Facebook has recently rolled out a new set of tools that make it much easier for users who manage pages to control how they post, like, and comment.
Although the Facebook Business Manager was a step in the right direction, keeping track of your identity as you tooled around the usual Facebook site was still complicated. The new tools put the controls right where you need them.
No matter where you are on Facebook—even if you’re not looking at or using a post from one of the pages you manage—you are now able to interact with content as yourself or as any of your pages.
Here’s a quick look at the new tools
Which User is Creating a Post?
Facebook: New tool to select who is Posting
When creating a new post, you’ll see a new drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the new post box—opposite the selections for “Status,” “Photo / Video,” and so on. When you drop it down, you’ll not only be notified as to which identity will be the creator of the post (as seen with the black “Posting as Nourish The Dream” box in the example here), but you can also select any of your pages on the fly.
Previously, posting on a page as any other page first required a painful multi-step process that involved first changing the global “Use Facebook as” setting to the page of choice, and then navigating back to the place you wanted to post (unless you’d had the foresight to copy the URL) and then remembering to change back.
Which User “Likes” or Comments on this Post?
If you want to “Like” or “Comment” on a piece of content as a page, you now no longer have a series of hoops to jump through. A new drop-down menu is similarly now available below the content on the right-hand side, in line with the “Like,” “Comment,” and “Share” links.
Facebook: New tool to select who will Like, Comment or Share
Here again, this saves a number of steps for every function except the “Share” function, which already had a pop-up dialogue that was slightly more complicated than this, but still simpler than all the method for the “Like” and “Comment” functions. Those required the same ordeal we mentioned earlier (copy the URL to the content, change the global “Use Facebook As” setting, then paste the URL in your browser to interact with the content, then switch back to “Use Facebook As” the user or page you prefer).
While we still like the Business Manager for planning content and responding to users and so forth, when you need to do something quickly without losing your place, these new tools are very handy.
Yesterday the WordPress dev team announced the 3.8.2 Security Release.
Previously, when a WordPress update became available, I’d see the notification when I visited the dashboard of one of our websites. Sometimes, I might spot the announcement post (like the one I linked to above) in the RSS feed.
But all that has changed. For the first time, I found out about the availability of release because one of our sites automatically upgraded itself and emailed me a notice like this:
WordPress Automatic Upgrade Notification Email
WordPress Automatically Upgraded Itself: Good News or Bad News?
I’ll admit, I’m somewhat on the fence about this. I love the fact that the WordPress devs have created this feature. Ultimately, the entire WordPress ecosystem will benefit from it in the long run. But for now, we’re probably going to have some hiccups.
The “Pros” for automatic upgrades are fairly obvious:
outdated, unpatched websites are a security risk… and sometimes, even the most diligent site owners neglect updates (or even forget about a site. Sheesh.)
even thoroughly updated sites can be attacked if an insecure site on the same server is exploited (the attack I linked to above affected 40-ish sites, most of which were completely up to date)
sometimes a WordPress security release is fast-tracked to fix to a particularly nasty vulnerability, and if you don’t get to the update quickly enough, you can end up with a problem on your hands
…and so on.
Having WordPress update itself so that any vulnerabilities that exist in the core software are removed rectifies some (if not most) of the above situations.
But there can be a downside. Here are some “cons”:
Often, the most serious vulnerabilities aren’t even in the WordPress core (TimThumb comes to mind… and actually, the attack I mentioned earlier came through an old, abandoned, plugin—although the WordPress core was badly out of date as well)
In “live” (“production”) environments, updates to the WordPress core may break you site’s design or functionality because themes or plugins may not have been updated in preparation for the changes. (This is a little like pulling the foundation out from underneath your house and then setting the house back on a new one. Might work. Might not. Depends on how different the new foundation is.)
Some site owners may not take action to update themes and plugins in which vulnerabilities and security risks are discovered, because they think the updates are happening automatically. The vast majority of plugins and themes currently do not automatically update themselves.
The Biggest Issue: Backups
By far, the most significant concern I have involves the availability of current backups.
In other words: what happens when something critical breaks as the result of an automatic upgrade? Do you, as the site owner, have a current backup to restore?
If it’s a simple cosmetic issue related to design, perhaps it’s no big deal. But if it’s a mission-critical function that affects your business, then a loss of functionality could have serious consequences.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario here is if something goes awry with the upgrade script itself. It hasn’t happened often, but once in a while something happens with upgrade scripts (yes, even with WordPress) where an anomaly will cause the upgrade to fail. This could leave your site completely down—perhaps non-responsive, stuck in “maintenance mode” or otherwise inaccessible.
Our Current Approach: Backup to Dropbox
There are multiple solutions to automated backups. Most reputable web hosting providers offer some sort of paid solution. Even Automattic (the parent company of the for-profit side of WordPress) offers VaultPress.
Depending upon your specific situation (the number of sites you’re maintaining, budget, hosting setup, etc.) one or more of those solutions may be a good fit.
It’s pretty simple. Once you install & activate the plugin, you connect it to your Dropbox account (on a one-time basis), and configure it. You can set it to backup your site automatically on a routine basis. It will get both the database and the files for your site—everything you need to restore, in other words.
Since it stores the backup in your Dropbox account, the backups are completely separate from the hosting account. That way, if your hosting provider has a massive failure, you don’t have to worry about your backup dying with it. And if you already have a paid Dropbox account (or if you don’t use much of the storage on your free account), chances are you’ll have plenty of room so that this doesn’t create any additional cost.
Right now, most of our sites are backing up on a weekly basis. If you update your site on a daily basis, you might consider something more frequent than that.
If there’s enough interest in it, we’ll put together a comprehensive set of instructions about how to implement the backup solution.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, automated WordPress updates are a positive new feature for the world’s best content management system. However, we recommend that you put automated backups in place in order to protect your site against any of the potential pitfalls.
So, I guess it is something of a recurring feature around here.
What Do I Mean by SEO?
Let’s first be clear about something. I have a love/hate relationship with the term “SEO”. You’ll run across 2 major usages :
SEO can refer to the process of optimizing a website so that it ranks well in search engines for target terms, or
SEO can refer to the individual (“Mike is an SEO”) or company (“Dewey, Cheatem & Howe is an SEO”) you might hire to elevate your search rankings.
So, with your business website, you might use SEO strategies to help improve your rankings and traffic, or you might hire an SEO. Either way, it could be a mistake.
Wait, Don’t You TEACH SEO to Business Owners & Marketing People?
Yes and no.
Since approximately 2006, we’ve trained business owners and small business teams to leverage the web to deliver valuable content and thereby achieve better results when it comes to search engine rankings and strategies. So… if that’s what you mean, then yes we do.
On the other hand, I’ve personally long believed that most of the techniques I’m about to mention were a bad idea. And most SEOs sell these services as their bread and butter. So, in our training, we’ve consistently taught (and demonstrated) strategies and techniques that will get you long-term winning search results with a completely different (safe) approach.
Thus the “love/hate relationship” I mentioned earlier.
Yes, you need to have a plan that gets you good solid search engine rankings on terms that your future customers may use in search. (There’s an important key, right there!)
But no, you don’t need to try to “game” Google into showing your site above your competitor’s site.
Today, Neil Patel published a post called “5 SEO Techniques You Should Stop Using Immediately.” It’s solid content (as usual) from Neil, and it got me thinking about why we’ve consistently advised our clients against tactics that even felt like they were aimed at “gaming” Google’s results.
More on that in a sec. First, here are the 5 techniques Neil mentioned:
Spammy Guest Blogging
Quantity of Links Over Quality <– he’s referring to inbound links here.
Keyword Heavy Content
Relying on Link-Backs Instead of Content (see #3 above)
It’s worth taking your time to read his post, but I’ll just add a couple of comments here based upon our own experience helping hundreds of small businesses get better results online.
With respect to “Spammy Guest Blogging,” we actually tested this early on. We built a website especially for people who went through our training so that they could learn WordPress (the tool every small business needs to be using on the web) and publish some of their best content on it.
Since we taught them how to use “anchor text links” in our training, we encouraged them to create links back to their own sites using “Optimized Anchors.”
We took that site down a long time ago.
Here’s why we took it down. First of all, we realized that it had absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. You might have seen a post about a jewelry store right below one about an optometrist, which was below one about different types of stanchions, which was below one about wholesale picture frames. The only thing remotely cohesive about the site was that I knew all of the authors.
So… the site had no “theme” that Google could identify. At first, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, the posts (and the links) were really helpful—both because they gave our students and clients a chance to showcase their work to one another and because the site itself passed some benefit to their individual websites via the links.
However, over time, Google has gotten better and better about identifying efforts like this when they seem to be aimed at manipulating their search results. So we took it down. The training benefit can be achieved other ways.
If you’re interested in learning just how serious Google has gotten about identifying “guest posts” that are actually spammy in nature, check out what Rand Fishkin rightly called “One of the Scariest Google Penalties I’ve Seen”:
This is certainly one of the scariest & most aggressive penalties I've ever heard of Google applying: http://t.co/HQ47eZekYx
Secondly, while I’m still a fan of both “guest blogging” and “anchor text links,” there’s an important piece of the puzzle that all of our students and clients have heard me talk about ad nauseum:
Every effort at publishing content and “getting links” must be passed through this simple filter: Does it deliver value to our target audience? If not, don’t do it. Period.
Ultimately, the posts about stanchions and picture frames and optometry didn’t serve our market. The experience gained was valuable, yes. But as I mentioned, that can be done other ways. Ultimately, the content and links only benefited our students (at least at first) and us—not the target audience. So down came the site.
Which brings me to the other techniques that Neil mentioned…
The Value & Importance of Inbound Links
Creating links has long been the “low hanging fruit” for SEOs. Some of them literally did nothing else for clients other than place links to their websites.
And we have always advised against doing this, except in very narrow cases.
(And since I know you’re going to ask: in every one of those cases, the most important component every small business needs online already existed. What is that component? Freshly updated, valuable content being published via WordPress on a regular basis.)
Links have always been important for websites. My hunch is that they always will be… as long as Google rules the world, anyway. Larry and Sergey built their business, its early patents, and the world’s most valuable search engine around their doctoral thesis… which introduced the idea of “PageRank”… which used links as its primary signal for determining relevance and quality.
But of course, as Google grew to take over the search market, this launched the game that I often compare to the radar/radar detector business. The cops use radar to catch speeders. Speeders get better radar detectors. And so on.
Spammers & SEOs learned how Google’s algorithm worked. Google got better at detecting them. Then the cycle repeated.
It still repeats today, but one thing has not changed.
Google (and every other search engine) has one simple goal: provide the searcher with the most relevant, highest quality search results possible.
Thus, every search engine will reward sites that provide valuable, relevant content to the right audiences.
I have long insisted that ranking for rankings sake does not ultimately server a business’s purposes well. Rankings that put their websites in front of their best customersdo serve their purposes well. After all, why get a ton of traffic from people who never should or never will buy from you?
Most small businesses can’t accommodate more than a few high quality prospects every day anyway. Some can. And sure… e-commerce websites can theoretically check out as many buyers as want to whip out their credit cards on a given day. But as we proved with one of our biggest clients, if you increase sales rapidly enough, you can break every system in the business… and ultimately bury it. It’s called “the success you never want.”
So…. we’ve trained our students (and helped our clients) obtain valuable links. But we’ve done this organically. And often, the links came because our clients created valuable content that other sites wanted to link to… which means that they are exactly the kinds of sites (and links) that Google has always wanted to reward.
Can you overdo the links? Yep. And you can overdo the anchor text. Some links should have anchor text. Brand anchor text is virtually always good. But ultimately anchor text should “look right” to the reader when they see it. Google hasn’t always been able to detect it when this wasn’t the case. They still can’t nail it every time. But they’ve been getting better and better at it all along.
The same thing is true with “keywords” in your content. The keywords need to be there. But they need to be there because they make sense to a reader. And sure—writers can improve the way that they make use of keywords (most need some training along these lines), but at the end of the day, if keywords are used too often, the content doesn’t “feel” right to the reader.
So… if you’re doing any of these things too much (and if you have to stop and ask yourself, you actually just might be!), stop it.
And certainly, if you’re paying someone to do these things for you, quit! (For the record, there are still plenty of conscientious, high quality SEOs who are ethical and valuable. Those people have already stopped doing this stuff. And you should pay them if you can find one and can afford it.)
Instead, invest that money (or time & energy) in creating content that delivers value. You’ll win every time.
You find (or create) the perfect image… you upload it to Facebook… you write the perfecttext to go along with it… and boom!, you publish it on your page.
Sometimes it’s instant. Sometimes it’s hours later. But somewhere along the line, you spot the typo. Or you realize you forgot the link you intended to add.
But it’s too late. The post already has “Likes” or “Comments.” You can’t take it down because you don’t want to lose the engagement you’ve gained. What to do?!
Good news: you can edit the text you wrote when you posted your image.
So far… this only works for image posts. If you uploaded an image at the time you created the post, this is available to you. (If you only wrote text, you’re out of luck for now.)
Step 1: Locate the Image on Your Page’s Timeline
Visit your page, find the image, and click on it… like this:
Step 2: When Viewing the Image in “Theater” Mode, Click the “Edit” Button
You’ll find it here:
Step 3: Click in the Text Box and Edit Away
You’ll see that the description text becomes editable, like this:
This box is a little tricky. If you have multiple lines of text, it’s hard to “scroll” inside the box, so I recommend that you click once to put your cursor in the box and then use your arrow keys to navigate around.
Once you’ve made the changes you wanted to make, click the “Done Editing” box… and voila!… your changes are made!
Ever since Google announced the “Hummingbird” update on its 15th birthday, the web marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) community has been all aflutter (pardon the pun) with speculation about what this massive overhaul to Google’s search engine really means.
As with Panda, Penguin and the other changes to Google’s algorithms over the last few years, my recommendation to our clients and those who we’ve trained in our small business marketing training courses is to carry on as before.
Why would I recommend doing what you’ve been doing?
Because if you’ve been part of our training, you’ve had a very simple philosophy when it comes to search engine rankings:
Create Fresh, Original Content on a Regular Basis
By writing new articles (specifically: blog posts using WordPress) and publishing them to your website (or perhaps a blog site separate from your main website), you create the one thing Google needs most in order to evaluate your site: text.
Let’s not forget that at the end of the day, Google is a text machine.
Google and the other search engines devour text like a pack of lions on a fresh kill.
Write About the Problems Your Customers Have
A common thread running throughout our content strategies is that people have (historically) run Google searches based upon the problems they have rather than the solutions. There are many exceptions to this “rule,” and search has been changing dramatically in the last few years (more on this in a moment), but overall it’s a fairly safe bet that people will try to use Google to solve their problems.
The great thing about writing about your customers’ problems is that it gives you an excuse to write about the solutions you provide. Writing about solutions serves the business objective behind this whole idea, of course, but in fact is secondary to the main point.
The main point is to provide value to future customers (and maybe existing ones, too!) via this content.
Write About the Questions Your Customers & Prospects Ask
Every business has this. You may or may not have documented it in a training manual, but your business answers a certain set of questions all the time. Your new employees have to learn these answers to become fully effective, and perhaps the list evolves frequently, but nevertheless there is a set of FAQs.
Of course many websites include a section just for FAQs, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m actually talking about taking each question, writing it out, and producing a blog post just to answer it.
A great example that’s fresh on my mind involves how to get rid of love bugs, which became the substance of two separate blog posts for our client, Good News Pest Solutions. If you don’t live in Florida (or another southern state as far away as Texas), you may have no clue what a nuisance these little critters can be… for about one month twice each year (usually in May and September). If you haven’t dealt with them, then you get to miss out on the pile-up on your vehicle, the damage to its paint job, and the swarming around your house. Overall, they’re fairly harmless critters (they don’t bite), but they’re a major annoyance.
Now… the pest control company in Sarasota, Florida that published these posts doesn’t actually treat for love bugs per se, but they are the leader in dealing with pest problems of all kinds that Florida residents face. So… while the love bugs post may not have directly related to their business, it did directly relate to a problem that their customers (and future customers!) face twice each year. So the content delivered value without being directly self-serving.
The beauty is that content like this attracted a huge bump in traffic to the company’s website. Doubtless, many of these visitors were even outside the service area for this regional company. However, for those visitors who came to their website from within the service area, this post scored major points for the company in terms of brand equity, building trust and credibility, and demonstrating their overall high-quality service approach to business.
And… the content was great for social media sharing. It also perpetuated a hard-won “reputation” with Google for the kind of original, high-quality content that we’re talking about here.
Even more importantly: it’s great for Hummingbird.
Hummingbird is About Questions
At the risk of oversimplifying, Google’s new Hummingbird update is about answering questions for Google’s customers: the people who run searches.
In a way, this overhaul of Google’s search engine is focused on delivering better value to searchers based upon the major ways that mobile devices have changed how we search. Today, we “ask Siri” or use Google’s “voice search” features that are baked in to Android devices. We ask Google’s search engine for directions, we look for what’s nearby, and we ask Google to define words and provide all sorts of random information.
Because of voice interaction which has been made so easy by our mobile devices, Google’s search query box is more often filled with a conversational question than ever before. Google speaks of its response to this trend in terms of what it calls the “knowledge graph.”
But if you’ve been following our recommendations all this time, then chances are your site is performing very well with Hummingbird, because your content is now part of the knowledge graph.
So… carry on.
Keep creating fresh, original content. Keep writing about your customers’ problems (even ones you may not solve). Keep answering their questions. Keep delivering value. This is exactly the sort of text Google is looking for so it can deliver great value to its searchers.
For the last 2 years or so, we’ve been pounding the drum to anyone who will listen—which mainly means small businesses we train, our clients, and audiences I speak to—that you must be ready for mobile visitors.
How can your small business website be ready for mobile visitors?
Two words: responsive design.
Your website should be responsive.
What Is Responsive Design?
Very simply: the “look & feel” of your website is built in such a way that it automatically accommodates different browsers.
Certainly, I’m talking about desktop browsers like Chrome, Firefox and (God forbid!) Internet Explorer. But more importantly, we’re talking about the browsers that come with mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android phones & tablets.
With a responsive design, your site will look good (or at least be usable) no matter what mobile device a visitor might be using when they access your site. Also, the site should automatically adjust when the orientation of the device changes (think about when you rotate your phone or tablet).
But People Don’t Visit My Site from Mobile Devices!
It’s not uncommon for a small business owner to throw this objection our way. I can’t tell you how many small business owners are convinced that somehow their website is different!
Our users are technical!
Buyers of our products sit at their desks all day long!
Our clients haven’t purchased iPads!
I’ve heard it all. But the data says something completely different!
Think about this: there are 1.2 billion people accessing the web from mobile devices. (Folks: that’s more than are using Facebook!)
Neil Patel from QuickSprout compiled some relevant tidbits about mobile device usage and assembled them into a nice infographic (see below). I will warn you that much of this is geared toward shopping from mobile devices, which may or may not be relevant to your particular small business website. Regardless: your visitors are coming from iPhones, iPads, Android phones and… yes… even Android tablets.
And if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to deploy a responsive design on your website.
Responsive Sites on WordPress: Inexpensive & Relatively Simple
Now… for those who have been following our advice, you’ve heard from me since 2006 that you should be using WordPress for your small business website. And if for any reason that isn’t possible, you should use it for your small business blog.
But we’ve also spent a considerable amount of effort in the last 2 years converting e-commerce sites over to use WordPress as well.
Why bring WordPress up? Well… it’s simple: if you use WordPress, there’s no excuse for you to not have a responsive site. Responsive WordPress themes abound!
Converting your WordPress site over from an older desktop-focused theme to a responsive one is one of the least expensive modifications you’ll make. And the low cost and relative ease of the process will remind you about why you went with WordPress to begin with!
Now get to it! Convert your site to a responsive design today!
There’s an enormous caveat to what I’m about to tell you. In the work we’re doing with clients for whom we manage social media, as well as in the training we do for business owners and their teams to manage their own social media, there’s one fact that we emphasize constantly:
In social media, the level of engagement is far more important than the number of fans or followers.
That said, a recent research study by Syncapse and Hostpex places an average value of $174 for each Facebook “fan” a business gathers. (Note: although term “fan” is outdated jargon in the world of Facebook, it’s being used as shorthand for “someone who has liked your page” here.)
How do they arrive at this number, you ask?
Value of a Facebook Fan in 2013 Source: Syncapse
Well, the $174 figure is an average across a number of different brands and industries, and it’s calculated based upon a number of comparisons between fans and non-fans (those who have not liked a business’s Facebook page). After looking at spending, loyalty, likelihood that they would recommend the brand, satisfaction levels, acquisition cost and “affinity,” the research determined and placed a value on fans for each brand compared in the study.
It’s worth checking out the study itself (download it here) to review the metrics and get some idea about where your business would compare based upon the value of a fan for the brand/industry that most closely matches yours.
Regardless of where you land in terms of the value you place on each person who has “liked” your Facebook page, the most important takeaway from this study is this: the research proves that when you communicate regularly via social media, you influence the opinions and behaviors of your prospects and customers.
The key, as I mentioned at the top of this post, is that you treat your social media marketing/outreach as a method of engaging with people rather than broadcasting or advertising to them.
From the very moment we began providing training to business owners and marketing executives to help them understand how search engines work, we have preached a very simple message:
Create content that delivers value to people in your target market. And do it often.
I’m constantly amused by the SEO (search engine optimization) industry—when not infuriated by stories of ripoffs, that is. Everyone was in an uproar when Google’s Panda update came on the scene. When Penguin arrived, it was another round of insanity as SEO firms and marketing consultants began realizing that many of the gimmicky tricks they had used to artificially boost clients’ search rankings began to fall off. And then there’s the endless speculation about which black and white animal Google will name their next update after… <sigh>.
Ironically, nobody who was following our training was negatively affected by Google’s algorithm changes. Quite the opposite, many of our clients found themselves inexplicably rising in rankings for keywords they hadn’t targeted (more on that in a moment) and receiving even more traffic!
And while keywords and keyword research are important, our clients and students have always heard from me that keyword research is only the beginning of your effort. You will never imagine all the keywords that people will use to find your content, but if you create valuable content in a conversational style, you will accidentally use more of the terms that people will search on than you could ever do on purpose.
Our clients and students get some valuable coaching from us that helps them accomplish this, of course, but the foundation of the strategy is disarmingly simple.
As social media has become more and more important, we’ve gained all sorts of new metrics about what content is and isn’t valuable to our audiences. But aside from making adjustments based upon that new feedback loop, the advent of social media has only served to prove the merits of our strategy.
Meanwhile, SEO experts all over the world are discovering that they must now scramble to figure out how to deliver value and engage audience members since Google’s ability to measure those factors has improved. Today, I spotted a beautiful infographic put together by Fuzz One: The New Face of SEO: How SEO Has Changed. If you’ve been through our training, you’ll be amused as I was at how much energy they’re now recommending everyone to put into delivering value. Enjoy!
The bottom line? While “SEO experts” scramble to adapt… everyone who has been delivering value by creating unique content that’s targeted to their desired audience can rest assured that your efforts will continue to be rewarded.
Need better performance from your marketing? Contact us to learn more about our strategic marketing assessment.