Personal Branding: Creating Your Mark

Personal branding isn’t taught in schools.

Which is a good thing for me, because I would’ve failed.

Most people like talking about themselves. When it comes to job applications though… many of us fall miserably short – myself included. Most of us aren’t great at highlighting our strengths and literally selling ourselves on paper. Again, this is something I fall victim to. That’s despite being quite good at writing sales copy.

The good news is there’s plenty of information about it on the Internet. The even better news is that creating a personal brand for yourself isn’t difficult! The majority of us just want to find a job. Even a bit of quick, slightly-better-than-average personal branding can make you stand out from the pile of CVs sitting on your potential employer’s desk.

There’s also plenty of information about cats… which may distract you.

All marketers (digital or not) are familiar with branding. A brand is the mark of a product or service. It’s instantly recognizable. It has its own style and flow. Logos are the ultimate example: many of the most successful logos are simple and can be recognized even during sunset, against the skyline. Just take a look at McDonald’s…

mcdonalds logo

Even if lights malfunctioned, the outline of Ronald’s Golden Arches would still be recognizable. There are very few people in the world nowadays who don’t know what McDonald’s is or where to find one. Pretty much anyone who has ever been anywhere know exactly what that giant M is pointing to.

So that’s just branding. Now it’s time to get personal…

What is Personal Branding?

With this type of branding, the product you’re advertising and selling is yourself. Or, more specifically, your experience and skill set. That’s what often gets a lot of people: it scares the shit out of most of us. It means we have to examine ourselves, recognize our weaknesses and really dig deep to find strengths that employers want to use.

The truth is, it’s not really that scary. You simply package what you’re good at then give it a bit of a “brush up”. Put it in front of the right buyers, and they’ll salivate all over it.

chocolate cake
If you try offering them cake, be prepared to deliver.

In my first blog post, I talked about shameless self-promotion and mentioned that I disliked it intensely. Many people are awful at marketing themselves (myself included), primarily because they feel it to be embarrassing/icky. What’s helped me in this situation is to create an emotional disconnect and view my brand as a product, a project.

Personal Branding Tips – Building the Foundation

I could give you stock personal branding tips like “Start with what you like most”, “Be honest but no too honest” or “Don’t brag but don’t hide your skills”. These have a lot of truth in them – but they tell us nothing about how to actually build your brand. Zilch.

You already know what you’re good at – if your job history is anything to go by. Since most personal brand builders are aiming to snag employers/clients, it shouldn’t be too difficult to list your skills. The trick is finding a starting point for “publishing” this list, making it look attractive and -ultimately- ensuring that the right people see it.

Your CV already does that. But it’s crap. Because all CVs are boring.

In most industries these days (outside of online-based ones), it’s still a very good idea to have a website. Failing that, a blog is better. Most tips regarding personal branding sometimes overemphasize the beauty of a blog/website. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It has to be a showcase, something that clearly displays everything you can do – as well as your greatest achievements.

For example, bakers can well display a portfolio of the beautiful cakes they make.

If you’re floundering and looking for a myriad of personal branding tips to get you going, stop. Gather your best work: bakers, get your cakes ready. Copywriters, compile your portfolio. Candle-makers… Get pictures of your lovely candles.

  • Create a portfolio site. With the countless free website builders around, this is pretty easy. WordPress it up, Joomla the crap out of it (or try Wix… very slow, but useful if you’re scared of HTML).
  • Do try to make it look nice. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be masterpiece. However, it shouldn’t be an eyesore (and no flashing/spinning/undulating images… this isn’t Geocities in the 90s).
  • Blog about it! You don’t have to, but it helps. You also don’t have to blog often… Once a month should do.
  • Promote it: Put the link to your portfolio in your CV. Link it to whatever social media accounts you have (personal branding definitely calls for the likes of a LinkedIn account!).

So, when getting your personal brand off the ground… That’s pretty much it. Personal branding tips will also dictate that you actively promote it. How much you do this, however, depends on you. Freelancers who are always on the lookout for new clients should dedicate a little time to getting their voice out there.

Megaphones probably aren’t the best way, though…

Personal Branding Tips – A Few Ideas

Once you have a solid basis, you can take a look at a few tips to bring your personal branding further. Sharing your knowledge is a great way to get interested parties reading your blog. Twitter it, Instagram it, Facebook it. If you’re a writer, use your own unique voice (and establish the “voice” of your own brand first). SEOs can optimize their sites and track the analytics.

When it comes to discussing professional topics, I’d actually recommend LinkedIn and Twitter. Sure, Twitter’s not as “serious”, however I’ve found it to be a valuable source of knowledge and insight… All while letting you have a little fun. While LinkedIn is more “stiff” – it is actually a brilliant place to craft your professional persona.

Thoughts on Freelancing and Stability

I originally became a freelancer because I didn’t like working in a kitchen. The only other skills I had besides cooking were speaking English and being able to write. Since work as an English teacher was scarce, I turned to “writing for the Internet”.

welcome to the internet
My first day on the job.

This really meant content mills – Textbroker, The Content Authority and MediaPiston (who were actually pretty decent, but it’s dead now so don’t get any funny ideas).

There was no guarantee of work, but I turned the computer on every day. I wrote most days – sometimes very little, sometimes far, far too much.

I read many resources on freelancing. How to get clients, where to find them and new places to find work. As time went on, I managed to pick up a few of my own who paid better and delivered more consistent levels of work. At the end of every month, however, I was still living hand-to-mouth.

In being paid peanuts, it was sometimes all I ate (this may or may not be true).

I loved the freedom of being able to work from anywhere. I enjoyed being able to shift my hours so I could meet friends who usually worked night shifts in bars. I had a lot of fun adventures disappearing off to another city and still being able to make an income. Yet at times, I was wondering if I could pay my rent next month.

Instability and Freedom, or Stability and Being Chained to a Desk

At some point, I realized that experience in a company might be valuable. So, I managed to blag my way into a job where I became a full-on online marketing manager. It was nice to have a stable salary, regular working hours and my own desk.

carol beer
I tried my best not to impersonate this person. It didn’t always work.

Unfortunately, the charm wore off pretty soon. I went into the office every day. I sat in the same place. While I still appreciated the stability and loved learning new things, the feeling of “sameness”, of being trapped in one room for forty hours a week, began to creep in.

I started to miss freelancing, or so I thought.

In truth, I wasn’t missing freelancing at all. I had diverse projects to work on (admittedly within a very niche industry). I was constantly learning new things and training my SEO muscles. I was making lots of money from our affiliate partners. What I was really missing, in fact, I was simply the lifestyle I had been accustomed to. While my hours were flexible, my presence was required in the office because it was the done thing.

When it comes to freelancing, people often make the choice for two reasons. The first is having their own business, trying their hand at being successful and seeing how much money they can make. The other is simply freedom. This kind of freedom is traditionally not thought to exist in most companies.


…these days, the online industry has made full-time jobs as flexible as freelance positions.

Things are different now. If you’re adamant about the option of working in your underwear (or in the Sahara or eye of a hurricane or wherever gives you the most “inspiration”), you don’t have to go at it alone. Remote jobs are plentiful – if a little competitive.

In essence: Things nowadays are not as clear-cut as “freelancing = freedom” and “employment = imprisonment”. There are freelance positions which require you to be on-site, and permanent employment contracts that let you work from anywhere in the world.

If you are looking for that kind of freedom, the key here is your perspective. If it is easier to find a freelance job, it’s best to build up long-term partnerships which can similar to regular employment. Forget about security for a minute and focus on regular pay. After all, you can still be fired pretty fast on a permanent contract. Though you’ll most likely receive some “I’m sorry” money.

So, What to Do?


Have a look at your industry. What are the most feasible options for you? Do you mind going into an office maybe only once or twice a week, but having partial location independence? If so, you may luck out on finding a local job. Are you so utterly fantastic that companies and clients will come to your door, begging for your services? Then maybe freelancing is the best option.

There are a lot of possibilities out there. How much money you make and whether you can live on it also depends on how in-demand you are. Those with programming skills will make more in a shorter amount of time – SEO experts fall somewhere a little lower in the pecking order. Unfortunately, writers tend to be seen as the grunts (unless you’re so fantastically good that you’ve written for Vogue, or something).

So, what’s my secret? Well, I mix it up.

I have freelance work which ebbs and flows. However, I strive to maintain some kind of “basis” income. Theoretically I could get a job in a coffee shop, though since I prefer location independence I went for a part-time remote job. Having at least a guaranteed coming in every month covers my bases – train ticket, health insurance, candle supply (I light a lot of smelly candles).

So, when it comes to flexibility there is a lot of wiggle room. It just means that you have to add a dash of creativity to your work strategy. Which shouldn’t be a problem… We are creatives after all, aren’t we?

The Mobile First Index: Do We Just Have Plain Old “Websites” Again?

The mobile first index is a ranking factor that was rolled out by the Masters of Google in 2016. To understand what it is, and how it affects your site, you need to understand plain, old-fashioned indexing.

Indexing just means organizing data, and that’s what Google does to rank websites on its search engine. Of course, it is far more complicated than this but then again everything to do with SEO can seem complicated.

crying woman
I don’t think SEO was intended to make people cry…

Indexing: Organizing Mobile and Desktop Versions

At one point, there were just websites. You got them on computers (fancy) instead of having to get them mailed to your door. I think it was Homer Simpson who famously announced that you could now get the Internet on computers. So, that solved a lot of problems. No more mailing pictures of my food!

As devices became more sophisticated, it became obvious that a lot of websites were too much for tiny screens. Even though the screens got better (seriously, though, some smartphones don’t even fit in my pocket…).

So, enter mobile sites: website optimized and fiddled with specially to appear on smartphone and mobile device screens. Nice.

Search engines continued to index desktop sites. They soon realized they also needed to index mobile sites. So, mobile indexing came into being. Now, you had mobile and desktop indexing: you had to pretty much make sure the SEO was up to standard on both sites, or you risked missing out on a lot of juicy traffic. As time went by, mobile became more and more important. These days, mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic.

The Masters of Google therefore decided to roll out mobile-first indexing. This simply means that only the mobile version of a site is indexed. To hell with the desktops. SEOs now have to make sure that sites are optimized for mobile, but must still look nice on desktops devices. Which brings me to this conclusion…

We Just Have ‘Websites’ Again

Seriously. It’s gone full circle: websites must now able to appear on every Internet-faring device imaginable. In my opinion, it has made SEO a little easier. Technology is and has been changing so fast that this is a small mercy to ensure that the ball keeps rolling.

Yes, there was (and still is) a massive hullaballoo about mobile versus/desktop and everyone scrambling to ensure that their sites are in top order. In reality, however, it just means that websites are essentially the same, albeit slicker and more mobile.

What Is Content Localization? Insights on SEO Translation

International SEO calls on marketers to localize their content for a specific country. Independent of language, the process involves tailoring content to a specific culture. UK users, for example, will find ecommerce sites that display currencies in pounds and use terms that they are familiar with to be the most helpful.

Localization, therefore, can be done within a specific language. While you may have two sites in Spanish, one may be focused on Mexico and the other on Spain. Often, this content may be a near-duplicate (to save time, in which case a hreflang tag will help you avoid duplicate content issues).

Localization is, however, a part of the translation process. It goes hand-in-hand with SEO translation when you’re not only localizing content for a specific culture, but also for a specific language.

Translating Cultural Expressions and Terms into Your Target Language

Before we go on, I would like to express the importance of hiring a native-speaking translator. When localizing content, you are doing so for the user. When writing content that is to be localized, the writer should do it in a manner that is most natural to them. This text can then be worked on later (if you’re localizing for the same language).

This localized content can be targeted towards a specific country. For example…

  • If you have an English text that you would like to translate and localize into Dutch, you can change some of the terms. These include things like currency, names of cities/regions, i.e. everything that will ensure it makes sense within a Dutch cultural context. It of course depends on the text (if it is very general, you probably won’t have to do much).
  • The keywords are also important (which I shall detail later). Make sure you do your keyword research in your target language(so, in my case, Dutch).
  • You then simply translate the text. For most people, this means sending it on to a translator.
We paid our Dutch translator in tulips (not really).

SEO Translation: Tips and Things to Keep in Mind

For the most part, translators are not SEOs (some are, though). So, while you have the power of a native speaker who can bring your message across expertly in their own language, you still need to detail the specifics of what you want.

The first thing I would therefore like to address is keyword research. Keyword research, especially in a language you probably aren’t even familiar with, may sound scary. Don’t worry, however: you only need to understand the terms that appear in the search engines, because that’s what people are looking for. You can use a dictionary to get a general gist of the “lingo” that is used. Keyword research in another language is a process that goes beyond the scope of this post, so take a look at this resource.

google translate
Don’t ever use this to translate. EVER.

Once you’ve got the foreign language keywords you want to use in your text, it is important to structure them. If you have some familiarity with the language (or are perhaps fluent in it but don’t trust yourself to write quality content), you can dictate to the translator where the keyword should appear.

But what if you’ve no clue? Well, the best trick I found was to simply put the keyword at the end of the sentence it ought to appear in. Write a note to the translator and tell them to use the keyword where it makes sense grammatically. This is the glorious marriage of optimization for both users and search engines (not a very exciting wedding, I’ll admit).

IMPORTANT: When doing keyword research in a different language, stick to primary keywords. Unless you know the language really, really, really damn well. Secondary keywords will come naturally to the translator. When preparing texts for translation into Dutch, I avoided secondary Dutch keywords like the plague. It was different when doing it in German since I am fluent in the language, but this is an exceptional case.

A lot of people tend to balk at the idea of dealing with another language. Yes, it is a challenge however if you want to your business to go global you need to suck it up and dive right in. You should also consider investing in the services of a translator. Alternatively, of course, you could just hire a SEO who is fluent or (ideally) native in that language.

4 Things to Keep in Mind During Your Job Search

Hey, do you know what’s not fun?

Job searches.

Alright, there is an element of fun behind it. Personally, I quite like going through job listings. For me, it’s a lot like flat-hunting: it can be fun to see what different but similar roles entail, how you might respond to those challenges and learning what new skills you might pick up.

However, job searches become a royal pain in the neck when we are forced to look for them. The added pressure of needing a job right now, this Goddamn minute! also serves to suck any kind of joy out of the process. Then, of course, we have those wonderful “recruitment” tactics that plague the digital job search landscape. In many ways, it really feels like job seekers are a barrel of laughs for a woefully inept industry.

In the end, there are many of us forced to take jobs we know we will hate just to cover our basic expenses.

That being said, some of us are lucky to hold the wolf from the door for at least a few months. Maybe you’ve got substantial savings or you’re blessed with living in a country that provides decent social security (thanks, Germany). That can definitely take the pressure off – especially if you have dependents.

However, even with our basic expenses covered, looking for a job still often ends up being a painfully tedious, degrading and dehumanizing experience. It’s enough to make you want to run away and live in the woods.

…and lurk in the trees, throwing pine cones at HR managers who dare come near your lair.

I’m actually in the middle of a job search myself right now. I am also very much at my wit’s end. I applied, last month, to over a hundred companies.

Over a hundred companies.

Let that sink in for a minute. That is quite a lot for the space of a month. Now, let me tell you how many positive responses I got (i.e., interviews) I got.

Just under ten.

I had rejections left, right and center. Not even polite rejections, most of the time. A lot of them were automated responses. Not only is that intensely discouraging, it’s just plain rude.

dating flowers
Flowers don’t work either… Not that some companies even deserve them.
I’m clearly doing something wrong,” I thought. “Maybe my cover letters sounded too braggy. Maybe they weren’t bragging enough! Perhaps I should’ve included my entire job history – not just that relevant to digital marketing. Perhaps employers scoffed at the fact I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree – or maybe (in the case of German companies) my German was just too “foreign”.”

Maybe, I’m just not good enough.

The above musings are nonsense. I did everything right. If you’re applying for jobs in a professional manner, you’re doing everything right as well!

We’re taking all the right steps, yet we get very little in return. It just doesn’t seem very fruitful.

fruit 400x
Bribing them with fruit doesn’t work, either.

Sadly, this is a totally normal experience for job seekers. It certainly seems bleak while you’re in the thick of it. You’re throwing CVs left, right and centre. Despite that, you’ve also got to remember that it seems worse because you need the Goddamn job right now, this minute!

However, if you’re doing your level best to get out there, you should always try to keep in mind that…

…you’re doing fine!

That’s why I threw the following points together. For anyone who needs a bit of encouragement and perspective, read on!

Hiring Processes Are Painfully Outdated

Application Tracking Software, online application methods and even my beloved job boards all, for the most part, suck. Now, job boards can be a great way of discovering new companies and new positions. However, when you’re applying, I would strongly advise you apply to the company directly. If possible. Don’t go through a middleman. You’ll just get lost in a wave of resumes.

Companies also seem more than happy to throw out a job listing and then spend the next eternity responding to candidates. They seem to think that automated responses constitute an actual response. Furthermore, many of them are woefully unprepared to deal with the onslaught of applications they receive.

I find it painfully hilarious when I get an interview for a job I applied to three months previously. While it is great to get an interview, it shows just what an utterly sad and pathetic state the HR industry is in. So remember, it’s not you. It’s them.

Getting the Perfect Position (Could) Take Months

Terrible, outdated HR practices have a lot to do with this. At the same time, finding the perfect “match” is a lot like dating – much of it is down to fit. Do you fit in with the company culture? If not, that’s no particular person’s fault. If anything, you’re doing yourself a favour by turning that job down.

Then we have other points: salary is naturally one of the most important. While a good work-life balance is paramount, salary is the main reason you want a job in the first place. If it weren’t, I’m pretty sure many of us would be running our own raccoon kingdoms or setting up a circus or whatever.

snail house
Snail racing, anyone?

Then of course there’s the work-life balance the job itself offers. Are you allowed to work remotely (that point, for me, is non-negotiable at this stage). Will you actually enjoy your day-to-day tasks? What are your colleagues like?

Job interviews are vetting processes. Not just for the company, but for the candidate as well. Remember, when you go to an interview, you are also interviewing them. This whole process of finding a position, applying, seeing if you’re a good fit and maybe doing “trial” days can end up taking a long time.

Many HR Managers Have No Idea What They Want

I’ve been quite lucky in my working life. When I was a freelancer, clients wanted written content from me. When I looked for work as an English teacher, language schools hired me to teach English. Pretty straightforward. Then, I got into digital marketing. In both cases, they were small but successful companies who knew what they wanted. We didn’t even have HR departments.

The sad truth is that most HR “professionals” have no clue what they’re talking about when they write a job ad. It becomes even more apparent when they interview you. I’m not saying all HR people are like this but far too many are painfully unaware of what the job they’re interviewing for actually entails.

Consider Rejections As “Standard”

Occasionally I receive a “you were not successful” email, along with an unnecessarily long list of instructions about how to deal with rejection. I find it incredibly patronizing but I understand where they’re coming from. However, if you’re a grown up who has had several jobs then you should be well-hardened against rejection now.

If not, remember: rejection is more common than acceptance. Apply for jobs and go out there fully expecting to be rejected. Consider each rejection as just one more step towards your goal of getting a job. It’s as simple as that. Even if HR managers knew what they wanted and we had the best recruitment systems in the world, you would still get a healthy dose of rejections.

All in all, I’ll maintain that looking for a job sucks. Companies don’t make it any easier on candidates, which is why these four points are so very important for us to remember. We are not the problem. We need to power through, look for those diamonds in the rough (I REFUSE to use that stupid word “unicorn”) and build relationships that way.


Canonical and Hreflang Demystified

Previously, I wrote a blog post covering the very basics of technical SEO. I really only covered the bare essentials and naturally left out smaller, more specialized aspects. Today I’d like to take a close look at what are known as canonical tags and URLs and hreflang tags (also known as attributes).

Before we go any further, I would also like to point out:

Canonical and Hreflang tags are for URLs are used to prevent issues with duplicate content.

That’s pretty much it. You will often see them mentioned together, but remember that they are not the same thing and have very different functions.

What Is a Canonical URL/Tag in SEO?

We’ll start with the canonical tag (also known as a canonical link). As you may well know, duplicate content is probably one of the greatest sins of content marketing. Google’s minion spiders certainly won’t be amused if you have multiple pages on your site that have the same content (even if it is relevant or necessary). You’ll still get penalized (not in a fire-and-brimstone sort of way of course, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Google is working on that. Ouch).

For the most part, this makes sense. A website with the same content on multiple pages is just boring. However, as a webmaster you may come across instances where it makes sense to copy the content onto other pages. Product descriptions are a great example.

What to do then?

Essentially, you want this content to be indexed but only on one page. You want to avoid it to appear on other pages (for informative reasons) and will perhaps link to it, however you don’t want Google to consider it and penalize you. This is where the canonical tag comes in. Essentially, it’ll tell you that similar-looking URLs are the same.

The process of canonicalization is as follows:

  • First, pick the page that you actually want to canonicalize. Consider this to be your “one and only” in terms of indexing. Which one is the most important is up to you (maybe it’s the page with the most traffic, the most backlinks, etc.).
  • So if you choose, for example, as your canonical page, you then add the canonical link to the non-canonical page(s) like so:

rel canonical tag example

That’s all you have to do.

What Are Hreflang Tags?

Hreflang tags (or attributes) carry out a function in the same area as canonical tags, in that they avoid duplicate content. However, the attribute itself will tell Google that one page is specifically for one country/language. What’s pretty handy is that you can have two English languages sites with the same content. However, they’ll be directed at different countries. See below:

rel canonical tag example us
rel canonical tag example uk

One hreflang tag is for the States, the other is for the UK. A lot of the advice I originally read about hreflang tags focused on multiple sites in multiple languages, but I cannot stress the importance of using it in on same-language sites in multiple countries.

With regards to hreflang, you can of course simply do away with it and rewrite the content. That’s fine too, but it is a lot of work (and money).

My God, What Is Technical SEO? A Quick Look

Terms like “technical SEO” make some people shake in their boots, especially those new to or just learning the ropes of search engine optimization. I’ll admit I was a bit of a freak when I first found out about it: while it was confusing, it was also exciting. Though apparently it worries some people. That’s why I’ve written this short, simple post which will hopefully work as a basic introduction to the technical aspects of SEO.

Search engine optimization is about making your website easy to rank in the search engines and appear in the top search results. It is done through optimizing relevant keywords in your website copy, getting relevant inbound links from reputable sites and ensuring that content is unique and relevant to users (notice repetition of the word “relevant”?).

So, there’s a lot of focus on content. However…

…technical SEO focuses on the non-content side of your website.

It is the art of helping search engine spiders crawl and index your site as efficiently and easily as possible.

With technical SEO, you basically need to be aware of the major technical ranking factors.

Technical SEO: Basic Aspects to Keep in Mind

As an SEO, you may primarily focus on content and not the technical aspect of search engine optimization. That’s fine, but even being aware of the following points is a good idea. There’s no way around it (stop crying). Or, you may be very interested in learning technical SEO so you can charge thousands to get people’s websites up and running.

island forest
Then, buy and island and start your own raccoon kingdom… Okay, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Whatever your reason for learning technical SEO, the following points are aspects that will affect your website as a whole from the technical standpoint.

  • Site loading speed: Search engines and users alike love a site that loads fast on all devices. A significant chunk of people will close their browser if it takes more than 3 seconds to load (not me, I do wait a bit… but I’m also a little strange). They’ll click “Back” and that’s it, your bounce rate goes up (and gives Google another reason to punish you). It’s a bad day for everyone (except the Masters of Google). When considering loading speed, don’t forget about images.
  • Good site architecture refers to the structure of your site and how easy it is for Google’s little minion spiders to crawl through and index all that content. So, it would be highly advisable to look into sitemaps (both HTML and XML versions). Make sure to read up on site architecture, and sitemaps so you have a better idea.
  • SEO Siloes: This means stacking all of your content neatly. Effective internal linking is therefore a good strategy to implement here. You will also need to categorize your content by subject so that the website isn’t a horrible, confusing mess (and it gets worse the bigger your site gets). As a general rule, however, try to have all parts of your site at least three or four clicks away from one another.
  • If you have to redirect a page then be mindful of how you do it. Look into 301 and 302 redirects (so you can see how much traffic you preserve). And don’t forget about 404 redirects: customize the page because the standard ones look tacky and will just make the user click away. Instead, making it look pretty gives it a higher chance of the user staying on your site.
  • Content: Basically, try to ensure that you have fat and juicy content for the user to lap up. So, it mustn’t be “thin”. In addition, duplicate content should also be avoided. Again, just a couple of basics to keep in mind (I’ve also just noticed this is the shortest point on the list…).
  • Structured data libraries: Search engines can look at a page and understand what the content is about. However, there’s no reason to make it more difficult for them. Structured data libraries are essentially a tool that describes content to the search engines (the most popular and recommended one is

Like SEO itself, the scope of technical SEO goes far, far beyond a single post. This is, however, a good way of getting to grips with the most technical aspects. I hope to be exploring it a little more in the future, so stay tuned.

A Look at Conversion Rate Optimization

I’ve wanted to do an examination of conversion rate optimization (CRO) for a while now. When I started out, it was a big, scary term that seemed far too complex for me. As a fledgling affiliate marketer (or should we say apprentice?) I soon learned that is was utterly vital and, in some cases, more important than the volume of traffic that websites receive.

Yes, that might seem a bit mad especially if you’re starting out digital marketing. But remember…

…conversion rate optimization is what brings in the cash!

What’s the point of an ecommerce or affiliate marketing site if you are not focusing on converting the users? You might as well set up a shop and completely abandon your customer service skills, scowling at anyone who walks through the door. Which brings me to my next point…

Why Is Conversion Rate Optimization Important?

This is a question that is thrown around the search engines. Conversion rate optimization obviously means something if there is so much already written about it. Yet how many digital marketers actually understand it? It could entirely depend on what you’re focusing on. Some of us take on clients who want as much traffic as possible and our focus stops there. Yet when you are concentrated on the entire success of a website and its conversions, it becomes important!

The sad truth is that apparently few marketing teams seem to consider conversion seriously (and sometimes, we are instructed to only work on driving traffic, while CRO remains an afterthought). Once the site has phenomenal amounts of traffic, they’ll sit back and think their job is done. I suppose a part of the job is done, if you’re going to be nitpicky or lazy about it.

girl relaxing computer
In online marketing, there’s no such thing as quitting time.

Web Traffic Volume vs. Conversion Rate Optimization

Web traffic volume is the amount of traffic your site receives (a hundred million, billion views etc.) and conversion rate optimization is the fine art of getting those users to click on your link, buy your product/service, sign that petition or order an inhuman amount of cake or whatever KPI you’re gunning for.

Think of it this way: traffic is simply exposure. Once you have exposed yourself (no, not like that, unless you’re AdultFriendFinder), you need to sell. Sell, sell, sell. And there are a million ways to do it.

So How Do I Sell Myself?

You’ve used the right keywords. Your website is nice and user friendly, it’s siloed to the brim, the customers are happily wandering around the shop. Some are making sounds like, “Mmm… That looks nice” and “George, George, we simply MUST have that for our next box social…” (apparently my imaginary users are still stuck in the 1950s). Others might be a bit skeptical and wondering if they should just leave. Now’s the time to hit them.

big hammer
Not literally, of course.

I’ll give you an example from affiliate marketing: I’ve SEO’d my site to the highest possible standards. There are hundreds of users browsing every day. People are interested and some stay on the page for a rather long time. They’re clearly reading and clicking on the relevant links. However, I want to get them to click affiliate links. In a lot of cases, I also want them to sign up to the product so I can get money. This is the process that gave birth to the convoluted term conversion rate optimization.

I can write my content in a way that it links to the biggest and best products that I’m selling. And that’s it, really. That’s what conversion rate optimization is in a nutshell. You’ve got the customers, now start selling to them.

Conversion Rate Optimization and the Art of Selling

Conversion rate optimization techniques can be subtle, they can be informative, they can be in-your-face and they can be downright obnoxious. Different techniques work for different industries and types of customer. We are pretty much back to the traditional method of selling since we’ve done all that work to get the user this far. So, consider these strategies:

  • The CTA: The Call To Action gives the person that little, tiny human nudge which may further convince the user to click that precious link and fill your piggy bank. You can of course use a banner, but in my own efforts I’ve found a text-based CTA tends to work better (banner blindness, anyone?).
  • Lead flows are essentially pop-ups and while they may seem obnoxious, they can work well in some cases. This is usually if they are relevant to the content on your site. It makes sense: Old Auntie Mildred isn’t going to be interested in an anti-wrinkle cream if she’s searching for a cheaper brand of cat food (which I can sympathize with… being a cat person myself).
  • Try out real-time messaging on high-converting pages: if a user spends more than a certain amount of time on a page, offer them real-time help and advice. It’s the equivalent of going up to someone in a shop with a big smile and asking, “Hi, how can I help you?”

Consider your website copy as well. Conversion rate optimization involves persuading your users. Of course, this depends on the tone of your website’s content to begin with. If you’re running a review site, you may want to present yourself as a notable authority on the subject. So, your content may have to have a couple of pros and cons (even cons of your best product). This gives it more authenticity.

CRO was something I started from the beginning, even before I actually knew what I was doing (just writing dating articles for a blog). Some people do it in their sleep without even really being aware of it. But remember: awareness of CRO means you can sell your products effectively.

SEO Tips: Optimizing Images

Not many people think about optimizing images for SEO purposes.

Which I can understand.

Images and I have not been friends. We’re slowly repairing our relationship though. SEO image optimization was unfortunately a technique I had to learn. Not difficult, but it did mean I would have to learn a lot when it comes to image editing. As someone who is eager to learn as much as possible, I decided to get over my fear of Photoshop and other image editing tools.

Which brings me to this particular post on images and how you can optimize them for web search.

SEO, Pictures and Images – Give Them a Name!

When optimizing images, every SEO person understands that you can get traffic through pictures and images. How does a search engine know how to direct this traffic? Yes, by using keywords. Which means naming your images. Those keywords are vital. A string of numbers and letters with .jpg or .png isn’t going to tell the dear search engines very much.

In naming your image, you’ll be picked up both through the image search and the regular text search (…is there another defining name for that? :/).

Don’t Forget ALT Tags!

Alternative text tags provide a description of the picture that’s being uploaded. So, for example, if you have a picture of a new blender you’re selling on an ecommerce site then you can easily have a short description (with relevant keywords).

Optimizing Images for SEO – Don’t Forget About Resizing!

Your image has now been named (shameless-self-promotion-lady-waving.jpg – something relevant to the topic of your content). Since page speed is a ranking factor, you don’t want your content to take a million years downloading a single image onto the user’s browser. Not only will Google take a disliking to this, but user may simply think “Well, feck it anyway” and simply click “Back”. Now you’re in a pickle, because it’s just contributed to your bounce rate!

NOTE: It’s also pretty crap for web accessibility, too.

So, make sure to scale the image to the size you actually want it to be (and please keep mobile in mind…). You may also want to reduce file size. Ultimately, the image has to download as quickly as possible and not be too big for the user’s screen. Hell, test it out on a bunch of devices if you feel like.

File Type? That Too?

GIF, JPEG and PNG are the three image file types generally used when it comes to SEO. GIFs are low-quality images. That’s why you’ll see them turn up in the form of simple images (icons and whatnot tend to be GIFs). They do, however, look rather horrible if used for bigger pictures with more complex colors. Yuck.

JPEG is often the standard for bigger pictures. For the most part, it is advisable to do your images in JPEG however PNG can also work as an alternative to GIF (and won’t degrade over time if it is constantly resaved). Unfortunately, PNGs are still rather big and therefore can affect page speed. It’s not an absolute tragedy if you use them, but I tend to stick to JPEGs and try to avoid GIFs when I can.

These were the first things I learned when it came to SEO image optimization. There always seems to be a fine line between the user and the search engine… As always, you sometimes have to please two rather fickle masters.