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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.

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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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Local Listings: Which Ones Should I Focus On? written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Local Listings: Which Ones Should I Focus On? - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Peter Thoeny

It’s common knowledge that your business website is the best place to get customers to go when they’re online. And if you’re a local business with a physical address, a lot of your website traffic may come from maps listings. Optimizing for local search results is called local SEO. If you’ve been in business for any period of time in the last decade, you’ve probably already heard of it.

Local SEO is super important, everyone says so. Everyone’s got charts and graphs and statistics telling you how important it is. And they’re not wrong. It is important.

And with a recent revelation Google’s algorithm for Maps search results has been updated, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve got your business name, address, and phone (NAP) information up to date and consistent on the Internet.

The good news is that you can list your business on a vast majority of listing sites for free. Just follow the steps to input your business info and within a certain turnaround time, your business will be listed.

The challenge is that between major data aggregators and tiny upstart listing sites, there are way too many places to get your business’ NAP info listed. Where do you even start?

Luckily, there are a handful of listings on big data aggregators’ platforms that will actually feed the rest of the little ones.

Local Listings: Which Ones Should I Focus On? - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit Moz Local

7 Local Listings Every Local Business NEEDS To Focus On (and 5 More that Every Business SHOULD Focus On, Too)

You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you just go for the major sources. Trying to fill out your information for every single little one would be far too time-consuming.

Here are the sites you need to focus on first:

  1. Google MyBusiness Listing
  2. Apple Maps
  3. Bing Places
  4. Facebook
  5. Yelp
  6. YellowPages
  7. Acxiom

While you’re at it, you should really focus on these ones as well:

  1. Factual
  2. Neustar Localeze
  3. CitySearch
  4. SuperPages
  5. Local.com

And of course, these are all completely different platforms, so here are the details of how to get each one up and running…

Note: before getting started, it’s important to remember to enter your information exactly the same way each time.

Google MyBusiness

Formerly known as Google+ Local, this is where Google lets you verify your business and make it “Google official.”

URL: http://ift.tt/UWX2O6

Because of Google’s size and influence, they are a natural target for phonies and spammers. As such, they go to great lengths to ensure that every business listed is a legitimate business with a legitimate address.

That means their process is long and vexing.

Go to their site, sign in (or sign up, if you don’t already have a Google account), follow the steps to get started. They’ll take you through finding the information that already exists on their map, and then to verify that you are the business owner and that your business really exists at that location, they will send a postcard in the mail. Yes, Google uses the actual US Postal Service.

Click to send that postcard in the mail, and then you’re done until you receive it.

You’ll get a PIN on that Postcard, which will arrive within a week or two. Then, once you have it, you’ll have to go back to the website and sign in again. It’ll ask for your verification PIN, and you can type in what’s on the postcard.

Once you’ve done that, your listing is live, verified, and you can make edits as needed.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps has come a long way in the few short years since its initial launch. Once plagued by accuracy issues to the point of a public apology by Apple’s CEO, this is now the leading maps provider for Apple iOS apps. Its sheer reach makes it a must for any business with an address.

URL: http://ift.tt/1kKOcZ4

You’ll need to set up an Apple ID if you haven’t already got one. Like Google, it’s free and easy.

The steps to get your business info up are fairly straightforward. You’ll need to verify it with a phone call; once done, you can submit your business info. It should only take up to a week to get verified on Apple Maps Connect.

Note: you or someone at your place of business must do this. You can’t outsource this task to an agency. Click here for additional details.

Bing Places

Bing Places is Bing’s version of Google MyBusiness, and it actually predates Google MyBusiness — though its market share is, of course, still much smaller than Google’s. Regardless, this is a necessary source of NAP data for many websites, and as such, is a must-do for any local business.

URL: http://ift.tt/11EtZKU

Once you’re logged in (again, free account), click to add a business and fill in your info. Like Google MyBusiness, you’ll need to receive a PIN by mail and come back to it. But, like Google MyBusiness, once you verify it, you’re good to go.

Facebook

To add a Facebook business listing, you can use your smartphone. Download the Facebook app if you haven’t already, and make sure you’re logged in.

URLs:

Google Store (for Android)

iTunes (for iOS)

From the home feed, tap “Check In” — make sure you’ve got location services turned on.

Use the search bar to type in your business name. If your business shows up, tap the three dots on the right to suggest edits. You can make sure all your info is correct.

If it’s not there, you’ll have the option to add the new business. You can enter your info through that process.

Yelp

Many small businesses are afraid to touch Yelp for fear of being found and left a business-killing bad review. But Yelp exists whether you want it to or not, so take that bull by the horns and make it work for you!

URL: https://biz.yelp.com

Start with a free business account, which is different from a regular (consumer) Yelp account. Once logged in, you can find your business if it’s already listed and begin the claim process by clicking the “Claim your business” button. Yelp will verify by calling the number already listed. The steps are easy to follow thereafter.

If your business doesn’t exist on Yelp yet, you can search to find it and click “Add your business to Yelp” if it doesn’t appear.

Yellow Pages (yp.com)

The modern form of the Yellow Pages is online at yellowpages.com, or yp.com. They’ll try hard to sell you ad space, but the listing is actually always free.

URL: http://ift.tt/2e4rqmt

Enter your phone number and business name, then an email address where you won’t mind getting tons of emails from yp.com; make sure it’s a real one, though, because they’ll need you to verify your listing there. Don’t worry — it won’t be published, and you can always unsubscribe from their marketing.

Acxiom

Be careful with Acxiom — you can only do this once from your IP address. Make sure that you or someone at your business does this; don’t have an outside agency do it for you.

URL: http://ift.tt/1gpMUa3

Search for your business name and click “Claim My Listing” if it appears. If it doesn’t appear, you’ll need to create a new listing. As always, you’ll need to log in; create a free account if you haven’t done so.

Here, you’ll have to actually upload a business document. The page will instruct you what types of documents are acceptable. They’ll all have the usual business info, and then some. After you upload the document, you will get an email to let you know once your business has been verified and claimed.

Here’s Where to Go for the Next Five:

The process is relatively straightforward for all of these — search for your business, click the available button to claim/manage the listing, follow their verification steps. Some require phone or email verification; they are simple, but you do have to pay attention.

Factual: http://ift.tt/1p6fFJo

Neustar Localeze: http://ift.tt/1NkaC6T

CitySearch: http://ift.tt/pfcY8C

SuperPages: http://ift.tt/2eZ75wO

Local.com: http://ift.tt/2e4oczB

BONUS: Local + Niche.

If you’re a real do-it-yourself type and are willing to go hunting for more directories on your own, great! The more the better.

For maximum efficiency, you should look for the intersection of geography-based listings and industry-based listings – often this will be industry listings that are extremely well-organized by area, e.g. Zillow for real estate agents or ZocDoc for medical professionals.

Time and Consistency

There’s actually a lot more that every local business would benefit from. But this takes huge amounts of time. Don’t have the time? Hire a professional SEO company that offers a “local listings” service.

It’s not about your overall SEO strategy. Local listings are just one small part of SEO.

It’s about consistency for your customers. Customers may encounter your business listing in multiple locations before they actually contact you. Inconsistency and confusion frighten customers away. Your contact info is typically the last thing they look at before contacting your business — accuracy and consistency are crucial.

Time is the killer. If your time is more valuable than the cost of paying someone to get your listings in order, then do yourself a favor. Hire a professional team to do it for you. Get your listings consistent across the board, and get it done sooner rather than later.

rahul-alim-custom-creatives-photoCustom Creatives is a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in small and medium businesses. If you’d like help with claiming listings and getting your business info consistent across the internet, call us at (818) 865-1267, or visit our website.

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Posted by MiriamEllis

“Show your site’s credibility by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials. An author biography or testimonials from real customers can help boost your site’s trustworthiness and reputation.”Google Search Console Course

2017 may well be the year of testimonials and reviews in local SEO. As our industry continues to grow, we have studied surveys indicating that some 92% of consumers now read online reviews and that 68% of these cite positive reviews as a significant trust factor. We’ve gone through a meaningful overhaul of Google’s schema review/testimonial guidelines while finding that major players like Yelp will publicly shame guideline-breakers. We’ve seen a major publication post a controversial piece suggesting that website testimonials pages are useless, drawing thoughtful industry rebuttals illustrating why well-crafted testimonials pages are, in fact, vitally useful in a variety of ways.

Reviews can impact your local pack rankings, testimonials can win you in-SERP stars, and if that isn’t convincing enough, the above quote states unequivocally that both reviews and testimonials on your website can boost Google’s perception of a local business’ trustworthiness and reputation. That sounds awfully good! Yet, seldom a day goes by that I don’t encounter websites that are neither encouraging reviews nor showcasing testimonials.

If you are marketing local enterprises that play to win, chances are you’ve been studying third-party review management for some years now. Not much has been written about on-site consumer feedback, though. What belongs on a company’s own testimonials/reviews page? How should you structure one? What are the benefits you might expect from the effort? Today, we’re going to get serious about the central role of consumer sentiment and learn to maximize its potential to influence and convert customers.

Up next to help you in the work ahead: technical specifics, expert tips, and a consumer feedback page mockup.

Definitions and differentiations

Traditional reviews: Direct from customers on third-party sites

In the local SEO industry, when you hear someone talking about "reviews," they typically mean sentiment left directly by customers on third-party platforms, like this review on TripAdvisor:

rt1.jpg

Traditional testimonials: Moderated by owners on company site

By contrast, testimonials have traditionally meant user sentiment gathered by a business and posted on the company website on behalf of customers, like this snippet from a bed-and-breakfast site:

rt2.jpg

Review content has historically been outside of owners’ control, while testimonial content has been subject to the editorial control of the business owner. Reviews have historically featured ratings, user profiles, images, owner responses, and other features while testimonials might just be a snippet of text with little verifiable information identifying the author. Reviews have typically been cited as more trustworthy because they are supposedly unmoderated, while testimonials have sometimes been criticized as creating a positive-only picture of the business managing them.

Hybrid sentiment: Review+testimonial functionality on company site

Things are changing! More sophisticated local businesses are now employing technologies that blur the lines between reviews and testimonials. Website-based applications can enable users to leave reviews directly on-site, they can contain star ratings, avatars, and even owner responses, like this:

In other words, you have many options when it comes to managing user sentiment, but to make sure the effort you put in yields maximum benefits, you’ve got to:

  1. Know the guidelines and technology
  2. Have a clear goal and a clear plan for achieving it
  3. Commit to making a sustained effort

There is a ton of great content out there about managing your reviews on third-party platforms like Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc., but today we’re focusing specifically on your on-site reviews/testimonials page. What belongs on that page? How should you populate and organize its content? What benefits might you expect from the investment? To answer those questions, let’s create a goal-drive plan, with help from some world-class Local SEOs.

Guidelines & technology

There are two types of guidelines you need to know in the consumer sentiment space:

1) Platform policies

Because your website’s consumer feedback page may feature a combination of unique reviews and testimonials you directly source, widgets featuring third-party review streams, and links or badges either showcasing third-party reviews or asking for them, you need to know the policies of each platform you plan to feature.

Why does this matter? Since different platforms have policies that range from lax to strict, you want to be sure you’re making the most of each one’s permissions without raising any red flags. Google, for example, has historically been fine with companies asking consumers for reviews, while Yelp’s policy is more stringent and complex.

Here are some quick links to the policies of a few of the major review platforms, to which you’ll want to add your own research for sites that are specific to your industry and/or geography:

2) Google’s review schema guidelines

Google has been a dominant player in local for so long that their policies often tend to set general industry standards. In addition to the Google review policy I’ve linked to above, Google has a completely separate set of review schema guidelines, which recently underwent a significant update. The update included clarifications about critic reviews and review snippets, but most germane to today’s topic, Google offered the following guidelines surrounding testimonial/review content you may wish to publish and mark up with schema on your website:

Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:

– Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
– Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
– Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.

In sum, if you want to mark up consumer feedback with schema on your website, it should be unique to your website — not drawn from any other source. But to enjoy the rewards of winning eye-catching in-SERP star ratings or of becoming a "reviews from the web" source in Google’s knowledge panels, you’ve got to know how to implement schema correctly. Let’s do this right and call on a schema expert to steer our course.

Get friendly with review schema technology.

rtdavid.jpg

The local SEO industry has come to know David Deering and his company TouchPoint Digital Marketing as go-to resources for the implementation of complex schema and JSON-LD markup. I’m very grateful to him for his willingness to share some of the basics with us.

Here on the Moz blog, I always strive to highlight high quality, free resources, but in this case, free may not get the job done. I asked David if he could recommend any really good free review schema plugins, and learned a lot from his answer:

Boy, that’s a tough one because I don’t use any plugins or tools to do the markup work. I find that none of them do a good job at adding markup to a page. Some come close, but the plugin files still need to be edited in order for everything to be correct and properly nested. So I tend to hard-code the templates that would control the insertion of reviews onto a page. But I can tell you that GetFiveStars does a pretty good job at marking up reviews and ratings and adding them to a site. There might be others, too, but I just don’t have any personal experience using them, unfortunately.

It sounds like, at present, best bets are going to be to go with a paid service or roll up your sleeves to dig into schema hard coding. *If anyone in our community has discovered a plugin or widget that meets the standards David has cited, please definitely share it in the comments, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the example David kindly provided of perfect markup. He notes,

“The following example is rather simple and straightforward but it contains everything that a review markup should. (The example also assumes that the review markup is nested within the markup of the business that’s being reviewed):”

"review": {
    "@type": "Review",
    "author": {
        "@type": "Person",
        "name": "Reviewer's Name",
        "sameAs": "<a href="http://ift.tt/2d6mg5K;>http://ift.tt/2dZhayg>"
    }
    "datePublished": "2016-09-23",
    "reviewBody": "Reviewer's comments here...",
    "reviewRating": {
        "@type": "Rating"
        "worstRating": "1",
        "bestRating": "5",
        "ratingValue": "5"
    }
},

This is a good day to check to see if your schema is as clean and thorough as David’s, and also to consider the benefits of JSON-LD markup, which he describes this way:

“JSON-LD is simply another syntax or method that can be used to insert structured data markup onto a page. Once the markup is created, you can simply insert it into the head section of the page. So it’s easy to use in that sense. And Google has stated their preference for JSON-LD, so it’s a good idea to make the switch from microdata if a person hasn’t already.”

There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to schema + reviews

I asked David if he could share some expert review-oriented tips and he replied,

Well, in typical fashion, Google has been fickle with their rich snippet guidelines. They didn’t allow the marking up of third-party reviews, then they did, now they don’t again. So, I think it would be a good idea for businesses to begin collecting reviews directly from their customers through their site or through email. Of course, I would not suggest neglecting the other online review sources because those are important, too. But when it comes to Google and rich snippets, don’t put all of your eggs (and hopes) in one basket.

*As a rule, the reviews should be directly about the main entity on the page. So keep reviews about the business, products, services, etc. separate — don’t combine them because that goes against Google’s rich snippet guidelines.”

And any warnings about things we should never do with schema? David says,

“Never mark up anything that is not visible on the page, including reviews, ratings and aggregate ratings. Only use review markup for the entities that Google allows it to be used for. For example, the review and rating markup should not be used for articles or on-page content. That goes against Google’s guidelines. And as of this writing, it’s also against their guidelines to mark up third-party reviews and ratings such as those found on Google+ or Yelp.

Ready to dig deeper into the engrossing world of schema markup with David Deering? I highly recommend this recent LocalU video. If the work involved makes you dizzy, hiring an expert or purchasing a paid service are likely to be worthwhile investments. Now that we’ve considered our technical options, let’s consider what we’d like to achieve.

Define your consumer feedback page goals.

rtmike.jpg

If I could pick just one consultant to get advice from concerning the potential benefits of local consumer feedback, it would be GetFiveStars’ co-founder and renowned local SEO, Mike Blumenthal.

Before we dive in with Mike, I want to offer one important clarification:

If you’re marketing a single-location business, you’ll typically be creating just one consumer feedback page on your website to represent it, but if yours is a multi-location business, you’ll want to take the advice in this article and apply it to each city landing page on your website, including unique user sentiment for each location. For more on this concept, see Joy Hawkins’ article How to Solve Duplicate Content Local SEO Issues for Multi-Location Businesses.

Now let’s set some goals for what a consumer feedback page can achieve. Mike breaks this down into two sections:

1. Customer-focused

  • Create an effective page that ranks highly for your brand so that it becomes a doorway page from Google.
  • Make sure that the page is easily accessible from your selling pages with appropriately embedded reviews and links so that it can help sell sitewide.

2. Google-focused

  • Get the page ranking well on brand and brand+review searches
  • Ideally, get designated with review stars
  • Optimally, have it show in the knowledge panel as a source for reviews from the web

This screenshot illustrates these last three points perfectly:

rt4.jpg

Time on page may make you a believer!

Getting excited about consumer feedback pages, yet? There’s more! Check out this screenshot from one of Mike’s showcase clients, the lovely Barbara Oliver Jewelry in Williamsville, NY, and pay special attention to the average time spent on http://ift.tt/2dZgc56:

rt5.jpg

When customers are spending 3+ minutes on any page of a local business website, you can feel quite confident that they are really engaging with the business. Mike says,

“For Barbara, this is an incredibly important page. It reflects almost 9% of her overall page visits and represents almost 5% of the landing pages from the search engines. Time on the page for new visitors is 4 minutes with an average of over 3 minutes. This page had review snippets until she recently updated her site — hopefully they will return. It’s an incredibly important page for her.”

Transparency helps much more than it hurts.

The jewelry store utilizes GetFiveStars technology, and represents a perfect chance to ask Mike about a few of the finer details of what belongs on consumer feedback pages. I had noticed that GetFiveStars gives editorial control to owners over which reviews go live, and wanted to get Mike’s personal take on transparency and authenticity. He says,

“I strongly encourage business owners to show all feedback. I think transparency in reviews is critical for customer trust and we find that showing all legitimate feedback results in less than a half-point decline in star ratings on average.


That being said, I also recommend that 1) the negative feedback be held back for 7 to 10 days to allow for complaint resolution before publishing and 2) that the content meet basic terms of service and appropriateness that should be defined by each business. Obviously you don’t want your own review site to become a mosh pit, so some standards are appropriate.


I am more concerned about users than bots. I think that a clear statement of your terms of service and your standards for handling these comments should be visible to all visitors. Trust is the critical factor. Barbara Oliver doesn’t yet have that but only because she has recently updated her site. It’s something that will be added shortly.

Respond to on-page reviews just as you would on third-party platforms.

I’d also noticed something that struck me as uncommon on Barbara Oliver Jewelry’s consumer feedback page: she responds to her on-page reviews, just as she would on third-party review platforms. Mike explains:

“In the ‘old’ days of reviews, I always thought that owner responses to positive reviews were a sort of glad handing … I mean how many times can you say ‘thank you’? But as I researched the issue it became clear that a very large minority of users (40%) noted that if they took the time to leave feedback or a review, then the owner should acknowledge it. That research convinced me to push for the feature in GetFiveStars. With GetFiveStars, the owner is actually prompted to provide either a private or public response. The reviewer receives an email with the response as well. This works great for both happy and unhappy outcomes and serves double-duty as a basis for complaint management on the unhappy side.


You can see the evolution of my thinking in these two articles

What I used to think: Should A Business Respond to Every Positive Review?

What I think after asking consumers their thoughts: Should A Business Respond to Every Positive Review? Here’s The Consumer View."

Reviews on your mind, all the time

So, basically, consumers have taught Mike (and now all of us!) that reasonable goals for reviews/testimonials pages include earning stars, becoming a knowledge panel review source, and winning a great average time on page, in addition to the fact that transparency and responsiveness are rewarded. Before he zooms off to his next local SEO rescue, I wanted to ask Mike if anything new is exciting him in this area of marketing. Waving goodbye, he shouts:

Sheesh … I spend all day, every day thinking about these sorts of things. I mean my motto used to be ‘All Local, All the Time’… now it’s just ‘All Reviews, All the Time.’

I think that this content that is generated by the business owner, from known clients, has incredible import in all aspects of their marketing. It is great for social proof, great user-generated content, customer relations, and much more. We are currently ‘plotting’ new and valuable ways for businesses to use this content effectively and easily.


I’m experimenting right now with another client, Kaplan Insurance, to see exactly what it takes to get rich snippets these days.”

I know I’ll be on the lookout for a new case study from Mike on that topic!

Plan out the components of your consumer feedback page

rtphil.jpg

Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System is one of the most sophisticated, generous bloggers I know in the local SEO industry. You’ll become an instant fan of his, too, once you’ve saved yourself oodles of time using his Ultimate List of Review Widgets and Badges for Your Local Business Website. And speaking of ‘ultimate,’ here is the list Phil and I brainstormed together, each adding our recommended components, for the elements we’d want to see on a consumer feedback page:

  • Full integration into the site (navigation, internal linking, etc.); not an island page.
  • Welcoming text intro with a link to review content policy/TOS
  • Unique sentiment with schema markup (not drawn from third parties)
  • Specification of the reviewers’ names and cities
  • Owner responses
  • Paginate the reviews if page length starts getting out of hand
  • Provide an at-a-glance average star rating for easy scanning
  • Badges/widgets that take users to the best place to leave a traditional third-party review. Make sure these links open in a new browser tab!
  • Video reviews
  • Scanned hand-written testimonial images
  • Links to critic-type reviews (professional reviews at Zagat, Michelin, etc.)
  • A link to a SERP showing more of the users’ reviews, signalling authenticity rather than editorial control
  • Tasteful final call-to-action

And what might such a page look like in real life (or at least, on the Internet)? Here is my mockup for a fictitious restaurant in Denver, Colorado, followed by a key:

Click to open a bigger version in a new tab!

Key to the mockup:

  1. Page is an integral part of the top level navigation
  2. Welcoming text with nod to honesty and appreciation
  3. Link to review content policy
  4. Paginated on-page reviews
  5. Call-to-action button to leave a review
  6. Easy-to-read average star rating
  7. Schema marked-up on-page reviews
  8. Sample owner response
  9. Links and badges to third party reviews
  10. Link to SERP URL featuring all available review sources
  11. Links to professional reviews
  12. Handwritten and video testimonials
  13. Tasteful final call-to-action to leave a review

Your live consumer feedback page will be more beautifully and thoughtfully planned than my example, but hopefully the mockup has given you some ideas for a refresh or overhaul of what you’re currently publishing.

Scanning the wild for a little sentiment management inspiration

I asked Phil if he’d recently seen local businesses recently making a good effort at promoting consumer feedback. He pointed to these, with the proviso that none of them are 100% perfect but that they should offer some good inspiration. Don’t you just totally love real-world examples?

Lightning round advice for adept feedback acquisition

Before we let Phil get back to his work as "the last local SEO guy you’ll ever need," I wanted to take a minute to ask him for some tips on encouraging meaningful customer feedback.

“Don’t ask just once. In-person plus an email follow-up (or two) is usually best. Give customers choices and always provide instructions. Ask in a personal, conversational way. Rotate the sites you ask for reviews on. Try snail-mail or the phone. Have different people in your organization ask so that you can find ‘The Champ’,” says Phil. “Encourage detail, on-site and off-site. Saying things like ‘It will only take you 60 seconds’ may be great for getting big numbers of on-site testimonials, but the testimonials will be unhelpfully short or, worse, appear forced or fake. Dashed-off feedback helps no one. By the way, this can help you even if a given customer had a bad experience; if you’re encouraging specifics, at least he/she is a little more likely to leave the kind of in-depth feedback that can help you improve.”

Sustain your effort & facilitate your story

Every time Google sharpens focus on a particular element of search, as they are clearly doing right now with consumer and professional sentiment, it’s like a gift. It’s a clanging bell, an intercom announcement, a handwritten letter letting all of us know that we should consider shifting new effort toward a particular facet of marketing and see where it gets us with Google.

In this specific case, we can draw extra inspiration for sustaining ourselves in the work ahead from the fact that Google’s interest in reviews and testimonials intersects with the desires of consumers who make transactional decisions based, in part, on what Internet sentiment indicates about a local business. In other words, the effort you put into acquiring and amplifying this form of UGC makes Google, consumers, and your company happy, all in one fell swoop.

If you took all of the sentiment customers express about a vibrant, given business and put it into a book, it would end up reading something like War and Peace. The good news about this is that you don’t have to write it — you have thousands of potential volunteer Tolstoys out there to do the job for you, because reviewing businesses has become a phenomenal modern hobby.

Your job is simply to provide a service experience (hopefully a good one) that moves customers to start typing, back that up with a variety of ongoing feedback requests, and facilitate the publication of sentiment in the clearest, most user-friendly way.

Some more good news? You don’t have to do all of this tomorrow. I recently saw a Google review profile on which a business had "earned" over 100 reviews in a week — a glaring authenticity fail, for sure. A better approach is simply to keep the sentiment conversation going at a human pace, engaging with your customers in a human way, and ensuring that your consumer feedback page is as good as you can possibly make it. This is manageable — you can do this!

Are you experimenting with any page elements or techniques that have resulted in improved user feedback? Please inspire our community by sharing your tips!

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Businessman Holding a Newspaper in a Finance Area

Local audiences are a hot commodity, not just for small businesses, but also for national brands and retailers. Local SMBs and national marketers each make up 36% of spending on locally-targeted advertising, with the last 28% coming from larger local businesses, according to a report from IAB. And while online advertising gets the bulk of the attention, a whopping 87% of local ad spending happens on traditional media, like print, direct mail, cable, and radio. Now the race is on to capitalize on this market and bring the concept of location-targeted programmatic to national print and TV channels.

By placing localized ads in national publications, smaller businesses and national chains with physical locations can cut down on wasted spending and ensure their ads are only being seen by consumers in the markets they serve. At the same time, these businesses are getting access to high-quality publications for a tiny fraction of the typical cost.

Here are five examples of tools that businesses can use to place localized ads on national channels and publications.

1. Adverator: Discover new ad products aimed at local markets
Adverator is offering a way for small businesses to discover, purchase, and manage their local advertising. The media marketplace aggregates popular types of local advertising channels and offers them up on one platform for SMBs. Businesses can browse ad space on online and offline channels, including national publications with ad space targeted to local markets. For example, a local event planning service could place an ad in a bridal magazine, but that ad would only appear in issues delivered to subscribers in the business’ own metro area.

2. MediaMax: Local ads in national publications
MediaMax provides a way for local shops, regional marketers, and national companies with local needs to place localized advertising in national print publications. MediaMax offers “category-specific solutions” for businesses in the retail, healthcare, and real estate industries, among many others. Local shops can place ads in Condé Nast and Meredith publications, but those ads will only appear in targeted markets. Essentially, businesses can take advantage of the prestige of national print publications, but without paying for their ads to appear in cities where they don’t offer services. MediaMax can also place ads on websites and at local events.

3. Advent Media Group: Placing print and digital ads in targeted markets
Using local audience targeting, Advent Media Group helps smaller companies share their stories with local subscribers of national magazines and national websites. Advent Media Group works with magazines like Good Housekeeping, Fortune, and Seventeen, with a print ad network that features more than 150 markets. Businesses can choose which metro regions they’d like to target and what publications they’d like to appear in, and Advent Media Group will place their ads. In addition to local print advertising, the Advent Media Group also provides local and targeted display ads, with messaging that’s delivered based on demographics, interests, and behavioral profiles.

4. MNI Targeted Media: Localized ad messaging by market
MNI is a subsidiary of Time Inc., specializing in giving advertisers a range of targeted products across media platforms. The company’s local online advertising product gives businesses access to targeted audiences through partnerships with local television, newspaper, and radio websites. Businesses can place local or regional ads in national magazines, with unique messaging and creative content based on the geographic areas where their ads will appear. Businesses can target 180+ geographic markets with MNI.

5. Placemedia: Delivering programmatic impressions on television
Placemedia is taking a different approach to localizing national media. The supply-side solution for programmatic TV advertising offers a self-serve platform to plan and execute targeted campaigns on television. Placemedia gives clients access to cable network inventory without dayparting restrictions, with campaigns that can be targeted and optimized with additional data sets. Placemedia is also able to serve video impressions across all screens and platforms, including both desktop and mobile.

Know of other tools for buying localized ads on national media channels? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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