Month: May 2017

How Negativity Bias Can Make Your Words Work

As I’ve discussed over and over in many different ways, content strategy gets difficult because you really can’t fake good content. If a blog post is good, it’s good, and if it’s not, it’s not. Knowing which content users will gravitate towards or go viral is a bit of a toss-up, and hitting a wall where it feels like you’ve run out of things to say is inevitable. These things happen and it’s all part of the moving target that is an effective content strategy.

What remains the same is the need to leverage content (written content, as it applies to this particular post) in a way that bridges the gap between users and publishers. Establishing that connection is what keeps users engaged and pushes them further through the conversion funnel. Ultimately, the connection brands and bloggers foster with users is what will end up driving profit the most.

But how do you establish that connection when you’re maybe burnt out or feel like you’ve run out of happy, click-bait things to say?

Let’s think about this in terms of the 2016 presidential election. During the election, you probably noticed that there weren’t many positive, feel good articles circulating online. Rather, the most shared articles, both real and fake, all tended to be negative. And if you think about it, that makes sense. While positive content is definitely received well and draws engagement, negative content often out-performs it, and that’s simply a matter of human nature. For example, let’s say that I and a coworker both like to drink coffee. Coffee is great, we chat about it at the coffee pot in the morning, other people enjoy coffee as well, and everything is cool when we have coffee in common. But if I can’t stand when people leave their dirty dishes in the break room and neither can another coworker, then we have formed an instant connection that’s a lot stronger than our bond over coffee. This is what we call the negativity bias.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, negativity bias refers to the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (thoughts, emotions, social interactions, etc.) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things. This may seem like a backward way of looking at things, but it actually presents a powerful opportunity for content creators to connect with their audience.

Negativity bias has a powerful impact on user behavior, including impressions, how decisions are made, and how connected to a brand or piece of content users feel. Brands and bloggers can cash in on the efficacy of a negativity bias to balance out content by using a mix of a positive approach and a strategic negative approach. But that doesn’t have to mean you suddenly flood your blog with exclusively Debbie downer type articles. For example, you can take a neutral post about good office etiquette and create the negative opposite, like “What not to do in an office setting” or “10 awful pet peeves in offices.” Not only will you end up with multiple content ideas to work with, but you’ll also be establishing a connection with users by way of negativity bias. In doing so, you can add both value and impact to your content that will make your words work.

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Top 5 SEO Toolbars Reviewed

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Managing your SEO can be hard to keep track of, which is why having the right tools is so important. For SEO beginners or DIY-ers especially, using the right tools is often the difference for whether or not you’re being effective.

For SEO, one of the easiest ways to keep a thumb on relevant and useful information is using a toolbar. Yes, an SEO toolbar will probably take up a lot of space on your browser. But having one is like gaining a second set of eyes for your web surfing experience. It can also help you gain a better understanding of the competitive online landscape you’re working within and potentially highlight areas where your own site is underperforming.

There’s no shortage of SEO toolbars to use out there, but by and large, the seven below are considered the best. Check them out and see which one is right for you.

  1. MozBar– This is one of the most popular SEO toolbars used for its inclusion of Page Authority and Domain Authority metrics. They also include a number of linking sites and easily highlighted no-follow links on a page. Moz products, in general, are easy to use and unobtrusive by design, so it fits into your browser naturally.
  2. Ahrefs– Like Moz, Ahrefs is widely used and trusted as an SEO authority. Their SEO toolbar includes domain authority ratings, social insights, and a number of other metrics. The toolbar also has a unique Ahrefs Rank for web pages based on data collected by Ahrefs.
  3. Majestic– The nice thing about the Majestic toolbar is that it includes custom metrics, like their Trust Flow and Citation Flow chart. It’s also helpful for getting information about backlinks, as Majestic has its own crawling index.
  4. SimilarWeb– This browser extension can give you instant knowledge and insights about websites and apps. You can expect all the standard metrics, like authority and link analysis, in addition to data about user referrals and engagement.
  5. Link Research Tools– Again, this toolbar includes all of the expected metrics, like backlinks, domain and page authority, keyword rankings, etc. But it also includes social metrics and engagements as well as insights about link velocity, which can be particularly helpful for assessing the competition.
  6. SEO Quake– They offer several different parameter options. Besides the common metrics, like number of links and page rank, they offer Digg Index, Delicious Index, Google Trends, Quantcast Rank, Alexa Rank, and Technorati Index.
  7. SEO Toolbar– From SEO Book, this toolbar is clutter-free and provides extremely useful information relevant to SEO. It includes information on page rank, Yahoo domain backlinks, Yahoo page backlinks, number of directory links, site age, and estimated visitors. They also have a handful of other advanced features that you can use off of the toolbar, and it’s free.

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Fact Checking is Being Built into Google’s UX: What You Need to Know

Google is constantly updating and modifying to provide the best user experience possible. But because users and their behaviors are evolving all the time, it creates a constantly moving target. More recently, we’ve seen applications and search engines take efforts to address the amount of false information on the internet. In the past year or so, a flux of fake news and slander has circulated online. Following the 2016 presidential election, users and producers of content had a heightened awareness of just how detrimental and impactful popular, widely circulated falsehoods can be. As a result, many online leaders, including Google, have placed an emphasis on fact checking to provide the highest quality information to users.

The Fact Check Tag

The actual fact checking is not done by Google, but rather by reputable fact checking sources including Snopes and Politifact.  Per Google’s statement about fact checking, “Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree.”

Publishers must first meet the guidelines to be included in this fact check feature, including usage of the ClaimReview markup, and that’s assuming the publishers are already algorithmically considered an authoritative source by Google. Also, Google says, “Content must adhere to the general policies that apply to all structured data markup, the Google News Publisher criteria for fact checks, and the standards for accountability and transparency, readability or proper site representation as articulated in our Google News General Guidelines.”

It’s worth noting that Google is not paying the fact-checking organizations for participating in this tag, nor are the article with fact checked labels ranked any differently in search results. This development is mostly about Google’s ongoing commitment to providing the best results possible for users. The fact check tag will help users more easily identify reliable content and information from unreliable to better satisfy user intent.

Shifts in User Behavior

This adaptation is indicative of a much larger shift in user behavior, attitudes, and needs. Today, when two people disagree on information or users want to know something, it usually ends in a web search. The internet is intimately ingrained into modern society, and the information found online clearly can have massive impacts on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.

Users are impressionable beings and gravitate towards popular content, sometimes regardless of whether or not it’s true. The development of this fact check tag directly addresses this particular evolution in user behavior and will hopefully help everyone find better quality results that are factual, productive, and actually worthy of being widely shared.

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Google is Launching a Job Search Service: What You Need to Know

In a constantly changing employment landscape, job sites are their own kind of wonderful. The top dogs, like Indeed, Monster, and Career Builder, connect millions of employees with job candidates in every field you can think of. Job sites are a booming and highly profitable industry, so it should come as no surprise that like most services that can be monetized, Google is jumping on board.

The home page of Google’s employment service, Google Hire, is active now:

Entry to the job site is currently locked, but it looks like future users will be able to make an account or log in using their gmail. In the meantime, the option of being placed on an email list to stay in the loop about Google hire does exist. In response to chatter and speculation surrounding this product, Google released the following statement:

“Google Hire is a product under development that will help G Suite customers manage their hiring process more effectively. The product will allow employers to collect candidate applications online. Only information that a candidate voluntarily provides would be passed to a prospective employer as part of their online application. Private information will not be shared.”

Google’s moves towards this particular vertical could pose a serious threat to the recruitment industry because job listings generate a lot of money from search results. Annually, the recruitment industry is worth around $491 billion and with Google taking the reins, there isn’t much existing job sites can do besides wait.

How will it work?

Based off of what’s been shared so far, it looks like Google Jobs will be structured similarly to Google Shop and the local listings pack. A job pack will show users job listings from multiple recruiters online that they can click through in one place. And, per a tweet from Dan Shure, the job pack will include information about when the job listing was posted:

Will it affect organic listings?

If and when Google Jobs fully rolls out, probably. Just as local listings, Google shop, and advertisements have slightly cut down the number of organic listings on the first page, Google Jobs will more likely than not have similar effects. It’s not yet totally clear if Google’s developing job recruitment site is directly linked or separate from Google Jobs. What is clear is that sites within the recruitment industry should poise themselves for a changing landscape across the industry and brace themselves to pay more for future listings.

Why is Google doing this?

This is yet another example of Google’s commitment to providing a top-notch user experience. Rather than it being about dominating every profitable industry that exists, it’s really just Google’s way of getting users all the content they need in front of them at once. Recruiters within this industry should follow suit and also focus on providing the best job content and listings possible, as that will be the best way to ensure relevance with Google.

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Spam, Ad Blocking, and How to Adapt

In recent user experience buzz, Google is reportedly working on a new Chrome feature that would block “bad ad types” by default. For this particular feature, bad ad types are being defined as:

”Unacceptable ad types would be those recently defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that released a list of ad standards in March. According to those standards, ad formats such as pop-ups, auto-playing video ads with sound and “prestitial” ads with countdown timers are deemed to be “beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability.”

While it may seem strange that a leader in digital ad sales, Google, would develop an ad blocking feature, this development isn’t all that unexpected given current user trends. On average, users are exposed to some 5,000 ads per day-a number that has steadily grown over the past decade. That high level of exposure to ads is likely the main reason that nearly half of online customers used ad block technology in 2015. The consensus is pretty clear: users are already exposed to an overwhelming number of ads on a daily basis and have little patience for ads that hinder and/or interrupt their online experience.

There’s some speculation that this is a strategic move by Google to prevent users from blocking ads entirely:

“Google would essentially have ‘more control’ over the state of ad blocking. Perhaps there’s a feeling within the company that if bad ads are filtered out, internet users will be more receptive to good ads and less inclined to block them.”

While there’s no concrete explanation for it at this time, what remains clear is that spam, digital advertisements, and the nature of ad blocking has been and will continue to change the competition and visibility landscape for advertisers.

In order to remain relevant-and unblocked-digital advertisers should target and optimize in a manner that aligns with the preferences and patterns of current user behavior. Here’s a quick guide on what that entails.

Digital Advertising in an Ad-Blocking World

  • Mobile-Ready, Multi-Device Ads: Responsible use of mobile advertising that adheres to Google’s permitted formats including interstitials that appear in response to legal obligation, login dialogs, and banners that use an appropriate amount of screen space. As shown below:

  • Avoiding Intrusive Interstitial Ads: In January, Google introduced penalties and a search engine wide crackdown on intrusive interstitial ads. These include popups that cover main content, standalone ads that have to be dismissed before accessing the main content, and layouts where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold. As shown below:

  • High Quality Ads: General adherence to Google’s best practices for digital advertisements and formats are more important than ever. Since this is how Google makes money, Google is likely to protect ads/advertisers that follow their guidelines correctly and create high-quality advertisements.
  • More Native Advertising: Advertisers should channel some of their advertising efforts into more organic forms of reaching people, such as influencer marketing, online reviews, or customer loyalty programs. By reaching an audience/customer on a natural level, brands are better able to advertise their products, services, or content on a peer-to-peer level.

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How to Use the Best Keyword Research Methods to Create Blog Topics

Any blogger or content writer knows that coming up with blog topics can be a royal pain. After a while it starts to feel like everything there is to say has already been said, and hunting through pages of news and articles looking for inspiration begins to feel more like aimlessly wandering. But the nice thing about SEO and digital strategy is that there’s always some overlap in how you can use best practices and online tactics.

For blog topic generation especially, you can use the tools and practices you use for keyword research to get ideas and inspiration that will stock your editorial calendar. The best part? Using keyword research methods to source blog topics takes the guesswork out of content ideation. You can see what questions people are searching for, check out keywords and phrases that are similar to your original topic idea, and base your blog topics off of the information users are actively trying to find. In doing so, you’re more likely to get the traffic and value you want most out of your content while also easing the difficulty of coming up with blog topics.

More likely than not, your keyword research practices are largely dependent on which keyword research tools you’re using. Regardless of which keyword tools you have access to, you can use them to quickly generate blog topics that are highly relevant to your audience. Below, we’ll cover some easy ways to start doing this and revisit some popular keyword research tools to try out.

Tips for Keywords, Titles, & Blog Posts

A quick word on why keywords should really play a big role in how you put together your content:

Keywords are the organizers of the internet. They’re what users build their search queries with to find what they’re looking for and help put the right content in the right place so they can find it. So, if you haven’t already, start by building out a list of keywords for your brand, business, or website. You’ll want to include broad keywords, narrowed keywords, and everything in between to target different levels of user intent and interest. This graphic from Kissmetrics illustrates different keyword types well:

Knowing your keywords for all of these categories will help you quickly determine which best applies to your blog titles and topics.

Using Keyword Research Methods & Tools to Create Blog Topics

The topic generation process for most keyword research tools is pretty straightforward:

  • Step One: Run a search for a keyword you want to develop blog topics around in the tool.
  • Step Two: Browse the keyword suggestions the tool retrieves to refine your search.
  • Step Three: Use the suggested keywords in a blog topic generator, like HubSpot’s.
  • Step Four: If offered, filter the results of your keyword search to show specific questions users searched for.

This simple process can help you quickly come up with highly relevant, heavy-hitting blog topics to fill your editorial calendar. While there are plenty of keyword research tools out there, my favorites for blog topic generation are Moz Keyword Explorer and Buzzsumo. Here’s why.

Moz Keyword Explorer

All of Moz’s tools are super easy to navigate and really thorough in terms of the information they retrieve. The Keyword Explorer pulls tons of information on keyword suggestions, questions users searched for, and keyword opportunity grades in just seconds for every search. Plus, they have this awesome guide on how you can use it to create hundreds of blog topic ideas in seconds.


Though not technically a keyword research tool, Buzzsumo is a great way to get a complete picture of what content exists around your keywords. By simply searching for a specific phrase or keyword, such as content marketing, you can see the top performing content within the past year, filtered by language, country, trending, content format, and more. It’s a good place to get ideas and see what kind of blog topics users gravitate towards most in relevance to your keywords.

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A Deeper Look at Evergreen Content and How to Optimize It

Somewhere along the line, people started interpreting “content is king” as a green light for flooding their online space with as much content as possible, sometimes at the expense of quality. There are few things as frustrating as investing time, energy, and resources into cranking out lots and lots of content and having little to show for it, and yet that’s exactly the situation so many content marketers find themselves in. So, if the problem is creating too much of the wrong kind of content, then what exactly is the right kind of content? The answer to that question and the solution to the problem of wasted content creation is, in part, evergreen content.

Why Evergreen Content Should Be a Focus of Your Strategy

If you were to analyze the top results in response to search queries, you’d find that most of them are a couple of years old, 2-3 to be exact. This shows that users gravitate towards the same pieces of content that most adequately answer their questions and provides the information they need. The creators/owners of those top ranked pages have created an evergreen piece of content that lasts long after the date it was published on. From there, they can periodically update the page for accuracy and comprehensiveness and stretch the utility of just one high performing piece of content for years.

This is exactly why creating evergreen pieces should be a focus of your content strategy. When “content is king” became the mantra of SEOs/content marketers, there was a tendency among people to interpret that as “create tons of content all the time.” But because users already have access to so much information, it’s not really about having more content as much as it’s about having the right kind of content. This ends up being better for content marketers as well because it requires them to work smarter, not harder. If you’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into constantly cranking out articles with minimal return, then it’s probably time to shift your focus to producing evergreen content.

Making and Optimizing Evergreen Content

Even though creating evergreen content typically requires more work on the front end than just any old piece of content, you’ll ultimately get way more out of it in terms of value and shelf-life. Even so, it can be hard to know what ideas will make for a really great piece of evergreen content and what the production process will look like.

A little brainstorming and inspiration is always the best place to get started on content ideation and a great resource for that is this article:

The article is full of ideas and examples of evergreen content and different formatting, topic, and production ideas. Different content styles may perform differently across industries, so in reviewing this resource be sure to keep an open mind about what kind of format/topic your audience will find most useful for the long haul.

It’s good to start focusing on producing content with a longer shelf-life and bigger ROI, but what if you already have some pieces of evergreen content? If you monitor the performance of your content, then it’s likely you’ve already identified some of your existing pieces as being high performing or constant traffic generators. In that case, you want to optimize that existing evergreen content to get as much value out of it as you possibly can.

Reposting and upcycling old content are things we’ve covered before and are considered best practices for any blog’s top performing content, ideas, and formats. Another great resource for optimizing evergreen content is this article:

It’s a thorough guide with ideas, tips, and spreadsheets to help you analyze and optimize your best content pieces. Remember, the goal is not to flood the internet with content produced at a spam-like rate, but rather to produce lasting content that your brand can continue to benefit from long after it’s created and published.

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