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The Best Social Media Management Tools (Paid Solutions)

Earlier in the week, we looked at three of the best free social media management tools available today. While a free offer is awesome, the limitations imposed on social media marketers and businesses can hinder the progress and success of a social marketing campaign. Although the tools provide you with features and insights to improve your effectiveness, they do not provide enough to supercharge your efforts and maximize your ROI. That’s why we’ve decided to take a look at some of the best social media management tools with paid solutions.

The following services not only cater to businesses of every size, but they’re also affordable, provide a robust set of features, and cover a wide range of networks. Although current pricing is included below, many of these services offer customized solutions with a relevant cost structure.

Hootsuite (http://hootsuite.com/)

Spend a few hours touring Hootsuite’s interface and you’ll quickly see why so many people love it. This social media management system is ideal for executing social campaign tasks across multiple networks, as well as identifying and growing your online audiences. In addition to geotargeting functionality, Hootsuite allows for team collaboration, conversation tracking, post scheduling, and performance measurement.

The service also offers the most extensive social network integration you’ll find in a tool like this. Besides Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Pages, Hootsuite offers integration with content apps and platforms like Instagram, Flickr, Slideshare, Reddit, Tumblr, Youtube, Nimble, Hubspot, and more. One negative aspect of the software is that there are additional fees for analytics reports, as well as for adding more users than a plan covers. Make certain you keep these expenses in mind when budgeting for Hootsuite products.

Price: Hootsuite’s Pro plan is currently set at $9.99 per month while its Enterprise plan starts at $1499. There is a 30-day risk-free trial period, so you can easily test out the service before committing to it. Also important to note is that you can cancel or change your plan options at any time.

Sendible (http://sendible.com/)

Manage, engage, and track—exactly what one of the best social media management tools should do. This great service effectively combines email, social media, and SMS capabilities to help individuals and businesses grow, monitor, and track the results of their brands.

Sendible offers a comprehensive suite of features, including those that enable you to manage multiple social accounts in one place, monitor conversations about a brand, manage workflow approvals, measure every piece of content, as well as analyze and track email and social media campaigns. Users can access the platform via a web-based dashboard or mobile app.

Price: Sendible packages range from $9.99 for Solo to $99.99 for Corporate. Their Marketer and Business packages are perfect for those who need a little more than the basics but don’t want to break the budget. A 30-day trial period is available for all solutions, so feel free to try it out with zero obligations.

SproutSocial (http://sproutsocial.com/)

This social CRM and management tool offers a rich collection of features that help you minimize your time on social media while maximizing output. Its functionality includes account management, customer relationship management, lead discovery, and content publishing across multiple networks. Although SproutSocial is a little more expensive than some of the other tools available, it can be customized in ways that other tools can’t.

Price: SproutSocial’s Standard plan is $39 per user/month, its Deluxe plan is $59 per user/month, and its Premium plan is $99 per user/month. Like Hootsuite and Sendible, you can test-drive the platform for a free 30-day trial period. You can also upgrade, downgrade, or cancel your subscription whenever you want.

ArgyleSocial (http://argylesocial.com/)

Designed for clever B2B marketing, ArgyleSocial helps you nurture relationships on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ Pages, and LinkedIn. The tool merges social data with marketing and sales data for greater engagement, improved lead generation, and better relationship building. It also offers social monitoring, automatic publishing, social tagging capabilities, and web analytics integration. Whether you’re an individual in a small marketing firm or a big marketing team in a large organization, ArgyleSocial’s software is definitely worth a second look.

Price: The service offers three main packages. The Marketer package starts at $200 per month, the Professional package starts at $600 per month, and the Enterprise package starts at $1100 per month. These plans include both marketing automation and social media management features.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud (Radian6) (http://www.salesforcemarketingcloud.com/)

As one of the best social media management tools available, Marketing Cloud has become a popular tool for both established enterprises and small businesses just entering the social media game. The service offers an impressive social marketing suite that includes social listening, workflow and automation, real-time reporting, social advertising, social content, and engagement features. It also supports multiple networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Youtube. Even though this tool is a little pricey if you’re just starting to implement a social media marketing strategy, the features you gain access to are well worth it.

Price: The pricing starts at around $600 per month for a Basic plan and increases as you upgrade to the Professional, Corporate, and Enterprise plans. Tailored solutions are also available, along with customized pricing.

With the tools mentioned above in mind, it’s important to realize you’re not going to find everything you need in a single piece of software. While the best social media management tools offer publishing, engagement, and measurement capabilities, they do differ in terms of features, sophistication, and price point. Therefore, it is critical to test tools and find a perfect blend of free and paid solutions that not only provide the features and data you need, but that you’re also comfortable using.

What do you look for when you evaluate potential social media management tools for your business? We’d love to know how you make your software decisions, as well as what you love and hate about the tools you’re currently using. Share your thoughts below. 

Google Penguin Update: 1 Year Later

It’s funny to talk about a single Google algorithm update that happened a year ago when the company updates its core algorithm almost every single day. Many updates go through without searchers or SEOs ever knowing about them, while others make more of an impact. Penguin was one of those that caused a lot of change. Mainly, it was those who were doing things they weren’t supposed to be doing who were affected by the change; just like Google intended. In fact, it’s sometimes comical to see SEO providers get so worked up about updates and what they should do to prepare for them, when, in reality, they should be rejoicing and embracing the changes. They should be thinking, “I don’t really have to change a thing.” If you find yourself in the camp that lost presence in SERPs because of an algorithm change, perhaps you will find this post useful. We will explore what it was that happened when the Penguin update was deployed, and what you should be doing differently now.

 

What was the Google Penguin Update?

 

Disclaimer:  If you are already familiar with what Penguin and Google Updates are, you can skip to the next section of this post.

 

Google is known for its quirky nature as a company, and being a search and software company, they are constantly updating their services. As such, teams of people are assigned to working on parts of the company’s core algorithm, and the changes are typically assigned internal names. Penguin was an algorithm update that was rolled out on April 24, 2012, and it was designed to combat web spam more adequately. Specifically, it was aimed at weeding out sites that were engaged in lots of keyword stuffing or link schemes. One of the notable parts of this change was that it was supposed to penalize websites for violating quality guidelines that had already been established by Google some time ago, but that were not really being enforced. The change affected about 12% of queries on Google’s search platform across the board.

 

So, if you were a website owner who didn’t pay much attention to SEO and just focused on making a good website, you may have noticed a bump in traffic. If you did pay attention to SEO and practiced “white hat” tactics, you were probably rejoicing. If you were part of the “black hat” crowd, you were probably scrambling to come up with new ways to rank your site in advance of the release. Not everyone, however, belongs to one of these groups, and there were undoubtedly some webmasters out there going about their business, trying to make websites who may have inadvertently lost rankings for one reason or another. Maybe they didn’t realize what they were doing was about to be targeted, or maybe their sites were configured in a way that appeared to fit the bill of a site the algorithm was targeting. Whatever the case may be, it’s been a while now since the update came out, and if you can’t seem to get your rankings back after the change, we have some tips to help you.

What you can do now After the Penguin Update

 

Write your own stuff or have someone write it for you

This is perhaps the single best thing you can do for yourself. Whether you are uploading text online on a regular basis for a blog or simply updating web pages every so often, content must be written by a person and not a program. There are lots of article spinning programs out there that generate halfway readable content pretty quickly, but even the best ones are lacking.

Here are some things to avoid:

  • Content produced by automated software and published without reviewing and/or critiquing it for correct grammar and spelling.
  • Automated content generation from scraping websites, RSS feeds, search results or other content from around the web.
  • Simply copying and pasting snippets from web pages on the Internet into a new order without adding any real additional value.
  • Having many pages of a website that simply deliver content fed from other websites such as news articles or other content feeds with no other static content on pages.

Your best bet is to not do any of these things even a little bit. Writing your own content is difficult and time consuming, but if you plan to make money online or build any kind of credible presence, you must do it the right way. Paying someone to write your content is an excellent alternative to doing it yourself. Not everyone has what it takes to come up with content on a regular basis, but there are tons of people out there looking to write content professionally for other web masters. Hiring a copy writer is a perfectly acceptable alternative to doing it yourself. Many webmasters negatively impacted by the Penguin update enjoyed good rankings for a while before one change caused a significant setback in their activities online.

Don’t Game Search with Links

Technically, Google doesn’t want anyone building links manually at all, but let’s face it — the secret is out and everyone does it. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t follow the same model in link building that Google expects to happen naturally if no one were doing it manually. In the ideal model, people would still build links, but they would do it with no knowledge that it was improving a website’s ranking in search. With that element out of the equation, it is thought that their only motivation for building a link is because the content they are linking to is somehow valuable to their audience. Otherwise, why would they essentially be telling visitors to go to another site? Web masters can still build value with links if they qualify both the links they are creating and the ones they acquire coming into their website. Here are some things to avoid when it comes to links:

  • Don’t get involved with link schemes:  This means don’t buy links from other websites claiming that they can help you improve your rankings, don’t exchange links for the sole purpose of exchanging links, don’t accept links from websites you know are spammy or of low quality and don’t use automated services to build links.
  • Don’t make your only mission to build as many inbound links to your website as possible. Have another primary goal in mind and have link building be the secondary goal. Your focus should be on helping users with the links that you build and less on only helping your website.
  • Avoid optimized links in forum or blog posts or in forum signatures. This means links that are created using specific anchor text and that are designed to manipulate pagerank. Sending out automated bots to post these for you is also frowned upon.
  • As tempting as it may be, don’t create optimized links on article submission or book marking sites.

So, all of that may be good advice for those starting on new websites; however, what if you are trying to bring back one that has been hit by this update? The answer is pretty simple: undo all of the things that caused you to get penalized and redo them the right way. If you have spun content or similar on your site, take it down and rewrite it. If you have been building bad links or engaged in other spammy link building activities, this is more difficult to undo.

Removing bad links

Use a tool like Google webmaster tools or one of the numerous SEO tools on the market to gather as many of the bad links to your site as you can find. You can also use the link:operator in Google search to find spammy links. Then, reach out to the websites where bad links are present and ask site owners to remove them. You can get a fair number removed in this way; however, you won’t get all of them. For this, Google offers the “disavow links” tool.

Using the Disavow links tool

Keep in mind that Google wants you to do everything in your power to take down bad links before submitting a disavow links request to them. Once you feel you have done that, create a text file with all of the links that you want Google to disavow, and upload it using the tool.

Disavow Links to Recover from Google Penguin Update

 

You must also submit a reconsideration request. Include in the request all evidence of how you are working hard to remove the bad links to your site. It is important to be honest here and provide as much detail as possible. If you were affected by a third party who was building bad links for you, try to get a statement from them. Provide emails, dates and other correspondence that show you are trying to fix the issue. Any evidence — no matter how insignificant — should be provided. If you simply submit the text file with an email that says, “please just ignore these links,” your request will be denied.

Third-Party Providers

I realize there are a lot of businesses out there buying SEO services, so they aren’t always working with their website first-hand. Even experienced SEOs outsource work on their own websites. You must be absolutely sure that your providers are performing work in line with Google’s quality guidelines. There are stories on the web of business owners who outsourced SEO work to credible agencies who, in turn, outsourced other work to providers who were not so credible. Whether you are working with an SEO provider or searching for one, keep in mind that not everyone cares about your website and your business the way that you do. If you hired a contractor to build a house for you, chances are you would be on the site very regularly making sure they were doing things right. You should be doing the same for your website when you outsource SEO work.

 

What steps are you taking to bring a site back from being penalized by the Penguin update? Did you have a bad experience with a third-party company that was building links or making content for you?

 

 

3 of the Best Free Social Media Management Tools

Managing multiple social media accounts while sticking to a limited marketing budget is one of the biggest challenges social media marketers and entrepreneurs face. Despite incredible advancements in monitoring, management, and analytics technology, very few tools combine a full spectrum of features that eliminate the need to use more than one social media management service. The cost of leveraging several pieces of software can add up quickly, which is why we thought we’d take a look at some of the best free social media management tools available today.

While these free tools may not offer a comprehensive set of features, they do provide core capabilities that allow businesses and individuals to manage their social media accounts effectively. As the needs of your business evolve along with its budget, you might consider upgrading to paid plans that are more in line with your requirements. For now, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars you don’t necessarily have.

The following tools were selected based on their ability to schedule posts, shorten URLs, manage multiple accounts, and track basic analytics data.

#1: Viralheat

Although Viralheat began as a social media monitoring tool, the service has extended its offering to include publishing, engagement, and analytics capabilities. The company’s free plan offers more than you’ll find elsewhere, which is why it has become one of the best free social media management tools and a popular starting point for entrepreneurs without a budget.

While the service is a web-based application right now, the company does have a mobile app in the works. In addition, it currently offers a Chrome extension called Flint. With a single click on the Flint icon, this extension lets users share articles, stories, and links from any Chrome page.

Features of the free plan:

  • Manage up to seven social media accounts: Viralheat’s free version makes it possible to add and manage a total of seven Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.
  • Unified stream: Use one smart stream to access your main or custom streams, filter a combination of sources, and engage your audiences directly.
  • Convenient URL shortener: Integration with bit.ly allows you to shorten URLs without needing to leave Viralheat’s platform.
  • Post previews and rich media uploads: Besides seeing what your post looks like before making it public, you can use the post preview feature to update your content. This includes the ability to edit your image, video, and accompanying text.
  • Post scheduling: The software lets you schedule an unlimited amount of updates for LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. It also offers time zone support so you can schedule your content’s release well in advance.
  • Geotargeted publishing to Facebook: Probably one of the best features of the free plan, geotargeting lets you specify which Facebook updates you want to target according to country, region, state, or city.
  • Analytics dashboard: Leverage Viralheat’s analytics feature to measure the performance of your accounts in real-time. For Facebook, you can measure performance in terms of engagement, likes, stories, page reach, page views, and impressions. For Twitter, you’ll not only be able to track data on favorites and followers, but you’ll also be able to track reach, influencers, and more.

Ultimately, Viralheat is a versatile, efficient, and powerful social media management tool that offers many of the core functions a small business will need to implement and maintain a strategy across main networks. While the service does offer paid plans with additional features and a robust set of analytics, the free version is ideal for anyone without money to burn.

#2: Hootsuite

A firm favorite, Hootsuite is a social media management tool that offers an extensive range of features for team collaboration and campaign execution across several social networks. It’s also one of the few tools offering Google+ Pages integration.

Features of the free plan:

  • Access to Hootsuite Conversations: This nifty feature lets you collaborate with users, team members, and colleagues in real-time.
  • Add unlimited apps: The software gives you the ability to add content management and social network apps, such as Instagram, Youtube, and Evernote, to your dashboard.
  • Manage five social network accounts: Create a custom mix of social profiles, including those from Google+ Pages, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress, Foursquare, and more.
  • Add 2 RSS/Atom Feeds: Auto-update your social network streams from your blog or news feeds. These updates will include a trackable link created by Ow.ly (a Hootsuite-owned URL shortner).
  • Schedule messages: Schedule messages that Hootsuite will deliver to your audiences at times when engagement levels are at their highest.
  • Access basic analytics reports: Measure your social media efforts with custom reports based on your network stats, Google analytics, and Facebook Insights.

Other noteworthy features include those that give you the ability to create Twitter lists; publish images to Facebook Profiles and Pages; view trending topics; utilize the Retweet and Twitter Reply All functions to set up messages quickly; and conduct real-time search.

Hootsuite’s solution is perfect for constructing streams to track the keywords, messages, and mentions your business or brand cares about most. It has an easy-to-use interface, a mobile app for social media managers on the go, a solid set of free management options, and impressive network integration. What more could you ask for in a free tool?

#3: Jugnoo

Available in both web and mobile versions, Jugnoo is the social CRM tool that is being hailed as a leader in its market. Although it isn’t as well known as tools like Hootsuite, many users would agree it’s far more powerful. With a user-friendly interface and a strong suite of features, the free version gives you just enough to monitor and manage your social media marketing in one location.

Features of the free plan:

  • Link multiple social media accounts: This includes three team members, as well as the management of 20 accounts.
  • Access to analytics data: Jugnoo combines social, web, and Google Analytics to help you track performance.
  • Post scheduling: This feature is enabled through the BufferApp, which means you can benefit from automatic posting at optimal times.
  • Link previews: Now you can see the content a link leads to before clicking through to the page. Besides greatly reducing the amount of time you spend sifting through irrelevant content, this feature can help you avoid phishing scams.
  • Rich Media Embeds: This convenient feature allows you to watch videos and view images in your stream, so there’s no need to open additional tabs or leave the Jugnoo dashboard.

There have already been several major changes since the launch of Jugnoo, and it appears the company is constantly developing its service offering. This is certainly a tool to keep your eye on, even if you choose to go with another for now.

The bottom line: social media management does not have to be exorbitantly overpriced in order to operate effectively. The three tools mentioned above offer a great start for small businesses and individuals who understand that social media is an integral part of any marketing campaign, but can’t afford to allocate financial resources to social media management.

Which of the best free social media management tools are you using? Are there any you’d add to our list? We’d love to hear how they’re making your social marketing efforts easier, so drop us a line or two in the comments area. 

Learn About AdWords

Pay-per-click advertising, or PPC, is one of the fastest and most effective ways to drive traffic to a web property online. PPC can include any website that already has a significant amount of traffic that sells ad space on its property. PPC was nothing new when Google came along; however, they are one of the first companies to have such wild success with monetizing a free service, which is its ubiquitous search engine. Google’s networks feature text and display ads triggered by the keyword queries of its users. For those who are not familiar or who have limited knowledge of the AdWords platform, we will show you how to set up and optimize your first campaign.

Setting up a Google Account

In order to use AdWords, you must have a Google account. If you already have a Google account that you are planning to use, you can skip ahead to the next section. If you don’t have a Google account, follow these steps to set one up.

  •  Visit adwords.google.com
  • Click on the start now button

Learn About Adwords by Setting up an account

  • You will be prompted to choose whether you want to use an existing Google account or say that you don’t use any other Google services (meaning you either don’t have a Google account, or you want to set up AdWords using a new account).

Learn AdWords by Setting up An account

If you have login credentials for Youtube, Google Analytics, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Play, Adsense or any other service owned and/or operated by Google, you already have an account. You do not need to use these credentials, but if you want to and you use these other services, you already have an account.

  • If you choose to use an existing account, you have the option of creating new login credentials just for AdWords.

learning adwords with your existing google account

If you are certain that your AdWords account will always be for personal use or that you will always be the only administrator, you can opt to use the same login credentials as your other Google services. This will eliminate the need for you to keep logging into the account when you are already logged into your other Google services. If you are setting up an AdWords account for a business, or there is a possibility that there may need to be more than one person as an administrator on the account, you should set things up with separate login credentials. If you are setting up an account for a client, you should either use the client’s Google account or create a new Google account for the client. This is a best practice because the account is essentially property of the client, and if they want to work with others down the road, they will not be able to do so properly if the account is set up using your personal Google account.

  • If you choose to keep your login credentials the same, simply sign in to create your AdWords account.
  • If you are setting up a new account, enter an email that you would like to use and a password. The email does not have to be a Gmail one, but you must have access to the inbox in order to verify the account.
  • Check the email account that you provided in order to verify your account.

Learning about AdWords: Setting up Your Campaign

Log into your account and click the “create a new campaign” button. A drop-down menu will prompt you to select a campaign for the search network, the display network or both. There is also an option for a video campaign; however, we won’t be covering that here. One of the best ways to learn about AdWords is to dive in and start working with an account. The following is what each option entails:

  • Search network: By selecting this, you will be setting up a campaign to display ads on Google’s search engine results pages. These are three-line text ads that appear at the very top of results and to the right.

 

  • Display network:  By selecting this, you will be setting up a campaign on Google’s network of partner advertising websites that are participating in Adsense. These ads are image ads and are a more traditional type of advertising online. Ads are displayed on websites relevant to the product or service that you are marketing.

 

  • Both:  This option lets you set up a campaign for both the display and search networks at the same time.

Since this is an introductory guide for learning about AdWords, we will only be covering the search network at this point. If you are interested in learning more about the other networks and advertising options through Google, there are a lot of great resources here.

Select the search network, and on the subsequent page you will begin entering your campaign information.

  • Name your campaign:  This can be whatever you want; however, you should make it something that is easy to differentiate from other campaigns that you have running or may run in the future. For instance, if you leave multiple campaigns as the Google default “campaign 1,2,…,” things can get a little confusing.

 

  • Campaign configuration: Select the ad configuration you want for your account. At the time of this writing, the choices include standard, all features, product listing ads and dynamic search ads. The chart below allows you to compare these configurations in detail. If this is your first time with AdWords, you may want to choose the standard setting unless you have a specific need that can be fulfilled by one of the other settings.

How to learn adwords ad configuration

  • Select your network:  This will be set depending on your choice in the previous step. For the standard configuration, the network will be the search network along with partner search networks like AOL.

 

  • Device targeting:  In the next step, you can choose which devices you want to target with your campaign. By default, your account will be set to enhanced campaign settings. With these settings, your campaign will target mobile devices, desktop and laptop computers. If you want to choose which devices your campaign targets, click “switch to legacy settings.” When you are first learning AdWords, it is best to use general settings until you are comfortable.

 

  • Location settings:  You have the ability to customize where your ads show with AdWords. You can target a single city, an entire state, a whole country or multiple countries. Location targeting allows you to extend your ad’s reach, but it also allows you to control who sees your ads so you aren’t wasting resources. If you are advertising to a local market, you can set a radius for your ads to show to people only within a certain distance of your business. You can do this by clicking “Let me choose…” in legacy settings and then “advanced search.” A dialogue box will appear allowing you to choose a radius.

Adwords Learning about location settings

  • Bidding and budget:  At this step in the process for setting up a standard search network campaign, you must decide what your daily budget and bidding configuration will be.
    • Bidding:  There are basic and advanced options in this step for bidding. For the purposes of this guide, we will only be covering configuration of basic options. You can select to set your bids manually or let AdWords choose your bid amounts in order to maximize clicks in your account. It is strongly suggested that you choose the option to let AdWords select your bids if you are not familiar with manual bidding. By doing this, AdWords will choose the appropriate maximum bid amount for each keyword based on your budget. By choosing manual bidding, you set your maximum cost per click on your own. Best Practice Tip:  When setting your bids manually, it is not an effective strategy to choose a low bid amount. While bidding is not the only factor that determines which ad shows up first on the first page of Google, it plays a large role. All else being equal, if you set your max bid too low, you will be placed after other ads in line that may have higher bids.
    • Budget:  Your daily budget is simply whatever you want to spend per month on advertising divided by 30. For example if you wanted to spend $300 per month on AdWords, your daily budget would be 30 dollars per day. Setting your budget can be tricky if you have more to spend on advertising. You must take into account the average cost per click of keywords that you have chosen as well as the demand for what you are advertising online. Tools like Google’s Keyword tool and Traffic estimator can guide you on how high you should set your budget.
  • Ad Extensions: The last step in setting up a standard search network campaign is ad extensions. Ad extensions are not necessary but are useful if you are targeting a local market. Ad extensions allow you to associate ads with your Google Plus social profile, add a phone number, add site links or add location information. These extras are not for everyone, but they are great if you have a conversion process that does not lend itself well to online conversions. For example, some sales cycles require more education for consumers or that there be contact over the phone. Ad extensions work great for these scenarios. If you decide not to use ad extensions, simply click “save and continue.”

 

Choosing Keywords for AdWords

After you click “save and continue” on the initial campaign settings page, you will see the step to start writing your ad copy. If you want to do this step first, that’s fine, but I have always felt like choosing keywords makes more sense to do first. Keywords are the foundation of your account because these are the things that trigger your ads. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will see the spot to add your keywords to the campaign.

When adding keywords, it is a best practice to make your campaigns very targeted. When setting up your first campaign, it is tempting to create a lot of ads and insert a lot of keywords. Keep in mind that any keyword that is included with your ad group has the potential to trigger an ad that you have associated with it. If that keyword is not relevant to your ad, users won’t click on it and your campaign will eventually perform poorly.

With this in mind, pick a tightly themed group of keywords to include in your campaign. Remember that if you want to target other themes or keywords, you should create a separate ad group for them and even a different landing page. The following example will help illustrate this concept.

Lets say you want to advertise a set of wooden toy blocks. Choose a target key phrase that represents your product (wooden blocks), and then use that phrase and its variants in your ad group. Here is a sample list of keywords:

adwords keyword learning tips

 

And here are a couple of ads that go with these keywords,

Learning to write an adwords ad

 

and

adwords ad

 

Notice that in our list of keywords, all of the phrases are similar in terms of theme. They all have to do with wooden blocks for kids. Our ads contain the key phrases exactly as they are in the list or variations of those phrases. If we were to have one phrase in our list that was not relevant to the others, it would be more difficult to create ads for the group of keywords. Further, if there were an unrelated phrase, it would still trigger one of the ads. That means there is also the potential for the unrelated phrase to trigger an unrelated ad, and for a user to not click it because it doesn’t have anything to do with his or her query.

Say, for example, you also had the key phrase “wooden blocks” tied to a brand name as one of your keywords. Users searching for a specific brand name are less likely to click on our ads that do not contain any brand names, but generic phrases for children’s wooden blocks. The best way to set this up would be to create a different ad group with keywords that contain specific (and consistent) brand names with the words “wooden blocks.”

Learn AdWords Match Types

Match types are another factor to consider when including keywords. Match types are simply different ways of configuring your keywords so that ads are triggered only when you want them to be. There are a handful of different match types to choose from.

 

 

Learning to Write AdWords Copy

Keywords are important to have in your ads but don’t forget that you are advertising to customers and not search engines. You must make sure that your ads are compelling enough for users to click on them. There are a few basic rules to follow when configuring your ads.

  • Headline:  Your primary keywords should go in the first line of your ad. Capitalize all the first letters of the words in your headline to help it stand out.

 

  • Body:  In the middle line of your ad, you should have your value proposition or, in other words, whatever it is that you are promising users that they will get when they click your ad. This is your chance to convey what it is that you offer of value to users.

 

  • Call to Action:  The last text line of your ad should have your call to action. A call to action is a series of words that encourage a person to act. Common calls to action are “Act Now,” “Call Now” or “Visit Us Today.”

 

You should now have your AdWords account setup to start performing well.  Even though there are best practices to follow, you should always revisit your campaign(s) about once every few days to make sure they are performing well. Over time — once you learn about AdWords and have optimized your campaigns — they will begin to mature, but in the beginning, you should check your account frequently to make sure things are doing well. If you want more information on how to optimize your AdWords campaign, there are tons of great resources online to help. The following are examples of such resources:

What tips do you have for first timers using AdWords? Do you have a story that would help a new advertiser learn what not to do with an account?




How Do I Use Google Analytics for Event Tracking?

Much of Google Analytics tracking is based on Pageviews. For this to work, people must be traveling from page to page on your website in order to gather actionable data. What about all the other things that happen on pages when users aren’t traveling around? How can you tell when they have watched a video, clicked an external link, downloaded a document or used some sort of gadget? The answer is event tracking, and you can use this method to track a number of user interactions with content on your website. How do I use Google Analytics for event tracking? Read on to learn more.

 

About Event Tracking

Before we dive into setting up event tracking, let’s talk a little bit about what an event is and how we can record data for it. An event is simply an interaction that a user has with content on your website. It happens independently of page or screen loads. The event tracking method is similar to tracking virtual pageviews in that you can apply it to actions that are not really generating a pageview; however, they are far more accurate in that they don’t inflate your pageview numbers artificially.

 

Event tracking requires programming knowledge, but we can show you in this post how to do this simply. Really, it requires knowledge of the _trackEvent() method as well as knowledge of where to place it on your website. If you have experience installing the default Google Analtyics code, you will be able to do this, as well. The _trackEvent() code is placed within the object you want to track. We will show you what that looks like in a moment. First let’s look at the different elements of the _trackEvent() method.

 

There are five elements that can be attributed to the _trackEvent() method. They are category, action, label, value, and non interactive.

Category:  This is a required element, and it refers to what you are tracking. This could be videos, downloads, music tracks or external links. This is a name that you supply.

Action: This is also a required element, and it is a unique attribute paired with the category. For example, in an external link, you would supply the anchor text of the link as the action.

Label:  This is an optional element of _trackEvent() to provide more dimensions to the data you are gathering. For instance, if you had a group of outbound links to social media sites on your home page, you may add a unique label to each one. So, the category would be “External links,” your action would be “click” and your labels might be the names of the social media sites for each link.

Value:  This is another optional value, and it is expressed as an integer in reports. You can specify what you want Analytics to record, and it will supply the data as a number.

Non interactive:  This is the final element of _trackEvent(), and it is also optional. It is a Boolean (a logical data type having two values; usually true or false). When non interactive is set to true, it indicates that a hit on the event will not be included in the bounce rate calculation of your site.

 

Set up Event Tracking

 

External links

One of the easiest things to track is an external link, and if you are going to practice on anything, you should start with this. Not only is the code relatively easy to install, but the data is also easy to interpret. By default, Analytics does not track links that lead away from your site, and it may be important for you to track these behaviors. For example, you may have a site on another domain that you want to see traffic flowing to from your other site. You may have links to social properties, blogs or web applications that you want to keep track of.

 

Installing the code

If you are installing the code yourself, here is what it will need to look like when putting it on an external link:

 

<a href=”/the_path_of_your_link.html onClick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘category’, ‘action’, ‘label’,’value’,’non-interactive’]);” >Your Anchor Text</a>

 

Fill in the appropriate areas with your supplied data. Notice the onClick javascript code for the link. For other tracking, you might use different syntax, but since we are tracking when someone clicks the link, onClick works nicely.

If you are having a webmaster install the code for you on a link that already exists, he or she can simply paste the onClick action in the link. You will want to give your webmaster the final version with all supplied data unless he or she is setting up event tracking for you.

 

onClick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘category’, ‘action’, ‘label’,’value’,’non-interactive’]);”

 

Note that this same code can also be used to track downloads of a PDF or other documents that are contained in an a-tag. Simply change the elements in _trackEvent() to identify the user interaction appropriately.

Tracking a video

You can also track YouTube videos using the _trackEvent() method. This tactic involves a little bit more code, but you simply copy and paste it in your website. Use a div with the id “player” to place your video in.

Place this where your video is to be positioned on the page, then paste the embed code within the div.

<div id=”player”></div>

This code can be virtually anywhere on the page; however, you should place it after your default Google Analytics tracking code. You must also place your video ID in the appropriate section of the code below.

<script type="text/javascript">

var tag = document.createElement(‘script’);

tag.src =http://www.youtube.com/player_api“;

var firstScriptTag = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];

firstScriptTag.parentNode.insertBefore(tag, firstScriptTag);

 

var player;

function onYouTubePlayerAPIReady() {

player = new YT.Player(‘player’, {

height: ‘390’,

width: ‘640’,

videoId: ‘YOUR VIDEO ID GOES HERE‘,

events: {‘onReady': onPlayerReady,’onStateChange': onPlayerStateChange}});

}

function onPlayerReady(event) {

/// event.target.playVideo();} 

function onPlayerStateChange(event) {

if (event.data ==YT.PlayerState.PLAYING)

{_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Videos’, ‘Play’,

player.getVideoUrl() ]); }

if (event.data ==YT.PlayerState.ENDED)

{_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Videos’, ‘Watch to End’,player.getVideoUrl() ]); } }

</script>

This script works great for one video. If you want to track multiple videos on the same page without having to install script every time, Luna Metrics has a great post on how to do this.

Looking at Event Data

Keep in mind that Google Analytics will take about 24 hours to record data from your website. Once some time has passed and you have data in your account, go to Content -> Events -> Overview to look at all the events that are being tracked on your website.

Interpreting reports for Google Analytics event tracking

 

 

Reporting on Event Tracking

 

 

Set up event tracking and look at data

By default, Google will show you the event category in reports. Using the links at the top of the report, you can toggle between event category and event action. If you supplied a label and a value for your event, these will show up in the columns to the right. You can also see other facets of the data by adding secondary dimensions.

Event tracking is a great way to measure interaction on your site other than the default pageview tracking on Google Analytics. You can apply it to many different objects on a page and use it in some creative ways. Analtyics also makes the data easy to understand and interpret. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I use Google Analytics for event tracking?” you now have a great basis from which to get started.

Have you ever used event tracking? If so, what have you used it to measure? Did you find it more useful than other methods of tracking user interactions?

The Best Free and Paid SEO Tools

The great part about doing SEO these days is all the sophisticated tools available to get it done from both web-based and downloadable software. There is software for keyword research, analysis, tracking, building inbound links and generating content. There are also some pretty cool browser-based SEO tools available. We would like to share some notable tools that help with a variety of different tasks in search engine optimization.

Free SEO Tool for Firefox

This free little gem provided courtesy of SEOBook is a browser extension that gives insight into your own pages as well as others around the web. It also gives competitive market data gleaned from SERPs as well as competitors’ websites. In terms of search results, SEO for Firefox gives you data on why certain results may be appearing over others that seem more relevant. Check out the first image below of normal search results and then the one after it featuring SEO for Firefox search results. The SEO tool highlights a lot of information on each search result.

Best Free SEO Tools For Firfox

A typical Google SERP without the SEO for Firefox extension enabled.

 

SEO Tool for Firefox

An SERP with SEO for Firefox enabled.

Lets take a closer look at the information provided by the SEO tool. You can see PageRank, the last date Google cached the page, traffic value, the amount of delicious book marks, domain links, page links, edu links and a ton of other great info. The tool also provides data no matter what search engine you are using as long as it is enabled and you are using Firefox.

best free seo tool for firefox

Another notable feature of the extension is the SEO X-ray. I really like this feature because you can go through and do an audit of all the pages on your website just by visiting them with the tool enabled. It will show you where your headers are, where your alt attributes are, your meta tags and their length, the number of external links on the page, as well as your keyword density. In my opinion, this is one of the best free SEO tools for doing quick on-site auditing of your pages.

New SEO tool from firefox

Open Site Explorer: An SEO Tool for Inbound Links

Another favorite is Open Site Explorer from SEOMoz. If you are looking for a tool for your backlink monitoring or competitive research, this tool has one of the easiest-to-use interfaces and an abundance of information on your site or your competitor’s site. This is a web-based software package, and it allows you to see inbound links leading to your pages, your domain authority, page authority, the amount of root domains linking to your site and total links to your site. You can also get data on content of yours that was shared from Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. This is a valuable tool for measuring your SEO activities in terms of link building and social signals.

There is a free version, but it is pretty limited. You can see the links leading to your pages, the anchor text used and some other tidbits, but you can get much more in-depth data by signing up for the monthly subscription version for 99 dollars.

Open Site Explorer SEO tool

Keyword Research SEO Tools

There are a lot of keyword research SEO tools out there like Market Samurai and Traffic Travis; however, I am always hesitant to recommend a specific software. This is because researching the keywords your target market uses to find your products/services/website is more of an art than it is a science. Even if you have a tool you trust to give you good information, you must still tweak your data to come up with a good strategy for words to use on your website and in your campaigns. For this reason, I recommend the HubSpot Keywords Class highly.

The class is lengthy (over an hour), but it gives detailed information for each stage of the process including creating buyer personas in order to better understand your target market. Truth be told, you can’t just plug in a keyword into a piece of software and have it spit out the best variation for your purposes. Words in advertising have always been selected carefully based on the characteristics of the target market, and that takes some in-depth research, understanding and data that is not always available in software.

That being said, there are some tools that can get you started in the right direction for knowing what terms you should be looking for:

  • The Google Keyword Tool: This is an old tool (by Internet standards), but it can still get you some ideas. Be careful how you use this, as it should not be the end-all resource. Mainly, I like to use it in order to get ideas for variations of words that are similar to one another. Unless you are using the data for Adwords, take the other numbers that come with keyword ideas with a grain of salt.
  • Web Master Tools: WMT is good for seeing what words your site is already showing up for. Combined with keyword data from Analytics, you can see what words are already driving people to your site, and you can improve upon that.
  • Here are some other great resources for keyword research:

SEMRush: A Good All-Around SEO Tool

I had to mention this tool even though it has probably been reviewed in numerous other blogs. For any of our readers that are interested in a good, all-around tool for doing SEO-related work, you should take a serious look at this one. One of the most notable features of the SEMRush program is its dashboard-like interface. It is somewhat reminiscent of Google Analytics, and it displays a lot of relevant information all in one place. Colorful charts and an easy-to-read layout make the data engaging and useful. The breadth of data is also quite helpful. You can see data related to keyword research, backlinks, online advertising and organic rankings, and you can even compare your website to competitors’.

SEMRush SEO tool

 

There are free and subscription services from SEMRush. The free version (like with many other programs) is limited. You can see some backlink information and limited amounts of other data; however, you won’t get the full impact without signing up. The pricing is pretty reasonable for the paid options. You can do the one month, one-time fee of 80 dollars, which gets you a fair amount of results per report, up to 3,000 reports per day (if you run more than that, I feel sorry for you) and you can track up to five campaigns. The Pro and Guru versions are 70 and 150 dollars, respectively, and are purchased with recurring monthly payments. You get far more features with these plans, including more reports and the opportunity to see historical data.

If you do a search online for SEO tools, you will find dozens and dozens of different packages that all have their own strengths and weaknesses. The tools mentioned in this post are ones that I feel provide the best value or have features that are very helpful for SEO work. You may find others online that work better for your specific situation.

What tools have you found helpful for SEO? Do you think the paid versions are more useful, or have you found some good free ones as well?

Google Analytics Filters: Tricks for Cleaning Data

The first time you start seeing data flowing in from your tracking software, it is really exciting. After all, these are real people that are interested in visiting your website. Depending on your purposes for tracking visitor activities, you may need to filter your data to get a clearer picture of what is happening. Things like internal traffic from an organization, web development activities or just data that you don’t need to see can clutter up your reports and give you an inaccurate or hard-to-sift through pile of numbers. Read on for some best practices on using Google Analytics filters to make customized reports.

STOP! Don’t Apply an Analytics Filter Yet!

Before you do anything, you need to make a duplicate of your profile in your account. This is a copy of the default profile in your account. At the time of this writing, you can make up to 50 duplicate profiles in one Analytics account for one property. The reason you need to make a duplicate is that you should always maintain an unfiltered profile with all of your data in it. Any analytics filter you apply to a profile throws data away. This data cannot be retrieved, and should you make a mistake or decide that you want the data later, it’s gone for good. By making a duplicate profile, you will always have at least one that has not been touched. If you already have a duplicate profile, skip to the next section. If you have never done this, follow the steps below:

  1. Log into your Analytics account
  2. Click the “Admin” link in the top right-hand corner of the accountGoogle Analytics Filter Screen Shot
  3. Select the profile that you would like to duplicate
  4. Click on the “Profile Settings” tabGoogle Analytics Filter Screen Shot
  5. Click the “Copy this profile” link in the bottom right corner of the screenAnalytics Filter Screen Shot
  6. Confirm the copy

Now that you have a duplicate, you can do whatever you want to the copy of your original knowing that you still have the first profile should you screw things up.

Excluding Traffic Using Filters in Google Analytics

A popular filter to apply to a property is to exclude traffic. If you are running a company, you may want to exclude employee traffic from the website. If you are doing some web development activities or someone you have hired is about to, you may want to exclude them from data so that it isn’t skewed. Another reason you might exclude data is to only look at a certain subset of users. Whatever they case, there are a variety of ways to accomplish this.

Exclude Traffic by IP Address

You can exclude traffic from a site based on the visitor’s IP address or a range of IP addresses. To do this, log into your Analytics account and select your duplicate profile.

  1. Click on the “Admin” link at the top of the screen
  2. Click on the “Filters” tab
  3. Click “New Filter”Filters in Google Analytics Screen Shot
  4. Select the “Create new Filter” radio buttonFilters Google Analytics Screen Shot
  5. Give your filter a name (this can be anything)
  6. If you are only excluding one IP address, you can select the “Predefined filter” option, then “Exclude,” then “Traffic from the IP addresses” and “That are equal to”
  7. Next, enter the IP address

If you are excluding traffic from multiple or a range of IP addresses:

  1.  Follow steps 1-3 above
  2. This time select the “Custom Filter” option
  3. Select the “exclude” radio button
  4. For the filter field, select “IP address”
  5. For the filter pattern, you will have to enter a regular expression for the range of IP addresses you want to exclude. Regular expressions are very difficult to write correctly; however, Google offers an IP address range tool that allows you to do this easily. Use the tool, then just copy and paste your regular expression into the filter pattern field
  6. Make sure “Case Sensitive” is set to “No”

Excluding Visitors by Setting a Cookie

Sometime excluding traffic based on IP address is not practical because computer networks may be utilizing dynamic IP addresses for security. In these cases, you can set a user cookie on the browser to exclude traffic. Note that this method is not ideal because it requires actual people to visit a web page to set the cookie, and the cookie expires or can be erased when someone clears his or her browser cache. It also requires some programming knowledge. Use of this filtering method works best when there are small groups of users that need to be excluded.

 

The web page where the cookie will be set:

  1.  Create a new html page (there does not have to be content, but you can add some if you like)
  2. Add this snippet of Javascript code into the head section of your new page: <body onLoad=”javascript:pageTracker._setVar(‘exclude_visitor’);”>
  3. Also insert your Google Analytics Tracking script into the head of your page (this can be obtained from your GA account) *Note: this must go after the first snippet above or else GA will record a visit
  4. Save the page to your server (IMPORTANT: you should also exclude this page from search engines via robots.txt! Otherwise, regular visitors whom you do not intend to exclude could also visit the page)

Setting up the filter to exclude traffic:

  1.  Log into your Analytics account
  2. Click on the “Admin” button
  3. Click the “Filters” tab
  4. Create a new filter
  5. Click the “Custom Filter” radio button
  6. Select “Exclude”
  7. For the filter pattern select User Defined”
  8. For the filter pattern use “Exclude_Visitor”

After you have set up the filter and you are sure it is working, go ahead and let the user group that you want excluded visit the page on all the browsers that they commonly use. This will effectively exclude them from reports.

Separating Domains Using Google Analytics Filters

When you have a blog, a web store or some other web property that has a different purpose than your main website, it is best for SEO to keep them all on the same or a sub domain. When looking at this data in reports, however, it can be an arduous process to sort through everything to evaluate activity. For instance, you may want to track activity on your blog separately from that of your main website. Using filters, you can separate these.

Including Traffic to a Sub Directory:

  1.  Log into your Analytics account
  2. Click the “Admin” link in the top right corner of the screen
  3. Select the profile you want to apply the filter to
  4. Click the “Filters” tab
  5.  Select “Create new Filter”
  6. Name your filter
  7. Select “Predefined Filter”
  8. Select “Include only,”  “traffic from the subdirectories” and “that begin with.” Note: if you were to select “that are equal to,” any sub directory past the first would also be excluded.
  9. Enter your subdirectory (i.e. /blog)

There are over 50 different options for your  filter field, and out of those there are almost limitless combinations of how you can exclude or include data. The main purpose of filters is to only keep the data that you want in order to make your reports easier to decipher. Remember that you can create up to 50 different profiles and apply all sorts of filters to your data. Some of the most common are to exclude internal traffic or to separate properties, but you can also create filters based on user location, ISP, browser, campaign, page title and lots of e-commerce related characteristics.

 

What filters are you using on your data? How do they help you get a clearer picture of your data?

Alternatives to Google Analytics

Measuring your activities as an online marketer is arguably one of your most important tasks. As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you are headed, how will you know when you get there? Google Analytics is a very popular and robust platform; however, it is not the only option for tracking out there. We would like to point out some of the alternatives (both free and paid) that are available on the market for tracking your website and other marketing activities.

HiStats

A pretty good package that I have come across (and that is also completely free) is HiStats. It touts itself as a 100% free web-based tracking platform, and from what I have seen, that is completely true. You won’t find a lot of tracking platforms like Google that are completely free and also pretty effective. HiStats uses JavaScript to record page views just like GA does, and it features many of the same standard reporting features.

Pros

  • Free (up to 10 million hits a day – if you surpass that, you can afford to pay for tracking)
  • Data-rich basic reports like time on site, page views, bounce and exit rates, geo-location and pretty much any other basic reporting you can think ofHistats Screen shot
  • Custom date range with comparison
  • Log analyzer
  • Multilingual reports
  • Live data feed

Cons

  • Tons of ads in reports pages and elsewhere on the site (I guess they have to make money somehow)
  • No apparent support for customizable tracking
  • Terms of service says you cannot change the code snippet used to count page views

If you are looking for an alternative to Google, but don’t want to miss out on all the great data, give this one a try. It’s pretty easy to set up — you just have to provide your name, email and website URL, then embed their code on your site and you are good to go.

 

Clicky

If you are looking for a low-priced and feature-rich tracking platform, Clicky has a pretty good offering. They have a free limited version; however, the paid one is about 20 bucks a month and worth the cost for some of the features you get. The free plan allows you to track one website and up to 3,000 page views per month. If you are a heavy user, this won’t be adequate for you. The pro plan gets you three websites per month and up to a million page views per day. Custom pricing is also available.

Clicky Screenshot

 

Pros

  • Free (good for small sites with low traffic)
  • Heat maps
  • Engagement reports
  • Custom reporting
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • You pretty much have to pay if you have a site with any kind of high traffic
  • An annoying Clicky Analytics button shows up on your website by default, although it can be removed.
  • Even for paid accounts, some historic data is purged once a year (Why, Clicky! Why!)

Click Tale

Normally, I like to point out platforms that are of high quality and also free, but sometimes that isn’t possible. If you are interested in something more comprehensive than GA, but can’t afford their premium package, you may want to check out Click Tale. Don’t get me wrong — at almost 1,000 dollars per month to start, this is not something that novices or those with tight budgets should consider. It does offer a lot of compelling features, though, and for businesses heavily immersed in activity online, it has some great tools.

 

Clicktale screenshot

Pros

  • Heat map suite: a full suite of visual reports that track mouse movements, clicks and scrolling. Keep in mind that this isn’t a traditional heat map that tracks eye movements, but it’s pretty cool stuff
  • Captures keystrokes, as well
  • Link analytics:  You can view reports on how visitors respond to and interact with the hyperlinks on your site. You can even track mouse hovers, hesitations and hovers that resulted in a conversion (sweet!)
  • Form reports:  I don’t think I have seen more in-depth form tracking functionality. You can see where users abandoned a funnel, what fields are tripping them up or are too ambiguous, as well as a refill report, which gives data on how often users have to go back and refill form data
  • Lots of other basic data reporting features

Cons

  • It’s expensive for solo marketers: There is a free plan, but it is only good up until 400 page views per month, which even a brand new site would blow through easily. Premium plans start at around 950 dollars and go up from there
  • There have been questions raised elsewhere on the web as to the reliability of the tracking software. For example, one user reported using a form built with AJAX that gave users helpful feedback while filling in form fields. In the video made by Click Tale to report user behavior, the AJAX generated suggestions were not visible. These would be important in determining why users are having trouble with certain fields

If you search the web, you will find dozens of other self-hosted and web-based tracking platforms. I picked out these three because they were moderately comparable to Google Analytics, and had some pretty compelling features. If you are in the market for tracking software, look for something that will fulfill your goals. Your goals may be specific if you are looking for a platform just for your business, and they may be more general if you are planning on using tracking on others’ websites.

 

What platforms do you use to track your website activity? What benefits do they bring to the table? What are their drawbacks?

Utilizing WordPress for Blogging

There are so many platforms available for publishing your content online that the selection process can be dizzying. Which one is best for SEO? Which one is the easiest to set up? What platform has the most support in case I need help? The truth is that many platforms fit this description, but we wanted to highlight using WordPress for blogging. It is arguably one of the most popular and easiest-to-use CMS platforms, and it is also free.

Disclaimer on who this post is forIf you are new to WordPress, you will find a lot of great tips for getting started on the platform. If you are a WordPress veteran, feel free to skim through and leave a comment if you feel we missed something.

Self-Hosted WordPress and WordPress.com

For those new to WP, it can be confusing when you search for information on how to get started. This is partly because there are two different ways to get started with WordPress.

WordPress.com: A web based version of WordPress that allows you to make a basic blog with content and styling. If all you want to do is write about stuff and share it with people, this should be fine for you. A custom domain is still an option, but you give up the ability to install plugins and templates.

Self-Hosted WordPress:  This is the installation package to create a WordPress site on the hosting provider of your choice. The package is available for download at WordPress.org, and it is free of charge. It comes with two default templates and is fully customizable.

Setting up a WordPress.com Blog

    1. Visit www.wordpress.com
    2. At the time of this writing, you should click the large “Get Started” button on the home page. In general, you just want to look for a way to sign up for an account.wordpress.com screen shot
    3. You will see a screen like the one below. Fill in your email, a user name and password, then click “create blog.”Required Fields in WordPress.com
    4. You will have to confirm your account by checking your email; then, you can start posting.

Setting up a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

A self-hosted solution is a bit more involved; however, it gives you the freedom of posting whatever content you want, linking to whatever you want and making your blog fully customizable. Below is a tutorial for setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog.

      1. Purchase a domain name and hosting. You can do this through one of the many different hosting providers and domain name registrars out there. Some examples are GoDaddy, Host Gator, Nexcess and Network Solutions. You must get hosting that supports MySQL databases and PHP.
      2. You must create an empty database for WordPress to store information like pages, posts, etc. The easiest way to do this is through your current hosting provider. Remember to save any login credentials that you create for your database because you will need them later for setting up your WordPress site. Note that there is no need to set up tables in your database — WordPress will do this for you when it is installed. You will also need to create a MySQL user that has all privileges enabled.
      3. Download the most recent version of WordPress at WordPress.org and unzip it to a directory of your choice. Note that many hosting providers provide turnkey installation of WordPress from their C-panel dashboards. This tutorial will cover installing WordPress via FTP. Here is an example of instructions to install WordPress on a GoDaddy site (super easy!).wordpress.org screen shot
      4. Download an FTP program. There are a lot of free ones on the web. I am partial to Filezilla, and will use it in this tutorial.
      5. Open Filezilla.
      6. Click “File” then “Site Manager.”Filezilla screenshot
      7. In the dialogue box that appears, click on “New Site.”site manager screenshot
      8. You will then need to enter credentials to gain access to your hosting provider’s server. These can usually be obtained from your hosting provider.credentials for filezilla
      9. Once you gain access, you will need to move your unpacked WordPress files from your computer (in the left window) to your hosting provider’s server (in the right window). If you plan on having your WordPress blog reside at the root of your domain (i.e. www.example.com), you will have to move your files to the very first directory. This is usually a folder labeled “hdocs,” “html ” or “web,” or there may be no folder at all. If you want to install WordPress into a sub-directory (such as one labeled “blog”), simply move files into that folder.Uploading wordpress via FTP
      10. Once you have finished moving the files, visit your domain with /wp-admin/install.php appended to the end (if installed in root) to finish. If you installed into a sub-folder, visit your domain /subfolder/wp-admin/install.php to finish the installation. This is the back-end administration dashboard of your WordPress site.

Customizing your WordPress Site

The default theme and plugins for your site are great; however, there are lots of free and low- cost add ons out on the web. You can install custom themes and plugins to make your blog even better.

Themes

The following are some good resources for themes. You can also modify the default themes that come with the original installation; however, it will require programming knowledge.

Note that these providers are all paid services, but they offer themes for extremely reasonable prices (most are about 30 to 60 dollars). I am a firm believer that one should steer clear of free WordPress themes. I’m sure there are some that are perfectly fine, but the majority of them come with spammy links that cannot be removed, and they often have programming errors. Just keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

Plugins

There are loads of great plugins for a self-hosted WordPress site, which is part of the reason why it is so popular. With all the added functionality out there, it is easy to design a superstar site with no programming knowledge. The following plugins are some of the best to get you started on WP.

Hundreds of other plugins exist for WordPress. Some are paid and some are free. One of the greatest things about WordPress is that if there is some functionality you want your blog to have, there is probably a plugin that will do it for you.

From Blog to Website

WordPress gained notoriety as a blogging platform, but many people have used it to make traditional websites, as well. You can easily turn your blog into a website using built-in tools that come with WordPress.

Pages

Pages are not a part of the traditional blog; they are accessed through a menu that you must create. Pages can have static content that does not get pushed down when new posts are added. They always remain the same unless you make changes to them. Pages are great for things like an “about” or a “contact” page. They can also come in handy when you want visitors to perform some type of action that a blog simply doesn’t lend itself well to.

Menus

Before you create pages, you must create menus. These are very easy to create in WordPress right out of the box. You can make parent menus, child menus and drop-downs very quickly. You can even assign external links to menu items if you have pages that live outside of WordPress, but are still on your server.

If you are thinking of starting a blog or looking for a different solution, you should give WordPress a serious look. Whether you do a self-hosted or web-based option, setting things up requires no programming knowledge, and there are loads of support options around the web in case you get stuck.

 

What is your favorite platform for blogging? Have you ever thought about switching to WordPress?

Making Changes to Your Website Based on Data

In our previous post, we talked about mining data from Google Analytics. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do next once you have gleaned data from your website. As web marketers with access to loads of useful data, we still spend much of our time guessing about exactly what will please our visitors. This post will offer some tips on what to do with data once you are done analyzing it.

Engaging Your Visitors

Forming deep connections with visitors to your website is an important part of building a brand online. Identify pages where users are spending the most time. What is it about those pages that keeps people on your site? Mimic these characteristics on other parts of your website. You can also look at your keywords report to see which keywords are correlated with long stays on your website. This clues you in to similar key terms that may be useful to target on other pages of your site in a search marketing campaign.

Top Entrance Pages from Search Referrals

Take a look at Traffic Sources -> Search -> Overview, and then add a secondary metric of landing pages. These are the pages that visitors are finding and clicking on in searches. Your most visited page may be your home page (which is fairly common), but take a look at other pages that are ranked highly in the number of visits. These pages are doing very well in search engine results pages, and you can compare them to pages that may not be showing up so high in the reports to help you improve their rankings.

Real Time

At first, the real time feature in Analytics is cool to look at, but you might consider it to be a novel addition, at best, after a short time. There are actually a couple of cool uses for this feature. It’s not wise to make programming or content changes to a live site, but it can happen sometimes. You can use the real-time report to see if anyone is looking at the page you plan on changing before you take action. Other uses for the report include checking initial progress of a campaign like an email blast, sharing content on social media that involves a link to your site or any other activities that involve sending traffic to your property. You should always have some other, more recordable method of tracking for a campaign, but the real-time report can give you a good initial picture of how your campaign is shaping up.

Site Speed

Having a slow website can increase bounce rates and, in general, promote a poor user experience. The site speed report is one that gets little fanfare, but it’s pretty useful. You can see the speed of your site’s average load times in most major browsers and mobile operating systems. You can also look at load times on the page level. If you see that load times are too high, you can take proper action. Google provides a site speed analysis for free, and it will tell you exactly what may be causing your site to move slowly.

Observe, Hypothesize, Test, Repeat

In any post about how to use data in Analytics, testing should always be mentioned. Sometimes there are small tweaks that can be made to a website, but often our assumptions must be validated by a series of tests to ensure that we are making the right decisions.

A/B/n and Multivariate Testing

After data has been analyzed and conclusions drawn, don’t just start changing things around on your website or individual pages. Not only will this confuse you down the road, but you will not be able to determine if your educated guess about what to change was, in fact, correct. Instead, you can set up carefully administered tests. Two of the most common forms are A/B/n tests (also known as A/B testing or split testing) and multivariate testing.

A/B/n testing

  • This is a very common form of testing used in web design and web usability. It involves making two versions of a page and sometimes three. Traffic is then divided among the pages to see which variation has the best results in terms of a goal. The goal could vary, and some examples might be increasing time one page, increasing conversions, decreasing bounce rate or getting visitors to perform some kind of action. The benefit to this type of testing is that it’s easy to set up and implement.

Multivariate testing

  • This is similar to A/B testing; however, it involves testing multiple variables on a webpage. Another way to think of this kind of testing is many A/B tests happening on the same page at the same time. The main purpose for this kind of testing is to determine which combination of variables produces the desired result based on the goal of the test. Multivariate tests can be very difficult, time consuming and expensive to undertake. It is best to start out with A/B/n testing first, especially for smaller tasks.

Testing your changes is very important. Keep a log of how each variation of a page performed when you set up your tests. For an A/B test, narrow down your best guesses as to how you could better accomplish your goal with the layout and elements of a page. Then, pick the two best configurations (or three if you have that many), and start your test. Here is a great resource on setting up an A/B test for your website.

What you do with your data will largely depend on what it is telling you. High bounce rates, low visit durations, low numbers of pages viewed and scant referrals or conversions will all have their own solutions. Make sure you are analyzing your data with the context in mind. For instance, a high bounce rate on a single page blog may not be an indication of copy that isn’t engaging or interesting. Low conversion rates could be attributed to other factors like a long or confusing sales process.

What decisions have you made for your website based on Analytics data? Did you find that further testing helped identify what you needed to change on your website?