5 of the Best Certifications for Marketers to Boost Credibility

Whether you’re a digital marketer, or you’re a small business owner looking for someone to fill that role, it can be hard to figure out the right qualifications. Many digital marketers have college degrees already (although quite a few don’t as well), but what about the additional credentials?

What are the best certifications or additional training and education a digital marketer can have that not only look good on a resume but have real-world benefits and applications? There are a lot of options available, but below are five of the best options for any marketer. The below certifications and courses can also be good for small business owners to look for when hiring a new contractor or employee.

Coppyblogger Authority Training and Certification

Copyblogger is considered the go-to resource in the world of digital content creation, and they offer content marketing training and certification for members of their “Authority” community. It’s a good way for digital marketers to hone their content skills and boost their abilities and expertise in this particular aspect of digital marketing.

To participate, marketers sign up for a paid annual Authority Membership, and then they can also pay to take part in the separate Certification Program.

Digital Marketing Certified Associate Training (DMCA)

With this in-depth digital marketing certification, participants learn everything they need to know to be a digital marketing pro who can hit the ground running. It includes 48 hours of instructor-led training, 40 hours of project work and more, all aimed at ensuring participants are ready to become part of a high-level team, or lead their own campaigns. What’s unique about this certification offered by Simplilearn, is that certification participants work on real-life projects, giving them

What’s unique about this certification offered by Simplilearn, is that certification participants work on real-life projects, giving them valuable experience they won’t get from many other similar courses.

Google AdWords Certification

The Google AdWords Certification is focused on a very specific niche of digital marketing: online advertising and best practices for using AdWords. The AdWords certification exams allow participants to test how much they know about online advertising, from the basics to the more complex. To become AdWords certified, participants must pass two of the certification exams. This includes AdWords Fundamentals, and one from a list that includes search advertising, display advertising, mobile advertising, video advertising or shopping advertising.

To become AdWords certified, participants must pass two of the certification exams. This includes AdWords Fundamentals, and one from a list that includes search advertising, display advertising, mobile advertising, video advertising or shopping advertising.

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Certificate

Available through HubSpot Academy, this is an excellent tool for learning about inbound marketing, and the best part is that it’s free, self-paced and open to anyone who wants to participate. This Inbound Certification shows the foundation of inbound marketing, which includes attracting your audience, turning leads into conversions, closing and also transforming happy customers into promoters and brand ambassadors.

Mobile Marketing Fundamentals

Available from DMA, Mobile Marketing Fundamentals is an excellent course because it focuses so narrowly on the key principles of mobile marketing. This course offers a no-frills introduction to mobile marketing, with content that’s actionable rather than only highlighting theories. It’s an interactive

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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6 Tips for Finding the Perfect Startup Cofounder

Starting a business is hard—that much you already know.

But starting a business without any partner? That’s almost impossible.

I say almost because there are actually startups that managed to hit the big time with just one person at the helm.

But truth be told, these companies are the exception, not the rule. Not everyone can be a Jeff Bezos, after all.

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The simple fact of the matter is that sooner or later, you won’t be able to do everything in your startup on your own. And if you want to expand your company, you’re going to need more minds and bodies to share the labor.

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

My own success as an entrepreneur can be traced back, not to me alone, but to the super smart and hard-working people I’ve been privileged to know.

That’s why I’m 100% committed to the principle of co-founders.

If you’re starting a business, you need to find one.

Destroying the Lone Startup Founder Myth

The idea of a lone wolf, striking it out against the world, sticking it to the man sounds bold and appealing, almost heroic.

But it’s far from the reality that young companies face.

Believe me. I’ve been there.

Having a co-founder makes sense for several reasons.

  • For starters, a co-founder serves as one of many insurance policies any startup should have. Calling a co-founder an “insurance policy” sounds cold and calculated, but, remember, I’m just pointing out one of the many advantages. There is a larger and more important aspect.
  • A co-founder helps to encourage and support you. Starting a business isn’t easy. You’re going to want to give in, go home, and maybe throw up a few times. Your cofounder will be there to keep you strong. You’ll do the same for him.
  • Having a partner means that if you find that your skills are inadequate for certain aspects of your business needs, you have someone who can come in where you fall short. There’s no shame. Only strength.
  • Businesses manned by two or more people with complementary skills and qualities (e.g. the realist vs. the optimist, the implementer vs. the idea guy) are also more likely to succeed.
  • Running a business isn’t cheap, and as many startup owners know, early funding can be hard to come by. This is where a partner comes in handy. You have someone to share the bill with, whether it’s by splitting costs or equity.
  • Investors also like to see a company that is led by more than one person. It just makes sense that more people means less chance of business failure.

Consider the following scenarios.

  • Say you’re a programmer with a promising app but don’t know how to spread word about your product. You need a partner specializing in marketing and media relations.
  • You could be an aspiring restaurateur but don’t have any real cooking experience. Obviously, you need a chef with connections as your partner.
  • You’re a copywriter with a stellar portfolio under your belt, but you don’t know all the technical aspects of online marketing to start an ad agency. You need someone with experience in SEO and CRO among others.

You get the picture.

Unfortunately, the process of finding a co-founder or partner is never easy. It requires trust and plenty of and communication to make things work.

Just because you snag a great co-founder, however, doesn’t predict easy sailing.

For every successful startup built on a solid relationship between two or more founders, one also failed due to problems stemming from problematic relationships.

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Finding a co-founder can be challenging, and the entire relationship is tricky and hard to navigate.

Here are some things that I’ve learned in my searches for cofounder.

1. Create a checklist for the “perfect cofounder” profile.

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The key to finding a business partner is to think first about the areas that you know you need help in. Ask yourself these questions before going off to look for a partner.

  • What are your strengths when in it comes to business?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your startup’s immediate needs that you can’t fix on your own?
  • Do you have the skills to address your target market’s concerns?

By finding the answers to these questions, you now have a reference for locating your ideal partner.

Remember to be as objective as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up just limiting your search to your family and friends.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if a friend or family member offers the right skills set and experience to complement yours.

But generally speaking, you want to expand your horizons as far as possible, which is hard to do if you limit your choices to people you’re close to.

Your list should include ideals. But stay realistic. You’re not going to find someone who fits 100% of your criteria.

Stay flexible, but know what you’re looking for.

2. Go to the right networking events.

If your current social spheres aren’t surfacing cofounder material, it’s time to make that sphere bigger.

Get your feet wet by joining a networking or matchmaking event. Even if you’re not necessarily in the market for a partner, meet-ups are a great way to interact with people who have similar interests and face the same challenges as you do.

This is especially true if you’re joining a startup event, which will be full of opportunities for VC funding and networking with startup fanatics.

Follow this checklist when attending these events:

  • Plan Your Agenda – Prepare an outline of your networking goals. Are you looking for potential partners? Looking to meet investors? Do you want to market your product?
  • Pick a Relevant Event – Not all networking events are the same, even those geared towards startup owners. Again, your networking goals should help guide your choice.
  • Prepare to Interact – Although it’s important to set networking goals, your general approach to an event shouldn’t be to network per se, but to meet people. This mindset will make your feel more relaxed at the event and ready to interact at the event.
  • Don’t Just Talk, Listen – Don’t just approach networking events with the intent of gaining something from them. You also need to consider how you can help others. This approach of listening to people is also more likely to help you identify potential partners who appreciate you taking the time to listen to them.

Intentionally grow your network, not just in size, but in value.

If you are going to bars and nightclubs that don’t have co-founder-level people, switch it up. Find the places where these people hang out, and get in their social path.

3. Considering moving to where the startup action is.

Now that you know the who and the how, it’s time to consider the where part of your co-founder search.

It’s no secret that certain cities just have better environments for helping startups grow, which is why relocating might be what you need to find a co-founder.

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Location plays a huge role in startup survival. Without the right ecosystem and support in the form of infrastructure, your company’s chances of thriving are low.

If your company is based in the middle of North Dakota, for example, you might be hard-pressed to find a co-founder. This is especially true if your company is in a niche industry.

But you shouldn’t jump on bandwagons either. For example, if you’re a tech company, should you relocate to Silicon Valley?

Personally, I’d say no. I’ve found thriving entrepreneurial and startup hubs all over the world. I moved away from Silicon Valley, not to it.

Try checking out other startup hubs near you. Don’t just limit your horizons to New York or San Francisco.

For example, according to an Entrepreneur report, droves of tech companies are moving shop to Salt Lake City, “inspired by startups launched by alumni from software pioneers Novell and WordPerfect.”

The report goes on to add, “VCs invested nearly $1 billion in local startups last year, making Salt Lake tops nationally in dollar-per-deal average.”

Here are some other options:

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Kansas, Missouri
  • Sacramento, California
  • Minneapolis–Saint Paul

Digital nomads have found great startup hubs in places as different as Medellín (Columbia) and Riga (Latvia).

Keep your options open, and consider the right move.

4. Don’t be afraid of working with people who are a lot different from you.

As much as it’s important to have an outline of qualities and skills you want from a potential partner, it’s also important to be willing to bend the rules a little.

For example, when most startups think of bringing in a partner, the ideal candidate is usually someone who is young, tech-savvy, and highly-educated.

But if this is your only criteria for hiring talent, you’ll soon have a staff with the same ideas, resulting in your startup being an echo chamber.

Mark Zuckerberg once said:

I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” 

While there are certainly merits to hiring young people, for example, limiting your talent search to a specific subset of people also means you’re limiting the kinds of ideas you can get.

Truly unique and special ideas can come from people you least it expect it from. Embrace diversity and consider people with backgrounds different from your own when looking for a partner.

5. Take plenty of time to get to know each other.

You finally found someone who ticks off a lot of the requirements in your “Perfect Startup Co-founder” outline.

Congrats.

Should you sign a partnership agreement at this point? No.

Remember, you found an ideal candidate for partner, but that doesn’t mean you’re 100% sure he or she is a good fit.

Don’t be too eager to bring people on board just yet, not when there’s always the option of putting them on a consultancy basis first.

I know it’s exciting to meet someone who shares your vision and goals for your startup, but you should still take as much time as possible to get to know each other before signing any official documents.

Having a business partner is a lot like being in a relationship with a significant other. You never truly know your SO’s personality and quirks until you’re in some kind of stressful situation.

The same thing applies to co-founders. And given how managing a startup is one of the most stressful challenges in the world, it only makes sense to have a partner who can stay cool under pressure.

For example, put your “practice” partnership to the test by taking on a weekend of intense planning and decision-making — perhaps brainstorming for a marketing campaign.

Observe how this person thinks, acts, and works to fix conflicts and make decisions.

This should tell you a lot about a potential partner’s worthiness for the role.

6. Don’t be afraid to set very clear terms.

I can’t stress this enough:  Finding a startup co-founder should be approached with the same seriousness as getting married to someone for the rest of your life.

And if spouses can agree to sign a prenuptial agreement, company co-founders can also agree to set terms over their partnership.

I don’t want to take the marriage thing too far, but you should at least be serious about it, and realize that a lot is at stake.

For example, compensation is usually a topic most startup owners would rather tackle sooner than later. But like I said, it’s better to hash things out while your company still isn’t making a lot of money.

You can agree to either pay yourselves right away, or receive cash outs when you finally get venture capital.

The decision is up to you and your partner/s.

Another conversation you should be having is division of labor. This is where most conflicts arise.

  • How many hours can you commit to the company?
  • Do you plan on keeping your “real” jobs for the meantime?
  • Who’s in charge of talking to the press?
  • Do you have an exit strategy in case things go up in flames?

Don’t be afraid to take on difficult or sensitive conversations. It’s better to have everything out in the open early on than to sort things out when it’s too late to repair the damage.

Many startups often fall apart because co-founders assumed that they were on the same page, despite having different priorities and business goals.

I would suggest writing these things down in a legal document to avoid major conflicts down the road.

Conclusion

Experience has taught me that the right co-founder/s can make or break a startup’s chances of survival and success.

Startups present far too many challenges, and unless you’re some kind of freak of nature who can take them all on your own, you’ll always be better off with a partner or team.

Startup co-founders can help share the workload, share your stress, solve problems, and — a major concern for many startup owners — split the bill on operating expenses.

Even if your startup fails, you can still proceed to the next project if you had a great working partnership.

Looking for a co-founder is always a challenge. But the payoffs are worth all the frustration when you finally find the right match.

What has experience taught you about finding a startup cofounder?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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How to Leverage Your About Page in Your Content Strategy

Your About Us page is one of the most important elements of your business, but it’s also  one of the most undervalued.

Even if you’ve followed the countless tips online for writing the best About Us page there’s a pretty good chance that you’re making the same “set it and forget it” mistake.

The About Us page is where your customer turn to learn about your company. What they see can result in either the loss or gain of that customer.

Here’s what we can do better to leverage the About Us page in our content marketing strategy.

Make a Better Human Connection:  Design a Better About Us Page

I’m going to assume you’re at the point where you’ve invested time into your About page and have already studied how to get the most impact from that content.

If that’s not that case then I want you to read and digest this guide from CopyBlogger before reading on. It will give you a detailed rundown on how to vastly improve the quality of your About page content. If you are writing an about page for your personal website, check out a guide that I wrote.

This is where we need to step up our game to include better on-page engagement and make your About content an integral part of your content strategy.

Your About Us is More Than an About Page

Stop thinking of your About page as an About page and start thinking of it as a super-powered landing page.

Landing pages are the heart and soul of any marketer’s inbound lead generation efforts. Despite that relevancy to lead generation and conversion, 44% of clicks for companies are directed back to the homepage rather than any particular landing page according to MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Handbook.

We can do whole lot better than that, and I’ll bet your metrics would agree.

Every set of numbers tells a story. Unique users, time on page, referral sources and visitor flow paint a pretty clear picture about why people visit your About page.

They’re interested in doing business with you while simultaneously judging you. On some level they’re engaging with you and your metrics can show you not only how they arrived but what they do after they read your About content.

That reveals two opportunities where you can work your About page into your content strategy – external and internal.

Pushing External Traffic To Your About Us Pages

Landing pages are awesome… blah blah. Don’t drive traffic to your homepage… blah blah. Do A/B testing… bah blah.

That’s all necessary and true but it’s been talked about a thousand times and it’s lame. Those tips never get to the heart of how to leverage your About content once you’ve made it awesome.

From an external position there are several ways to start driving traffic back to your About page in a way that makes it relevant to the user experience, and where it becomes a critical part of your sales funnel.

Tie videos to your About page

If you want to tell your story in a digestible format that is quick and engaging, do it with video. Push out video content on sites like YouTube, Vimeo and through shorter clips like Periscope videos and Vines.

In every video you publish you should link back to your About content. Let them get a taste for who you are, and your personality, then push them to your brand centerpiece when they click to find out more.

Don’t just give them a wall of text when they land there. Embed more relevant video and make the experience visually captivating.

Grove Labs built an innovative concept; that people can create a more resilient where food production is spread out, making it easier for anyone to build and grow healthy produce in their homes. It’s a very cool story and makes for an intriguing video.

Grove Labs greets you with this video preview that spans their About page with a play button that invites you to watch and learn more about their ideas, story and their founders.

What’s even better is that the video is responsive so it makes for an amazing mobile experience – something to consider since mobile search queries are now surpassing desktop and more people than ever are browsing the web from mobile devices.

Video is a compelling way to incorporate your About content into your content marketing strategy, just remember to use text along with your video for visitors who can’t watch or have difficulty playing it.

Send social traffic to custom About pages

There’s a lot of traffic being driven to websites from social media so a customized landing page is a necessity. Think about it: the people who click your ads and content links from social media sites – as well as paid social campaigns – are valuable visitors. They’re in the process of engaging with your brand.

  1. Crew found that customers who engage with them via their social media outlets  (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram) generally spend 2x more than the average customer.

You don’t dare send that traffic to a generic landing page or your home page! Send that social traffic to customized About pages.

Yes. I said pages. Plural. There’s no rule that says you’re limited to a single About page. You have more than one target audience and you create custom landing pages to match the audience of your campaigns – why not create custom About pages to match the different people who find you via social media?

Think about who your target market is: their demographics, geographics, likes and needs. Tailor your About content to talk to your audience in their language – show that you understand those wants and needs as you present your brand story. Then include the next-step or call to action relevant to that audience.

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Each of your social profiles includes a place to link to your website, so maximize the impact on conversion by sending them somewhere besides your homepage. Darren Rowse provides a perfect examplewith his custom About page that links from his Twitter profile.

You’re constantly engaging your audience as you share your own and curated content, so send the people you engage with to the one place where they can clearly get your brand story.

Link your people and your brand to your About page

If you’ve got listening posts set up online there’s a good chance you’re catching alerts for your company name, your name and the names of your team. Keeping tabs of brand mentions is smart, but you’re wasting an opportunity if you don’t do anything with it.

You never know when a reader is going to view you, your brand or a team member as someone who brings real value: an influencer. Don’t just settle for links to social profiles. Reach out to the content authors where the content originated and ask them to link those names  – brand included – to a custom about page that highlights your story and your team.

This is a great opportunity to set up supporting calls to action to follow the brand on your social channels and move prospects forward in your buy cycle.

Internal Content Promotion and Engagement

Using your About page with external content is easy – you drive traffic to it and customize it accordingly to cover that inbound opportunity. Now you have to think about post-engagement.

Control what they do after they engage with your site content by stepping up the presentation of what they digest.

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A new take on confirmation pages

I think Thank You pages and confirmation pages are one of the most value-wasted pages that we generate in marketing.

Your audience just made a conversion. They literally did exactly what  you wanted them to do, and your response is to serve them a “thanks for that” page?  Strike while the iron is hot and they’re in the middle of engaging your brand!

This is another point where you create a customized About page for receiving redirect traffic post-conversion. There are several benefits to this:

  • The thank you message to show you appreciate the customer
  • The presented company info to solidify the existing trust that spurred the sale
  • Greatly reduced chance of buyer’s remorse
  • Keeping them in the buy cycle (or launching a new buy cycle) for one more call to action
  • Continued engagement with the brand

You don’t have to be done with them once the conversion is complete, and you shouldn’t be ok with letting them leave. Which leads us to the next recommendation…

Why isn’t your About Page your new information/social hub?

You can liven up your static brochure content with some video and images but why not turn it into more? We constantly churn content out through our social channels, so make your About page into the social hub for your business.

Present your social channels via live feeds in one place. Supplement that with a magazine-layout presentation of your most recent blog posts along with press features for your company. Embed your Snapchat stories, Twitter roll, and Instagram. Make it the one place a customer or prospect can quickly and easily digest every type of content you put it.

That’s the page you want them to bookmark and share – not your home page.

Let your about page tell a story

Good content marketing tells a story and there’s no better place than your About page for that. Level up your content by giving your audience an opportunity to be the storyteller.

Think about it from a customer or client perspective. Would you put your trust in a company talking about how awesometastic they are? What if instead it was a colleague raving about the work your company did?

That colleague is far more likely to be unbiased, providing a realistic view of what your company is like. Letting customers tell their story provides a more down-to-earth view of how you do business.

FortyOneTwenty provides standard goods on their About Us page with a well-designed value proposition, but there’s gold below the fold. By including testimonials that feature faces they present a list of companies that “trust” FortyOneTwenty, automatically making them more likable and trustworthy in the eye of prospects.

Conclusion

If you’ve ever celebrated a string of opt-ins from exclusive offers or witnessed the organic traffic from strategic content marketing then you know full well the power of customized landing pages. That’s why you should be employing similar tactics with your About Us pages.

You can transform those pages into an engagement and conversion heavy part of your content strategy with the right approaches:

  • Use video and visually compelling content to drive traffic.
  • Push social traffic to your About page for authority and further engagement.
  • Create multiple customized about pages that are audience specific.
  • Link published content with brand mentions back to your About content.
  • Use customized About pages for redirected confirmations.
  • Transform your About page into a content-rich social hub for your brand.
  • Use content to tell a story, and embrace letting others tell the story for you.

This approach will bring more value to your customers and enrich the relationships & engagement you have with your audience.

Have you done anything unique with your About page to get more from your content marketing and audience engagement?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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5 Simple SEO Hacks to Survive Any Search Engine Update

It’s no secret that Google is continually experimenting with how it search engine ranks works, finding new ways to improve the Google user experience.

How? I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill.

One way the company does this is with regular updates to its search engine algorithm, making small adjustments to the way website are ranked and displayed on the search engine results pages.

Most of these updates are so minor they’re more security patches and updates than anything. But others, like Panda, Penguin, Penguin 2.0 and Hummingbirdmade sweeping changes to the landscape of SEO.

Who Benefited from These Updates?

Content marketers, digital marketing agencies, nimble marketers, and lean user experience teams have benefitted the most from these updates, mostly because their efforts were geared towards improving the user experience in the first place.

In the months that followed, we witnessed a massive transition toward content marketing:

  • Blogging emerged as a necessity in content marketing, and as a consequence, in SEO as well
  • Social media became the main pathway for referral traffic
  • Digital marketers now have more channels to spread content, forcing them to tell stories and reap the rewards, which were often proportionate on the quality of their content

Most, if not all, search engine updates were made with the user in mind, and not so much the people (or businesses) using it for marketing and advertising purposes. Fortunately, there are a number of foolproof hacks to protect your site from any algorithm update, and it all begins with what Google’s been fussing over so much: the user.

1. Build Content for People, Not Just Search Engines

Doesn’t sound like much of a “hack,” huh? Hear me out.

User optimization is the only way to succeed with search engine optimization.

Why? If Google’s Panda and Penguin updates taught us one thing, it’s that “Content is King,” and indeed it is.

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Search engines, i.e., Google, love fresh and original content, treating it as a primary ranking signal. Moz has been preaching this mantra since 2011!

These updates were made in response to the practice of many marketers and SEOs who had spent more time gaming the system with some SEO trick (whitehat and blackhat alike) instead of just concentrating on giving people what they want—real, original, and valuable content.

I can’t count the number of times someone approached me talking excitedly about some new scheme that’s going to be the “Next Big Thing” in SEO.

These include:

  • Paid blog networks
  • Article spinning
  • Link spamming
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Automated forum posting and blog comments

Right. Next big thing, huh? If you call a penalty a “big thing,” then, yes, I see your point.

These methods are about as old-school as you can get with SEO, and for a while, they helped launch hundreds of previously unknown sites to the top of the SERPs in relatively little time and little resources spent.

But when Google Penguin came along, many of these sites were penalized harshly, causing a dramatic drop in their SERP rankings and traffic.

Why it Works: The lesson is simple, and something I’ve pointed out to clients over and over again:  Don’t try to cheat the system and don’t build for search engines. Instead, focus on creating an SEO strategy with your users in mind. In other words, users first, search engines second.

If you use your time to develop the best possible experience for your users, the traffic will come, regardless of what updates are made to Google, Bing, or Yahoo!.

This infographic posted on Search Engine Journal lists down a number of strategies around content marketing. You’ll notice none of them are gimmick, focusing instead on some kind of information—albeit in different formats—to users, which is really what SEO should be about.

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2. Steer Clear of Low-Quality Backlinks

Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.

To some extent, the gist of that quote also applies to SEO practices, specifically with backlinks. The problem, as you probably know, is that it’s to control all sites that link to you, so it’s important to have a regular schedule of disavowing low-quality backlinks.

Finding Bad Backlinks

Yoast offers a terrific guide on how to identify and eliminate bad backlinks. Let’s start with how to find them.

Backlinks from Websites Created for SEO Links

These sites are usually easy to identify, as they will often have several articles and content assets with little coherence or connection to each other. Another red flag to watch out for is the site’s use of the default WordPress theme.

Backlinks from Comments – These links are especially infuriating as they’re usually generated by bots. (I get hundreds per week.) Bot behavior is fairly easy to identify. They’ll comment and say stuff like “Nicely written post!” or “Great article, looking to learn more soon!”

Bot technology has gotten so good that some comments will even be personalized, complete with author names.

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Over Optimized Links – It’s usually safe to assume most backlinks to a website use that website’s name as the link or anchor text, or the site’s URL itself. But if the majority of your backlinks are coursed through exact and clearly optimized keywords, you have every right to be suspicious of some shady business going on.

Links From Countries Not Part of Your Targeted Audience – It’s natural to expect that most websites linking to you will be related to your business, so it’s easy to understand why links coming from some site in Russia or Nigeria to your digital marketing firm in Connecticut should trigger some alarms.

Why it Works: Your site’s optimization suffers when it has backlinks with low ranked and irrelevant site. Each bad backlinks acts as red flag. The more irrelevant backlinks, the lower your reputation in the eyes of search engines.

A good way of assessing the sites linking to you is to use Google’s PR Checker to check their page rank. Backlinks should come from sites with a similar or higher pagerank as yours, and more importantly, should be relevant to your niche/industry.

3. Keep It Simple, Stupid

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The K.I.S.S. principle also applies to SEO.  Especially when you’re setting up your on-page SEO. The fewer complexities your site has, the lesser the likelihood of something going wrong. Also it’ll be much easier when you check and update your on-page optimization.

Why it Works: It’s highly unlikely for search engines to have a dramatically different method of crawling sites and web pages, so having a logical and flat structure, with short (but optimized) URLs and clean code makes the crawling process faster.

Here are a few K.I.S.S on-page SEO tips for your site:

Keep your URLs short and logical. They not only work better with search engines, they’re also more attractive to users, as they’re easier to remember and share.

Keep your interface simple and clean. Simplicity is also the safer and most user-friendly approach to web design and structure, as it allows your visitors to easily use and navigate through your site. Simpler designs also increases your page speed.

When update your on-page optimization, you can use tools such as OnPage to get suggestions on what to optimize. If you already have a good idea what you need to do, then you can use simple crawlers such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider to crawl your site for data.

4. Bring Down Your Bounce Rate

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Search engines in the future are expected to rank websites based on the level of their user engagement—the more engaged your audience, the closer you’ll be to the spots on the SERPs.

Why It’s Important: Even now bounce rates are recognized to play a factor behind a site’s rankings, but I see it having a bigger impact in the near future. Site content that causes users to “bounce” out or leave a site to go back to the search engine results pages naturally has a lower value than content that gives users a valid reason to stay, or move onward to a more relevant page within.

So how do you improve your content’s engagement factor and make people stay? Below are a few things you can do:

  • Boost site speed – Faster loading speeds are more likely to encourage to a user to stay and find out what information is on a webpage. In contrast, a site with a slow-loading photo or buffering video may drive them to go back to the results page and try their luck elsewhere. (Blame it on people’s shorter attention spans.)
  • Ensure cross-device compatibility – There’s a reason why Google itself championed responsive web design. With mobile continuing to grow, sites need to ensure their content can be viewed intuitively on any device, software, and browser. The user experience has to has to be clean and smooth, no matter what platform they’re on.
  • Give a reason to explore your site – The initial click leading to your site is just the first step. Now you need to keep their interest with content assets or resources relevant to their search.
  • Reduce distractions – Distracting elements such as pop-ups, obtrusive calls-to-action (CTAs), or subscription signs up tend to backfire when they’re too distracting, annoying returning visitors and turning off new ones.

5. Bridge the Gap between Relevant Content

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With search engines increasingly relying on predictive analytics, sites in the near future may soon be ranked for content that has the most lasting value, or content that successfully predicts what information a user might need next. In other words, if your site can bridge the gap between the page or content flagged by the initial query, and lead to other content they might be interested in, your site responds better to the search engine algorithm.

Why It’s Important: The key is not to limit optimization to a few keywords related to a specific content asset. While this has been the SOP since the dawn of SEO, adapting to predictive modeling means finding ways to tell both the reader and search engine that your site offers both relevance and suggestions on what additional information they might find useful.

  • Offer competing keywords – Optimizing content that targets users looking for “best headphones” can yield better results if you also optimize with suggestions to brands like Sennheiser, AKG, Grado, or Beats.
  • Use semantic keywords – If your landing page is targeting people looking for “San Antonio personal injury lawyers,” you should consider increasing its coverage with related keywords like “Texas injury lawyers” and “Texas work injury attorneys.”
  • Use the local community to your advantage – Searchers tend to favor organizations that identify themselves as experts and insiders in their respective local communities. Use localized search terms that appeal to this desire

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, SEO isn’t dying—far from it. Technically, it hasn’t even changed all that much either—that is, if you’ve been paying attention. Google’s algorithm updates (most notably the infamous Penguin and Panda updates) gave us enough clues to figure out what direction the search engine wanted to take when ranking websites, and if you ask me, it was done for a good reason and purpose.

Keeping up with search engines really boils down to addressing your users’ needs, not the search engines’. Provide a great user experience, and both the traffic and rankings will come. I guarantee it.

What are your search engine updates war stories…and lessons learned?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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10 Signs You Might Need to Hire Outside Help with Your Social Media

Is your brand on social media?

Are you tired of pouring time, money, and other resources into your social media accounts while watching other brands outperform you?

Maybe it’s time to hire some outside help.

In this article, I’ll discuss the major signs that you should consider hiring outside help to get your social media presence back on track and contributing to your profitability.

1. You’re leaving customer questions and comments unanswered.

JetBlue is well-known for having one of the most responsive business Twitter accounts.

Whenever a customer mentions the brand, the company responds within an hour. Even CEO Robin Hayes is known to respond.

Apparently, not every company is doing it like JetBlue. According to Convince & Convert, “70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter!”

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If your company isn’t able to respond to customers immediately the same way, you’re leaving a bad impression on social media. This makes your social media presence more of a hindrance than a help.

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Some brands might have a social hotline for customers to air their grievances. If you do, then you need to be monitoring it and responding to it.

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If you’re not responsive, then you might need a little outside help.

Social media consultants and agencies are dedicated to social media activity. Social media professionals make sure that no customer questions or concerns go unanswered. Instead of leaving customers hanging, consider hiring outside help to create a social community that contributes to the company’s bottom line.

2. Your social media following is shrinking.

Donna Maria at the Indie Business Network recently highlighted a myriad of ways businesses lose customers via social media. Social media is supposed to be a place where customers connect and engage with a brand. If they’re unable to relate to the business on social media, they’re likely to leave, never to return.

Social media agencies have established processes and procedures to effectively build a social media account into a positive extension of the brand. When a customer enters your brick-and-mortar store, you treat them like part of the family, and the same should be true on social media.

3.  You’re not seeing enough website traffic from social media.

Social media traffic should account for approximately 30 percent of your web traffic. This 30% may include all social sources, not a single social site.

Garrett Moon discussed his strategies for driving traffic on social media platforms. By gathering and analyzing data on social media activity, you’ll have an accurate picture of how you’re doing and can adapt accordingly.

Data analysis is an important part of business, and it’s an area on which social media agencies built our business. If you’re unable to implement solid processes to collect and analyze social media data to quantify your efforts, it may be time to hire outside help.

4. You know you’re not that great at social media.

All over Twitter, you’ll see people label themselves as “social media gurus.” These self-proclaimed experts may have a large following (or not), but it’s difficult to tell if they’re able to translate this success to future work with your business.

In order to be successful on a social media platform, you need to know how the community works, optimal times to post, and how to encourage engagement. A lack of expertise slows innovation, so it’s important to have experts on the team.

Hootsuite has 6 quizzes to test your knowledge about social media. If you’re unable to pass these quizzes, it’s time to start looking for social media help.

5. You’re doing a lot of social stuff, but you don’t know how to focus on the right stuff.

A successful social media campaign needs to be focused and consistent. From 2011 to 2015, Coca-Cola saw a 96 percent positive or neutral consumer sentiment on over 125,000 posts across all social networks, thanks to its #ShareaCoke campaign.

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During this time, the company went all-in on the campaign, printing common names on their products to encourage sales and sharing of their products.

Social media agencies know how to create a voice and stick to it. Instead of trying different things, leading to an inconsistent impression among customers, experts can drill down to the brand image and constantly supplement it. If you’re struggling to create a consistent brand image across all marketing channels, you’ll benefit from seeking outside help.

6. Social isn’t making your business grow.

Greg Shuff, the owner of DryHop Brewers, emphasizes the need for delegation to grow a business. While a solo entrepreneur or employees of a small business often wear many hats, this business model isn’t sustainable as a business begins to grow.

Business owners looking to scale their business to the next level need to have a dedicated staff for each business process. A dedicated social media agency focuses entirely on social media marketing, allowing other teams to focus on their goals. By compartmentalizing each job process, teams improve productivity, contributing to the overall efficiency and success of the company.

7. You know you’re wasting time on social media.

There are a lot of social media platforms these days. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon can each keep a person busy for an entire work day. Dedicating all this time to social media without a defined ROI can feel like a waste of time.

Social media agencies excel at quantifying and monetizing a social media campaign. By formulating a plan, preparing a schedule, and executing each step, a social media pro can create and document success.

Over time, you’ll see increases in followers, customer engagement, and conversion rates, which provides a valuable ROI for any business.

8. You feel like you’re throwing away money on social media.

Every company would love to have a dedicated digital marketing team, but most don’t have the budget. It costs a lot of money to staff a team, and training, development, and turnover can quickly drain the company’s liquid assets.

In 2015, the average business spent between $200-$350 per day on social media. A monthly cost of $4,000-$7,000, thus, is a decent estimate for social media cost projection. According to surveys, businesses spend 13% of their marketing budget on social media, a number which is expected to rise to 21% in the next few years.

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But what is the ultimate impact of this money? Where is it going? What is it doing?

When hiring an outside agency, these operational costs are shifted to the agency. Social media experts can provide qualified and experienced staff so your business is focused on selling and turning a profit.

9. You don’t have a clear plan for your social media strategy.

No business can succeed without a plan, but planning and executing a successful social media campaign takes a lot of work. Often what happens is businesses become reactive and are never able to formulate an actual social media plan.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple four-step plan, like the one below, is a perfect starting point.

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Social media agencies start with a business plan. When you’re searching for outside social media help, start by asking potential vendors to submit their past successes and a personalized plan for your business.

Before spending a single penny, you’ll have a solid social media plan that both parties agree to and work to materialize.

10. Your social media conversions are really low.

Regardless of how well your social media accounts are doing, it means nothing if those interactions don’t convert to sales.

If conversions are low, it could signal problems with your approach. Sure, most people know how to “do” social media, but do they know how to drive conversions and improve revenue?

It’s important to carefully track conversions from social media in order to assess the ROI. You may wish to go to the extent of creating a funnel like the one below, demonstrating the path and progress of sales leads.

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It’s vital that your sales and marketing teams work together and complement each other to ensure a seamless transition from the first interaction to the final sale.

Outside social media agencies are focused on generating leads to turn over to the sales department. While social media metrics are important, contracting an outside vendor allows you to hold them accountable for generating leads that convert to sales.

Conclusion

Social media is an important part of any business’s online presence. On social media, customers can engage with companies to form a connection and raise brand affinity. This only occurs when a social media presence is solid.

It’s important to be responsive to all customers, promote valuable content, and convert engaged followers into paying customers. If you’re struggling to quantify your social media presence, employees are being stretched too far, and are lacking a solid business plan, it’s time to consider seeking outside help with your social media.

Do you hire outside help with social media? Did it change things for better or worse?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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Marketing Techniques You Won’t Learn in College (But Must Know For the Real World)

Have you ever heard people complain that they didn’t learn much from college, but they learned a ton from their first job?

There’s a reason people complain about school. Part of the problem, of course, has to do with the students themselves. (Partying has marginal educational benefits.)

Education itself has built-in disadvantages. I’m not here to disparage education. Education is essential. But education can’t prepare you for some of the most critical aspects of marketing that you will face in the real world.

Here are some of the most valuable marketing techniques that you’ll probably hear nothing about in your marketing classes.

1. Customer psychology

Customer psychology is the science of why people buy. Customer psychology is at the root of every purchase decision.

Apart from a perfunctory Psych 101, few students ever dive into the why and how of buying behavior.

The result is that most companies just guess at consumer behavior. Doing “market research” doesn’t substitute for the intuitive understanding of human cognition that lies at the root of search-click-buy activity online.

Customer psychology unearths valuable information that completely changes the way you approach all of marketing.

  • What are the subconscious activities that predispose a customer to purchase?
  • What conditions lead to a customer’s position in the buy cycle?
  • How do pain and happiness affect a user’s behavior on a website?
  • How do cognitive biases affect purchase behavior?

To benefit from this fascinating field, you’ll have to do the digging on your own.

2. Personal branding.

Apart from a passing reference in “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” you may not even be familiar with the term “personal branding.”

However, building your personal brand is an essential part of marketing in today’s environment.

A personal brand is not about narcissism. It’s about marketing, plain and simple. To sell anything, especially personal or consulting services, you must have a platform. If no one knows you exist, how can they be convinced to buy from you.

The advantage of a personal platform can’t be overstated. The larger and more successful your personal brand, the better you can start businesses, market products, and grow your business.

3. Analytics

Any business student will have his baptism by fire in college math class. Most businesses students may also wrangle with freshman accounting or some other nefarious bugaboo.

But analytics? Scarcely a mention.

Analytics is “the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics.” Sounds boring, but it’s crucial. Why? Because it’s the only way to know what’s going on with your business.

From analytics, you can discover the following:

  • How many website visitors you received over a certain period.
  • How many mobile users converted during the month of April
  • Which headline — version A or version B — caused the most people to buy your product.
  • How 18-25-year-olds interact with your site.
  • Where people are leaving your checkout process

Analytics is like a business genie in a SaaS bottle. How do you get the genie out? You learn analytics. There is a variety of analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics and other systems that help to interpret data in actionable ways. There are also platforms with more detailed types of analytics, such as SEO performance.

4. Mobile

Mobile. Just one word.

But a world of potential.

Mobile and desktop Internet usage is now approximately equal. If you go through school without learning about mobile trends and marketing actions, then you have some catching up to do.

You’ll need to learn about some of the latest and most influential trends in mobile:

  • Mobile marketing in general
  • Mobile social media usage
  • Mobile search engine optimization
  • Mobile app development
  • Responsive design
  • Tap to call marketing
  • SMS marketing
  • Mobile gamification
  • Marketing with wearable technology
  • Mobile checkout
  • Mobile customer behavior monitoring
  • Mobile research
  • Mobile usage trends
  • Mobile marketing statistics and analytics

Mobile is one of the most significant trends in the modern marketing era.

5. Content marketing

The web is driven by content. You’ve heard the phrase, now cliche, “content is king.” As worn-out as it is, the statement is no less true.

Content is what attracts search engines, gains user attention, compels customer conversions, and makes you money.

To not be aware of content marketing is to overlook something that will comprise your most useful and potentially lucrative forms of marketing. I’ve used content marketing to build several businesses. I can assure you that its profitable.

For one of my businesses, Kissmetrics, I spend 99% of the marketing budget on content marketing and email marketing. That’s a lot of money. But there’s a lot of ROI.

6. Search marketing

How do search engines work?  It’s an important issue, because search is what makes the online world go around.

Without a basic understanding of search engine optimization, few companies would be successful with their marketing. Digital marketing starts with an understanding of SEO, keyword optimization, technical optimization, and then developing a plan that attracts and converts the right kind of traffic.

7. Social media

Most college students know how to use social media. But marketing on social media is much different than stalking your crush, looking at pics, and posting status updates.

Social media marketing gets into the thick of promoted posts, engagement levels, ROI, and audience growth. It takes a level of commitment and sophistication to get at Facebook from a totally different angle.

8. Conversion optimization

Conversion rate optimization or CRO is a mix of psychology, art, and science, that gives you a major ROI. Defined precisely, CRO is a systematic approach to improving a user’s website experience so that they are more likely to convert, or take a preferred action.

Conversion optimization starts with understanding your users (refer to customer psychology on this one) and knowing exactly who they are and what they want. From there, conversion optimizers shape a website structure and content so that it is most likely to gain the attention and action of the users.

But that’s only the start.

The real action in conversion optimization is the testing. Conversion optimizers use a practice called a/b testing (or split testing) to know for certain which variations of a website convert more users.

Few universities have courses on split testing, even though it’s an important part of marketing. To get at this, you’ll have to do research and get practice.

Conclusion

I understand why schools don’t offer courses in all of these things. It’s hard to teach a course in an area that is constantly changing.

Marketing is an industry that is in constant flux. The best practices of a few months ago are outdated almost as quickly as they are adopted.

That’s why it’s up to us to try to keep pace, self-education, research relentlessly, and apply what we know.

What marketing lessons do you wish you learned in college?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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8 Facts Most SEO Companies Don’t Want You to Know

The tricky thing about search engine optimization (SEO) is that it’s always changing, always evolving depending on how Google (let’s face it, Google is thesearch engine we’re optimizing for) updates their search algorithm.

In just a few years, SEO has undergone several radical changes. In the old days, SEO was focused on gaming the system with heavy-handed keyword-based strategies and black hat techniques, both of which eventually became obsolete (though the case for keyword tactics can be made).

Today, modern SEO strategies are centered on providing a valuable content and a solid user experience—things that actually have a direct impact on users rather than search engines.

Yet underneath all that progress and layers of complexity, many of SEO’s fundamental tenets are still present. It’s just that many SEOs and marketing agencies don’t really give their clients the real scoop behind this field of marketing.

In this article, I talk about a few SEO facts your marketing agency may have failed to mention, intentionally or not, to you.

Hopefully, if you’re looking to hire an agency or consultant, the facts on this guide will help you ask the right questions.

1. SEO Isn’t As Hard as Marketers Would Have You Believe

As marketers, interpreting data and using what we learn to make appropriate changes is part and parcel of our job. As such, it’s important to have some kind of technical knowledge on factors that affect all fields of marketing.

Now, while it may seem that this is especially more applicable to SEO than other marketing platforms, that’s not exactly the case.

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The basic principles of SEO are often buried under a lot of intimidating jargon, making it seem more complicated than it actually is. But as the story of Chloe Spencer shows, even a young teenager can use SEO techniques to make a little money on the side.

Sure, her dad is an SEO expert, but that’s not really a valid excuse. You have the entire Internet at your disposal. The number of guides (this included) giving you a walkthrough on SEO numbers in the thousands.

Of course, this isn’t to say that some technical expertise isn’t important with SEO. At some point, you’ll need to talk about things like:

  • Page speed
  • Clickthrough rates
  • Site architecture
  • Web usability
  • Responsive design
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rates

And yes, all these key performance indicators (KPIs) have significant roles in SEO. But trust me when I say that they can all be learned at your own pace.

The truth is that when you stop to think of its true definition, SEO isn’t really a technical skill. Yes, data plays a huge role in SEO success, but at its heart, it’s about building online relationships and understanding online user behavior.

And guess what? That more or less falls under traditional marketing territory.

2. No One Really Understands the Future of Google’s Search Algorithm

Any agency or SEO that tells you they know what will happen to Google’s Search algorithm in the future probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Even the folks at Google are having problems confirming or denying algorithmic updates.

In the history of Search, Google’s has released four major algorithm updates, named in chronological order:

These four are the big boys of algorithm updates, but between these refreshes, Google has also made several hundred (perhaps even thousands) algorithm tweaks that fly completely under the media’s radar, but may still have some kind of impact on your SERP rankings.

And there’s no way one agency, much less one person, has the inside scoop behind all these updates.

So does this mean we’re completely at the mercy of Google? Not quite, if you ask me. With their most recent updates, Google’s basically telling us something we’ve known all along as best practice:

  • Focus on delivering a great user experience
  • Provide high-quality and useful content
  • Control low-quality links

3. There’s No “Secret Recipe” to Going Viral

Yeah, this one might be a tough pill for many people to swallow. Going viral is seen by many as the Holy Grail of marketing, and for good reason. A content asset that generates thousands of views, likes, or shares can dramatically increase your brand’s visibility. But is virality an exact science?

Some would like to insist that it is.

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While it certainly helps to look at the anatomy of viral content, replicating the unique series of actions that pushed a certain content asset to go viral is a process of trial and error. And anyone who guarantees your content will go viral is probably overstating things.

In fact, if your SEO strategy’s entire purpose is to find a way to go viral, then I’m telling you right now: it won’t succeed.

SEO comes in by tweaking content to increase its chances of being picked up by influences and shared within their respective circles. Is it virality at the level of “Gangnam Style”? No, but that example is an extreme one, and highly unlikely to be replicated by any marketer.

4. Keywords Are No Longer King

As mentioned earlier, gone are the days of keyword-based strategies being the be-all and end-all of search engine optimization. We have Hummingbird to thank for that, which really shook up SEO by drawing a line in the sand separating old school and modern search optimization principles.

There’s old and new SEO, and they answer different questions.

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With the introduction of Hummingbird, Google has redirected the focus from keywords, to actual users. This isn’t to say that keyword research will no longer be important, because it still is, especially when expanding into new markets.

But keywords now play a relatively minor role when it comes to pushing content that solves your audience’s problems, which is really the thrust behind Hummingbird. To do that, you need to answer questions your target market is likely to ask about your brand, as well as your products and services.

In other words, focus on the user instead of keywords. Sure, leverage relevant keywords in your content, but they shouldn’t get in the way of quality and value.

As a bonus tip, experience has taught me that 91 percent of my search traffic comes from long-tail keywords, so experiment with long-tail phrases instead of head keywords.

5. Top 5 or Nothing

When it comes to search rankings, anything below the sixth spot for your target keywords won’t be worth it. It’s either top or nothing. Not first page, as some marketers will try to guarantee (a huge red flag if any), and not top 10.

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A report by Chitika shows that the top 5 search engine results receive 75.7 percent of all clicks. The top spot gets 33 percent of all traffic, while the second spot gets 18 percent, with the percentages decreasing as you go down in rank.

If anything, this means running a hyper-focused keyword campaign in order to get results. Focus on the most valuable keywords, building your content around them.

You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, because that will just give you mediocre rankings across multiple keywords at best.

6. Your Blog is Your Biggest Search Bargaining Chip

SEOs will tell you your blog is important, but what they won’t tell you is how powerful it really is.

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From the top of my head, here are the three best reasons to set up a blog, or revive your site’s inactive blog.

  1. A blog drives traffic
  2. A blog helps convert traffic to leads
  3. It builds your reputation or authority

With Google pushing for high-quality content as a primary ranking signal, the cliché of “Content is King,” is getting more and more firmly rooted in fact. But from an SEO perspective, having a steady stream of content on your website blog gives Google the signal that your business is showing online activity.

And from a human perspective, any sign of blog activity is a welcome indicator of someone actively managing the site.

Remember, stagnant sites are boring and look unreliable. If you want to give your visitors and customers a reason to come back, offering valuable content through your blog.

7. You Can Start Small with SEO

SEO is perfectly scalable. Don’t believe anyone who says you need to be firing on all cylinders right from the get go. If you don’t have the resources to invest in large-scale content marketing, link building, or conversion rate optimization (CRO), you can just as easily start small with the most actionable methods.

Check your site structure

The fastest way to ensure your site’s search engine friendliness is with a quick evaluation of its site map, HTML readability, and folder structure. Free tools like Google Webmaster Tools will notify you of any HTML errors, duplicate meta tags, and descriptions that could be hurting your site’s ranking.

Run a quick keyword study

If you’re completely new to SEO, don’t worry. Right now, think of 3 to 4 words and phrases you would use to find your site on Google. Ask your friends and family to do the same, and then compare your results. If you see overlapping keywords, chances are, these will be what your target audience will use as well.

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You can then use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to run searches for these keywords, checking for search volume and competition. If there aren’t any searches, there’s no use targeting these keywords. Conversely, if competition is too high (too many searches) consider using long-tail variations of your keywords for better results.

Share your site and its content on social media

If you already have blog posts and articles on your site, you should start posting them on social sites to generate traffic. It’s quick, easy, and a complete no-brainer. Your SEO will then have something to work on once you bring him on board

8. SEO Isn’t Just SEO Anymore

You’ve probably heard talk about how SEO is dead, or how Google’s search algorithms have made it irrelevant today. There’s actually a little bit of truth to these statements. It’s not that SEO is dead, it’s just that it’s changed.

In one of my previous articles, I pointed out how SEO is actually all about content marketing—their goals overlap, their purposes are intertwined, and the techniques involved complement each other.

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Perhaps the best way to describe this symbiotic relationship is by thinking of SEO as the blueprint.

  • SEO tells you what keywords to use.
  • SEO tells you what the most ideal content length is (through analytics).
  • SEO tells you to use backlinks
  • SEO needs content

As it turns out, content marketing provides the answer to make this blueprint a reality.

  • You can’t optimize anything without content
  • Content provides the avenue to drive backlinks
  • SEO craves consistent output; content marketing helps you do just that

Conclusion

If you’re looking to work with a digital marketing agency or an SEO consultant, the facts and issues raised in this article should help you make the right decisions when bringing in outside help. And hopefully, this doesn’t take away from your view of the value of SEO, and how it’s truly a worthwhile investment when marketing your brand online.

If anything, this guide highlights the importance of working with a reliable SEO consultant. Just remember to do your homework so you’re not being led on or pushed into something that’s a complete waste of time and money.

What about you? Do you have any insider information about SEO you’d like to share?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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5 Local SEO Shortcuts to Ranking Your Local Website in Record Time

What’s the best marketing technique for your local business?

Answer:  Local SEO.

The majority of your potential customers are searching for your business online, and most of them are using mobile devices. Your only chance to reach them is by getting your local business website to rank high in the search engines.

And how is that supposed to happen?

Through dominance. You must master your local SEO, which used to be a tough beast to tame. What made it tough to tame was the fact that the “rules” of local SEO were in flux.

Today, however, you’re at an advantage. The techniques for ranking your local business website are relatively simple to implement.

Here are 5 shortcuts that will give you a powerful advantage.

1. Use your city name/neighborhood on every page of your website.

The most important component of local SEO is your website. Your website must include the name of your city or neighborhood.

There are a few reasons why this is important.

First, it’s critical for search engines to know what city you’re in. Second, website visitors need to know that your website is relevant to them.

If your business is located in a large urban area, you should also include the name of the area or neighborhood where you are located. A “Bakery in New York City” is rather vague, whereas a “French pastry café in Lenox Hill, Manhattan” is specific.

If you have a robust content marketing strategy, you can maintain a steady stream of local information in your blog articles and updates — the local softball team’s victory, the fire station’s fundraiser, etc. Regularily referring to your city, its neighborhoods, and its current events can improve your local SEO.

Here are a few bonus tips for extra SEO power:

  • Mention your location in your title tag. For example:  “Bob’s Crossfit, Los Angeles, CA”
  • Mention your location in your H1: “Top-rated L.A. Fitness Club”
  • Mention your location in your content.

2. Place your NAP in the footer of your website or on every page.

NAP stands for “Name, Address, and Phone Number.” This bit of information is the key to local ranking.

I recommend that local businesses place this information prominently on every page. Obviously, you don’t want to be accused of keyword stuffing. You do want to drive long tail traffic to your website, which includes local long tail queries.

3. List your business on local websites and directories.

As soon as your website is optimized, it’s time to get busy with directories.

Directory listings are to local SEO what backlinks are to traditional SEO. All things being equal, the local business with the most directory listings will rank higher and faster.

Local websites and directories vary from area to area, but the following directories are available everywhere:

  • Google+
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • CitySearch
  • MerchantCircle
  • Manta
  • Yellow Pages
  • White Pages
  • Local.com
  • Foursquare
  • DexKnows

Get your business listed on as many high-quality directories as you can, but take heed:  Many of these directories want to charge hefty fees for the apparent privilege of adding a little extra exposure, tracking your metrics, or enhancing your listing.

In most cases, you don’t need the extra lift. A standard free listing is enough to signal to the search engines that you’re a viable business with a recognized presence in your local area.

That being said, you should fill out as much information as possible on these online directories. If you have the option to add the name of the business owner, photos of your locations, and a description of your services, by all means add this information.

4. Make sure that your NAP is consistent.

Google and other search engines use your NAP as the business’s unique identifier. For this reason, your NAP must be consistent across all websites and social media sites.

For example, it’s possible that your business may have changed locations at some point in the past. If you moved from 123 Main Street to 456 Elm Street, you will need to make sure that you’ve updated this information on your Facebook page, Google page, Yelp, Foursquare, and any other online directories.

5. Get reviews.

The better your reviews, the better your business will do.

Although the exact impact of reviews is unknown, we can be fairly certain that a greater quantity of user reviews on a site like Yelp can enhance a website’s ranking.

The biggest upside of reviews is that it attracts potential customers. Let’s say you were in the mood for sushi, so you compare two local sushi restaurants.

One has 500 five-star reviews, and one has 18 one-star reviews. You would probably opt for better reviewed restaurant, right?

Now getting reviews is easier said than done. It is often considered poor form to ask for reviews outright. It’s even worse to pay for reviews.

But there are ways to get reviews. The most effective way to get stellar reviews is to earn them through bend-over-backwards customer service and over-the-top customer care.

You can try other methods, too:

  • Place a reminder about online reviews near the checkout or exit doors.
  • Post URLs or QR codes in these locations as well.
  • Encourage your staff to mention the value of online reviews.
  • Incentivize those who leave a review by offering coupons, giveaways, or other perks.
  • Include links to your directory profiles such as Google+ or Yelp where you are eager to earn reviews.

Conclusion

It’s so important for businesses to understand local SEO and to do what it takes to rank.

Google is getting much better at returning relevant local results, but it’s still up to local businesses to take the right action.

With this solid understanding of what it takes to rank, you should see greater results, greater revenue, and superior business success.

What techniques do you rely on to help your local business rank?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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Top Dos and Don’ts When Running Your First Startup

Launching a startup is, for all intents and purposes, one of the hardest things you’ll probably ever do in your life. It’s a giant leap of faith and one that involves a constant learning process for as long as your business exists.

Not to mention your passion for your startup tends to erode as time goes by, what with all the research, planning, and marketing you need to before your launch. And in the back of your mind, you’ll probably worry if you missed something or forgot to include a critical to-do in your plans.

In this article, I’ve put together a number of simple dos and don’ts to help guide you across the rocky landscape of startups. Starting a new business is always risky, but that’s what makes it so fun and rewarding in the end.

1. DO Your Research

Many people often think a good idea is all it takes to start a business. But ideas are so common, and chances are, even if you think you have a truly unique idea, someone’s thought of it before.

Facebook? Dating sites and Friendster were way ahead of the curve.

Amazon? eBay came first.

My point is that ideas are easy to find. But the thing that takes a great idea and turns it into a great business is execution. And for execution to happen, you need market research, which basically answers these questions?

  • Is there a market for my business?
  • Do you understand your target market?
  • What are my products and services?
  • What problems will my business solve?
  • Is someone else doing it?

Without proper research, you can’t make reliable forecasts of market readiness, which can lead to disaster within the first few months of your startup’s existence.

2. DON’T Jump on Bandwagons

One of the fastest ways for a startup to die in its first few months is if chases the product mechanic instead of answering the unique demand and reason for that product.

Simply put, if you think the product mechanic for a photo-sharing app will work for a video-sharing app, and want to build your startup around that premise, you’re taking a HUGE risk

Don’t just jump on bandwagons and copy the latest trends. Instead, do your research on what consumers need, using the results to develop a way to answer their needs.

The need should determine the product, not the other way around. In other words, you can’t make assumptions based on a product certain model, and make a new product hoping that it will do the same.

3. DO Have a Partner

Single founders will almost always find it impossible to get funding. It’s not a coincidence why successful startups were helmed by at least 2 founders.

  • Apple? Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
  • Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and company
  • Snapchat? Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, Reggie Brown

As such, a business partner is a natural solution, as you can have someone to share in the work without worrying about pay—at least until you get funding.

Do note that business partnerships can be a fickle thing. And in my many years in business, I’ve learned firsthand why many business partnerships fail, with reasons ranging from personal differences, poor communication, confrontation, different goals, and a lack of time.

3. DON’T Get Carried Away by Positive Feedback

Most startup founders are ready to get thrashed by their potential customers, peers, and venture capitalists, but what many of them don’t expect is to get a ton of positive feedback.

While positive feedback is always a great thing to hear, I’ve seen how startup CEOs fall into the trap of confirmation bias, especially in the early stages of their startup. What happens is the CEO, who naturally loves positive feedback, overvalues the good things people have to say about his company, which affects his decisions and judgment.

But unless the positive feedback actually translates to sales or funding, all you have are words. Kind words, sure, but words that have no effect on your bottom line nonetheless.

Intrigue vs. Appeal

If a venture capitalist or prospect looks at your product, tells you it’s exciting but doesn’t actually invest in your company or pay for your product, you have something that’s intriguing, but not appealing enough to warrant any money.

You’ll see this scenario many times in the startup landscape: promising companies with exciting ideas that failed to take off because of a lack of focus, or creating a product that’s all bells and whistles, but doesn’t actually solve problems.

4. DO Be Careful With Who You Bring On Board

As a startup owner, it’s important to keep your ear to the ground for great talent just waiting to be tapped. However, talent is just one part of the equation. Work ethic, coachability, and a shared vision are just as important factors when choosing a potential member of your team.

So how do you start?

References offer a great way of gauging a candidate’s reliability, more so if it’s an internal recommendation. When looking at a resume, always check for a reference to an old boss or former employer. Remember, your startup’s reputation is one of your main bargaining chips, so it’s important for an applicant to have people who can vouch for him.

You can find more pointers on hiring employees in my article, 6 Traits Every Employee Must Have.

5. DON’T Underestimate the Value of Legal Assistance

A legal battle is probably the most disastrous thing that could happen to your startup. Even if you’re completely and 100 percent innocent, it still won’t change the fact that a lawsuit could last for months to years.

And that’s a distraction that could cripple a startup’s potential, taking away money that would’ve otherwise been used on R&D or marketing. Simply put, lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally and mentally exhausting.

So even if you don’t think you need one now, get a reliable lawyer on your team ASAP. When things go awry, at least you have some on call to represent you in court and help you to protect your business, its ideas, and assets.

6. DON’T Ramp Up Too Soon

Any startup would be thrilled with the prospect of scaling. After all, growth is a good thing, right?

Well, it’s not so black and white. While growth can translate to increased profits, you should only scale if you’re confident your business processes are problem-free and you have product/market fit.

You’ll often hear about “growth hacks,” but these all depend on whether or not your product is actually ready for market demand, otherwise you’ll only hurt your brand’s reputation.

Knowing When to Scale

Pay attention to your startup’s key performance indicators (KPIs), which should tell you if your product conversions have achieve a target product/market fit that signals the need to scale. Your KPIs will tell you if your products or services are doing the job people are paying the, to do. Make sure you get a positive answer to this question, otherwise scaling prematurely will only burn you in the end.

7. DO Invest in the Right Tools – DON’T Cheap Out

Startups need to make several investments even in their early stages, which is why funding is so important.

By investments, I’m not referring to office supplies, but technology tools: servers, marketing SaaS, CMS, software, and other similar tools.

As you might have guessed, these tools will cost a pretty penny, but it’s not money wasted at all. Andp if you skimp with these tools, such as analytics and SEO software, the problems they cause might hurt your business to the tune of thousands of dollars. If a tool’s price seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

8. DON’T Be Too Eager to Move Into an Office

Some of the world’s largest corporations had humble beginnings. I’m talking ‘garage humble’. So there’s no reason to be insecure about not having an office address.

And besides, who needs an office when you can go remote? When your resources and cash reserves are low, you need to take drastic measures to ensure your startup’s survival.

And when it comes right down to it, if you look at the cost-to-benefit ratio of an office, it turns out not to be a necessity if you make the right changes to your business in terms of business processes, hiring, and company culture. In truth, offices are overrated, especially when you can do so much on a computer connected to the Internet.

Of course, the question of going office-less will ultimately depend on the nature of your business and its unique needs. If you value face-to-face customer interaction and know it has an effect on your bottom line, then having your own premises might be critical.

9. DO Focus on Sales

Many startup owners sometimes miss the forest for the trees, spending far too much time on design, their website, and other things rather than going out there and closing a sale. These things cost money, and unless you have a client to build your profits from, you’ll soon empty your reserves.

This may seem like common sense, but it’s something that should be mentioned nonetheless. You should be selling first before anything else.

10. DON’T Be Afraid to Go Out and Meet People

As a startup owner, it’s absolutely necessary to go out there and get your hands dirty. If you’re serious about getting VC funding, you need to go out and build relationships with the people important to your business and industry.

Talk to your potential customers and find out what they want when buying your product or services. Ask what their pet peeves are and learn out how to make them happy.

You should also interact with influencers in your industry, and even your competition. Simply put, you need to make your presence known. You can’t afford to keep yourself holed in, coding all day long.

11. DO Be Ready for Failure

Embrace the possibility of your startup failing. As much as 90 percent, or 9 out of 10, startups fail, so the odds aren’t exactly in your favor.

But don’t let that burst your bubble. The key is learning how to fail—I know, sounds like something Mr. Miyagi would say.

But it’s true. Failing quickly is better than failing over a prolonged period. If you’re gonna walk into walls, it’s better to be running into them full speed. After that, you get up, dust yourself and move on.

The best thing you can do for your startup is to brace yourself for failure, learn as much lessons from the experience, and move on to the next endeavor.

Remember, startups are all about trial and error. So rather than toeing the line all the time, you need to accept that you’ll get things wrong. Just be sure you’re not making the same mistakes over and over again.

Conclusion

The goal of this guide isn’t so much to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, but rather to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes other entrepreneurs make.

This shouldn’t stop you from taking risks all because you’re afraid of making mistakes, because you won’t grow with that mindset.

Every single entrepreneur has made and will continue to make mistakes. It’s just how the world of startups works. The key, however, is to learn from these startup mistakes to minimize the damage they might incur on your business.

Do you have any particular dos and don’ts you’d like to recommend for startups?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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17 Writing Hacks to Write Killer Articles in Half the Time

Think about the articles you write. They’re good. People like them. You’ve been published in a few places.

Good job.

Now, what if you could double that?

What if you could write twice as many articles, write twice as many guest posts, get published on twice as many websites, make your articles twice as long, get twice the visibility, make twice as much of an impact, get twice the page views, site visitors, traffic, and conversions?

Wow. That would make a huge difference, wouldn’t it?

The more you write, the more of all the other good things in life come to you.

But how can you write more? Here are a few of the writing hack techniques that I use. If you pick a few of these, you’ll definitely be able to write way more than you do right now.

1. Have a list.

The number one thing that helps me write faster is this. I already know what I’m going to write about before I even start.

A lot of the time that people spend “writing,” isn’t actually spent on writing. It’s spent figuring out what they want to write about. This kills your productivity!

Before you ever sit down to write, you need to know exactly what you’re going to write about.

Write down your titles ahead of time. When you’re ready to start writing, just pick the next title in the list and nail it. Instantly, you can save anywhere from 20-45 minutes.

2.  Choose topics that you’ve mastered.

If you try to write on unfamiliar topics, it will take you a long time to write. The best topics for you are the topics you’re already good at.

If you’ve mastered a certain topic — like PPC example — then you have experience to draw on. Write about PPC. You’ve done this before. You know the terms. You understand the concepts. You don’t have to do as much research. All you need to do is write.

This can save tons of time. If you as a PPC expert tried to write an article on, say, hreflang for SEO, it would be tough. You’d have to do a lot of research. Basically, you’d have to teach yourself about the topic before you can explain it to others.

You should challenge yourself occasionally. But don’t purposely pick out tough articles. You’ll just waste your time and get frustrated.

3.  Type fast.

Typing speed is crucial for writing fast. If you’ve never taken a typing class, you may want to do so. Using the proper hand placement is an important part of learning to type quickly.

Unfortunately, some people still rely on the two-finger pecking method to type. You may be pretty fast, but you definitely won’t be as fast as you could be.

Many online courses are free.

Here are some sites that will help you to improve your typing speed:

4.  Create a routine.

Routines are what make you more productive. Turn your writing time into a routine.

  • Write at the same time each day.
  • Write for the same length of time each day.
  • Do the same things before you write.
  • Do the same things after you write.

When you create a routine, you’re teaching your brain to do something better and faster. The routine forms a muscle and neural memory, kind of like a well-worn path. The smoother and wider the path, the faster you can run down it.

If you try to write in a different place every time, you may be slightly more creative, but you won’t be more productive. The same music, the same coffee, the same desk, the same time — all of these will increase your writing time.

5.  Pick your peak times.

If you asked me to sit down and write an article at my non-peak time, it would take me a very long time — maybe 2-4 hours.

If you asked me to sit down and write an article during my peak time, I could do it in 45-60 minutes. No problem.

The difference has everything to do with peak times. The human body operates according to cycles called ultradian rhythms.

We can focus best in cycles of 90-120 minute cycles. Our minds are most alert during certain cycles. We don’t say 100% alert all day long.

Writing is a mentally demanding task. You should do your writing during your most productive time of the day. If you do so, you could turn a two-hour article into a one-hour job. It makes a huge difference.

  • Some people are night owls. They should write at night.
  • Some people are morning people. They should write in the morning.
  • Some people hit their stride in the middle of the day. They should write in the middle of the day.

Choose your most productive time, and use it for writing articles.

6.  Limit your research.

It’s easy to get distracted by doing a lot of research. Of course, your article should be well-researched, but you should also know when to stop.

I recommend doing your research before you do your writing. If you’ve done all the relevant research, then you possess a deeper understanding of the subject. You can write intelligently, and spend less time clicking between different tabs and searching for more information.

7.  Set up your workstations.

The best way for me to write an article is on my Macbook. I just need one screen, but I open two browser windows — one on the right and one on the left.

The window on my left is for writing. The one on my right is for research. I can easily switch between the two without having to close windows, move programs, or alt-tab between them.

Some people might want more workstations and monitors.

Find a format that works for you. If you’re a two or three minotor kind of person, then make sure you’re all set up before your start writing.

8. Use a comfortable chair or standing desk.

If you’re uncomfortable while you write, it will take you longer to do it. Instead of writing, you’ll be adjusting in your chair or trying to get situated.

It’s worth it to invest in a nice chair and desk.

Source

Get into a comfortable position, and write.

9. Make your time sacred.

Don’t let anything intrude on your writing time. That means no Facebook, no appointments, no email, no phone calls, no nothing.

It’s easy to give in to others’ demands for our time and attention. Whenever you do, you’re giving up crucial writing time. Protect your time.

10.  Take a planned break.

We all need breaks. If you’re not taking breaks, your mind is going to get worn out. Plan your breaks. If you prefer, you can use something like the pomodorotechnique to plan periods of productivity followed by a brief rest.

One of the best forms of breaks is a quick walk. You can stimulate the brain’s activity centers to make you think better when you sit down to write again.

Source

11. Drink caffeine.

Caffeine helps to boost mental focus and improve your alertness. It does, of course, have other side effects.

Source

You probably don’t want to get addicted to coffee, but be aware that it’s there for you if you want to use it in moderation.

12. Outline, then write.

When I was first writing, I discovered something that completely changed my approach.

At first, I would try to just sit down and write an article from point A to point B. It took a long time and was mentally grueling.

Eventually, I discovered that if I wrote my introduction, then my conclusion, I could write the rest of the article a lot quicker.

Then, I discovered something else. If I wrote my introduction, conclusion, and outline, I would go faster still.

Basically, I was writing the article in my mind before I typed it out on the screen. This simple technique saved me hours of time. Within fifteen minutes, I had the entire skeleton of an article on the screen. All I had to next was fill in the blanks.

I recommend this approach, especially if you’re unsatisfied with your current approach to writing and would like helpful writing hacks. Here’s what I suggest:

  • You already have your title and topic.
  • Write your introduction.
  • Write your conclusion.
  • Write your outline.
  • Fill it all in with more copy, images, and discussion.

13. Focus on one thing in each point.

I can write a whole lot better if I know exactly what I’m going to say in each point. This is why I make a clear outline. Every point has a purpose. I simply need to explain the point, and then move on .

14. Hire a copyeditor.

Editing takes a lot of time. Plus it’s hard to edit your own work, especially if you try to do it right after you finish writing.

I use editors and proofreaders to keep my work free of errors. You can hire a friend or family member, or you can even purchase services off Fiverr. It doesn’t cost much, and they will probably be able to do the work quicker than you can.

15. Set a deadline.

Most people work faster when they know that they have a deadline looming over them. If you can set realistic deadlines, you’ll probably be able to boost your writing time.

16. Give yourself a reward.

Dont’ forget to reward yourself. Writing is hard work. You’ve earned a break and a bit of a reward.

Rewards help to keep the brain in a loop of productivity. It’s the same cycle that builds habits.

Source

Obviously, you shouldn’t go out and buy a new wristwatch or handbag every time you write an article. Instead, you can eat a snack, visit your favorite website, or chill on social media for a while. These small rewards are the little hacks that keep you pushing towards your goal.

17.  Put on your headphones.

Any distraction can derail your productive zone. Many times, the background noise of a busy coffee shop or even an airplane ride can help you focus on your tasks. Other times, these noises are distracting.

Find out what works for you. If it helps to put on noise-canceling headphones, then go for it. I’ve experimented with white noise, trance music, classical music, and everything in between.

You can open up a website like asoftmurmur.com or www.noisli.com and let it play while you work.

Once you find a good source of focus noise, then use it.

Conclusion

The more you write, the faster you’ll get.

I would never recommend that you do something quickly and sloppily. That’s not the point. The point is to get faster and better. Ironically, some of your best articles will probably be the ones that you wrote the fastest.

What writing hacks do you use to write faster?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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