Higher Ed: Understanding Digital Marketing’s Role in the Admissions Funnel

An institution’s mission is to educate students. By extension, its relevance is dependent upon the quality and quantity of enrolled students. Without students, you cease to exist.

If you’re charged with marketing your college or university, you carry a position of great responsibility. You’ve been asked to be a caretaker of sorts. Your mission is to steward your school into a position of added prestige and reputation. You can affect both enrollment and endowment.

Education is a business. Without treating it as such, one risks becoming a footnote in the annals of Higher Ed history. Understanding the admissions funnel is step one in ensuring you’re remembered as having been a worthy steward for your school.

Understanding the Higher Ed Admissions Funnel

While the admissions funnel shares certain similarities to a typical sales funnel, there are distinct differences. Understanding those differences can be key to your success.

The admissions funnel is deeper and more involved than the normal sales funnel. More levels require a longer time duration and greater deliberation. It could be a year or two from the moment your candidate enters the admissions funnel until they eventually enroll. A protracted process means more opportunity to abandon the process.

The better you understand the admissions funnel, the easier it is to use it to your advantage.

The Opening: Attracting Prospective Students

When marketing to the prospective student, content and the delivery of said content is of paramount importance. Methods include the more traditional (education fairs and school visits) as well as digital advertising (PPC, Social Media, etc.). And one cannot emphasize enough the importance of sound SEO practices for Higher Ed.

Prospective students break down into two sub-sets, those who already have a familiarity with your institution as well as those who may not have previously known who you are. The approach is similar for targeting both.

Use videos, photos and interesting copy. Prospective students respect and trust content provided by their peers. Emphasize content provided by your current students. Your goal is to get a prospective student to request more information. That’s the next step in the sales funnel.

The Inquiry

When we discuss those who inquire into additional information, the numbers drop precipitously. But that’s OK. The good news is, the remaining prospects represent significant opportunity. They’re still considering a few schools and their pain point tends to be simple. Generally, they want to know at which school they best fit in.

Appeal to this group through both traditional means (personal calls from students, events and printed materials) as well as through social media and PPC campaigns.

PPC remarketing campaigns can be a great way to keep your brand in the minds of prospective students. In short, remarketing ads are the google ads that follow you after you visit a website. It targets those who have expressed some level of interest already.

The objective here is to steer the student into the application process.

Getting the Application

Anyone who starts the application process is already highly engaged. At this juncture, the personal touch can be most effective. Events are great. There is nothing more effective than a face to face meeting.

It’s also a good time for email marketing campaigns. Emphasize personalized emails from admissions counselors or administrators.

Some will recommend personalized phone calls. Personal experience tells me otherwise.  When my children were looking for a school to attend, they never answered the phone. Texting is the preferred method of communication for this generation. They avoid the phone like the plague.

Attention & Intention Mean Retention

The final group you need to appeal to are those who have been accepted and/or have confirmed their intention to attend. This group may include individuals who have been accepted at several schools. They may be still deciding or waiting to find out which school will provide the most financial aid.

While not all will eventually enroll, this is the time to welcome them into the “family”. The more personal your communication, the better. If this student interacts with other accepted students through social media, odds of retention increase considerably.

Consider sending branded items such as tee shirts or coffee mugs.

Avoiding Summer Melt

While it may seem unethical, some students will place deposits down with more than one institution. Others will lose interest while awaiting financial aid. Some will simply be overwhelmed with the process of finishing paperwork and buying books.

In fact, a recent study suggests that between 10% and 40% of students will “melt away” between the time of their acceptance and the first day of classes.

Engagement from here must be genuine and personal. Consider holding webinars with instructors who can help individuals get to the finish line. Administrators can send personalized emails offering assistance and answering frequent questions. Bottom line: Keep it as personal as possible.

How Beacon Can Help

Recently recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country, Beacon has been helping colleges and universities with admissions marketing for more than 20 years. Together we can develop and implement a digital marketing plan to address your specific objectives. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

Kent Dickinson
Kent Dickinson joined Beacon as an Account Executive in May 2017. Kent is a veteran sales executive with more than 25 years of experience in business development, strategic planning, operations, and sales management. He has worked in a variety of industries including digital printing, book publishing, educational textbooks, direct marketing, consulting, and financial services. Kent earned a B.S. in Business from Wake Forest University, and his MBA from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Kent is an avid college sports fan, an occasional golfer, and bedtime reader. He also enjoys travelling and considers himself an adventurous foody.
By | 2017-08-21T11:10:17+00:00 August 21st, 2017|Digital Marketing|Comments Off on Higher Ed: Understanding Digital Marketing’s Role in the Admissions Funnel

Going Into a Redesign: How Google Analytics Reports Can Help

Would you read The Two Towers before The Fellowship of the Ring? Watch Godfather III before The Godfather? Of course not. You need context to get the most out of any sequel.

The same is true with a website redesign.

With a new redesign, you may hope to accomplish a number of important objectives including:

  • Improving compatibility with mobile devices
  • Updating styling strategy
  • Implementing a new content strategy
  • Providing more nimble page template capabilities

One things is for certain. Your website needs to accomplish its underlying goals at a more successful rate after the re-launch. You need to leverage all the information currently at your disposal including your website’s past performance. Your website’s analytics is a great source for this information. For websites undergoing a redesign, Google Analytics should be required reading.

Google Analytics offers a wealth of data related to website visitor activity. Tracking features beyond GA’s out-of-the-box solution takes that dataset to even greater heights. So, when considering analytics for a redesign, which Google Analytics reports can have the greatest impact?

Here are just a few of the options available:

Audience Device Category

Mobile browsing is quickly increasing its slice of the pie as a large user set compared to desktop and tablet categories. This report gives an indication of the device category trends and the current breakdown of each device category’s session total. While a responsive redesign is most likely already a known part of the strategy, there is more to it. Which device category is (or will soon be) the largest user set? Which device category delivers the best-converting visitors? Answers to questions like those can help determine which device category is favored in the overall design.

Audience Technology

Every website’s software has compatibility parameters, especially with different browsers and browser versions. From this report, the software development team can learn of the most popular browsers and browser versions.

We have had instances where this report greatly influenced technology decisions when designing client websites. For example, in the higher education arena, some institutions use certain browsers and browser versions in their computer labs. Updating those browsers may not be an option, due to various factors with other software. This report is flexible enough to also give an indication of most popular screen resolutions. Knowing this information can help with break point decisions for a responsive design.

Site Content – All Pages

Are you gearing up for a new site hierarchy? This is the type of report that will help inform your decisions. If your website caters to audience subcategories, such as college and university websites, then you will need to incorporate advanced segments and/or secondary dimensions with this report. Ultimately, you want to know which pages are most popular, and with which audiences. From there, you can begin to build recommendations for the website’s header, footer, sidebar(s), call-outs, etc. Site Search

No matter how much the website is updated, some users will always navigate via site search, rather than a hierarchy of links. This report indicates the searched topics that are most common. Perhaps your team has overlooked a few obvious pages that should be accentuated more in the website’s navigation. A review of site search data can prevent these oversights.

Goals / Ecommerce

Using this report combined with the goal data from the above reports will help paint a clear picture of the effectiveness of the current website. Normally, the goal and/or eCommerce analysis will not necessarily result in a perfect conversion strategy for the newly redesigned site. However, you will come away with changes that should be made to the conversion funnel and new ideas on how to make certain goal conversion opportunities more visible for your users. From there, you can determine a set of A/B tests that you wish to conduct once the new site is launched.

Make Your Website Redesign One for the Books

As one of the country’s longest standing Google Analytics partners, Beacon has been providing Google Analytics support for organizations of all kinds large and small. Additionally, our software development team has redesigned hundreds of websites, ranging from online storefronts to Higher Ed. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

Gus Kroustalis
Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s.

Connect with Gus on Google+.

By | 2017-08-08T08:22:09+00:00 June 15th, 2017|Google Analytics|Comments Off on Going Into a Redesign: How Google Analytics Reports Can Help

Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

Universities and Colleges are beginning to realize the true value of SEO for Higher Education. Unfortunately, the SEO landscape is volatile and ever changing. However, there are some best practices which have been fairly consistent over the last couple of years. We believe that these best practices will continue to be relevant throughout 2016 and work to improve online visibility.

Keyword Research and Targeting Specific URLs 

Higher education institutions should embrace keyword research and use it to build relevant pages. These pages should be built around their core programs they offer. To get started first conduct keyword research which will drive content creation. You can start with a free keyword research tool from SEObook. This tool pulls data from Google and Bing’s databases. Simply input the term you want to get information on. This tool returns data on monthly search volumes along with related terms.

Keyword Research for Higher Ed

Next, you want to build an appropriate page around a theme of closely related keywords. These keywords should relate to educational programs your University offers.

For example, upon conducting some research I came across a few Universities who had important content within PDFs. Rather than a dedicated landing page, one University had downloadable PDFs of their courses.

landing page example

 

An alternative would be to build a landing page around this content and include some sort of conversion point. In case you do not know what a micro conversion is it is a small step on the path of a visitor towards your website’s primary goal.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Google admits that 25-30% of the internet is duplicated content. However, we can still take measures to avoid this. To get an idea if your site has duplicate content simply use Siteliner to run a quick diagnostic.

Identify duplicate contentI can see this college has around 10% duplicated content but, the free version this tool will only look at 250 pages. A way to fix this is to write unique copy on key pages and block unnecessary pages from being crawled by search engines with a robots.txt file. The robots.txt is a nifty text file you can create to instruct search engine robots on where and where not to crawl your site.

Get a Grip on Local Visibility 

local search visibility

 

Colleges are not immune from the types of competition businesses face online. As you can see competition is fierce. There are a lot of different options for any prospective student deciding on where to further their education. Local visibility or local SEO has risen in prominence over the last several years. But how can Higher Educational Institutions benefit?

Google has begun to provide more individualized search features. These personalized features are based on a person’s geographic location and search history. You can take advantage of this by:

Local Citation Corrections – Your first job is to make sure your college’s address is easily found on key pages. Then you need to ensure it is listed correctly throughout the web.

local citation reviews

 

Local Content – Once your Higher Ed’s citations are handled it’s time to produce local content. It’s important this content resonates with your audience. Maybe you build a page dedicated to ‘College Life’ and talk about activities around your college’s campus.

Don’t Block Important Resources

Blocking content that is important to searchers within search engines is detrimental. A common way to block important information is with a robots.txt file.

A robots.txt file is a simple file which holds pretty significant power. This file controls how search engines initially crawl a website when they first visit. However as you can imagine it can be pretty easy to block important resources you would otherwise want indexed. To check this simply type your domain name “example.com/robots.txt”. Remember replace “example.com” with your Universities domain name.

robots.txt sample

 

A good rule of thumb is to not block key pages from search engines with a robots.txt file. For example, you would not want to block important categories such as, Admissions, Academics, or Athletics sections.

Keep in mind, if you use Google Site Search as your internal site search, blocking a section with the robots.txt file will also prevent it from showing up properly in your internal search as well.

Higher Educational institutions may not take digital marketing or search engine optimization into consideration. However, no website is immune from the grasps of Google.

Take advantage of digital marketing and SEO to get in front of more prospective students. By conducting keyword research, avoiding duplicate content issues, and gaining more local visibility you can reach a wider more targeted audience.

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-10-09T09:41:04+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

Imagine that you and your staff have spent countless hours creating engaging content for your website, only to discover that much of it has been stolen and repurposed by others – without your consent.

The appearance of duplicate content could adversely affect your website search rankings, making it more difficult for prospective students, alumni and the community to find you. And as we all know, good content rules. So, why let others break them (the rules, that is)?

At Beacon, we’ve seen what unethical practices such as copy scraping can do. Having personally experienced the theft of our content fairly recently, I thought I’d share the steps I took to alert Google to this offense and protect our company from the negative fallout that can follow.

Here are six easy steps for getting back at the thieves who steal copy.

Step 1 – Verify that your suspicions are correct.

Perform a quick Google search to determine where your copy is showing up across the internet. You can randomly select copy from a webpage (copy and paste a few sentences in a Google search box) to run a query. The search results will indicate if your copy appears on another site on the web other than your own.

For example, here are the results from my search.

Scraped Content

The search results will provide you with a list of webpages where that content appears (including your own, of course). As you can see in this example, there is another website using content I wrote without my consent (see the red arrow above).

Step 2– Investigate the extent of the theft

Stolen ContentScraped Content

When investigating the extent of plagiarism, check to see if your content was been copied verbatim. Also, you’ll want to check if this is an isolated event or if the website in question has copied multiple pieces of content. In our example above, you will notice multiple instances of stolen content. It’s time to take action.

Step 3 – Reach out to the website’s administrator

Reach out to the webmaster of the website that stole the copy. If the webmaster’s email contact isn’t readily displayed, check the about or policy sections of their website. The webmaster’s address is often hidden within these pages.

Once you’ve found an email address, notify him that you are aware of the offending activity and request that he remove the stolen content within a defined period of time. A week to ten days is more than enough.

Should the webmaster voluntarily remove the stolen content, your job is done. Have a latte. However, most nefarious webmasters will ignore such warnings and hide behind a perceived veil of anonymity.

Now, the fun begins.

Step 4 – Contact the hosting provider

It’s time to perform a who-is-lookup. This online tool provides you with the webmaster’s identity and more importantly, their website hosting provider. Armed with this new information, I reached out to the hosting provider and let them know that a website they host had blatantly infringed on my intellectual copyrights. I respectfully requested that they take down the website in question.

Step 5 – File a DMCA request

If the hosting provider fails to respond, then it’s time to file a dirty DMCA request. Only take this step once you have exhausted the other options. Also, keep in mind that you need to have the authority to act on behalf of your organization prior to filing this request.

You have the option of drafting your own DMCA takedown request or downloading this DMCA Take Down Notice Template to customize and send to the offending website owner. After you have sent the DMCA notice, give the website a week to ten days to respond. If you don’t hear back within the time you designate in your notice, it’s time to elevate the complaint to Google and get some sort of resolution.

Step 6 – Request Google remove the stolen content

Log into Google Search Console: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice. This will take you to the copyright removal section within Google (see below). Simply follow the instructions and be sure to describe the nature of the work being copied and include URLs where the copyrighted work can be viewed. Also, include the link to the infringing material.

Scraping Site

The DMCA request tends to work pretty quickly so you want to keep an eye on how many pages are currently indexed and compare it over the next few days or weeks. You can double check this by running another search query containing a snippet of your stolen copy. If you were successful in your attempt at protecting your content, you will see that Google has removed pages from its search engine that were infringing upon your copyrights once they complete their investigation.

Monitoring tip: If you would like to check the progress of your request, perform a site search if the offending site and make a note of the number of pages Google has indexed (see below). Compare this number to future searches and you may find the Google now indexes fewer of the website’s pages than before your request. This is a sign that Google may be taking action.

stolen content before after

You’ll know you’ve reached a final resolution when you run a search query and see the following highlighted message displayed:

stolen content example

Good luck and happy hunting!

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

How-To: Robots.txt Disaster Prevention

It’s any SEO‘s worst nightmare. The Production robots file got overwritten with the Test version. Now all your pages have been ‘disallowed’ and are dropping out of the index. And to make it worse, you didn’t notice it immediately, because how would you?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could prevent robots.txt file disasters? Or at least know as soon as something goes awry? Keep reading, you’re about to do just that.

The ‘How’

Our team recently began using Slack. Even if you don’t need a new team communication tool, it is worth having for this purpose. One of Slack’s greatest features is ‘Integrations’. Luckily for us SEOs, there is an RSS integration.

5 Simple Steps for Quick Robots.txt Disaster Remediation:

  1. Take the URL for your robots file and drop it into Page2Rss.
  2. Configure the Slack RSS integration.
  3. Add the Feed URL (from Page2RSS) for your robots file.
  4. Select the channel to which notifications will post. ( I suggest having a channel for each website/client, read more on why later)
  5. Relax and stop worrying about an accidental ‘disallow all’.

The Benefits of this Method

4 Benefits of Using Page2Rss & Slack to Watch Your Robots File:

  1. You can add your teammates to channels, so key people can know when changes occur! One person sets up the feed once, many people get notified.
  2. Page2Rss will check the page at least once a day. This means you’ll never go more than 24 hours with a defunct robots file.
  3. No one on your team has to check clients’ robots files for errors.
  4. You’ll know what day your dev team updated the file. This enables you to add accurate annotations in Google Analytics.

robots damage prevention

The ‘Why’

OK, cool, but why is this necessary? Because you care about your sites’ reputation with search engines, that’s why!

Mistakes happen with websites all the time, and search engines know that. They’re not in the business of destroying websites. But they are in the business of providing the best results to their customers. So if you neglect to fix things like this with a quickness, you’re risking demotion.

I’ve seen sites go weeks with a bad robots file, and it is not pretty. Once search engines have removed your site from the index, it is quite difficult to get back. It can sometimes take weeks to regain the indexation you had prior. Don’t undo hard work put into search engine optimization because your file was overwritten. Do yourself a favor and setup this automated monitoring feature.

I’ve armed you with this info, now there is no excuse for getting de-indexed due to robots.txt issues. If this has happened to someone you know, please share this post with them!

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2017-08-11T16:09:50+00:00 December 1st, 2015|SEO|Comments Off on How-To: Robots.txt Disaster Prevention

How to Properly Handle Pagination for SEO [Free Tool Included]

Let’s start out by defining what I mean by ‘pagination’. This mostly applies to ecommerce sites where there are multiple pages of products in a given category, but it can occasionally be seen on lead-gen sites as well. Here’s an example of what this might look like:

  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=1
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=2
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=3
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=4

(pages 3 & 4 don’t actually exist on this site, but it helps illustrate my example a little bit more)

In this case, you’ve got 4 pages all with the same meta data. It’s likely that search engines are going to index all of the pages listed above, and count the pages with parameters as duplicates of the original first page. You’ve also got a duplicate hazard with /collections/all and/collections/all?page=1. If you’re concerned with search engine optimization and your organic visibility, you’re going to want to keep reading.

Proper Pagination for SEO

So, how do you go about solving this problem? Fortunately, all the major search engines recognize and obey rel= tags; rel=canonical, rel=prev, and rel=next. The canonical tag says “hey, we know this page has the same stuff as this other page, so index our preferred version”. The ‘prev’ and ‘next’ tags say “we know these pages are paginated and have duplicate meta elements, so here’s the page that will come next, and here’s the one the precedes it”. There are HTML tags that go along with each of these that you’ll need to have your dev team add to the <head> section of the pages. Rather than show you what these tags are and how to generate them for each page, I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet that will generate all necessary tags (for paginated categories up to 20 pages in depth), all you need to do is add your base-URL at the top and hit enter. By ‘base-URL’ I mean this: “http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=”, basically it’s the paginated URL without the actual number of the page.

Tag Builder CTA

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2017-08-11T16:08:58+00:00 October 18th, 2015|SEO|Comments Off on How to Properly Handle Pagination for SEO [Free Tool Included]

Should I Use Canonicals or 301 Redirects?

Should you 301 redirect that page to another, or should you use a rel=canonical tag? There are tons of reason why you might have some redundancy on your site. If it’s an eCommerce site, you’re probably displaying product listing pages a few different ways (sort by price, color, rating, etc.), or you might have navigation pages that are similar to your SEO landing pages. Whatever the case may be, chances are pretty good you have some form of duplication on your site that needs addressing.  This topic has been debated for years, but the real answer lies in one simple question:

Should people be able to access both pages in question?

Should I use canonicals or 301 redirects?

If the answer to this questions is Yes, you want to use rel=canonical. Doing so will point search engines towards your preferred page, but won’t prevent people being able to access, read, and interact with both pages. Here are some times you might see the rel=canonical tag in action:

  • www & non-www versions of URLs
  • parameters that change how a product listing page is sorted
  • navigation pages that point to an equivalent SEO landing page (it doesn’t always make sense to put content on a nav page)

If the answer to your question is No, you should remove that page and 301 redirect it. Page removal is much more common among eCommerce sites where products are discontinued but you can’t just remove the page (what if someone is linking to it?!?). Occasionally, you’ll see cases where this needs to be done for SEO landing pages. In the case of large SEO projects, where there are hundreds or thousands of keywords, content can get duplicated easily. Keeping a perfect account of every single SEO landing page that’s been written is basically impossible, so you might end up with two different pages with URLs like this: /blue-widgets and /widgets-that-are-blue. Obviously, even if the content isn’t identical, you can’t keep both of those pages around. Figure out which one has the most authority, links, and traffic – keep that one, and redirect the other one to it.

Next time you come to this fork in the road, remember to ask yourself whether or not there is value in people being able to see both versions.

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2017-08-08T08:42:09+00:00 October 8th, 2015|SEO|Comments Off on Should I Use Canonicals or 301 Redirects?

A Man Wrote Content To Get Clicks…What Google Did Next Will Blow Your Mind

jordan-blog-click-bait

I’m sure by now most of you have seen, clicked, heard about and even hidden clickbait articles from your social feeds, emails and search results. The prevalence of articles that use emotion, sex, animals, quizzes and worst of all, tragedy, to get clicks has prompted search engines and social networks to crack down and even penalize these content providers.

Find Out Which Historical Figure You Are…

Copywriters have been using catchy headlines or intriguing headline copy to draw in audiences from as early as the 19th century. Not coined ‘click-bait’ in the 1800s, newspapers and editors utilized what was called ‘yellow journalism’ to bait readers into buying papers and increasing circulation. Early clickbait came in the form of cartoons featuring the ‘Yellow Kid’ by Joseph Pulitzer’s, New York World, which was winning the read-bait battle against rival owner, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  What is shocking is that these tycoons are remembered today as pioneers and visionaries for taking part in what was back then, yellow journalism. More recent examples include Vinnie Musetto, a former editor at the New York Post who wrote the famous headline “Headless Body In Topless Bar.” He is affectionately called the godfather of click-bait as old New York Post front pages resembled very closely today’s Buzzfeed or UpWorthy, with catchy and cheeky headlines stacked one on top of another. 

What is scarier still, is that in half a century we may look back in the history books at the creators of UpWorthy or Buzzfeed with admiration and as pioneers in the field of online journalism. Imagine journalism students learning the basic s by using the ‘Distractify Principle’ or the ‘Viralnova Theory’ in future classrooms where the Internet has swelled to an-ever bloated capacity that the need to go viral outweighs the need for truth in journalism. All this to say that clickbait is nothing new, but more annoying and distracting as ever when more and more people use social media and news-aggregator sites to stay informed.

Why Does ClickBait Work? You Gotta See This!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines clickbait: “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.” That definition doesn’t seem harmful or convey the emotion most people experience when they see these headlines. Most of us feel guilty within a fraction of a second of clicking one of these articles in our Facebook feed. We get this dirty feeling that we fell prey to some trap that a caveman should instinctively know to avoid. So why do we keep doing it? Why do we click an article to find out which Disney character defines us based on 10 meaningless questions? Why do we go down a YouTube rabbit hole to watch bloopers for every season of every television program on CBS? Why do I read wiki articles and forum articles on Lord of the Rings (nerd flag rising…) until 1:00 a.m. in the morning so I can better understand the difference between the Vanyar, Noldor and Teleri elves? As my wife would say, “Not to get a girlfriend.”

The reason we all fall prey to suggested YouTube clips, Facebook articles shared by your aunt or quizzes that your annoying co-worker sends you are because of something called the ‘curiosity gap.’ The curiosity gap is the principle that articles, headlines or thumbnails show just enough information to get you interested in taking action, but not enough information to help you fully understand what the piece is about. This is why YouTube creators use thumbnails of attractive women that don’t even make a cameo in the video you just clicked. This is the reason you click on an article to find out “Why You Should Never Shop At Grocery Stores Again” or “These 8 Celebrities Had WHAT Job Before They Got Famous?” instead of spending time with your child who is next to you reading “10 Time Justin Bieber Proved He’s The Real Prince Charming.” The curiosity gap helps to show us how we all are becoming compulsive clickers, clicking from one un-informative article to the next without considering the consequences. In a world of abundant and never-ending information at our fingertips, American’s attention spans have dropped from 12 to 8 seconds in just a decade. With the amount of emails and websites read every day, getting a message through to anyone is becoming an impossible task.

This Paragraph Will Change Your Mind About Click Bait In Just One Sentence

jordan-blog-image-thumb-psd

Clickbait is a great quick-win for traffic but a terrible lose-lose strategy for retaining readers/viewers and staying relevant in a saturated Internet. (This was the sentence I was referencing. Not to say the one immediately following this one isn’t bad, but…yeah) Here is the trouble with clickbait; Print and online media’s job is to express, educate, persuade and entertain. Most articles that fall under the definition of clickbait do not complete the job of any of the aforementioned purposes of the media. Sadly, the most interesting thing about the clickbait article is the headline itself. This is why we are beginning to see a revolt against clickbait. Late last year Facebook began cracking down on clickbait by penalizing content sources that don’t hold readers attention. If a reader clicks on an article and within seconds returns to Facebook, this suggest they didn’t find what they wanted and the article is not useful. Facebook realizes the power it has with brands and brand publishers who strive to have relationships with readers/consumers by posting engaging news, photos and articles that get users to click and stay on their website for a lengthy period of time. These brands spend money with Facebook, they advertise within the NewsFeed and these clickbait sites are clouding the message. This is the reason for the options to now hide “posts like these” or “posts from this page” from your own news feed.

This trend isn’t limited to just Facebook. Google has also joined the queue. Google launched a phantom update earlier this year that largely impacted sites that employ how-to content such as HubPages or Answers.com. Some of these sites saw an almost 25% drop in search traffic in one week. The algorithm isn’t only limited to how-to content. Similar sites with thin content targeted by an earlier Panda update also were targeted. This was true for sites with clickbait articles, an abundance supplementary information, pages of stacked videos, and content that was difficult to navigate. These types of updates from Google will keep coming as well. With more and more clickbait articles showing up in Google News, users are complaining by the thousands and Google is responding in ruthless fashion by penalizing whole sites for thin content on even a small percentage of a site’s pages. This begs the need for better written content Internet-wide and a chance to re-evaluate search engine optimization’s role in getting clicks without the bait.

Improve Your SEO Without Clickbait…In 60 Seconds Or Less

(Unless it takes you longer to read. And in that case this anecdote isn’t helping your case) 

Brands, marketers and small business can all write content that will be read, shared and help improve SEO. Even using catchy headlines that peak interest can be effective. The difference between a catchy headline in a well-written article and a clickbait article is the content itself. Some of the most successful blogs that Beacon writes are purely informational. They provide resources, analysis and engaging content that readers use, share and bookmark so they can come back later and consume more. Clickbait articles make you feel hollow inside and even though they get millions of views, don’t keep users on the site for longer than a minute. The likelihood of someone returning to your site again goes up dramatically when you keep them on your page for over 3 minutes. The other key difference is that when we feel cheated by a thinly-written clickbait article is that we don’t share it with others or start a conversation. Most news organization’s sites most-viewed articles concern hard-hitting content about war, race, politics, religion or social issues that can span 3-4 pages. They don’t make for catchy titles but they start a conversation, and in some cases a revolution.

Google and Bing pay attention to good content. Almost every algorithm in the past two years has been focused on content. The content cannot be thin, misleading or irrelevant enough from your title or you will be penalized. When it comes to writing content for your website, blog or social media, focus on creating content that expresses and idea, that educates the masses, persuades the reader to your side or to your products and entertains with quick-wit, wonderful photos and video content. On social outlets be clear with your hyperlinks where you are sending people, make your titles and descriptions enhance the content and see your engagement soar. Don’t write with the intent on stuffing keywords in every sentence, to copy every page and change content slightly to double your exposure or get into black-hat or grey-hat search engine optimization. Write with the passion a journalist does with engaging and informative headings, meaty paragraphs and visuals that do more to reinforce the text than get a click. The end result of well-written, deeply-researched and engaging content is the start of a relationship with a potential consumer. That consumer now has buy-in and will come back for more, will share content to their friends and followers and help increase traffic the right way…Instead of  making illiteracy seem like a preferred option.

Jordan Burleson
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Beacon. He has a B.S. in in Communication (Broadcasting & Advertising) from Appalachian State University. Jordan specializes in search engine optimization strategies, social media marketing and analytics to help businesses drive more online traffic. When out of the office, you can find Jordan running, cycling or scaling a mountain. Along with trolling the internet for the next big thing, he is an avid movie viewer and bibliophile.

Connect with Jordan on Google+

By | 2017-08-08T08:33:00+00:00 August 24th, 2015|Social Media|Comments Off on A Man Wrote Content To Get Clicks…What Google Did Next Will Blow Your Mind

Panda devalues anchor text

 

A little over a year ago, Panda made its debut. The debut was not soon after it was revealed that AOL was prepping to add massive waves of content. A content farm to end all content farms.  Panda put a stop to that.

Another scandal that erupted just prior to the Panda launch was the J.C. Penny paid link fiasco.  The NY Times wrote the headline – The Dirty Little Secrets of Search.

There was speculation as to how Panda may handle that.

 

As a prelude,  the first anchor text action was an end to anchor text boilerplate repetition.  And now the second wave has hit.  An end to exact keyword matching in anchor text.

There were predictions early on and later some indications that exact match anchor text was going to be a casualty.

With Panda 3.3, exact match anchor text no longer carries the weight it once used too.

There was always the knowledge that varying anchor text and using descriptive phrases in the anchor text was a good thing.

Google could detect indications when a growing link profile was unnatural.

In Google patent – Document Scoring Based on Link-Based Criteria :

“[0114] This indication may be strengthened if the growth corresponds to anchor text that is unusually coherent or discordant.  This information can be used to demote the impact of such links.

So ongoing, some techniques to follow with your link strategy:

  • Try to build a natural link profile and avoid using exact match at least initially.
  • Instead of exact match, utilize synonyms and phrases instead
  • Incorporate your brand name along with the anchor text

 

 

 

 

 

By | 2016-11-18T14:46:50+00:00 March 6th, 2012|SEO|3 Comments

Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 10

Well sadly, this is my last blog post at Beacon.  It’s been a great 10 weeks.  I really have enjoyed my time here.  Looking back, I can’t think of anything negative to say about my experience.  I want to take the chance to kind of do a recap of my time here.

When I came in the first day, I will admit that I was pretty nervous.  I hadn’t really had a lot of exposure to the kind of work that Beacon does so well.  I knew what most of the terms were from talking to a friend of mine who has been doing similar work.  However, the WMS team here helped me learn the skills I needed.  Everyone took time to show me how to do certain tasks and helped me with understanding the clients I worked on as well as what needed to be done for each client.  As the weeks have gone by, I have grown more confident in doing SEO work, managing social media campaigns, and working with PPC campaigns.  I know that I still have a lot to learn in these areas, but Beacon has given me a strong foundation on which to build.

I know that people traditionally think of internships as being filled with a lot of grunt work.  Getting coffee, running errands, doing tasks that no one else wants to do themselves.  That is far from the case here at Beacon.  As you can tell if you have been following my blog posts thus far, I have been an equal member of the WMS team.  I have shared the same responsibilities as everyone else.  I’ve done the same tasks for my clients as they did for their clients.  Often times, interns don’t get to offer advice and feedback during meetings as it is intended that they learn by watching.  Again, this is not the case at Beacon.  The WMS team meets weekly to brainstorm ideas for clients as well as share interesting articles or other helpful information and tools.  The leading of the meetings rotates each week and regardless of the fact that I am an intern, I led the meeting twice during my time here.  I also contributed equally with the team as much as possible.  I will admit that I often did sit back and listen during meetings.  I know that I do not have nearly the amount of knowledge or experience in this field, and as such I wanted to try to learn as much as possible when everyone was together sharing ideas.

Looking back, I have gained a lot of valuable experience.  There are several tasks and projects that I was able to work on and contribute to during the 10 weeks.  I can honestly say that anyone who is looking for an internship should consider Beacon.  The atmosphere, company culture, and employees all lend themselves to a great work environment.

Thank you to everyone here!  It’s been a great experience and I have learned a lot from you all.

By | 2017-08-11T16:07:39+00:00 July 22nd, 2011|Beacon News|Comments Off on Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 10
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