Social media for small business owners

You are a small business owner with a local target audience. Of course, your local audience needs to find your shop or office, and you want to use social media for that. But, in the plethora of platforms, you just have no clue where to start. So you post something on Facebook, try a tweet now and then, but nothing happens. To small business owners, social media can feel like a struggle every time. And perhaps that last word sums it all up: you are probably just putting your extra time into social media. Whereas investing actual, accountable time in social media will probably pay off way more.

Investing that time deliberately means you need to figure out some things first. Let us help you with that.

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What platforms should I use?

You need to find the social platforms your target audience uses. Otherwise, you won’t be able to reach the right people. There are (at least) two ways to find out what these platforms are:

  • Ask your customers what social media they use. That might be Twitter or Snapchat, but can also be Yelp or Meetup.com, depending on your type of business. Simply ask your customers and see what response you get. If you have hundreds of customers a week, this is probably not the best course of action.
  • Simply start using a certain social platform. And see what happens. I prefer this option over the alternatives. Try everything, keep track of the results, and stop doing the things that don’t work for your business after a couple of months. Don’t give up the next day, but set a goal for yourself and see if you can achieve that.

Read more: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin?’ »

Factors that influence social media for small business

There are many things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about social media plans as a small business owner. Your results will depend on the platform you’ve chosen, but the three factors below also definitely play a part.

Give it time

Keep your expectations in check: your social following won’t grow overnight. Don’t expect people to follow you right after creating a profile. You need to invest that time we talked about. And creating a profile isn’t investing time, that should be done in a few minutes. The actual time investment starts right after that.

Create relevant content

You need to make sure your messages/mentions/promotions/articles are worth sharing. In other words, your content, in general, must be relevant and worthwhile. At Yoast, we try to publish five articles a week, but only if we have something that deserves publishing. We’d rather skip a day than publish something that could backfire on (for instance) social media, due to lack of relevance.

The need for relevance can hold back certain businesses from using social media. People often say:

“But I have nothing worth sharing.”

That’s nonsense. If you are good at what you do, you’ll have projects, testimonials, pictures, and quotes worth sharing. No need to write new blog posts every day, simply find something you’re proud of and share it. And if you do want to start a blog, Marieke has some tips to get inspiration for you. For those who want to dive into blogging, there is always our ultimate guide to blogging.

Don’t give up

The third factor that influences social media for small business is determination. To work properly, social media for small businesses has to be a continuous process of publishing and engaging. Saying “I have tried social media and it’s just not my thing” doesn’t show determination. You may have tried Snapchat, and it’s not your cup of tea. That’s fine. But perhaps Facebook is. And maybe posting on Facebook isn’t for you, but engaging in Facebook Groups might be. I call bullsh*t on the statement that “social media isn’t your thing.” You probably just haven’t found the right medium or platform.

Social media usage for small businesses

Let me go over some social platforms and give you some ideas on how to use them. This isn’t a blueprint for your own social media strategy: the actual use will depend on your type of business and the time you are willing to invest in social media. Here are some ideas:

Twitter

Twitter is an excellent way to send messages and interact with your local community. Two things come in handy here:

  • Hashtags. Hashtags allow you to connect your tweet to an individual subject, without having to add an extensive introduction. It’s being used to tweet about television shows like #GoT or cities like #Seattle. Especially adding your town’s name to a tweet will get you local attention. We can confirm this works even for #Wijchen, the small town where we’re located.
  • Advanced Search. If you are looking for a way to get involved in relevant, local conversations, you should try the advanced search option on Twitter. It allows you to search for any subject you like, in the area you want. See screenshot below.

Social media for small business: Twitter Advanced Search

Facebook

First things first: is your company already on Facebook? I recommend adding it as a local business or place. Facebook has 1.94 billion monthly active users and 1.28 billion daily active users on average (Source: Facebook). Facebook is huge. That alone should be reason enough to add your business to Facebook. And adding your company to Facebook isn’t that hard. It’s a relatively small effort when it comes to social media for small business owners.

Promote your page to your personal friends, get likes, and share updates and photos. Note that for sales posts (“Buy our product!”), you have a better chance of success if you ‘boost‘ your post just a little bit. Boosting can be done for a specified audience, with the location being one of the filters.

Another reason Facebook is an attractive choice for your social media efforts is Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups can be about just about everything. A quick search for Facebook groups about Milwaukee shows how much variety there is:

Social media for small business: Facebook Groups Milwaukee

Pokemon Go, Refugee supporters, Saab, ukulele, auto modelers, running – you name the subject, and Facebook has a group for you. Usually, there are also networking groups for local business people. Just search and find the group that fits your need. Introduce yourself and your business, and engage in discussions. That’s an easy, time efficient way to promote yourself and your company to a local audience.

Instagram

Do you have product images or photos worth sharing? In that case, Instagram might be the social platform for you. Instagram works with hashtags, much like Twitter. I use hashtag apps like Hashme or Tag o’Matic to find the right ones matching my content. Hashtags on Instagram work like a charm when adding local content. An example:

#seattle #seattlelife #seattleart #seattleartist #seattlelove #downtownseattle #spaceneedle #spaceneedleview #spaceneedles #washington #spaceneedleseattle #washingtonstate #seattlewa #seattleskyline #seattlecenter

It took me 30 seconds to find 15 relevant local hashtags using that last app. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags a post, by the way. Use these to your advantage!

Of course, there are many more social media platforms for small businesses. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with options right now. One thing I would like to mention is that review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are also social sites. They shouldn’t be forgotten if your business is mentioned on these sites. Be sure to monitor your mentions there and act on them if needed. That’s also being social!

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Measure your social media efforts

We have written some articles on the various analytics tools for social media networks, and I’d like to point you to these as well. Keeping track of followers and reach gives you an indication of how well your strategy is working. Focus on the numbers that tell you something about engagement, to see what social networks do indeed help you build your community. Here we go:

  • Facebook Insights: Get 30 likes, and Insights will be available. After 100 likes on your page, you can even compare your numbers to the competition.
  • Twitter Analytics: See who your influencers are: the people that like your tweets and have a nice following of their own. Find local influencers and get acquainted with them: ask them to tweet about you now and then.
  • Iconosquare for Instagram: As there still is no proper analytics for Instagram from Instagram, I rely on Iconosquare for that. Use it to find the best time to post, and see what kind of content works best for your business.

Please check out these tools yourself. Keep a keen eye on trends and engagement, as that is the most important thing in my opinion.

The obvious social media strategy works best

I want to leave you with two final thoughts here:

  • Post engaging content, because that is the best way to build an audience. Sounds simple, but it is pretty hard. Don’t be afraid to experiment here. Usually, personal stories lead to the most and best engagement. Having said that, Yoast office life pictures on social media often lead to questions about the awesome features of Yoast SEO Premium (for instance). Keep an open mind and help any customer with whatever question they have, related or not. The engagement counts, not the subject of your post.
  • Your employees are your brand ambassadors on social media. They love your company, enjoy working there and are most likely to share a lot of your social content if not all. Your employees create that local snowball effect. After all, most of their connections on Facebook are probably/usually living in the same geographical area as you. Acknowledge this, and stay aware of the value of these ‘in-house’ shares.

That’s it for now! I’m sure I’ve convinced you that even as a small business, investing some time and effort into your social media strategy will pay off. So go for it! And feel free to drop any questions or thoughts about social media for small business in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate guide to small business SEO’ »

How to use Twitter Cards

Back in 2012, Twitter introduced a system called Twitter Cards which allows site owners to display enhanced tweets on their websites using a syntax very similar to that of OpenGraph. Thanks to this new system, Twitter can show nicer looking tweets, including ones containing media such as images, audio and video.

How does it work?

As mentioned in the introduction, Twitter Cards make use of a very similar syntax to that of OpenGraph. Twitter has some properties that are specific for their platform which you can see in the following snippet:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@yoast"/>
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@michielheijmans"/>

The twitter:card property is required and defines the type of card you want to show. You have four flavors here: summary, summary_large_image, app and player. What the difference is between all these different cards can be found in the documentation.

Both twitter:site and twitter:creator are optional and point to the Twitter account of the website publishing the content and the author.

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OpenGraph

When it comes to parsing URLs, images and descriptions, Twitter makes use of existing og: properties. You can overwrite these og: properties with Twitter specific ones, but most of the time this isn’t something you’d want. If your goal is to display completely different information on Twitter, then these tags allow you to override default behavior.

There’s one thing to take into account when using both the Twitter and OpenGraph options. Twitter uses name to specify the attribute whereas OpenGraph makes use of the property attribute. Take this into account if you plan on manually implementing Twitter Cards.

Implementing Twitter Cards

As with other meta tags, you need to add the Twitter tags in the <head> of your website and ensure that the values are set properly on a per-page basis. This can quickly becomes an unwieldy task for a blog, so we built a feature that generates the proper meta tags for you.

Twitter Card settings in Yoast SEO

Twitter Card input field in Yoast SEO

Want to change the look of the Twitter Card for a specific post or page? Just use the form on the Social tab. Here you can tweak specific properties to your liking.

Additionally, our Premium plugin contains Social Previews which display what the Twitter Card will eventually look like based on the current page or post:

twitter cards in yoast seo premium

Twitter Card: Preview your Twitter post with Yoast SEO Premium

Twitter Cards are a great (visual) addition and can help increase traffic to your website!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use social media’ »

Ask Yoast: Video on YouTube or on my own site?

Adding videos to your pages or posts can enrich the experience a user has on your site. In our case, for instance, when we want to explain how a certain feature of Yoast SEO works, adding a video or screencast showing you how to use it, will most likely contribute to the understanding of the use of it. So sensibly adding videos to your site – at the right spots – is something we recommend! You might wonder though, if it’s better to upload the video to your own server, or to use a platform like YouTube and embed it. Learn what’s best!

Tony Devine emailed Ask Yoast with this question:

“I’m going to add a third party video, which I have permission to use, to my website. It’s already hosted on YouTube. Should I put the files on my own server or should I leave them on YouTube instead?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Video on YouTube or own site

In the video we explain what could be the advantages of both options:

Well, to be honest it doesn’t really matter, because getting the video snippet in the search results – which was quite easy in the old days – is quite hard now. So instead of allowing every site in the search results to have video snippets, Google has switched to a system with white listing sites that are allowed to have video snippets. And the chances of your site being among them are zero, to be honest.

So you’re not going to get a video snippet. The boost that you would get from that particular SEO benefit is gone. This means the biggest boost that you’ll get from adding a video, is that people will interact with your page more, if that video is on there. So it might still be a very good idea to have that video on that page. However, it doesn’t really matter at that point where you have posted it.

The only thing that I would consider – if you have permission to use and do some stuff to the video – is republishing the video somewhere. Either on YouTube or somewhere else, and optimize the metadata, because then you could be found on YouTube. And YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine in the world after Google. So maybe think of that. If you’re not allowed to do that, just include the YouTube URL and you’re fine.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to [email protected].

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO basics: How to use social media

Social media endeavors should be a part of your SEO strategy. As social media usage increased in popularity, Google and other search engines couldn’t ignore them any longer. This means that your site’s popularity on social media ties in with your SEO more and more. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. In addition to that, you’ll want to know about these conversations. In this post, I’ll give you some fundamental tips on how to use social media.

How to use social media

Below are some tips you can use in order to set up or to improve your social media strategy:

1. Keep your account alive

The most crucial advice in the use of social media is that you need to keep your account ‘alive’. Make sure you post on a regular basis. Sharing your new blog posts is a good start, but also let people know what you’re working on or what interests you. If you go on vacation, schedule posts for the time you are away, or at least let people know when you’ll be back. And, after a while, you could repost older content to draw people to your website with existing content.

2. Write captivating excerpts

When you decide to share your blog post on social media, make sure to select or write a short and appealing excerpt in order to draw people in. You could, for instance, choose the most important sentence or the main point of your post. Or you could simply choose to share the introduction of the blog post, if you feel that is captivating enough. You want this piece of text to get people to click on the link and read the whole post. And do ensure that people can easily navigate to other pages on your website, once they are there.

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3. Diversify

You can share different types of posts on your social media account. As mentioned in point 1, you could share your blog posts, but you could also share short news items, videos or simply some (behind-the-scenes) pictures. These kind of posts can make our brand more fun and personal.

In order to decide which posts do well on social media, you should analyze the number of views, shares and likes. Of course, we’d advise to share types of posts that receive a lot of views and likes more often.

4. Handle comments

If you share your posts on social media, you could also receive comments. Don’t forget to monitor this. You should handle these comments swiftly.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

5. Use awesome illustrations

For some social media (Pinterest and Instagram) it is all about the illustrations. But also on Facebook visual content is really important. They make your post stand out from all of the other posts in someone’s timeline, and can boost clickthrough.

When you use Yoast SEO Premium you can check what your blog post or product page will look like, before sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. See how easy that is!

6. Be part of the community

If you’re active in a certain community or niche, you’ll soon discover other interesting people in that area that your audience follows. Follow them too and interact with them, this could help your and their audiences grow.

7. Add metadata

Smart use of (hash)tags can also help your growth immensely. For instance if you are at an event, include the hashtag for that event in your post, so everyone searching for that event will come across it. There are also hashtags for certain interests or technology. Some people might even retweet everything that is posted in a certain hashtag, which is a great way to boost your post. But don’t go overboard! Nobody likes a post that is filled with all kinds of random hashtags.

Conclusion

Social media is a key aspect of every SEO strategy. Setting up a decent social media strategy can be hard and will ask for a bit of creativity. And, it’ll definitely consume much of your time. But, it’ll be worth it! And if you think about it, social media and blogging are very similar in many aspects.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

Metadata and SEO part 3: social, internationalization and more

Literally, metadata is data that says something about other data. You can use particular metadata to send information about a webpage to a search engine or a social media channel, and thereby improve your SEO. In the first two posts of this metadata series, we discussed meta tags in headof your site and link rel metadata. In this last episode, we’ll scrutinize on metadata that can improve the sharing experience on social media. And last, but definitely not least, we’ll describe why metadata likehreflang declarations are a necessity if your business serves multiple languages and/or countries.

Posts in this series

Metadata #1: meta tags in the head

Metadata #2: link rel metadata

Metadata #3: Social and international

Social metadata

We have written about Open Graph and Twitter Cards before. These tags, or this information, is definitely metadata. It will help you tell social networks like Facebook and Twitter what the page at hand is about in an orderly, summarized way. It will allow you to control the way your articles or pages are shared.

OpenGraph

OpenGraph is a standard used by a number of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, these tags are added to your page automatically, and of course, you can control the contents of these OpenGraph tags (in the social section in our meta box below on edit pages).

Twitter Cards

The same goes for Twitter Cards. They add metadata to your pages that are convenient for Twitter to read and understand. Our plugin adds Twitter Card metadata as well. If there is no Twitter Card data, Twitter will fallback to OpenGraph data, but you obviously want to make things as simple as possible for that Twitter.

If you’d like a preview of how your page, shared on either Twitter or Facebook would look like, please check our Yoast SEO premium plugin, as that one adds these social previews right in your WordPress backend.

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But wait, there is more important metadata!

If you thought that all the things previously mentioned are all the SEO related metadata for your website, think again.

hreflang tags to indicate other languages

For those of you that have multilingual sites, this one is really, really important. If you have a site or page that is served in more than one language, be sure to add hreflang tags to your page.

With hreflang tags, you can indicate the language variations of the page at hand. That looks like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" 
      hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" 
      hreflang="en-gb" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/de/" 
      hreflang="de" />

As you can see, these can be used for variations of the ‘same’ language as well, like the British English in the second line. Note that hreflang isn’t a substitute for the rel=canonical we discussed. Be safe, implement both. More information on how to implement hreflang can be found here.

Alt tags

If you think about it, any extra attribute you assign to an image, like the alt or title tag, is metadata. Google uses it to scan the page and see what’s on there, so be sure to add these alt and title tags and optimize ’em.

Microdata for breadcrumbs

For a better understanding of your site’s structure, you should add some kind of microdata to your breadcrumbs. That can be done by adding schema.org data for breadcrumbs, for instance by JSON-LDRDFa is another option to add this type of metadata to your website. Again, install Yoast SEO for WordPress and this is taken care of.

Language declaration for the page at hand

Let’s wrap this long list of metadata up with another language related metadata element. At the very top of your HTML, we find the, indeed, html tag. This one wraps all the code of your <head> and <body> and can contain the language of the page at hand. That is done like this:

<html lang="en">

Makes sense, right. Some might say that adding a meta tag for Content-Language is also an option, but following the W3C guidelines, that meta tag should not be used anymore. Use the lang declaration in the html tag instead.

That concludes this series with a lengthy list of metadata you can use to tweak your SEO. I am confident you can come up with even more metadata, as there is plenty. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

Local ranking factors that help your local business’ SEO

If you have a local business, selling products or services, you have to think about the local ranking of your website. Local optimization will help you surface for related search queries in your area. As Google shows local results first in a lot of cases, you need to make sure Google understands where you are located. In this article, we’ll go over all the things you can do to improve Google’s understanding of your location, which obviously improves your chances to rank locally.

Google itself talks about local ranking factors in terms of:

  • Relevance: are you the relevant result for the user? Does your website match what the user is looking for?
  • Distance: how far away are you located? If you are relevant and near, you’ll get a good ranking.
  • Prominence: this is about how well your business is known. More on that at the end of this article.

Let’s start with your address details

If you have a local business and serve mostly local customers, at least add your address in the right way. The right way to do this is using schema.org, either by adding LocalBusiness schema.org tags around your address details or via JSON-LD. Especially when using JSON-LD, you are serving your address details to a search engine in the most convenient way.

Our Local SEO plugin makes adding that LocalBusiness schema to your pages a breeze.

This is very much about what Google calls distance. If you are the closest result for the user, your business will surface sooner.

Google My Business

For your local ranking in Google, you can’t do without a proper Google My Business listing. You need to enlist, add all your locations, verify these and share some photos. Google My Business allows for customer reviews as well, and you should really aim to get some of those for your listing. Positive reviews (simply ask satisfied customers to leave a review) help the way Google and it’s visitors regard your business. This is pretty much like on your local market. If people talk positively about your groceries, more people will be inclined to come to your grocery stand.

Getting reviews is one. You can keep the conversation going by responding to these reviews and, as Google puts it, be a friend, not a salesperson.

Your site’s NAP need to be exactly the same as your Google My Business listing’s NAP

Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP. That is the only way to make sure Google makes the right connection between the two. Add the main address on every page (you are a local business so your address is important enough to mention on every page). For all the other locations, set up a page and list all the addresses of your branches.

Facebook listing and reviews

What goes for Google My Business, goes for Facebook as well. Add your company as a page for a local business to Facebook here. People search a lot on Facebook as well, so you’d better make sure your listing on Facebook is in order.

Facebook also allows for reviews, like here for the Apple Store on Fifth Av. Note that this really is a local review, as the Fifth Avenue store scores a 4.6 average rating and the Amsterdam store just scores a 2.9 at the moment…

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City and state in title

The obvious one: for a local ranking, adding city and (in the US) state to your <title> helps. Read this article (2014), as Arjan sheds some more light on other aspects of local SEO as well. And please keep in mind that the effect of adding your city to your titles might be a lot less for your local ranking than adding your business details to Google My Business, but it won’t hurt for sure.

Local directories help your local ranking

Next to your Google My Business listing, Google uses the local Yelps and other local directories to determine just how important and local you are. Where we usually recommend against putting your link on a page with a gazillion unrelated links, the common ground for a local listings page is, indeed, the location. And these links actually do help your local rankings.

So get your web team to work, find the most important local directory pages and get your details up there. I’m specifically writing details and not just link. Citations work in confirming the address to both Google and visitors. If a local, relevant website lists addresses, get yours up there as well. And while you are at it, get some positive reviews on sites like Yelp as well, obviously!

Links from related, local businesses

Following how directories help your local ranking, it also pays off to exchange a link with related local businesses. If you work together in the same supply chain or sell related products, feel free to exchange links. Don’t just exchange links with any business you know, as these, in most cases, will be low-quality links for your website (because they’re usually unrelated).

Social mentions from local tweeps

Again, there’s a local marketplace online as well. People talk about business, new developments, products on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. All these social mentions find their way to Google’s sensors as well. The search engine will pick up on positive or negative vibes and use these to help them rank your local business. If a lot of people talk about your business and/or link to your website, you must be relevant. Monitor these mentions and engage.

Some say links, from other websites, directories and social media, are the key factor for local rankings. As always, we believe it’s the sum of all efforts that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not just optimizing one aspect. Take your time and make sure your Google My Business profile is right, schema.org details are on your site and you have the right links to your site, and the right people talking about you on for instance Twitter. And please don’t forget to do proper keyword research and simply make sure the right content is on your website:

Optimize your content for better local rankings

Google won’t rank your site for a keyword if that keyword isn’t on your website. It’s as simple as that. If your business is in city X, you probably have a reason why you are located there. Write about that reason. And note that these may vary:

  • You are born there or just love the locals and local habits
  • There is a river which is needed for transport
  • Your local network makes sure you can deliver just-in-time or provide extra services
  • The city has a regional function and your business thrives by that
  • There are 6 other businesses like yours, you’re obviously the best, and you all serve a certain percentage of people, so your business fits perfectly in that area.

These are just random reasons to help you write about your business in relation to your location. They differ (a lot) per company. Make sure your location/city/area is clearly mentioned on your website and not just in your footer at your address details!

Read more: ‘Tips for your local content strategy’ »

One more thing: Google also uses prominence as a local ranking factor

Prominence means that when Google can serve a result first from a well-known brand or business, they actually will. And despite all your efforts to improve your local ranking, this might get in the way of that number one position. It just means you have to step up your game, keep on doing the great work you do and trust that eventually, Google will notice this as well. And as a result, Google might allow you to rank on that number one position for that local keyword!

Keep reading: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

Ask Yoast: Duplicate content on LinkedIn Pulse

Social media is not only an important part of your marketing strategy, but it’s important for your SEO strategy as well. LinkedIn publishing platform Pulse is one of the many content publishing platforms out there. You can read stories and news from other publishers, and you can publish your own content. But could you publish the same blog post on Pulse, as the one you post on your own site? Or should you post an excerpt and link back to your site? Does Google consider content on Pulse as duplicate content? Joost will answer this question in this Ask Yoast.

Guy Andefors from Stockholm in Sweden emailed us the following question:

“Can we safely republish an entire blog post on Pulse or should we post an excerpt and link back to our site?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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LinkedIn Pulse

Read the transcript of the video here:

To be honest, if you post your own blog post first, make sure that it’s indexed in Google and then post it on Pulse with a link underneath the posting: “This post originally appeared on…” linking back to your blog post. If you do this, you should be okay.

It’s not rel=canonical, but Google is smart enough to understand most of that and work its way through, so you should be okay. It might still rank the LinkedIn one higher, if your own domain is not that strong, because it might think that it actually gets a better interaction on LinkedIn. If that’s the case you should think about maybe using excerpts. Just try it a bit, see how it works for you. It really depends on how strong your own domain is and on what you want to achieve. If it works on LinkedIn, maybe leave it on LinkedIn and then make people click from LinkedIn to your site. That’s just as good for you, if it works. 

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we do our best to answer your SEO question! Need some help with your site’s SEO? Send your question to [email protected]. You might get a personal answer on video!

Read more: ‘DIY: Duplicate content check’ »

7 tips to increase blog engagement

Do you want your readers to engage with your blog? Want them to comment and share your post on social media? Want them to come back to your blog and read your next post? So, how do you achieve that? In this post, I’ll first explain the importance of blog engagement for SEO. After that, I’ll give 7 tips on how to increase the engagement of the audience to your blog.

So, what is blog engagement exactly?

We define blog engagement by all the ways people can interact with your post. This could be leaving a comment, sharing your post on their Facebook timeline or mentioning your blog post in a newsletter, Facebook post or blog post. Besides those, it’s a form of engagement to return to your website to read your next post or subscribe to your newsletter. Engaged readers are those readers that are active on your blog. You want your visitors to be active. These active users are the people that buy your stuff, read your newsletter and become regular visitors of your website. These people are your most loyal customers.

Why is blog engagement important for SEO?

Blog engagement is an important factor for SEO. If your audience leaves comments on your blog (and you respond to these comments), Google will notice that your blog is very much alive and active. And of course, mentions on social media will also help with your blog’s ranking. If people share your post on social media, or talk about it online, this will definitely lead to more traffic.

But how do you increase the engagement of your audience? How do you make sure that people comment on your blog post and share it on social media? I’ll give you 7 tips to increase the engagement on your blog!

Tips to increase blog engagement

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1. Make sure your blog posts are awesome

Your content should be awesome. Your content should be so informative, funny or relevant, that people want to share it with the world. If you want to read more about the creation of awesome and SEO friendly content, go ahead and read this blog post.

2. Be consistent

In order to get people to engage with your blog, you should blog on a regular basis. Let people know what to expect. You don’t have to blog every day to create engagement, but make sure the intervals are predictable. If people know that you always publish posts on Thursdays, people might just swing by your website on these Thursdays.

3. Be original

Make sure your content is worth sharing. The most effective way to make sure that people want to share your content is to write original stuff. If your story is one of a kind, people will be more prone to sharing. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge.

4. Be (a bit) controversial

People will respond if they disagree. So, if you want to provoke people to share their point of view on a certain issue, or you want to start an interesting discussion: make sure to be controversial. Make your statements a little bit bolder and a little less nuanced. Don’t go overboard, though, or you’ll have to deal with a lot of negative comments.

5. Ask for engagement

If you want people to respond to your post, ask them to do so! If visitors are actually invited to comment, chances are much higher they decide to do so. Ask people to share their thoughts on the matter at the end of a blog post, or encourage people to like or share your post on Facebook.

6. Respond to the engagement

If you do invite people to comment on your blog, be polite and respond to their comments. If your audience notices you pay attention to their reactions, they’ll be more inclined to come back and visit your website yet another time.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

7. Engage on other blogs

Make sure to be visible on other blogs as well. Comment on posts that have similar subjects as your own posts. If people see you engage on other blogs, they’ll be curious to see what you’ve written about the matter.

Conclusion on blog engagement

In order to collect an engaging audience for your blog you should be a little bold. Make sure to post awesome and original content and add just a little bit of controversy. And, do not forget to invite people to respond! And on that matter… how do you create engagement with your readers? Do you have a hot tip? I’d love to hear your view on this!

Keep reading: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post’ »

Improve your small business SEO today

Small business owners often struggle with their SEO. You have your business, your customers, and now your website demands attention as well. I frequently talk to business owners that just use their website as a reference for real life customers. To be honest, that is a bit narrow-minded. There is so much more you can do!

In this article, I’ll go over some improvements any small business owner can easily do by himself. It’s going to costs you time, not per se any money. Use this article as a checklist, and see how you are doing. Here we go!

Manage your expectations

Let’s start with the most important one: be realistic about what you can rank for and what not. Manage your expectations. If your competitors are giant companies with huge marketing budgets, you’ll probably not going to rank number one for your main keyword (f.i. car insurance). Aim for specific keywords instead, not the general, high-end keywords.

What’s your niche?

Take some time to find the keywords that describe your business best. If you are a local grocery store that also delivers to people’s homes, aim for ‘order groceries Springfield’ not ‘order groceries online’. See how you can differentiate yourself from the horde, and focus on that. This also includes focusing on longer tail keywords. That brings me to my next tip.

Use mid-tail keywords

Adding the city name

Do not keyword-stuff your website with your location’s name. If you really want to rank locally, try to include the city name in a way that makes sense. Add LocalBusiness schema, for instance via our local SEO plugin. And get some local links to your website. That will already help you a lot!

No need to go overboard in specifying your niche. ‘Sports gear for teams that is easy to wash in Vancouver’ will probably only give you one new visitor a day. Focus on mid-tail keywords like ‘team sports gear Vancouver’. You’ll see that for a small business, it usually pays off to add the city name to some optimized pages as well. More on keywords in our article on the long tail.

Utilize online platforms

If there is one thing I can tell you from my experience in this, it is that local small businesses communicate a lot via social media. Use that Twitter account actively, set up your Facebook page and maintain it. Add your business to Google Business and make sure your opening hours are filled out if you have any. Every Google search for your company or closely related searches might show these immediately, before any organic search results. The same goes for sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. They have their marketers working 24/7. In the end, it doesn’t matter if people find your business through websites like Yelp or Google, right?

Utilize offline platforms

New website? Contact your local newspaper. New products? Contact your local newspaper. New business? You get the drift. Do not underestimate the reach these local news companies have. People read these publications. If you have anything newsworthy, please contact these publishers and see if they can help you to promote your business offline. If you participate in a local event, by all means, add a blog post to your website as well. Just be sure it is relevant.

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Word of mouth

Create buzz around your shop, for instance by asking people to leave a review on Google Business or Yelp. Do sweepstakes or giveaways for your online visitors. 500 likes on Facebook? Give number 500 a coupon for your shop, online or offline. Have a sale for a specific brand? You could consider promoting it online only. Sponsoring a local event? Be sure to set up an event specific landing page and ask them to link that one. These are all little things that might trigger people to talk about your website, next to your shop.

Add evergreen content

If you want to rank, just adding blog posts or opening times won’t be enough. You should add pages with so-called evergreen content. These pages have content that won’t expire anytime soon. Evergreen content can be at the top of your keyword research pyramid, so a bit less long tail than the rest of your keyword focus. This content can be the solid base of your websites. Expand this base per product, service or business value so that you can focus on all the dynamic content you’ll write on a daily or weekly basis.

Small business blogging

The easiest way to keep your customers (and others) in the loop about your products and offerings, is by adding a blog to your website. That blog will fuel your social media and newsletter, so it’s a much more extensive tool than ‘just an addition’ to your site.

Please keep in mind that ‘no inspiration’ is a sad excuse for not adding that blog. Marieke just did an article with a load of tips that will give you that inspiration. Just start, and see where it goes. You’ll find your way in this for sure.

Get local links

To emphasize the local character of your shop, it will pay off to see what related business there are in your local area. By reaching out to these companies or websites you will a) expand your local network and b) create an opportunity to get valuable backlinks. Just because of these local backlinks, Google will understand your geographical reach/positioning.

Contact details everywhere

For most small business websites, the main goal is to get in touch with your potential customers. The simplest way to make this crystal clear is by adding your contact details to every page. It doesn’t matter if that is in the footer or sidebar by the way. Add your phone number or an email form so that people can reach you in the easiest way possible.

Realize your website is your online shop window

Putting in all that effort might seem like a hassle, as you are already putting so much time in local networking, redecorating your shop’s windows and more. You have to keep in mind that for someone that finds your shop online first, it matters what that shop looks like. Your website is the online replacement for window shopping. If your actual shop is decorated for the season, I would also suggest taking a closer look at how you can translate that to your website.

Make sure people feel welcome, and are enticed to buy your products or services online. Or at least feel the urge to come by your local business to see what you can do for them.

Read more: ‘What is Local SEO?’ »

Insights in Instagram analytics

Instagram isn’t yet the traffic source Facebook is. But Instagram is growing rapidly. Just last month, the milestone of 500 million users was reached. It makes you wonder whether or not to incorporate Instagram into your default marketing mix, right? Therefore, it would be nice to have Instagram analytics.

In 2015, 33% of US teens chose Instagram as their personal number one social network. Of all the Instagram users, about 50% is male. 96 percent of US fashion brands use Instagram. Those are all impressive stats, but what about your Instagram account? What are the stats on that? For these numbers, you’d say you have to dig into Instagram analytics, right? I found no such thing. Facebook has Insights, Twitter has Analytics, Pinterest has Analytics, YouTube has Analytics, Instagram has… no such thing. There is no native analytics for Instagram. Facebook Ads for Instagram gives some insights, but that is just for the companies advertising on the social platform.

How do I get to my Instagram Analytics!?

I can’t imagine that Instagram won’t roll out Instagram Analytics (or Instagram Insights, following Facebook Insights) at some point in the future. But it won’t be rolling out as fast as Pokemon Go, that much is clear. There are some stats in business insights for advertisers, but hey, not all of us advertise on Instagram. As far as I know, these business tools are still a work in progress and not available to all. Brand Profiles will be limited to companies that have a Facebook Page (for now?). Be sure to check this article for more insights on those stats. Long story short, for the time being, we have to fall back on third-party applications. And that works pretty well, actually!

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Third party Instagram Analytics apps

There are a ton of iOS and Android apps for Instagram, and a lot of these are apps that give you stats. Most provide an overview of things like new followers or most popular media. All of these apps seem centered around this information:

  • New followers
  • Lost followers
  • Users that are not following you back (called ‘non-followers’)
  • Followers that you don’t follow back (called ‘fans’)

This is the standard information every one of those apps gives for free. And to be honest, I wouldn’t waste my money on the other intel these apps provide. Although it’s quite hard to publish on Instagram from your desktop, the third party analytics apps have a way better overview than most mobile apps. Again, there are tons of desktop/browser apps available. Apps like Minter.io or Quintly handle more social networks than just Instagram. These cost a nice monthly fee and will tell you more about your social efforts and the effects they have.

In this article, I’d like to focus on another tool that I find very handy for my Instagram Analytics: Iconosquare.

Iconosquare

Iconosquare has a free trial, and after that, it costs you from $49/yr (per IG account) up to $499/yr. Key differences between the packages are these:

  • The cheapest package doesn’t allow for hashtag monitoring
  • The more expensive ones add competition monitoring
  • Comments will be tracked for the last 5, 15 or 30 media
  • The most expensive one includes photo and video contests

They all include a variety of interesting stats. Your Iconosquare dashboard will show you Instagram analytics like your follower growth and the number of lost and gained followers, much like the other apps I mentioned.

Iconosquare: overview | Instagram Analytics

It will show you the love, talk, and engagement rate of your Instagram posts:

iconosquare: love, talk and engagement rate | Instagram Analytics

  • Love rate is based on the likes given by your followers divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.
  • Talk rate is based on the comments received from your followers divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.
  • Engagement rate is based on the likes and comments received divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.

Makes sense, right? Next to that, Iconosquare will tell you what your most liked, most commented and most engaging media is. You can base your Instagram strategy on that: post more of what is popular among your audience.

Engagement

For better insights in your posts, check the Engagement section of the tool. It will tell you things like average likes or comments, but also what Instagram filters work best. The one that works best for me is Aden. I have to say that that name isn’t directly ringing a bell for me, as I usually pick a filter by what it does to the photo, not the name :)

Furthermore, the engagement section holds tag cloud with your most-used tags, which I like as I am a heavy tag user these days. Tags simply work like a charm to trigger engagement with / market towards new people.

Best time to post

What I like as well, is the Best time to post – Engagement rate table. It will tell you when your posts trigger the most engagement with your audience. The darker the square, the better the engagement is:

Iconosquare: best time to post | Instagram Analytics

To me, that is one of the most important pieces of information Iconosquare provides. It’s good to optimize posting times, using for instance Later.

Community

Another section in this Instagram analytics app is Community. This section provides information about your followers, like their location or the structure of your community (how many followers have your followers):

Iconosquare: location | Instagram Analytics

You can zoom that world map, by the way. Makes it a bit easier to analyze!

Another interesting section is the “Top Followers” section. It shows you the followers with the most followers, so to say. You know that you will reach the most people when you interact with these followers (comments, likes)will be seen by the most people. So be sure to do that as well, to grow your following towards their numbers.

To sum things up

Even though there is no such thing as Instagram Analytics (yet), there are lots of ways to get these valuable insights about your efforts and followers. I think Instagram will make its own analytics available, maybe even for non-business Instagram users. If that time comes, I’ll be one of the first to write the insights about that on this blog :)

Read more: ‘Facebook Page Insights explained’ »