Content Creation and Curation Tips for Tumblr

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Tumblr is many things, a blogging platform as well as a social space. The problem why Tumblr is difficult to understand is that it is relatively popular only in the US, and this makes any global outreach strategy difficult to justify but to be fair, it’s all about repositioning your post to appeal to a younger and more vibrant audience.

During the US elections, Tumblr users were a targeted demographic. Why? It is the young that will shape the future of the country and their views and opinion counts.

Any global brand have to recognize the need to cultivate the interest of the grass roots before they can be harvested as customers. Building that interest doesn’t happen overnight. It takes times and there are many competing brands in the market place which are doubling down on that reach.

Another thing about Tumblr is that it is social. Fellow bloggers connect with one another and this has been a winning strategy for brands who want more exposure. Bloggers on Tumblr are accessible to both readers and brands. It’s also part Twitter, #hastags rule the roost, if you content isn’t tagged, you don’t get found of followed.

Tumblr is all about Content

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Forgets about trying to ‘convert’ or monetize. Tumblr is really for those who have content to share. Brand building, engagements with fans, and even a short blog for your company with lots of pictures and hashtags are good to go.

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Let’s not deny the fact that the Internet generation is a little short on attention span. Long form journalism isn’t a way of life for the young. They like pictures and short sentences. Got a video? That’s cool too.

Trying to push them stuff via a shopping cart isn’t going to work. Think of it as a picture catalog of content. Cast your subjects in the best light. You build anticipation and if they like what they see, they could hit the shopping cart button to buy something.

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Like Pinterest, there are more women than men on Tumblr, and from the stats above (taken from Alexa), you get the idea that they are the school going sort who spend a whopping 15 mins at a time browsing Tumblr content. There are trending topics for people to discover and since Yahoo acquired them, there has been a visible change in their content discovery strategy.

Tumblr is a fully loaded CMS platform

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WordPress CMS is the platform of choice for most companies, but Tumblr is the most popular, beating WordPress to a pulp in the process. It has all the options to set up multiple pages like a real website, and is totally social, allowing you to link your Flickr, Pinterest, Facebook and Google Plus pages and profile right into the blog. What’s more you can even link your online shop which is redirected. It may not have the muscle to process transactions but with the link embed, you can still bounce potential customers to your online store.

Multiple page navigation is a great way to start a full blown website. Think of the navigation links your company or service needs and it will be fulfilled. No need to host it on WordPress if you are on a budget. Tumblr will do fine for those who are not accustomed to writing long passages or at describing what they do. You don’t have to be corporate sounding too. Just be cool and you’re hip.

Tumblr is US centric

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There are a lot of lurkers on Tumblr. These are the folks who subscribe to Tumblr just to view content while not having anything else to share. It is a wonderful place to dust off your old pictures and post them online with the appropriate hashtag.

The problem with Tumblr is that it isn’t a global phenomena. Most of the web traffic is from the US.

Re-purposing Content for Tumblr

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Tumblr was created to showcase content in a grid space. This means your content, regardless of the material has to flow vertically or be placed in a grid like manner for every content post.

Consuming these post in bite size pieces is probably the easiest way for the majority of Tumblrs. A nice picture entices the eyes, and upon clicking on a grid, you have descriptive text.

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This also means you need to re-purpose your content. If your original content was a hard sell, you need to ante up on the graphics or pictures. Drop in a line or two that sounds cool (or not anything at all) and hashtag your post with the target in mind.

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Tumblr can exist as its own as a company blog. I know there are a lot of companies who do not like to say too many things so a picture post every now and then as a company blog is fine.

You can still host your company website on a WordPress CMS but have a redirected link to your Tumblr blog post for all the latest happenings.

Sometimes just because you don’t have anything to say doesn’t mean you should leave your blog gathering dust. This is something that is happening to many corporate sites which are either brochure-ware or catalog based. When they have something new, they would have to put their corporate spiel onto it. So stop thinking of those keywords to convert customers and engage them through the visual senses.

Even a picture post every week on the things you do is probably going to do your company blog a lot of good now that Facebook pages is officially dead when it comes to eyeballs. Facebook engagement to your followers are in the region of 0.8 to 1 percent in 2015. Boosting your post might yield 16 percent. Organic growth remains at zero for Facebook pages.

This is why you should post to Tumblr, and have that same post carried on Facebook just for SEO purposes. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Chasing Google SEO: Mobile requirements Updated

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There was a recent update announcement to the Google algorithm and will go live in April and it has to do with being Mobile friendly. Let’s be fair, we were all expecting it to happen as Google has been kinda slow to implement and recognize the value in mobile web traffic. Best of all all, this update has  no secret name or handle for this new update, and you can view it here. The point of this update or revision is concerned with making your site responsive to mobile devices.

How your serve up content to mobile customers is the key to this revised algorithm. Looking at the prerequisites, it doesn’t seem to be much. But it will be a huge jump for those who have traditionally created only desktop type websites for their products and services.

This revised algorithm does not change what is already implemented in Google Hummingbird but builds upon it. So you will have points deducted once it recrawls your site to see if you are mobile friendly.

How Google Tweaks its Algorithms

The general public thinks that Google only tweaks the algorithm on a quarterly basis but in reality, only major changes are updated that way. Every month, the Google team takes a piece of code and takes it apart to better reflect its goal. Sometimes it works and other times it is very turbulent.

You can view the turbulence chart here at MozCast which is calculated on a monthly basis. For this, search engine results (SERPs) are monitored for changes and that’s how the chart comes about.

To be on top of the list, there are a few factors in which you are awarded page rank points. The rest is fair game. The mobile friendly requirement however seems to be more critical, as it will change the page rank of your site if found to be mobile un-responsive.

Responsive Web Design

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Google is going out to woo mobile users. Web traffic for mobile site have increased dramatically over the years and the challenge is to pare down the desktop friendly site so it becomes usable without being a data bandwidth hog. These days, an average website landing page is definitely more than 1MB, this can be even up to 10MB at times and more for those with high graphic demands. Having a RWD site means the server CMS will scale down the data usage to meet mobile standards.

Responsive Web Design is more UX based, but Google has injected it’s own regulations to ensure your site is crawlable. To know if they think your site meets their approval, Google has its own crawlable test, which you can take here.

Mobile SEO Explained

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One of the most pertinent issues are addressed in the new SEO update. The lesser ones, that concernslayout and single page dynamic content is not addressed. Part of the problem is that Google’s own engine isn’t that complex and much of what it does relies on content identification, URLs and linking. There are Schema requirements too, and this sort of optimization requires you to fire up your text editor and to add and tinker with code within the Theme of a CMS.

Much of Google’s new requirement fall into the following criteria:-

  • Speed of loading
  • Dynamic Serving of Pages
  • Keep Resources Crawlable by avoiding robot.txt usage
  • Deep Linking for App-only Accessible Content

Like it or not, if you don’t have any HTML knowledge, you better let someone else do it for you. A CSS sheet, with HTML code is a massive page of text which only the geek in us can decipher. Knowing where to enter the schema friendly code takes some knowledge and please don’t do it unless you know what you are doing. Simple mistakes like using an opening <center> and not closing it with a </center> tag can throw up rendering errors for your theme or page.

This makes things difficult as bug hunting can take hours or days depending on how you approach the problem.

Ranking and the new Mobile SEO

Design wise, Google offers no clues. Should your mobile site conform with page layout requirements like in a desktop websites? I have no idea but this is probably a gray area that Google has not been addressing.

Content has to be crawled. This means that for every link you put up that links to some kind of content, it has to be mobile friendly or else you will get booted off the rankings. Faulty links will be penalized so you have to pay attention to how your site responds to mobile users.

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Should I be Chasing the Page Rank or just make it Mobile SEO friendly?

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When you look at the turbulent state of Google’s Algorithm each time they tweak it, found on Mozcast, you’d realize that the finer points of Page ranks is often fought with a team of full time army of people which many of your have no access to. Every month, Google engineers will implement new tweaks and in the process affect your placing on SERPs. As long as you follow the fundamental requirements, your only other hope is to have a unique branding of content, socially active on social media and refined your site with RWD.

You must not forget that since Hummingbird came into play, the new algorithm is tuned to look out for content that is shared and provide useful information for its users. RWD is there to help your site when Google detects its searches made through a mobile browser and will offer to serve up only RWD sites first.

Google’s main aim is to allow Google Voice Search to do the searching for you in mobile, and as long as you have very thin written content, that in itself will affect your ranking. So if your content consist of mainly graphics, images or video, the only hope for you to reach the top SERP rankings is boost it through social sharing and usage.

No website will completely meet the requirements of Google’s Hummingbird and constant algorithm changes, what you lack, you can make up for it in other areas and chasing the elusive prime spot on SERPS for your product or service category can be better achieved with the use of Google ads. Cheaper too if that is what you are after.

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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Responsive Web Design for Mobile

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I want a website! I don’t want one that SUCK! What Should I do?

In the old days, at least during my time, the only option to show off your website was to create one on a web host with code. Then came desktop programs like Pagemill from Adobe that sort of help iron out the rough edges but that was no guarantee it would not suck! The problem back then was browser compatibility (it is still the problem now but to a lesser extent). The only way to bypass that was to use Adobe Flash (hence its popularity).

Since Adobe has scaled back on its support for Flash, it has become a veritable nightmare for browsers as a new breed of surfers emerge to take its place. These new breed of web surfers are now referred to as mobile web traffic.

Mobile Web took off in a big way in the 21st century. Data has to be transmitted and understood by devices with a peculiar set of protocols. In its day, WAP and Docomo’s i-Mode were highly popular and due to limited bandwidth on mobile, TCP/IP standard didn’t enter mainstream until much later in the late 90s thanks in part to EDGE/3G services giving you much faster data access.  I won’t bore you with the details but responsive web design in the old days meant that you had to put up a WAP site along with your standard website. I-mode in  was only happening in a handful of countries before it died prematurely in the hands of the iPhone. The iPhone in particular spearheaded the rapid demise of all other mobile protocols.

Now, why would you want to put up a website to meet the demands of both desktop web surfers as well as mobile surfers? Good question. According to Gartner and Cisco’s report, the dominant traffic of the Internet future will be from mobile devices!

  • The Gartner Institute is projecting over one billion smartphones and media tablets will be sold globally by 2015
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012
  • In 2012, mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012
  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012
Gartner statistics on mobiles and tablets

Responsive Web Design

It sounds like a big term that only geeks can understand but really, it  just means you gotta have a website that scales to size to meet the needs of a mobile experience.

Using Adobe Flash isn’t kosher anymore, largely thanks to Adobe abandoning its support for the mobile platform by saying it can’t be done. So let’s not go there.
There are ways to create a mobile/desktop site without much worry if you care to spend some money. Or if you prefer, use a CMS/blog platform such as WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr and a host of other CMS platforms like Weebly and Squarespace. There are just too many to mention. You can create blog sites, corporate sites and even e-commerce sites that are responsive to all devices using these platforms. Some are more user friendly than others so you gotta know what you want before you begin.
For example, not all CMS platforms support e-commerce engines. This is pretty tricky and hosting as to be secure enough for you to use. All e-commerce sites will be targeted for hacking at some stage so choose well.
Developing your own RWD Site without CMS
 
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This is the golden question everyone is asking. Can I not use a CMS host and create my own site? Of course you can. If you care to ante up on one of those web tools, I suppose you can do anything. Some takes more work than others and this is probably the only leg work you need to do. You can use something like TOweb, a site creation program that basically allows you create everything you need for a website but it doesn’t support blogging. Download it, install it and run it. It’s not very intuitive but if you want complete control, you have to learn the ropes. Move a ahead a bit more and you’ll have HTML5 compliant building tools such as Tumult Hype.
This is a drag and drop experience and with all the content ready at your disposal, it should be quite easy to build a site up within a day. However, the e-commerce part might be a bit more tricky so keep your eyes peeled for things you don’t understand. Whereas Tumult Hype is not for the uninitiated, it has many powerful features to create everything from interactive elements to multi-touch support but to fully utilize its power, you need to know how to code.
From Website to Mobile App
Yes, this can be done too if you are wondering why no one seem to mention about it. That’s because it takes a bit of tinkering. First, there are several Mobile App Builder platforms available online, just Google the reviews up and you’d get an idea on what I mean. Those which are free to use are pretty basic, and you need to also pay for the App to go live on a store. So far, only Blackberry doesn’t charge anything for listing a mobile app. It cost US$19 for the Windows store to US$99 for the Apple store. So please remember that the freebies are not free when you decide to list your app.
responsive-design-mobile-web-mobile-apps-you-pick-the-strategyHow does the Mobile App Maker Work?
First, your content is your key. If you already have a standalone website that is not hosted on a CMS platform, you need to find out if the App Builder of your choice is able to support it. If not, you could choose an App builder that takes your feed manually with RSS.
All app builders are made to have some form of intelligence. They might not be able to play a game of chess with you but they sure as hell know what is a content feed when they see one. From here, you can add maps with bells and whistles like video and flickr photo feeds.
Paying to use a platform is normal, if you don’t pay, expect an advertising banner to be displayed on your mobile app. This is not a good way to start if you are running your own business.

Enabling Responsive Web Display for WordPress

This is much easier to tackle if you are running the latest WP on your site. Just do the following:-

Go to your DASHBOARD > APPEARANCE > enable MOBILE

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You can customize those options if you like and see how it goes. But beyond this, it’s not going to cost you anything else. Older versions of WordPress would take quite a fair bit of juggling with extensions, where a third party extension is used to enable mobile device viewing.

You’d be surprised how it looks in the end as the theme you use can be highly responsive to mobile displays to the point you can’t tell the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.

Multi-Touch is not Included

You are bound to arrive at this point asking, what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website if you can’t visually tell the difference? Well here are some pointers to remember :

  • Native mobile apps might display content in a similar way but on a native mobile app, multi-touch actions are supported.
  • Mobile websites do not support the fancy transitions you often see on native Mobile apps. You need to code in HTML5 and use Javascript to have that capability. This requires coding knowledge.
  • Native apps are hand coded. They do not use templates or themes, thus making them feel more unique to the end user and is totally Greek to the uninitiated who try to code one from scratch.
  • Native mobile apps support for Social Media is seamless. The app can integrates more tightly with your content and social media feeds.

Remember how to Deliver your Content

Content matters. If you have lots to share, then you should put more thought into it but first know how often you are going to update it. If you are going to have lots of updates and plenty of content to share to engage your customers or fans, then it is better to start off with a CMS system with RWD enabled for your site. A mobile app is sort of a calling card these days even though they carry the same content as your website. You need to find out if you really need a mobile app to begin with.

Your content strategy should be sound. Customers are not going to download and install your app if all you do are annual updates.

Think for a moment, if all you are producing is vintage vinegar, and you don’t have much to share, then having a mobile app would be a waste of time. Even your Twitter feed will be empty until you have a fresh batch to announce for delivery.

Content has to be original and engaging and not just brochure-ware. The term brochure-ware is just that, a company brochure that has been regurgitated into an online form—which in this case would be your mobile app.

Don’t just create another mobile app just cause you think it is cool. Have a defined content strategy in place before you do as this is a very time consuming process. Content has to be curated or developed and if you don’t have the time to do it, then you have to engage people with the right expertise to help you.

Having a budget before you proceed is very helpful. Sort of like having an advertising budget, you carve out a part of that advertising budget to support SMO and SEO activities. Failing to do that will cost you even more time and money….and customers when you take them for granted.

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!

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!

How to Maximize on User Generated Content

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I want Content and I don’t want to generate it, what should I do? Can I have a legion of followers? What does it take to get people to generate that Internet buzz for me?

Let’s be clear on one thing, not all businesses will benefit from such an exercise. If you run a service, chances are people are not going to generate content on your behalf so the first thing to know about this elusive and sometimes confusing art of creating user generated content (UGC) is that it is more pertinent to retail type operations.

For SEO, user generated content is crucial for you to climb the ranks. Pictures, location addresses, GPS information, reviews, blogs all work in tandem to push your page rank up. As long as something related to you is featured under a different domain, it will count towards your popularity.

Whoring up to UGC?

Technically, UGC is a loose term that applies to any content that are generated by strangers or fans for you. It could be a fan page, or a posting of themselves spending time at a business establishment. Customers will post pictures of your products to Facebook, Instagram, G+, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquares, Pinterest, etc and this will in turn allow you to be found by total strangers who may just be looking for something of that ilk. This means you gotta be interesting, or having interesting products.

What Businesses can benefit from UGC?

Food businesses, product retail and any sort of produce whoring will qualify for UGC. Retail business that offer unique products, food and beverage, events like a customary strip show.

They key here is that your retail business needs to have content to generate web traffic on a large scale by allowing potential buyers to interact with the sold products. Yes, it is a bit like letting strangers get intimate with your personal belongings.

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How to Pimp Your Business

A large number of businesses are not UCG friendly or do not pay enough attention to it for content creation. Too lazy? Too busy? Don’t worry. There are a number of rules for UGC and here is a list.


1. Allow Photography on your Property

Yes, you heard me. Photos speak volumes and if you don’t allow people to snap photos, what good is UGC going to be when people do not get to see what you have. Checking into Foursquares of Google Places is one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. No pictures rules just plain suxs. Unless your main clientele is made up of blind people who have no apparent appreciation for your decor, you’re going to be left out in the cold.

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Many businesses do not like any sort of photography to be done without their consent but this is a mistake. They have this overbearing fear that what they rivals will seize upon this opportunity to copy and destroy what you created. Such fears will only dampen your belief in UGC. Getting more business is all about generating commercial traffic and not about protecting image rights. Your first goal is ensure people generate content to encourage commercial traffic as your survival depends on it.

Those in the Food and beverage industry such as cafes, themed restaurants and even food truck businesses will benefit immensely from user generated content. Once UGC goes viral, you can be assured that people will come to experience it for themselves on what they have seen or read about on social media.

2. Create a new Customers Experience

Your property should be decorated or designed to please the eyes. Colors and the right interior design will help you to win new clients when they see the UGC generated on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Any business can create a pleasing or colorful atmosphere with the right lighting and color choices. Got a giant statue of Venus or a life size Action figure? That’s the first thing customers zoom into. Make sure you get the right lighting as that matters too.

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3. Set-up a Free to Use WIFI Hotspot

One of the most overlooked of UGC is the provision for free wifi for users to surf. Why? Because mobile data is expensive! Foreign visitors, day trippers from across the border and low bandwidth data subscribers will not post stuff onto Faeebook or Instragram unless there was a way of doing it for free.

There are ways to protect your business wifi hotspot with the right software. You can read some of it here, but I am not going into detail on how to set up a wifi hotspot for your business as not all wifi routers are made the same way. Setting one up can be both a complicated or easy affair depending on the router manufacturer who gives a damn about making it user friendly.

Day trippers, holiday makers, tourist and foreign visitors who do not speak your language would like to express themselves with pictures and not all of them will have easy access to data connections. By providing the means for them to connect to their social sites, you are giving them a chance to write about you and this is what UGC is all about.

4. Create Location Check-ins for all Social Media

Location sharing is all about putting your business on the map and this can be done via Foursquares, Google Places, Facebook or any service that offers up a point of interest (POI) for mapping. By creating the check-in location yourself, you are making it easy for customers to use that GPS location to share with their friends. You’d be surprise how many businesses are not listed on Facebook or Google Places to make it easier for people to find you and share your location.

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Don’t let users create any ambiguous location check-in. This is detrimental to your business especially when the GPS data is wrong. It could be a block away from your actual location but it’s not their fault for doing this but you should be on hand to prevent this by creating the location check-in  yourself.

5. Engage your Customers with Events

Every event that your customers take part in will generate content. Often business owners think that it takes too much time to organize one but you forget that people need to be excited and to stoke that excitement you need to engage them with simple and meaningful events.

For example, if you happen to be in the F&B business, you can always organize an event for wine tasting, food tasting or even a food presentation lesson. Product distributors are always on a look out for means to host a roadshow and what you need to know is to find a way to connect your business through them at your property. What you need to do is to ante up on the organization skills provide the part-time labor to run the event and you’re done.

By tapping on the social honey pots who love generating followers for your social media profile, you get to promote your business through social media networks without doing any lifting.

UCG with Bloggers

Bloggers are the unsung heroes of UGC. They generate ad target traffic by providing content and search engines know that. So if you happen to have a whole army of bloggers who update regularly and writes about you, then you’re going to be a star on the search engine rankings.

In the old days, it was magazines and news reporters who gave their spiel and helped to promote you to the public at large. Today, the powers of social media hold sway.

Bloggers need content so it is a two way street. By cultivating them, you are helping yourself. Don’t just rely on one blogger. You need a whole team of them and the best way to evaluate them is to find out what domain and blogging platform they work on. Some work for free, others work for beer money. Once you have several different postings from bloggers, it will boost your chances of being found not only by customers, but it will also boost your search engine ranking.