SEO: Why ccTLD Domains Matter in SERP

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There has been a lot of discussions on TLD (top level domains)  and ccTLD (country code top level domains) and this was one of the least recognized SEO trick in the book. TLD are domains ending with just .com,.biz,.org,.net….etc. These are generic TLDs and highlights the use of such domain signatures to indicate the sort of business you are in. This unfortunately no longer applies as even porn sites have .org.

The next thing to come out of the SEO equation is ccTLDs. Americans in general have problems understand this and there has been much critical press about the validity of this. Unfortunately, the bible for SEO has already been written by Google on the matter. The except of which is quoted below.

Multi-regional and multilingual sites

A multilingual website is any website that offers content in more than one language. Examples of multilingual websites might include a Canadian business with an English and a French version of its site, or a blog on Latin American soccer available in both Spanish and Portuguese.

A multi-regional website is one that explicitly targets users in different countries. Some sites are both multi-regional and multilingual (for example, a site might have different versions for the USA and for Canada, and both French and English versions of the Canadian content).

Expanding a website to cover multiple countries and/or languages can be challenging. Because you have multiple versions of your site, any issues will be multiplied, so make sure you test your original site as thoroughly as possible and make sure you have the appropriate infrastructure to handle these sites. Following are some guidelines and best practices for creating multilingual and/or multi-regional sites.

And there is another clue here that people seem to forget. Your ccTLD should be hosted in the country of origin, even though the SERP will not reflect this if you are using a CDN, countries with established Internet hosting infrastructure should not skirt this.

Server location (through the IP address of the server). The server location is often physically near your users and can be a signal about your site’s intended audience. Some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so it is not a definitive signal. Other sources of clues as to the intended audience of your site can include local addresses and phone numbers on the pages, the use of local language and currency, links from other local sites, and/or the use of Google My Business (where available).

 

How Does this All Work?

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Good question. It is not for people browsing the web for general SERP but for users from that country looking for information provided within their national boundaries. This means if a person is doing a search in Spain for spanish related content or key phrases, then Google search will serve up .es pages which are hosted on Spanish servers (through IP detection) in preference to .com results. Through the use of Webmaster tools, you can also make your site appear on a top page of a SERP by targeting ONE specific country, as quoted here from Google.

You can use the Country targeting tool in Webmaster Tools to indicate to Google that your site is targeted at a specific country. Do this only if your site has a generic top-level domain name. However, don’t use this tool if your site targets more than a single country. For example, it would make sense to set a target of Canada for a site about restaurants in Montreal; but it would not make sense to set the same target for a site that targets French speakers in France, Canada, and Mali.
Note: Because regional top-level domains such as .eu or .asia are not specific to a single country, Google treats them as generic top-level domains.

This means, you can be top dog for SERP in one particular country as long as your business is targeted for it.

Why  use ccTLDs?

People generally like .com addresses for one simple reason. It was the first to come out and the most recognizable. In many countries, it is an absolute PAIN to register a ccTLD.

Many ccTLDs are controlled national domain registries in that country. This means it becomes harder for people to register a ccTLD if they do not meet the criteria. There are normally 2 criteria for registration of a ccTLD.

  • A company or business entity with a local set up in that country.
  • A person who is not a foreigner in that country.

It also cost more to register a ccTLD, and in some countries, up to US$130 bucks a year. However if your intention to get a good ranking in a country specific SERP, then it makes perfect sense.

Who should use ccTLD?

Simple as pie. As a local business operating within a specific country, searches originating from your country will be better served. Even for online businesses like Amazon, we have seen these giants operate from ccTLD. By serving up pages of content in the local lingo, you have validated your intentions and this goes without say, having to pay to get to the top of the page. Sure, things get more difficult if your business is generic, like the hotel business, but it will serve up better if you include the local address with a local contact number.

The whole idea behind searching is to find things from a local perspective. If your search phrase is more generic…like “how to use a toothbrush” then it won’t matter what comes up. However if people are searching for “Spa in Iceland” you are better off having an Icelandic ccTLD.

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How to create Awesome Content to boost your Google Authorship

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Gunning for a top rank on Google search? Have you started building your content credibility with Google’s authorship program? Haven’t? Better get cracking now before it is too late.

In the past, anyone can pen some nonsense and share that to the world. This hasn’t changed of course but what is written has. According to the latest Hummingbird SEO metrics, long form content is more important than those 100 words rants you post on Facebook.

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To ensure that the long piece of text is rightly attributed to you, Google changed the Hummingbird metrics to weigh in on WHO is providing the content. This is where Google Authorship comes in to diss you down if all you ever post are rants about your mother.

This whole authorship thingy might sound really complicated but it isn’t. All you have to do is to create an active G+ profile and link that to all your blogs. That’s it!

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What makes for an active G+ profile is simple. Make sure you fill in all the information about yourself, with a picture and a list of stuff you do. Think of the G+ profile as your link-in calling card to everything you do on the web.

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

I hate to say this but what your fifth grade teacher said about being able to write well is probably more true today than ever before. Google SEO and Facebook SEO is different. For Google, it is a text type search engine whereas Facebook places more importance on sharing visual things like pictures and video.

I won’t touch on pictures and video as this requires more skill and dexterity to produce. What I will tell you is that text based content is really much easier to start with but you have to be truthful about the first thing that comes to you, that is…are you able to write something decent that can be understood by humankind.

I have seen in my career many failures with people often bearing college degrees, Masters and PhDs who can’t write a line interesting enough to be shared. This is no fault of yours of course, you can write a thesis like a text book and people will never read them except maybe for your college professor.

Text content only needs to fulfil two things.

  • Interesting and informative writing
  • Entertaining and witty writing

How not to be your Boring English Teacher

Remember the time when you were in school, you flipped those school text books and fell asleep reading it? They will come across as really informative but dull to read. Your teacher’s job is to make sure you learn it and he or she has to make it sound interesting enough for you to pick it up. So remember this golden rule…

Informative articles  may not be interesting, if you want to offer great content you have to make it Informative and Interesting at the same time for it to be any use to people reading it.

This is a talent that you may not have and it is best to admit it before you embark on the journey to gain world wide authorship rankings. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you decide to hire a writer to do this for you. Just make sure this is kosher with the writer as they sometimes write for many people and will reuse bits of what they have given you.

Google will not fault you on informative content, as facts are facts and there is not need to fictionalise content to meet Hummingbird metrics. How you choose your words to explain the content matters.

The Art of Making Stuff Interesting

If you are knowledgeable, then this would be pretty easy.

Give examples based on everyday facts to things that people can relate to!

People often give dimensions and measurements in numbers, this is fine but you should also give it a dimension that people can relate to, like the size of two football pitches, or the length of a candy bar.

Write about your own experiences with the subject matter!

Your own experiences to validate a point is crucial to making that yours and no one can steal this from you. Those ‘epiphany’ moments makes for great writing and this can help others relate to what you are talking about.

How to Be Entertaining as a Writer

To me, this is perhaps the most difficult thing when you’re not up to it. Everyone has their bad days so if you are asked to write something entertaining, it better be on a good day. There are some rules to follow which will be helpful:-

Ante up on that Thesaurus and increase your Vocabulary

You need words, lots of it, to throw at would be readers to keep them nimble. Language is used to communicate but sometimes we tend to have different words to describe similar situations. Having a vocabulary the size of a Blue Whale will help somewhat to conquering the authorship world.

Be Visual and Graphic about your Experiences

Your sense of observation is important when writing about first hand experiences. It’s like a painting. You fill it with color which then allows your eyes to dance with it. Color, smell, touch all give a visual account of what you are experiencing.

Exaggerate the facts to be witty

I have discovered that comedians, when using their punch lines often resort to exaggeration as means to be funny and witty. Just look up all the comedians and instead of enjoying the stand up action, analyse what they say and the words they use. Ask yourself why the punch line was so good. Once you get an idea on how to do this, sprinkle it around your writing. Bear in mind that you don’t need to be funny at every paragraph, otherwise it will read like a nonsensical feature.

Poke fun at Cliches and Social Norms

There are a lot of cliches that are cultural and you don’t have to resort to anything derogatory. Political cliches work best, racial ones only alienate your readers. Humans are creatures of habit. They take a dump every morning, have coffee and read the morning news. This in itself is a good cliche for everyday humor.

What Google Authorship Does for You

Online credibility. That’s the one thing that ties you to the SEO. If you take credit for all you have written, and people find it useful, they will start to share it.

By taking credit for what you write, you are in fact protecting your turf as a writer. No one can take that away from you even if they steal your article. Once Google has built a depositary of your work, they will rank your contributions higher on the search results. In time, you will become an authority on what you write about.

How to Protect any Written Content?

This is a trick I learnt from the folks at Google. If you want to catch someone copying your content, well first select a very unique sentence from your written content and paste that into Google Alerts. Once the search engine comes across this sentence, it will send you a notification to your Gmail account. Simple.

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Some sites will give you credit while others will steal wholesale from you. It’s up to you to file a DMCA complaint. That said, it’s never easy to get a take down as long as the offending site lies outside of the US. But to me, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Google Authorship knows that the written piece came from you and for that alone, it will thumb down the offending site in search engine results.

Expedia Gets taken down by Hummingbird!

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I am shocked that the Wallstreet Journal has published a report that Expedia.com could have been the target of Negative SEO. This is pure rubbish. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why Expedia’s SEO ranking fell off a cliff on Google searches. Just tick off what you don’t see on the home page and you’ll know how poorly designed the site is.

Epic Page Optimization Failure

The landing page itself is not SEO friendly. No Site Map, just pure sales links. No quality inbound or outbound links. The Page SEO is fucked. Just look at the damn page and tell me that there is useful content in there somewhere which will be of use to users? Nothing!

To make matters worst, Google Hummingbird zeroes in on content optimization and penalizes pure sales sites. I have said in an earlier post that Hummingbird is designed to take down pure sales sites and Expedia is one that was designed in the 90s with no SEO sense.

Sales, sales and more sales. That’s all the home page is screaming. No wonder they got taken down a few notches.

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Massive Content Failure

There is no content. Ok, I found a some content buried in the “Things to Do” topic but trust me, that’s not content. It is pure sales talk. The tone that it is written in is a third person, describing what you can do. It could have been written by a man with a gun held to his head. Who knows?

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Useful Content is not about giving the facts, it’s about experiences, especially in this case where travel is concerned. They could have at least featured something written by a customer or blogger. But they didn’t. Content to Expedia is a waste of time so here’s another few notches taken down for that.

Total Social Media Failure

sharingHere is something else I noticed. The lack of Social Media engagement. Sure, you have a Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and G+ button that LEADS to your sales pitches. There is no content there except that it screams Promotions! Sales and Marketing pitches. Again no content to share with fellow users. 

Social Media accounts are used to generate more sales. So here you give  Google credit for taking it down a few more notches.

Failure to Engage Users

Just look at the “Things to do” topic and you’ll also see that there is no user comments or inputs. That is pretty fucked up. The site has no qualms about asking you to put down your money but makes no attempt in getting any feedback on the promotions they have. Here Google pummels Expedia down with a right hook and sinker. The result? You get to be on the THIRD page of the search baby!

Negative SEO is over hyped

Before Hummingbird, Google will send out warning emails to site users who have very poor inbound links. That’s to stop people from exploiting a loophole in the algorithm where they suspect a site has been paying other sites just to put a link to them to boost their rankings.

In a Negative SEO scenario, a competing or rival business can put up poor links to your site to take your SEO ranking down. To me, this is totally irrational and far-fetched as the competition is better off using Black Hat techniques to BOOST their own ranking over yours in keyword SEO during the Penguin and Panda era. Unless your rival in business has got an axe to grind with you, they are better off using their money to increase their rankings than to take you down.

Negative SEO in Expedia’s could have been attributed to poor sales sites designed by incompetent Expedia staff to boost their own web traffic. No content type sites are purely to blame and for that, Expedia’s got plenty of them.

Was Negative SEO to blame for Expedia’s Failure?

Several blogs mentioned that there were some old sites set up by Expedia’s many divisions to boost their rankings and this could have resulted in a Negative SEO hit. This is plausible but these pundits fail to realize that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm is designed to take down content unfriendly sites.

This is by far the most telling result of Expedia’s failure in its SEO optimization. So what should be done to improve rankings?

Get more travel related content by tying up with travel bloggers and content providers

Each should be written in a first person narrative that provides useful travel information instead of the usual brochureware associated with it. For the money you make off booking, having a travel blog to help your travelers isn’t all that difficult. It cost Expedia loose change just to get original content. Why it hasn’t been done? Well maybe their team doesn’t know how important content is in the Hummingbird age.

Optimize the Home Page to provide Travel Content

Everywhere in the world, national tourist offices will offer you quality content on selected destinations. By integrating the content with travel information, you get to boost your SEO rankings. Bear in mind that national and government-funded tour offices do not offer sales pitches. They offer you seasonal or festive content and all you need to do is work with them to promote a destination.

Revisit Home Page Optimization 

Create quality inbound links. Tie up with travel content entities such as travel magazines and websites to create quality inbound links. Branding is important to Expedia and it should tie up with content providers and pay for these content to be featured on their site. Nothing is free in this world. Once you have content, you will have  comments, and social sharing. These engagements will definitely boost your SEO ranking.

The Cheapest Alternative for Not giving a Fuck

Expedia as a multi billion dollar business entity that can afford to pay for a top level listing on ANY Google search result. This is what Google wants Expedia to realize. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company and hope that the poor excuse for a website gets top level listing for free.

Expedia can set aside a multi million dollar budget just to advertise alone, and still see positive results without even bothering with content optimization. If Expedia doesn’t give a fuck about content, then advertising for click-thru search results is the best way to go.

Battle of the Titans

Lastly, it is unfortunate that Expedia has become Google’s target. I see this purely as a battle for business by two industry titans. Google owns the search engine space, Expedia owns the travel booking space. Google is discreetly telling Expedia that it wants its fair share of the pie by making it known that Google searches can and will affect Expedia’s stock price. If Expedia can afford to take this hit, well, good for them. If doesn’t, then its time to recognize which turf you are on.

Index your site with a Site Map

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How do Google Search works? Does it come by to my site? How do I make my site friendly enough for Google Search to drop by?

Before you get any idea of a giant robot that powers your searches, let me make it clear that the days of the mainframe and mini computer is truly dead. I should know coz I use to work for a market intelligence company that spies on what people buy to keep their IT department rolling in the hay.

Google is relatively cheap to run. It makes use of server racks (made up of lots of PCs wired together). It comes nowhere near the cost of running a mainframe or supercomputer. Google houses these ‘search’ computers in shipping containers.

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The only thing they have to worry about is the cooling. So if anyone offered the necessary fiber optic cables to carry data anywhere in the world from Greenland, Google will relocate to Nuuk. Cold is good. Dry and hot is not. Dry and hot weather give rise to static, something they can ill afford if Google minions were to come in and out without cleaning themselves with anti-static spray.

How Does the Search Engine Thingy Work?

Just like the old days, they need to come by to index your site. Awesome. Now for some reason or other, Google’s search engine does not need an invitation, at least not in the traditional sense. It checks for links that people post or link to and they will drop by unannounced. There are ways to prevent this of course. One way is to stop them dead with a password authenticator when they drop by the front door. As long as they can’t get in. They won’t spider your site for information.

Making your Site Search Friendly!

Now, I am assuming that you have a site all up and running and you want to make sure that you have a site that is totally working….and I mean this in the strictest sense. Here is something you should know about site indexing.

If you are a commercial website (i.e. a site that advertises what your company does to bring home the bacon) you need to be thorough on how the site index works.

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Make a Site Map of your Whole Site and put it on the Landing Page

This is especially important for sites that are structurally complicated. You may have sections that lead to subsections of a website or pages that are link to external Microsites. Making a Site Map basically allows the search engine to index all those pages from the Home page instead of having to click and jump through hoops to find all your content.

Don’t create sign up Links on any Content Page that needs to be found

Email harvesting. . You are bound to encounter these sites that ask you to register to get access are in fact stopping Search engines from documenting and indexing the hidden content. Google Search isn’t going to bother with this since it is to them a locked door.

As long as the information lies within a blind page, Google can’t get to it. Don’t think for one moment that Google will sign up, wait for an email confirmation and click the link within the email to find out what is behind that closed door.

If you want to harvest emails, invite them to connect with your site using Facebook, G+ or any of the social media networks of your choice. People are not keen to offer up their email if the content isn’t all that great to begin with. Much of the time these hidden PDF “how to publications” are not much help. If the content is any good, they will connect with your fan page eventually. Sell them junk and you won’t find them coming back.

Site owners must think of ’emails’ as a form of currency on the Internet. People will not give it freely thanks to the spam that is often associated with it. Instead, politely ask them to connect with you via a preferred social network and use that link to reach out not only to them but their network.

Remember to include Quality outbound Links within your content for an added boost

What is a quality outbound link? Well it’s one without the sales pitch. Google has determined that any site that has too many outbound links to generate sales should be paying for a listing so you don’t get the royal content treatment here. A good outbound link should be one to more content and not to more retail websites which either sell you porn or a used TV.

Create Original and Quality Content for your Site

Making your site Search Engine friendly is easy and doesn’t need the help of a rocket scientist. Many commercial websites are in fact…brochure-ware. If you think this is going to cut it, think again. It is so 90s. There is no reason why you can’t even add a FAQ page just for content sake. Forget the keyword spiel. You need content and you better get cracking.

Think of ways to help customers by offering tips and reviews. I have found sites that sell Absinthe that does this and it rocks. Empower people with knowledge and they will thank you for it.

 

 

Facebook Video: The next Content Revolution?

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Why do I need to create video content? How the heck do you justify spending on creating video content? Is video really necessary in this day and age of the Internet?

Facebook is preparing to attack Google’s YouTube on the content front and that’s something you have to sit up to take notice. When it comes to churning those eyeballs, Facebook hopes to dominate with its own Video uploads.

Why Video Content Matters

When Techcrunch uncovered the secret missives, they had a whole lot of data from FB stalwarts to show that they are preparing to attack YouTube with a new Video Channel. This is tantamount to declaring war, Pearl Harbor style, on your rivals…except that, well the plans leaked out too early. So no surprise attack.

For the moment, most of the videos uploaded on the Internet today is on YouTube, and to a lesser extent, Vimeo. Facebook doesn’t even come to mind when it comes to uploading a clip unless it’s through Vine or Instagram.

Nothing is stopping you from recording a video and uploading it through Facebook’s mobile app but no one really cares to do it, at least for now.

The YouTube Conundrum

Why is YouTube so hot? Why do you even want to start producing video content? Good question.

Now video isn’t for everyone. You have to know that from the moment you started your business online. The problem with video is two folds. First, you need some form of creative talent to produce something worth watching. If you are a budding Spielberg, then fire away but video production can be produced for as cheap as that five dollar hooker down at the red light district or as expensive as what DC shoes have shelved out for Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos.

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There are plenty of statistics to justify producing video for promotional purpose. If you have the mind to digest numbers, head over to socialblade.com for more information. What’s more, video content affects your SEO rankings in the eyes of Google…after-all, Google owns YouTube.

Why do people only flock to YouTube?

Original content partners—that’s the term parlayed around on social media. This alone is driving most people to YouTube. There is a little known fact that original content developed for Internet release will get to partner YouTube for revenue sharing on adverts. Pop stars and music labels see this as an added boon to their bottom line and they create or develop channels to release video content. With so much video content onboard, people will naturally flock to YouTube to cure their boredom.

If you took the trouble to create a YouTube channel, fed it with original content, you too can make money from it. So why not right? Except maybe that you haven’t the faintest idea on what works and what doesn’t.

Social Landscape and Video Sharing

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Recently, Google tried to tell its G+ members to upload and comment video based on your true identity. This is probably the first step to verifying that the comment and vid came from a credible and verified source and not by someone who claims to be Elvis—the venerable rock star who croaked decades ago.

Facebook is heading towards the same direction though I am not sure if that includes some form of partner program for original content producers.

The Reality of Video Development

Scripted or unscripted, you can’t produce a promotional video for you business without some kind of planning. There are some people who produce Guerilla videos for much lower cost with the optional car chase scene thrown in, but that takes persistence, luck and a whole lot of creativity.

You can of course create videos for next to nothing just to decorate your social page on Facebook or G+, but you still need someone to shoot them if you are not hands on with a smartphone.

There are plenty of lessons to learn when it comes to developing content on video and I will probably take my time to revisit this subject on a later date…if you are interested. For now, I’m in a Christmas mood. So Happy Holidays everyone!

Facebook revises Newsfeed: No more Brand Spam?

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Facebook has been in the news for all the wrong reasons but lately, they have come out to support content with a revised Newsfeed Algorithm that takes a swipe at brands who spam.

From now on, Brands who wish to engage their customers through Facebook’s Pages will have to ante up on the moolah. In an apparent move to emulate Google’s Hummingbird, Facebook’s own Analytics will pay more attention to original content instead of the usual nonsense being passed around as Branded Spam.

The whole idea isn’t new but the analytics seems to be a bit Neanderthal. For example, if your friend ‘likes” a content feed, then it will appear on your newsfeed. The new analytics will also monitor  comments made by friends so that it will show up more prominently and more regularly so you could be seeing the same story on the top of your newsfeed as more of your friends start to comment on them. Facebook’s own analytics do not for example analyse the content in the same way as Hummingbird does in Google searches.

Facebook’s has this to say about the revised newsfeed algorithm:-

Our surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favorite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme. Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.

Creating Engaging Content 

This is probably the tough one for Brands. Facebook doesn’t like giving out freebies to commercial entities and will be watching your Pages with the revised analytics. Apparently it will take your post down a few notches so as to challenge you to come out with better content. Now what makes for better brand content? Facebook is looking for some form of social engagement so that should give you an idea on what to expect.

DisplayMediaBrands who want to see their post up on all their fan’s newsfeed will have to pay for the privilege. Facebook isn’t too keen to let you off the hook so easily as it hopes to bump up its stock price on the NYSE.

If the average person has about 100 friends who are active on Facebook, you could be seeing a whole lot of content from them instead of the Brand marketing stuff one has come to expect from the past.

Brand engagement will be more expensive on the long run and there is no alternative.

What about camping out on G+?

Probably a better place to start but that doesn’t mean you can jump ship and hope your fans will follow you to Google. At the moment, Google is still beefing up its social platform but it is free for all for the moment. You can post anything you like and as long as the person has circled you as a follower, you can expect a lively newsfeed.

New-Google-logoGoing forward, Google will eventually make G+ a paying social platform. Right now, there are no ads as yet but it will come eventually. It’s just a question of time before this happens.

 

Content Development: the Instagram Connection

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I have images that make great content but I don’t know how and where else to post it aside from Facebook and G+, is there other ways to post picture content to generate traffic? What makes for interesting content? Could it be that people would be interested a picture of a product?

Pictures are worth a thousand words so they say but how do you say something with a picture? It could be casual, funny, interesting or just plain spectacular but in order for you to do this, you should have some basic understanding on what makes a good picture—the subject of the image should be of interest to people.

When it comes to picture posting, Instagram has been one of the dark horses for commercial websites hoping to milk some traffic. The potential is there but how and who should use it?

Pictures are worth a thousand followers

Instagram started life as an iPhone only app and they took a long time to get onto the Android bandwagon. Today, it has roughly 45 million monthly active users. That’s not a bad number for a photo sharing site. Compare that with its rival Streamzoo which has 43,000 active monthly users. Obviously you know the winner here is Instagram. Starting an account is easy. Download the app to your iPhone or Android device and you’re ready to post stuff.

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Maintaining any social media account takes effort. Creating or curating content for an audience is similar to spoon feeding them with tasty morsels of food. If it’s not tasty, they are not coming back for more.

Good for Instagram, Good for Google? 

Unfortunate but true, Google doesn’t boost your rankings based on your Instagram post but the idea here is not to drive Google search traffic to your Instagram feed but drive instagram traffic to your website. The simplest ways is to get a nice picture up and put a shorten web link alongside your Instagram will do the trick. Go with bitly.com or @urljuicer —these will help link your URL on your website to a post. Instagram post is indexed by Google but in order for them to show up in the search result, the search query must include the word “Instagram”.

Instagram has over 40 million monthly users on a site, so you can be assured that the traffic is worth milking. Similar photo sharing sites like Mobli (330K monthly active users) and Pheed (about 50K monthly active users) show much lower figures but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely.

Boosting Traffic and Followers

Learn to use the hashtag to describe your product or service. Instagram has been credited as a good place to find anything from food porn to bootleg firearms fashioned by the Mujahideen. Once you are comfy with a hashtag of your choice, use that in all your post to alert similar minded people. Adding people to your account can be done via a discovery method within the mobile app.

Instagram’s hashtag is very useful for brand building. For example if you registered a trademark called “Rock my Socks” then your hashtag on Instagram should be #rockmysocks. Simple isn’t it? Sprinkle that over your post to start your own branding. Be sure to add other relevant hashtags to your post, like maybe #fashion, #wearables or even #talibanporn.

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The next trick up your sleeves is to follow people and get them to follow you back. Easy if you know what makes for good content. Difficult if all you ever post are boring photos of your dog. The hashtag does wonders for your post to be found by others and some have been known to put all sort of hashtags onto a post in the hope someone out there will see it. Even though it is an effective means to tag everything under the sun with a hashtag, please remember that doing so is akin to spamming and for this, the community will declare jihad on you.

Baby Steps For Instagramers

Instagram is by far the most effective image marketing platform as all post have to be visual. You can even post short videos on it. The stop motion shooting pioneered by Vine app was adopted and copied by Instagram to keep its user base intact. But Vine is only for video, and it doesn’t support photo posting.

Adding total strangers to your account and expecting them to do the same is probably a bit lame but that hasn’t stopped people from doing it. The success rate varies so you have been warned.

Plan everything in advance and never do something you’d regret later. You can delete a post on Instagram later but by that time, things could get out of hand so don’t slack.

Leap frogging into Instagram

Celebrities often develop specific content for Instagram followers. First, no one wants to see a dozen self whoring image of yourself in front of a camera. They want variety and if someone is going to do it for you, it better be someone else and not you. This again begets the question, what makes for quality content so that people who follow you will end up clicking the link to your site??

Always Post Interesting Pictures

If you are a wedding photographer, then post pictures of some work in progress shoots. If you are a bakery, then shoot some pictures of your latest creation. Product shots needs to be hashtagged properly before it can be found. Square format pictures are very easy to compose in-camera so if you keep getting it wrong, please consult an optometrist.

Don’t be a Cam Whore

Cam whoring is fine. Take that selfie and post it but don’t overdo it by posting one, with the same pose but with different clothing just to show you know how to dress. It gets lame and followers will get bored and unfollow you. If you run a shop selling fashion accessories or clothing, don’t model those clothes yourself. I know you can but trust me, someone has to be behind the damn smartphone to shoot the pix. Those self shot pictures only make your head look big.

Location Whoring is a Must

People often forget to do this, create the check-in in Foursquares and make sure you have it right. Use that in all your Instagram post. Remember to post pictures with the location in mind (should you have more than one outlet location) so that people who bother to look you up can drop in and buy that bootleg rice wine you’ve been telling people about.

Make Short Videos for your Followers

Ever since Instagram took the video route, people have posted videos on some of the most boring things I have seen. That said, it won’t hurt to do a good short video. Take time to plan it. Make it funny. People love that sort of stuff. Even if you are selling fashion accessories, stolen weapons, dildos to cupcakes, I can think of a hundred ways to shoot it to make it viral. You can edit a movie, put into your iPhone and upload it but it gets cropped to a square format automatically so you don’t have a choice when it comes to the aspect ratio.

Do What is Humanly Possible

Forget those space fights or SFX scenes you caught off some Disney movie, Instagram isn’t that kind of video capture service. And should you have scenes involving humans, well, you can’t do this alone. Trust me, unless you were born a cephalopod, chances are you won’t have that sort of reach to do this.

You need two people to get things done—one person in front of the camera acting the whole scene, the other person with the smartphone, ready and steady to shoot. If you are a stop motion buff, you can plan a whole sequence without ever involving a paid or slave actor (part time labor). And remember to have fun while you’re at it!