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Focusing on the promotion avenues rather than one-size-fits-all

Like some of the posts that I have made here, this post may also seem like something that just talks about some concepts rather than pointing out specific issues :-), but I would argue that this topic is one that cannot have a standard set of specific points that work for everybody, you have to analyse, work out and define what works for you and then evaluate those solution, and then review, refine over a period of time to see whether they are still working out, and then do this again (seems painful, but in this world of digital marketing, where there is a constant struggle between the marketing providers and those looking to game the system, the parameters and methods keep on changing. You cannot come up with a formula that seems to work, and then continue to believe that the formula will work for you for the next months and years; others would have come up with similar formulas, and then tried to game them to achieve advantages, and the social networks and marketing agencies would have made changes at their end so that the particular formula no longer has the advantages it used to have. If this seems hard and complicated for you, then I would recommend that you get others to do it rather than doing something wrong.
A bit of a speech at the beginning, but I believe that this is at the core of how you need to work out the marketing concepts in a digital world, where the success or failure can depend on how well strategies work out on the social platforms, and sometimes there can no really easy way to determine what the mechanism was which made it is a success. You could be pushing an article, a podcast, an advertisement, a song or video, or anything and trying to figure out what to do to make it a success in the digital world, using social networks and the like. Now, if you do not have the money to splash out on doing a lot of research, or in doing a lot of promotion (basically if you are an individual rather than a corporation), then what I have seen is that people do have a social media strategy; but this strategy essentially just comprises of blasting the article (or whatever) to all the social networks through automated means and hoping that it will pick up. Well, there is a chance that it will get picked up, and you have the starting step correct, but there is a lot more that needs to be done, and these steps do not suddenly come into place the first day that you do this; these are acquired over a period of time where you learn from experience (and also from reading about what others are also doing).
So what are the things you can do ? Well, this would be an incomplete list, but as you start working through, you will learn more about what you need to learn and research, and I am hoping that you will provide your stories in the comments section.
– Figure out what social networks to focus on and optimize. If you are just trying to blast out to various networks, there is a lot of optimization that needs to happen. Consider that you have a travel article on Tasmania in Australia, and your article is just going out on social networks. On its own, you will not have the hashtag of #Tasmania on your Twitter and Facebook page feed, and that is pretty important for others to pick up on your article on social networks. Further, you have images on your article and it goes to Pinterest, then it might make sense to have a board on Pinterest which is targeted to Australia (or even Tasmania, if you are going to have more content on Tasmania coming up).
– Figure out timing of these posts on these social networks. Your post goes to social networks as soon as you publish, but maybe the majority of your readers will see these much later, and some of them would miss it since they tend to see stuff that comes up in front of them rather than trying to dig into their news feed. See whether you can time your posts, or schedule their posting to better work with the timing of the majority of your readers.
– Focus on which social networks you would need to spend more effort on. You made an initial posting, but what stops you from promoting it again in a few days, or everyday, but this takes time and effort and it becomes inefficient to do this for every social network. Make a strategy for which one to spend more time and effort on.

Social networks and need for optimization

Over the past many years, it has become clear that the field of Search Engine Optimization has changed. The concept of keywords, keyword stuffing, links, paid links, link farms and so on has totally changed, to the extent that somebody who wants to use previous concepts would find their actions delivering negative results than positive results (for example, keyword stuffing or purchasing links from link farms are more likely to lead your site to the search engine doghouse rather than leading to any benefits). The key factor that search engines seem to be looking for are for genuine popularity, where people are reading your content and either linking to it or referring to it. How to determine whether something is genuine or not is something that search engines spend a lot of time and effort in terms of their algorithms, and even though the exact logic used to generate the rankings in the search engine varies for each search engine and is secret, there is a fair amount of information that is available. In the last few years, with the increasing presence of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and numerous other networks, views and links from these search engines are making an increasing impact on search engine ranking.
Now, the interesting thing is that if you consider for example an article being linked or referred to on Facebook (just considering one of the social networks), it is not just your friends or regular readers who would make a difference to the popularity of an article. Articles can go viral, with thousands and millions of views of an article that happen suddenly and without anybody being able to predict that such a thing could happen. These social networks also have their own rankings and search engines, and these could be very different from the logic used in the traditional search engines. So, for example, there is an article on some weird antic by an animal in a zoo; it may be interesting and all, but the article does not go viral unless a lot of people have access to it, and Facebook starts showing this as an article for people looking about zoos on search engines. And how this is popular on Facebook could differ drastically from how it works on Twitter or Linkedin or Pinterest or any other search engine.
The point being, if you really want your articles to become more popular, you have to stop focusing only on how traditional search engines work, but also on how these social networks work. Now, there can be numerous such social networks, and are you expected to do research on all of them and also how their logic keeps on changing ? Well, no and yes, both. You cannot be possibly expected to follow and optimize for more than a few social networks, but keep in mind that these social networks keep on changing in terms of popularity. For a trend example, there are already trends about how Facebook is losing importance in the minds and habits of the college going crowd, and if you have such a segment as an important part of your base, then you need to keep on following what is getting more important for your target segment and how to optimize to ensure that your articles or sites remain in high importance with these social networks.
Another example is about hashtags on Facebook. There is a lot of confusion about having a lot of hashtags on your Facebook posts, and I used to do the same. However, over a period of time, I did more research and learnt that more than 1-2 hashtags on a post is not recommended – it distracts your normal viewer and sort of zones them out from even looking at the hashtags; and another couple of articles even postulated that Facebook also prefers only 1-2 hashtags rather than people adding 10-15 hashtags. So even though in this case, there is no conclusive evidence that it is better to have only 1-2 hashtags rather than many, the logic made sense and hence I now add mostly only one, and sometimes two hashtags.

Making your site mobile friendly (responsive)

If your websites have been registered with the Google Webmaster tool, then you would have been receiving emails from the tool giving the status of your sites in terms of how they are perceived by mobile browsers (that is, when somebody is looking at your site on a phone or a tablet, how does the site look, is it usable, and so on). For some years now, there has been an increasing trend to make sites more compatible with mobile devices, but it has gained significant importance in the recent past couple of years. There are many reasons for the same, but the chief reason is that the number of mobile devices in use is gaining while then number of people using desktop devices such as laptops or desktop computers is stagnant or reducing (there are people who are not replacing their laptops when they die, but going all tablet and some even being able to manage on the larger iPhone or the Samsung Note phablet kind devices).
Even if your opinion is that it is not comfortable to browse using these mobile devices as opposed to the larger desktop devices, you are just bucking the trend, and should follow the trend rather than trying to buck the trend. After all, you have to go with your users are doing if you want to gain more following. If this seems a bit of an idealistic statement, here is a more realistic statement.
The notice from Google Webmasters is because Google is a placing a lot more emphasis on ensuring that your sites are compatible with mobile browsers, and since Google follows the path of first advicing, then providing some incentives, and then applying penalties, this is something you need to take seriously. Right now, the statement from the Webmasters site as well as from the SEO team at Google is that if your site is not mobile friendly, then it will be demotes in the search engine rankings, although there is still amount of debate whether that will apply for rankings when the user is on the desktop. However, going by past trends, at some point in the future, Google will start to do the action for all users, and it is pretty important that your site be friendly for mobiles in order to rank higher for all search engine rankings. And you can be pretty sure that in the competition analysis, your competitors will be modifying or will have modified their sites to make them more responsive (the term used to signify that the site is friendly for mobile browsers as well), thus automatically meaning a penalty for you.
How does on go about doing this ? There is a lot of information about how to ensure that your sites are mobile friendly, and I will detail the steps that I will be taking to modify the site to make it more mobile friendly in future posts, how difficult or easy it is do, what are the different alternatives that one take, and so on. Stay tuned for this journey.

Following up on your SEO expert to see where links are being placed ..

Congratulations, you have hired an SEO expert. You have read enough or had enough discussions to know that your site or blog is doing as well as you can make with the current content. However, somehow your blog is not making it into the desired location in terms of search results, and that is affecting your business. You have read in the past that you need more links to your site, you need keywords, you need for your site / blog to be included in directories or other important sites so that you get some link credit from those sites. Obviously, all of this sounds very attractive, very important for your site, and in most cases, you will look for somebody who can do this for you. When you start searching, you will find a number of people (experts) who are willing to provide such services and expertise to you, with different sets of packages. If you go through their offerings, you will find that most offerings include keyword analysis, include getting good quality links, and links on web directories.
Now, in principle, all of these important. If you have many valued sites linking to you, it provides a lot of good value to your site, and search engines provide you will additional points for these links, which in turn provides you with higher search rankings. So, there should be a quest to ensure that you get rankings from high valued sites, and any search engine expert who can help you with this is worth his while. However, the scene has changed in the past few years. There have been so many efforts by search engine experts to implement such linking strategies that search engines have taken a much harder stand. The concept that search engines work by is that if there are people linking to your site, then they value your content. But with all these search engine experts and their techniques, the effort by search engines is to prevent people from obtaining value from these links that have been obtained through techniques – only links that seem natural and genuine should be recognized.
One of the most common ways of getting such links is when search engine experts place a few words in the comments section of another site, and these words are linked to your site or to specific posts, so as to ensure that there is some link benefits that your site gets. However, this technique is now very old, and in many cases, it can actually work out negatively. For an example of why it does not work, a lot of sites have it set that any links in the comments do not pass any link benefits, explicitly ensuring that there are no direct benefits of placing links in other sites. I have had experience with wrong placements by search engine experts. For example, I had a site about software, and there was a link placed by the expert on another site that dealt with decorative knives. I only caught it when I went through the detailed status report, but how many of you would have the time to review the entire work done by the expert, or in many cases, you might not even be able to work out whether the link placement will have a benefit or not.
Similarly, the benefit of using directories has totally gone down, except for a few genuine directories. What has happened was that directories would be nothing but mechanisms to provide links and hence provide some link benefits. Over a period of time, search engines, especially Google search engine has started downgrading the values of these directories to the extent that many of them actually do harm when your links are placed in these directories.
What is the reason for outlining these factors ? If you find search engine experts coming to you touting the benefits of using directories, link placements, etc, then you can question them more about how their strategies have moved on as search engines have changed their strategies, and if they are able to provide cogent answers, then you can be more sure that the search expert knows about what he is doing. However, if the search engine expert fumbles for answers, or tries to emphasize the benefit of regular strategies such as directories or link placement, then you should be comfortable avoiding such an expert and moving on.
And once you have hired an SEO expert and he is doing work for you, you need to have regular discussions with them, do random selection of the links that they have placed, and see whether they are doing what you expect. If they are placing links in wrong locations, or placing links in directories that have no value or even cause negative impact on your site, then you would be better off not having such a expert working for you.