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Picking The Right SEM Operation: Legits Vs. Hacks

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Hello, my fellow search industry friends.

I hope this article can help distract you for a few minutes and give you some respite while reminding you that not all elements of your search engine marketing (SEM) accounts are the same and thus need different measurements.

For those that watch, follow, and/or troll my Twitter account, you’ve seen me on #ppcchat bashing things like Pmax, Auto-Apply Recommendations, and Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

(That’s in addition to my usual rants about the New York Jets and social commentary on the Real Housewives franchises.)

But after 17+ years in the SEM industry, I can no longer be silent about a topic that has been bugging me for a long time: being able to identify reputable SEM marketers vs. the dime-a-dozen hacks that also exist.

Full disclosure: I am not a “guru” (I truly hate that term), nor am I the best thing since sliced bread in the SEM industry.

But I’ve been around long enough to identify what it takes to build a great SEM team while also identifying those who likely lack the skills and might cause you more pain than they will help you.

“But Jon, why should I listen to you?”

Well, what makes me qualified to tell you what you should be looking for in an SEM team (or even just an individual) is subjective.

I feel somewhat qualified to provide insight, having worked in search marketing for 65% of the industry’s existence (as an independent consultant and at some of the biggest agencies in the world). I’ve presented at industry conferences, written articles (like the one you’re reading now), and even have some awards (even a trophy, see the 9-year-old one below).

Image from author, August 2022Google Search Excellence Award

When I first entered the industry as an intern (before I was hired full-time in 2005), the number of agencies across the U.S. doing this type of work (and publicizing it) was fewer than 50.

In 2022, in the small Connecticut city where I live, there are at least eight agencies, multiple in-house operations, and more than a dozen freelancers/consultants.

So, the demand has risen, as have the skillsets. And with it, so has the number of operations/folks in the industry doing the bare minimum (or even less).

What Kind Of SEM Person Should I Look For?

Depending on your situation, there are several variables here. Typically, you go one of three routes (there are other types as well, but much rarer), with overlap and differences between them.

  • In-House: Company/business, W2 employee who runs the SEM program within the confines of the company itself.
  • Freelancer/Consultant: An individual who will run SEM programs for a company but is not considered an employee. Sometimes a 1099 employee (or just an individual you pay out of pocket, no judgment here).
  • Agency: A standalone company that offers marketing services contracted out to run an SEM business for a company.

Once you identify which of the three you are hiring for, you must decide what level of experience you need (in years, not “trial by fire” experience, though that should also be taken into account).

Entry Level

Typically fresh out of school/college, no experience within the industry.

Important: If you’re looking for a freelancer or consultant, never hire someone at this level.

Only tap into these if you’re building an in-house team or building up your agency team.

Junior Level

Some experience, usually under two years of hands-on work. This is likely their second or third gig since getting into the industry.

Disclaimer: I don’t recommend folks hiring freelancers with such little experience. That said, there are occasionally some needles in the haystack, but they are rare.

Once again, I only recommend hiring this level if you’re building an in-house team or building up your agency team.

Mid Level

This usually represents a wide range of experience – anywhere from 2-10 years – with the majority of it being hands-on.

Note: These are often good hires regardless of what operation you are in, and typically, they have the most hands-on experience at this point in their career.

Senior Level

This label often gets applied to individuals in the space for 8+ years. Most of their career to this point is hands-on, but they often give great strategy recommendations as well.

Note: A great hire for any operation, but truly prime for freelancers/consultants.

Veteran Level

Truly the saltiest bunch in the space. I’d say this typically starts at 12+ years in the industry, and these folks have seen some things.

Note: Great hire for any operation. Likely to be the most expensive freelancers/consultants, but everyone should be able to have some interaction with them.

What Skillsets Should They Have If I Am Building Up A Team/Operation?

Once again, this has several variables to it. But here are the things you should know (not applicable for freelancers/consultants):

Having a college degree is nice but not necessary in this day and age.

If you do require a degree, aim for those with one of the following: Marketing, Management, Digital Advertising, Finance, Economics, Data Science, or Math.

Excel Skills

Anyone who wants to work with or for you must, at a bare minimum, know how to do a VLookup, Pivot Table, =SUM, =LEN, and Concatenate. Conditional formatting is a plus.

If you’re an agency or in-house, and they can’t do these, then they likely aren’t for you.

For anyone looking to build up their skills, I recommend looking into Maven Analytics: great analytics and Excel education operation run by an Excel wizard named Chris Dutton.

Understands How To Balance A Checkbook

This sounds unrelated and weird, but if you can’t correctly budget a checkbook, then you can’t properly pace an ad budget.

Ability To Think Outside The Box

You may only hire them for SEM, but they should be able to think about how it impacts and is impacted by other media and analytics – and how that insight can be helpful to one another.

Organized

Someone who shows they are adept at note-taking and/or project management.

Humble

Having someone confident is great, but having someone with an ego will create problems for you.

Certifications

They are free to obtain, and someone showing they have at least the search certificate from Google and Bing (I still refuse to call it Microsoft) is great.

It already helps reduce liability for you, as it shows they’ve taken the basic training at the very least.

Cross-Media Skill Sets Are A Major Plus

Paid social and self-serve programmatic are very similar to SEM; if someone knows these, they often make good skillset hires.

If I Am Hiring An Agency Or A Freelancer, What Should I Look For (Or Avoid)?

Part of it really depends on your business size and type, but here is some solid guidance: Make sure the team/individuals working on your business have up-to-date certifications in search at least (analytics, video, display, and Facebook are also great).

If an agency pushes that they are certified beyond just a note on their website, then buyer beware: these are a “you should at the very least have this” type of thing, not a selling point.

Freelancers and consultants should have them, but you can be more lenient if they tout them vs. an agency.

Having certifications does not make you the best operation out there, but if an agency or freelancer doesn’t have them, it tells you that they have failed to do the bare minimum – and their knowledge may be questioned.

If an agency (and occasionally a freelancer) is a Bing Elite or Select Partner and/or a Google Premier Partner (rare to have a Bing one without a Google one), it is a plus.

These operations will have more direct access to dedicated search engine reps and other helpful perks like testing betas.

Single-person consultants and freelancers usually do not qualify for these. It isn’t a knock against them, but it is a plus if they do have one.

Consider their onboarding approach. This should be a 30/60/90-day game plan and delivered to you when they pitch you. If they don’t have one, then accountability quickly goes out the window,

Check references.

It may seem antiquated, but if you’re going to pay a lot of money to an operation to manage your advertising funds, you want to ensure they have current or prior satisfied customers.

Some agencies over the years were just hack operations; those who hired them never checked references and now see no return for their payment.

It should go without saying, but people fall for it: Avoid operations or individuals who promise the world at a low price without logic or justification, or if it sounds too good to be true.

Over the years, more than a few shops have done that, from overpromising and underdelivering to lying and misrepresenting themselves. More than a few have been caught, sued, and/or faced federal charges.

Avoid any operation that is not open about or willing to share its start-up and ongoing QA process.

Things happen in this industry; a reactive and ongoing proactive QA process will save headaches and money. If a shop is not open to sharing theirs, I would steer clear.

Sample QA DocSample QA Doc

This is our SEM QA doc. If you want to see the full one, email/tweet me, and I’ll gladly share.

If I Am Hiring In-House, What Should I Look For Or Avoid?

For in-house operations, it ultimately comes down to the level of an individual you want.

For entry-level, the requirements are low. Just make sure they can:

  • Take feedback.
  • Have a good attitude.
  • Lack an ego.
  • Can do Excel.

If you’re hiring for a level above that, you’ll want to look for:

  • Someone who stays put for a bit and isn’t job hopping (not applicable to those in the junior level). If they have hard-to-explain reasons for frequent job switches, putting effort into onboarding them could easily be lost if they get bored or frustrated.
  • Those that are not chasing the dollar. This is fairly straightforward.
  • Extensive freelancer/consultant or agency experience, say at least four years. These folks have been through the trenches, working solo or at an agency. If you can get someone with this experience, they are usually great long-term employees with great hard and soft skill sets. Be prepared to pay a premium for them.
  • Those with extensive “hands-on keyboard” experience. Even for a senior or veteran level, you want to know they could confidently take the reins and run things in a pinch.

What Red Flags Should I Look Out For?

The red flags of major avoidance are growing every day.

But where to find them and/or how to identify them gets trickier and will take some of your own homework. Some of these are subjective, but you’ll get the point:

  • Anyone who calls themselves a “guru.” This is more of a personal issue, but making that type of bold statement usually comes with a bit of ego.
  • Anyone who struggles to decipher the differences and strategies between SEM and SEO. They often prey on small brands or unknowing folks.
  • Anyone who won’t give you access to your accounts. Confirm this in writing upfront; if you are paying the bill directly, you want admin access.
  • There are a lot of groups for SEM on social media, and many of them have individuals who make vague and/or unrealistic statements to try and get new clients. For example, “I increased ROI 10,000% with one secret move” or showing numbers without the big picture. These operations are often swindlers.
  • Any operation that plays up their Google Ads skillset, but not their Bing ones. The platforms are similar, and any reputable advertiser that does this for U.S. audiences will know both platforms. Often, some folks say they’ve never done it because no one uses Bing. Those are the people to walk away from immediately.
  • Operations/individuals who undercut their rates to an obscene level: You get what you pay for.
  • Any operation that won’t share a report, a strategy plan, or a change log.

There are many more, but these are the most common issues I run into within the space.

Billing Methods

There are various billing methods today; the three most common are commission, hourly/FTE, and retainer.

  • Those that do commission: If their focus is on how much you spend vs. how you perform, that is a red flag. Budgets get cut all the time – if they don’t like that, walk away.
  • Hourly/FTE: If they don’t give you an hour’s estimate upfront and only do it at invoicing, walk away; they will steal time.
  • Retainer: If they aren’t giving you a breakdown of how they spend their time, or the retainer exceeds 18% of the media spend, and you don’t see changes in the change log – walk away.

So, What Does This All Mean?

Now that I’ve legitimately scared you, remember that while there are some complete hacks within this industry, there are also many amazing people.

It is all about researching who you hire rather than blindly saying yes to a price.

And please, make sure they know Excel.

More resources:


Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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How To Create Awesome Meta Descriptions

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Meta descriptions are important for search optimization. If done correctly, they’ll encourage users to click through from search results pages.

The goal is to provide a summary of the webpage.

Google’s guideline states:

“A page’s meta description tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about.”

Meta descriptions do not directly influence search rankings.

But they play a role in helping potential site visitors understand what a page is about, which can provide a positive impact on search referrals.

Here, you’ll learn how to create awesome meta descriptions that help search engines understand your page’s content and inspire searchers to click through and visit your website.

What Is A Meta Description?

The meta description is an HTML tag (technically, it’s called an HTML element) that provides search engines and searchers a summary of what a webpage is about.

It is displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) underneath the title of the page. The URL, title, and meta description together form what is called a search snippet.

Meta Description Example

Screenshot from search, Google, August 2022Screenshot of a Search Snippet

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international organization responsible for defining HTML standards, the meta description has three qualities.

The three qualities of a valid meta description are:

  1. Users can type whatever text they want, without any restriction, as long as it describes what the webpage is about.
  2. The summary must be appropriate for use by a search engine.
  3. There can only be one meta description per webpage.

Google Rewrites Meta Descriptions

The search snippet can contain either the meta description from a webpage or it could be text that Google selects from the visible part of the webpage itself.

Google’s guidelines state that they will only use the meta description if it is accurate.

“Google will sometimes use the <meta name=”description”> tag from a page to generate a snippet in search results, if we think it gives users a more accurate description than would be possible purely from the on-page content.”

Depending on the accuracy of the meta description, Google may rewrite a meta description for your webpage that is entirely different from the meta description on the webpage.

This is nothing new. Google automated this process many years ago.

A study from 2020 found that Google rewrites meta descriptions 70% of the time.

If that’s true, could it be that publishers aren’t creating accurate meta descriptions?

One thing that is beyond dispute is that it is important to understand the correct way to write a meta description.

Meta Descriptions vs. SERP Snippets

Some people mistakenly use the terms “meta description” and “search snippet” interchangeably.

But meta descriptions and search snippets are two different things.

The meta description is an HTML tag that you control. You can create and optimize your own meta descriptions.

Search snippets are the descriptions Google shows for your webpages.

Why Are Meta Descriptions Important For SEO?

Meta descriptions are not used as ranking factors.

So, how should they be used today, why are they important?

Meta descriptions can help drive clicks, traffic, potential conversions, and revenue by convincing users that the webpage contains the information they are looking for.

Google’s guidance for meta descriptions best practices advises using the meta description tag to summarize the webpage content.

But it also suggests using it to persuade users that the content is what they’re looking for.

“They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”

The goal of SEO is to rank the site at the top of the search results.

What makes the meta description important to SEO is that it turns that top ranking into a win by persuading the user to click to the webpage.

What Is The Recommended Or Ideal Meta Description Length?

It has been considered a standard SEO best practice for years to keep meta descriptions at around 160-165 characters maximum (or 156-160 characters, depending on who you talk to).

The reasoning behind this is that this optimization helps to avoid the truncation of the meta description in the search results.

But Google uses the meta description to better understand the webpage, and there is no limit to how long the meta description can be, although Google suggests no longer than a short paragraph.

This is what Google recommends:

“A page’s meta description tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. …a page’s meta description tag might be a sentence or two or even a short paragraph.”

SEOs recommend keeping the meta description within a set limit based on how much of the meta description Google can show on a search results page.

Google says to be concise and write as much as a paragraph.

The W3C HTML standards state that there is no limit other than it is a “free-form string,” which means no rules on how much text is used.

If one is to conform to what Google recommends, then the ideal length of a meta description could be said to be as long as you need to summarize the webpage accurately but no longer than a short paragraph.

Ultimately, use your own judgment.

7 Writing Tips And Best Practices For Meta Descriptions

1. Research Your Competitors

Regardless of your industry, SERP research will help you see what works for your competitors without getting them rewritten – which may inspire you to write better meta descriptions.

Researching which meta descriptions are successfully shown in the search results and which ones are rewritten by Google may help you better understand the right way to do it.

To do SERP research effectively:

Step 1: Research The SERPs For Your Targeted Keyword

It’s easier said than done, I know. It can be time-consuming to manually go through every search result and identify what, exactly, is your competition’s kryptonite.

The reason why we were looking at the competition is that usually, the competition implements techniques that are currently working.

Step 2: Research The SERPs For Your Competition And What They’re Doing

Here, you take a look at your competition and figure out exactly what they are doing for their brands.

Step 3: Put Them Together In A Spreadsheet, And Track Them

Using the SEO Quake Google Chrome extension, you can export Google SERPs to an Excel Spreadsheet quite quickly and efficiently.

This will let you keep a running tally of your competition and track them easily and efficiently every month without enormous monthly costs.

2. Map Your Customer’s Journey

Identify your target audience’s optimal buying journey and what happens at each stage of the marketing funnel.

The marketing funnel can vary widely depending on your target market, so sharing an exact funnel to follow here would be fruitless.

Target and tailor your meta descriptions according to your findings but always make accurately summarizing the topic of the webpage the final goal.

3. Use Your Brand’s Unique Tone And Style

Every brand should have a unique tone of voice that’s consistent with its brand identity; this is how the brand appears online to users.

Each meta description should be uniquely crafted and tailored to how that tone of voice amplifies itself across the brand’s ecosystem.

You wouldn’t use the same tone of voice for a corporate law website as you would for a daycare website, would you?

So, why would you use a tone of voice that’s exactly the same from page to page?

The main benefit of tone of voice is that it reaches different personas targeting certain keywords.

By targeting personas with user intent and combining keywords with this research, it is possible to reach your target audience with a level of sophistication and optimization that truly resonates.

4. Include Keywords Your Audience Actually Searches For

Google maintains that they don’t use keywords in the meta description for ranking purposes. But when you perform SERP research, what is it that you see? Highlighted keywords in the meta description.

This is something that can draw your reader to the most relevant result that will satisfy their query.

If your meta description satisfies their intent better than any other result that appears, you’ll win the click.

5. Take Advantage Of Trending Social Headlines

As a social media connoisseur, you’re most likely on the up and up in your industry when it comes to identifying exactly what’s trending and what isn’t passing muster for your audience.

Following influencer accounts and industry firms should already be a part of your strategy.

Taking it a step further, assess which topics are currently trending in your space and see what meta descriptions appear for the highest-ranking results.

Google Trends, BuzzSumo, and Trending Topics on Twitter are all good places to check and see what might be trending that’s relevant to your industry.

6. Target A Specific Search Intent

Generalized meta descriptions and hollow phrases such as “best widgets” and other sales-speak can turn off prospective customers.

It is important to inspire confidence that your result is something that will satisfy their user intent for the query.

You want to speak about what your readers are really after, not attempting to persuade them into your own sales funnel.

7. Refresh Your Meta Descriptions For Older Content

Refreshing stale content on a website can be a boon for the site and is a great way to get new traction for older pages.

Also, by refreshing your meta descriptions, it is possible to get more traction from social media as a result.

You can re-share and grab more visibility from older posts if you perform a systematic refresh of all of your meta descriptions.

Examples Of Great Meta Descriptions

So, what does a great meta description look like?

Here are a few examples:

“Pain and suffering are very real to the victim in a personal injury case. Learn more about how to reduce discomfort from our personal injury attorneys in this latest blog post.”

“By thinking clearly about your needs, it is possible to find a computer that will help you do all the things you currently love, and more. Our technicians explain.”

“What are you looking for in a widget? Our widget technicians can help you find the best one for your needs. These are the things you should look out for in widgets.”

good vs. bad meta descriptions from Google's page on meta descriptionsScreenshot from Google Search Central, September 2022good vs. bad meta descriptions from Google's page on meta descriptions

Not every meta description type will work well for each industry. This is where testing, assessing your results, and making changes based on those results come in.

Tailor your meta description to the website and down to the page that is designed for your users.

Optimizing Meta Descriptions

The fundamentals of a meta description that Google recommends are to summarize what the content is about, be concise but use as much text as is appropriate, and don’t use it just for keywords (keyword stuffing).

It’s also recommended that the meta description is attractive to a potential site visitor.

While the traditional SEO practice uses the meta description for keywords and a call to action, that’s not the best practice according to Google and the W3C.

The best practice for meta descriptions is to summarize the topic of the webpage in a way that potential site visitors are confident that their answers are just one click away.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Are 301 Redirects A Google Ranking Factor? via @sejournal, @kristileilani

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Do 301 redirects affect your rankings in organic search? Read on and discover the relationship between 301 redirects and improved Google rankings.

The post Are 301 Redirects A Google Ranking Factor? appeared first on Search Engine Journal.



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LinkedIn Professionals Share Their Best Unusual LinkedIn Marketing Hack

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LinkedIn is a great place to grow your business.

In the last 12 months, 93% of B2B marketers have used the platform the most to distribute content organically. LinkedIn also topped the same survey for producing the best results.

The same study reveals content marketers are also spending more on paid content promotion. The top platform where they’re spending? Linkedin.

Businesses can also use the network for marketing to and reaching potential customers. In fact, there are more than 1 billion interactions on LinkedIn Pages every month.

With these figures, there’s no denying the power of this social media platform to drive engagement and boost brand awareness.

Are you ready to take your LinkedIn marketing game to the next level but unsure where to begin?

Here are clever LinkedIn tips from seven LinkedIn pros to boost your marketing efforts.


Leverage LinkedIn Live

Thomas J. Armitage Thomas Armitage

Sales Executive, Site-Seeker

LinkedIn is the ultimate B2B playground. It’s like a professional conference that’s never-ending.

Live Streams, in particular, continue to be underutilized. That’s because people starve for valuable learning material.

With Live Streams, thought leaders can bypass the headaches typically involved in traditional webinar setups. No landing pages or sign-up forms are needed. You can easily promote the event through sharing and invitations, too.

Although you’ll need a third-party streaming software, most play nicely with LinkedIn.

And Live Streams are a great way to break the monotony of text posts and engage with your audience on a more personal level.

Make sure you identify a niche topic. Write a strong description that includes who the stream is for.

Invite users you know will find it worthwhile. And make sure to promote – both before the event, as well as after, since the full video will be available for playback.


Level Up Your Content Strategy

Adam Houlahan Adam HoulahanAdam Houlahan

LinkedIn Expert at Prominence Global, Author of “Influencer – The 9 Step Guide to Becoming Highly Influential in Any Industry”

The most effective strategy for LinkedIn lead generation that delivers consistent long-term results is Algorithmically Aligned Content.

Only 1% of the 850+ million members of LinkedIn share content regularly (weekly). Less than 1% of that 1% truly understand and share content that LinkedIn sees as valuable to its membership and organically promotes for you.

Share content that creates conversations on the platform and shows you are the authority in your area of expertise without solving your audiences’ problems for them.

I call it “Know How,” with “No How” content.

Consistently implement this content strategy, and your ideal clients will gravitate to you to solve their problems.

Felipe Bazon Felipe BazonFelipe Bazon

Chief SEO Officer, Hedgehog Digital

Back in 2017, I decided that the only social network that I would use professionally was going to be Linkedin.

Since then, I have been posting weekly (sometimes daily) posts related to SEO strategies, techniques, and insights.

This has helped build my network and reach decision makers who see my posts and get in contact through the platform or our website to fill in the contact form.

These leads that turned into clients have contributed to the exponential growth we have had since we opened up our office in Brazil.

Being a well-known SEO down here, I’ve exploited these to our advantage; all leads came from my personal account, not the company’s.

We do have a business page for U.K. and Brazil and do some Linkedin ads to promote some stuff, but it is through the personal profile that the magic happens.

Since then, my posts are averaging:

  • 4,000 views
  • 100 interactions (likes and comments)
  • Five to seven organic leads per month

My tips are:

  • Consistency and frequency. Aim for at least a couple of posts each week.
  • Avoid sharing links on your posts; leave them in the comments. This increases the reach of your posts by at least 30%. For instance, if you want to share a new article from the blog, do a post talking about the subject and say, “We’ve written a complete guide about X, and you can find the link to it in the comments.
  • Don’t be shy in sharing insights, thoughts, and results. The community loves these types of posts. These tend to get loads of interactions.

Optimize Your Page

Virginie Cantin Virginie CantinVirginie Cantin

LinkedIn Coach – VirginieCantin.com, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of “60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery”

My personal hack uses the experience section to highlight my services and activities. So instead of having a single job title such as “Founder,” I will have several job titles under my LinkedIn company page for each “hat” I’m wearing in my company.

I have a job title for my 1:1 coaching service, LinkedIn PEELING. Another job title is dedicated to my online course, LinkedIn BREAK-IN. Then, I use a separate job title to highlight that I’m a Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Last but not least, I have a fourth job title that aims at getting me found by people looking for speakers and podcast guests.

The beauty of having several job titles is that you can optimize every single one of them for the algorithm so that people looking for a specific service or author, or podcast guest can easily find you.

Andy Foote Andy FooteAndy Foote

Advanced LinkedIn Strategies Coach

LinkedIn makes it really difficult to know who your “Super Fans” and potential “Super Fans” are; it’s as if they don’t want you to build any kind of base.

You can see this with how they treat followers; they’re not ‘following’ at all – because an algorithm inserts itself between you and folks who have voted to see your content.

Fortunately, there’s software on the market (peakAboo by Daniel Hall) that provides juicy data on everyone who has commented on your LinkedIn posts. This helps me to know who solidly supports me and, more importantly, people who commented only a few times.

It’s the latter category I want to target and figure out a way to convert them into persistent supporters, a.k.a. “Super Fans.”


Prioritize Human-Centric Approach

Sandra Long Sandra LongSandra Long

LinkedIn Trainer & Speaker – Post Road Consulting, Author of “LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide”

Activate your employee team. Make sure your team’s LinkedIn profiles are co-branded and focused on client problem-solving instead of recruiter oriented.

Encourage the team to search and connect with coworkers, clients, and prospects. Train your team to build relationships with thoughtful, helpful comments and personalized messages.

Say no to automation. Train them to engage, inspire, and motivate their professional networks with valuable comments, original posts, and shared or reposted company page content.

Develop a company hashtag and communicate how to use it on LinkedIn. Most importantly, build your team’s confidence and make it fun!

Josh Steimle Josh SteimleJosh Steimle

Founder of the LinkedIn agency BlueMethod, Author of the WSJ & USA Today bestselling book “60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery”

LinkedIn helps me solve my biggest challenges as an entrepreneur, whether it’s sales, recruiting, or finding partners.

LinkedIn has easily produced millions of dollars in value for me.

Even though I wrote a book on LinkedIn with 60 tips in it, everything I teach in my book can be summarized in two words: Be human. It’s the best LinkedIn hack.

Too many are trying to imitate robots on LinkedIn by sending out spam messages, posting content but never engaging with commenters, and avoiding the time-consuming, truly creative work of one-to-one communication. But that’s where LinkedIn performs best!

When you use LinkedIn to talk directly with others, like a normal human being, that’s the moment when LinkedIn becomes indispensable.

Takeaway

As the world’s largest online professional network, Linkedin makes a remarkable addition to your social media marketing strategy.

Remember to take advantage of LinkedIn features and be consistent – all while offering value and nurturing relationships.

Armed with these tips, you’re bound to thrive on the LinkedIn feed and reap the rewards.

More Resources:


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How to Manage WordPress Comment Notification Emails

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Do you want to improve your WordPress comment notification emails?

Comments drive discussion and user engagement on many blogs. However, WordPress doesn’t do such a great job when it comes to notifying users about comment activity.

In this article, we will show you how to better manage WordPress comment notification emails to boost user activity on your website.

Why Improve WordPress Comment Notification Emails

Comments are an important element of many WordPress websites, particularly on news sites and WordPress blogs. More comment activity means a more engaged audience which results in more page views and ultimately more revenue.

However, the comment system that comes with every WordPress website is fairly limited. It sends comment notifications only to site administrators and article authors. Apart from that, there isn’t a default option for other site users to be notified of new comments.

Wouldn’t it be nice if users were able to get comment notifications for the posts they like or when someone replies to a comment they left?

That said, let’s see how you can enhance the default WordPress comment system and notification emails for a more engaging user experience on your website.

The Default Comment Notification Options in WordPress

By default, WordPress does not have an option to send notifications to commenters.

However, it does have an option to send email notifications to site administrators when a new comment is published and when a comment is held for moderation.

You can view these options by going to Settings » Discussion from your WordPress dashboard and navigating to the ‘Email me whenever’ section.

Email me whenever settings

Both these notifications are only sent to the site administrators. However, WordPress also sends an email notification to the post author about new comments.

If you get a lot of comments on your website, you might not want to receive email notifications for all comments held for moderation. You can simply uncheck the box here to disable those.

How to Let Users Know When Their Comment is Approved

If a user’s comment is held for moderation, they will see a message telling them so. However, they will have no idea whether you approve it or not without returning to your site.

Unfortunately, many of these users never return to your website to check, so they won’t ever know that you approved their comments.

You can fix this by using the Comment Approved Notifier Extended plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Comment Approved Notifier Extended will notify users when their comment is approved. It works right out of the box, and there are no additional settings you need to configure.

You can also see our list of best plugins to improve WordPress comments.

How to Allow Users to Subscribe to Comments in WordPress

In addition to not knowing if their comment was approved, commenters will not be notified about replies, either.

Once they leave a comment, they will have to manually visit your website again to see if someone has replied.

To solve this, you need to install and activate Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin. For more details, see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

It allows your users to subscribe to comments on any article with or without leaving comments. Users can also easily unsubscribe at any time.

StCr settings in WordPress

For detailed step-by-step instructions, see our article on how to allow users to subscribe to comments in WordPress.

How to Allow Users to Subscribe to Just their Own Comments in WordPress

Many users may not want to receive notifications for all comments on an article. However, they may want to know if someone replied only to their own comments.

You can add this feature as well using the same Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin. First, you’ll need to install and activate the plugin. If you need help, then please see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Next, simply visit the StCR » Comment Form in your WordPress dashboard. From here, click on ‘Yes’ next to the ‘Advanced Subscription’ option.

StCr settings in WordPress

Users will now see a new option under the comment box whether they’d like to subscribe to all comments or just their own comments.

For more details, see our article on how to notify users of replies to their own comments in WordPress.

How to Allow Authors to Subscribe to Other Author’s Posts

If you run a multi-author blog, then other authors may want to keep up with discussions across your website. If you already have comment subscriptions enabled, then each author can manually go and subscribe to comments.

However, if you want certain users to receive all comment notifications, then you can do this with Better Notifications for WordPress plugin. For more details, then please see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Once the plugin is active, you can head to Notifications » Add New from your WordPress dashboard and can enter a title for your notification at the top.

Next, you can select ‘New Comment’ from the ‘Notification for’ dropdown menu. After that, simply add the user roles that will receive these notifications in the ‘Send To’ field.

Comment notifications for certain user roles

The plugin also offers an option to send notifications to the post’s author and even exclude user roles from receiving email notifications for new comments.

How to Create Custom Comment Notification in WordPress

Want to create your own custom comment notifications in WordPress? Custom notifications can allow you to replace the default WordPress notification with your own.

First, you will need to install and activate the Better Notifications for WordPress plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit the Notifications » Add New page from your WordPress admin panel to create your custom comment notifications.

Create a custom notification

You can edit the notifications for new comments, comments awaiting moderation, and comment replies. Additionally, you can send notifications to any user role or to individual users.

The plugin also lets you add email addresses manually that are not even connected to a user on the site.

You have the option to completely customize the comment notification sent by WordPress and use shortcodes inside the email text to add custom tags.

For more details, see our article on how to add better custom notifications in WordPress.

How to Improve Deliverability of WordPress Email Notifications

All the above tips will fail if your WordPress site fails to send email notifications or if those emails are marked spam by email providers.

To fix WordPress email issues and improve email deliverability, you need to install and activate the WP Mail SMTP plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, visit the Settings » WP Mail SMTP page to configure plugin settings.

WP Mail SMTP settings

This plugin allows you to use SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) to send emails. SMTP is a much better and more reliable method than the default mail function used by WordPress.

It works with any email service that supports SMTP. This includes your free Gmail account as well as Google Workspace, Mailgun, and Sendgrid.

Choose Other SMTP as mailer

For details, see our article on how to use SMTP server to send WordPress emails.

We hope this article helped you learn how to manage WordPress comment notification emails. You may also want to see our ultimate step-by-step guide on improving WordPress speed and performance for beginners and how to start an online store.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

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WordPress Gutenberg 14.2 Offers Better User Experience

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Gutenberg 14.2 is released and available for download. The latest version features user interface improvements including an easier workflow and performance improvements plus new header and footer blocks.

All of the new features are incremental improvements that together help to make Gutenberg a more polished and intuitive site editor.

Better User Experience

Smarter suggestions for Query Loop block variations

This improvement provides a smoother editing experience by only showing relevant Query Loop block patterns.

Improvements to Writing Flow

Gutenberg now features a more intuitive writing flow.

Three improvements:

  • “The sibling and line inserters now feature a more natural animation effect.
  • Selecting multiple blocks is now more visually consistent.
  • The block inserter is now hidden when the user is typing, reducing visual clutter.”

Better Functionality

Letter Spacing in Headings

Letter spacing refers to the space that’s between each letter in a word.

Being able to adjust the space between letters is especially important for the heading elements because with some fonts the space can be too close together.

This new setting allows a publisher to adjust how much space their is using the Global Styles interface.

Screenshot of Heading Space Control for Gutenberg

Better Calendar Block

The calendar block gains more ways to adjust how it looks and functions.

The background, link and text colors are now be set for the calendar block.

It can also now inherit text colors from the parent block and colors can now be styled through the global styles.

Editor Performance Improvement

A bug was fixed in the Enhanced List Block feature.

The feature which was introduced in August 31, 2022 for Gutenberg 14.0 contained a performance issue when list items were nested within each other.

WordPress explains the problem and the fix:

“So, if a List item was inside of a List that was inside of another List block, that block would re-render 3 times! This problem has now been fixed and the initial load performance of the editor should be improved.”

New Features

New Block Pattern Categories

Gutenberg now features two new block pattern categories that correspond to banners and footers.

Banners are described by WordPress:

“Banners” here refers to visually distinctive elements that help structure or contrast the contents of a page (including headings and “hero” elements).”

Autocomplete Links in Blocks

Another new feature is the link autocomplete feature is available in any block. This used to be a feature that had to be activated through an opt-in but now it’s available by default in all blocks.

The feature is triggered with the “[[” shortcut.

Screenshot of Gutenberg Link Autocomplete in Blocks

Screenshot of Gutenberg Link Autocomplete in Blocks

Bug Fixes and Improvements

Aside from the above improvements and additions there are many more bug fixes and additional features that all cumulatively make Gutenberg a better site editor to use.

There are no big standout features, just a lot of improvements that will making creating sites with Gutenberg a better experience.


Citation

What’s new in Gutenberg 14.2?

Featured image by Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

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Drupal Warns of Critical High Severity Vulnerability

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Drupal issued two security advisories warning of a vulnerabilities affecting several versions of Drupal that could allow an attacker to access sensitive information.

There are two vulnerabilities currently affecting Drupal. One is rated as a high severity critical vulnerability.

Vulnerability in Third Party Library

Drupal uses a third party templating engine called Twig.

According to Drupal documentation:

“When your web page renders, the Twig engine takes the template and converts it into a ‘compiled’ PHP template which is stored in a protected directory…”

The Twig library is used by Drupal for templating but also for a process called sanitization, which is a way to prevent malicious files from being uploaded.

Twig describes the vulnerabilities as one that allows an attacker to use the filesystem loader to access sensitive files.

Drupal warns:

“Multiple vulnerabilities are possible if an untrusted user has access to write Twig code, including potential unauthorized read access to private files, the contents of
other files on the server, or database credentials.”

This vulnerability affects users of Drupal 9.3 and 9.4.

Recommended Course of Action for Mitigating Vulnerability

Users of Drupal 9.3 are recommended to update to version 9.3.22.

Users of Drupal 9.4 are advised to update to version 9.4.7.

Moderate Vulnerability

Drupal also warned of an Access Bypass vulnerability that is rated as moderate affecting publishers that use the S3 File System module for Drupal 7.x.

An access bypass vulnerability is one in which an attacker is able to bypass authentication barriers and access to an application and sensitive files that they should not
otherwise have access to.

The vulnerability is described as:

“The module doesn’t sufficiently prevent file access across multiple filesystem schemes stored in the same bucket.”

The advisory notes that this vulnerability is mitigated by several steps that need to be taken before an attacker can gain access.

The advisory explains:

“This vulnerability is mitigated by the fact that an attacker must obtain a method to access arbitrary file paths, the site must have public or private takeover enabled, and the file metadata cache must be ignored.”

Recommended Course of Action

Drupal users who use the S3 File System module for Drupal 7.x are advised to upgrade to S3 File System 7.x-2.14 in order to patch the vulnerability.


Citations

Drupal core – Critical – Multiple vulnerabilities – SA-CORE-2022-016

S3 File System – Moderately critical – Access bypass – SA-CONTRIB-2022-057

Twig security release: Possibility to load a template outside a configured directory when using the filesystem loader

Featured image by Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

 

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Are Title Tags A Google Ranking Factor?

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An association between page titles and Google search rankings exists as strongly today as in the early days of SEO.

People of all levels of SEO knowledge agree that optimizing page titles is vital to success in search.

And how could you argue?

Page titles are the most visible component of Google’s search results pages (SERPs); it’s easy to conclude they carry weight as a ranking factor.

But, more optimization is not necessarily better. Optimization can cross the line into manipulation. That’s when you’re writing for search engines before actual people.

Historically, Google devalues ranking factors when the level of manipulation reaches a point where it’s dragging down the quality of search results.

A prime example of this is domain names, which Google once valued so highly that it was difficult to rank without keywords in your URL.

That’s a thing of the past, and now it’s equally possible to rank with an obscure brand name in your URL as it is with a keyword-based domain.

As Google search matures, it’s logical to wonder if page titles may go in a similar direction. Will Google eventually get fed up with the spam and reduce the weight of the page title ranking factor?

Who knows what’s in store for the future, but we haven’t reached that point yet. There’s no question about Google’s algorithms considering page titles.

Instead, the questions around page titles are:

  • The extent to which title tags are valued.
  • How much they matter to the bigger picture of a website’s search optimization.

In this piece, we aim to answer those questions by investigating various claims and looking at on-the-record statements from Google.

[Deep Dive:] The Complete Guide To Google Ranking Factors

The Claim: Title Tags Are A Ranking Factor

A page title is the text that appears in the <title> tag within the <head> element of an HTML document.

Page titles are the most prominent and most visible element of a page snippet when conducting a Google search.

A page’s title also appears in the browser tab after clicking through a search result.

Page titles’ prominence in Google SERPs has led to persistent claims that they’re a strongly weighted ranking factor.

Is it possible these claims are overblown?

The Evidence For Title Tags As A Ranking Factor

Google unquestionably uses the HTML title tag to understand what pages are about so it can rank them in search results.

The company’s official SEO starter guide recommends unique, accurate, and brief but descriptive titles on all website pages.

But when it comes to the strength of page titles as a ranking factor, evidence suggests they’re only a mild signal.

Google’s John Mueller has stated that page titles are not critical for rankings, at least compared to the main content:

“We do use [the title tag] for ranking, but it’s not the most critical part of a page. So it’s not worthwhile filling it with keywords to kind of hope that it works that way.”

Mueller goes on to clarify that page titles are important for SEO, and they are a ranking factor.

However, they’re not so critical that overhauling a site’s page titles will significantly affect ranking positions. He said:

“Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor, but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time.”

Mueller addressed this again on another occasion, reiterating that page titles help Google understand what a page is about but are not critical to determining rankings.

“… if you’re talking about ranking changes so strong that you’re seeing them overall, then I think just tweaking titles and meta tags are not going to give you what you’re looking for. Tweaking titles and meta tags makes it easier for us to recognize what is actually on a page, but it’s not going to change the overall visibility of the website significantly.”

With all this taken into consideration, it’s clear that page titles remain essential for SEO.

But in the hierarchy of today’s ranking factors, title tags are nowhere near the top.

[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor Insights

Our Verdict: Title Tags Are A Ranking Factor

Are Title Tags A Google Ranking Factor?

Page titles are a confirmed Google ranking factor, with evidence suggesting the strength ranges from mild to moderate.

A title tag is a tool for communicating what a page is about to Google.

It helps search algorithms understand what category the page fits into and which queries it may be able to answer.

From there, Google uses more critical factors, such as the main content, to determine a page’s ranking.

To be sure, it’s worth taking the time to write out titles for every page.

Websites can struggle to gain any ground in search results without unique page titles as a bare minimum optimization.

Did The Page Title Update Impact Search Rankings?

Since we published the first version of this ebook, Google released an update on how it generates page titles in search results.

Google replaces page titles in SERPs when the provided title isn’t relevant to a user’s query.

Specifically, this happens when the main content is relevant, but the title doesn’t directly speak to what a user typed in the search bar. Google will replace the page title with a piece of text more likely to catch the searcher’s attention.

Indeed, this impacts the appearance of search results but doesn’t impact rankings.

Google confirms it uses original page titles for search rankings even when replaced in SERPs. There’s no need to worry about your optimization efforts going to waste.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]

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