s how and why it works.

  • Behavior and interest targeting: These are the people interested in your stuff.
  • Remarketing: These are the people who have recently checked out your stuff.
  • Demographic targeting: These are the people who can afford to buy your stuff.

If you target paid social media advertising to a narrow audience that meets all three criteria using your high engagement unicorns—the result?

10. Combine Paid Search & Social Media Advertising

For our final, and most advanced hack of them all, we combine social media advertising with PPC search ads on Google using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).

RLSA is incredibly powerful. You can target customized search ads specifically to people who have recently visited your site when they search on Google. It increases click-through and conversion rates by three times and reduces cost-per-click by a third.

There’s one problem. By definition, RLSA doesn’t target people who are unfamiliar with your brand. This is where social media advertising comes in: it helps more people become familiar with your brand.

Social media advertising is a cheap way to start the process of biasing people towards you. While they may not need what you’re selling now, later, when the need arises, people are much more likely to do a branded search for your stuff, or click on you during an unbranded search because they remember your compelling content.

If your content marketing efforts are struggling, these ridiculously powerful Twitter and Facebook advertising hacks will turn your content donkeys into unicorns! Looking for another awesome hack to supercharge your content ROI? Social curation enables more consistent content publication, supports your created content strategy, and helps you keep track of your favorite information. Download The Ultimate Guide to Content Curation eBook.

Google: Parameter Handling In Google Search Console Is A Big Gun, Watch Out

This article was originally featured on Search Engine Roundtable and was written by Barry Schwartz. 

Do you use the parameter handling feature within the Google Search Console interface? If so, Google’s Gary Illyes wants you to be careful. He told one webmaster that using that feature is considered not just a hint, but rather it is a directive. He added that using it is also a “big gun” and you should “watch out with it.”

Here is what Gary posted on Twitter:

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This tool is used to help you control how Google understands your web site and URLs, especially for dynamic URLs. To learn more about it, see this Google help document.

The feature has been in Google Search Console since 2009 so it is a solid feature.

Google warns against misusing links in syndication & large-scale article campaigns

This article was originally posted on SearchEngineLand and was written by Danny Sullivan.

If the primary purpose of distributing content is to gain links, both authors and publishers risk a Google penalty.

Google’s out today with a warning for anyone who is distributing or publishing content through syndication or other large-scale means: Watch your links.

Google’s post reminds those who produce content published in multiple places that, without care, they could be violating Google’s rules against link schemes.

No content marketing primarily for links, warns Google

Google says that it is not against article distribution in general. But if such distribution is done primarily to gain links, then there’s a problem. From the post:

Google does not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company. However, what does violate Google’s guidelines on link schemes is when the main intent is to build links in a large-scale way back to the author’s site …

For websites creating articles made for links, Google takes action on this behavior because it’s bad for the Web as a whole. When link building comes first, the quality of the articles can suffer and create a bad experience for users.

Those pushing such content want links because links — especially from reputable publishers — are one of the top ways that content can rank better on Google.

Warning signs

What are things that may tip Google into viewing a content distribution campaign as perhaps violating its guidelines? Again, from the post:

Stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles

Having the articles published across many different sites; alternatively, having a large number of articles on a few large, different sites

Using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing on

Using the same or similar content across these articles; alternatively, duplicating the full content of articles found on your own site

Staying safe

There are two safe ways for those distributing content to stay out of trouble: using nofollow on specific links or the canonical tag on the page itself.

Nofollow prevents individual links from passing along ranking credit. Canonical effectively tells Google not to let any of the links on the page pass credit.

Publishers can be at risk, too

It’s important to note that Google’s warning isn’t just for those distributing content. Those publishing it can face issues with Google if they haven’t taken proper care. From Google’s post:

When Google detects that a website is publishing articles that contain spammy links, this may change Google’s perception of the quality of the site and could affect its ranking.

Sites accepting and publishing such articles should carefully vet them, asking questions like: Do I know this person? Does this person’s message fit with my site’s audience? Does the article contain useful content? If there are links of questionable intent in the article, has the author used rel=”nofollow” on them?

In other words, publishing content unquestioningly, in terms of links, could expose the publisher’s site to being penalized in Google.

Why this new warning?

Today’s warning from Google is generally the same as what it issued back in July 2013, when it cautioned about links in large-scale guest posting, advertorials, sponsored content and press releases. However, it’s more specific in terms of syndication and comes because of an issue that Search Engine Land has been investigating over the past month.

Search Engine Land has a policy of generally not writing about cases of spam or suspected spam that aren’t already public in a significant way. Our open letter from 2014 explains this more. In short, if we did this, that’s all we would ever be writing about.

That said, we received a tip about several businesses using article syndication that seemed worth taking a closer look at, given that the tactics potentially violated Google’s guidelines in a significant manner. Moreover, Google had been notified of the issue at the end of last year, twice, but had not apparently taken any action. The company tipping us — a competitor with those businesses — was concerned. Was this tactic acceptable or not?

The many examples I looked at certainly raised concerns. Articles were distributed across multiple news publications. The articles often contained several links that were “anchor rich,” meaning they appeared to have words within the links that someone hoped they might rank well for. Mechanisms for blocking these links from passing credit were not being used.

Google’s initial response to our questions about this was that it was aware there were issues and that it was looking to see how it might improve things.

That seemed a weak response to me. It was pretty clear from my conversations with two of the companies distributing the content, and one of the publishers, that there was, at the very least, confusion about what was acceptable and responsibilities all around.

Confusion about what’s allowed

Both the companies producing content professed that they felt they were doing nothing wrong. In particular, they never demanded that publishers carry any particular links, which seemed to them to put them on the right side of the guidelines. One also said that it was using canonical to block link credit but that the publishers themselves might be failing to implement that correctly. Both indicated that if they weren’t doing things correctly, they wanted to change to be in compliance.

In short: it’s not us to blame, it’s those publishers. And from the content I looked at on publisher sites, it was pretty clear that none of them seemed to be doing any policing of links. That was reinforced after I talked with one publisher, which told me that while it did make use of nofollow, it was reviewing things to be more “aggressive” about it now. My impression was that if nofollow was supposed to be used, no one had really been paying attention to that — nor was I seeing it in use.

In the end, I suggested to Google that the best way forward here might be for them to post fresh guidance on the topic. That way, Search Engine Land wasn’t being dragged into a potential spam reporting situation. More important, everyone across the web was getting an effective “reset” and reeducation on what’s allowed in this area.

Getting your house in order

Now that such a post has been done, companies distributing such content and publishers carrying it would be smart to follow the advice in it. When Google issues such advice, as it did about guest blogging in January 2014, that’s often followed by the search engine taking action against violators a few months later.

From a distributor point of view, I’d recommend thinking strongly about how Google ended today’s blog post:

If a link is a form of endorsement, and you’re the one creating most of the endorsements for your own site, is this putting forth the best impression of your site? Our best advice in relation to link building is to focus on improving your site’s content and everything–including links — will follow (no pun intended).

Bottom line: Deep down, you know if you were putting out this content primarily to gain links. If that was the case, you should work with those publishers to implement nofollow or canonical. If you can’t, then you should consider disavowing links to Google.

Going forward, I’d look to implement nofollow or canonical as Google recommends, if you find that the large-scale distribution is bringing you useful direct clicks and attention.

I will say that no one should take this to mean that you can never distribute content or that content can’t have any links at all that pass credit back to an originating site. Indeed, we have plenty of contributed content here on Search Engine Land. I’d be among the first screaming at Google if I thought it was trying to tell us or anyone that you couldn’t have such content unless you blocked all links.

Things that make us feel Google-safe are that, most of all, we publish original content from contributors. It’s not the same content that’s simply dumped into multiple publications. Also, we have editors who often spend a significant amount of time working with writers and content to ensure that it’s publication-worthy. And we do try to watch for links that we don’t feel are earned or necessary in a story.

We’re not perfect. No publisher will be. But I think from a publisher perspective, the more you are actually interacting with the content you publish to review and approve it, rather than blindly posting from a feed, the safer you will be. If you haven’t been doing that, then consider making use of nofollow and canonical on already-published content, as Google recommended.

As for those guest blogging requests

I’ll conclude with this part of Google’s post today:

Webmasters generally prefer not to receive aggressive or repeated “Post my article!” requests, and we encourage such cases to be reported to our spam report form.

Indeed. It’s amazing how many requests that we’re getting like this each day, and I know were not alone. It’s even more amazing when this type of guest blogging was supposed to be over.

Stick A Fork In It, Guest Blogging Is Done,” declared Matt Cutts in January 2014. Cutts, no longer at Google, was then the head of its web spam fighting team. His declaration was a shot heard around the web. Guest blogging almost became radioactive. No one seemed to want to touch it, much less send out idiotic bulk emails requesting a post.

Those requests are back in force. It’s a pity that so many come from Google’s own Gmail system, where all Google’s vaunted machine learning doesn’t catch them as the spam they are.

If you’ve been making such requests or accepting guest blog posts because of them, even in small scale, Google’s rules about policing links still apply.

Google is extending in-market audience targeting to Search campaigns

This article first appeared on SearchEngineLand and was written by Ginny Marvin (@ginnymarvin).

Advertisers will be able to target users based on purchase intent signals in Search campaigns for more than a dozen categories.

Google is continuing to extend its audience targeting capabilities into Search. The company announced Tuesday that In-market audiences, currently only available for Display Network and YouTube campaigns, will be coming to Search campaigns.

Google shared the news in a blog post released ahead of its annual live-streamed event, Google Marketing Next.

First introduced in 2013 under the name In-market buyers, the targeting is aimed at reaching consumers who are getting ready to make a purchase, based on an analysis of intent signals such as recent search queries and website browsing activity. From today’s blog post:

For example, if you’re a car dealership, you can increase your reach among users who have already searched for “SUVs with best gas mileage” and “spacious SUVs.”

There are currently more than a dozen In-market audiences available in AdWords to target users looking to buy things such as apparel, baby products, event tickets or real estate.

 

Along with similar audiences for Search and Shopping, the addition of these targeting options marks Google’s shift to tapping user search history for targeting in Search campaigns. It does so in an aggregated, anonymized way, but the company had long-resisted incorporating that data in Search targeting for privacy reasons. Then Facebook came along and advertiser expectations — and some would say consumer acceptance — of targeting capabilities changed with it.

It’s not clear what the timing will be on the rollout. It took roughly a year for similar audiences for Search and Shopping to roll out generally after Google first announced it at last year’s live-streamed event.

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Start Making Vertical Video for Social Media

First published on SocialMedia Today by Andrew Macarthy.

Does your business record vertical videos for social media?

In years gone by, recording and uploading video with the camera held vertically was looked upon with ridicule, producing big black bars either side of the picture and a narrow viewing angle, guaranteed to turn viewers off.

But times are changing. 

In this post, I’m going to lay out five reasons why your business should be experimenting with vertical video for social media marketing in 2017, and the potential benefits it can bring.

1. People naturally hold their phones vertically 

Obvious, but important.

If we strip smartphones back to their most basic function – giving users the ability to make and receive phone calls – the design of modern smarphones simply follows the tradition of “dumb” phones from decades past; that the device should be held vertically so that the user can speak and listen with minimal fuss. TV and cinema, meanwhile – the dominant visual media for so long – have demanded that the picture is viewed horizontally for the best experience. And so, despite all the things smartphones can now do, we’re historically conditioned to hold phones vertically and view video horizontally.

We’ve been stuck between two competing worlds, but times are changing.

For some hard facts, look to the MOVR Mobile Overview Report from December 2014, which found, unsuprisingly, that smartphone users hold their phones vertically about 94% of the time.

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Start Making Vertical Video for Social Media | Social Media Today

Image credit: Form Meets Function

With the huge increase in mobile-recorded video content online in recent years, it’s no surprise that vertical device usage also on the up.

A 2016 study by KPCB Research showed that people in the US are now spending 29% of time using vertically-held devices, up from just 5% in 2010. And since people are holding these devices vertically for most tasks, it makes sense that they’ll play video that way, too. 

2. People access social media on mobile the most

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Start Making Vertical Video for Social Media | Social Media Today

Not only are the vast majority of mobile apps designed with the assumption that users will be interacting while holding their smartphone vertically, but its increasingly where people are spending their time on social media.

comScore’s 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus study showed that nearly 80% of social media use now occurs on mobile devices – 61% on smartphones alone.

In addition, by 2018 in the US, the gap between desktop and mobile Internet use is predicted to grow to people spending 3 hours and 20 minutes using the Internet on their phone, compared to just 40 minutes on the computer.

As a business, your content needs to be built in a way that caters best to how it is being consumed.

3. Social networks are vertical video-friendly

If we look at how vertical video renders on social apps, we see something interesting.

As of February 2017:

  • Facebook – Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • Instagram – Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • Snapchat – Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • Twitter – Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • YouTube – The Android version of the app hides black borders when device is held vertically and video is viewed in full screen

Rather than looking upon vertical video as a negative, social networks – even YouTube – are embracing the format. There’s no way they’re going to be able force people to film in landscape mode without really annoying them(as YouTube used to do), so why not make the viewing experience (inferior to landscape mode as it may be) as optimum as it can be?

And there are other benefits. When it comes to watching live video, viewers holding their phones vertically can engage with reactions and comments in a way that’s natural to them.

Rolling out the 2:3 ratio of vertical video on Facebook in August 2016 (rather than cropping vertical videos into squares), a Facebook representative told Marketing Land at the time that:

“We know that people enjoy more immersive experiences on Facebook, so we’re starting to display a larger portion of each vertical video in News Feed on mobile.”

Facebook wants people to stay on its platform, so it will do whatever it can to suit their needs.

Instagram’s roll-out of vertical video last year shared a similar sentiment.

In a blog post to announce its Stories feature (boasting over 150 million users as of January 2017), Instagram said:

“Square format has been and always will be part of who we are. That said, the visual story you’re trying to tell should always come first, and we want to make it simple and fun for you to share moments the way you want to.”

4. Vertical video ads convert better

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Start Making Vertical Video for Social Media | Social Media Today

Vertical video ads are growing in favor with advertisers as well – and when you understand that it’s the orientation in which users are increasingly consuming video, you see why.

“From a storytelling perspective, this is obviously more exciting,” said Dan Grossman, VP of platform partnerships at VaynerMedia told Mashable. “If we can take up more of the screen that means you’re less distracted. We can capture more of the viewer’s attention.”

In another recent development – the launch of vertical video ads for Instagram Stories in January 2017 – Instagram seemed open to their success: 

“Since the beginning, we’ve been thoughtful about rolling out ads on Instagram to give businesses and consumers the best experience possible. And ad formats are no exception. Portrait has long been available on the platform for posts, and is a common format for consuming mobile content”.

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Start Making Vertical Video for Social Media | Social Media Today

For more evidence, look to Snapchat, who you might say spearheaded the vertical video revolution in social media.

In a pitch to publishers in 2015, Snapchat reported that full screen vertical video ad completion rates were 9x higher than those of horizontal video ads.

The company’s internal research also shows that vertical video ads draw up to 2x higher visual attention vs. comparable platforms.

“Communicate your brand message in a way that fits your phone, the way Snapchatters actually use it.”

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Start Making Vertical Video for Social Media | Social Media Today

In addition, Jason Stein, CEO of Laundry Service, reported success with LG vertical video ads soon after their launch last year. He told Adweek that his had had been receiving CPM rates that were 3x more efficient than standard square videos on Facebook.

5. Your customers are lazy

Whisper it, but it’s true – and as customers ourselves, we’re all guilty of it.

Think of it like this: when users are zipping through mobile sites and social media feeds, they expect the experience to be seamless.

If your video plays in landscape and can be viewed okay, not many people are going to make the effort to turn their phone 90 degrees and tap to expand to full screen. It’s lazy, but it’s the truth.

As a marketer, that means you’re missing out on filling a users’ screen with your ad and keeping their full attention as effectively as possible.

Perhaps this point is best summed up by Zena Barakat, a former New York Times video producer who spent a year researching vertical video. She discovered that many people didn’t reorient their phones to watch horizontal videos in full-screen mode.

“As a person who makes videos, I was like, ‘You’re not seeing it the way we intended it! And they were like, ‘We don’t care!’ They found it so uncomfortable to hold the phone the other way, and they didn’t want to keep switching their phones back and forth.’”

Over to you

What are your thoughts on the vertical video revolution? Will you be experimenting with vertical video on social for your brand?