optimize your GDN accounts

In last month’s column, I talked about taking advantage of the summer months to optimize your SEM account. Using the summer slowdown (if it exists for you!) to examine your settings, review your ads and take a closer look at location options won’t transform your PPC account, but these small actions can add up to significant improvements.

Sadly, summer is almost over (sniff, sniff), but you can still make the most of any lull in business to conduct the same kind of optimization process with your Google Display Network (GDN) accounts.

So when you find yourself with a moment to catch your breath, here are five GDN hidden gems worth looking into:

1. Audit your display remarketing setup and audiences

When you originally set up your display remarketing, did you set it up in AdWords or Google Analytics? If you set things up exclusively in AdWords, this might be a good time to switch to Google Analytics or (at a minimum) add in Google Analytics audiences.

Two reasons justify the change:

(a) If your remarketing code gets stripped, you’ll catch it sooner in Google Analytics.

Recently, my team and I saw a slow and steady drop in a client’s remarketing campaign audience numbers and conversions. The dip occurred over the summer, which isn’t unusual for B2B clients. So we didn’t immediately comprehend the significance.

But as the dip continued, we did some digging and found that our AdWords remarketing code had been stripped from some web pages.

It’s true that Google Analytics code can get accidentally stripped from web pages just as easily. But the difference is that when that happens, your PPC team won’t be the only ones affected. Other stakeholders, such as SEO and email marketing teams, will also witness the decline in performance. Odds are, the problem will get caught and solved that much faster.

In the case of our client, we decided to set up audiences in Google Analytics. And because we could do this without involving the client’s development team, we got it done quickly (another bonus).

(b) You have access to many more options in Google Analytics.

Another major benefit of setting up your audiences in Google Analytics is having access to many additional options. In addition to targeting certain pages, you can also target specific audiences, such as all users, new users, returning users and so on:

set up Google Analytics audiences

You can find this list of audience options in the Google Analytics Help documentation.

At the top of this list, you can see “Smart List” as an option, which is also worth exploring. Per Google, here is how Smart Lists work:

Analytics applies machine learning to your conversion data to determine which users are most likely to convert in subsequent sessions, and dynamically manages the remarketing audience to focus on those users.

Machine learning uses dozens of signals, including location, device, browser, referrer, session duration and page depth to identify users for the audience. The model is typically updated daily to reflect the latest data to which Analytics has access, and users are automatically added to or removed from the audience based on that model.

Learn more about Smart Lists in the Google help documentation.

2. Review your display remarketing strategy

You may find that some of your longer-term clients are still working with display strategies you hammered out with them when they first came on board years ago. It’s well worth taking a moment to see whether that strategy still makes sense.

Even better, get a team member who doesn’t normally work on the account to review the account and onboarding materials.

It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes can turn up!

3. Update your display ads

In the day-to-day, it’s easy to get mired in the technical aspects of our jobs and forget that ad creative also needs freshening up.

I recognize that this is easier said than done. If it took you months to get the first round of creative approved, you may hesitate to step back into the fray.

One way to avoid this problem is to create more than one set of display ads at the outset and cycle through them over time, rather than having to drum up a new batch later.

A reminder: You can no longer create text ads on display campaigns, so you’ll need to test responsive ads.

4. Take a closer look at responsive ad performance

In most (not all) of our accounts, we’ve found that responsive ads generate more impressions and clicks — but not more conversions — than display ads.

Consequently, we devised a plan early on to segregate responsive and display ads into separate ad groups.

If you find the same discrepancy between responsive ad and display ad performance in your accounts, you, too, might want to consider a similar setup. Such a setup allows you to experiment with giving responsive ads a lower bid to increase display ad impressions and clicks.

Alternatively, this might be a place where AdWords labels come in handy.

5. Delve into mobile device performance on GDN

While we’ve seen an amazing increase in purchases from mobile devices (and therefore often grant mobile its own campaigns to optimize sales and messaging), we’ve found that mobile sometimes doesn’t perform as well on the GDN.

Take this new client account as an example:

display ads mobile performance

[Click to enlarge.]

As you can see, both of these display campaigns are struggling to convert on mobile.

The first one, for example, has had two conversions, at a cost of $1,119.24 per conversion! Granted, the product is a higher ticket item, but even so, this is a bit rich — especially when compared to 34 conversions at $129.25 per conversion on computers!

We don’t want to give up on mobile entirely, as we’re big believers in cross-device synchronicity. But we will certainly be testing lower bid adjustments for mobile on this account.

Don’t overlook these hidden gems!

Summer might be nearly over, but it’s not too late to pick out and polish these hidden gems.

They won’t single-handedly make or break your account, but they can add up to significant performance improvements.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


via Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing http://ift.tt/2j0Etd9

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Designing and coding a website takes a lot of thoughtful effort. However, actually getting the site online and fully optimized is a whole other chore.

With this Web Launch Checklist, you can dig into all the major points of a new website to make sure you cover everything. This includes basic performance tips such as loading time but also covers important tasks such as SEO, content, security, and accessibility.

Each item in the checklist has a small plus (+) sign that you can click for more details.

This way you can learn about each step and maybe pick up some tips you didn’t even think about! It’s one of the more complete web launch checklists and it covers pretty much everything you need to do for a brand new site.

These days it still takes a while for Google to rank your content, with newer domains taking 10-12 months before they see real traffic.

But, if you have great loading times, optimized content, and proper SEO in place then your site will have a much easier time pulling organic visitors.

Thankfully, this checklist is also fairly new, so it covers some of the newer techniques such as HTTP/2 implementation.

Checklist launch infoChecklist launch info

No matter what type of site you’re launching or how far along you are in the process, this checklist will keep you on track.

One of the best features here is the ability to save your progress between each check. The site automatically sets a cookie for any items you check off, so you don’t need an account or any special password.

Just check off the items as they’re completed and move onto the next task. You can also download this checklist as a PDF file or a DOCX for Microsoft Word.

Plus, the entire project is open-sourced on GitHub, so you’re free to download a local copy yourself to add/remove anything you don’t want on the list.

Great site with plenty of value for web designers who constantly forget little tasks before launching.

And, if you have any questions or suggestions for the creator Harris Thompson you can tweet him directly @HarrisJT_.

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Posted by Devon O’Brien, Ryan Sleevi, Andrew Whalley, Chrome Security

This post is a broader announcement of plans already finalized on the blink-dev mailing list.

At the end of July, the Chrome team and the PKI community converged upon a plan to reduce, and ultimately remove, trust in Symantec’s infrastructure in order to uphold users’ security and privacy when browsing the web. This plan, arrived at after significant debate on the blink-dev forum, would allow reasonable time for a transition to new, independently-operated Managed Partner Infrastructure while Symantec modernizes and redesigns its infrastructure to adhere to industry standards. This post reiterates this plan and includes a timeline detailing when site operators may need to obtain new certificates.

On January 19, 2017, a public posting to the mozilla.dev.security.policy newsgroup drew attention to a series of questionable website authentication certificates issued by Symantec Corporation’s PKI. Symantec’s PKI business, which operates a series of Certificate Authorities under various brand names, including Thawte, VeriSign, Equifax, GeoTrust, and RapidSSL, had issued numerous certificates that did not comply with the industry-developed CA/Browser Forum Baseline Requirements. During the subsequent investigation, it was revealed that Symantec had entrusted several organizations with the ability to issue certificates without the appropriate or necessary oversight, and had been aware of security deficiencies at these organizations for some time.

This incident, while distinct from a previous incident in 2015, was part of a continuing pattern of issues over the past several years that has caused the Chrome team to lose confidence in the trustworthiness of Symantec’s infrastructure, and as a result, the certificates that have been or will be issued from it.

After our agreed-upon proposal was circulated, Symantec announced the selection of DigiCert to run this independently-operated Managed Partner Infrastructure, as well as their intention to sell their PKI business to DigiCert in lieu of building a new trusted infrastructure. This post outlines the timeline for that transition and the steps that existing Symantec customers should take to minimize disruption to their users.

Information For Site Operators

Starting with Chrome 66, Chrome will remove trust in Symantec-issued certificates issued prior to June 1, 2016. Chrome 66 is currently scheduled to be released to Chrome Beta users on March 15, 2018 and to Chrome Stable users around April 17, 2018.

If you are a site operator with a certificate issued by a Symantec CA prior to June 1, 2016, then prior to the release of Chrome 66, you will need to replace the existing certificate with a new certificate from any Certificate Authority trusted by Chrome.

Additionally, by December 1, 2017, Symantec will transition issuance and operation of publicly-trusted certificates to DigiCert infrastructure, and certificates issued from the old Symantec infrastructure after this date will not be trusted in Chrome.

Around the week of October 23, 2018, Chrome 70 will be released, which will fully remove trust in Symantec’s old infrastructure and all of the certificates it has issued. This will affect any certificate chaining to Symantec roots, except for the small number issued by the independently-operated and audited subordinate CAs previously disclosed to Google.

Site operators that need to obtain certificates from Symantec’s existing root and intermediate certificates may do so from the old infrastructure until December 1, 2017, although these certificates will need to be replaced again prior to Chrome 70. Additionally, certificates issued from Symantec’s infrastructure will have their validity limited to 13 months. Alternatively, site operators may obtain replacement certificates from any other Certificate Authority currently trusted by Chrome, which are unaffected by this distrust or validity period limit.
Reference Timeline

The following is a timeline of relevant dates associated with this plan, which distills the various requirements and milestones into an actionable set of information for site operators. As always, Chrome release dates can vary by a number of days, but upcoming release dates can be tracked here.

Date
Event
Now
through
~March 15, 2018
Site Operators using Symantec-issued TLS server certificates issued before June 1, 2016 should replace these certificates. These certificates can be replaced by any currently trusted CA.
~October 24, 2017
Chrome 62 released to Stable, which will add alerting in DevTools when evaluating certificates that will be affected by the Chrome 66 distrust.
December 1, 2017
According to Symantec, DigiCert’s new “Managed Partner Infrastructure” will at this point be capable of full issuance. Any certificates issued by Symantec’s old infrastructure after this point will cease working in a future Chrome update.

From this date forward, Site Operators can obtain TLS server certificates from the new Managed Partner Infrastructure that will continue to be trusted after Chrome 70 (~October 23, 2018).

December 1, 2017 does not mandate any certificate changes, but represents an opportunity for site operators to obtain TLS server certificates that will not be affected by Chrome 70’s distrust of the old infrastructure.
~March 15, 2018
Chrome 66 released to beta, which will remove trust in Symantec-issued certificates with a not-before date prior to June 1, 2016. As of this date Site Operators must be using either a Symantec-issued TLS server certificate issued on or after June 1, 2016 or a currently valid certificate issued from any other trusted CA as of Chrome 66.

Site Operators that obtained a certificate from Symantec’s old infrastructure after June 1, 2016 are unaffected by Chrome 66 but will need to obtain a new certificate by the Chrome 70 dates described below.
~April 17, 2018
Chrome 66 released to Stable.
~September 13, 2018
Chrome 70 released to Beta, which will remove trust in the old Symantec-rooted Infrastructure. This will not affect any certificate chaining to the new Managed Partner Infrastructure, which Symantec has said will be operational by December 1, 2017.

Only TLS server certificates issued by Symantec’s old infrastructure will be affected by this distrust regardless of issuance date.
~October 23, 2018
Chrome 70 released to Stable.

via Google Online Security Blog http://ift.tt/2wV9kwQ

After the controversial changes to Twitter’s @reply feature, which no longer counts usernames towards the 140-character limit, Mastodon registrations rose sharply. Mastodon is a free, open source, decentralized network that has many similarities to Twitter. The software, named in honor of its creator’s favorite metal band, was launched in October and registered 24,000 users in the first six months. A strong negative reaction to Twitter’s changes has fueled a spike in Mastodon registrations. In the last week alone, the software’s user base has grown from 237,000 users on April 15 to more than 414,000 users today.

Mastodon is different from Twitter in that it is broken up into different independently-hosted instances. Whereas Twitter has struggled to combat trolls and abuse on its platform, Mastodon instances can each declare and enforce their own rules. For example, the flagship Mastodon.social instance bans content that is illegal in Germany or France, such as Nazi symbolism and Holocaust denial, excessive advertising, racism, sexism, and other undesirable posts.

Mastodon’s Tweetdeck-style interface allows users to post “toots” with a 500-word character limit. Toots can also be published with a content warning so that users can choose whether to view it.

With all the increased activity around Mastodon this week, there was bound to be someone with the desire to display toots on their website. The first plugin for bringing Mastodon content into WordPress has landed in the plugin directory. Embed Mastodon was created by David Libeau, a French developer and Mastodon enthusiast. It allows users to embed toots using a shortcode.

“I created this plugin because Numerama, a french tech website, was saying that it could be cool to embed Mastodon statuses, like with Twitter, in WordPress,” Libeau said. “I was thinking the same when I wrote a small article on my personal blog. I am using both Twitter and Mastodon but want to progressively leave Twitter.”

Libeau said he is not a WordPress developer and Mastodon Embed is his first plugin. He does not know if it’s coded well but said users may be interested in an alternative plugin on GitHub that is a complete rewrite of his effort. The rewrite includes multiple embeds, caching, proper shortcode initialization, and fallback to “direct” embeds if embed via iframe is forbidden.

Libeau said he doesn’t know what will happen to his plugin in light of the rewrite, but he is continuing to develop small tools for Mastodon users. Mastodon has an open API for apps and services, which makes it easy for developers to build things that integrate with it.

After testing the Mastodon Embed plugin I found that it works but may have a couple of styling issues with the link display. If you find that it’s not working, it’s possible that your particular Mastodon instance configuration does not allow embedding via iFrame. To resolve this you may need to contact the admin of the instance or use the fork of the plugin that has a fallback for this scenario. If you find a bug with the Mastodon Embed plugin hosted on WordPress.org, you can log an issue on Libeau’s Mastodon Tools repository.


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social media toolsNeed some new social media marketing tools?

Looking to save some time?

New tools have recently emerged to meet the evolving needs of busy social media marketers.

In this article, you’ll discover six tools that will improve your social media marketing workflow.

6 Useful Social Media Tools for Marketers by Aaron Agius on Social Media Examiner.

6 Useful Social Media Tools for Marketers by Aaron Agius on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Create User-generated Content Feeds With Waaffle

According to Yotpo, ads based on user-generated content (UGC) can get 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% lower cost per click (CPC) than average. Managing user-generated content campaigns can be tricky though. Waaffle simplifies the process by creating aggregate custom feeds based on any @ account or #hashtag.

Waaffle’s current “early bird” pricing starts at $9/month per campaign. To get started, create an account and attach your Twitter or Instagram profile. From here, you can set up campaigns to track content published by individual accounts or that contain a specific hashtag.

You can create Waaffle feeds based on individual accounts or specific hashtags.

You can create Waaffle feeds based on individual accounts or specific hashtags.

You can then view content based on your feed parameters.

Waaffle displays content matching your campaign parameters.

Waaffle displays content matching your campaign parameters.

Click the Analyse tab to learn more about the content you’ve aggregated.

You can find out more about your aggregated content on the Analyse tab.

You can find out more about your aggregated content on the Analyse tab.

Certainly, Waaffle is a valuable addition to your own UGC campaigns. However, you can also use the tool to:

  • Monitor performance of your company accounts and hashtag campaigns.
  • Publish content you’ve curated from other accounts to your feeds.
  • Monitor your competitors’ accounts or hashtag campaigns to inform your own channel curation.

#2: Curate and Bookmark Content from Influential Sources With Refind

Refind is a free tool that aims to address an issue every social media manager has faced: trying to remember an article you saw that would be perfect for sharing on your social profile. While Refind is a great option for curating personal articles to read later, it’s even more beneficial for loading your social channels with relevant updates.

The desktop version of the program is currently in beta, so you’ll need to submit your Twitter ID to see if you’ve been invited. If not, you have the options to join the waitlist or tweet about the app to gain priority access.

Enter your Twitter handle to see if you're invited to the Refind desktop beta.

Enter your Twitter handle to see if you’re invited to the Refind desktop beta.

Refind’s iOS and Android apps are available to everyone, so you can access the tool on your smart device. A quick wizard walks you through setting up your Refind channel. First you’re prompted to choose your interests.

Choose interests for your Refind account.

Choose interests for your Refind account.

Next you’re offered suggestions for influencers to follow in these spaces.

Refind suggests relevant influencers you may want to follow.

Refind suggests relevant influencers you may want to follow.

The final step shows you how to save links from your device. You can also choose if you want to automatically import links you share on Twitter.

Select the check box to import the links you've shared on Twitter.

Select the check box to import the links you’ve shared on Twitter.

Once signup is complete, you’re taken to the welcome screen where you can take a tour of the app or begin browsing links that have been selected for you.

Refind's welcome screen shows recommendations for you.

Refind’s welcome screen shows recommendations for you.

Within each suggested link, Refind provides buttons that let you save the link, send it directly to Twitter, or perform a number of other actions.

With each article, you'll see buttons that allow you to save, tweet, or perform other actions on the article.

With each article, you’ll see buttons that allow you to save, tweet, or perform other actions on the article.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of this tool for social media management:

  • Save interesting links you want to upload to your social profiles later.
  • Follow influencers in your industry to curate links they share for your audience.
  • Check a link’s stats to see how many others have shared it (and therefore, how interesting your audience might find it).

#3: Add Text Overlay to Social Media Video With Rocketium

Rocketium is one of the simplest ways to create overlaid-text videos for your social media and content marketing campaigns. Use it to create quick videos (like BuzzFeed’s Tasty series) to fill out your social profiles.

This tool is free for watermarked videos; paid plans at $19/month and $49/month will unlock premium features.

Rocketium’s video editor consists of two screens. On the first screen, add your content including images, videos, and captions. When you’re finished, click Continue in the upper-right corner.

Add content to create your Rocketium video.

Add content to create your Rocketium video.

On the next screen, customize your video with different animation styles, music clips, aspect ratios, and more. When you’re done, click Finish.

Customize your Rocketium video.

Customize your Rocketium video.

#4: Optimize and Automate Social Posting via Slack With Yala

If you use Slack, you need the Yala bot. This free tool uses machine learning algorithms to identify your social following’s most active times and lets you auto-schedule “series” of posts from within Slack. Yala currently works with Facebook and Twitter, and the team is exploring offering a similar service through Facebook Messenger.

To get started, click the Add to Slack button.

Click Add to Slack to install the Yala integration.

Click Add to Slack to install the Yala integration.

Once you grant the appropriate permissions, Yala will initiate a tutorial via private message to help you connect your social accounts.

Yala takes you on a quick tour of the app.

Yala takes you on a quick tour of the app.

Once you’ve added a Facebook or Twitter profile, Yala will make recommendations about your ideal posting schedule:

Yala recommends posting times for you.

Yala recommends posting times for you.

You can call Yala at any time for instructions or to schedule posts (including both text posts or images with text). It’s a simple, great option if your team already spends a lot of time on Slack.

#5: Identify and Schedule Topical Content With Quuu

Quuu is an automated social scheduling tool that suggests updates for your social profiles based on topics you choose.

The tool ties into Buffer and HubSpot, and available features include the ability to receive content suggestions for multiple profiles and manually or automatically approve suggestions. You can also promote your own content pieces with Quuu Promote.

A limited free plan is available; paid plans begin at $10/month.

Quuu is easy to set up. After you create an account, select the platform you’d like to send your suggestions to.

Quuu integrates with both Buffer and HubSpot.

Quuu integrates with both Buffer and HubSpot.

Then you’ll need to grant the tool you selected access to your account.

Once you’ve completed the sign-up process, choose from different interest categories based on your niche and its keywords. (The free plan limits you to five categories.)

You can select up to five categories with Quuu's free plan.

You can select up to five categories with Quuu’s free plan.

Also, set the number of suggestions you’d like to receive per day. (You’re limited to two per day on the free plan.)

You can receive two suggestions per day with the free Quuu plan.

You can receive two suggestions per day with the free Quuu plan.

Once your account is set up, suggestions will automatically be sent to your Buffer or HubSpot account, where you’ll be able to manually approve the tool’s suggestions (unless you’ve set your updates to publish automatically).

#6: Monitor Social Ad Spend via Slack With Reveal

Another helpful Slack bot, Reveal, brings your paid ad campaigns into your chat tool. The goal of the app essentially is to warn you when your ads are losing money. Paid plans begin at $10/month and 14-day free trials are available.

To add this tool, click the Add to Slack button on the Reveal homepage. It then leads you through the same permission-granting steps as Yala. Once set, Reveal offers a similar set of tutorials.

Like Yala, Reveal takes you on a tour of the app.

Like Yala, Reveal takes you on a tour of the app.

For best results, use Reveal’s reporting features to monitor your daily, weekly, and monthly campaign performance and receive alerts when your CPC changes significantly.

Conclusion

New social media management tools hit the landscape every day. While these are some that are worth checking out, there are plenty of others being launched to address the common challenges of social media marketers.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite tool you use? Which tool are you most looking forward to trying out? Share it by leaving me a comment below.

6 Useful Social Media Tools for Marketers by Aaron Agius on Social Media Examiner.

6 Useful Social Media Tools for Marketers by Aaron Agius on Social Media Examiner.

via Social Media Examiner http://ift.tt/2nuxZlH

Just last October at the Street Fight Summit, many marketers ranked voice search as the most “over-hyped” marketing tactic of the year. I think this is because many of them aren’t seeing the full scope of the technology. We’re putting on our consumer brains and thinking about the current awkwardness of speaking to Siri in public, not of a future inside self-driving cars or those moments when we just don’t want to get up from the couch.

Currently, most voice searches happen on mobile phones. But within the next few years, it seems likely that devices with this capacity will increase in prevalence — and technological capability — in private spaces, where voicing out-loud intent won’t feel so silly.

What might voice search mean for local?

Most who do believe in a voice-dominated future are in a love/hate relationship with the idea. Some predict we’ll lose all local organic space to ads. Others foresee a future in which anything less than the No. 1 rank is worthless. I see both conclusions as an incomplete picture.

A recent Moz study demonstrated that only 3.4 percent of Google local searches result in ad clicks. While it’s possible to anticipate a future in which voice search results are entirely paid ads, the fact that consumers seem to largely prefer organic suggests that Google would have a hard time retaining customers with such a model.

Imagine if Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” search were a paid ad spot — who would click that button? Replacing the organic “best” option with the highest bidder changes our perception of the result. For businesses, this is further encouragement to tap into the power of organic local reach via accurate data and local knowledge sharing.

Additionally, I think it’s a fallacy to assume that instant answers will beget a world where only the lucky top-ranked result wins. Rather, as I’ll show in this post, voice will make filtering for exactly what a consumer wants a much simpler process. So instead of a single No. 1 rank for a given local keyword (e.g., “divorce lawyer Los Angeles”), there will be dozens of No. 1 pages based on the other parameters a searcher indicates in her query (“a female divorce lawyer within a 20-minute drive from my office in Los Angeles who has experience in custody cases and pre-nups, with at least a 4.5-star rating and who can meet during my lunch break this week”).

So a “post-rank” world doesn’t mean “a world where there’s only top-dog answer” — it means “a world where there are many equally top-dog answers.”

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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Link building is one of the most surefire ways to skyrocket your website’s rankings. We can’t deny that massive quality link building was one of the methods that helped to rapidly put NinjaOutreach on the map.

So in this competitor link building guide, we will share the steps we took to acquire those relevant, quality links, coupled with real data from some of our own link building campaigns.

Back in January 2016, we started out with only around 400-plus links referring back to our site. But after noticing thousands of dead backlinks to a now defunct company, Topsy, we were able to grow an idea into an all-out link building strategy and into our very first competitor link building campaign.

But after noticing thousands of dead backlinks to a now defunct company, Topsy, we were able to grow an idea into an all-out link building strategy and into our very first competitor link building campaign.

By leveraging Topsy’s thousands of dead backlinks, we ended up gaining more than a hundred links from this campaign alone, over the course of only a few months.

Here is a couple of examples of the kind of links we acquired:

Referring Domains

How Did We Acquire High-Quality Backlinks?

Back in January, Neil Patel published a list post of 15 tools for more effective content promotion.

In his list, however, we were curious about the inclusion of one tool in particular: Topsy.

If you still remember, Topsy was once a small and free tool for analyzing Twitter data. Just as data analytics was exploding, Topsy had already made a name for itself with the speed and depth of the insights it yielded for its users.

In Neil Patel’s own words, Topsy was “basically a high-quality Twitter search engine”.

So what’s up with Topsy?

You see, Topsy doesn’t exist anymore. It was bought in 2013 by Apple and shut down two years later.

Before being shut down, the link for Topsy.com would redirect to Apple’s support website. Now, it is completely non-existent.

We had found a broken link in Neil’s post.

Now, having broken links in your posts can be bad for your SEO, so this hatched an idea.

Since Topsy and NinjaOutreach share certain similarities, we thought we could provide content to replace Topsy on the list, taking care of the broken link problem as, obviously, we still exist.

A link back to us won’t lead to a bad-for-SEO dead URL.

So we shot Neil an email about our proposal, but we never got a response.

This is quite understandable, as the guy must receive thousands of emails, after all.

But the fire sparked by this idea was lit, and we transformed this discovery into a long-running campaign that would generate hundreds of backlinks for our business.

From 400+ to 1k+ Links; The Ultimate Competitor Link Building Guide

To make it easier to digest, we created a table of contents for what this guide is going to discuss.

Quick Navigation

Chapter 1: How to Identify Your Competitors

Chapter 2: Tools for Getting Backlinks

Chapter 3: How to Find The Right Prospects for Link Building

Chapter 4: How to Create a Kickass Template

Chapter 5: How to do a “Cold” Competitor Link Building Outreach

Chapter 6: What to do with Other Opportunities

Chapter 7: Conclusion

Chapter 1: How to Identify Your Competitors

Finding out who your competitors are and conducting an analysis of the links they have is part and parcel of any link building campaign. In this section, we will give you a step by step of the competitor analysis process we used.

If you already have a competitor list, you can skip this part and head on over to the next section. If you don’t have a list, or if you want to learn alternative ways to build one, then read on.

There are a couple of ways to compile a list of competitors, so let’s start with the manual but free methods.

As mentioned, these methods typically won’t cost you much, if at all, but they will be more time and effort consuming.

How to Use Google to Identify Your Competitors

Your competitors are scattered all over the web, and when it comes to scouring the web for your competitors’ data, Google is your friend.

Go to the Google search bar and use this keyword structure:

[niche] + [your business offering]
Here are some sample queries using the format above:

  • Influencer marketing software – [Influencer marketing] + [software]
  • Food Supplements – [Food] + [supplements]
  • Copywriting service – [Copywriting] + [service]

Copywriting Service

Once you have your results, you can then manually copy and paste the links into a spreadsheet.

The next method is also free but will need a bit more of time investment.

How to Use Quora to Identify Your Competitor

Quora is an online Q&A forum about mostly anything. Topics are categorized by tags, and there are sections for technology, startups, and even software.

It is a community where people can either write or answer questions ranging from day-to-day basic things like “how do you tie a tie” down to more topical questions like “Is influencer marketing dead? If so, what is the next big trend?”

The disadvantage with this tactic is that you are completely reliant on whether or not other people will respond to your query.

Take note, also, that this method may or may not work depending on the popularity of your niche in Quora.

When framing a question for Quora, pattern your question in such a way that the answer would center on the problem that your business solves and should lead to the type of service or product that your business provides.

For example, here’s a question asked in the Quora community by a member:

Question asked in quora

And here is one of the answers he got:

Answer written in quora

Whether the guy who replied listing links to several mobile payment providers is a marketer of any of the tools he mentioned is anybody’s guess.

Still, if the original poster who asked the question is trying to find his competitors, then he certainly got a pretty comprehensive answer.

In our case, we’d ask:

“How can you easily find industry specific influencers in any niche?”

Or

“What’s the best way to reach out to influencers?”

We’re betting one or more people (or marketers) will come out of the woodwork to give a suggestion or more of their own (including a link back to their own tools, most probably).

The bottom line is, with this method, you are effectively letting other people compile a list of competitors for you.

However, this method should be used with caution and only as a complement to your existing competitor list building research. It should not be solely relied on.

How to Use NinjaOutreach to Identify Your Competitor

NinjaOutreach is a blogger outreach tool that also functions like a search engine for influencer prospecting.

If you already have NinjaOutreach, then you’re in luck, as it will take you much faster to build your competitor list using our tool.

We have different search tabs for Content Prospecting, Live Search (kind of like what you’d find with Google), and Social Prospecting.

You simply enter your keywords, filter by tags if needed, and you’re good to go.

If this sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, follow this link to know more.

Chapter 2: Tools for Getting Backlinks

Choosing a backlink tool is like going to the store to buy hiking boots—you have to try out a few different ones to know which one is the best fit, because you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a forest—or in this case, a link building campaign, with painful blisters.

So it’s about trying different things and seeing which one is the best fit.

In this section, we’ll show you how you can get backlinks from two of the tools we’ve used: MozOSE and Linkody.

We particularly chose these two because MozOSE has a free version and Linkody starts at only $9.90/month.

How to use MozOSE to get Backlinks

For MozOSE, you have to sign up first in order to be able to download anything.

  • Go here: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g
  • Enter the website of one of your competitors (we’ll use our own campaign as an example)
  • Once the results load, filter it by Target = “this root domain”. It should look something like this:

MozOSE to get Backlinks

Get your spreadsheet file by clicking on “Request CSV” just beside the “prev” button. You will see a notification box that tells you that your request is being processed.

  • Click on ‘Recent Report’ at the top right. The page will load once your CSV file is ready, after which you can simply download it.
    This is the file that you will get:
    Moz result

The two things you need are the first column (A), URL; and the second column (B), Title. These are the linked mentions of your competitor in other websites and these are what we call leads.

Keep this for now. Let’s move on to Linkody.

How to use Linkody to get Backlinks

This one’s a straightforward link monitoring tool. Here’s how to use this tool for your link building effort.

  • Sign in and then click on ‘Add Domain’ at the top left:
    Linkody Domain Search
  • When you see this page, enter your competitor’s name and just hit “add domain”
  • Once you have the domains entered, wait a few minutes and it will start crawling your competitor’s backlinks.
  • Once it’s done crawling, you’ll have something that should look like this:
    Linkody Result
  • Click on the export button on the right to get your CSV file.
  • You only need column D which contains the URL, and column V, which contains the Page Title (not shown in screenshot):
    Shorted result

Other Tools You Can Use to Get Your Competitor’s Backlinks

There are hundreds of link building tools out there, but we will only be recommending a couple more here.

That’s because, as we said earlier in this section, we’ve used them firsthand. The ones we recommend are Linkody and MozOSE (because of the freemium).

But that’s not to discredit the other tools out there. In fact, we personally believe that Ahrefs is the best link prospecting tool compared to the first two we mentioned since they probably have the largest and most comprehensive database.

But because we only need backlinks and not all the other features that Ahrefs offers, Linkody should be enough.

Chapter 3: How to Find The Right Prospects for Link Building

At this point, you already have an idea of how to effectively get your competitor’s backlinks.

So let’s move forward to the part where you will be spending the most time: Prospecting.

What is Prospecting?

Prospecting in this context simply means qualifying the leads that you already have (assuming you have gotten your competitor’s backlinks already).

Ideally, you would want to create a document where you’d put down the procedure for the prospecting and indicate who, or what, exactly, you are looking for.

How to Qualify Your Leads

There are a couple of questions you need to define the answer to first to make this process a lot easier.

  • What links, exactly, are you looking for?
  • What’s the best and fastest way to go over all your competitor’s links?

The answer?
Quick wins.

Spotting Quick Wins to Decrease Your Outreach Efforts

Quick wins are the type of posts that follow a certain format. Here are some examples:

  • Tool roundup posts
  • List posts and expanded list posts
  • How-to type of posts

These are the type of posts that can be edited without changing the value or the context that the post is trying to provide.

The most common type of post for us to get a link from is the tool roundup post. That’s because it is easy to update and adding another resource to the post is actually good for the readers as well, since they’ll have more options.

List posts are the second most common type of quick win links and these have a high probability of success in terms of getting a backlink.

That’s because it is easy to update a list post as long as what you are trying to add is relevant and builds on the value that the post provides.

How-to type posts are a hit-or-miss. Mostly because when people are writing a how-to post, they are likely to include the tools they have personally used.

Remember, if you are not sure if you can link from a certain article, it pays to check the content first. It only takes about 5 to 10 seconds to determine whether you can get a link or not.

How to determine if a post is a quick win:

  1. Load the content
  2. Type ‘ctrl+f’ and try to find if any competitor was included in the article
  3. Find out what the author wrote about your competitor then ask yourself, “will my business fit in or not?”

To put more context into this, let’s see if you can help me find a quick win post.

Assume that you’re trying to get a link for a tool like NinjaOutreach. See if you can identify which among the 3 links below is a quick win:

If you answered the first one, that first URL from INC is not a quick win since it is not likely that INC will respond to your outreach.

The second URL from social media examiner is definitely NOT a quick win, either, since the headline and content are about a topic not related to any core function of our NinjaOutreach tool.

The third article, on the other hand, is a great fit.

Just by skimming the headline, we’d immediately know that this is something we can possibly link to because it talks about influencer identification tools (which is essentially what the NinjaOutreach tool is).

With this in mind, we reach out to the blog poster and ask them to recommend our tool as well (and in our case, they did).

What to do with the leftover prospects?

Keep leftover prospects somewhere for future use. Once you exhaust all of your quick win prospects, you can go back to those prospects left over and review them individually.

How to do Link Prospecting via Google Sheets or Excel

If you opt to do the prospect qualifying in a traditional way (via spreadsheet), here’s a sample spreadsheet we recommend you start with.

There are 3 sheets in the spreadsheet:

  1. Competitor Sheet
    • This is where you’ll put all the links you’ve gathered (URL and Page Title)
    • Qualify the leads here.
      • Delete all the links you don’t need
      • Keep all the prospects for competitor link building
      • Add a note for any other opportunities
    • Once you’re done qualifying the prospects, do a “sort range” in the spreadsheet and sort it by column C (notes)
  2. Quick wins
    • From the Competitor Sheet, copy all the prospects that don’t have a note in them
    • Paste it in the quick wins sheet
    • This is going to be your primary competitor link building sheet
  3. Other Opportunities
    • From the Competitor Sheet, copy all the prospects that have notes in them
    • Paste in ’other opportunities’ sheet
    • This is your secondary outreach list

How to do Link Prospecting via NinjaOutreach

If you have NinjaOutreach, follow the process we have included in the guide below.

If you don’t have NinjaOutreach, check out our trial and skim our quick guide. Basically, NinjaOutreach will speed up the prospecting process because our tool will crawl all your URLs to find the email addresses you need.

Click here to go to the guide.

Chapter 4: How to Create a Kick-Ass Template

Every campaign needs a kick-ass template, and when we launched our own broken link building campaign that capitalized on Topsy’s dead link, here’s the template we used:

Subject: You Have A Broken

Hey [Receiver First Name],

I was reading your post [Page Title] – and I noticed you had a broken link pointing at Topsy.com, which I thought you might want to fix.

If you feel like our tool (ninjaoutreach.com) can be used as a replacement for that spot, we would be delighted to have you link it.

Thanks for reading my email and have a nice day

Cheers,
[Sender First Name]

Now let’s check out the analytics results for that template

Result of template

273 people opened the email, 152 clicked on the website link we included in the email, and 62 people responded.

That translated into an email open rate of 70% and a reply rate of 16%, which is not bad at all.

For our competitor link-building campaign, we did a few tweaks to the template to increase positive response rates.

We tried to improve our outreach email while keeping these 3 things in mind:

    • What will make receivers open the email? How can we immediately pique their interest?
    • What more value can we give? How can we entice them to respond positively?
    • How can we make it easier for the receiver to take action?

Guided by these questions, we changed our template a few times and this is what we came up with:

Subject: You mentioned [competitor name] in your post!

Hey [Receiver First Name],

I was reading your post [Page Title] – and I noticed you have linked to [competitor name] as a tool you recommend in the article.

The link can be found [near the beginning, by the middle, close to the end] of the post near [quote the nearest section here]” and the nearest section in a quote here”]. Here’s a screenshot of that:

Our tool, [name of your tool/service], is similar to [competitor] and I was wondering if you could add us to your post as an alternative. The main difference between our tool and [competitor] is that [indicate a few differences].

We can also provide the necessary content to add to your post, and we’ll also promote this across our socials. How does that sound?

No worries if this isn’t something you can do

Anyway, how are things on your end and what are you working on at the moment?

Perhaps we can help with something you are working on and maybe collaborate a bit. Let me know!

Thanks for reading my email and have a nice day!

Cheers,
[Sender First name]
NinjaOutreach.com

Custom Template

So let’s look at how this next outreach template did in its analytics results:
As you can see, we got an open rate of 97% and a response rate of 72%, which is considerably better!

Now, let’s look at the elements we believe contributed to these great results.

Write An Interesting Email Subject Line

From our experience, mentioning a competitor makes for a good email subject line.

Why?

Since you’ll be reaching out to targets who already mentioned one (or more) of your competitors before, you can assume they are more familiar with your competitor than they are with you.

So, mentioning the particular competitor/s your target mentioned in the subject creates an instant sense of familiarity and consequently begets curiosity.

In our case, this curiosity drove more targets to open our emails.

Write A Targeted Email Heading

To write a targeted email heading, you need to find a high-ranking person’s name.

If you can only find a generic email address (support@, contact@, help@, etc.) on your target’s website, go to their about page, check the name of the highest ranking person in their marketing department, and address that person.

Companies usually go with the firstname@company.com email format, but if you want to make sure, you can check out our comprehensive guide on how to use email guessers to find email addresses find email addresses.

Specifically referring to someone from the company is a good way to get noticed. Aside from the fact that you are personalizing your email, you are also indicating that you know who you should be dealing with.

At the very least, you will get your email forwarded to the right person in the company when you send it via their generic email addresses.

First Section: Introduce Your Brand

Usually, you’d start a template by introducing yourself but in our case, we wanted to let the receiver know from the top that we are targeting them specifically.

So we began our email by showcasing what we knew about the receivers so far: we mention their post, which is relevant to our niche, and point out that they have linked to one of our competitors.

Make it short and casual.
For the second part of your outreach intro, point to exactly where you found the link you are referring to so the receiver knows that you have at least scanned through their post.

Second Section: Deliver Your Pitch

The next section is where you deliver your pitch. This is where you now introduce yourself and explain your reason for emailing them.
Again, keep it short, friendly, and don’t make it sound salesy.

Add Value And Make It Easier To Respond Positively To Your Email

Make it easier for your targets to respond positively. In other words, show your receiver what’s in it for them.

For example, offering to write some short content that they can add to the post you want them to link to saves them time, and ups your chances of getting a positive response.

After all, if you step forward and work out a way to make this less of a hassle for them, there’s a better chance that you’ll get your link.

Build A Relationship with Bloggers

Turn any possible rejection (since you’ll definitely receive your fair share) into an opportunity by building a relationship with your blogger targets.

In our template, we have lines that say this:

Anyway, how are things on your end and what are you working on at the moment?

Perhaps we can help with something you are working on and maybe collaborate a bit. Let me know!

This is another way of saying “if you don’t want to put our link on your website, let’s try something else where we can provide value to one another.”

This has proven to be an effective means of getting a response, because we have been receiving responses where they don’t link to us, but they want to know what else we can do to help one another.

For example, we received proposals for cross content promotion, where we share their content on our social media channels and they do the same for ours.

We have a bunch of these going on because of our link building effort.

Eventually, if you manage to build a relationship, you will see that they will link to you in one of their future posts.

So don’t neglect to build blogger relationships—they usually eventually pay off.

Chapter 5: How to do a “Cold” Competitor Link Building Outreach

Now that you have the leads and you’ve created your own template, it’s time to switch over to Outreach Mode.

Start sending out 25-50 emails per day while you continue to do prospecting for other competitors on your list.

There are two ways to go about this.

The more painstaking route is by manually emailing your leads.

Via Manual Emailing

Manual emailing is pretty self-explanatory so we won’t be tackling a step-by-step procedure on how to do it.

Just have your list open in one browser tab and your email client in another. Copy and paste your template, the respective email addresses, and subjects.

Make the necessary customization for each receiver as needed.

The advantage of this method is that it is free, but as we’ve mentioned before, it is very time-consuming.

A faster, more convenient method to perform a massive email outreach is via the NinjaOutreach tool.

Via NinjaOutreach

With NinjaOutreach, you won’t need to copy and paste the templates manually. NinjaOutreach templates have several sections where your input is expected (for personalization) before sending out, and there are also customized fields you can add from within the platform, which will give you huge time savings.

We also have automated emailing available, but we recommend sending the emails out one at a time so you can personalize a bit more.

The Case For Follow-up Emailing

When your first email goes unanswered, you still have a 21% chance of getting a reply if you send out the second one.

Why is a follow-up email important?

It might not create an incredible number of new links, but gaining an additional 10 or 20 more links per month as a result of follow-ups is a pretty good result for minimal effort.

Again, there are a few ways to go about this.

For NinjaOutreach users, you can simply integrate your email and automatically send emails and follow ups using our tool.

Just click this Outreach Guide for step by step instructions.

For non-users of NinjaOutreach, let us introduce you to what, in our opinion, is the most cost effective tool for this particular purpose: Boomerang.

What is Boomerang and is it Good for Link Building?

Boomerang is a tool you can use to schedule emails to be sent at a later time. It also allows you to set email reminders.

Boomerang has a free plan, but you need to get at least the $4.99/month plan so you can send an unlimited number of emails.

This discussion on Quora will tell you more about this app, as well as introduce other apps that are used for email marketing.

When Not To Follow-up?

Knowing when not to follow up is a skill every good marketer should master.

For us, here are the “no more follow-up” signals that we watch out for:

  1. When they say NO – For the most obvious reason, don’t push it if a lead says no. You can send a thank you note for the time they took to actually respond, but nothing more beyond that.
  2. When they have already responded – this will make you look like you don’t know what you are doing, which is not good. Make sure you track all responses and follow up only with those who haven’t responded yet.
  3. When your email bounces – if the reason your email bounced is because it was not sent to the correct email address, don’t bother following up (of course!).

Absent the issues mentioned, it’s always best to send a follow-up email

Here’s a simple follow-up email template that we use:

Hi [Receiver First Name],

Wondering if you were able to read my previous email?

Let me know what you think 🙂

Cheers,
[Sender First Name]

For an actual example, check out these screenshots.

You can see the email thread where we initially reached out to Bob, and then our subsequent follow-up email when he didn’t respond roughly a month after.

follow-up email

This is what Bob said after he read the followup:

Buzzsumo email

As you can see, after our second email, Bob eventually replied and even requested to be scheduled for a NinjaOutreach demo.

If we had simply given up after the first try and not sent a follow-up email, we wouldn’t have been able to open up that opportunity.

Lesson learned? Unless specifically told not to, just follow up.

Chapter 6: What to do with Other Opportunities?

One of the key things about qualifying a competitor’s backlinks is that you get to see other opportunities as you go along.

What other opportunities are we talking about?

Here are a few:

    • Guest posts
    • Product reviews
    • Interviews

Now you might be wondering, “how am I going to spot these opportunities if I have thousands of links to filter through?”

That’s easy.

Find out how they link to your competitor

    • Did your competitor write a guest post on that site to get the backlink?
    • Did the webmaster publish a product review about your competitor’s tool?
    • Was your competitor a podcast guest?

These are just a few of the things that you can get from your list of prospects. We kid you not when we say that you’ll have tons of data like these by the time you are done qualifying your leads.

So what do you do with all these opportunities?

You take advantage of it.

Right after you finish all the quick wins (which would take you months if you have a lot of competitors), go back to your leftover prospects list and continue your outreach campaign.

OR

You can run the competitor link-building campaign while doing outreach for guest posting, product reviews, and interviews.

The choice is yours to make.

Chapter 7: Conclusion

As of this writing, we are still running this link building campaign.

A link is a link, after all, and this is one of the easiest ways to get your brand out there.

Plus, because you’re linking to related content, this makes it look more natural in search engines. Obviously, if you are linking to unrelated content, it’s a red flag.

But since we’re only linking to posts that mention tools similar to ours, we don’t think there’s a chance for us tripping along the way.

A key factor here is to always only reach out to quality websites. If you think a website is a bit spammy and does not produce quality content, skip it.

Link Building Starts with Finding the Right Prospects

Do the prospecting right and you will be off to a good start.

Mind you, it might be really slow to start with, but in the long run, these links will make you rank higher naturally in search engines, so it will be worth it.

After all, sites that are linking to you determine your popularity. The more quality sites you get a link from, the more important and popular your website becomes.

You can see this truth demonstrated more obviously when you get prospects that have a high Domain Authority to link to you. Links from top sites like that are gold!

This article originally appeared on ninjaoutreach.com. Republished with permission.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Link Building appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

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