How to optimize content and avoid Google penalty?

Undoubtedly every business has faced an issue with Google guidelines, which is why “How can you avoid being penalized by Google?” is such a common search. When you work hard on SEO optimization to rank at the top of search results, you don’t want to be penalized for unclear reasons. To avoid this unappealing scenario, let’s explore the issue further and learn about some best practices to optimize content marketing that will help you avoid penalties.

Why do Google penalties happen, and what do they mean for you?

Google often penalizes a website due to viewing it as a low-quality site that is not trustworthy. Google also penalizes a site if it detects that it has violated any of the guidelines. For example, if your site is not mobile-friendly, then Google will penalize it. As a result, your site will never rank as high as it did before, and you’ll see a significant drop in traffic. These penalties can be brutal to overcome, depending on the severity of the violation. The issue may be temporary, but it can also lead to a permanent ban from the Google index. Follow the rules below in order to optimize content marketing and avoid Google restrictions.

1. Avoid duplicate content

One option to avoid duplicate content is to use supporting tools. For example, by using the duplicate content filter in the Google Search Console, you can identify content that appears more than once on your site to optimize content marketing. You can then choose to eliminate it or consolidate it with another page. If you remove the duplicate content, try to make sure the remaining content answers the user’s query and provides excellent value.

2. Be wary of keyword stuffing

The most common cause of penalties is keyword stuffing. In the past, if you typed in a keyword, it would show up in all of your content. For example, if you typed in the word “car,” it would show up in your article about cars, on your About Us page and on your Contact page. Google has been cracking down on this and has penalized websites for including excessive instances of keywords.

You can still include a few keywords without penalty to optimize content marketing, but you should avoid overuse. It’s better to use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords, which are conceptually related terms and are used by search engines to fully comprehend material on a webpage.

3. The most important step in good SEO practices for optimized content marketing

Nothing is more crucial than developing content that is optimized for the reader in the first place. And don’t forget to check the constant Google Algorithm updates.

There are a handful of ways to avoid Google penalties, and the best SEO practices are the ones you can keep up with. If you don’t know how to optimize your content marketing correctly to boost your ranking while navigating all the guidelines to avoid penalties, Tempesta Media’s managed solution will help. With our outstanding knowledge of best practices, we’ll help you create or expand your content strategy. Contact us today and start benefiting from expert SEO strategy. 

How to update old blog posts for better SEO

Getting the most out of your SEO program is all about creating new content on a consistent basis.
Or is it?
Creating new content is necessary, and as you know, it takes a great deal of time. That’s why it’s also important that you take care of quicker tasks that will reap significant rewards over time. One of those key tasks involve updating old blog posts for better SEO.
It’s OK if you don’t like living in the past. But in this case, a trip down memory lane can open up a superhighway of new traffic. Sometimes, a few minor adjustments to the copy, adding an image or video and doing a quick scan of links are all you need to make an old blog post new again.

Why you should update old posts

Updating old posts will improve your credibility. Nothing screams, “I don’t pay attention,” like a broken or outdated link in a blog post. Keeping up with those resources and updating when appropriate is good for your credibility, and will ensure search engines don’t overlook your content.
You can focus efforts on higher-performing articles. Before you groan about having to update every blog post you wrote in 2018, never fear. Pick your top-performing posts and reinforce them with solid updates.
You don’t need a ton of resources. Updating old blog posts doesn’t take as much time as a full rewrite, so you don’t have to throw a lot of manpower behind the job.

How to update old content for SEO success

  • Make sure all links are up to date. Nothing old or broken, please.
  • Evaluate your sources for relevance. First, make sure they still exist. Then, determine whether they’re evergreen, or they should be replaced with something more recent.
  • Thicken” your content. Thicken means provide more recent examples or go into greater depth on certain points to enrich the post and make your keywords more attractive to search engines.

Make functional SEO changes

  • Pay attention to your formatting. Make sure your text uses the right styles for headings, body copy, bullets, etc.
  • Rethink your link text. Get rid of nondescript language, such “click here,” or “read this.” Instead, place links with text that properly describes what people will get when they click.
  • Add and update headings. Break up your text with relevant headings to help search engines pick up keywords.
  • Check meta descriptions. Ensure that meta descriptions of your webpages contain appropriate keywords and titles.

Consider visual improvements

Nothing but text on the page? It may be some of the best copy ever written, but even fantastic copy needs a little boost. These tactics can help:

  • Add a video. Can the story you’re trying to tell be enhanced by video? If so, it’s worth the extra effort.
  • Add an image. Make sure the image is relevant. Whenever possible, use authentic images featuring real people and things. If you must use stock photography, make sure the image assists visually in describing what’s going on in the post. Images should be appropriately named with descriptive language and tagged. For example: instead of calling your image IMG_043.jpg, call it “mom-and-child-playing-in-park.jpg.”
  • Create an infographic. A more-descriptive visual interpretation of what you’re trying to say will punch up your post and play well on social media.

Redistribute Old Content

Speaking of social media, here are some ways to reignite interest in your old blog posts:

  • Repost old content on social media to remind your target audiences of it.
  • Include it in a targeted email.
  • Add it to your social media channel rotation so that it pops back up over the course of the quarter.

Technical methods for updating old content

It’s important that you establish a good methodology for regularly updating old posts to ensure you’re getting the most out of them. Sometimes, a post that didn’t do as well as you thought six months ago might get a new lease on life with a quick update. Here are some technical pointers to help you stay on top of the refreshing schedule:
Consider a website plugin. WordPress (bad link) that will automatically show you the date the post was modified.
Manually include update language. If you can’t use a plugin, manually note at the top of the post the date of modification.
Mark your calendar. Include space in your content calendar to indicate when posts were updated. Set up reminders in Outlook or whatever calendar you use to evaluate certain posts.

We can help you make old blog posts new again

If you still think you may need some assistance with updating old blog posts, Tempesta Media can help. Our editing solution automatically evaluates blog posts based on the parameters above, and our team of writing experts get to work on making your content shine no matter its age. For more, contact us.

The difference between thought leadership and blog articles

Using content to build your business online is smart. You can build relationships, solve problems and amass a loyal following for the product or service you provide. You likely have a blog article, on which you publish great content. But, exactly what kind of content are you sharing with the world?
If you’re looking for content ideas, you’ve probably heard the term “thought leadership.” Becoming a thought leader and influencing the decisions of people in your industry are invaluable business advantages.
Many businesses think they’re doing “thought leadership” when they’re actually just blogging, or vice versa. If you’re a little confused about which is which, that’s okay, because they share attributes. They also have important distinctions.
We see how people get confused. Over time, blogging has become a much more research-intensive enterprise in which blog articles become more like news articles. At the same time, thought leadership can contain strong opinions from trusted sources. It’s important, however, to distinguish between the two, because each plays a key role in content strategy.
Basically, one grabs attention, the other keeps it.

It’s a blog article if:

It’s mostly your opinion. If you want to opine for a few hundred words, that’s okay, but that’s not necessarily thought leadership.
The piece is shorter and more topical. Real thought leadership is rarely, if ever, accomplished in just one article.
Your goal is to generate awareness. If you’re trying to grab attention quickly, chances are you’re casting a large audience net and just want people to turn and look, whereas thought leadership aims at specific types of customers and gives them in-depth knowledge.
You’re trying to find new readers at the top of the funnel. A typical blog article garners the attention of new readers on your blog.
It’s built around an SEO and keyword strategy. The need is more immediate with a shorter post that aims to raise awareness.
You’re producing at least one per week. Blog-article frequency is high, thought leadership is deployed much less frequently.

It’s thought leadership if:

It’s much longer and produced much less frequently. Those articles provide a great amount of in-depth knowledge that needs to be thoroughly researched. As a result, they require a significant amount of time to put together. Can a short blog article provoke thought? Of course. Just look at Seth Godin’s blog. But, those longer pieces provoke discussion and provide nuggets of detail that help open doors to knowledge.
It’s the perspective of an executive. When those articles contain opinions, they should come from seasoned leaders in your organization who are able to back up their insights with meaningful experiences.
It includes a lot of credibility-building detail. Thoroughly researched industry trends and important data take time to gather. Put together, however, they paint a larger picture of your company’s position in the industry, and lend credibility to it.
We hope you’re now able to distinguish between those two content types. Knowing the difference can help you build a content strategy that increases and retains business.

How long should my blog article be?

All blog assignments have a minimum required word length of 500 words. You can see your word count at the bottom right of the content entry screen. You may write more than 500 words, but you cannot submit the article if you write LESS THAN 500 words.

What’s the verdict on the ideal number of words in a blog post? The short answer is, it depends.

Recently, some writer-influencers have put forward that blogs need to be longer. Just how much longer? They can’t really give a number. Some say 1,000. Some say 1,200. Some say 2,000. And still some say even more. There hasn’t been a consensus yet. The reason is the length depends on how saturated your market is with content and how difficult it is for your business to improve your SEO related to certain keywords.

When it comes to SEO and content marketing – content above all else

However, all these experts agree on one thing: Your blog’s readership is still primarily dependent on your content.

Speak to the needs and interests of your audience. You’ll see that they’ll stick with you whether you offer them 400 or 4,000 words. If you provide value and actually help your readers, the content will perform better.

Your blog articles need credible insight – context is queen

Another way of looking at this is that length should not be a consideration in the way you write your blog. Expound on a theme until it is crystal clear. Give examples if necessary.

Of course, this shouldn’t be an excuse to insert fluff. Short or long, every word should count. Each word should add value to an article.

All ideas should be fully flushed out.

Sentence and paragraph length

The jury may still be out on the ideal number of words in a blog post. When it comes to sentence length, the Flesch-Kincaid readability test requires it to be 20 words or fewer to be considered “fairly easy to read.”

Meanwhile, industry observers stressed the importance of mixing up paragraph length. Paragraphs consisting of three to six sentences work best for business and technical writing.
Do long winded sentences sound good when they are read out loud? Probably not… long winded sentences can come across as wordy in a blog article as well.

Many factors are involved when determining blog article legnth

  • Target audience. A Microsoft study famously revealed that the human attention span had dwindled to 8 seconds thanks to technology updates and current digital lifestyles. This made the case for short-form content until a BBC report dismissed it as a myth. Moreover, a Source Global Research survey found that business people, especially thought leaders, need substantial content pieces (hence a higher word count).
  • Industry. Fashion blogs don’t need discussions to be as extensive as business how-tos. Medical blogs – even those that target parents – need more words to explain treatments, complications and contra-indications.
  • Goal. Different blog article word lengths can produce different results. Short blogs are conducive to discussions with readers. Medium length blogs usually get the most social media shares. Longer blog articles get noticed by search engines.
  • Writers and time. Each writer has a different flair. You also only have a certain amount of time in your day to craft the content.

Blog articles can be long and short

Of course, the easy answer may be not to stick to a particular length for your blog. Make it short when you feel it’s enough but wax on if there’s a need. Between 400 and 1500 words should be a safe bet.

Tempesta Media offers any number of words in a blog post that a partner feels best fits their unique needs.

Varying the length, style, days of the week, and format of blog posts will authenticate your brand and hopefully improve your SEO rankings.

Make content marketing a priority for your business

Discussions on the ideal word count of blog articles will not be concluded any time soon. If Google keeps changing their search algorithms, your approach will continue to change. In the meantime, the best you can do is to strengthen your craft.

Conduct research on best practices. Update your old content. Rewrite articles that you think could use a little polishing. Up the frequency of the new content insights that your offer.

If you feel like you are falling behind or need a partner, Tempesta Media offers monthly content subscriptions to ramp up your content efforts.

Do You Need Estimated Reading Times Part 2: What Is Ideal?

What is the ideal estimated reading time to keep a reader interested?

Most bloggers and corporate sites struggle to balance quantity versus quality when it comes to creating blog posts for their constituents. One of the measures used to generate an estimated reading time is the number of words in the blog post.

Recently, a lot of the data has been pointing toward a longer blog post being better from a search engine optimization perspective. However, from a readers perspective, readers have less and less time available and therefore, readers demand more value for the content that they’re reading in a shorter period of time. This divergence is creating an issue with time spent on site and what I’d call abandonment rates with people coming to the site and quickly bouncing away from it.

We recommend that the content pieces and blog posts should be somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words and should really focus on top of funnel visitors. Top of funnel visitors are are new visitors who are coming to your site. What you’re trying to do is generate awareness of your solution by generating some initial interest. Middle of the funnel content, which is content that should be between 1,000 and 2,500 words, should really focus on educating the customers and ultimately getting them to take a certain action for the purposes of this article.

How much time is the ideal reading time for a blog article?

We’re going to focus on blog posts that are at the top funnel. At that level, I consider it a win when a reader spends more than two minutes on your site reading a piece of content.

So if you’re trying to determine the estimated reading time, you really should focus on pieces being between 2 and 4 minutes in length to read for shorter blog posts. A reading time of 2 to 4 minutes with a strong introduction will have a much lower bounce rate. Anything less than a minute on the page itself is going to create a bounce in terms of Google Analytics and SEO, so it’ll actually work against you. We try to make sure that these posts are short, punchy, to the point and really geared toward the awareness level.

For us, we target two to four minutes in length for the mid funnel-based content. It’s quite common to see someone spend 5 to 15 minutes reading that. Those are great pieces for SEO improvements. While blog posts are excellent pieces to help drive awareness through social media and morality.

To have a successful campaign, you shouldn’t just focus on an absolute metric of reading time. You should balance that between what you’re trying to accomplish and where the content fits within your overall sales and customer acquisition funnel.

In short, blog post should be 2 to 4 minutes reading time, and longer informative articles should be between 5 and 15 minutes in reading time.

Do You Need Estimated Reading Times, Part 1: What Are Estimated Reading Times?

The short answer to this is yes, but before we explain that, let’s describe what the reading time is.

What are estimated reading times?

Essentially, estimated reading time is a gauge for how long an average reader would take to read and consume the entire piece of content that’s been presented in front of them. Many audiences look at articles and other content. If they see that it’s going to take too long for them to get through it, they are likely to abandon the page itself. This increases the company’s abandonment rates, negatively impacting SEO.

Where do you place estimated reading times?

A good rule of thumb is to place estimated reading time at the beginning of each article. The best place for it is after the title and before the body text begins, typically, left-justified. This location directly benefits your target audience. Many people have very limited time available, and if they see that an article is only going to take a couple minutes to read, they’re much more likely to read it, and actually get to the end of it.
If you are trying to target decision makers who are C-level executives, they are even more pressed for time. As a result, the estimated reading time is even more valuable for this target audience.

Should there be other details aside from the reading time?

There should also be a brief summary placed at the very beginning of the article itself. The summary should be one or two sentences with a couple of bullet points explaining what’s going to be covered within the content. That provides a relatively low commitment for the target audience and the target reader. If it is written in a compelling enough way, it will induce the reader to go and continue into the rest of the article.

What are some of the negatives associated with adding estimated reading times for your blog content?

Some of the negatives associated with adding estimated reading time really depends on the type of content associated with it. For blog posts, it’s recommended that estimated reading time should be included. However, for longer-form pieces pieces such as thought leadership, e-guides, and white papers, I don’t recommend including the estimated reading time because of the intent associated with the reader.

What are the benefits associated with estimated reading times for your blog content?

Someone who is going to read an e-guide, white paper, or a deep dive informative article (also known as long-form content), will be more interested in what is going to be discussed and the value that’s going to be provided to them within the content than they are interested in actually saving time. However, with blog posts, the opposite is true. They’re trying to get a nugget or two of information quickly. After they consume the nugget of information, they want to be able to move on.
In summary, estimated reading times makes sense for both businesses and consumers in the B2B audience. If you are focusing on blog posts and other short-form pieces of content that are generally under 1,000 words, including the estimated reading time makes sense. If you have long-form content, it is not recommended that you include the estimated reading time.

20 websites to download free stock photos and images

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Images also drive tremendous traffic. For example, Buffer, a social media management tool, showed Tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and 150 percent more retweets. This article provides you with guidance on where to obtain free images and stock photos.
But first, some basic information:
Copyright
If you did not shoot the photo, you do not have permission to use it. Whenever someone creates an image, it is automatically copyrighted; there is nothing the photographer has to do to hold the right. Consider reaching out to the photographer directly or accessing a resource where you can use an image by following the licensing agreement or paying a fee. Using a copyrighted image without permission can result in a lawsuit.
Photos with the Public Domain Mark 1.0 indicate copyrights have expired or have been forfeited. You can use these without asking permission or paying a fee. Other free images can be used when providing proper attribution.
You can find such photos at:
1 Million Free Pictures
All images are created by the owner of the site. They can be used for personal or commercial use and credit does not have to be given. The gallery is a little difficult to search, but there are a number of useful categories.
Astronaut Photography of Earth
As the name indicates, you can search specific collections to find images shot by NASA astronauts. It is a service provided by the International Space Station program along with the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate. There is no fee for use, but attribution must be given. Be sure to read the site’s FAQ regarding other conditions for use.
British Library
Here, you will find more than a million images. Most are illustrations in 17th, 18th and 19th Century books released into the public domain.
Creative Commons (CC)
These photos are public licenses that do not have a fee, but typically have restrictions for use. Read the licenses carefully before downloading and using photos.
Dreamstime
Offers more than 38 million images. Many of them are available for purchase. However, they do have a free section that is easy to search and frequently updated. Before browsing the site, you are required you to create a free account.
Free Digital Photos
The smaller sizes are free and you must credit the photographer. To get larger photos, you must purchase the image. Thousands of photos and illustrations can be searched easily by category.
FreeMediaGoo.com
Offers royalty-free, cost-free images for commercial and personal use. There are a number of background and texture images.
Freerange Stock
Find a number of high-quality, high-resolution landscape, industry, people and food stock photos. Credit does not have to be given, but they ask that you do so as a courtesy. Registration is required to access the site.
Gaderinge
These are free to use without restriction and the site does not require membership. Organized into categories that can be easily searched, some images are resized to fit a Facebook timeline or cover photo.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
While there are many photos in the public domain, not all of the images on LOC site are public domain. Be sure to check the Rights and Restrictions page. Because the LOC does not hold the rights to images, they cannot grant rights. Individuals who find a photo that is restricted must research on their own to find those who can grant permission for use.
LibreShot.com
As they indicate on their site: “Beautiful Photos. Totally Free.” If you’re seeking travel photos, this is a great site. Find images from Europe, Thailand and Mongolia. It is also a good source of nature photos.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photo gallery
More than 32,000 images on topics ranging from weather to oceans to marine species. Credit must be given to NOAA and the photographer. Note that there are some photos in the library that have copyright restrictions; they are specifically identified within the collection.
Morgue File
These images are not in the public domain, but are free high resolution digital stock photos for corporate or public use. You can copy, distribute and adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are still responsible for the legal content of the images including model releases and property releases. If an image in a blog post, they recommend contacting the photographer and providing proper credit.
My Public Domain Pictures
This collection of amateur photos is available for commercial use without asking for permission. However, as they note in their FAQ, “Some of our pictures might include pictures of people, logos and brands and its always safe to assume that we have not obtained model release from these subjects.” Thus, use caution before deciding to use those specific photos.
Picdrome
This public domain collection isn’t particularly vast, but is growing. There are more than 100 photos that can be used specifically for background or texture. Another 100 are close ups of food and drink.
Pexels
Allows for commercial use without attribution. The library contains more than 2,000 photos and they add 10 high-quality photos a day.
Pixabay
Offers more than 500,000 high quality photos, illustrations and vector graphics. All are free for commercial use and may be modified. No is attribution required.
PublicDomainPictures.net
This is a repository for free public domain images. Do note that some photos require a model or property release.
The Famous Artists
Search is easily done to find works by artist, country or subject matter. As their FAQ notes, “Most of the countries of the world extend copyright protection to artists 70 years after their death, at which time the work falls into the public domain. All of the artwork showcased on The Famous Artists is in the public domain.” That said, copyright on the reproduction of two-dimensional art is still not clear. Read the sites FAQ carefully to understand the possible risks before using the images.
Viintage.com
Find thousands of vintage graphics, ephemera, and vintage advertisements. All can be used for private or commercial use. The free downloads are medium resolution (600px to 3000px). The site offers a premium membership allowing for unlimited high resolution (over 3000px) downloads. Bulk downloads are also available for a fee.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

5 reasons you need a business blog

If you don’t have a blog for your business yet, it’s important to note that more than half of all businesses in the United States are already ahead of you. In fact, according to research by Blogger.org, a training program for bloggers, 60 percent of businesses have a company blog.
The best news? People read what’s put out there. Blogger.org’s research also revealed that each month 329 million people view one or more blogs and look at a whopping 25 billion pages. Additionally, HubSpot found that 46 percent of people read blogs more than once a day.
When a blog is done well, it can be very beneficial to a business. Here are five good reasons why having a blog is important:
Blogs builds brand awareness
Brands are powerful things. Consider the brands in your life that have taken on an identity of their own. For example, when you have a soda, do you ask for a Coke? Do you clean your ears with a cotton swab or a Q-tip? When you crop digital photos, do you use image-editing software or PhotoShop?
In the same way, you are more than your logo and trademarked slogan. Blogging allows you to put an authentic voice behind your brand that reaches a visitor in a more targeted way than standard marketing content on your website would.
You must, however, make sure what you put out there is right for your audience. As with all other aspects of your content marketing, before beginning a blog, understand your overall marketing strategy. Align your blog to work toward those goals. Then, begin to show a personal side of your business with a perspective that customers wouldn’t otherwise see through other channels.
Create content that is relevant to your target audience. When your visitors begin to read your quality content and connect with you on a deeper level, they begin to recognize all that your brand is.
Blogs establish authority
Who knows your business better than you? You have a passion, experience and ideas that only you know how to express. The most successful people in their fields become thought leaders. They share their valued opinions and become the go-to experts.
Jeff Bullas, listed as the #1 Content Marketing Influencer by Onalytica in 2015 and ranked No. 8 on Forbes “The World’s Top 40 Social Marketing Talent” in 2014, says, “A successful career and life is based upon being ‘on purpose.’ We all bring our own magic and uniqueness into the world. Your goal in life is to discover what that is, embrace it and share it.”
A blog is a great way to educate your visitors and potential customers. Let them love what you love. You become the expert in your field. As you provide information about timely topics, products, services and market trends, you become a trusted source.
Go a step further with your audience and share your knowledge with embedded whitepapers, tutorials, instructional videos or other content. Be the authority and, with every blog post, you have the ability to increase your credibility so your target audience will value what you provide.
Blogs drive traffic
Remember those 329 million people who view a blog each month? No matter where they see it, linking it to your website gets them there as well. Neil Patel, co-founder of the analytics companies KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg and Quick Sprout, found that within 18 months, he had 100,429 visits on his blog. By consistently blogging, he was able to increase the traffic to his company websites.
Don’t forget that search engines love fresh content. If you want to increase your search engine optimization (SEO), one of the easiest ways to do this is to put valuable and relevant content into your frequently updated blog. Here, you can also insert keywords within your content that increases your visibility.
According to Social Media Explorer, “The blog has become a significant and growing source of traffic … Long tail search terms are helping people discover us who might never have found our website.”
Traffic converts to leads
Research by Technorati showed that blogs have a significant influence on purchase decisions. In fact, a little more than 31 percent of consumers said that reading authoritative blogs influences their purchase decisions. In their “State of Inbound Report 2013,” HubSpot found that 82 percent of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog.
Experts like to point to the success gained by J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr.’s blog. Marriott has written about topics such as shoe shines, business data and even the “greatest heartache” of his life, losing his son to a rare mitochondrial disease. His blog generates 12 million visitors a year and $4 million in revenue from readers who eventually click-through and book Marriott hotel rooms.
On the company website, Marriott says, “All this got me thinking, ‘Why do I blog?’ I’ve found it’s a great learning experience and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I’m sure you probably have learned a lot about me. I do value family, work and community, and I’m not afraid to tackle controversial topics such as reforming our immigration policy or putting our non-smoking policy in our hotels in the United States and Canada. I like to talk about good news, but I’m not afraid to talk about the bad news, such as my blog about the bombing of our Islamabad hotel.”
In order to turn a visitor into a consumer, you need to develop a relationship. Blogging allows you to connect to your target audience in just this way. Bring them into the conversation by allowing comments and other feedback at the bottom of your posts. Responding to comments creates a rapport and builds trust.
As you take these steps, you are creating an awareness; the first step in the “sales funnel.” According to entrepreneur Saad Kamal, in order to create conversion, you must first create awareness, interest and desire. Then, visitors will take action.
To gain additional information about your audience, consider embedding surveys or polls in your blog. Ask readers for their input. When they feel as if they have a relationship with you, they like to provide their insight. Gathering this information is vital to helping you better promote yourself and your products and services.
Blogs provide long-term results
Blogging is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to enhance your inbound marketing efforts and drive traffic. The ROI can be great. According to HubSpot, marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
One reason you can see success is because, with a blog, you can track specific metrics. You can see what posts are best read and most shared. You can get analysis on the specific topics and embedded links. Comments left by readers can provide insight you may not have gathered any other way.
Be aware, however, that like other content marketing efforts, the benefits of your blog may not be immediate. However, when you develop a relationship with readers who become customers and influencers, your results affect your bottom line in the long-term.
What’s a good business blog?
Now that you know the reasons why you should start your own blog, here are some business blogs that have been named some of the best.
Mark Schaefer, Rutgers University faculty and founder of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, LLC, studied Fortune 500 companies and their blogging efforts. He based his study on these categories:

  • Quality of content (is it interesting, creative, well-written, human?).
  • Consistency of publishing.
  • Engagement with audience.
  • Social sharing activity.
  • Alignment with corporate objectives.

These non-tech companies were found to have the best blogs. Additionally, Ecommerce Platforms, a London-based review site, found the 100 best business blogs about e-commerce, SEO, conversions and marketing.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

How to avoid copyright issues when using photos in blogs

The use of visuals in online content doesn’t simply enhance text; images are vital to success. Research by independent market research company eMarketer revealed that Facebook posts containing photos accounted for 87 percent of all network interactions in 2014. Experiments in 2013 by Buffer, a social media management tool, showed Tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and 150 percent more retweets.
It appears true that a picture is worth a thousand words. But you can’t just use any photo in your content. Use one without the appropriate permission and those thousand words you get may be written up as a lawsuit.

What’s yours?

In the simplest explanation, if you or someone from your company did not take the photo, it is not yours and you don’t own the rights to it. Whenever someone creates an image, it is copyrighted. While registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is a requirement to enforce the copyright, there is nothing the original photographer has to do to hold the right. (Copyright is not like a patent or trademark. Those require registration and a fee.)

How to legally use photos in blogs

Get permission: If you find an image online, want to use it and clearly see who the photographer is, consider reaching out to him or her. Many times, a photographer will allow the use of their photo without a fee if you provide attribution. So, as your mother probably told you at some point, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
Public domain: Photos are accessible on a public domain repository. All the photos should be marked with the Public Domain Mark 1.0. This indicates that the images are in the public domain. They may once have had copyrights, but now they’ve expired or have been forfeited. This means that they no longer have copyright restrictions and are available for use without a fee.
Stock photos: One of the easiest ways to get permission to use a photo is to pay for it. Many stock photo companies and photo libraries exist and the types of photos they have available can be extensive. When you pay a fee, what you are paying for is the license. The licensing agreements differ for each stock photo company and photo library. For example, you may be purchasing the photo for use one time and on one website. That means you could not use the same photo in a blog or a social media post, even if you were promoting that web page. Other agreements may have limitations that include restrictions to modifying photos and using photos for advertorial content.
Thus, before deciding to buy stock photos, be clear about the agreements and then very careful about not violating terms of use. (Note that some sites offer free stock photos, but again, read the fine print to be sure. Proper attributions may be required and altering of images may not be allowed.)

Public licenses and fair use

Creative Commons: Creative Commons (CC) licenses are public licenses that allow the original photographer to offer use of his or her work to the general public and still have some control on the way the image will be used. Some agreements are as simple as proper attribution given to the photographer. However, others may restrict the use of their images for commercial purposes. The easiest way to find Creative Commons photos is via The Commons section of Flickr. Search for images and then read the licenses carefully before downloading and using photos.
Fair use: The concept of “fair use” is one exception to needing to have a license to use a photo. This allows use of images (and other copyrighted material) without a fee for certain purposes such as commentary, criticism, reporting or teaching. For example, an art professor could download a photo by Ansel Adams for a PowerPoint presentation. However, a small business website could not download and use that same photo to promote travel to Yosemite National Park.
Fair use is a very tricky thing for businesses. In general, it is easier for an individual to claim fair use if use of the copyrighted image is for noncommercial purposes. Misusing the image could result in serious consequences, even if the photo was used in good faith. If the owner of that copyrighted image does not agree, he or she could bring suit against you.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.
Tempesta Media, a managed services provider, helps digital agencies and PR firms meet the content needs of their clients. By seeing the content we produce through every step of strategy, topic development, production, SEO and plagiarism protection, we make it easier for agencies to provide their clients with the high quality digital content they need to succeed.

Content is king but visuals are important, too

Advances in technology put the control of the web experience into the hands of both the site manager and the site visitor. On the manager side, stunning photographs, moving music and exceptional video product displays deliver all the promise that the enterprise has to offer. On the visitor side, the flashing images, interminable load times and a trade-off of actual information for more ad space often leads to a click away from the site altogether.
Retain visitor attention

The average person stays on any given Web page for less than one minute. According to Microsoft Research, the first 10 seconds are critical to enticing the visitor to stay. After that, the majority will leave before 30 seconds pass. Only after 30 seconds do departures slow down. Regardless of the beauty, content or relevancy of the site, if the landing page doesn’t grab and hold a visitor’s attention, it is an unsuccessful website.
Balance visuals with text
Some content elements are best presented through graphics, others through text. Both aspects factor into algorithmic “pings” that direct search engines to the site. Using both as search engine optimization tools will raise the site up the search ranking pages for the subject. However, to achieve the goal of gaining and retaining viewer attention, a balance of the two promises the most success. After determining a proper balance, the quality of the content of each will contribute to the value of the site overall.
Carefully select visual content

Visuals of any kind (photos, graphics, videos) excite a different response in the viewer than does the written word. Emotional responses can be triggered by a simple still image, a photo of something loved, or a video that causes laughter. The purpose of the project should guide the use of visuals so that information that can only be transmitted through an image is captured, while critically important text isn’t lost or overwhelmed.
Anticipating the viewer’s expectation should also play a part in weighing the balance of visuals and text. Light hearted sites may find that visuals are important for immediately communicating fun. More somber content may suggest a reduction in the size of visuals in favor of added written matter. Commercial images of products give consumers information that only visuals can convey — do they like what they see enough to buy it? And an infographic chart or graph can present large quantities of data in a single image although the nuances and subtleties contained within the data may not be obvious.
Include value in the text

Text is important because it explains things. While an image conveys a specific visual perspective, text can convey complex ideas within the same amount of space. The amount of text used depends on the information being delivered, the expectations of the author and the viewer, and the purpose of the website. High-quality information contained within the text will address the viewer’s query, offer proprietary information, and encourage deeper, more meaningful engagement between the two.
According to Google, longer written posts are favored over shorter ones, although that may not hold true for mobile users. Pieces with more than 1,000 words are ranked higher on Google than shorter pieces.
Because of its infinite manipulative qualities, text can offer some of the aspects (color! font! size!) of visuals while also delivering more detailed information than that which is conveyed in a visual. Spelling, grammar and sentence structure all contribute to the viewer’s experience of the site. Quality information presented in a competent, compelling format secures the reader’s attention all the way through.
Text also conveys a more authoritative tone than does a visual image, and combining it with relevant links raises its credibility level even more. Links that connect to authoritative, reputable sites indicate to Google that this site is trustworthy and credible, too. Author expertise is also a critical factor in determining the authority and quality of any particular piece of content. This is especially important for academic and executive/corporate pieces.
Most significantly, the text of the site is usually where the value of the site lies, and “value” is the single most important reason anyone stays on a website for any length of time. Value can be many things and is defined by the user. Instructions and technical guides solve problems; dictionaries, encyclopedias and research articles deliver information and insights that educate the reader. Websites that provide value for their viewers will be revisited.
Search engines do not have the ability to comprehend content so they can’t determine which sites are of higher value than others based on data alone. However, search engines do track sites that are visited often and in response to a variety of queries. Those with valuable content that attracts many visits will rise on the search engine pages for that reason alone.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

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