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TikTok has steadily grown to become one of the most popular social media apps.
As TikTok’s popularity grew, so did one question: “How can I get on the TikTok For You page?” This is the main page of curated content users see when they log in.
This article will answer that question and teach you everything you need to know about TikTok’s mysterious algorithm and how to use it to your advantage.
TikTok is an iOS and Android social media app for creating and sharing short 15 to 60-second videos on any topic.
In 2016, the app launched as Douyin in China, and in the following year, ByteDance released it for markets outside of China as Musical.ly before rebranding to TikTok.
While it started as a fun lip-syncing app with a cult Gen Z following, it’s evolved into a way for users to share short comedy skits, business tips, and more.
The For You page, aka “FYP,” is the first page you land on when you open the TikTok app. It’s a curated feed of videos from creators you might not follow, but TikTok’s algorithm thinks you will like based on your interests and past interactions.
For example: If you like and leave comments on several videos about Instagram tips, you can expect to see a fresh serving of social media marketing TikToks on your For You page every day.
Think of it as the Instagram Explore Page. The app wants to hook you in with more content you like to keep you scrolling longer.
The TikTok For You page is the “holy grail”l of success on the app. It means you’ve created a piece of content that resonates with your audience. The algorithm has picked this up and recognizes your content’s quality above all the other videos on the app.
What this means for business owners and influencers:
For years, the TikTok For You page algorithm was cloaked in mystery. Rumors and speculation flew around the internet, sparking the rise in hashtags like #fyp and #ForYou, until TikTok HQ came out with a statement settling the debate once and for all.
In a community post, TikTok states:
On TikTok, the For You feed reflects preferences unique to each user. The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors – starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too – to form your personalized For You feed.
Here’s the nitty-gritty details of the TikTok algorithm and learn how the For You page works.
The more comments, likes, shares, and duets your video gets, the more likely the algorithm will pick it up.
Another ranking factor you need to keep in mind is your video completion rate. As more users watch your TikTok to the end, it’s more likely to get pushed out for further distribution.
Hashtags, sounds, and captions are a treasure trove of information to help you get onto the For You page. For instance, if you use a trending hashtag or sound bite, it’s more likely to get noticed by the algorithm.
Remember, TikTok’s goal is to keep people on the app, and serving up trending content is one way to do that.
Your location, language preference, device, and country setting play a role in curating your FYP. After all, a comedy skit about South African politics would probably only appeal to South African users.
However, these signals don’t have as much weight as the others, giving you the chance to reach a global audience.
There is no bulletproof recipe for success on TikTok or any other social media network. Algorithms are constantly changing, and if your content doesn’t resonate with your audience, it won’t rank.
However, you can do several things to improve your chances of hitting the TikTok For You page:
Some users believe using #fyp or #ForYou will get their content pushed out to the masses, but it’s only a rumor. TikTok has never confirmed this, and these hashtags don’t guarantee you any viral success.
You don’t want to use those hashtags as a crutch and miss out on using keywords relevant to your content and niche.
After all, the main goal of social media is to attract the right followers and then monetize your audience.
Remember, there is no tried-and-true formula, so as on Instagram, you’ll need to do some experimenting to find a hashtag strategy that works best for your account.
Remember when I told you how vital the video completion rate is on TikTok? The easiest way to achieve top marks for this ranking factor is by creating shorter, engaging videos.
Although you can record 60-second clips, using all the time available won’t necessarily translate into viral success. The less time someone has to spend watching your TikTok, the more likely they’ll watch to the end and not swipe away.
You can improve your watch time by making sure you have a hook right in the beginning to encourage viewers to stay until the end.
As your video completion rate increases, so do your chances of landing a coveted spot on the FYP.
TikTok is not the platform to spill your guts in a microblogging session.
You only get 150 characters, including any hashtags you add, which leaves you with fewer characters at your disposal than on Twitter.
With such limited real estate, you need to focus on writing short captions that compel viewers to engage with your content.
How do you do this?
You could stir up some mystery by saying something like, “this took me five attempts to get right” or “wait until the end.” This could encourage viewers to stick around and watch the entire video.
Another tactic is to ask a question. Comments are another engagement factor, and getting people to watch and reply can help send all the right signals to the FYP algorithm.
Lastly, you can tease viewers with information you’re revealing in your video. For example, “How I find clients as a freelance writer” or “One easy hack to make $100 online.”
Are you still posting grainy, low-quality videos on TikTok? That might be one of the reasons you haven’t earned a spot on the For You Page.
A high-quality video is more likely to keep eyeballs on your content, which means higher completion rates and more views.
TikTok isn’t going to push out low-definition, blurry, or grainy videos to the masses. At best, it could cause users to swipe away; at worst, people will close the app.
With most smartphones offering HD video, it’s easier than ever to produce high-resolution videos without a big budget or full production team.
Besides the quality of your content, the platform also rewards editing skills. Experiment with filters, stickers, and transitions to make your videos more interesting and keep people watching (and hopefully rewatching) until the very end.
With engagement being such a critical factor in getting onto TikTok’s For You page, posting at the right time can make or break your video’s success.
How do you figure out when your followers are online and ready to engage?
With a free TikTok Pro Account. It’s similar to Instagram Analytics, and you can see:
However, you need a minimum of 100 followers to start seeing data about your audience.
Think of music and sounds on TikTok like hashtags. You can use trending audio clips to boost your discoverability and get a bump in likes, comments, and views.
How do you find popular sounds to use in your videos?
You’ll need to put on your stealth hat to uncover what’s getting the most traction. Here are three ways to find trending music:
When you’re creating a video, tap the “Sounds” button at the top of the screen. A new page will load, and you’ll see a “Discover” page.
Here, you can view recommended sounds for you to use and a “Playlist” section featuring viral clips, trending sounds, and TikTok music charts. You can also explore the “Trending” page to see what’s currently trending in different categories like “fitness” or “food and drink.”
Scroll through the sounds and add what you like to your Favorites folder to use for later.
When you’re swiping through TikTok and come across a sound you want to use for a video, add it to your Favorites folder.
The feature collects your clips in one handy spot, and you don’t need to waste time trying to remember the name of a sound.
If you like a sound and want to save it, tap the sound name under the username. An audio page will load where you can see a list of all the other videos using it and a button to add the clip to your Favorites.
Once you’ve switched over to a TikTok Pro account and hit 100 followers, you’ll get access to another juicy analytics feature.
Under the “Followers” tab, you’ll see a list of sounds your followers have watched in the last seven days.
It helps reduce research time and shortlist sounds for your next video.
By following the tips above, you’re not guaranteed a spot on TikTok’s For You page, but it can significantly improve your chances.
Remember, all the hashtags and trending sounds won’t help you in your mission for TikTok For You page stardom if you’re not creating memorable and shareable content for your audience.
How do you plan to use TikTok in your social media strategy?
About two-thirds of companies find it tough to produce engaging content. If you’re one of them, there’s a good chance your problems stem from the ideation phase. In other words, you’re struggling to come up with enough engaging blog post ideas.
Now, if you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll know I write a lot of content (also, thanks for reading!). I’ve been doing this for a long time now. But I still sometimes struggle to come up with new blog post ideas.
So what do I do when writer’s block strikes?
Well, I lean on the tried-and-trusted methodologies I’ve built up over the years for devising new content titles.
Of those methodologies, one of the most consistently useful is to raid YouTube for blog post ideas. I’m going to tell you exactly how to do it in this article.
It might seem counterintuitive to use a streaming video site to find blog post ideas. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to look at other blogs?
Sure, that can be a super effective tactic, too, but you can’t learn everything from reading your competitors’ blogs. If you keep relying on the same old sources to find content inspiration, you’ll inevitably keep producing the same sort of content, time and again.
If you want to keep pushing the boundaries and creating fantastic content that makes a real impact, you need to cast the net wider. Here are a few reasons why YouTube can help you do that.
When you use other blogs to inspire your blog post ideas, you might find yourself wondering: “How can I do this better?”
Sometimes, you’ll be lucky. You’ll stumble across a super engaging title, but the actual article will be poor quality. Maybe it’s several years old and the information hasn’t been updated. Or perhaps it only scratches the topic’s surface, rather than going in-depth.
Other times, there’s no obvious way to improve on the original. But because you’re so convinced it’s a great blog post idea, you end up effectively rewriting your competitor’s article and adding a ton of extra information that doesn’t add any real value. Congratulations, you’ve written a worse post than your rival!
This is far less of a problem when you use YouTube to find new ideas. Why? Because with a lot of videos, there simply won’t be a decent written version available. There might be a transcript of the video, but nothing that’s been created with readability in mind.
That makes it much easier for you to go out and create something better.
An astonishing 500 hours of content gets uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that number is growing every year:
To put that into context, the major six movie studios released 87 pictures in 2019, at an average length of just over 96 minutes. That means it takes YouTubers around 16 seconds to upload the equivalent of an entire year’s worth of Hollywood content!
With such a wealth of content available, even super niche businesses are pretty much guaranteed to find something relevant to inspire them. And you don’t even need to navigate multiple platforms to find it.
This is a subtle point, but an interesting one. Say you find a YouTube title that sounds like a perfect blog post idea, but it has not generated many views or engagement. Well, that’s not necessarily a problem.
Why? Because people engage with different content types in different ways.
As this HubSpot graphic shows us, people prefer to thoroughly consume videos rather than skim through them to find the information they’re looking for. That makes sense; videos are designed for watching from start to finish. There’s often no easy way to jump to a specific section.
Blogs are different. Only 29 percent of people read them from top to bottom, with 43 percent preferring to skip through. That’s because blogs are fantastic for skimming. Subheadings, bullet points, numbered lists, tables, and various visual elements make it simple to find the most relevant information.
So what does this tell us?
A piece of content could perform poorly on YouTube because it’s just not a good topic for a video. Yet it could still make for a fantastic blog post. So you don’t necessarily need to worry about how many views a video has racked up; you can just focus on finding good titles.
YouTube is a gold mine of potential blog post ideas! Now here are four ways to find them.
If your competitors are on YouTube, they’ll have done a lot of the hard work for you. Chances are their content will be highly relevant to your audience, too. Go check it out, pick the best titles, and turn them into high-quality blog posts.
Start by drawing up a list of your competitors. Not sure who they are? Try the following:
Now you’ve got your competitor list, simply visit their YouTube channels and browse their existing content. In the “Videos” tab, you can use the drop-down “Sort By” menu to segment their content by:
So let’s imagine I’m one of your competitors. Checking out my most popular videos feels like a good place to start.
Straight away, you’ll see a bunch of titles that you know have resonated with my audience. Most, if not all, of those titles could also be written up as blog posts, like:
You don’t even need to watch the videos (although you should, they’re great). Take the titles, switch them up, do your research on the topic, then turn them into new blogs.
YouTube comments get a bad rap, but they can be a surprisingly rich source of content inspiration. Commenters are rarely short of advice on how videos could be improved or expanded, and those suggestions can help you formulate new blog post ideas.
Again, let’s use my YouTube channel as an example. Currently, this is my most-viewed video:
As well as clocking up more than 1.7 million views, it has received thousands of comments. A lot of those comments are essentially just people telling me they like the video, which is always nice to hear but not super helpful for finding new blog titles. But some of them give me (and my competitors, if they’re paying attention) a useful steer on future content ideas. Here’s a good example:
Wendy wants to know how I use keyword information from Google Search Console to optimize my content.
As you can see, I’ve already left a short response. But I could go further and create a whole blog post explaining how to use Google Search Console to improve your existing content and create new articles.
Here’s another useful comment on that same video:
Manav asks me if I have any content on Google AdWords certifications. As it happens, this isn’t something I cover, but it could make an excellent blog post idea for some of my competitors.
You probably think of YouTube as a video-sharing platform, but it’s also a search engine. In fact, it’s the second-largest search engine in the world.
With over two billion logged-in users visiting YouTube every month and watching more than a billion hours of content a day, the platform generates a ton of search activity. Thanks to its built-in predictive search functionality, you can use all that activity to track down potential blog post ideas.
This is a really simple process. Just enter a topic into the search box, and you’ll see a bunch of predicted searches:
Now, it’s a case of exploring the options that sound most relevant. “Marketing degree UK” probably isn’t right for me, but I like the sound of “marketing strategies for small business,” so I’ll take a closer look.
Just from viewing this tiny subsection of results, it seems that “how-to” content resonates with people looking for small business marketing strategies. So do listicles. In other words, we’re not only getting insight on blog post ideas; we’re also learning how our blogs should be structured.
But there’s more. Scroll down the page, and you’ll find a section on related searches:
Each one of those could potentially give me a bunch of additional titles and reveal yet more related searches. The deeper you vanish into the rabbit hole, the more blog post ideas you’ll find!
It’s important to remember that there’s a whole world of content outside your specific niche. What’s going on out there will naturally affect you and your audience, so it might make sense to write about it.
But what if you don’t know what everyone’s searching for?
Fortunately, YouTube can help here, too. Just visit the “Trending” tab in the left-hand homepage menu to find the content YouTube deems to be most relevant and topical:
Sure, not all of it will be relevant to your audience or brand. Chances are, most of it won’t be. However, I make sure to check in with the Trending section at least once a day to be sure I don’t miss any opportunities to piggyback on viral topics.
Once you start thinking of YouTube as a search engine rather than a video platform, its role in finding new blog post ideas makes a lot more sense.
Just like Google, it’s effectively a huge directory of content on every subject you could ever imagine. But unlike Google, the vast majority of that content exists to engage audiences; the search results aren’t crammed full of product descriptions and category pages. That’s why it’s such a treasure trove for marketers seeking the inspiration they need to create superb content.
What tactics do you use to come up with new blog post ideas?
Did you know roughly a third of U.S. shoppers check out local business listings online daily? To me, this means there’s a real opportunity to grow your business if you find a way to quickly and reliably connect with the best leads.
How do you achieve this?
By creating a Local Services Ad. Let’s dive in and explore why these ads are such an invaluable tool for finding customers and building your brand.
Local Services Ads connect you to local customers searching for the services you offer, whether you’re a tradesperson or small business owner.
Here’s an example. When customers Google a search term like “New York plumber,” businesses running Local Services Ads appear at the top of the search results.
If you click to see more plumbers, multiple listings show up.
To be clear, Local Services Ads aren’t the same as Google Ads or Google My Business.
You can use all three features, or opt for just one. It’s up to you!
Think of Local Services Ads as a fast-track ticket to positive leads. A few stats will show you why.
In short, these local ads help you find leads who are primed to become paying customers. They’re a highly cost-effective and efficient way to market your business at the local level.
Let’s now return to our plumbing example above and work through the features of a typical listing. If we click on “Petri Plumbing & Heating,” here’s what the listing looks like:
This plumber has a 4.6 out of 5-star rating with 504 reviews, they’re accepting customers, and there’s a telephone number to lead potential clients to take the next step.
If we go down further, there’s a business overview. This is where you can set out:
Finally, there’s a section where customers can leave a review or read reviews left by others.
If someone books a job through your listing and leaves a review, it’s verified by Google as legitimate. Long term, this reassures prospects that you are a legitimate, trustworthy business.
Do you need to take every job the ad brings your way? No.
Simply put, you’re still free to choose the jobs you want, and you only pay for the ad when there’s a high chance of conversion, i.e., a prospect contacts you.
Ready to create your own ad? Let’s work through the setup process together, starting with the basics.
Local Services Ads aren’t available for everyone just yet, so the first step is checking your eligibility. It’s really quick and easy to do.
Click the “Get Started” button on Google’s local service homepage.
Next, select your country, ZIP code, and job categories from the drop-down menus.
If Local Service Ads are available to you, move on to the next step.
Congratulations, you can set up a Local Services Ad! Now it’s time to write a great profile. Your profile determines, among other things:
In other words, it’s important to get it right.
First, input basic details, including your business name and contact details. You need to provide your own name, too, but it won’t show up on the listing.
Once you’ve completed the first screen, it’s time to add specific details about what services you offer, how much you charge, and the ZIP codes you service.
For instance, if you’re a plumber, here are possible services you can offer:
So, if you can’t repair sewers or garbage disposals (or you don’t want to offer these services), you can remove these options.
This lets prospective customers know what to expect before they contact you, meaning there’s less chance of you sifting through jobs you don’t want.
You’ll also note the important caveat at the bottom of the screen: You shouldn’t offer services that you aren’t qualified to complete safely. It’s also your responsibility to ensure you have the right licenses to work legally.
One other thing: Even if you’re registered for other Google services, like Google My Business, you still need to create a separate profile for Local Services Ads.
To improve service quality, Google needs you to upload various documents. You must prove you’re:
Why must you upload these documents? Well, it’s all part of the Google Guarantee. Google won’t cover you unless you can prove you’re properly licensed.
Before you complete this section, verify your paperwork is accurate. I’d also suggest double-checking which licenses you need in your jurisdiction to make sure you upload the right documents.
How do you know which documents to provide? Google has a list. If we stick with our plumber example, here are which documents you need:
If you’re based in the U.S. or Canada, you and all your employees must complete a background check before you can visit customers at their home address or workplace.
Again, it’s a fairly simple process. Google’s background check partner contacts you, and they’ll ask for relevant information. They’ll cross-check the info you and your team provide against national registries, and they’ll confirm your Social Security numbers are valid.
Do you pay for this background check? Thankfully, no.
Once you complete your business profile and pass the background check, you’re ready to start advertising. There’s still one essential box to tick, and that’s setting your budget.
Here’s how it works.
To start, it’s probably best to set a modest budget and lead target. You can test the waters this way and increase your budget over time if you feel it’s a good service for you.
Just remember, “leads” aren’t customers until you book a job. That’s why it’s key to stay ahead of your leads and follow up on them.
You can review your leads on your desktop inbox or through the mobile app. You’ll always be notified of a new lead anyway, but viewing them this way may make it easier to take action on them.
Not sure what to include in your Local Services Ad? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here are my five top tips for writing an effective ad and generating the best possible leads for your business.
First, make sure your local listing showcases your company’s plus points. Here’s what I mean.
The more information you provide, the more likely prospects are to contact you.
Think about this from a customer’s perspective. What other details do they need to decide to use your business? Here are some examples.
What’s relevant varies from business to business, so give it some thought before you complete your listing.
Remember, these leads are users actively looking for the services you provide, so don’t let them go cold. Here are some tips to manage your inbox.
Most people don’t expect an instant reply, because good service providers are usually busy! However, if your goal is to book jobs and build your business through Local Services Ads, you need to keep a close eye on your dashboard.
According to Google, customer reviews directly influence your ad ranking. How do you get those all-important positive reviews? Well, great service is a must, but you also need to ask for them. Here’s how.
Have you moved premises? Do you need to change your opening hours?
Make sure you update your Local Services Ad to reflect changes like these. Otherwise, you might deter potential customers from working with you.
Finally, keep details consistent across all your profiles, including, for example, Google My Business.
Why is consistency so important? Well, it helps potential customers find you more easily, and it might even build some trust in your brand.
Over 46 percent of Google searches are local, and Local Services Ads can really help you tap into this huge potential customer base. I highly recommend using these listings as part of a diverse, well-rounded digital marketing strategy.
Just remember to keep your information accurate and respond to leads promptly to make the most of your ads.
Are you using Local Services Ads to find customers? How are they working for you?
Are you ready to double your search traffic?
Understanding SEO is crucial to significantly increase your traffic and brand awareness.
Right now, thousands of people are looking for content just like yours. You can help them find it by becoming an SEO expert.
In fact, 40 percent of website traffic begins with a search query. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important.
Staying on top of SEO takes a lot of research and experimentation. Google’s algorithms are constantly updated, so it’s important to stay tuned into the latest news. With a bit of practice, you can become your own SEO expert.
That’s what I did!
Every day, people use Google to conduct over 3.5 billion searches. In the U.S., 78% of people use the web to research products and services before buying.
Once your website begins to rank on the first pages of Google’s search results, you’ll get more visibility. This means more traffic, more conversions, and eventually, increased revenue.
Getting to page one of the search results is vital. 75% of users don’t even click past the first page!
The first three organic search results get 60% of all traffic from a web search. Leads coming from a search have a 14.6% close rate, compared to just 1.7% from channels like print or direct mail advertising.
See why SEO is so important to your success?
Here are 19 advanced SEO techniques that you can implement right away to increase your search traffic. Getting more visitors should help you convert more people into customers too.
There’s more that goes into conversion optimization than just getting traffic, like making sure you have a clear lead capture form, a sales page, and descriptive product pages.
But you can’t sell to people who aren’t there, right?
So let’s get started!
Auditing your website helps you figure out why you’re not getting enough search traffic and sales. Many SEO companies offer this service, but you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself.
In general terms, an audit is a systematic examination of an event, a concept, or financial books that is done in order to figure out where you stand and how to make smarter decisions in the future.
In the SEO world, auditing is a growth hacking technique that will help you attract and retain customers.
An SEO audit closely examines your overall site performance, creates goals based on what you find, and implements tactics to reach those goals. This process helps increase profits by making the best use of the content you already have and fixing any SEO issues.
This may not sound like an advanced SEO strategy, but you’d be surprised how many websites are missing basic on-page SEO like page titles or descriptions. It’s easy to overlook when creating your website, but easy to fix with an audit.
Here’s what you should be looking for during an audit:
Check #1: Do all your website’s pages have SEO meta titles and descriptions?
Check #2: Is each page on your website optimized for SEO keywords?
Remember, optimize appropriately without keyword stuffing!
Check #3: Is your URL structure optimized for search engines?
Your URLs should be simple, short, and easy for a search engine to tell what the page is about. Here’s an example:
I bet you can guess that article is about 21 ways to improve your Bing ads!
But what if the URL looked like this instead?
Seems a bit complicated, right? A search engine would have a tough time determining the topic of that post since the keywords are broken up by folders and dates. It’s not very clear.
When it comes to URLs, simple is better.
Check #4. Is each page and blog post formatted properly?
By properly, I mean is each page:
43% of people skim blog posts instead of reading the whole thing. Make it easy for people to read!
Check #5: Do all your images have keywords in their ALT tags?
Check #6: Are you using links in your content?
This includes both internal links (to your own content) and external links (to other websites).
I cover linking in detail later in this article, but it’s very important for SEO as one of Google’s top three ranking factors.
Now if you want to save some time, there’s an easier way to do a site audit. Here’s how to use Ubersuggest to conduct a site audit and discover opportunities for improving your search traffic:
Go to Ubersuggest. Enter your website URL into the box, and press Search.
You’ll be taken to a results page. Click SEO Analyzer. It’ll take a few minutes to crawl your site, but the results are worth it, I promise.
This is your overall on-page SEO score for all pages scanned during the site audit. 0 is the lowest possible score and 100 is the highest. With a score of 84, my site is rated as “great.”
There are four sections to review:
This is the final section of the site audit, and it outlines the top on-page SEO issues. You can click on each line for more information.
For example, “21 pages with duplicate meta descriptions.” Unique and engaging meta descriptions are critical to boosting the click-through rate from the search results to your website.
When you perform a full website SEO audit, you’ll likely find at least a few errors or suggestions for improvement. No one’s perfect!
Google isn’t an advertising company. They’re a big data company.
Every tool, platform, and device that they design has one purpose: to get data from users and use it to build a stronger search engine.
Think of yourself as a big data company.
You need to focus on what your target customers want. When you understand what they want, you can develop content that draws them in.
When you listen to feedback from your target customer, it guides the content you create to attract more of them.
The opinions of your users count. The public determines whose idea, article, product, or concept gets shared or funded.
Think about Kickstarter. Most campaigns languish unnoticed for days until a few people donate some money. Then, other people follow.
So, how do you get relevant data about your users’ interests?
And how do you get feedback from your ideal customer if you’re just starting out and don’t have any real customers to ask?
There are several ways to find out:
Let’s cover the first one: social media platforms.
Ask yourself, “Where do the people I want to attract hang out online, and what topics do they talk about?”
I personally like to use Quora.
It gives me an idea of what my target audience is talking about and I can learn from experts in the process. If I wanted to write a book or course, the things people ask on Quora would be useful sources for content ideas.
Here’s how to find out what people want using Quora:
You’ll need to sign up for an account, or sign in with Google or Facebook to get in.
Once you’re logged in, type in your primary keyword (e.g. blog traffic) and hit enter.
If you know how to answer one of these questions, write a blog post about it.
You already know that people want to learn about that subject. If one person asked it on Quora, chances are there are hundreds of other people wondering the exact same thing.
Quora is a great place to learn new things. When it comes to advanced SEO, you can never know everything so I visit it frequently to learn from others.
Use these answers to form the outline for your next blog post.
You can also use Google Analytics to find out what your readers want.
Step #1: Login to Google Analytics. On the left-side menu, click on Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages.
Step #2: Look at what your most popular pages and posts are.
The total number of page views is important, but also take a look at the average time spent on the page (the higher the better!), the bounce rate, and the exit percentage.
Here are my top pages from May 14th to June 14th 2017:
The average time spent on the page tells you if people actually took the time to read your full post, or just skimmed it.
Anything under a minute should be a sign that people are quickly skimming and not reading your article?
So if I see an average time of thirty seconds, I’ll know that people didn’t find my post that interesting to stick around for long.
The bounce rate tells you the percentage of people who landed on this page, but then left without visiting any other pages. It’s not an indicator of success or failure by itself, but ideally you want people to stick around and check out at least 2-3 pages.
The exit percentage tells you that for this page specifically, x % of users left your site after visiting this page. Like the bounce rate, it’s not an indicator of a problem by itself, but if your exit rate is 99%, well, that probably means users aren’t finding what they want to know on that page and don’t want to explore any further.
Another great way to find out what people want is to see how many times your content gets shared on social media.
BuzzSumo is a great tool for this. Just enter your website URL and hit Go.
It will give you a list of your most popular content, sorted by the highest share counts.
This lets you know which articles people love enough to share. The most common reason people share content is when they think it will be useful to others.
With that being said, the total number of shares your post gets is a good way to tell if people find your content useful.
You want to know the easiest way to find out what your users think? Just read their comments on your posts.
A well-designed landing page can improve your lead generation and sales. The more landing pages you create, the more gateways you open up for incoming search traffic.
Unfortunately, not many B2B companies fully grasp the importance of using specific landing pages to capture new users.
According to the SEO research firm, MarketingSherpa, 44% of clicks for B2B companies go to a homepage, not a landing page. Sure, the homepage is important, but a landing page is where you can initiate a strong relationship.
Here’s an example.
Copyblogger creates high-quality landing pages on popular topics. They go the extra mile with professional graphics and a clean, modern layout.
Then they drive traffic to the landing page through press releases, email marketing, and SEO optimization.
Here’s one of their landing pages about, well, landing pages.
As you scroll down, you learn more about landing pages:
The key elements of a good landing page are:
On Copyblogger’s page, they have useful content with links to relevant articles:
And, a noticeable and clear call to action:
Do you think these landing pages have good SEO value?
Do people actually link to them and share them on social media?
Let’s find out.
Go to Ahrefs.com. Enter a landing page URL — let’s use http://www.copyblogger.com/copywriting-101/ — and click Search Links.
As you can see from the screenshot above, this landing page has 799 trusted inbound links, over 1,000 tweets and 446 Facebook likes. This landing page is clearly doing its job of converting visitors into leads.
Landing pages can generate a lot of income.
Conversion Rate Experts made $1 million for Moz, using a single optimized landing page and a few emails.
Businesses with 10-15 landing pages see 55% more conversions than those with less than 10 landing pages.
Businesses with over 40 landing pages have 500% more conversions!
Basecamp has a great landing page to sign up for a free trial of their product.
It draws you in with a big, bold headline. It highlights the key points in a list for easy skimming. It also features a noticeable sign up form.
But good landing pages don’t always need to be just one page. Check out this example from Bills.com:
It features an interactive way to draw visitors in. First, you select how much debt you have.
I’m going to pick $50,000.
The landing page then asks me a series of questions, which are the company’s pre-qualifying questions for new leads.
To see my results, I need to enter my contact information. Some visitors may not want to and abandon the landing page at this point, but those who really want to know if their debt relief program will help them will fill it out.
This is a very simple landing page that results in thousands of leads per month for Bills.com.
It’s a great example of how a simple design and interactive elements can easily come together to generate huge results.
Here’s how to make sure your landing page is SEO optimized.
Find a long-tail keyword and use it throughout your landing page. For example, Copyblogger targets the keyword “SEO copywriting” on one of their landing pages.
If you use Optimizepress or another landing page creator for WordPress, make sure that you add title tags, a meta tag description, and keywords.
Use the keywords naturally throughout your content to avoid getting penalized for keyword stuffing. Include your long-tail keyword in the headline, at least one subheading on the page, and a few times in your body content.
Your landing page content has to be useful.
Write to persuade people to take the next step. Every SEO expert will tell you that the #1 goal of all compelling copy is to get you to read the next sentence.
Remember that the anatomy of a successful landing page begins with the headline. Your body content is also important and should include a testimonial or review from a customer to add trust and credibility.
You also want to make sure your landing page looks modern with a professional design.
“Design is King,” says Derek Halpern. If your content is useful, but your design sucks, you’ll most likely fail.
Landing pages need strong copy, a persuasive video that’s emotionally appealing and testimonials from satisfied customers, which go a long way toward swaying new customers.
Finally, build links from your existing content to your new landing page.
Without quality links, your page will probably not rank very high in search, even if you have excellent copy or use every other SEO ranking factor out there. Since most users never look past the first page of search results, it’s important to rank as high as possible.
It’s more important than ever to make sure your website looks good and performs well on mobile devices. In fact, I’d say it needs to be more than mobile friendly — it needs to work really well on mobile.
Since Google went mobile first, they significantly boost organic search rankings for websites that work well on mobile devices.
When it comes to e-commerce, the numbers are even more surprising. Business Insider predicts that by 2020, 45% of all e-commerce (also called m-commerce) sales in the United States will be completed on a mobile device. That represents $284 billion in the US alone!
All these statistics are pointing to one thing: you simply cannot afford to not have a mobile-friendly website anymore.
Making your site look good on mobile is no longer a luxury, it’s a standard.
How can you tell if your website is mobile-friendly or not? Check out the example below from Google.
In the X example, the website looks just like it would on your desktop computer. The content doesn’t change size to fit a smaller screen better.
In the green checkmark example, see how the same content re-aligns itself to make better use of the small screen? It’s easier to read and scroll through. That’s what being mobile-friendly means.
If you use WordPress as a CMS for your website, you likely already have a mobile-friendly site. Pretty much all WordPress themes over the past few years are designed to be responsive, which is the design term for mobile-friendly.
According to Wikipedia, responsive design means:
Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at allowing desktop webpages to be viewed in response to the size of the screen or web browser one is viewing with. In addition it’s important to understand that Responsive Web Design tasks include offering the same support to a variety of devices for a single website.
Still not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Just check it out on your phone.
Here’s what my site looks like on desktop:
And what it looks like on mobile:
See the difference? The mobile site is optimized for my screen width and is easy to read.
If you want to be extra sure your website checks all the boxes for being mobile-friendly, use Google’s free Mobile Testing Tool.
Enter in your website URL and click Run Test.
You’ll get a results page that lets you know if your site is mobile-friendly or not.
If your site comes back being not mobile-friendly, it’s time to redesign!
You can likely make a few tweaks to your existing website design to improve its usability on mobile. But it may be faster and cheaper in the long run to get a totally new website. Think of it as a good opportunity to freshen up your brand at the same time.
Infographics are popular because they allow you to display complex information in an easy to understand way. Since 65% of people are visual learners, a graphic goes a lot further than just a text article.
Here’s a good infographic on infographics from NeoMam Studios:
I’ve been creating infographics for quite some time now and the results are impressive. At KISSmetrics, we generated 2,512,596 visitors and 41,000 backlinks within 2 years, using infographics.
Quality infographics can increase your website traffic by 193%. I did that in just one year.
Unfortunately, most people don’t pay attention to the “info” part. Instead, they focus on the graphics. Good design is important, but you need to have quality facts to back it up.
Why do search users and consumers prefer infographics?
It’s because the human brain processes visual data 60,000 times faster than plain text. Also, 90% of information transmitted to the human brain is visual.
You could generate up to 60,000 search visitors to your website with infographics!
Find a trending topic or idea that people are searching for and put together some statistics on it.
For example, if you wanted to make an infographic about infographics, you could take the few stats we listed above:
Don’t want to create it yourself? You can hire a professional infographic designer on Dribbble. Just search for infographics at the top.
From there, pick a designer and read their profile.
If you do want to create it yourself, here’s how to do that with Canva.
Login to Canva and click Create a Design then choose infographic.
Canva gives you some great layouts to start with. Pick one on the left-hand side. Click anywhere on the infographic to start editing it.
You can change the text and images until you’re happy with the result. Canva also has a library of free stock icons, photos, shapes, and charts you can find under the Elements tab.
Once your infographic is ready, click Download at the top and save it as a PNG file. This will automatically download it to your computer.
Take the data from your infographic and turn it into an in-depth article to accompany the graphic.
People are more likely to share your infographic if it comes with a post that explains it.
For example, if your infographic is titled “10 ways to make your site load faster,” you can expand on each of the tips in your blog post.
If you can publish unique content of at least 2,000 words and couple it with your infographic, your search traffic will double over time.
Remember that Google doesn’t index the text on the infographic, that’s part of the image file. The only thing Google indexes is the image itself.
When you create a blog post to go with it, Google will index that content and make it more likely for your infographic to come up in image search results for that keyword.
Once you have your infographic, submit it to these top 20 infographic directories.
If you don’t want to take the time to do it yourself, you could find someone on a site like Fiverr to do it for you. Just search for “submit infographics.”
Click on the submission services and study them carefully. You should ask providers to show you the sites they intend to submit to. If you’re not comfortable with the sites they name, let them know. You’re hiring them which means you’re in control!
Search engines have evolved a lot since Google first launched in 1998.
If you want to keep thriving in search rankings, you need to be aware of all the latest Google algorithm updates and SEO best practices.
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that helps analyze search results. It learns what a page of content is about and how that relates to keywords people are searching for. Essentially, it helps connect a search with relevant results.
Let’s say you search for “remote work”.
That could mean a few different things:
How does Google know which one you want?
RankBrain goes to work and determines that you want the first option based on thousands of other web searches performed by people looking for the same term.
A more popular example would be the difference between searching for apple and Apple:
So, how do you tell Google the exact “apple” that you’re referring to? Is it the Apple Company or the apple fruit? Or, is it something different-but-related?
RankBrain tells Google’s spiders how to index your content based on your intent.
Since Google is a lot more sophisticated these days, we no longer need to stuff our content full of keywords to make it understand our intent.
Whatever you do, don’t stuff keywords into your content!
Keyword stuffing is when you overuse keywords and phrases that relate to the main keyword in attempts to rank higher in search. It’s a bad SEO practice that you should avoid it at all costs.
For example, consider these related keywords: iPhone reviews, best iPhone reviews, new iPhone reviews. When you use all of these keywords in your content, it’s likely that Google won’t rank that page well, especially if the content falls is only a few hundred words long.
Here’s an example of a keyword stuffed paragraph:
Do you want to learn java online? Most java tutorials are not created to help beginners learn java online, because the online java learning platforms are not user-friendly. But today, in the Los Angeles area, you can easily learn java online from the comfort of your home and become a java online expert.
Not great, right?
The main keyword “java online” was mentioned four times, which is too often for such a short paragraph.
There is a better way to change this paragraph and make it more user focused, without neglecting the main keyword – “java online.” All you have to do is find synonyms for the keyword. For example:
Are you ready to learn java online? It’s a good step towards upgrading your skills and giving you a better chance of getting that job. There are several places to learn java on the web, and within 2 – 3 months, you’ll be programming in java. Most people don’t like the idea of taking online java courses, but I believe it’s one of the most flexible ways to get access to a wealth of knowledge and become skilled in your life’s pursuit.
The difference is clear, right?
The second paragraph sounds better to users and still uses your keyword without overdoing it.
That’s the power behind RankBrain.
A few guidelines for finding synonyms for your main keyword:
A good example of these practices is Marketing Land.
Marketing Land optimizes content for a main keyword and several synonyms. They know that once YouTube is mentioned, terms like videos, channels, and video source need to be mentioned, too.
Where Facebook is mentioned sharing, liking, and commenting are also included as they’re all common activities that take place on the platform.
Backlinko analyzed 11.8 million searches and found the mean first-page search result had 1,447 words.
There have been numerous studies and experiments on the correlation between content length and search engine ranking.
This graph from Backlinko pages with a higher word count tend to help you crack the first page of Google. It won’t necessarily help you hit number one, but it can help you get close.
I did an experiment for QuickSprout. The results showed that my posts over 1,500 words received almost double the amount of social shares than the ones under 1,500 words.
Content length isn’t everything. A shorter blog post that’s higher quality will still outperform a longer, low-quality post.
The trick is to cover one topic in so much detail that every part of the post is valuable to the reader. Making it more valuable to humans makes it more valuable to Google as a page to display in search results.
A key benefit of longer content is that it will naturally contain more relevant keywords and rank for them.
A roundup post is when you interview a few people about the same topic or make a list of the “best” of something.
Not only is it a great way to get different viewpoints and learn new things, it also helps grow your SEO rankings and traffic.
Here’s an example: 53 Best SEO Experts of 2020: A More Diverse Roundup
The author of this post collected the names and profiles of experts in their field, including where they work, what type of information they share, and where to follow them.
It seems simple because it is, and it works!
The key benefit of these posts is that it allows you to get your website in front of lots of new audiences, thanks to the experts you’re interviewing.
If you were featured in a roundup, you’d share that with your audience, right?
Deirdre Breakenridge is one of the experts featured in the post above about PR. She has over 30,000 Twitter followers.
If she tweeted out your roundup post even once, there’s a good chance some of her audience would click to read it.
Those are people you wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise.
Creating a roundup post that grows your traffic is easy:
For example, if I wanted to write a post about tips to grow your traffic, I could ask, “What one strategy has grown your website traffic the most?”
Make a list of as many experts in the topic you want to write about as you can. If you want to feature 10 expert opinions, make a list of 20 experts at least.
It may not be easy to find their email addresses, so write down their social media profiles instead.
Then, reach out with a nice email/social media message and ask them for their opinion!
Remember to include that you’ll be linking back to their website as a thank you for contributing.
Collect all the answers, then write and intro and conclusion. Make sure to link back to everyone featured.
After you’ve published it, be sure to send a follow up email, or social media message, to let them know the post went live.
Ask them to share it with their audience.
Even if only half of your 10 experts share it, that’s still five more audiences than you would have reached by yourself. And depending on the size of your expert’s audience, that could be thousands or tens of thousands of new people visiting your website.
Brian Liang wrote a roundup post about how to promote your blog.
He got over 40 experts to contribute to it, resulting in a comprehensive and informative piece that got over 5,000 shares on social media. It was also Buzzsumo’s most shared post of that week for the term “blog promotion.”
The biggest wow factor? His blog wasn’t even well-known at the time!
What would 5,000 shares do for your brand?
However, you can use social media platforms to gain credibility and traffic.
In the screenshot below, you can see the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) for each search result. I’m using the free MozBar to see this information.
Page Authority was developed by Moz, and it means the likelihood that your page will rank highly in search. A higher number means it’s more likely to rank well.
This is based on several factors: content length, links, keywords, readability and more.
Domain Authority is the overall likelihood that your whole website, or domain, will rank highly in search.
But not all social media platforms are created equal when it comes to building authority and traffic.
I’m not talking about Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest where anyone can post whatever they want. I’m talking about authoritative platforms where quality content is expected.
A few examples are Slideshare, Blogger, and Quora. These sites give you the opportunity to improve your search rankings, as well as build a following, within a short period of time.
Does leveraging authority social platforms increase your search traffic and rankings?
For example, Ana Hoffman got 243,000 views in 30 days, in addition to other benefits, using Slideshare content. Her presentations were among the top most-viewed slide decks.
If you’d like to leverage Slideshare as a search traffic booster, here are the basic steps that you should take:
In my experience, simply selecting a keyword and creating a top-notch slideshow presentation doesn’t always generate buzz on social media.
Instead, look for topics that are already trending on blogs. Just as you do when looking for blog post ideas, you should identify what people are talking about right now.
Another great place is GrowthHackers, an online community of marketers. You’ll find lots of trending topics. Pick one that interests you and is related to your business or industry.
The article titled “10 Ways to Promote Content in Less Than 30 Minutes” would make a good Slideshare presentation.
Don’t feel pressured to crank out 50 or 100 slides.
Aim for about 35 slides. This gives a user a good amount of information without being too long to keep their attention.
Read the article you selected in step 1, pick out key points, and create an outline for your presentation. This will make it easier to put together the full presentation.
Your Slideshare presentation outline could be something as simple as:
Each item in your outline represents a single slide.
If you want to make a presentation based solely on someone else’s post or article, make sure you get their consent first to avoid plagiarism. Do that before moving on to the next step and don’t forget to credit the author of the post that inspired you in your presentation.
Slideshare presentations are all about using images to captivate and hold the viewer’s attention. You can find free stock photos by searching Google for “free stock photos.”
Gratisography is another place where you can download free stock photos without copyright restrictions.
A few advanced SEO tips for images:
You can also create your own images, rather than using stock photos.
Learning from experts is the best way to grow your own traffic and search rankings.
Popular presentations are featured on the Slideshare homepage. Study them carefully. Consider how you could improve them.
Could you design it better? Could you find more facts and data to back up the points made? If the answer is yes, make your own presentation.
With all of the information you’ve gathered, create your presentation! Try to make it really stand out from the other ones you studied.
You can use any software you like to create the presentation: PowerPoint, Keynote, Photoshop and save as a PDF, whatever you’re comfortable with.
You can even use Canva to create a SlideShare presentation.
This presentation is directing people to their lead magnet for doubling leads and sales, which takes you to this landing page:
Deep linking is the practice of using anchor text to link to other pages inside your blog. This shows Google the depth of your site’s pages and encourages it to index more of them.
Most people focus on getting search visitors to their homepage, but struggle to rank their internal pages.
Your older blog posts and landing pages that provide immense value on relevant topics can pull in a lot of new traffic. You should link to them often to help build the structure of your website.
Without establishing internal links, a Google spider may see your website this way:
Pages C and D could be very important, but the spider can’t easily see them.
When your content is properly linked to each other, it helps the Google see all your content in an organized way, like this:
When you start interlinking pages other than your homepage, you’ll improve the SEO value for those internal pages and improve their ranking — even for tough keywords.
Before you start link building to your inner pages, you should first check to see how many inbound links go to your homepage, as compared to your other pages.
Go to Moz’s Link Explorer. Enter your URL into the search box and click “Get free link data”.
Sign up for access, then login. Click on “Top Pages,” in the left-hand menu under overview.
Looking at the above screenshot, you can see that my homepage has 276,000 inbound links, but the next highest number of links for an internal page is only 2,445.
That’s still a good number of links to have, but much lower than 276,000!
A high bounce rate often happens to websites who receive a significantly higher level of links to their homepage than they do for internal pages.
One of the strategies that worked best for me to lower my bounce rate is deep linking. Using this tactic, I was able to drop my average bounce rate from 45.34% to 24.45%.
Here are a few other ways deep linking to internal content helps your rankings:
Improves Page Authority: Google likes fresh content, because recent information is more likely to be relevant and useful to users.
Adding fresh content regularly is not the only way to raise your Page Authority. Linking to your older content gives those pages more power and tells Google they’re still relevant.
Your homepage naturally may have a higher PA but you need to work towards improving the authority of internal pages.
Cyrus Shepard explained, in a Moz post, that Google gives fresh content a score based on the date that it was published.
Makes your internal pages indexable. Consistently linking to internal pages makes it easier for search engine spiders to quickly find and index them.
When linking to your internal pages from other blogs, avoid over-optimization of your anchor text.
Your anchor text is the actual part of your sentence that has the link in it, like this. Use something simple for your anchor text, like your website name (“Neil Patel”), or add a keyword (“Neil Patel’s content marketing”).
An easy way to link to internal pages is in your latest blog post, like I’m doing right now when I say things like you could double your traffic.
If you have a page that’s currently on page two or three of Google search results, you can help move it up to page one by passing on quality link juice to those lower ranked pages.
Link juice (aka link equity) refers to outbound links from high authority sources to your content. Since those links are from high authority websites, that reputation rubs off on your site. Essentially, this gives Google an indication that your content is high quality, too.
Let’s look at it this way: you have two websites that are 100% identical – same design, same content. If every other factor were the same, the site with the most links would rank the highest in search results.
This article about indexing used to be on page two of Google’s results for the search term “index your site”.
Now, it’s the third organic search result on page 1!
Here’s how I did it.
I added new links, content and recent data to bring the post up to date.
I cover how to update your older content in detail in Section 18!
Since I updated the post, I shared it on all my social networks again. This brought in a lot of new traffic.
Every time it was relevant to a new post I was writing, I included a link to this post. This directed traffic to the older post and resulted in people sharing it and linking to it themselves.
It helps pass link juice to your content when you get links from high authority domains. Likewise, it also helps your overall trustworthiness in Google’s eyes when you link to high authority sites.
A good place to look for sites to link to is Alltop.
You’ll see some featured sites on the homepage and recent content published by them.
All six of these options would be good to link to, and get links from.
To find something for your topic, just search for your keyword at the top of the page.
You’ll see related categories to what you typed in. I chose SEO here.
Alltop then shows me the top SEO related content from the following high authority websites:
I could link over to one of them as a data source in my content.
Like if I said that user experience was just as important as on-page SEO for ranking high in search.
Better yet, I could approach these websites and ask them to link back to my content.
This is something a lot of marketers overlook, but it’s very powerful for generating high authority backlinks to your content.
Scan Wikipedia for dead links and claim them as your own!
Didn’t think of that, did you?
There are two types of links you can get from Wikipedia:
If you can write a post about the topic, and be a credible source of information, you can get these valuable links from Wikipedia.
I like to use a tool called WikiGrabber to find these link opportunities. Enter your keyword and click Search.
WikiGrabber then shows me this list of Wikipedia articles that need citations or that have dead links.
You can also use Google to find dead links on Wikipedia. Use the following search term:
site:wikipedia.org “Keyword phrase” “dead link”
For “content marketing”, you get the following results:
Let’s check out this article on Content Marketing.
Scroll through the article until you see the text .
Read over the item that needs a source. If you have content that already backs up this statement, you can move ahead to submitting your link. If not, you will need to write a new post that thoroughly covers the topic and provides verifiable data.
To submit your link, click on the  text beside Digital content marketing.
You’ll get the Wikipedia editor screen. Find the sentence that needed a citation, click at the end of it and click on Cite on the top menu.
Paste your URL into the box above and click Generate.
You’ll see this screen confirming your citation and marking the date it was added.
To save your changes to the article, click on Save Changes at the top right of your screen.
Your edit will be submitted for moderation. If Wikipedia staff agrees it’s a valid source of data for that point, it will be added to the page and you’ll enjoy increased page authority and traffic from Wikipedia.
Wikipedia links are technically no-follow, which means that they do not pass link juice over to you. However, their domain authority ranking and trust level from Google are very high, so there are still SEO benefits to snagging them!
Competitor research is a smart move. Why reinvent the wheel, when all of the hard work of ranking in Google’s top pages has already been done by your competitors?
Something as simple as signing up for your competitor’s newsletter can reveal their whole email marketing strategy to you. A little research doesn’t cost anything but your time, and can produce some great new strategies for you to try.
Starbucks’ profit in China has been steadily increasing because they did some simple research.
So how do you find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for right now?
Enter your competitor’s site URL into the search box and press Enter.
This will give you a list of keywords related to your website.
Scroll down to the last section titled SEO Keywords.
The Position column tells you which Google search result position your site sits in for that keyword. For example, smartblogger.com is in the first organic spot for “how do blogs make money”.
In order to verify whether the keywords are truly ranking at the positions Ubersuggest says, let’s do a quick Google search for “how do blogs make money”.
Definitely the top spot!
Now your job is to create high quality content using those same keywords. Use all the other tools in this list to build trusted links and boost that page’s ranking power.
If you want to get even more ideas for long-tail keywords to rank highly for, head back to the Ubersuggest home page.
In this example, you’re provided 461 keywords related to “online marketing.” You can now use filters to find long-tail keywords with high volume and a low SEO Difficulty score.
For this search, I set the volume at 800 to 4,000 and the SD at 40 or below.
While these search parameters eliminated more than 350 keywords, it also left behind seven ideas to include in future content.
You know the monthly search volume is greater than 800 and the SD is lower than 40. With that, you can confidently optimize for the keyword, knowing that the first page of Google is within reach. When that happens, there’s traffic to be had.
After clicking on a keyword that piques your interest, you’ll see how your competition is doing:
You’re given the following:
For the keyword “online marketing strategies,” my website is currently in the third position of the Google search results. This is good for roughly 97 visitors per month. However, if I am able to reach the top spot, I’ll pick up another 200+ visitors per month.
The data shows my domain score is in line with the top two search results, but the page doesn’t have nearly as many links or social shares. So, focusing on those two metrics will help me reach the goal of claiming the top search result.
Another great way to steal the spotlight from your competition is to look for keyword ideas in their Google AdWords search ads.
Google AdWords ads are short and already optimized for your competition’s target keywords. If you can produce a quality article that ranks well organically for that same keyword, you can easily establish yourself among your target customers.
With 26 percent of internet users using ad blockers, consumers are warier than ever of paid advertising.
Establishing yourself high in organic search results establishes trust and will display you first to those using ad blockers.
To find some good AdWords keywords to create content around, try searching for keywords you want to rank for:
Analyze the titles and copy used in each of these ads. They should give you at least a few ideas for headlines you can use in new content.
A few from this example could be:
I wrote the first post below for QuickSprout using “How to Perform an SEO Audit”, and included the word free in the title.
In that post, I broke down all the steps to do a full SEO website audit and included a template for users to download.
Your SEO page title is the title that is displayed in Google search results. Here’s an example.
You want to ensure that each page title for each page and post on your website contains a keyword.
A strategy I have found particularly effective is to include multiple keywords within each page title. Make sure not to be spammy with this or it could end up hurting you.
By spammy, I mean just cramming keywords in there for the sake of it, even if they sound a little off. Or, by using spam trigger words that instantly make Google think your content is less than legit.
Let’s say your post is about hair colors for fall and you want to rank for the following keywords:
Here are a few examples of a page title that combines those in a natural-sounding way:
See the difference? The first two sound natural and like you could picture seeing them online. The last one just seems spammy and like it’s trying too hard.
If your page titles sound like you’re trying too hard, you probably are.
Google Search Console is a powerful tool to help you track potential issues with your site that affect your rankings.
If you haven’t already signed up for it, you can see how to do that step by step right here.
There are three main things you want to check regularly in Search Console:
When you first sign in to Search Console, you’ll see your Dashboard page.
Under “Coverage,” you’ll see any URL erros.
As you can see, I have seven recent URL errors for my blog.
I had corrected a lot of 404 page errors in previous months that were caused by a switch to a new webhost, as you can tell by the red line. It’s important to keep monitoring these reports often as new errors can pop up anytime, like these seven have!
If you click on one of the URLs in the list, you’ll see this message.
404 errors don’t have a direct impact your search result rankings, but they don’t make for a great user experience which can impact SEO.
You don’t want to show up high in search, get someone excited to visit your site, then disappoint them with a 404 page when they get there, right?
Fortunately, they’re very easy to correct in Search Console. For each 404 error, click on Fetch as Google in the screenshot above.
Search Console will tell you the result of what Google’s indexing spider sees.
In this case, my 404 page was showing up that way because it’s being redirected to a new page. This can be easily solved by getting my site re-indexed. Click on Request Indexing button, and you’re done.
There’s also an easier way: you can submit a new sitemap for your full site.
Click on Sitemaps on the left-side menu.
Enter in the URL to your sitemap. For most people, this is just “sitemap.xml” after your domain name, like neilpatel.com/sitemap.xml.
If you need help creating a sitemap, use this guide on How to Create an SEO-Boosting XML Sitemap in 20 Minutes (or Less.)
When you submit a new sitemap, the status changes to Pending.
Getting Google to re-index your site will ensure any 404 errors that you know don’t exist are marked as fixed.
Another great use of Search Console is to find out the keywords people are using to find you.
Click on Performance in the left-side menu.
You’ll see a list of keywords that people typed into Google that displayed your website, whether they clicked on your page or not.
Looking at how people found you can tell you a lot about what you’re ranking well for. If the keywords in your list aren’t the ones you want to rank for, it’s time to optimize more of your content!
If you’ve been blogging for more than three months, you’ve got a goldmine of content in your archives to repurpose.
You’ve undoubtedly written some posts that are still generating organic traffic. You can improve those posts and leverage their authority for higher search rankings.
Start by making a list of your top performing content.
Log into Google Analytics. Click the “Behavior” tab on the left side.
Look for the best performing posts from three to six months ago. These posts are doing well, but a refresh could drive even more traffic.
Here’s what I do to update my best performing posts to keep them fresh and popular:
So, if your old post was titled “How to Make $10,000 From Your Blog,” you could make it more sharable by adding a bit of personal flair. The headline should evoke curiosity, but still maintain its clarity.
Something like this: How I Make $10,000 a Month From My Blog While Traveling the World
That’s a bit more fun, huh?
You could even add a number to the headline, as people more frequently share headlines that contain a number. Headlines like, “7 Reasons Why Blogging Can Be a Career”, etc.
Take a look at this Copy Hackers headline. It’s thought-provoking, keyword-rich, clickable and clear:
Now that you have some experience, let it show in your content.
Customer testimonials are huge for marketing. When it comes to including a testimonial within a piece of content, that content has an 89% success rate.
Your reader may not jump on board if you’re the only one saying how awesome you are. But if someone else backs it up, your authority and influence will increase.
When you get a testimonial, find a piece of content that fits it and include that testimonial.
If your post was originally from 2014, you clearly need to update your data sources.
If your website has gone through a redesign during that time, you’ll likely need to update images in the post to be in line with your current branding.
I do this regularly with my best performing content. For example, this guide on getting your website indexed is one of my most popular posts.
Whenever something changes with Google’s algorithm or indexing rules, I update that post so it’s always up to date. I don’t want new users coming to my site and finding outdated info, so it’s important that my top content is accurate.
Another word for content like this is your ‘cornerstone content’.
Cornerstone content is basically the foundation of your blog. They are the articles you are most proud of and the ones that are the most unique, in-depth and informative.
Brian Clark describes it as, “It’s what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you.”
An easy way to keep track of your cornerstone content is to create a spreadsheet. Add the following columns:
In the previous section, we covered how you can keep your best performing articles fresh and optimized. But what about the articles that didn’t go over so well?
You should also be updating your lowest performing content to improve it.
You know it’s a good topic and that people want to know about it, otherwise you wouldn’t have written about it in the first place. Revamping an old underperforming article is a sure way to get more organic search traffic.
What’s the alternative? Writing a new post from scratch. It may do well, or it could flop too. It’s worth the effort to revamp an old post!
Here’s how to turn your previous content failures into organic search stars:
Open up Google Analytics and click on Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Look at page views, average time on page, and bounce rate.
If you click on the arrow next to Pageviews, you can see the pages with the least amount of traffic. These are pages that need some thelp!
For each of your lowest performing posts that you want to update, run them through whatsmyserp.
Enter the keyword you want to check the ranking of and your post’s URL, and click Go.
You can enter in multiple searches one at a time and see all your results at the bottom of the page.
This post ranked 14 for sales funnel — which might isn’t even on the first page.
If my goal were to rank higher for ‘sales funnel’, I now have some data to start with. There are over 200 factors that go into search engine rankings, but updating this old post with better optimization for that keyword will help boost its position.
The top four organic search results get 69.6% of all traffic.
The higher you can get underperforming content to rank in search results, the more eyeballs will be on it, and the more clicks you’ll get.
Similar to the section above, you’ll want to update:
I recently went through this process with this post about starting a blog.
Before I updated it, it was ranking on page three. After expanding the post to over 3,000 words, updating all the images and screenshots, adding new information and resharing it to my network, the post is now on page one for “how to start a blog”.
The post has received a 167% jump in traffic since I revamped it and it’s now my second most shared post ever!
You can’t just press update and expect the world to know you just added a ton more value to your old post. You need to tell people.
It’s important to edit the publish date of the post to today’s date. You don’t want it to get buried in your archives, or for Google to think it’s old news.
When you’re ready to relaunch the post, change the publish date. In WordPress, there’s an edit link next to the date you can click.
Just change that to the current date.
This makes your revamped post show at the top of your blog feed so it looks brand new and more people see it.
There are a few more things you’ll want to do right away:
Revamping old content has been really successful for me.
It would have taken me 10x as long to come up with all new post ideas and write them instead of editing the ones I already had. Making use of existing content is always more efficient than starting from scratch and the traffic results prove it.
A blog is a powerful brand marketing tool.
Maybe that’s because, by their very nature, blogs provide a personal touch that’s not found elsewhere.
In order to maximize your blog’s potential, you have to make sure it gets found in search results.
These advanced SEO techniques may not be the easiest to implement – they certainly require more effort than basic keyword research and link building – but they are incredibly effective. Using these strategies can double your search traffic.
Remember the human beings on the other side of the screen and write for what they want to read. Focusing on user intent and trying out these 19 advanced SEO tips is a recipe for traffic success.
Have you tried any of these advanced SEO techniques before? What results did you get and how long did it take to see them?
The post 19 Advanced SEO Techniques to Double Your Search Traffic appeared first on Neil Patel.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
When you’re trying to make the sale, you want to be as tactful as possible. You want to talk to your customer at the exact time they want what you’re selling. This means going beyond storing their basic contact information and tracking points of contact, rebuttals, and previous sales deals.
That’s where contact management software can be one of your most valuable sales sidekicks. It helps you streamline your sales process so that you can close sales faster, keep your most valuable customers, and grow your business.
But how do you find the right contact manager to integrate into your sales system? Well, you’ve landed exactly where you need to be. In this extensive guide, I review five of the top contact management tools on the market and walk you through the best features as well as their price points. Let’s get started.
Choosing the best contact management software goes beyond making sure they provide the standard CMS tools scoping anywhere from sales tracking, keeping customer notes, emails, and sales history. Your business is unique, which means your CMS needs are also unique. Because of this, it’s hard to pinpoint a one-size-fits-all CMS that you can use in any given sales scenario or industry.
You also have to consider the size of your team, your plans for scaling and revenue growth, and what functionalities are non-negotiable in your given industry.
Beyond that, there are a few specific key factors to think through when trying to make the best choice in a sea of software. Here are a few additional factors to consider that I also used for this list to make sure you’re making the best contact management investment possible.
Some contact management systems put more emphasis on sales reporting and analytics than others. This can prove to be a valuable asset or just an extra feature to your team, depending on how you uniquely handle your sales process.
These days, contact management software is increasingly robust in terms of the analytics it can gather to help you make the best sales decisions. Some of them can measure everything from live chat interactions to sales calls, email responses, and even what you’re prospective customers say on social media about you or your competitor’s product or service.
Deciding how deep you need your contact management analytics to go will ultimately depend on your sales goals and budget. Consulting with your sales team can be a sound idea in the process of making a final decision.
The sales process you use to sell printers isn’t necessarily the same one you’d use to sell premium car parts. This also means you’ll want to find a CMS that fits every unique point of sale your team goes through continuously.
If done right, this can mean higher ROI, shorter sales cycles, and more revenue. This is where it’s a good idea to take the time to test drive every prospective CMS that looks appealing to your sales team. Most of them have the option for a demo or a 14-day free trial. These trials exist for a reason. I highly recommend you take advantage of as many as you can.
The more scalable integrations and features a CMS has, the more likely it is to have a big learning curve. This is important to take into account when thinking about onboarding your sales team to the system successfully.
Besides that, the user experience for both your front-facing customer features like contact forms and chatbots and the backend features your sales team will have to interact with daily is also a crucial part of the process as far as ease of use goes. An array of powerful features is pretty much useless if your sales team continually runs into trouble using them or if integrations prove too clunky to operate properly.
This also raises questions about what support features your preferred CMS provides and whether they offer any accompanying training options like forums, live chats, or even training webinars.
Many contact management tools on the market offer lots of the same features, with a few differentiators. They can vary by industry or by business size. That’s why it’s crucial to shop around first.
It’s important to distinguish between contact management software (CMS) and customer relationship management (CRM). Both tools offer many of the same functions and tools that they’re often thought to be interchangeable.
However, a CRM can give you all the functions of a CMS while also giving you additional tools for the overall sales process and scaling your business. A CMS by itself is a bit more limited in the scope of what it can do and how it can scale in terms of sales capabilities. In the end, it’s entirely up to your discretion if you ultimately decide to go for a more comprehensive CRM tool to manage your sales contacts and beyond or stick with a CMS.
A lot of contact management software is cloud-based, which can prove to be convenient as a subscription. This way, it doesn’t take up additional space on your sales equipment.
Moreover, there is also open-source software to think about. If your sales team includes in-house developers that can customize your system and take it beyond the standard features, it can be a worthwhile investment.
Contact management software that scales with you and offers powerful tools to take you beyond the basics? There’s a tool for that. It’s called Salesforce.
The point of a CMS is to increase the efficiency of your daily operations, so you’re never blindsided by lost sales or missed relationship-building opportunities.
Salesforce does that by offering the tools to build a good contact management base. This means contact history, survey answers, and email responses. But they take it a step further with their social data tool to keep track of what your customer is saying about products and services.
Not only that, but Salesforce makes it easy to collaborate with everyone in your business. You can share documents, comments, analytics and insights, sales history, and any other information relevant to your ROI.
On-the-go contact management is also possible with its mobile app. You can hop on a call armed with plenty of preemptive information about your customer from anywhere. This awesome array of tools makes Salesforce not only a contact management tool but a sales closing system, too, which is why it’s made it on my top five picks.
Here’s a breakdown of each plan they offer:
Each plan comes with:
The higher the tier, the more access to customizable features and tools you’ll have. Thankfully, you don’t have to jump right into a plan without testing how they work first.
Salesforce also gives you the option of testing any pricing tier first before committing.
Try Salesforce for free first here and see what plan fits your contact management needs the best.
Hubspot stands alone as a powerful free CMS with tons of accessible tools to enhance your sales cycle from beginning to end.
The list of contact management tasks you can do for free with Hubspot’s software is seemingly endless. You can keep track of contact website activity, deals, company insights, manage ticketing, manage ads, email tracking and notifications, and even messenger integrations.
Hubspot’s free contact management software is an excellent stepping stone toward more varied and growth-oriented contact management as your business grows since you can always upgrade to one of their paid CMS plans without having to migrate.
If you’re getting started with contact management and want to do more with your contacts in terms of sales strategy on a budget, I recommend you start onboarding Hubstop’s free tools for a strong beginning.
Start using Hubspot for free here.
A small or mid-sized business doesn’t always have use for tools built with enterprises in mind. Zoho takes the prize for a simple yet reliable contact manager you can easily start with.
A single dashboard unifies all your data points so you can make strategic decisions at a glance and manage everyone on your roster. It helps to think of it as your own personal yellow pages except for ten times more useful.
You can do things like adding your preferred tags to contacts to find what you’re looking for quickly, glance over at your expected revenue numbers, and see all your pending tasks.
Zoho makes it easier for you to close deals by scheduling follow-up activities and then closely monitoring results, all on an intuitive dashboard.
Zoho’s simplicity bleeds into its pricing structure, too. Instead of charging you per seat, they charge you a set monthly fee.
Here’s a quick overview:
Smart – $12.50 a month billed annually
Ultra – $20.83 a month billed annually
Pipedrive is loved not just for the wide array of CMS tools it offers but because it makes the whole contact management and sales process straightforward and visual. It’s been used by over 90,000 companies in more than 170 countries and business giants like Vimeo, Amazon, and Re/Max.
Pipedrive is a highly intuitive system that easily updates and automates contact tasks and sales calls. The easy drag-and-drop features and their clean and approachable interface make them an easily adaptable and usable system.
With a visual dashboard in mind, they don’t falter in the features department, as it offers plenty of tools for powerful contact management like task automation, lead pipelines, and smart lists that track the last time you contacted a prospect.
You can always try Pipedrive free for 14 days. It doesn’t hurt to spend a few days trying out the software’s ins and outs to see if they’re a good company match. Otherwise, the ricing plans break into four tiers:
Zendesk is a dynamic CMS that emphasizes the analytical and reporting aspects of contact management.
The last thing you want is to grow a robust list of leads and then have no idea what to do with them due to lack of data. Zendesk’s analytics make it possible for you to engage in better conversations with your prospects with their pre-built analytics features.
With them, you can track rep activities, call response times, and live chat interactions. Their rich reporting features ensure you keep a finger on every touchpoint of your sales cycle. This makes it easy to increase the ROI of each sales rep on your team.
Zendesk’s price breakdowns can get specific depending on the solutions and features you’re looking for. The contact and relationship management tiers start at $19 per seat.
Here’s a quick overview of the pricing tiers:
Finding the right contact management system can make the difference between constant sales, shorter sales cycles, and more efficient business growth all around.
But it starts with figuring out what your sales needs are, how you go through your sales strategy, and what you need to optimize for higher ROI. Once you’ve figured out your key needs, you can start narrowing down your list of prospects.
My top choices for effective contact management are Hubspot, because of their extensive list of free tools, and Salesforce, because of how versatile and adaptable they are. Make sure to use this review as a roadmap to make your final decision.
When you hear the phrase corporate branding, you might think of industry titans—car companies, ubiquitous hotel chains, and fast food arches.
Despite this association, corporate branding applies to businesses of all sizes, not just the giants with unlimited marketing budgets.
To better understand the role corporate branding plays, I’ve broken down the impact of corporate branding to help you know how it can drive your business forward, no matter how big or small your business is.
Think of your favorite brand (or one you interact with regularly.) What comes to mind? Do you think of their tagline? The logo? The color palette? The chosen ambassador?
These assets, among many others, are what make up corporate branding. Corporate branding is the outward projection of a brand’s mission and culture in colors, logo, tone, and design.
A successful corporate brand encompasses an organization’s goals, mission, and ideology and appears across all mediums (website, packaging, copy, ads, etc.) to ensure visual consistency.
A strong corporate branding strategy focuses on a wide range of assets, from details as small font and color options and as large as building structure and slogan.
This element might seem too complicated to enact at your organization, but corporate branding is vital to all businesses, from small local businesses to massive ecommerce brands.
Emotions play a large role in marketing, and when a consumer relates to your brand’s values, they build an emotional connection with your brand. These emotional connections increase customer loyalty, not to mention profits and word-of-mouth advertising.
Companies with robust corporate branding strategies attract and maintain new customers, increase community interest, and improve overall marketing strategy.
Companies with strong brand affiliation offer a 31% higher shareholder return than their contemporaries.
In addition to increasing shareholder return, corporate branding fosters employee engagement and encourages 3x faster profit growth than an organization without a strong branding strategy.
While this might feel unattainable to small businesses without huge marketing budgets, the truth is, your organization can increase growth through a strong corporate branding strategy.
Here are five ways corporate branding can change how your potential consumers view your brand—and drive profits.
Brand personality refers to the personification of your company’s mission. This personality is conveyed through the style, voice, and tone you use in your business’ communication.
Just like we tend to judge people based on first impressions, your brand’s personality impacts how consumers perceive your organization from the start.
When building your brand’s personality, include language and sentiments that ring true to your mission and resonate with prospective customers.
A strong brand personality will help:
Building a strong customer relationship isn’t just good business; it costs less, too. The average company spends five times more to attract new customers rather than focusing on keeping more of the customers they already have.
Like any relationship, the bond between you and your customer needs to be nurtured to grow.
With a corporate branding strategy, interactions with prospective consumers become a comfortable exchange. By including your organization’s voice and mission in all of your content and customer experience, you establish a shared relationship with your customer.
These two strategies can help your further nurture that connection:
The internet is home to roughly 3.17 billion active social media users. The majority of companies are well aware of this statistic and harness an average of five social mediums to connect with those users.
This fact means the average consumer sees hundreds of advertisements daily.
To help your business be heard and seen online, you need to be one of many scrolled-past advertisements—you need to stand out.
Corporate branding can help you share your brand’s story. That story serves as a hook to draw your audience in and make you more than a company, but a community they can relate to.
The Pareto Principle says 80% of revenue originates from 20% of your existing consumer base. That percentage quantifies just how important it is to ensure customers are loyal and return to your business again and again.
After you’ve worked to foster strong customer relationships, you want to ensure those relationships last.
By growing your corporate branding strategy and incorporating it into new mediums and platforms, you ensure your message is reaching and resonating with your current base.
Consider offering a loyalty deal to your most valuable consumers to further build loyalty.
When people feel valued, they are much more likely to purchase from the company providing value. Nearly 60% of loyal customers make more purchases with their preferred companies, so building and establishing trust and loyalty can impact your bottom line.
Building a brand is a long, ongoing process, but there are seven simple steps you can enact today to begin your journey to a memorable brand.
Before wedding yourself to any decisions about your brand, get to know both your ideal customers and direct competitors. You can learn more about the shape of the market by:
Use a tool like Ubersuggest to explore what your competitors are doing. Look at the colors, phrasing, and images they use to connect with their audience and consider if similar branding aligns with your mission. (Just make sure your branding is original!)
A mission statement is a summary of your company’s goals and values. Your mission is the driving force behind your brand and is vital to align your audience with your business.
When creating your mission statement, ask these questions:
Use the answers to craft a statement that outlines who your audience is, what your brand contributes, and what makes your product or service different.
Brand personality helps customers connect with your brand and build customer confidence. When choosing what you want to embody, use these questions to get started:
After you’ve established a value proposition, use it to create a positioning statement that clearly outlines your target market and how you want your brand to be perceived.
A slogan is a short, catchy phrase associated with your organization that shares your product or service’s driving benefit. Ideally, your slogan should become completely synonymous with your brand, like McDonald’s “I’m lovin it!” jingle.
However, creating a catchy slogan can be challenging—you have a lot to say in very few words. Here are six tips to help you create a catchy slogan that encapsulates your brand’s essence.
Colors and typography guide how your audience views your brand, so you want to make sure you choose the right one. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing your brand’s colors:
Your logo is the face of your company, so it should represent your brand’s personality and be memorable enough to be recognized anywhere.
The good news is, you don’t have to drop thousands of dollars; there are plenty of free tools to help you create a professional logo.
As you design your logo, ask yourself these questions:
You’ve spent a lot of time and effort identifying your target consumers, developing your story and personality, and determining the right font and colors for your brand.
It’s time to put all of those pieces together and deploy your corporate branding strategy. Keep in mind a corporate brand should be incorporated everywhere.
Don’t forget to include your branding strategy in your:
Using your corporate brand everywhere your customers interact with your brand ensures consistency, which builds trust and increases engagement.
As you craft your corporate brand, keep your customer and your mission statement at the center to ensure your branding resonates and connects with your ideal customer.
What is the most effective corporate branding strategy you’ve used?
The post How Corporate Branding Translates Into Actual Sales appeared first on Neil Patel.
Not sure what a 302 redirect is or when to use them? Are you curious about the impact on your SEO efforts?
I’ve got good news: 302 redirects are actually pretty simple. At its core, a 302 redirect is a way to tell search engines and users that a page has moved temporarily and to direct them to a new page for a short period.
Simple enough, right?
The problem is using the wrong redirect can significantly impact SEO and user experience. This is why getting the redirect right is crucial to your overall digital marketing strategy.
So what’s the difference between the types of redirects, and when should you use a 302? Here’s what you need to know.
A 302 redirect is an HTTP response status code that tells search engines a page has moved, but only temporarily. It then directs users (and search engines) to the new, temporary page.
A 301 redirect is a server-side HTTP response status code that tells users and search engines a page has permanently moved, and it won’t be coming back.
For users, there’s little difference between the two types of redirects. They get sent to a new (hopefully more useful) page regardless of the redirect type.
The core difference between a 302 redirect and a 301 redirect is the amount of time the redirect is in place, but a 302 also leaves something important behind: link equity and page rank.
When you use a 302 redirect, the original page usually maintains its Google ranking, so it shouldn’t impact your SEO efforts. However, a 301 redirect causes the original page to lose ranking and can cause it to be deindexed by search engines.
According to Google, the main reasons to use a 301 (permanent) redirect are:
You might also use a 301 redirect when switching from HTTP to HTTPS or when you merge two related pages. Any time you move a page and have no intentions of bringing it back, use a 301.
When you use a 301 redirect, the original page is no longer considered by Google, which is the main reason you want to ensure you use the correct type of redirect.
Say you’ve spent years establishing a pillar content page to rank for a key term in your industry. You decide to take the page down for a few days to redesign and update the page. If you use a 301 redirect, Google thinks the page is gone forever and removes the page from indexing.
Use a 302 and Google knows the page is coming back.
The type of redirect you use severely impacts your SEO, so make sure you always use the correct type for the situation.
So, what are the exact benefits of using a 302 redirect? Not all redirects are created equal, and using the wrong redirect can have a severe impact on your site’s SEO, as we’ve already covered.
Remember, a 301 redirect is permanent. You are telling Google and users that the page is gone and will never return. If the change is not permanent, you’ll want to use a 302 redirect.
Here are a few benefits of using a 302 over a 301 redirect.
Few things are more frustrating than clicking on a link and not finding the content you expect. It’s enough to send most users back to the search results (and to a competitor).
A 302 redirect makes sure users and search engines always find the content they are looking for. For example, if a product is temporarily out of stock, you might use a 302 redirect to send customers to a related product page or a page letting them know when the product is likely to be back in stock. You might also use a 302 to send users to related content while you redesign a pillar content page.
Unlike 301 pages, 302 redirects are temporary, which means you can switch back at any time. This provides a lot of flexibility for site owners. For example, you could temporarily send site users to a related page while you redesign a landing page.
Because the switch is temporary, Google won’t remove the page from search results or otherwise devalue the page in its ranking.
A 302 redirect tells Google (and all other search engines) that the move is temporary and preserves the page’s ranking and link equity. As a result, implementing the redirect shouldn’t impact your SEO. That means all your hard work won’t be in vain!
When the page no longer needs to be redirected, simply remove the redirect, and your SEO shouldn’t be affected.
Creating a 301 redirect requires access to your server, which means most digital marketers and site owners have to enlist the help of a developer to implement a 301 redirect. 302 redirects, however, can be created relatively easily using meta tags or a WordPress plugin. That means you can quickly implement them and easily take them down.
Note: Do not use 302 redirects when permanently moving a page just because they are easier. If a page move is permanent, always use a 301 redirect. Depending on your site, 301 redirects might be easy enough to create. If you aren’t sure where to start, head to your host’s knowledge base or look for a WordPress plugin.
Remember, the core difference between 301 and 302 redirects is the permanency of the move. If you are moving a page for a short time, you’ll want to use a 302 redirect to preserve the original page’s integrity (and ranking).
Let’s look at a few examples of when you’d want to use a 302.
A 302 redirect makes no practical difference for users. They still get sent to the new page regardless. For search engines, however, the temporary nature of the switch is crucial.
Essentially, you are telling search engines, “Hey, don’t worry about this page right now; the other page will be back soon.”
If you are confident the move is temporary, 302 is the way to go. For example, you might move a page temporarily because:
Another reason to use a temporary redirect is when a page (or website) is under development. Extensive redesigns might require taking your site offline, which can be frustrating for users and confusing for search engines.
Rather than leaving users hanging, a temporary redirect lets them know the page or site will be back very soon.
In this situation, you might send users to an email sign-up page or to offer a countdown clock so they know when the site will be back. Here’s an example of a countdown page from Themeforest with a countdown clock:
The page also offers links to social media accounts to help build a social media presence.
You might also use a 302 redirect when a page is broken or inactive. You don’t want users to land on a blank page (or get a 404 error), so a temporary redirect may be the way to go. Remember, only use a 302 if you plan to bring the page back.
For example, the content might be inactive because you run a semi-annual sign-up period for a membership site or you have a landing page for a recurring webinar that’s currently unavailable. A 302 should ensure the site maintains its SEO ranking and is ready to go when you want to reactivate the page.
Think about the last time you tried to order an item online, only to find out the product was no longer in stock. You were so close to having that item in your hands, only to find out it’s gone, and you have no idea when it might be available again.
It’s frustrating, and you’re likely to head to a competitor to complete your purchase. This is why stockouts (when a product is out of stock or unavailable) can hurt overall revenue and impact brand trust.
The reality is, items will sometimes go out of stock. It’s just part of doing business. A manufacturer might run out, or the supply chain might otherwise be impacted by something out of your control.
While you might not always be able to control stockouts, you can use redirects to preserve user experience. For example, you might use a 302 redirect to send users to a waitlist page, like this one:
You could also send users to a related product (just be sure to let them know!). When the product is back in stock, you can reactivate the original page and preserve all that SEO you worked so hard for.
Whether you are in e-commerce, the service industry, or run a local business, A/B testing is crucial to your bottom line. A/B testing allows you to test two different versions of the same page to see which version drives conversions, sales, or any other behavior you want users to take.
For example, I used A/B testing to figure out which CTAs to use in the sidebar of my website.
It turns out, the orange button converted much better than other colors.
Here’s another example of the power of A/B testing: WallMonkeys, a company offering wall decals and murals, increased conversions by 550% by using A/B testing to figure out what site users were more likely to respond to.
So where do 302 redirects come into play?
Well, you don’t want to permanently redirect your page because you might find out the original page was the best! Instead, use a 302 redirect to temporarily send a portion of your users to the adjusted page without losing your ranking. When the test is over, you can remove the redirect and go right back to normal.
If you are struggling with A/B testing, check out this guide for creating a winning A/B testing strategy.
If you aren’t already offering a mobile-friendly website, it is past time to do so. Seriously. Google moved to mobile-first indexing in the summer of 2019.
Your site should already work well on both mobile and desktop, but there are some reasons why you might still have a mobile version of a website.
For example, a banking app might offer a streamlined version of their website for mobile users, or they might find most mobile users are looking for a branch location. A 302 can send those users to the most useful page. You might also use a streamlined navigation bar for mobile and allow desktop users to access the complete version.
In both cases, a 302 redirect ensures every user lands on the site most useful to them.
Redirects can get confusing: 301s, 302s, plus 404 errors for when pages are broken.
Navigating these can be a pain if you are not a developer or a technical SEO expert. Hopefully, I’ve helped you better understand when and why you’d want to use 302 redirects on your site.
Here’s the TL;DR version: 302 redirects are temporary and generally preserve the SEO of the original page. 301 pages are permanent and tell search engines to disregard the old page in favor of the new page.
Now that you understand the difference, make sure to implement the right one on your site.
Have you used a temporary redirect before? What challenges did you face?
When Instagram launched in 2010 with its visually-focused platform, it disrupted the social media scene. So big was its success that it sparked a whole movement in photo styling.
Instagram has since added video, but its focus has always been one-off visual experiences that are shareable but sometimes leave marketers trying to figure out how to provide context.
The answer has typically been super-long captions, stories, or creative posts that make up a series. Still, Instagram was never really the place for long-form content.
Fast forward ten years and Instagram is finally getting into the long-form content game.
Instagram introduced Guides as “a way to more easily discover recommendations, tips and other content from your favorite creators, public figures, organizations and publishers on Instagram.”
The scrollable lists provide text and visuals that come together in a listicle. You can either use new, saved, or older posts to deliver helpful how-tos on almost any topic.
It’s one more opportunity to put your brand forward as a subject matter expert and influencer in Instagram’s space by engaging its users with more in-depth content directly on the platform.
Instagram Guides are a new tool for content discovery. They’re a string of consecutive Instagram posts curated to share helpful information with your audience. Each post within the guide links to a traditional Instagram post or a product page where you can purchase what you see.
Here is an Instagram guide my agency, NP Digital, created to promote mental and physical well-being while everyone works from home. It starts with a cover image that includes a title and a brief description.
As you scroll down, you find six posts put together to provide tips on taking breaks during work, communicating with coworkers, and maintaining a routine, among other tips.
Each tip is clickable and leads your users to the original Instagram post.
Six months later, Instagram opened up Guides to all users and expanded it to other topicsrolled up into three different types of guides: Products, Places, and Posts. In particular, they’ve focused on travel and shopping, linking Product Guides directly to shops on Instagram.
Now that Instagram has expanded its guides, there are all kinds of content possibilities to promote your brand. Home improvement brands could create repair and renovation guides. Cosmetics brands might have step-by-step guides for different makeup looks, and cooking brands can include recipes in their guides.
The possibilities are endless.
As we mentioned, you can create three kinds of guides on Instagram right now: Posts, Places, and Products. You’ll know which one you’re looking at by checking the lower-left corner of the guide.
A post lets you curate past and saved posts. It’s the most flexible in terms of the kinds of content you can include.
Nordiska Kӧk is a maker of bespoke countertops imported from Sweden. This brand’s Instagram guides offer tips on choosing and caring for a counter.
Notice how each guide tells you exactly what it is (a post, product, or place Guide) and how many Instagram posts you’ll find in each one, right above the title.
Product Guides link directly to Instagram Shopping, allowing users to buy from your guides.
Stuck in the Book, a book blog run out of Manchester, England, created these guides.
Two of the guides in the example above are Product Guides. If you click on any of the products in these guides, you’ll be directed to a page where you can buy the books.
Finally, Places Guides focus on travel. Users can build guides for travel tips or recommendations.
Brands have a lot of room for creativity within these categories. They let marketers tell a story around products, repurpose older posts into new content, or add context to new posts.
With Instagram Guides, brands can build long-form content for the first time on Instagram. There are many excellent reasons you might want to do that.
Longer-form, scrollable guides keep users on your content longer, allowing them to get to know your brand and your products. They won’t have to click away to another site for more information, as they would with regular Instagram posts.
Because Instagram is now offering longer-form content, it also updated its search functionality. Users can search for content by keyword, which will surface Instagram Guides. That means content discovery just got a whole lot easier on Instagram. Users no longer have to know your brand name or search by hashtag.
Now that users can find you using keywords, you can create guides that target your brands’ new audiences. Guides also help you put your brand forward as a subject matter expert in your vertical. By creating content that addresses micro-moments, you can focus on the solutions people are searching for, even outside your target audience.
This feature is yet another opportunity to build loyalty through useful, trustworthy content. Tips, tricks, step-by-step instructions, and any content that would be valuable to your target audience will keep them coming back for more.
You can foster loyalty even further by offering the first crack at content or product deals through your guides or by announcing new guides through a newsletter.
Product Guides let users shop directly from Instagram, shortening the buyer’s journey. Users can see product descriptions and prices, as well as more products from your shop.
Guides are shareable in stories and through direct messages. If your audience likes your guides, they can spread the word.
Much like you would share articles on LinkedIn, sharing guides from other users on Instagram shows your expertise in your vertical, and makes it more likely your guides will be also viewed and shared.
Guides give you another format to explore with influencer partnerships. Work with influencers in your space to create guides that include your products or services.
To create a guide, click on the little plus sign like you would for a regular post, video, or live content. In the dropdown menu, choose Guides.
From here, you’ll be able to choose between the three kinds of content:
Once you choose your content format, place your images, posts, and links. Keep in mind that this is Instagram, so images and content should be formatted for mobile.
Rachel Waldorf is a lifestyle content creator out of Seattle. She uses Instagram Guides to create gift guides featuring Seattle-based businesses.
To access her (or any) guides, go to the main Instagram page and look for the Guides icon.
That will lead you to the Guides page.
From here, you can browse and click on Guides to view their content. Waldorf has created Places and Product Guides for her followers.
In the Product Guides, you can click on her featured products and shop them from the website or directly from Instagram Shopping.
As I mentioned, scrolling down from here shows users related products so they can keep shopping.
You can also share, embed, or copy links to guides by clicking on the icons in the top right.
Because this is still a new feature, not everyone has set up Instagram Guides just yet. As time goes on and marketers discover how valuable this tool can be, you might begin to see them more and more.
For now, you can check on your favorite Instagram accounts or find them through the Instagram Explore page.
Instagram Guides are another great tool for a brand’s marketing arsenal to build their following and increase conversions.
The new long-form format allows marketers to provide valuable content to their target audiences and reach new audiences at the same time.
You can even use them to deliver shopping opportunities directly to your users through Instagram Shopping.
How are you going to use Instagram Guides in your marketing?
On the hunt for a Google+ (also called Google Plus and G+) alternative? It may be easier than you think!
Since the social media platform closed its doors in 2019, consumers have been looking for another option to match the features, traffic, and SEO benefits.
Luckily, there are several replacements you can use.
Here are the best Google Plus alternatives and how you can use them to grow your business online.
Google Plus was Google’s fourth attempt at building a social media network. Its predecessors included Google Buzz, Google Friend Connect, and Orkut.
For years, you had to have a Google Plus account to use features like Google Photos, Hangouts, and YouTube. So, most consumers created Google Plus accounts to use these other apps—not the social media platform.
Then a data breach happened. Google discovered a glitch that allowed third-party apps to access the private information of 500,000 Google Plus users.
So, when Google announced its decision to start phasing out Google Plus due to low usage in 2018, it made sense.
There is no one-size-fits-all replacement for Google Plus.
Depending on your business and where your key audience hangs out, you might choose to use one or all of the platforms listed below, which may help you recover some Google Plus features.
Google My Business (GMB) is a snippet of information about your business’ operating information, reviews, and so much more. Getting on GMBcan help you appear as a business profile and on Google Maps, both on desktop and mobile, when users search for brands like yours.
Business Profiles on Google Search look like this:
Business Profiles on Google Maps look like this:
Business Profiles on mobile searches look like this:
While all this information is likely on your website, GMB helps you index the content and share it with a broader audience.
The result? A potential boost in search result rankings, revenue, and valuable insights about your customers.
Google My Business is more than an online local business directory. It comes with “social” features, making it a suitable replacement for Google Plus.
People can tap the “+ Follow” button under your listing on their mobile devices and receive updates from your business. You can use the feature to send out a special “Welcome Offer” when someone opts in to help incentivize people to shop at your store.
Lastly, Google My Business comes with interactive features like reviews and a Q&A section. With 91% of younger customers using online reviews to make purchasing decisions, engaging and monitoring brand sentiment can help you build a stronger “know, like, and trust factor” with your audience.
Facebook is the largest social media network in the world. On average, 1.82 billion people log into the site every day, and it boasts a whopping 2.7 billion monthly active users.
While the platform started to keep in contact with friends and family, it’s morphed into a powerful and lucrative business tool.
Building an online community that loves your brand is one of the keys to success.
The only problem?
Starting from scratch is a challenge, and it was a problem the Google Plus community solved well.
Fortunately, you can replace it with two Facebook options: Groups and Business Pages.
Over 1.4 billion people use Facebook Groups every month, and the feature comes with a ton of tools to help you provide value to your audience and encourage engagement.
With Facebook Business Pages, you can replace your Google Plus page and get features like reviews, instant messaging and automated replies, special offers, and analytics.
Plus, if you have the budget, you can access these 2 billion people via targeted Facebook Ads.
By now, many of us have created a LinkedIn personal profile to keep up with colleagues, apply for jobs, and promote our brands.
When used correctly, LinkedIn can take things a step further and help you generate leads and establish yourself as an industry thought leader.
One of the best features on Google Plus was circles.
You could create different ones and then add people to them. It was a way to segment your updates and keep your professional and business lives separate.
LinkedIn helps you keep this balance. You can connect with co-workers, ask for introductions to potential clients, and share content to boost your business or personal brand.
Do you own a visually appealing e-commerce brand?
Then it’s time to tap into the power of Pinterest.
While Google Plus was good for sharing updates and creating a community, it didn’t have a way for you to boost sales.
Pinterest, on the other hand, has exploded its e-commerce capabilities.
First rolling out buyable pins and then promoted pins, the platform encourages users to take action on their feeds’ inspirational content.
However, before you head on over to Pinterest, know the site is not for everyone.
As the site is a visual search engine, your brand needs that element to succeed. If your brand doesn’t appeal to the platform’s niche interests and demographics, it might not be the best Google Plus replacement for you.
Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for relationship building and showing your customers the humanity behind your brand.
This is especially true if you want to target Millennials and Gen Z. 13-17-year-olds are the largest demographic on the app, followed by 18-20-year-olds and 30-49-year-olds.
Google Plus could upload photos, multi-person instant messaging, text and video calls, and location tagging. Instagram has all that and then some.
While savvy coaches and entrepreneurs use the app to sell in the DMs, Instagram has released more shoppable features and ads since being acquired by Facebook.
For e-commerce brands, it’s a potential gold mine.
Still not convinced these social media platforms can benefit your business?
Here are some of the ways these Google Plus alternatives can help grow your audience and boost sales:
Using one or more social media networks to replace Google Plus will help you spread the word about your business.
The more you show up online, the more you expose people to your brand, and the more people will remember who you are and buy your products or services.
Content marketing is king. It’s a free way for you to get in front of your ideal customer, solve a problem, and get them onto your website.
Using your social media platforms to promote your latest blog post or YouTube video may increase the number of eyeballs on your products or services and lead to more sales.
With platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest offering in-depth analytic reports, you can deep dive into what is resonating with your audience.
You can also use features like polls to survey your followers and find out what products or services you should release next.
People expect businesses to handle their customer service questions and complaints through social media quickly.
Using apps like Facebook, you can solve complaints ASAP, avoid sales from falling through the cracks, and build meaningful relationships with your customers.
As you can see, there is no duplicate for Google Plus. Each of the networks we have looked at is similar but doesn’t offer the same features.
When it comes to finding a suitable Google Plus alternative, what features are most important to you?
The post 5 Alternatives to Google Plus for Your Local Business appeared first on Neil Patel.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Starting an employee retirement plan is not too hard or expensive, even for small businesses.
Plus, these programs offer tax advantages to both the employees and the company, which leave more money in everyone’s account.
Offering such benefits is a great way to attract qualified candidates and gives your top talent a huge reason to stay.
The sooner you start the better.
First, I’ll walk you through the different types of employee retirement plans available. There are more than just 401(k) plans helping people save for post-career life, including some types that are specifically made for small businesses.
Then we’ll take a look at what to consider as you decide on which provider you want to manage your employee retirement plan.
There’s a little bit to know, sure, but a lot to be gained.
For almost everyone, retirement is the largest expense of their lifetime. By offering a plan to help them save, employers provide a much needed sense of security to employees thinking about their family’s future.
Keep reading to start getting better candidates, happier employees, and serious tax-breaks every year.
In terms of picking an appropriate type of employee retirement plan, employers need to pay attention to a few important details.
For all the tax law and government regulations involved, the choice comes down to the basic structure of each plan, which doesn’t take an MBA to understand.
Plus, after partnering with a good coverage provider, you’ll have someone to help you close gaps in knowledge, forecast what each plan will realize in the years to come, and steer you toward a more appropriate plan if it’s not the right fit.
Let’s dig in.
Qualified employee retirement plans—that is, those that have tax advantages—fall in two major categories, only one of which is used widely today:
The amount that employees contribute, the company contributes, and how that money is taxed varies from plan to plan. Companies have some flexibility in how they enact each plan, but many of the basic rules and limits are set by the federal government.
Important note: Plans have different limits for how much employees and employers can contribute each year. These limits change periodically because the government adjusts for cost-of-living increases. The IRS provides current limitations on benefits contribution limits for every type of employee retirement plan limits for benefits and contributions maintained by the IRS.
It’s really important to understand the essential rules of each plan and how it will help people save over the long term.
Let’s go through the most widely-used types of defined contribution plan, how they are different, and which sorts of companies use them. The ones I’m going to cover are:
There are some types of employee retirement plan options that I haven’t covered here, but these are the most common plans available.
A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings account. Employees contribute a portion of their salary to the account, which may or may not be matched by the employer.
Contributions are pre-tax, which means they are not taxed until the employee withdraws funds from the 401(k), typically after they retire. The amount that employees contribute also reduces their taxable income each year.
The money in a 401(k) grows tax-deferred (as in not taxed until retirement) and sets an employee’s retirement savings on autopilot. A little bit of the gross of each paycheck goes straight into their nest egg each month.
Companies may choose to match the employee contributions, but it doesn’t have to be a 100% match. It is usually based on a formula they set. An example of a common matching formula is an employer who matches 50% of contributions up to 6% of salary.
Matching contributions are tax-deductible, so a 401(k) can be part of a company’s tax strategy, helping both employer and employee save more for the future.
It gets even better.
Thanks to new legislation in 2019, the tax credit for businesses starting a 401(k) is now as much as $5,000 and no less than $500 per year for three years, with an additional $500 for setting up autoenrollment. The credit can go towards setup and administrative costs.
There is a lot more paperwork necessary to get a 401(k) started than with other plans, so this tax credit can help smooth the transition and get everything set up properly. Once it’s established, 401(k) plans let employees contribute a lot more money each year than other types of plans.
Investment options for a 401(k) are determined by the plan the company chooses. Employees may get some say in where they invest the money, though they will most often be choosing from a limited portfolio of options.
Withdrawing funds early (before age 59½) will result in a 10% penalty on top of the taxes owed. There are exceptions to this rule, though, for workers over 55, which allows them to avoid the penalty for early withdrawals. This only includes the 401(k) of the job they leave, not retirement plans with other former companies.
There are also special rules for people who have an “immediate and heavy financial need.” This is known as a hardship distribution and means people can use money from their 401(k) without penalty for things like necessary medical treatment or to avoid foreclosure and eviction.
There are two common variations of the 401(k) available to specific types of workers:
With the exception of a few special rules, these plans are identical to the 401(k)
Employers may choose to sponsor a Roth 401(k), which is virtually identical to a traditional 401(k) except that contributions are made after-tax.
This is an important change that has pros and cons.
Employees are not able to deduct contributions from their taxes, so they’re not decreasing their tax burden as they save, which is a benefit of a traditional 401(k).
On the flipside, with a Roth 401(k) they get to withdraw both their contributions and earnings tax-free once they reach retirement.
Another nice perk is that you can make withdrawals tax free once the plan has been established for five years. You would still have to pay taxes on earnings for an early withdrawal, but not the money you have already paid taxes on.
So that’s the tradeoff. With a Roth 401(k) you pay taxes now, but when you retire, all of the savings and earnings are yours without a haircut from Uncle Sam..
This could work very well for a young employee who thinks they are going to earn more later in life. They pay taxes on income now and avoid paying when they’re in a higher bracket.
It’s not the best for everyone, though, as senior employees may not want to pay taxes at their current bracket. For them, it’s likely better to pay upon retirement and take the deductions now.
Some companies may choose to offer both a Roth and traditional 401(k), allowing employees to choose how best to save for retirement.
A simplified employee pension (SEP) is a type of individual retirement account (IRA) offered by an employer.
It’s a lot less complex to manage than a 401(k), which makes it ideal for smaller businesses and people who are self-employed.
Only employers contribute to the SEP and these contributions are tax-deductible. The money is held in an IRA in the employee’s name and grows tax-deferred.
The contribution limits are much higher for a SEP than for a personal IRA, allowing people to set aside a lot more money than they could otherwise. There are also fewer rules about income limits, which make it good for high earners.
SEP plans are nice because of their flexibility. Companies have to contribute the same percentage to all eligible employees each year, but that percentage can change.
During a good year, for example, an employer may choose to max out contributions, whereas they might not contribute anything if the business is strapped for cash.
Because these plans are easier to manage and they let businesses contribute flexible amounts each year, SEP plans are great for smaller businesses that want to grow and help their employees save at the same time.
A SIMPLE IRA is an employee retirement plan for businesses with 100 employees or fewer that doesn’t offer another qualified retirement plan, like a 401(k).
SIMPLE stands for “Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees,” and is appropriately named because the plan requires very little administrative paperwork. It’s really just the initial plan and annual disclosures.
Employees can choose to contribute a portion of their salary to the SIMPLE IRA and employers are required to either:
The low startup costs and administrative burden make it ideal for smaller companies that want the tax advantages of a retirement plan without the legwork that goes into a 401(k).
The downsides to a SIMPLE IRA are the contribution limits—which are less than a 401(k)—and the 25% the penalties for early withdrawal are steep during the first two years.
A payroll deduction IRA allows companies to set up an employee retirement plan without filing anything with the government.
Employers work with a financial institution to make it so employees can automatically divert part of their paycheck to an IRA. The employer can designate one or multiple IRA providers to receive distributions, but they don’t have a say in the investment options.
In this plan employees make all the contributions. There is no matching, but contributions are tax deductible, which can help employees save each year.
A payroll deduction IRA is a low-cost, zero-risk way for a company to encourage their employees to save for retirement.
Profit sharing plans (PSPs) can be set up by employers or with help from a financial institution. Each year, the employer contributes to the plan based on business conditions, effectively sharing profits with employees.
Employers decide how much, if anything, they want to contribute each year.
All of the assets in the plan are held in a trust, which is overseen by a trustee who ensures the integrity of contributions, participants, distributions, and reporting.
Employers have a large degree of freedom in terms of how these plans are structured, but they require more oversight than a SEP plan or SIMPLE IRA. This is true even if an employer is sharing the responsibility with a financial institution.
Profit sharing plans can be set up in addition to other qualified employee retirement plans, like a 401(k). They are a good option for profitable companies that want to help employees save more and decrease their current tax burden.
Once you know which employee retirement plan—or set of plans—makes sense with your goals and resources, it’s time to select a financial institution to help you make it a reality.
Banks, mutual funds, and insurance companies are all appropriate options that can help businesses set up and manage an employee retirement plan.
How do you choose the right one to be your coverage provider?
While institutions offer the same basic set of employee retirement plans, the levels of service they provide are not identical by any means. They have varying degrees of support, charge fees according to their own rules, and offer different kinds of investments.
All of these factors can have a big impact on tax strategy and the health of a retirement fund over time.
Before we look at the top providers for employee retirement plans, I want to highlight the major criteria you can use to evaluate how it will work for your company.
Some of the simpler employee retirement plans are attractive because there is not a lot of administrative overhead. Other plans, like a 401(k) or profit sharing plan, have a lot of moving parts and regulatory requirements.
After the plan is set up, there are a variety of things that have to happen, including:
As you search for different plans, it’s important to understand what the employer is responsible for, what the provider is going to do, and how much all of that is going to cost.
With payroll deduction, SEP and SIMPLE IRA plans, there’s not a ton of administrative paperwork or fees. For those plans, there are likely to be low yearly rates and then other fees depending on how employees invest their money.
With any type of 401(k) plan, on the other hand, there is a lot more paperwork, larger amounts of money at stake, and fees can really impact people’s savings over time.
How these fees break down can be incredibly complex, especially when there are multiple providers servicing the plan.
Fortunately for employers, all covered service providers are required by law to explain how they are compensated in a 408(b)(2) disclosure.
This will show how every party is being paid out of the 401(k), including:
Direct fees are easy to identify, but indirect compensation fees can be more difficult to figure out. This could include revenue sharing, where a financial advisor’s management fee is paid out of investment earnings rather than directly.
This means revenue sharing will show up as a percentage of plan assets rather than a hard dollar amount.
These fees should be explained on the 408(b)(2) in order for employers to make an informed decision, and the government encourages providers to walk employers through all of the fees.
At the end of the day, however, providers can hide fees in ways that can be really challenging to track down, even if you know what you are looking for.
This is why it is so valuable to find a retirement plan provider who is transparent and upfront about fees.
Once you have established a 401(k), you will want to keep a close eye on your 404(a)(5) Participant Fee Disclosure. This will show all of the fees that your plan faces.
Where is all of this money going to go? It’s not just getting parked in a savings account.
Depending on the plan you choose, your employees will have different types of options about where and how their money is invested. Typically, these include:
These options tend to include relatively safe and stable investment opportunities, but may include more aggressive growth funds as well.
With simpler plans, there are usually less options than with a 401(k). Depending on the provider you choose, you may be able to offer a limited portfolio of choices or wide selection of investment options to your employees.
Generally speaking, a wider range of investment options requires more oversight, paperwork, and fees.
Some will offer brokerage windows, which allow employees to self-direct the investment of their retirement funds.
This allows companies to offer a wider range of options and control to their employees without necessarily having to absorb any extra responsibility. Employees will make their own decisions and take their own risks.
This can be really attractive because people may want to save differently, depending on where they are in their career.
It’s a healthy practice to diversify types of investments for retirement to more easily weather shocks to individual slices of the market.
Giving employees more choice is good, but it comes at a cost. You might be surprised at how diverse a portfolio can be created from the relatively narrow options in a plan like Human Interest.
Find an employee retirement plan that integrates with your payroll. I’m talking about seamless, direct integration where your provider is communicating directly with your payroll service. You never have to update information yourself.
A lot of the time you are going to see hands-free or no-touch solutions. That’s only true if it integrates directly with your payroll or HR services.
If not, there’s going to be a lot of data entry and administrative tasks involved with managing a 401(k). It’s worth seriously considering switching to a different payroll service if you can’t find something that integrates with a plan you like.
It could be a huge pain, especially if you are working with a HR service or PEO, but what are the consequences of choosing a plan with less-than-ideal benefits? They could be massive, in the long-term.
Plus, you might wind up having to employ full-time staff to manage payroll functions that could be automated.
Not having payroll integration might be okay for a SEP or SIMPLE IRA, as they don’t have as much administrative overhead.
At the same time, the integration would eliminate dozens of steps to process monthly contributions for every employee. What small business owner wouldn’t want to save a few hours a month making sure the retirement fund is in order?
If everything goes well, the relationship between your business and retirement plan provider is going to last a long time. Over the years, the quality of communication and support you receive are going to have a major impact.
Be aware that you may have to pay extra for the type of support you want.
Human Interest, for example, will provide different levels of customer service depending on the pricing tier. It’s no accident that their different plans are called Essentials, Complete, and Concierge.
With Essentials, employers pay less, but have to do more on their own. Concierge, on the other hand, comes with dedicated account management at a higher price tag.
Another thing to do is read online reviews from current customers to get a sense of how dependable providers are. This can give you a more authentic picture of what to expect than a provider’s marketing material, though you should take reviews with a grain of salt.
Guideline is a 401(k) provider that doesn’t charge any fees on investments and handles all of the administrative paperwork. This makes Guideline both one of the most affordable and one of the easiest ways to start a 401(k) for your employees.
It can help employers set up both traditional and Roth 401(k) plans, with or without matching options. Employers can also create profit sharing plans that work as a year-end contribution to an employee’s 401(k), like a bonus.
The way the pricing works is that Guideline charges a base fee per month, plus $8/month per employee. There is no extra charge for annual reports, government filings, or custodial services.
This flat monthly fee makes the pricing predictable, which is markedly different from most other employee retirement plan options. There’s no complicated revenue sharing or third-party fees eating into people’s savings.
The reason that Guideline is so inexpensive is that they have built software that automates almost every 401(k) administrative task.
Guideline has direct integrations with eight of the best payroll services, like ADP, Gusto QuickBooks, and Square. These sync your payroll and HR data in real time with no work on your part.
Guideline also provides intuitive dashboards for employers and employees, so they can monitor their retirement account and can choose from more than 40 index funds in which they can invest their money.
Alternatively, they can invest in a managed portfolio of stocks and bonds.
Managed portfolios are entirely overseen by Guideline, so there is not a lot of freedom to pick individual investments. They simply pick the risk level—like conservative, moderate, or very aggressive—and they are automatically invested in a range of stocks, bonds, and funds that meet their goals.
This eliminates any work for employees. Portfolios are rebalanced automatically, which ensures that people are always investing in a diverse, risk-tolerant set of assets.
For Guideline, the base fee is $39/month (plus the aforementioned $8/month per employee), which includes all of the administrative fees, live customer support, and employee onboarding.
Guideline Prime has a $99/month base fee with the same per-employee charge, and comes with a dedicated account manager, customizable financial and billing reports, and additional tools for profit sharing plans.
Any company of any size can get started with Guideline today and have an employee retirement plan in place tomorrow.
Human Interest provides a low-cost, hands-off 401(k) solution that works really well for startups and SMBs.
The interface is modern, easy to navigate, and effortless to set up. They can handle all the administrative tasks, including recordkeeping and IRS compliance, while boasting more than 50 payroll integrations.
The major tradeoff with this fully managed provider is the lack of investment options and retirement plans. They only offer 401(k) plans, profit sharing plans, and 403(b) plans for employees of public schools and tax-exempt organizations.
There are more than 30,000 mutual and index funds to choose from, but no other types of investment options.
Larger organizations might find the lack of diversity an issue, but companies that just want to set up a stable, no-frills retirement plan will find Human Interest to be a high-quality option.
The simplicity of the platform keeps costs low and administrative overhead to a minimum.
I recommend it for people who want to put their employee retirement plan on auto-pilot. They can focus on work and the savings will take care of itself in the long run. Low-risk index funds and mutual funds will build wealth over time with no special attention necessary.
It’s particularly effective for people who don’t want to learn about financial markets. Retirement funds are managed entirely by Human Interest, though they do make self-directed options available.
There are three different pricing tiers available, which are based on the level of administrative support:
The Essentials tier offers a phenomenal price for an all-in-one 401(k) solution. Adding eligible employees at $4/month is less than even Guideline, though Human Interest’s monthly base fee is higher.
For small and midsize companies that are trying to grow, Human Interest lets them offer an affordable plan to attract good workers. As they scale that plan, costs remain low and predictable.
With Complete, Human Interest takes over a lot more of the administrative work, including signing and filing all of your IRS documents. Concierge comes with all of that, plus dedicated account management.
You can get started with Human Interest in fifteen minutes, the company says. Think about the difference those fifteen minutes could make fifteen years down the road.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company is one of the largest insurance and financial services groups in the United States and a member of the Fortune 100.
They offer every type of employee retirement plan I’ve talked about and they can administer other types of benefits as well, such as health savings accounts (HSAs).
They also provide a rich selection of investment options, as well, including a wide array of funds, bonds, and stocks.
Employees have a lot of say in how their investments are handled. They can choose a hands-off approach—like professional account management—where employees just sit back and let advisors drive.
These accounts are nice for employees who are not experienced investors, though they should understand how much they are paying for management. Most of these fees will be indirect, but Nationwide prides themselves on explaining all plan fees as clearly as possible.
Nationwide offers other options that give employees more control. At the hands-on end of the spectrum, employees can open up a self-directed brokerage account and invest in virtually any publicly-traded mutual fund, exchange-traded fund (ETF), bond or stock.
I like it for large organizations because of the wide array of plan and investment options. Large organizations need to be able to offer employee retirement plans that suit workers of all ages and abilities.
Rank and file workers have the freedom to invest how they want, and employers can create special benefits packages for top talent.
Nationwide also supports multiple types of auto enrollment. This can help increase plan participation in a way that makes sense for both the employee and employer.
You’ll have to get in touch with Nationwide for pricing. Because they already service more than 2.5 million participants and $141 billion in retirement assets, you can be confident that they will help your company grow its savings as well.
Vanguard is one of the world’s largest investment companies. They offer virtually every type of employee retirement plan available and give people a huge range of investments to choose from.
I recommend Vanguard for businesses that qualify for a SIMPLE IRA and want to set one up. This includes self-employed individuals, small business owners, and businesses with less than 100 people that don’t have another qualified retirement plan.
Vanguard doesn’t charge you anything to set up an account. There is a $25 annual fee for each fund in the SIMPLE IRA, but no additional costs beyond that.
And, once you have $50,000 of qualifying assets in your Vanguard fund, the $25 fees are waived. The annual fee then shifts to 0.30% of the total assets managed.
When it comes to administrative support, there’s not much to worry about with a SIMPLE IRA. There are no reporting requirements for the IRS, although there are certain employee notifications required.
In the event that something goes wrong, however, Vanguard has a stellar reputation for customer service and investor support.
Another reason to choose Vanguard is the wealth of investment options. This is true for companies that want to set up a 401(k), SEP, or other retirement plan, not just a SIMPLE IRA.
Employees using Vanguard for retirement may invest in more than 100 different mutual funds. This includes some of Vanguard’s index funds, which have generated incredibly consistent returns for investors year after year.
The sooner you begin an employee retirement plan the sooner everyone can start saving. It provides employees with an unrivaled sense of security and helps them keep a long-term perspective when the day-to-day gets tough.
Both Guideline and Human Interest are going to work for self-employed individuals, small business owners, and midsize businesses.
Guideline has the more diverse investment options, and a lower base fee each month. Human interest has the ability to support 403(b) plans in addition to 401(k), and may come at a lower monthly cost per employee.
For larger organizations, or smaller organizations that want to start a different type of retirement plan than a 401(k), Nationwide and Vanguard offer a wide range of options.
Nationwide is my top pick for organizations because of the deep range of investment opportunities. Individual employees save on their own terms, and employers can build out plans that help them make the most of every dollar.
While Vanguard has the resources to help any company save for the future, I wanted to call out their SIMPLE IRA because it is such a good deal for qualified small businesses. If the 401(k) is too daunting, a SIMPLE IRA with Vanguard is just the plan to start saving.