We all know that moment where your website has grown to this monstrous collection of pages. That moment when you realize that you have too many pages in your menu and the coherence of your website is nowhere to be found. And we also know what a struggle it is to clean this mess up.

In this article, I’d like to go over some things we would take into account (at least) when changing your site structure. It’s a tough job, and sometimes it takes a lot of rewriting and perhaps even creating new pages, but as it is a job we have postponed way too long already, why not start restructuring today.

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From chaos to order: your menu

The visual structure of your website is, in most cases, presented by the menu of your website. Of course, breadcrumbs and permalinks help a lot here as well, but these are not the things an ordinary visitor will take into account. The menu is. Your menu ideally consists of a limited number of top-level items, to keep the website focused.

How many levels?

In a perfect world, we would place everything in one sublevel at most. Today, many sites use secondary menus to accommodate for additional content. Loads of site-owners can’t help but state that they “can’t squeeze all they have to say in just a few pages.” Please realize there are more ways to get from one page to another and your menu isn’t the only navigational option on your website.

Home and Contact

For the majority of websites, the menu starts with the Home item and ends with the Contact item. We’re used to that, and every time we find a website that lacks either one of them, the menu just doesn’t feel right. Everything between these two items should be related somehow. Either list the main product groups or focus areas of the website.

Relevant menu items

One of the sites we’ve come across recently had three major interest areas: freediving, scuba diving and spearfishing. It is clear that these items have a link between them, and therefore the menu feels natural. If these menu items had been freediving, scuba diving and Dakar Rally, that wouldn’t feel natural, right? Keep things on-topic. If you have a diving website and want to write about your Dakar experience, I’m sure you can squeeze in a blog post or link to a specialized, optimized site about it. It doesn’t belong in your menu. This is your basic site structure.

Optimizing your site structure

Joost did an excellent piece on cornerstone content that we refer to on a daily basis. Cornerstone content (in short: assigning one main page per content and linking that from related pages) shows how internal links contribute to your site structure. Although menu links are the most visible, if a visitor is reading an article and wants to know more about the subject at hand, a link in the text is more easily found than a menu item that relates to it. If you need help fixing your site structure, you can sign up for our Site structure course.

Write it down

Call it an organogram, call it a flowchart or whatever name you think is suitable, but making a visual presentation of your site structure will pay off. Start with your desired (one or two level) menu and see if you can fit in more of the pages you have created over the years. You will find that some pages are still valid, but don’t seem suitable for your menu anymore. As mentioned that’s no problem, just make sure to link them to related pages and in your sitemaps. This way Google and your visitor will find these pages.

Perhaps this diagram will also show you the gaps in the site structure and you need to add pages to clean up the chaos. If you have a website for a company that develops websites, one thread in your site structure could be:

Web development → Content management system → WordPress → WordPress themes  → Responsive WordPress themes

Not all steps need to be in the menu (perhaps just Web Development and WordPress would be enough), but all pages in your site structure should ideally be set up and optimized. It will create a rich collection of pages that strengthen each other. By the way, I am sure that one step in this example also has links to other pages in your site structure, as it belongs to other collections of pages as well.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

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Remove pages (redirect them!)

What I expect, is that you’ll also find pages that need urgent updating or worse: that actually shouldn’t be on your website or simply don’t fit the current or new site structure. Services you used to offer or information that just isn’t accurate anymore. Write these pages down or copy the URLs to a text file.

Can you redirect (301) these pages, like with our the redirects manager in our Yoast SEO Premium plugin? Preferably you should redirect the URL to a related article, to preserve any traffic that this page had. If that related article doesn’t exist, redirect to a related category page, or as a last resort to your homepage. This way the (outdated) page won’t interfere with your site structure anymore. Read Joost’s article if you need to know how to properly delete pages from your site.

Rethink your taxonomies

When using WordPress, an apparent site structure is provided by the Categories and Tags you have divided your posts and perhaps pages in. In WordPress, these are called ‘taxonomies’. We have mentioned this before, but 8 to 10 categories would suffice for a website. Perhaps a webshop could have more, but the top level should preferably consist of that number of categories to keep your site and site structure focused. We’ve seen sites using over 300 categories, accompanied by over 5,000 tags and more. That’s not structuring your website, that’s messing up your site structure.

For me, the basic guideline is that if I don’t think I will reuse a tag, I won’t apply it to a post. And if an eleventh category would knock on my door, I’d probably wonder if the website could use another taxonomy next to categories and tags. Several WordPress plugins can help reorganizing taxonomies, but most of them don’t seem to add redirects after merging or deleting taxonomies – be sure to do that, of course.

Don’t take this lightly

Although one can write this down in a couple of paragraphs, it could be a lengthy process that shouldn’t be taken lightly. When changing the structure of a large website, it could make sense to change the permalink structure as well, which can have a lot of consequences. In this article, we focus on restructuring the site for user experience (and SEO), not on all the technical implications this might have if you want to take restructuring to the next level.

Read more: ‘How to change your WordPress permalink structure ’ »

Tell Google about it

In the unlikely case you have constructed your HTML sitemap manually, update that sitemap after changing your site structure. In the likely case you have an XML sitemap, for instance, generated by Yoast SEO, resubmit it from Google Search Console. Should you have removed a page that just shouldn’t be in Google anymore, delete it from your website. Redirect that page to a page that is closely related to it. If you really don’t have a clue which page to redirect to, serve a 410 Content Deleted error. This way, you’ll at least let Google know that you deleted this content on purpose.

Keep reading: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

The post How to clean up your site structure appeared first on Yoast.

The fourth and likely final beta for WordPress 4.0 is now available. We’ve made more than 250 changes in the past month, including:

  • Further improvements to the editor scrolling experience, especially when it comes to the second column of boxes.
  • Better handling of small screens in the media library modals.
  • A separate bulk selection mode for the media library grid view.
  • Improvements to the installation language selector.
  • Visual tweaks to plugin details and customizer panels.

We need your help. We’re still aiming for a release this month, which means the next week will be critical for identifying and squashing bugs. If you’re just joining us, please see the Beta 1 announcement post for what to look out for.

If you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums, where friendly moderators are standing by. Plugin developers, if you haven’t tested WordPress 4.0 yet, now is the time — and be sure to update the “tested up to” version for your plugins so they’re listed as compatible with 4.0.

This software is still in development, so we don’t recommend you run it on a production site. Consider setting up a test site just to play with the new version. To test WordPress 4.0, try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”). Or you can download the beta here (zip).

We are working hard
To finish up 4.0
Will you help us too?

At Yoast, we’ve seen a lot of websites of every caliber. Every website has its own issues, but all websites benefit from optimizing the conversion rate. It really doesn’t matter if your goal is more sales, more Facebook likes or more newsletter subscribers. One thing that helps almost every website, is the right use of testimonials. A lot of websites do have testimonials, but just having them simply isn’t enough. 

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Here, we’ll explain how to fully exploit your testimonials and what steps you should take to find out how they work best for you. We’ll start with explaining why testimonials work in the first place!

Note: In this post, we’ll use the word testimonials for both testimonials and (product) reviews. We chose to do so because the two are actually the same thing, in our opinion. There’s only one real difference: reviews can be negative.

Why testimonials work

Testimonials are mostly said to work on the basis of social proof. Social proof is a psychological process, which causes people to copy the behavior of others, in an attempt to reflect correct behavior. A well-known person, or at least someone people can identify with, may use a product or service and be blown away by it. When others hear about this, they will interpret that as correct behavior and follow suit. This is the reason influencer marketing is such an effective way to sell your product nowadays. When a celebrity on Instagram uses a product and writes positively about that, people will buy it. Because if an admired celebrity endorses a product, that must mean it is just the right thing for you as well! Social proof, regardless if it’s from celebrities or close friends, contributes significantly to the effectiveness of testimonials.

Testimonials: increase your visitor's trust

However, social proof is not the only reason why testimonials work. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. While a lot of the testimonials we encounter on eCommerce shops are fairly vague, even those vague ones shed some light on the workings of a product or service. After all, five stars is five stars, right? This is exactly what testimonials should do as well, as far as I’m concerned: give some insight into the experiences of some people, so others can make up their own opinion. Not only should a testimonial confirm the fact that your product is awesome, it should also discuss:

  • why it’s awesome,
  • how it works and
  • why it worked for the person writing the testimonial.

And then you’re still only halfway there. You should also have testimonials about:

  • the buying process on your site,
  • the delivery and
  • maybe even someone using your 30-day money back guarantee.

Let your visitors know that every aspect of your online shop has been successfully used by other people and that they were very satisfied with it!

Testimonials overlap with product reviews

We’ve arrived at a gray area here, where testimonials start overlapping reviews. And in my opinion, that’s exactly how it should be. As soon as they’re overlapping, you’ll get the best of both worlds. Not only will the social proof process kick in, but experience products – products of which it’s hard to predict if they work – can also change into search products – of which it’s easy to predict if they work. In other words: the benefits of your products will become a lot clearer, making it easier for potential customers to purchase them.

When testimonials work

Testimonials are powerful in creating trust, and not just for online shops. Research confirmed that positive reviews can significantly increase sales. In fact, testimonials were found to be a more important cue for judging the trustworthiness of an online store than the actual overall reputation of that store. That was the case some years ago, and that hasn’t changed. But obviously, you can’t just slap some glorifying texts on your site. Your testimonials have to earn the trust they evoke.

In case of product reviews, even negative reviews can be useful. But only if you can show visitors you’ve adequately responded to the customer who gave the negative review. It’s normal to receive a negative review once in a while. How you react to those negative reviews is important, especially for future customers. This is also precisely why you shouldn’t remove negative reviews or submit fake ones. Your reviews need to look genuine and trustworthy. And they’ll only look real when they are real.

Storytelling

Over the past couple of years, storytelling has become all the rage and for good reason. Stories have a positive influence on a customer’s perception of a brand, as well as the willingness to purchase. Stories can affect behavior, given that the story resonates with your visitor.

And that’s exactly where it becomes tough. It’s easy to state that “stories sell”. But how would you go about obtaining stories that your audience would feel captivated by? If you offer services or products that are problem-solving, to begin with, this is easy. Just ask a few of your customers to describe the issues they had and how your services or products helped them solve these problems.

It’s a totally different story (literally) if you’re selling clothes, for instance. You obviously can’t have customers state “I was naked my entire life until I found this piece of clothing!”. In these cases, you’ll have to get creative and maybe ask customers to write about the – hopefully superior – quality of your products and how they last longer, for instance. And if you offer a clothing brand that’s sold in other online stores as well, let your customers write about why they’re using your shop in particular. Is it your superior customer service? Your site’s excellent usability? The speediness of delivery? Have your customers write about this.

The use of photos with testimonials

Photos are almost considered a “sure thing” within internet marketing and CRO circles. In fact, research from just a few years ago showed that the use of pictures increased the perceived trustworthiness of a statement. According to the results, it doesn’t even matter whether the picture is relevant, or the information next to the picture accurate. While I think these are cool findings, I don’t believe it is always this simple and depends highly on your audience.

To make matters worse, there are studies that found photographs increase the perceived trustworthiness of poorly performing vendors only, and decreased that of vendors with a good reputation. Furthermore, there are differences in reactions to images between cultures, which means you might actually have to make use of different tactics for different continents, if you’re selling globally.

As you can see, science isn’t really definitive about the use of photos. And the downside of all these studies is: they’re not specifically about testimonials. At Yoast we always recommend using photos with testimonials, because it appears to add to the credibility of those testimonials. But the best way to go would be to test if adding photos lead to better results of your site.

Influential people

If you’ve already read about testimonials, you probably have read about the impact of “influential people”. I already mentioned influencer marketing. Let’s talk about that some more. There are some people that are so well-known in their field of work that their opinion really carries weight. Their opinion carries weight due to the Halo effect. Wikipedia has this to say about the Halo effect in marketing:

The halo effect is also present in the field of brand marketing. One common halo effect is when the perceived positive features of a particular item extend to a broader brand.

With testimonials from influential people, the product will be perceived as better or more trustworthy. As you’ve read, this can even transfer to your entire brand.

Obviously, there’s one major criterium for this: the person would have to be considered an influential person in the field you’re offering products or services. If we were to receive a great testimonial for our Yoast SEO Premium plugin by Miley Cyrus, it probably wouldn’t carry much weight with the people we’d like to influence (agencies, website owners). Nevertheless, I’m sure a lot of people would install the plugin, but perhaps not for the right reasons. You get my drift.

Placement of testimonials

Over the years, we’ve noticed that quite a few of the websites that do have testimonials, just don’t place them prominently. Testimonials are great. But if they’re only on the testimonial page and nowhere else, odds are not a lot of people will find them. So you need to put them on pages where people will find them. On your landing pages and near call-to-actions would probably be good spots.

Read more: things to consider for your online shop »

You and your testimonials

If you read this article up to here, you probably agree that all this makes perfect sense, right? So stop just having testimonials, and start using them!

Is there anything we missed? Or do you have something else to contribute? Let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Read more: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

3300-featured

3300-featured
Shhh! …

What follows is something you surely haven’t heard before! In order to truly grow your business you need to:

Step #1
Step #2
Step #3
Step #4
Step #5

Okay okay, just kidding. These – and similar ideas – have truly been beaten down to death on the web as it is. Really, how much Facebook marketing advice does the world need?

But I digress, so let’s get back on track!

 
… scroll down for 14 non-obvious marketing tactics that work …
What I have for you here is a set of marketing tactics that are hopefully not that obvious. (Although, it’s very likely that you’ve heard of some of them before.) But what’s more important is that not all of them come from me.

I’ve been kind of fascinated with this topic lately. So I’ve decided to do a bit more research and find some truly inspiring stuff, which I can then expand upon and share here. So, the ideas themselves are something I’ve stolen from the likes of Neil Patel, Forbes magazine, Jeremy Clarkson, John Jantsch, and a bunch of other people.

1. Be a true-blood guy (or gal)

mma

Everyone’s way too nice on the web these days if you ask me!

No, wait. This doesn’t sound right.

Anyway, what I mean is that there’s a general belief circulating around that we should always be nice to all people (no matter what they say about us) and that if we have a critical – yet not fact-based – opinion, we should keep it to ourselves.

Bollocks.

This works against the one thing we probably all want to achieve – getting our personal brand across.

For the life of me, I can’t remember who said it, but it was something to the tune of:


‘People come for information, they stay for personality.’ – Who said this?
Click To Tweet


And the problem is that if you want to be all things to all people, you will probably end up attracting no one.

Jeremy_Clarkson
Jeremy Clarkson (twitter) is a great example here. He’s built the popularity of his show – Top Gear – to a worldwide phenomenon. Do people watch it for the cars? Sure, some of them do. But most of them watch it because it’s incredibly entertaining, and cars just play a supporting role (Oscar worthy role, but still).

For example, here’s what he once said about Sarah Jessica Parker:

“People think ‘oh she must be pretty, she’s on television’. She isn’t – she looks like a boiled horse.

Did he offend some people? Probably so. Did he make thousands of people around the world laugh? For sure.

So what I’m trying to convey is this: Be real. If you want to say something, say it. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

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Let’s grow our businesses together!

2. Create products and give them away for free

salesman

I should clarify. If you’re in the physical products business then it’s probably more difficult to give those away for free. Like, for example, giving away shoes or refrigerators. But in the digital market, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.

Let’s take a look at what happened with Quick Sprout a while ago. Previously, the site’s homepage was the blog (I think). Now, there’s an online SEO tool.

Neil – the founder of the site – said that the tool cost him $100,000, yet he decided to make it available for free.

Wow!

And yes, he did make it profitable eventually. Neil has a great funnel set up in the background. In short, everyone who visits the tool is also exposed to Neil’s Pro membership.

qs

Although Neil is clearly far ahead, I can mention a small success of my own too. It’s my Social Share Starter plugin. Since its release, it has generated hundreds of new subscribers and opened a couple of doors for me in terms of WordPress software projects.

“Free is the most powerful word in the English language.”

3. Break the pattern by publishing unusual content

pattern

At one point, virtually all websites hit a plateau and become predictable.

And don’t get me wrong, in a way, predictability is a good thing, especially if your content is predictably exceptional.

However, introducing something new every once in a while and breaking the pattern, so to speak, can work even better.

Here are some ideas:

  • If you’re known for publishing ultra-long content, publish an image post with a quote on it and no additional text whatsoever. See how it goes, how many shares it gets, and so on. Like this one:
you are right
  • If you’re mainly publishing text-only posts, try investing in an infographic.
  • If you’re publishing just your own perspective on things, try inviting someone who has a reputation in your niche and do an interview.
  • Need more ideas? Try either of these 52.

The idea behind this is to check if what you’re currently doing really is the best use of your publishing calendar, and if maybe your audience would actually resonate with something else even more.

This knowledge is something you can only get through experimentation. No case study on the web will give you reliable data whether you should or shouldn’t try Technique X in your content game.

4. Focus on just the essential info and invoke curiosity

curious

We often feel the urge to go into incredible detail when describing our services, products, or the thing we do for a living in general.

As it turns out, this doesn’t always work. Actually scratch that; it rarely works. The thing is that people don’t really need all that information when making a purchase decision.

For example, consider the following. Do you know what components your iPhone was built with? Do you know what’s the processor, who’s the RAM manufacturer, how many mAh does the battery have, and so on?

Most likely, unless you’re an iPhone freak, you have no clue, yet you still wanted to buy it when it came out.

Your clients only need to know the essentials – how your product is going to enrich their lives.
It’s a similar story with all kinds of products. Your clients only need to know the essentials – how your product is going to enrich their lives.

And it’s not just me talking here. Neil Patel reports this to be the case as well. At one point, he shared that changing the landing page on his private site from long-form, in-depth content, to just the essential short form has given him 318 percent more leads.

It’s kind of sad, but people really don’t care about us or our stories. The only thing they want to know is how your content can benefit them. (Or maybe that’s not sad at all?)

5. Dedicate just as much time to writing your headlines as you do to writing your content

headlines

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. But please bear with me.

It’s a known fact in the world of publishing that headlines account for around 80 percent of a given publication’s success.

What this means in plain English is that headlines are more important than content. And it makes sense when you look at it.

At the end of the day, if your headline isn’t a success, no one will even get to your actual content.

So here’s what I encourage you to do:

Write 25 different headlines for every piece of content you create.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

This is not my idea, and to tell you the truth I was also shocked when I first saw it.

The reasoning behind it is that writing the first 5 headlines is ultra-easy. Writing the next 10 gets difficult, but you can still get through it. However, writing that final 10 will get you bleed through your fingertips.

It’s those final 10 headlines that can give you some gems – things that are not obvious at all. Things that you’d have never come up with if you hadn’t used all the common ideas on the first 15 headlines.

The secret is that people tend to resonate with things that break certain patterns.

6. Steal ideas from Reddit

reddit

Reddit isn’t called the front page of the internet for no reason. It’s also the best way to waste a Saturday afternoon, but that’s another story.

Reddit is an extraordinary source of content ideas that are interesting to people at this very moment. Now, I don’t encourage you to steal content in any shape or form. But I do encourage you to steal ideas. So if something works on Reddit, maybe it can work in some other form on your site as well.

Here’s how you can implement this:

  1. Look for things that are fast growing in popularity.
  2. Try identifying something about them that you would be able to do or present better.
  3. Release your own version.

I know that such a description is a bit generic, but I leave it up to you to find exact applications.

I will give you an example though. Here’s a popular entry from Reddit’s DIY section: http://imgur.com/a/fD4e4. It’s a guitar-shaped cat playground. The idea is great. The execution is okay-ish. But for someone in the carpentry business, building something that’s of better quality shouldn’t be a problem.

7. Invest in relationships with potential clients by doing free work

free hugs

First off, I like getting paid for what I do just as much as the next guy. That being said, it’s kind of impossible to make every hour of your work billable, especially if you’re just starting out.

The big problem here is trust, or lack thereof.

In other words, people don’t really trust your expertise enough to pay you for your services if you’re new to the market. To overcome this, you can do either of two things:

(a) Offer your services really cheap – so your clients don’t have to trust you all that much because the investment is small.
Not recommended.
(b) Offer your services for free.
Recommended.
The trick here is that if you start by offering your services cheaply, you will find it very hard to increase your rates later on – the clients will resent it.

On the other hand, if you start offering your services for free, people will understand that it’s not a permanent thing, and that you are likely to ask for money pretty soon.

However, what’s different now is that you’ve already built trust with them and proven that you can deliver results. This entitles you to ask for higher rates.

Speaking from my personal experience, offering free advice is what got me most of my initial freelance writing gigs. I talked about it in one of my guest posts at Be a Freelance Blogger.

8. Be a show off

ferrari

Note. Showing off isn’t in all people’s nature. And there’s nothing worse than a pretender who wants to show off but doesn’t really know how or why, so they just end up looking cheesy. So in short, if you don’t feel confident showing off, please skip this point.

Showing off is a very interesting marketing and promotion method. On one hand, it’s very easy to appear like a jack ass who’s just bragging about a new watch or some other gizmo. But on the other hand, it can reinforce your message and present a specific persona that resonates with your audience’s wants.

This can work especially well if you’re in the coaching business, or in consulting. The idea is to make people think, even subconsciously, “Hey, this guy has what I want to have. Maybe if I listen to what he has to say, I’ll get there too!”

Whether it’s a valid thought or not is another thing.

9. Reuse your existing results

recycle

During the course of your online career, you will naturally have better and worse days, better and worse content, that’s only natural.

But there’s always a small set of posts or articles that did exceptionally well and gave you big recognition. Maybe they even continue bringing consistent traffic through Google today.

So first of all, by all means, go out and find those articles. And then reuse them as a marketing tool.

A man much wiser than me once said that it’s easier to improve something that already works, than it is to build up something that doesn’t.

I couldn’t agree more!

Here’s what you can do exactly to reuse some of your best content:

Step #0

Well, you need to identify this content first. So go to your Google Analytics or Clicky (my preferred tool) and see which posts are the most visited ones on your site. Also, check for your most commented posts (you can sort posts in WordPress by the number of comments) and the ones that have brought in the most social media shares (you can do this via the Social Metrics plugin).
Make sure that there’s a specific call to action under each of these posts/pages. Either invite people to join your newsletter, download your thing, or buy your product (whatever it is you do).
Step #1

Step #2

Erase all distractions from the page. I encourage you to focus on convincing the visitor to do one specific thing. For example, if that thing is newsletter subscription then try making the subscription form the only possible route out of the page. Get rid of sidebars, and if it’s possible, get rid of the top menu as well.
Build additional internal links from other posts on your site to those that bring the most results. This way, you should be able to improve those results even more. After all, your popular stuff is popular for a reason, so if you manage to get more eyeballs on it, people are likely to start sharing and resonating with it more than with your average post.
Step #3

10. Guest post with a purpose

writing

Guest blogging is a very popular promotion method these days, I give you that. However, not many people use it as an actual element of their business.

Here’s what I mean. Every day, I see tens of guest posts where people link to their generic websites (from the bio boxes) or social media profiles. I’m sure this gets them some traffic and recognition. But at the same time, they’re leaving a lot on the table.

(I need to be honest with you and admit that I was just as guilty of doing this as anyone else.)

To give you a good example of things done right, consider this post by Milica Pantic. She explains how she makes money from guest posts directly.

In short, it’s all about these four main elements (in that order):

mitz
  • Picking what you want to promote with your guest post.
  • Deciding what you can write about to pre-qualify the people that are your target group.
  • Figuring out how you can point them to what you want to promote.
  • Finding the best place where to publish your post to reach the exact target group you’re looking for.

The main reason why guest posts are great for this sort of promotion is because you get to position yourself in front of any audience you wish. You just need to find the right website. There aren’t many advertising methods that give you this opportunity.

11. Try local offline marketing

mainstreet

Everybody’s hot about promoting their businesses on the web these days, and rightfully so. However, we shouldn’t forget about all the offline possibilities that are still there and can work exceptionally well.

What’s even better, oftentimes, they are really cheap to execute too. Literally, all you need is some creativity and a bit of time on Saturday.

Here are some of the cleverer things I heard people doing:

Leaving stickers in random places like bars, cafes, public spaces, basically anywhere where other people hang out.
Using chalk to advertise on sidewalks.
Donating branded bookmarks to libraries.
Leaving branded pens at places like banks, post offices, or any other place where people sign their names on pieces of paper. The idea is that the staff won’t notice everyone’s using the wrong pen…
Using sticky notes wherever it makes sense around town.
Printing out beer coasters and leaving them in your local bar.
Leaving your business cards everywhere. Trying places like public bulletin boards, restaurants (along with your tip), inside books at the library, and of course, when you meet a new person.

12. Find, and get on board with existing giveaways

giveaway

The web is chock full of various giveaways these days. And this is especially valid for all kinds of digital products. Be it plugins, WordPress themes, short e-courses or memberships, e-books, icon packs, you name it. People are ready to give them away left and right.
find giveaways that are related to your niche, then add one of your products to the giveaway
What you can do to capitalize on this trend is find giveaways that are in some way related to your niche and website. The best case scenario is finding something that’s directly in your niche, but if that’s not possible, then go one step up.
For example, if you’re in dog training, there might not be a specific dog training giveaway going on, but there probably are some giveaways or even contests focusing on dog owners in general. Maybe someone’s giving away leashes, treats, or some other dog-related stuff.

There’s nothing holding you back from picking one product from your own offer, and adding it to the giveaway. That way, you’re piggybacking off the giveaway’s popularity by itself. It requires almost no marketing on your part whatsoever.

Of course, the difficult part is contacting the giveaway’s managers and convincing them to include your stuff.

13. Supervise everything

supervise

Granted, this is a very counterintuitive piece of advice.

In today’s world, countless experts preach the idea of outsourcing and finding other people to do some of your tasks for you. (By the way, I’m generally preaching it too.)

But the thing we need to keep in mind is that we shouldn’t ever let anyone take over a whole department of our business for us.

For instance, let’s use content as an example. When you first started out, you likely created all of the content yourself. But as you grow, you might get tempted to invite other people on board – to hire help. This is all great and it’s actually the direction you should aim for. However, you should still be the person who’s making the top-level decisions.
be the person who’s making the top-level decisions
The thing is that as you build up your site’s presence, people come and identify with your content. They come to read “you” primarily.

This is a relationship very easy to lose if you disconnect yourself from the publishing process later on. Whoever you hire, will always have their own ideas and ways of handling things. And while you do want to get the most out of their expertise and skill, you need to be very careful not to lose that unique touch that only you can provide.

And this goes for all kinds of tasks you’re doing in your business.

So all of my rambling boils down to this:

Be the decision maker. Don’t assume that others will be better at it than you.

14. Be persistent

persistent

Let’s end this list with the simplest advice possible, yet at the same time, something that makes all the difference in our marketing efforts, and basically in anything we do in life.
Being persistent is what makes you successful.

Not talent.

Not hard work.
(If hard work paid off, slaves would be the richest people on the planet.)

Not connections.

It’s persistence.

You maybe know this story, but let me tell you about Michael Jordan.

Jordan was not accepted on his high school basketball team. This may not sound like a big deal, but what it actually means is that he was not a talented kid. I mean, clearly, no trainer in the world would say no to a talented young player who wants to be on their team.

Yet despite not being talented he became the biggest star in basketball history.

He did it because he was persistent.

Michael Jordan at Boston Garden
He even summarized this in one of his famous quotes:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Let me end this post with this. If you don’t believe me, believe Michael Jordan.


Be persistent. Fail forward. Fail to succeed.
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3300+ Words Worth of Non-Obvious Marketing Tactics That Work | NewInternetOrder.com

WordPress 3.9.2 is now available as a security release for all previous versions. We strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.

This release fixes a possible denial of service issue in PHP’s XML processing, reported by Nir Goldshlager of the Salesforce.com Product Security Team. It  was fixed by Michael Adams and Andrew Nacin of the WordPress security team and David Rothstein of the Drupal security team. This is the first time our two projects have coordinated joint security releases.

WordPress 3.9.2 also contains other security changes:

  • Fixes a possible but unlikely code execution when processing widgets (WordPress is not affected by default), discovered by Alex Concha of the WordPress security team.
  • Prevents information disclosure via XML entity attacks in the external GetID3 library, reported by Ivan Novikov of ONSec.
  • Adds protections against brute attacks against CSRF tokens, reported by David Tomaschik of the Google Security Team.
  • Contains some additional security hardening, like preventing cross-site scripting that could be triggered only by administrators.

We appreciated responsible disclosure of these issues directly to our security team. For more information, see the release notes or consult the list of changes.

Download WordPress 3.9.2 or venture over to Dashboard → Updates and simply click “Update Now”.

Sites that support automatic background updates will be updated to WordPress 3.9.2 within 12 hours. (If you are still on WordPress 3.8.3 or 3.7.3, you will also be updated to 3.8.4 or 3.7.4. We don’t support older versions, so please update to 3.9.2 for the latest and greatest.)

Already testing WordPress 4.0? The third beta is now available (zip) and it contains these security fixes.

Yoast SecurityToday, we’re announcing that we have partnered with Sucuri, in the interest of pro-actively securing our plugins. As our plugins run on more and more sites, we have a responsibility towards our users and the web at large to make sure that we do our utmost to make sure our code doesn’t make them vulnerable.*

We’ve been preparing this release for over two months. In that time, Sucuri has identified vulnerabilities in plugins across the WordPress ecosystem affecting over 20 million downloads. This shows the need for users and web hosts to update plugins promptly on security updates. If you look at it, it beckons for a more “forced” way of updating plugins. It also places additional scrutiny on us, plugin and theme developers, to ensure that we are not only focused on features but place additional emphasis on good, secure, code.

Once a security problem is public there’s no stopping the bad guys in any other way than to update. To us, as authors of plugins that all combined have more than 20 millions downloads and run on over 5% of the top 1 million websites, it made even more clear the need for more scrutiny in our code writing. We could think of no one better than the guys working in the trenches, Sucuri.

Improved security, so we can sleep better

Let me be honest: there’s no such thing as 100% safe software. Ever. But we can strive. From now on, Sucuri will review all the code in our major plugins at least four times a year, on top of our own testing and development best practices. They will work with my team to ensure that the patches we push are adequate and work with us to get the word into as many hands as possible. For all intents and purposes, they will be an extension of my development team, focused strictly on security. We are not foolish enough to think that this is the end all be all to security, no, we realize this is a process and will continue to evolve.

Like all of you, we’re not perfect. We’re sure though, that having the pro’s at Sucuri review our code regularly will lead to our plugins being among the safest out there, which is how we want it. It’s how we, as the good web stewards we strive to be, will take responsibility for what and how we do it – providing our users the best, and most secure, options available. Not just because you sleep better because of it, but because we sleep better because of it too.

But you said “partnered”?

Yes. This will be a relationship in which we reciprocate the service by being an extension of their online marketing team. Sucuri will review our plugins, we’ll help them by reviewing their online practices from a website optimisation point of view. Let’s face it, we can’t all be good at everything, they are great at Security, but could use some help at online marketing and website optmization, and they recognize this, which is why we are going to help them get better.

To start, they have already received our diamond review, our ultimate review package in which we provide a thorough review of their SEO practice, website usability and conversions. Have you seen their latest changes?

In a similar fashion, we’ve made the first improvements to our plugins based on their reviews, luckily showing no critical issues yet.

Additionally, they will be working with us beyond just the code we ship. They will be working with us to improve our overall security posture as an organization and we’ll be leveraging their Website AntiVirus and Firewall products to ensure a safe online experience for all our online visitors. They are the premiere Website Security company and we rock at what we do, it’s only right we make full use of each others services.

Lead, not follow

When I was on the Dradcast 2 months ago, I hinted at some of this. We should lead by showing how people can improve their products and processes. I personally think every premium plugin / theme company should have a process for regular independent security reviews of their product(s). This is an example which I’d love for every company in the WordPress community to follow and document.

We’ll be as transparent as possible about all of the things we do, both Sucuri in how they improve their site as we in how we improve our code. As you can see, we’re very excited to be working with the team at Sucuri and we look forward to making the web safer together!

* For the record: from a purely juridical point of view, the GPL basically disclaims all warranty.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

WordPress 4.0 Beta 2 is now available for download and testing. This is software still in development, so we don’t recommend that you run it on a production site. To get the beta, try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”). Or you can download the beta here (zip).

For more of what’s new in version 4.0, check out the Beta 1 blog post. Some of the changes in Beta 2 include:

  • Further refinements for the the plugin installation and media library experiences.
  • Updated TinyMCE, which now includes better indentation for lists and the restoration of the color picker.
  • Cookies are now tied to a session internally, so if you have trouble logging in, #20276 may be the culprit.
  • Various bug fixes (there were nearly 170 changes since last week).

If you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. Or, if you’re comfortable writing a bug report, file one on the WordPress Trac. There, you can also find a list of known bugs and everything we’ve fixed.

WordPress 4.0 Beta 1 is now available!

This software is still in development, so we don’t recommend you run it on a production site. Consider setting up a test site just to play with the new version. To test WordPress 4.0, try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”). Or you can download the beta here (zip).

4.0 is due out next month, but to get there, we need your help testing what we’ve been working on:

  • Previews of embedding via URLs in the visual editor and the “Insert from URL” tab in the media modal. Try pasting a URL (such as a WordPress.tv or YouTube video) onto its own line in the visual editor. (#28195, #15490)
  • The Media Library now has a “grid” view in addition to the existing list view. Clicking on an item takes you into a modal where you can see a larger preview and edit information about that attachment, and you can navigate between items right from the modal without closing it. (#24716)
  • We’re freshening up the plugin install experience. You’ll see some early visual changes as well as more information when searching for plugins and viewing details. (#28785, #27440)
  • Selecting a language when you run the installation process. (#28577)
  • The editor intelligently resizes and its top and bottom bars pin when needed. Browsers don’t like to agree on where to put things like cursors, so if you find a bug here, please also let us know your browser and operating system. (#28328)
  • We’ve made some improvements to how your keyboard and cursor interact with TinyMCE views such as the gallery preview. Much like the editor resizing and scrolling improvements, knowing about your setup is particularly important for bug reports here. (#28595)
  • Widgets in the Customizer are now loaded in a separate panel. (#27406)
  • We’ve also made some changes to some formatting functions, so if you see quotes curling in the wrong direction, please file a bug report.

If you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. We’d love to hear from you! If you’re comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on the WordPress Trac. There, you can also find a list of known bugs and everything we’ve fixed so far.

Developers: Never fear, we haven’t forgotten you. There’s plenty for you, too – more on that in upcoming posts. In the meantime, check out the API for panels in the Customizer.

Happy testing!

Plugins, editor
Media, things in between
Please help look for bugs

Yoast liked Google PandaA month ago Google introduced its Panda 4.0 update. Over the last few weeks we’ve been able to “fix” a couple of sites that got hit in it. These sites both lost more than 50% of their search traffic in that update. When they returned, their previous position in the search results came back. Sounds too good to be true, right? Read on. It was actually very easy.

Last week Peter – an old industry friend who runs a company called BigSpark – came by the Yoast office. BigSpark owns a website called iPhoned.nl and they’d been hit by the every so friendly Google Panda. Now iPhoned.nl has been investing in high quality content about (you guessed it) iPhones for a few years now, and in the last year they’ve stepped it up a notch. They are pushing out lots of news every day with a high focus on quality and their site looks great. Which is why I was surprised by them being hit. You just don’t want your Searchmetrics graph to look like this:

iphoned searchmetrics

Notice the initial dip, then the return and the second dip, leaving them at 1/3rd of the SEO visibility they were “used to”. I dove into their Google Webmaster Tools and other data to see what I could find.

Fetch as Google’s relation to Google Panda

In Google Webmaster Tools, Google recently introduced a new feature on the fetch as Google page: fetch and render. Coincidence? I think not. They introduced this a week after they rolled out Google Panda. This is what it showed when we asked it to fetch and render iPhoned’s iPhone 6 page:

fetch as google no css

Even for fans of minimalism, this is too much.

Now, iPhoned makes money from ads. It doesn’t have a ridiculous amount of them, but because it uses an ad network a fair amount of scripts and pixels get loaded. My hypothesis was: if Google is unable to render the CSS and JS, it can’t determine where the ads on your page are. In iPhoned’s case, it couldn’t render the CSS and JS because they were accidentally blocked in their robots.txt after a server migration.

Google runs so called page layout algorithms to determine how many ads you have. It particularly checks how many ads you have above the fold. If you have too many, that’s not a good thing and it can seriously hurt your rankings.

In the past blocking your CSS was touted by others as an “easy” way of getting away from issues like this, rather than solving the actual issue. Which is why I immediately connected the dots: fetch and render and a Google Panda update? Coincidences like that just don’t happen. So I asked Peter whether we could remove the block, which we did on the spot. I was once again thankful for the robots.txt editor I built into our WordPress SEO plugin.

Remarkable resurrection

The result was surprising, more so even because of the speed with which it worked. It’s now a week ago that we changed that block and their Searchmetrics graph looks like this:

iPhoned survived Google Panda

They’ve returned on almost all of their important keywords. Just by unblocking Google from spidering their CSS and JS.

When we saw this we went and looked at some of our recent website review clients and we found the exact same pattern. One of them turned out to have the same problem and already looks to be returning too.

Confirmation from Google: don’t block your CSS & JS

Now I don’t usually post my “SEO theories” on the web, mostly because I think that’s more hurtful than helpful in many, many cases as they’re just theories. So I didn’t want to write this up without confirmation from Google that this was really the cause of the issue here. But then I read this live blog from last weeks SMX, and more specifically, this quote from Maile Ohye embedded in it:

“We recommend making sure Googlebot can access any embedded resource that meaningfully contributes to your site’s visible content or its layout”

That basically confirms our theory, which had already been proven in practice too, so I went ahead and wrote this post. Would love to hear if you’ve seen similar issues with the Google Panda 4 update, or (even better) if in a week from now you’re ranking again because you read this and acted!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Online ShoppingLast week, we had an email from somebody who was pretty desperate. He had set up an online shop, filled it with thousands and thousands of products and in the three or four months after release, still nobody had found his shop or ordered his products. The online shop at hand sells women’s cloths.

This guy isn’t the only one with that mindset. Unfortunately, a lot of people still think the internet will magically bring them a fortune without any more promotional work to be done. “If you build it, they will come”. If only.

Now we could easily sell people like this a review, and then have them rebuild their shop. But it only seems fair to guide the ignorant a bit, right? Here are some things to consider when setting up a webshop.

What’s the Unique Selling Point (USP) of your online shop?

A Unique Selling Point (or Proposition) is the main reason for a customer to switch products or shops. It’s the thing that makes your online shop better than the all the other out there. The concept was “first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s” (from Wikipedia). I’ve also heard people saying the USP is dead and replaced by UBR, the Unique Buying Reason. Whatever you call it, your webshop needs it to stand out from the crowd.

Have you thought about this? Why is your collection of shoes better than the next? Perhaps you kept the environment in mind, like a lot of others? It’s tough to find that one reason why you’re better than the competition.

With your USP in mind, you can start building your online shop. In our reviews, we’ve found more than once that an online shop is just a collection of products and the human factor is entirely left out. That doesn’t mean you should add a live chat or whatever, but you should focus on a great About Us page. And for instance loads of positive testimonials and reviews for both your products and your shop as a whole. Something that’s left out even more is a blog. If you have a unique product or service, you must have something to say about it.

What’s the main eye catcher on the homepage?

Why would anyone list all their available products on their homepage? One of my favorite words is ‘clutter’. I just really dislike an online shop that shows a million different options for me to click on. I either already know exactly what I want to purchase and use Google to find it, or I visit your shop to see what you have that will make my life a bit easier. That’s a bit black and white, but it does emphasize the need for a great call-to-action on the homepage of your online shop.

A lot of online shops use sliders as their call-to-action. You already know our take on sliders, but unfortunately a lot of shops do use them. Especially when cloths are involved, an online shop comes up with great images in a slider. Apart from the discussion if static images or copy would convert better, you should at least create an obvious link or button on that slider. If possible, keep the same look for that link or button for every slide. And keep it in the same place.

Unlike thinking of a decent USP, it really isn’t hard to set up a decent call-to-action. Think along the lines of featured products or links to your sale or outlet page. Perhaps even a special page you’ve created for your summer collection.

Did you write great content for your product pages?

This will take some effort. Most online shops we’ve reviewed in the past year used manufacturer descriptions for their product pages. Just import that database or XML file and you’ll have a content filled webshop and Google will start showing your product pages in their search result pages. Think again.

This is probably the most common reason for cross-domain duplicate content for online shops. Most of your competitors will use that exact same description. So you can either:

  1. Forget about ranking with your product pages (which can be a valid decision sometimes), or
  2. Write unique product descriptions (or have someone write them for you).

Option one is only valid when you have common products that are offered all over the internet. You should at least use Product schemas and allow for customer reviews (unique content!), so you can focus on other content to make your site rank. Choose your categories with care and set up killer category pages. Maintain or set up that blog on your website. In short: focus on your Unique Selling Point.

The second option is much, much harder. Not if your webshop only has ten products of course, but with thousands of products it’s a whole different ball game. Hiring a copywriter might not be a bad idea in this case. It’s amazing in how many ways a good copywriter can tell the same story over and over again for similar products of the same brand. And prevent that duplicate content by doing so.

Do you create a safe environment for your customer-to-be?

Make sure a visitor feels safe enough to submit personal stuff like credit card details on your website. That doesn’t mean your online shop should just contain a lot of security signs. Yes, these should be added, but a secure feeling is also enhanced by other things, such as testimonials. And how about inline validation? Feeling secure is also about doing things right yourself.

An obvious one that is unfortunately forgotten by a lot of online shops: contact details. That large telephone number in your header makes sure I know I can contact someone if things go wrong. That address in the footer tells me you have an actual location I can go to with my complaint or damaged goods. It seems like some online shop owners just want to sell and prefer not to be contacted afterwards at all.

One more thing: Refund policies and Money Back Guarantees. Most of the times these are defined by law, so why not display these clearly on your website? A lot of your customers don’t realize they are protected anyway and don’t have a lot to worry about when purchasing anything from your shop. Listing these near checkout buttons is a great way to take away that last doubt.

Does your internal search work like it should?

Another pet peeve of mine. When you do a search in a webshop for “iPhone cable” and the results give back Galaxy covers. This might be personal, but when I do a search in a shop, I would like to:

  • See an image of the product,
  • view the product price so I can already compare products in the search results,
  • add cheaper items to my cart directly from these search results,
  • have a clear ‘click here for more details’ link,
  • be able to list all items instead of having to click to the next page (I can scroll really fast, you know),
  • have these results ordered by relevance.

If you do this right, I’d be in and out your online shop in no time and you can send over all these great products you offer.

Gives you something to think about, right?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In our reviews we cover this, and a lot more, so if you’re willing to spend money on getting our opinion, get one of our website reviews.

Also, if you run a website or build websites: you must have customer stories about this, or additional considerations. Perhaps you were that ignorant online shop owner in a past life? I’m looking forward to your additions in the comments.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!