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Google migrates the disavow link tool to new Search Console

Google also added the ability to download the file and see new errors related to your file.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Google’s Auto Applied Recommendations catch advertisers, agencies off guard

The auto-applied changes do not show in Google Ads change history logs.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Google’s new Small Business Advisors program aims to help SMBs grow

Don’t think of it as an enhanced version of Google Support.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Social Shorts: Instagram pegs Reels and Shop, Pinterest’s engagement metric, TikTok’s size and more

The social media marketing week in review: A round up of news and announcements you may have missed.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Video: Michael Lewittes on growing a site after an algorithm update

He built his own entertainment news site, went through numerous Google algorithm updates and sold it to a private equity firm at the top.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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The future of search marketing: Where do we go from here?

Join us online at SMX, December 8-9, to unlock two forward-thinking keynotes that will prepare you for what’s next.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Google Ads wants advertisers to give broad match another shot

Broad match keyword suggestions will start surfacing in Recommendations

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9 Business Challenges Every Small Business Struggles With (And How to Fix Them)

In the first few years of business, small companies come up against a lot of different challenges. Some are harder than others to overcome — and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.

With survival rates like that, it’s easy to understand why folks face the first few years of business with trepidation. But in fact, many common business problems and challenges are actually fixable. Many times, you’ll find you need to take a step back, take the time to understand the pain points you’re feeling, and re-think your strategy.

Here are several challenges every small business faces, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them.

1. Finding Customers

This first one isn’t just a small business problem. The marketers at well-known companies like Apple and Toyota and McDonald’s don’t just sit around waiting for the leads to come in: Even the biggest, most successful companies have people working hard every single day to find new customers.

But for small businesses that aren’t a household name, finding customers can be particularly difficult. For example, there seem to be so many channels you can choose to focus on… How do you know what to prioritize and where to allocate resources?

How to Fix It:

Finding customers starts with figuring how who your ideal customer actually is. Spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Craft an idea of what your target customers look like, what they do, where they spend time online by building your buyer personas.

Creating very specific ones can dramatically improve your business results. Once you’ve built your buyer personas, you can start creating content and getting in front of your target customers in the places they spend time online and with the messages that they care about.

2. Increasing Brand Awareness

If your customers don’t know who you are, they can’t buy from you.

It can sometimes seem like today’s biggest brands seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. How did they become a household name? How did they grow that quickly? Can your business grow like that, too?

Of course, most of these companies’ hard work, failures, and rejections happened behind the scenes. But there are strategies for spreading the word about your brand and building a great reputation that you can start right away.

How to Fix It:

There are many ways to spread brand awareness, but the three I’ll touch on here are PR, co-marketing, and blogging.

  • PR: Public relations is less about paying for a spot in a news blog, and more about focusing your voice and finding your place in the market. I recommend reading this great post from FirstRound Capital on what startups and small businesses often get wrong about PR, which also includes some great, tactical tips on how to figure out who’s covering your industry, building relationships, and working with reporters. You can also download our free public relations kit to learn how to maximize your public relations efforts with inbound marketing and social media.
  • Co-marketing: Partnering with another brand will help you inherit some of their image and reputation and create brand evangelists outside your circle. It’s a fantastic way to gain a large volume of new contacts alongside your organic marketing efforts. You can read our ebook on how to get started with co-marketing for more helpful information.
  • Blogging: Running a consistently high-quality blog will also help you build brand awareness. Not only does a blog help drive traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads, but it also helps you establish authority in your industry and trust among your prospects. It’ll also help you build an email list, which brings us to our next point…

3. Building an Email List

In order to move prospects along their buyer’s journey to eventually become your customer, you need to build trust by staying top of mind and providing value consistently. 

That starts with getting prospects into your email list.

As if it isn’t hard enough to build an email list, the average marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year. 

That means you have to increase your email list by almost a quarter to just maintain it, never mind grow it. It’s the marketing team’s job to find ways to constantly add fresh, new email contacts to your lists.

But what many people call “building an email list” is actually buying an email list — and buying an email list is never a good idea. I repeat: Never a good idea. Not only will your email deliverability and IP reputation be harmed, but it’s also a waste of money. If your current strategy is to buy or rent email lists, then it’s time to regroup and find better places to put those resources.

How to Fix It:

Instead of buying or renting lists, build opt-in email lists. An opt-in email list is made up of subscribers who voluntarily give you their email address so you can send them emails.

The act of opting in necessitates website functionality that captures their email address. This can be achieved with a form builder or other conversion tool (more on that later).

The other piece of the puzzle is creating demand. You can do this by creating great blog content and making it easy for people to subscribe — which, at the same time, will help you increase your online presence, build up search authority, and create evangelists from your content.

Image Source

You can also revive older lists that you think are mostly decayed by creating an engaging opt-in message and sending it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond.

Growing your email list doesn’t necessarily translate into growing your list of sales-qualified leads, which brings me to my next point…

4. Lead Generation

Another problem most small businesses share is lead generation — specifically, generating enough leads to keep the sales team happy.

But generating leads that are both high quantity and high quality is a marketing team’s most important objective. A successful lead generation engine is what turns website visitors into prospective customers and provides a steady stream of sales prospects while you sleep.

How to Fix It:

To make the lead generation process work for your business, you need to first optimize your existing website for conversions. Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers. Look through your website and ask yourself:

  • Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or do they leave them wondering what to do next?
  • Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database, like HubSpot’s free lead generation tool?
  • Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run?
  • Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

Prioritize the most popular pages on your website first. Most businesses have a few, specific pages that bring in the majority of their traffic — often the homepage, “About” page, “Contact Us” page, and maybe one or two of your most popular blog posts. Read this blog post to learn how to figure out which pages to prioritize, and how to optimize them.

Then, implement conversion tools such as: 

Finally, be sure to take advantage of free lead management software and apps for startups. Affording marketing in general is a big challenge in and of itself, so finding and implementing the most robust free marketing tools can be a game changer.

5. Delighting Customers

Customer satisfaction is a great goal, but customer delight is even better. After all, delighted customers are the ones who buy from you again, write testimonials and agree to case studies, and refer you to people they know. 

In order to achieve true customer delight so that your customers become promoters of your business, you must surpass expectations and deliver an unmatched experience.

How to Fix It: 

It takes work to continue solving for your customer in a way that turns them into raving fans. Here are some steps get you in the right mindset: 

  • Understand why your customers chose you and what they need
  • Set concrete expectations at the start of the engagement
  • Deliver on those expectations (and satisfy your customers’ needs)
  • Innovate how you can provide unexpected extras that go above and beyond
  • Continue to measure satisfaction and improve the customer experience

6. Hiring Talented People

None of the above can happen at scale without a fantastic team that understands your vision and supports your efforts.

Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for small businesses, especially since small business executives tend to feel under-resourced to begin with. Hiring new employees is a big deal and a complex process, and the cost of onboarding is an average of over $4,000 per new employee for most companies. And if you don’t hire well, employee turnover can be very, very expensive.

But, as CEO of 2020 On-site Optometry Howard Bernstein said, it’s impossible to know everything yourself. That’s why finding and hiring the right people — and the people who are really excited about what you’re doing — matters.

How to Fix It:

It’s easy to hire with a short-term mindset: send out a job description, screen applicants, and make a decision. But because of the high costs of hiring right, it’s important to invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process. Don’t settle for good employees when you can find great ones, even if it takes longer. It’s the great employees that will help your company get to the next level.

Just like you create buyer personas for your customers, create candidate personas for your job candidates. Your personas should be different for each new role that you’re hiring for, but will share some underlying traits around company culture.

Next, take ownership of attracting candidates to your company’s brand and make them interested in learning more. This will help you build a recruiting pipeline that will give hiring the same predictability as sales. Then, turn those leads into applicants.

7. Managing Workflow

Once you have the people in place to make the magic happen, the next challenge is managing workflow as you scale. You want to ensure that your team has the processes and tools to do good work and do it efficiently. 

At the same time, you can’t be everywhere at once as a business leader. So how do you focus on the business while ensuring that everyone working in the business has what they need?

How to Fix It:

The best ways to diagnose the roadblocks your team faces and increase efficiency is by creating ways for them to provide feedback. This can be done through: 

  • Employee satisfaction surveys
  • Frequent one-on-one meetings with direct reports
  • Ensuring your direct reports implement one-on-one meetings with their direct reports
  • Occasional skip-level meetings
  • Asking about threats to the business and the issues that give them the most “pain” in their roles
  • Finding the commonalities in the feedback you receive and the bottlenecks

8. Financial Planning

In theory, more resources (whether it’s people, tools, or time) increase efficiency and quality. Creating smooth operations starts by providing all the resources you can to your team. 

It sounds simple in theory, but did you notice the caveat, all … you can? Unfortunately, business leaders have budget restrictions based on revenue and margin. 

It, then, becomes a challenge to improve efficiency while working within certain limitations, investing in your business without over-spending outside your means. This is solved by making good decisions based on solid financial planning.

How to Fix It: 

Every business will be different, but you’ll want to use business credit wisely, cut costs where possible, and manage cash flow by staying on top of invoices and bookkeeping. Business accountants and financial advisors can help you analyze your financial situation and help you make good decisions.

9. Scaling

“There’s this mix of building scalability early, versus doing what you have to do to get it all done,” according to Nick Rellas, co-founder and CEO of Drizly.

This is a tricky one, especially since every situation is different. You’ll see this problem arise in all areas of business: in product development, in marketing and content creation, in hiring, and so on.

For example, many business executives will push growth at all costs. But if you grow your company too quickly, you’ll find yourself having to hire quickly. This can overwhelm your experienced team members because it takes a while to train people. And if you don’t train people well, it can end up backfiring.

How to Fix It:

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer here. “Depending where you are in your business’ lifecycle,” says Rellas, “the scale will tip one way or the other, but I do think you need both at different times.”

What it comes down to is not obsessing over every detail, but obsessing over the right details. Obsessing over product perfection, for example, might not be as important as obsessing over customer service. It’s better to put your fears aside and launch a product that isn’t perfect because you can always update and improve it. After all, once your products are in the hands of your customers, you can learn much more quickly what’s working and what isn’t.

Obsessing over customer service, however, is worth the extra effort. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it well in his 2016 letter to shareholders: “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.”

(“Day 1” is what he refers to as a period of growth and innovation, whereas “Day 2” is stasis, irrelevance, and slow demise.)

While these are just a few of the many business challenges facing small businesses every day, there are many others out there. Many of them can be planned for and mitigated with the proper planning and strategy.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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6 Ways to Build Brand Authority With Content Marketing

Posted by amandamilligan

Becoming an authoritative brand is no easy feat, but the massive benefits are worth the effort.

When you’ve built authority, potential customers and clients begin to count on you and trust you — and it’s hard to imagine that trust not leading to a sale (at some point).

But how exactly can a brand begin to build, or build upon, their authority? Content is an excellent way, and in this article, I’ll go through my tips on how it can be done.

1. Answer your audience’s questions

If you’re not doing this, there’s virtually no way you’ll become an authority. People grow to rely on brands when those brands provide the information they’re looking for, so if your content marketing doesn’t incorporate those answers, you’re not demonstrating to your audience why they should trust you.

By building on-site content that provides this kind of value, you can build authority while simultaneously building more awareness for your brand. In other words, you can position yourself as an expert for those who don’t already know you.

Search is a huge component of why this content tactic works. Google does a significant amount of curation for users, choosing what it thinks is the most appropriate results for a particular query. When users see that you’re ranking at the top for a certain keyword or topic, there’s an assumption you made it through the algorithm for good reason and know what you’re talking about.

As an example, I searched “shoe size chart,” which, according to Keyword Surfer, gets 49,500 monthly searches in the U.S. alone. Here’s one of the top results from Famous Footwear:

Presumably, people are searching for this because they want to buy shoes, but they’re not sure what size to get. If they click this result, not only are they now on the website, but they recognize that this brand provided the answer they were looking for. Perhaps they’ll even browse for shoes while they’re on the site.

How to execute this strategy: Find out what your target audience is curious about by talking to your customer service representatives, performing keyword research, and using tools like Answer the Public and BuzzSumo’s Discover Questions feature. Then see what content already exists and if you can do better. If you can, get to creating!

2. Create newsworthy reports and studies

One of the best ways to demonstrate your authority is to show your continued interest in unearthing new information and insights. You can do this by prioritizing original research.

When you create your own studies, surveys, and reports (aka perform data journalism) based on new data or unveiling new insights, you not only provide value to readers, but also have something you can pitch to the media.

This gives you double benefit: Getting media coverage (and building even more brand authority) and earning high-quality backlinks, which signals to Google that you’re an authority.

We’ve used this strategy for our clients since Fractl first started up in 2012, and we’re convinced it’s one of the best brand authority strategies.

Let’s look at a study we did for The Interview Guys, as an example, which involved analyzing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Requirements Survey to identify the highest-paying jobs that require the least amount of experience. Here’s one of the graphics from the report:

The study got media coverage on CNBC, Reader’s Digest, MarketWatch and more, earning extremely high-value dofollow links. But take a look at how The Interview Guys are mentioned in the articles:

By supplying new insights, The Interview Guys are positioned by the writers as the source of the information, which is an extremely authoritative way to be referenced.

How to execute this strategy: After doing the first tip and analyzing questions, zoom out a bit and consider what general questions in your industry still need answers. How can you answer them with data? Once you’ve created a report that reveals new information, utilize digital PR to pitch writers.

3. Utilize the authority of in-house experts

Some brands are built entirely around a particular persona, like Steve Jobs with Apple, but those examples can intimidate people. Smaller companies and newer companies alike can benefit from a similar strategy if they have subject matter experts (or SMEs) who can show their authority.

A great example of this is Headspace and how it features its founder, Andy Puddicombe. There’s a page all about him on their website where they explain his credentials but also provide what are called authority signals (which I’ll explain more in the next section) and embed his Ted Talk, so you can see for yourself what he knows.

Why is this smart? Headspace probably realized that as the literal voice behind Headspace (Andy does much of the meditation audio himself), Andy started building trust with audiences. It makes sense to double-down on that trust by helping people get to know who he is, and by having him explain even more concepts directly through Radio Headspace and their YouTube channel. After all, if people trust Andy, they’re more likely to trust the Headspace app.

How to execute this strategy: If your internal experts have never shared anything with the public, see if they’re comfortable contributing blog posts or quotes to your website. Pitch them to be on podcasts, or use Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to pitch them as sources for relevant news articles. Help them demonstrate their knowledge in ways that are useful to audiences.

4. Highlight reviews, case studies, and other proof of expertise

There are dozens of types of authority signals, from testimonials to reviews to social media share counts. The key is identifying which ones make sense to highlight for your products or services, and figuring out the best placement for them.

Your goal is to show people you know what you’re talking about by leveraging third-party validation. Your audience doesn’t just have to take your word for it that you know what you’re doing — other people can confirm that you’re great, too!

I like how SquadCast tackles this. On their homepage they have a few authority signals they provide, including testimonials that match with each user persona, which I think is really smart.

Then when you scroll further, they throw in the fact that household names like Spotify, Microsoft, Starbucks, and ESPN trust them.

If you look at the Fractl site, you’ll see we use a similar strategy. Not only do we have case studies showcasing the results we’ve gotten for clients, but we also have logos showing some of the clients we’ve worked with and the publications where our thought leadership appears.

All of this content says to a site visitor: “Others trust us, and you should too.”

How to execute this strategy: If you don’t already have this type of content, ask yourself how you can best collect it. Reach out to your best clients and ask them for a quote. Pull the best reviews you’ve ever gotten for your products. Call out any media mentions you’ve received. Then put this information on your homepage, but also on conversion pages to instill confidence when and where it counts.

5. Associate with other authoritative brands

You know the phrase, “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are?” That can apply in marketing, too.

If you align with other brands you respect and that are doing right by their customers/users, it’s possible some of that same trust will transfer to you if that company’s respect is reciprocated. Additionally, if you collaborate, you’re getting your brand name in front of a new audience.

So, think about which brands it makes sense to collaborate with. There are ways to do this outside of content marketing, like referral programs, but there are content-specific ways to work together, too.

This is an amazing example from Auntie Anne’s and Samuel Adams, who teamed up to create an at-home Oktoberfest kit, complete with Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer, Auntie Anne’s DIY Pretzel Kit, recipe book, a “Prost from Home” playlist you can stream, and more.

This isn’t purely a content strategy, but you can see the overlap between product and building more of an experience. People who love and count on Auntie Anne’s pretzels are exposed to Samuel Adams and vice versa. Through a collaboration like this, fans of one have the potential to become fans of the other, as you can see in this review:

This is a more fun example, but you can also execute a collaboration based on studies and surveys by partnering with organizations interested in answering the same questions or solving the same problems as your brand.

How to execute this strategy: Brainstorm which brands you may have a natural alignment in objectives or values with. How can you work together to provide something of value to both of your audiences?

6. Give away some of your secrets

This can be scary for a lot of marketers and especially for the C-suite. Why should you give away what makes you great?

It’s a valid question, and it won’t always apply. But in some cases, especially for service-based businesses, sharing information and breaking down exactly how you achieve that greatness can actually build trust.

Marcus Sheridan has a wonderful example of this. When my colleague attended Inbound last year, she was impressed by Marcus’s presentation in which he described a single blog post that earned him $2 million in sales. (Heidi Cohen has a great write up about it.)

Why did it work? Because he shared information no one else wanted to share: the actual cost of a fiberglass pool. Rather than hiding the information and revealing it later in the sales process, he was forthright and answered the question people wanted the answer to. Clearly this strategy paid off.

We use the same philosophy at Fractl, explaining exactly how we go about doing our work and building our clients links and brand awareness. There are process details we haven’t disclosed, but all and all, we’ve been very transparent about how we operate, and it’s worked well for us.

In fact, people still recall an Experts on the Wire podcast interview with Kerry Jones, our previous marketing director, in which she walked through our strategies. I’ve had marketing folks tell me that this is how they heard about Fractl in the first place. Years later, it’s still featured on the podcast’s main page:

People appreciate when you’re open and honest. In our case, even if people knew our strategy, clients often partner with us because they don’t have the bandwidth to execute the strategy at scale, as it requires a lot of time and resources. So by knowing how we work, they can trust us to handle it for them.

How to execute this strategy: Consider what information you have that you can share, even if (sometimes especially if) your competitors haven’t shared it. You can leave a big impression of you’re open about your industry in a way others aren’t. Of course, don’t do something that will jeopardize your company, but consider the question and see what might make sense.


The very act of investing in content marketing is a big step in building more brand authority. By creating content that’s beneficial for your audience, you’re demonstrating your own knowledge and utilizing your expertise.

By continuing to build on your strategy with the above tactics, you can greatly improve the chances your audience will not only remember your brand, but begin to trust your brand. Additionally, it’s likely the Google algorithm will recognize your authority, as well, especially after building an impressive link portfolio, and your results will rise in the SERP ranks.

Good luck amplifying your strategy, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

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Adobe to acquire Workfront for $1.5 billion

Adobe acquires workforce orchestration capabilities, but will Workforce customers be drawn into the Adobe eco-system?

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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