Get Free Publicity for Your Website Using HARO

Wouldn’t it be spectacular to get free publicity for your website with a link and a quote on a major news publication like the Washington Post or Huffington Post? It’s actually easier than you might think and it involves using a website called “HARO” or “Help A Reporter Out” – www.helpareporter.com. HARO is a service that connects journalists in need of sources and marketers hungry for publicity.

Get Free Publicity for Your Website

HARO is a great way for small businesses to get free publicity. All you need to do is sign up and choose between the free or paid plans. The free plan subscribes you to 3 emails a day that you have to comb through and respond to. The paid plans allow you to go on the HARO website and search and filter to the specific category that you might respond to with a pitch. The paid plan also gives you a profile on the HARO site.

Whenever there is something that is relevant to your business in HARO, you can respond with a pitch. Many small businesses have been featured in local newspapers, on blogs, and in several online news magazines. If you’re lucky, you can build up a relationship with a specific journalist. 

How To Boost Exposure For Your Website Without SEO

There are many ways to boost exposure for your website. SEO or search engine optimization is one method, but for some online businesses – particularly ecommerce businesses – there’s too much competition for first page search results. This post discusses four proven methods for driving referral traffic to your website and building brand exposure even if your site doesn’t appear on the first page of Google search results.

Four Methods for Increasing Website Exposure & Referral Traffic

1) Build an email list from your existing website visitors

This is something of a no-brainer. Every website should have an email signup. If you don’t, please contact Connect4 today (202-236-2968) so we can help you set it up. However, this method is slightly different because it offers a purchase incentive to visitors. This can be a coupon that the visitor can use immediately on the site to buy something. For example, REI.com offers people 15% off select products if they sign up for the email list.

2) Incorporate products into your blog

Another way to build exposure and referral traffic is to create a blog with great content that features some of the products that you sell or services that you provide. Zappos is a company that excels at this approach. If you go to Zappos, it looks like any other ecommerce site that sells clothes and shoes. However, if you go to the Zappos blog, they do a great job of incorporating their products into great content. They also give how-to tips. If your blog isn’t getting much traction, you might want to shift away from product announcements and try a Zappos-type approach and integrate your products or services into great content.

3) Create expert advice videos

Another way to get exposure for your website without SEO is to create content that appeals to your target audience but doesn’t even talk about the products or services that you offer. Once again REI does this really well with their YouTube channel. They’ve identified their target market and then created expert advice videos. They are assuming that people will watch the expert advice videos and then be reminded about a purchase they intended to make and be reminded that REI is a place to go to make such a purchase.

4) Guest posting

Yet another way to boost exposure for your website without SEO is to guest post on someone else’s blog. What you’d first want to do is to do just what REI did and identify your target audience. If I were doing this, I would search Google for something like “small business technology” + “guest post”, and then I would go through the various sites and pick the site with the most comments.

As you can see, the key to promoting your website without SEO revolves around creating great content. You want great content that appeals to your target customer and a variety of vehicles for getting that content in front of them.

Comment Spam: What Is It and How To Control It?

If you have a blog or WordPress site, chances are you have encountered comment spam. Unfortunately, the more popular your blog becomes, the more spam it is likely to get. There is nothing more frustrating than having to spend time moderating your comments to determine which ones are spam and which ones are legitimate. The good news is that this unethical approach to search engine optimization is used less and less frequently thanks to Google cracking down on the process and not rewarding fake links.

In today’s post, we are going to look at:

  • How to identify spam.
  • Settings and plugins you can use in the base WordPress comment system to help moderate spam.

Comments, Trackbacks, and Pingbacks

Before we go any further we need to define a few terms that are related to blog comments.

  • Comments – Comments are created when someone uses the comment form on your blog post to engage with your content.
  • Pingbacks – Pingbacks are automatically created when someone links to your blog post from one of their blog posts.
  • Trackbacks – Trackbacks are manual notifications by one blogger that they have linked to your blog post within theirs. Pingbacks were created to automate this process.

WordPress refers to Trackbacks and Pingbacks as Pings when you attempt to filter your comments.

 

You can recognize the difference between the two visually like this. Comments will have the comment author’s name, email address, optional website link, and IP address listed along with their comment.

 

Trackbacks and pingbacks (Pings) will only have the title of a blog post, a link, and an excerpt from the external blog post as the comment.

 

Unfortunately, comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks are all used frequently as spam. There are ways to even automate the spamming process which adds to the problem. So let’s look at some ways to identify spam.

Why Comment Spam Is Harmful

Some people, in an attempt to inflate their number of comments, will approve comments that they know are not legitimate. Why is this bad? Consider these things:

  • Google is cracking down on bad links. This doesn’t just include sites that buy bad links, it also includes sites that allow bad links. The last thing you want is Google to think that you are allowing bad links on your website, even if they are just in your comments.
  • Comment spam shows lack of moderation. Imagine that you’re buying a home and you drive through a neighborhood and there’s a house that’s unkempt at totally overgrown in weeds. That’s the impression you are giving to your visitors if your blog posts are littered with comment spam – that no one is actively taking care of it.
  • Your readers might lose faith in you. What if one of your readers clicks on a comment link and is taken to a site they don’t want to be. If you wouldn’t link to a viagra website in your own website, you shouldn’t let a commenter link to one either.

How to Identify Spam

How do you know whether a comment on your blog is spam or legitimate? This is tough and it’s really up to you. Some blog owners will read every comment and consider it legit if the comment shows that the reader actually read the post. Other blog owners will dismiss a comment as spam based on the fact that the link does not match the same industry as their blog. Here are some questions you can answer when looking at a comment that will help you determine whether or not you should approve it to go live on your blog.

  • Is the author using a real name or a bunch of keywords? The use of keywords in a name in a comment field without first or last name is always the sign of an SEO spammer.
  • Would I want my blog readers to click on the comment author’s link? If the answer is no, don’t approve the comment.
  • Is the comment specific, or could it apply to any blog post? 
  • Has the same comment author been using several different email and website addresses? If John Doe comments one day linking to an outdoor store and then the next day linking to an automobile supply store, you know it’s spam.
  • Does the comment author use a legitimate email address? If you see someone commenting using an email address like [email protected] then chances are it’s spam.

Settings to Control Comment Spam

WordPress has some basic settings that you should use to control comment spam.

Moderate Comments from First Time Comment Authors

Not only will this prevent your blog from becoming a spamfest, but it will also allow people who have been approved once to be approved for future comments, leaving less to moderate. Comment authors who change the way they enter their name, email address, or website link will be placed into moderation again. This keeps someone from being approved once with a good website link from coming in and using one you would not approve of in future comments.

To hold a first time commenter author in moderation, go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Before a Comment Appears section, check the box for comment author must have previously approved comment. Make sure the checkbox above it for an administrator must always approve the comment is unchecked.

Turn Off Trackbacks

Trackback spam is sometimes worse than comment spam. So you have to consider whether or not having it on is even necessary. You can still find out who is linking to your blog by looking at the Incoming Links portion of your WordPress dashboard.

Turn Off Comments After 30 or 60 Days

People who comment for link building purposes (SEO spammers) typically look for blog posts with high PageRank – Google’s 1 – 10 scoring of authority. Typically, blog posts start out at a PageRank of 0 and only gain PageRank after a few months. This means that SEO spammers are going to be targeting your older blog posts.

Typically, the height of popularity for a blog post is within the first two weeks. That will also be when you get the majority of your comments (unless you don’t update your blog that often). Hence, if you close blog comments after 30 – 60 days based on your preference, you will have a lot less comments to moderate.

Plugins to Control Spam

At Connect4, our WordPress sites all come with the Akismet comment spam plugin installed. It filters all comments and acts like a junk email filter for WordPress comments. It is not perfect, however, and you still have to moderate the process and approve some comments identified by Akismet as junk, but it is far better than not having any plugin to control comment spam.

 

The Ideal Length For Online Content

I think we all can agree that different audiences and medium require different types of writing, but it turns out that there are ideal lengths for online content such as tweets, Facebook posts, Google+ headlines,  and blog post headlines.

The ideal length of a tweet is 100 characters

According to Twitter, Twitter’s best practices reference research by Buddy Media about tweet length: 100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. 

Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be consumed easily anywhere, even via mobile text messages. There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.

Photo by birgerking The ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters

Forty characters is not much at all. (The sentence I just wrote was 36 characters.)

However, 40 is the magic number that Jeff Bullas, social media marketing guru, found was most effective in his study of retail brands on Facebook.

The ideal length of a Google+ headline is less than 60 characters

To maximize the readability and appearance of your posts on Google+, you probably should keep your text on one line.

Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger studied the Google+ breaking point and found that headlines should not exceed 60 characters.

The ideal length of a headline is 6 words

How much of the headline of this post did you read before you clicked?

According to a blog post by Kissmetrics, you might not have read it at all! According to the post, we not only scan content but we also scan headlines and tend to only absorb the first three words and last three words of a headline. If you can’t restrict your headline to 6 words, at the very least make sure that the first and last three count.

Terrible Web Design Trends and How to Stop Them

From LiveStrong yellow wristbands to Planking, the power of trends is undeniable. In our digital age dominated by social media and audiences with ever-shortening attention spans, these rapidly changing trends extend to web design as well. Continuously developing design and development technologies means that web design trends come and go quickly. While it might be cool to be an early-adopter, it certainly doesn’t pay to be a late-adopter or you will be left with a website with one of the following five terrible web design trends. Thankfully, most of these are not that common anymore.

Splash Pages

We’ve all seen a site that loads with sliding photography, blinking status bars, and a cacophony of visual excess. The thought behind a splash page is “Watch this long ‘short intro’ video to discover how awesome our website is!”

Hoping for a strong first impression, websites that adopt this practice of showing a splash page definitely make an impact. Unfortunately, it’s usually an overly negative one.

Splash pages waste time and delay people from accessing the real website content. Site users just flock to the “click to skip” link, or, in some cases, can’t even find it and decide to leave instead of waiting.

Conclusion:

A good homepage, information architecture (how the information is organized), and content strategy are all you need. Don’t waste precious time by showing users pointless filler content.

Web 2.0 Design

Rounded corners, reflections, drop shadows and gradients say one thing: 2005. As the Internet moves toward a flatter, harder-edged aesthetic, don’t let your site get stuck with an outdated look.

These days, dimensionality and drop-shadowing look soft and tentative. Skeuomorphism for skeuomorphism sake doesn’t really accomplish anything, other than potentially confusing your viewer with an over-complicated design. You can do better. Simplify your designs to make your interfaces more user-friendly and to improve UX.

Conclusion:

With major tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and others going flat, the reality is that this is what users will come to expect.

Stock Photos

Good stock photos don’t actually look like a stock photo, but they can be prohibitively expensive. So, instead, we are often shown cold, lifeless fake photos of people.

Conclusion:

Use stock photography sparingly. If photos are needed on your website, try and take them yourself. If this is not an option, be very selective with your stock photography. Make sure that adding the photo is actually going to improve the look of your site instead of making it look like a joke.

MySpace-ification

Thankfully we don’t see this too often anymore, but in the mid-2000s, internet-savvy users were defined by the amount of personalization in their MySpace profiles. Unfortunately some web designers picked up on this trend, over-designing sites to the point of complete chaos.

Conclusion:

This one is simple. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Flash Sites

The strength of Flash is also its weakness. Though animations and movement definitely grab attention and can enhance the look of your site, they are also incompatible with many Web devices (all Apple products).

What good is a large amount of visually-stimulating content if many of your users can’t even see it?

With the maturation of CSS3 transitions and HTML5 standards, it is now possible to create impressive animated sites without the use of proprietary, closed-source software.

Conclusion:

It’s time to stop relying on Flash and get on board HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript which accomplish many of the same things as Flash with less compatibility and performance issues.

Background Music

Some web designers want to engage their viewers’ senses, so they add some tunes to help build a connection. If you’re considering this, keep in mind two things: 1) some of your viewers have their sound muted and will thus miss out on your awesome jams, and 2) those that do have the sound on are likely listening to something else or looking to hear something specific.

Not to mention the potential issues with site loading speed, licensing, user experience, etc.

Conclusion:

Unless you’re a DJ company or a radio station, please skip the urge to add music to your site.

Popup Windows

I think we have all experienced the frustration of loading a webpage and immediately being bombarded with a trillion unclosable pop-up windows. It truly harms our experience on the site and makes us wary of coming back.

Unfortunately, today, popup windows are being reincarnated in the form of modal window overlays that open automatically and interrupt our reading experience. Check out Tab Closed; Didn’t Read to see a showcase of disruptive window overlays.

Conclusion:

Ads are a part of life, and they’re an important way for many sites to generate revenue. That being said, no one likes an ad that’s overly disruptive. If you’re going to use popups, use them sparingly, strategically, make sure they can be closed and don’t cover the entire screen.

Like any trend, what’s popular in web design comes and goes quite quickly. If you have a robust development and design team, incorporating current trends can make your site look fresh and relevant.

Just remember that trends have a shelf-life, and be prepared when it’s time to make a change. What’s hot right now could soon go the way of sparkly mouse pointers and site visitor counters.

For those who are more risk-averse (or strapped for time or by budget), it’s best to focus on more mainstream design ideas that will always look professional and be effective.

 

How to Push Blog Posts to Constant Contact

Suppose you have a blog with regular posts and also a Constant Contact email marketing account. Since time is money, whenever you can save time doing a repetitive process, you are essentially saving money. In this case what you want to do is push summaries of your blog posts to a Constant Contact email template to reduce the amount of time involved in putting together a marketing email. I will show you how to do this in a few easy steps.

Step 1: Create a Google Feedburner Account

Go to http://feedburner.google.com and set up an account. If you already have a gmail account, just log in with your gmail account and follow the prompts to link the two accounts. Once you are logged in, you will see the following screen:

Enter your sites rss feed link. If we set up your site the link will be http://www.yourwebsite.com/feed

You should see the Congrats! confirmation page. Click the “Skip directly to feed management” link adjacent to the Next button at the bottom of the page.

To complete the initial set up, click the Publicize tab at the top > then choose Email Subscriptions on the left side. From the Email Subscriptions page > click the Activate button located at the bottom of the page.

Step 2: Create Your Email in Constant Contact and Push RSS Feed to Email Template

Go to your Constant Contact account and log in. Find your email template. If you have one you like and use regularly, you can just copy the most recent campaign. Select the area where you want to insert blog content.
Click Blog Content in the left sidebar and enter the RSS feed url from Feedburner.

Then select the blog posts that you want to push from your website to your email campaign. You will see a list of all the blog posts on your website. You can pick and choose whichever posts you want to use.

Then you just need to determine how much content you want in the email. Do you want to use a summary and redirect traffic back to your website? Or would you prefer to give your audience the entire blog in the email. It’s up to you.

When you click submit, the blog posts will appear in your email within Constant Contact. You can then make additional design and content edits. If you don’t like the summary, you can even edit the summary.

New Top Level Domains Available

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), founded in 1998, was created to ensure a stable and unified global Internet. One key responsibility is introducing and promoting competition in the registration of domain names, while ensuring the security and stability of the domain name system (DNS).

In 2005, ICANN initiated a process to add to the existing top level domains (.com, .org, .net, .edu, etc.). Organizations had to apply to create new TLDs. To see all 1923 of them, visit: https://gtldresult.icann.org/application-result/applicationstatus.

What’s interesting about this is you can now reserve the new top level domains. They won’t actually go into play until the end of 2013, but there are about 1,000 new top level domains. This is interesting for marketing purposes. I could buy, for example, connect4.consulting or a law firm like Arnold & Porter could buy arnoldporter.law. A local pizza place could be mytown.pizza.

Browse the entire list yourself.

The Eight Critical Steps to Internet Marketing Success

Marketing is the process of connecting people and products. With proper implementation, technology enables connections. We are the midst of a marketing paradigm-shift. There are new marketing tools that allow for low-cost direct connections between organizations and their constituents.

The challenge is knowing how, why, and when to utilize these new marketing tools.

The Eight Critical Steps to Internet Marketing Success Are:

  1. Marketing Plan
  2. Target Audience
  3. Message
  4. Medium
  5. Website
  6. Press Releases
  7. Email Marketing
  8. Social Media Sites

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is essential because it will allow you to think about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats ahead of time. The marketing plan will help you:

  • identify and set goals;
  • determine your budget;
  • target specific audiences;
  • create and prioritize messaging;
  • identify the most efficient and effective distribution medium; and
  • create a time line for implementation.

Target Audience

Identifying a target audience is critical. Internet marketing is particularly well-suited for a highly segmented target audience. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity, however, you need to know the socio-demographic characteristics of your audience.

Message

What is the most important thing you want to say? What is the most concise and attention-grabbing method of saying it? That is your message.

Medium

What is the best way of distributing the message? There might be several different ideal mediums – website, email marketing, press releases, pay per click advertising through Google AdWords, for example.

Website

There is no excuse for not having a website. Any organization that wants to interact with customers online must have an online presence. Generally, less is more. Websites are no longer repositories for data. Audiences expect better and will judge you based on the quality and presentation of your site. A site that looks like a dollar store in a seedy neighborhood should not be trying to communicate with an audience that doesn’t shop in dollar stores.

Press Releases

Online press releases can be extremely effective.

Email Marketing

Email marketing campaigns using Constant Contact are a very good way to communicate directly with, and develop, existing relationships with your constituents.

Social Media Sites

There are more Facebook users than the U.S. population. If you have time to focus on social media sites, this can be a very effective way to leverage the Internet for free. The key is spending time, however.

To learn more about effective Internet Marketing, visit Connect4 Consulting. Connect4 Consulting is a full service marketing and technology communications firm.