The Votes Have Been Counted and the Winner is…

It would be hubris to think that these results are solely down to the email programs of the different parties but email surely played its part.

At the end of the day, political parties sell personalities. They talk about policies but those only matter if the voters have faith in the politicians who turn those policies into law. In other words, it is all about relationships. As we all know, email is the best channel for building relationships and the channel through which consumers want to build and maintain relationships with brands.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats did a better job of building these relationships. First, they sent more emails. It is always a fine balance of sending enough and sending too many but clearly the three or four emails sent by the Conservatives did not do the job. Similarly, the emails from Labour and the Liberal Democrats were a good mix of putting forth their policies and partisan campaigning with messages designed to motivate their supporters to get out and vote on the day.

Where all of the parties fell down was in nurturing undecided voters. They all assumed that people signing up to receive their emails were die-hard supporters. There was no attempt made to identify where we were on our journey to supporting their party. This caused issues right from the start. In many cases, we thought we were signing up to receive emails and we found ourselves on pages that talked about “membership,” “accounts” and “public profiles”. Instead, they should have asked to get to know us better with questions like:

  • What is your relationship with the party?
  • What issues interest you?
  • Are you planning to vote?

Email is the best marketing tool for building relationships and relationships are built on two-way communications. The political parties that actually bothered to send emails made little to no effort to build relationships with their email programs. Labour and the Liberal Democrats were both in the little effort camp and that effort paid off on polling day.

The post The Votes Have Been Counted and the Winner is… appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 2 months ago from blog.dotmailer.com

The New Link Building Survey 2014 – Results

Posted by JamesAgate

Many of you may have seen Skyrocket SEO’s Link Building Survey results that we published here on Moz around this same time last year. The reception was fantastic, so we decided to push ahead with turning this into an annual series to see how this strand of the industry is developing and evolving over time.

Firstly, “link building”…

Yep, we’ve not changed the name to a “content marketing survey” or “inbound link acquisition survey;” we still feel link building is a vital part of an SEOs arsenal of tactics, and therefore it deserves its own survey.

As a company we’re investing just as much in link building for our clients (granted, we’ve adapted what we are doing), but the fact remains that if you want to score big with decent organic search visibility then you need links.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the details:

Who took the survey?

A massive thank you to the 315 or so people who took the survey. That number is slightly down from last yeah, which I feel is partly due to fewer people considering link building to be a part of their day-to-day roles. I’d argue that’s a missed opportunity, and this year we had a few duplicate entries and submissions that needed a bit of tidying up, so we trimmed it back to these 315 submissions.

The makeup of the respondents was broadly similar to last year, as expected, although based on user feedback from our inaugural survey, we added a few more categories for respondents to self-classify—so it is hard to make specific comparisons.

How much does your company spend on link building per month?

In the 2013 survey, 10% of respondents said their company spent $50k+ per month on link building, so it appears that the upper limit to link building spend may have decreased slightly across the industry.

That being said, there now appears to be a much larger number of companies in the $10-$50k per month bracket when you compare this year’s 37% with last year’s 11%.

I would attribute the changes year-on-year to two factors;

  • Reclassification of the term “link building:” Many companies have shifted budget that they would previously classified as link building budget into content projects that more than likely still have an impact on link building efforts.
  • Recognition of opportunity: Based on our own experiences we see a number of website owners and businesses pushing harder with their content promotion and link building as they recognise an opportunity to invest when their competitors are running scared.

Warren Buffett once said “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” Based on conversations alone that I’ve had with a wide range of businesses, many are now fearful when it comes to building links. In fact, we gathered some data later in the survey that revealed that one of the biggest challenges people face is not knowing which links will help and which will harm them. Google’s widespread action against websites (and dare I say it webmaster propaganda) has had a dramatic impact on some people to the point of paralysis.

There are clear opportunities that, with a sound strategy, can be seized in today’s market.

You can
build links like it’s 1999 for a microsite or second level property, keep it super-clean and identify link opportunities that would be valuable irrespective of Google, or somewhere in between those extremes. The fact is the links still form the backbone of the internet and of Google’s algorithm and that isn’t going to change for a very long time.

What percentage of your overall SEO budget is allocated toward building links?

Thanks to
John-Henry Scherck for this one as he made the suggestion following the 2013 survey that having data on the percentage would be really interesting. Looking back we don’t have a point of comparison but not of course moving forward we will have so we should get a clearer picture of whether online marketing budgets are just increasing in general (and therefore link building gets allocated the same percentage but of a bigger pie) or whether folks are seeing the value from building links and therefore allocating a larger percentage of the same sized pie to link building activities.

Would you say you’ve increased or decreased your spend on link building over the past 12 months?

This aligns with our data on more people entering the $10-$50k per month investment bracket this year:

Why the increase/decrease in spending?

We asked people why they decided to increase or decrease their spending on link building over the past 12 months.

Responses could be categorized into the following areas:

Common reason for increases:

  • Increased costs related to moving away from older style and often “cheaper” link building
  • Increased costs related to production/creativity
  • Good links are just as important as ever; links still move the needle in terms of search engine visibility and performance therefore it makes sense to increase investment in this area.

Common reasons for decreases:

  • Moving link building budget into content marketing projects (to be fair, this budget will probably indirectly fund link acquisition of some kind even if it is seen as a secondary goal for the content campaign.)
  • We wanted to scale back and assess the impact that Google’s manual actions etc have on our website.

In the next 12 months, will you look to increase or decrease your spend on link building?

Why the planned increase/decrease in spending?

  • Link building continues to get more expensive
  • To raise the bar on existing efforts, and to beat competitors with increasingly sophisticated content assets
  • Unsure where to invest/which links are working so concentrating budget into other activities.

Which link building tactics do you utilise most often?

(Numbers listed are votes rather than percentages)

When we compare with responses from the 2013 survey, there is a clear shift towards content-led initiatives and a reduction in some tactics for example close to 50% said in 2013 that guest blogging was their staple tactic, in 2014 fewer than 15% listed it as one of their staple activities.

Another interesting bit of data is the fact that paid links have seen somewhat of a resurgence in popularity, presumably as companies look for tactics where they can maintain greater control. In 2013, just 5% listed paid links as their staple linking tactic whereas in 2014 over 13% reported paid linking and blog networks as one of their main link building tactics.

What is currently your biggest link building challenge?

  • Getting links to pages that aren’t particularly linkworthy (money pages)
  • Lack of scalability (time, process, training, spreading time between clients)
  • Avoiding Google penalties

These are similar challenges to those reported in 2013 in the sense that there is still concern over which links are helping and harming organic search performance as well as difficulties relating to processes and the lack of scalability.

The interesting thing is that SEO is full of challenges so as soon as one is overcome, the next appears. In 2013, 28% of respondents said that “finding link prospects” was a key challenge but this year not a mention of link prospects being an issue. This arguably suggests that we as an industry were adjusting to the “new world” back in 2013 and that now we have advanced our capabilities enough for this to now longer be the primary challenge in our day to day work. Now the main problem doesn’t seem to be getting links as such but more about getting links into the pages that we all need to rank to stay in business … the money pages.

Which link building tactics do you believe to be most effective?

(numbers below are “votes” rather than percentages)

Which link building tactics do you believe to be least effective?

(numbers below are “votes” rather than percentages)

Which link building tactics do you consider to be harmful to a site?

(numbers below are “votes” rather than percentages)

See the complete visual below:

Thank you for everyone who took part in the survey! See you all again next year.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird

Posted by MarieHaynes

If you’re reading the Moz blog, then you probably have a decent understanding of Google and its algorithm changes. However, there is probably a good percentage of the Moz audience that is still confused about the effects that Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird can have on your site. I did write a post last year about the main 
differences between Penguin and a Manual Unnautral Links Penalty, and if you haven’t read that, it’ll give you a good primer.

The point of this article is to explain very simply what each of these algorithms are meant to do. It is hopefully a good reference that you can point your clients to if you want to explain an algorithm change and not overwhelm them with technical details about 301s, canonicals, crawl errors, and other confusing SEO terminologies.

What is an algorithm change?

First of all, let’s start by discussing the Google algorithm. It’s immensely complicated and continues to get more complicated as Google tries its best to provide searchers with the information that they need. When search engines were first created, early search marketers were able to easily find ways to make the search engine think that their client’s site was the one that should rank well. In some cases it was as simple as putting in some code on the website called a meta keywords tag. The meta keywords tag would tell search engines what the page was about.

As Google evolved, its engineers, who were primarily focused on making the search engine results as relevant to users as possible, continued to work on ways to stop people from cheating, and looked at other ways to show the most relevant pages at the top of their searches. The algorithm now looks at hundreds of different factors. There are some that we know are significant such as having a good descriptive title (between the <title></title> tags in the code.) And there are many that are the subject of speculation such as 
whether or not Google +1’s contribute to a site’s rankings.

In the past, the Google algorithm would change very infrequently. If your site was sitting at #1 for a certain keyword, it was guaranteed to stay there until the next update which might not happen for weeks or months. Then, they would push out another update and things would change. They would stay that way until the next update happened. If you’re interested in reading about how Google used to push updates out of its index, you may find this 
Webmaster World forum thread from 2002 interesting. (Many thanks to Paul Macnamara  for explaining to me how algo changes used to work on Google in the past and pointing me to the Webmaster World thread.)

This all changed with launch of “Caffeine” in 2010. Since Caffeine launched, the search engine results have been changing several times a day rather than every few weeks. Google makes over 600 changes to its algorithm in a year, and the vast majority of these are not announced. But, when Google makes a really big change, they give it a name, usually make an announcement, and everyone in the SEO world goes crazy trying to figure out how to understand the changes and use them to their advantage.

Three of the biggest changes that have happened in the last few years are the Panda algorithm, the Penguin algorithm and Hummingbird.

What is the Panda algorithm?

Panda first launched on February 23, 2011. It was a big deal. The purpose of Panda was to try to show high-quality sites higher in search results and demote sites that may be of lower quality. This algorithm change was unnamed when it first came out, and many of us called it the “Farmer” update as it seemed to affect content farms. (Content farms are sites that aggregate information from many sources, often stealing that information from other sites, in order to create large numbers of pages with the sole purpose of ranking well in Google for many different keywords.) However, it affected a very large number of sites. The algorithm change was eventually officially named after one of its creators, Navneet Panda.

When Panda first happened, a lot of SEOs in forums thought that this algorithm was targeting sites with unnatural backlink patterns. However, it turns out that links are most likely
not a part of the Panda algorithm. It is all about on-site quality.

In most cases, sites that were affected by Panda were hit quite hard. But, I have also seen sites that have taken a slight loss on the date of a Panda update. Panda tends to be a site-wide issue which means that it doesn’t just demote certain pages of your site in the search engine results, but instead, Google considers the entire site to be of lower quality. In some cases though Panda can affect just a section of a site such as a news blog or one particular subdomain.

Whenever a Google employee is asked about what needs to be done to recover from Panda, they refer to a 
blog post by Google Employee Amit Singhal that gives a checklist that you can use on your site to determine if your site really is high quality or not. Here is the list:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Phew! That list is pretty overwhelming! These questions do not necessarily mean that Google tries to algorithmically figure out whether your articles are interesting or whether you have told both sides of a story. Rather, the questions are there because all of these factors can contribute to how real-life users would rate the quality of your site. No one really knows all of the factors that Google uses in determining the quality of your site through the eyes of Panda. Ultimately though, the focus is on creating the best site possible for your users.  It is also important that only your best stuff is given to Google to have in its index. There are a few factors that are widely accepted as important things to look at in regards to Panda:

Thin content

A “thin” page is a page that adds little or no value to someone who is reading it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a page has to be a certain number of words, but quite often, pages with very few words are not super-helpful. If you have a large number of pages on your site that contain just one or two sentences and those pages are all included in the Google index, then the Panda algorithm may determine that the majority of your indexed pages are of low quality.

Having the odd thin page is not going to cause you to run in to Panda problems. But, if a big enough portion of your site contains pages that are not helpful to users, then that is not good.

Duplicate content

There are several ways that duplicate content can cause your site to be viewed as a low-quality site by the Panda algorithm. The first is when a site has a large amount of content that is copied from other sources on the web. Let’s say that you have a blog on your site and you populate that blog with articles that are taken from other sources. Google is pretty good at figuring out that you are not the creator of this content. If the algorithm can see that a large portion of your site is made up of content that exists on other sites then this can cause Panda to look at you unfavorably.

You can also run into problems with duplicated content on your own site. One example would be for a site that has a large number of products for sale. Perhaps each product has a separate page for each color variation and size. But, all of these pages are essentially the same. If one product comes in 20 different colors and each of those come in 6 different sizes, then that means that you have 120 pages for the same product, all of which are almost identical. Now, imagine that you sell 4,000 products. This means that you’ve got almost half a million pages in the Google index when really 4,000 pages would suffice. In this type of situation, the fix for this problem is to use something called a canonical tag. Moz has got a really good guide on using canonical tags 
here, and Dr. Pete has also written this great article on canonical tag use

Low-quality content

When I write an article and publish it on one of my websites, the only type of information that I want to present to Google is information that is the absolute best of its kind. In the past, many SEOs have given advice to site owners saying that it was important to blog every day and make sure that you are always adding content for Google to index. But, if what you are producing is not high quality content, then you could be doing more harm than good. A lot of Amit Singhal’s questions listed above are asking whether the content on your site is valuable to readers. Let’s say that I have an SEO blog and every day I take a short blurb from each of the interesting SEO articles that I have read online and publish it as a blog post on my site. Is Google going to want to show searchers my summary of these articles, or would they rather show them the actual articles? Of course my summary is not going to be as valuable as the real thing! Now, let’s say that I have done this every day for 4 years. Now my site has over 4,000 pages that contain information that is not unique and not as valuable as other sites on the same topics.

Here is another example. Let’s say that I am a plumber. I’ve been told that I should blog regularly, so several times a week I write a 2-3 paragraph article on things like, “How to fix a leaky faucet” or “How to unclog a toilet.” But, I’m busy and don’t have much time to put into my website so each article I’ve written contains keywords in the title and a few times in the content, but the content is not in depth and is not that helpful to readers. If the majority of the pages on my site contain information that no one is engaging with, then this can be a sign of low quality in the eyes of the Panda algorithm.

There are other factors that probably play a roll in the Panda algorithm.  Glenn Gabe recently wrote an 
excellent article on his evaluation of sites affected by the most recent Panda update.  His bullet point list of things to improve upon when affected by Panda is extremely thorough.

How to recover from a Panda hit

Google refreshes the Panda algorithm approximately monthly. They used to announce whenever they were refreshing the algorithm, but now they only do this if there is a really big change to the Panda algorithm. What happens when the Panda algorithm refreshes is that Google takes a new look at each site on the web and determines whether or not it looks like a quality site in regards to the criteria that the Panda algorithm looks at. If your site was adversely affected by Panda and you have made changes such as removing thin and duplicate content then, when Panda refreshes, you should see that things improve. However, for some sites it can take a couple of Panda refreshes to see the full extent of the improvements. This is because it can sometimes take several months for Google to revisit all of your pages and recognize the changes that you have made.

Every now and then, instead of just
refreshing the algorithm, Google does what they call an update. When an update happens, this means that Google has changed the criteria that they use to determine what is and isn’t considered high quality. On May 20, 2014, Google did a major update which they called Panda 4.0. This caused a lot of sites to see significant changes in regards to Panda:

Not all Panda recoveries are as dramatic as this one. But, if you have been affected by Panda and you work hard to make changes to your site, you really should see some improvement.

What is the Penguin algorithm?

Penguin

The Penguin algorithm initially rolled out on April 24, 2012. The goal of Penguin is to reduce the trust that Google has in sites that have cheated by creating unnatural backlinks in order to gain an advantage in the Google results. While the primary focus of Penguin is on unnatural links, there can be other 
factors that can affect a site in the eyes of Penguin as well. Links, though, are known to be by far the most important thing to look at.

Why are links important?

A link is like a vote for your site. If a well respected site links to your site, then this is a recommendation for your site. If a small, unknown site links to you then this vote is not going to count for as much as a vote from an authoritative site. Still, if you can get a large number of these small votes, they really can make a difference. This is why, in the past, SEOs would try to get as many links as they could from any possible source.

Another thing that is important in the Google algorithms is anchor text. Anchor text is the text that is underlined in a link. So, in this link to a great 
SEO blog, the anchor text would be “SEO blog.” If Moz.com gets a number of sites linking to them using the anchor text “SEO blog,” that is a hint to Google that people searching for “SEO blog” probably want to see sites like Moz in their search results.

It’s not hard to see how people could manipulate this part of the algorithm. Let’s say that I am doing SEO for a landscaping company in Orlando. In the past, one of the ways that I could cheat the algorithm into thinking that my company should be ranked highly would be to create a bunch of self made links and use anchor text in these links that contain phrases like
Orlando Landscaping Company, Landscapers in Orlando and Orlando Landscaping. While an authoritative link from a well respected site is good, what people discovered is that creating a large number of links from low quality sites was quite effective. As such, what SEOs would do is create links from easy to get places like directory listings, self made articles, and links in comments and forum posts.

While we don’t know exactly what factors the Penguin algorithm looks at, what we do know is that this type of low quality, self made link is what the algorithm is trying to detect. In my mind, the Penguin algorithm is sort of like Google putting a “trust factor” on your links. I used to tell people that Penguin could affect a site on a page or even a keyword level, but Google employee John Mueller has said several times now that Penguin is a sitewide algorithm. This means that if the Penguin algorithm determines that a large number of the links to your site are untrustworthy, then this reduces Google’s trust in your entire site. As such, the whole site will see a reduction in rankings.  

While Penguin affected a lot of sites drastically, I have seen many sites that saw a small reduction in rankings.  The difference, of course, depends on the amount of link manipulation that has been done.

How to recover from a Penguin hit?

Penguin is a filter just like Panda. What that means, is that the algorithm is re-run periodically and sites are re-evaluated with each re-run. At this point it is not run very often at all. The last update was October 4, 2013 which means that we have currently been waiting eight months for a new Penguin update. In order to recover from Penguin, you need to identify the unnatural links pointing to your site and either remove them, or if you can’t remove them you can ask Google to no longer count them by using the 
disavow tool. Then, the next time that Penguin refreshes or updates, if you have done a good enough job at cleaning up your unnatural links, you will once again regain trust in Google’s eyes.  In some cases, it can take a couple of refreshes in order for a site to completely escape Penguin because it can take up to 6 months for all of a site’s disavow file to be completely processed.

If you are not certain how to identify which links to your site are unnatural, here are some good resources for you:

The disavow tool is something that you probably should only be using if you really understand how it works. It is potentially possible for you to do more harm than good to your site if you disavow the wrong links. Here is some information on using the disavow tool:

It’s important to note that when sites “recover” from Penguin, they often don’t skyrocket up to top rankings once again as those previously high rankings were probably based on the power of links that are now considered unnatural. Here is some information on 
what to expect when you have recovered from a link based penalty or algorithmic issue.

Also, the Penguin algorithm is not the same thing as a manual unnatural links penalty. You do not need to file a reconsideration request to recover from Penguin. You also do not need to document the work that you have done in order to get links removed as no Google employee will be manually reviewing your work. As mentioned previously, here is more information on the 
difference between the Penguin algorithm and a manual unnatural links penalty.

What is Hummingbird?

Hummingbird is a completely different animal than Penguin or Panda. (Yeah, I know…that was a bad pun.) I will commonly get people emailing me telling me that Hummingbird destroyed their rankings. I would say that in almost every case that I have evalutated, this was not true. Google made their announcement about Hummingbird on September 26, 2013. However, at that time, they announced that Hummingbird had already been live for about a month. If the Hummingbird algorithm was truly responsible for catastrophic ranking fluctuations then we really should have seen an outcry from the SEO world of something drastic happening in August of 2013, and this did not happen. There did seem to be some type of fluctuation that happened around August 21 as reported here on Search Engine Round Table, but there were not many sites that reported huge ranking changes on that day.

If you think that Hummingbird affected you, it’s not a bad idea to look at your traffic to see if you noticed a drop on October 4, 2013 which was actually a refresh of the Penguin algorithm. I believe that a lot of people who thought that they were affected by Hummingbird were actually affected by Penguin which happened just a week after Google made their announcement about Hummingbird.

There are some excellent articles on Hummingbird here and here. Hummingbird was a complete overhaul of the entire Google algorithm. As Danny Sullivan put it, if you consider the Google algorithm as an engine, Panda and Penguin are algorithm changes that were like putting a new part in the engine such as a filter or a fuel pump. But, Hummingbird wasn’t just a new part; it was a completely new engine. That new engine still makes use of many of the old parts (such as Panda and Penguin) but a good amount of the engine is completely original.

The goal of the Hummingbird algorithm is for Google to better understand a user’s query. Bill Slawski who writes about Google patents has a great example of this in his post here. He explains that when someone searches for “What is the best place to find and eat Chicago deep dish style pizza?”, Hummingbird is able to discern that by “place” the user likely would be interested in results that show “restaurants”. There is speculation that these changes were necessary in order for Google’s voice search to be more effective. When we’re typing a search query, we might type, “best Seattle SEO company” but when we’re speaking a query (i.e. via Google Glass or via Google Now) we’re more likely to say something like, “Which firm in Seattle offers the best SEO services?” The point of Hummingbird is to better understand what users mean when they have queries like this.

So how do I recover or improve in the eyes of Hummingbird?

If you read the posts referenced above, the answer to this question is essentially to create content that answers users queries rather than just trying to rank for a particular keyword. But really, this is what you should already be doing!

It appears that Google’s goal with all of these algorithm changes (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) is to encourage webmasters to publish content that is the best of its kind. Google’s goal is to deliver answers to people who are searching. If you can produce content that answers people’s questions, then you’re on the right track.

I know that that is a really vague answer when it comes to “recovering” from Hummingbird. Hummingbird really is different than Panda and Penguin. When a site has been demoted by the Panda or Penguin algorithm, it’s because Google has lost some trust in the site’s quality, whether it is on-site quality or the legitimacy of its backlinks. If you fix those quality issues you can regain the algorithm’s trust and subsequently see improvements. But, if your site seems to be doing poorly since the launch of Hummingbird, then there really isn’t a way to recover those keyword rankings that you once held. You can, however, get new traffic by finding ways to be more thorough and complete in what your website offers.

Do you have more questions?

My goal in writing this article was to have a resource to point people to when they had basic questions about Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Recently, when I published my penalty newsletter, I had a small business owner comment that it was very interesting but that most of it went over their head. I realized that many people outside of the SEO world are greatly affected by these algorithm changes, but don’t have much information on why they have affected their website.

Do you have more questions about Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird? If so, I’d be happy to address them in the comments. I also would love for those of you who are experienced with dealing with websites affected by these issues to comment as well.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

The Advertiser’s Guide To Surviving Reddit

Posted by anthonycoraggio

If you’ve so far neglected the advertising and marketing opportunities on Reddit, you’re not alone. Historically, the relationship between Redditors and those who market to them has been contentious—Reddit is a cohesive community in a way that social platforms like Facebook or Twitter are not, and Redditors will fight to protect its integrity from spammers and lazy attempts at commercial gain. Done well, however, advertising on Reddit represents a tremendous opportunity. The site is one of the fundamental drivers of internet culture, and boasts roughly 115 million monthly unique visitors, low ad costs, and high potential for engagement and virality. Even better, Reddit is finally getting serious about monetizing the business and attaining profitability, rolling out new features for advertisers and even offering free campaigns for international advertisers to get started. Reddit can be a tough nut to crack, but handled correctly it can become your secret weapon—and I’m here to show you how.

There are three main things you need to know to successfully brave the brash, quick-witted, and anonymous crowds of Reddit as a paid advertiser.

  • The raw materials: What kind of inventory is there to work with?
  • The culture: What makes Reddit tick?
  • How to execute: Bringing it all together without ticking Reddit off.

Alright, pencils ready? Let’s get rolling!

First things first: Advertising options on Reddit

Before I delve into working with and advertising to the Reddit community, let’s get familiar with the tools at your disposal. Reddit offers a number of options you can mix and match as appropriate in the lifecycle of a campaign or larger marketing strategy – here’s a quick rundown of what they are and where they fit into the Reddit ecosystem.

Self-serve advertising: sponsored links

Reddit’s self-serve advertising is the best place to start for the novice Reddit advertiser. Cheap, easy, and surprisingly flexible, they are the “promoted post” of the Reddit world. 

A sponsored link, as seen live on Reddit

As you would in typical Reddit use, you have the option of submitting either an external link or an internal link to a text post, which users may then upvote/downvote or comment on. Your money buys you the top-of-page spot for your link in the feed of either Reddit’s front page or a topic-specific subreddit of your choice.

Cost

Reddit is currently offering a flat $0.75 CPM for self-serve advertising—you’ll get the same price regardless of the choices you make in targeting or content. There is a minimum buy of $5 for any individual sponsored link (which you’ll also have to pay for individually). This isn’t a big hurdle budget-wise, but can be problematic when there isn’t $5 worth of impressions left to buy in your chosen timeframe. Smaller, niche subreddits are particularly vulnerable to this issue, and it’s not yet possible to make multiple-subreddit buys through the interface. Plan early and don’t wait until the last minute to make your buys, or you might get shut out entirely!

Inventory is limited; act fast!

Content

You’ll be given space for a title and either an external URL or a text post. There are no hard limits here in character length like you’ll find on AdWords, Bing, or Twitter, but don’t get caught up writing a novel. Your title should be punchy and engaging to draw interest, and if you use a text post be clear and concise in communicating your message and actions for the reader. You’ll also note that you have an option to allow or disallow user comments. I strongly recommend you allow them to get the most bang for your buck—I’ll circle back to that here in a minute.

Performance data

Reddit’s traffic data isn’t the prettiest, but you’ll get a solid picture of spend, impressions, and clicks down to the hour. In general, you can expect clickthrough rates similar to most display advertising (0.10-0.20%), but exceptionally well done campaigns can reach far higher. Remember, you’ll need to manually tag your links before you submit your ad so you can track your campaign performance properly in analytics!

Restrictions

One more caveat—you can’t launch your ads near-instantaneously as you might on a platform like Facebook or Twitter. It can take up to 2 days for your ads to be reviewed and set live, and the interface will typically not allow you to choose same or even next day start dates.

Display ads

Display advertising on Reddit runs on the AdZerk engine, and is much closer to what you might find on a standard network, with a couple of twists. Users can upvote and downvote banner ads (the latter will block the ad for that user in the future), and while banner ads don’t quite fit into the normal discussion thread flow, each is linked to a unique comment thread on a subreddit designated for discussion of banner ads on the site.

Reddit sidebar banner, with downvoting options selected

To buy these ads you’ll need to get in touch with Reddit’s ads team directly—you can choose from homepage or subreddit roadblocks, individual banners, or the design and creation of cobranded ad units with the Reddit team.

Sponsored Q&As

Sponsored Q&A’s are similar to Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” threads, but are set up directly with Reddit and targeted for promotion across select subreddits. These can run over the course of a few hours or a few days, with specified times set for your Q&A experts to interact with the Reddit community. You can check out an example here, a Q&A with the physicists behind the Higgs Boson discover for Particle Fever.

Right then! Now that we know what we have to work with, let’s learn how to be good citizens of Reddit.

Reddiquette for advertisers

I am writing this article both as a Redditor and a professional in advertising – I believe good advertising should bring value to the audience as well as the advertiser, and nowhere is that principle better enforced than on Reddit. Reddiquette is Reddit’s informal code of conduct—a codification of the values that have grown organically within the community. Taken as a whole, it creates an environment that demands five key things of marketers who want to participate in this community. Defy these at your own peril!

1. Bring something of value to the table

This is possibly the most important and fundamental law of advertising on Reddit. If you’re not contributing, you’re wasting your time. The essence of being successful in Reddit advertising is the same principle common to social media and content marketing in general: Contribute value to the community. As an advertiser you’ve already been marked “sponsored”—a potential invader to be scrutinized—and have to meet a high bar to prove you’re not a faceless corporate con man come to poison the well or game the system. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t sell a product; you just have to deliver it the right way, to the people who are going to smile when they see what it can do. For example:

The above image is an ad run on
/r/showerthoughts, “a subreddit for you to share all those thoughts, ideas, or philosophical questions that race through your head when in the shower.” Note the 323 upvotes, and the subsequent comments:

2. Be transparent

Don’t try to game the system or trick users into clicking to your over-optimized conversion page. Redditors live the internet, are thus experts at spotting cheap online marketing tactic, and you will get mauled if you contaminate their precious community with scams or clickbait. Instead, be honest, straightforward, and prepared to communicate. Who are you? Why are you here? If you are questioned in the comments, respond as a real person. This alone won’t guarantee you success, but it will earn you sorely needed respect.

3. Have a sense of humor

Redditors are for the most part here for entertainment, socializing, discovering new things, and generally just to waste time. If you get in the way of that or take yourself too seriously, they will take corrective action and you’ll likely wind up skewered in the comments. Take Woody Harrelson’s calamitous attempt to hawk the movie Rampart in an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA, in Reddit lingo) thread as a cautionary tale.

4. Speak the language

Know your subreddit’s culture—any specific rules, language used, common posts, themes, or memes. If you haven’t spent at least a half hour on that subreddit reading comments and following links, you’re not ready to run an ad there.

5. Roll with the punches

Get comfortable with anonymity and brutal honesty. If you screw up, Redditors will let you know about it. Sure, you could disable comments, but this is merely avoidance, and tosses out the baby with the bathwater. Think of this as the most honest focus group in the world—if Redditors think it, they’ll probably post it. Respond (again, with good humor), validate any concerns, and use the feedback to juice up your next run.

These rules can be a little tough to process if you’re not a Redditor yourself, so before we move on I’m about to give you the best assignment of your working life. Just use reddit. Find fun topics. Comment, post, and find part of the community that speaks to you. Native advertising works a lot better if you’re a native yourself!

Bringing it all together

Pick your audience and stay with them

Of course, to run an engaging promotion on Reddit, you need to start by talking to the right people and hold up your end of the conversation. You might be surprised at the breadth and depth of audience you can find on Reddit—yes, you will find a lot of geeky males aged 18-29, but the user base and the interests represented on the site go far beyond that stereotype. You can find subreddits dedicated to everything from ethnomusicology to baking. Take the time to do your research and find the parts of the community that will really care about what you have to say.

Once you find the right spot for your promotion, don’t simply fire and forget or use the same subreddits every time. Check back every time you launch a new campaign and stay up to date on the doings of your target subreddits—moderation controversies can lead to the breakout, similar subreddits with different standards of conduct that may be better or worse for your purposes as a marketer. 

For example, a banner ad for the film
Under The Skin featuring an underwear clad Scarlett Johansson was recently placed on the /r/gentlemanboners subreddit, which I expect the advertiser (not unreasonably) assumed would appreciate the ad. No dice—the subreddit is strictly PG-13 and doesn’t permit images without full clothing. The community and moderators responded harshly, and the ad was actually taken down.

Use Reddit as Reddit, not just another line of ad inventory

You can run basic, conversion focused ads pushed to a PPC style landing page, like the Audible and Aquanotes examples above. But don’t think of Reddit as just a set of ad inventory. Rather, consider it as a social ecosystem, enhanced with the power of paid promotions tools. You can still ultimately point users to a conversion, but don’t waste the opportunity to do more. Ask questions, share opinions, and start a conversation. You can also offer incentives unique to Redditors to make your message that much more special—this recent ad by Vodo created in partnership with Reddit is an excellent example:

There’s also a lot of value to be had in launching your content marketing into the Reddit universe to be shared, talked about, and built upon. It can be challenging to get off the ground at times, but that’s where the paid advertising comes in—point a few thousand users at your piece, hit critical mass, and the ball rolls from there.

You can also find success by intertwining organic and paid activity, for example, using a sponsored Q&A or paid promotions to redirect people to visit an AMA so others can tweet it, share it on social media, and multiply your impact. Degree antiperspirant’s clever use of an AMA with Bear Grylls is a classic example, sending Twitter traffic to the thread and creating storm of reciprocal visits and coverage across various channels. 

In a more recent example, Ethan Hawke’s AMA gathered 9.6 million unique viewers in 24 hours and generated press coverage that brought in 15 million more. Not a bad bit of marketing!

Parting words

Social media outlets like Reddit have done nothing more than they have scaled word of mouth marketing – to succeed in Reddit advertising, you need to understand the community and participate in it honestly. Don’t abuse the privilege of running ads here by spamming users with a hard or gimmicky sell—you’ll burn away any trust and goodwill might have quickly.To paraphrase Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, honest conversations from honest people about quality, relevant products and services are what shape opinions and produce results on Reddit. Go forth and be good!
Have a question or experience advertising on Reddit? Share it in the comments!

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