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How to Reduce the Size of JPEG and Other Image Files

How to Reduce the Size of JPEG and Other Image Files

The images you use on your website are one of the most important elements. Not only do you want to have visually compelling imagery, but you also don’t want those images to be so large that they slow down the load time for your site. One of the main reasons a site will lag is because the images included in it have not been resized for optimal site performance.

In this article, we will explore manual methods for reducing image sizes in Photoshop including changing the file type, resizing, and compressing files using the Save for Web function. If those looking for something more automated, we’ll also look at some plugins and web-based options.

Changing The File Type

“File Size” for an image file refers to the number of pixels per inch. Generally, the more pixels per inch, the more information the file holds, thus, the bigger its size.

The two most common file types for images are JPG and PNG.

  • PNG – Portable Network Graphics  – This file type is mostly used for graphic files like logos, icons, illustrations, and text. When edited in a photo editing application like Photoshop, these files don’t lose much data when you manipulate or compress them. They are referred to as “lossless” for this reason. These files tend to be bigger in size for this reason.
  • JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group – This is the most common file type you’ll find for most images on the internet. This file type can manage millions of colors, can be highly compressed while preserving quality. These are referred to as “lossy” because the process of compressing them removes pixels from the image.

Either file type can work. Which one you choose really depends on your site, the number and type of photos you choose to use.

Here is a sample photo. Its original format was as a JPG file.

I used the File>Save As command in Photoshop and chose the PNG format and completed the save function.

When I changed the file type, the size of the file went from 646 MB to 1.3 KB. As noted above, PNG files are typically larger, so for this type of picture with a lot of color and detail, you may be better off staying with the JPEG version to ensure faster load times. If you know your image needs to be able to scale larger without losing resolution, go with the PNG version.

Note that there are many other file formats available. I’ve focused on JPEG and PNG because they are the most popular.

Manual Resizing in Photoshop

In Photoshop, you can use the Image>Image Size function to manually resize your image. The tool looks like this:

reducing file size in photoshop

You can see the current Image Size and pixel Dimensions are noted at the top of the tool. Any adjustments you make here will change the size.

Fit To is a drop-down list that has preset sizes and pixel settings.

resizing image files in photoshop

If I choose the first option in that list to adjust the dimensions and pixels per in (ppi) I can see how the file size will change.

resizing image files in photoshop

You can experiment with these settings to determine whether a standard size from the drop-down will work, or if you need to manually change the width, height, or resolution options to get the size you need.

Save for Web Function

Save for Web is different from Save As in that the web option removes metadata (details about the type and origin of the image) from the file before saving. This function is specifically meant for images that will display on the internet, so it can be a very fast way to resize while maintaining quality.

Find the Save for Web option by navigating to File>Export> Save for Web:

resizing images in photoshop

When the Save for Web window opens, you’ll notice another benefit of this function. If you select the 2-up tab at the top, you can see a comparison of the original image side-by-side with the changed image.

resizing images in photoshop

From here, use the presets in the upper-right corner to choose the JPG format and adjust the quality as you wish. After you make changes, you can see whether or not your new file is up to your quality standards via the image preview, and you can validate the change in file size by looking at the data under each image:

Note that you can also change the size by using the width and height fields in the lower right corner. Because this article is specifically looking at resizing, we aren’t covering the other options shown in the Save for Web screen, but you can read here for more detailed information.

WordPress Image Optimization Tools

Photoshop is a great option if you like to turn the dials yourself to reduce image file size yourself. If you are looking for something more automated to help with resizing your images, there are a good number of WordPress plugin options that can help. Here’s a list of a few popular options and a brief description of their benefits:

Imagify – Optimize all your images in one go, resize with ease and restore photos to their original versions when needed. It’s affordable too. This plugin is free to download and includes 20 MB of file space. Other options are $5 per month for 500MB and $10 per month for unlimited space.

ShortPixel – No file size limit and one API key for multiple sites allow for great utilization for this plugin. They also offer one-time and monthly plans for budget flexibility.

Optimole – For the data-oriented, Optimole offers a dashboard where you can review optimization stats. Their free plan allows for 5,000 visitors per month and unlimited bandwidth.

For a more complete comparison of these options and a handful of others, see this article.

Web Resources for Image Optimization

If you’re in a pinch for time and/or money, there are plenty of free online image optimization tools.

Compressjpg allows you to upload multiple files and resize them all at once. It also has a feature that will convert iPhone HEIC format photos to JPEG. Other similar sites are Tinypng well as Image Compressor.

Canva Pro is another popular site that not only resizes but also allows you to design and animate images, as well as format them for web or social media use. Its layout is intuitive and easy to use.

Wrapping Up

Don’t underestimate the importance of optimizing your images. Slow sites not only turn off viewers, they don’t get traction on Google search either.  Fast-loading, sharp images can provide that little extra something that sets your site apart from the rest. An optimized site will keep visitors coming back for more.

7 Types of Blog Posts that Generate Traffic & Engagement (And How to Create Them)

7 Types of Blog Posts that Generate Traffic & Engagement (And How to Create Them)

No matter how big or small your blog is, you want it to perform well. For a blog to have success, it needs high volume traffic. To perform even better, it also needs engagement. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the best types of blog posts that generate traffic and engagement.

Simply creating these posts isn’t going to cut it though. You really have to put the effort in to make them work as they should. For every type of blog post, we’ve included a list of steps to get you started.

Regardless of the type of blog post you choose for your next publication, there’s one thing you must always do. If you want to generate traffic and engagement, promote the post on all your promotion channels. Any blog post, no matter the amount of effort you put into it, won’t get traffic and engagement if no one knows it exists.

With that said, let’s dive in.

Expert Roundups

The first type of blog post on our list is expert roundups. The premise of an expert roundup is to select a group of experts and ask them the same question or their opinion about a specific topic. From a content marketing perspective, this type of post has huge potential for link building and influence. It’s regarded as one of the fastest ways to gain exposure as a blogger.

What isn’t fast about expert roundups, is putting them together. Actually, it might be one of the most time consuming of the list. What every blogger and content marketer will tell you is that no matter how much work they entail, they’re always worth it.

types of blog posts

How To Create an Expert Roundup

1. Choose the Topic

When creating an expert roundup, consider your target audience. If you have an engaged social media following, ask in a poll what they’d like to learn more about. Come up with an idea within your niche that will bring value to your readers. For example, in the post above, experts share their best tips on how to choose the best eCommerce Software Platform.

2. Find the Right Experts

Once you’ve chosen the topic, write up one or two questions that you’ll ask. Then, reach out to as many experts in your field as you can. Look for them on social media, or use a tool like Buzzsumo. Create a list of the most influential experts in your niche or industry. The longer the better! Make sure to get their emails so you can get in touch with them about your expert roundup.

3. Send Personalized Emails

Reach out to all the experts on your list with personalized email messages that include the question to be answered. You’ll have better results if you’ve already been engaging with these people on social media for a while. Collect all the responses and don’t forget to ask for a bio and photo.

4. Put it all Together

Put it all together in your blog editor. Use a repeating pattern to showcase each expert’s answer. Don’t be afraid to get a little visual and add colored textboxes or interesting image frames or filters. Go all out and create an infographic!

5. Tag the Experts on Socials

When you share your expert roundup, tag the experts in your roundup! Send them an email, letting them know that you’ve published the story.

How-To’s and Tutorials

The second type of blog post on our list is tutorials or how-to posts. The difference between a how-to and a tutorial is in the way you word the title and format the content. They are essentially the same. These are perfect for bloggers that want to offer helpful resources to their readers. In fact, this type of content can work with any type of blog. There’s always something you can teach your readers.

A good rule of thumb for tutorials and how-to’s is to be as visual as possible, preferably one visual for every step. For more complex topics, use video. Add the video to your blog post, YouTube, and social media for more exposure.

types of blog posts

How To Create a How-To Or Tutorial

1. Choose a Topic

Like any blog post, you’ll need to come up with a topic. Make sure to pick a topic you really know about or one that you can research easily. The last thing you want to do is give the wrong instructions.

2. Outline the Steps

Before putting together the content for the post, write an outline of the steps to follow. Make sure you don’t forget any steps and be as detailed as possible. Take notes as to how you might be able to visualize them.

3. Find a Way to Visualize the Steps

If the tutorial is for a hands-on project, use photography. For something to do on a computer, take screengrabs of the process. If it’s something else, create some type of graphic of the steps. For example, the image above is an infographic created for a how-to blog post shared on Pinterest.

Listicles or List Articles

Next up is the list article, commonly known as the listicle. Creating articles in list format is great for SEO and SERPs. The key is to format the headings in the right way. Use the list to answer a question, give tips, share resources, or inspire ideas. List articles can be about pretty much anything. In fact, A few of the other articles on this list are also listicles. If it has a number in the title, its a list article.

types of blog posts

How To Create A Listicle Or List Article

1. Create Your List

Figure out what your list will be about. As always, consider your target audience and what they want to learn from you. Tap into your own expertise and knowledge. A list can have as little as 5 items or over 100. Conduct research online to see other listicles out there on the same topic or niche. Choose a number that hasn’t been used too much already. Content marketers have found that an odd number will always perform better than an even one.

2. Write the Content

Write the content for each list item. You’ll find along the way that one item isn’t a great idea anymore. Find a replacement and stick to your odd number. Use two or three paragraphs with + or – 300 words per item. If it’s a long list, add a table of contents with anchor links at the top. Add outbound links to the items that warrant it.

3. Add Visuals

Don’t forget the visuals. Include at least one visual per list item. This will make the post easier to skim. Use graphics created by you, stock photography, or screengrabs of websites. Make sure to always follow the licensing guidelines for visuals.

Case Studies

The fourth example is a case study. A case study is an article that tells the story of a user’s success with a product or service. These are great for showcasing your company. New clients can get a feel of what it’s like to work with you through someone else’s experience.

The key to a successful case study is to always be honest and clear. Work closely with the user being featured to highlight how your product solved their problem and what the positive outcomes were. Include real quotes to help the reader feel identified. Don’t forget to ask the featured user to share the article once it’s published!

types of blog posts

How to Create a Case Study

1. Find the Right Client/User

The first thing you need is the user or client that you’ll be writing about. Look at reviews your users have left on your site and social media channels. Use your social media listening skills to find users who are talking about your product in a positive way. Check your emails to find those users that sing praises of your products. Pick the one that will be the most relatable to other users.

2. Have a Conversation

Get in touch with the user or client and ask if they’d be interested in being part of a case study for your blog. Set up a call and get some questions ready. For example:

  • How do you use our product or service?
  • What problem did it solve?
  • Have you noticed a positive outcome from using our product or service?
  • What’s your favorite thing about our product or service?

Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions. Record the call so you don’t miss anything when putting together the article.

3. Write the Article In a Problem-Solution-Outcome Format

When writing the content for the case study follow this format:

  • Problem
    After presenting the user/client being featured, layout the problem they were facing before using your product or service.
  • Solution
    Tell the story of how your product or service helped solve the problem. Go from beginning to end and include personal reflections from the user.
  • Outcome
    Finish the story with the final outcome after the problem was solved. What became easier for the user? Did they save time, get more clients, etc?

4. Use Visual Data

The best type of visuals for a case study is visual data. Create charts showing the before and after data of the problem your product or service solved. If it applies to the story, ask the featured user for screengrabs of their analytics. Add photos or visuals of things the client made or produced while using your service or tool.

Interviews

The next type of blog post on the list is the interview. These can be done in a number of ways:

  • Podcast transcribed into an engaging post.
  • A video recording of a Zoom call and a transcription in the post.
  • The classic style interview with the transcribed copy of a call or in-person meeting.

The premise of an interview is to ask someone a set of questions and publish them along with their answers.

A key factor of a successful interview post is the person you interview and the questions you ask. Don’t waste a good opportunity by asking the wrong questions or not connecting with the interviewee.

How To Create An InterviewArticle

1. Find the Right Interviewee

Choose an influential person in your niche that’ll bring value to your readers. If you can’t think of someone off the top of your head, do some social media listening to see who you are already connected to and who your audience is following. You’ll have an easier time getting a positive response from top thought leaders in your niche if they know a little bit about you. If your blog is still quite small, interview someone at your level or a little higher to start.

2. Make the Connection and Formulate Some Questions

Once you’ve chosen the person to interview, connect with them first. Have a conversation about your idea and why you’d like to interview them. Give them a chance to suggest questions that they’d like to answer. When you write up the questions, make sure they’re open-ended. Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a definite yes or no. Ask for their opinions on certain things, or ask for their personal experience on a particular subject. Ask questions that invite a bit of storytelling on their part.

3. Capture the Interview

Conduct the interview in a way that’ll be easy to review after it’s done. Record a virtual call or do it all via email. Do what the interviewee feels comfortable with and has time for. Podcasts, for example, are a great option because the exposure level is two-fold. Same with a video that can be shared on YouTube or Facebook.

4. Format the Blog Post

Put together the post. Follow the classic interview format of question/answer or create a curated story from the answers. If you recorded a virtual call, include the video above the fold. Podcasts and audio recordings should also be added above the fold. Then add the transcribed content or a summary.

Comparisons

The next type of blog post is a comparison. A post like this is good for a number of purposes; SaaS companies compare their software to competitors, affiliate marketers measure up different products in the same niche. One angle is to highlight your product other others, another is to compare two or more products so the reader can come to their own conclusions. Both are valid comparison posts and are great for traffic and engagement.

types of blog posts

How to Create a Comparison Article

1. Select What to Compare

What’re you going to compare? Choose two products that compete against each other or a number of products for readers to choose from. Compare your product to your closest competitor. Stick to your niche and industry. Listen to your users to know what they’re searching for.

2. Do Your Research

Find as much information as possible about all the items you’re comparing. Make sure all the information is up to date, your readers will know if it’s not. Separate the content into themes or features so the post is easy to skim.

3. Highlight Pros and Cons

A good comparison post includes both the positives and negatives of the items being compared. Even if you’re comparing your product to another, include what your product is missing. Be honest as so why your product doesn’t have that feature and say if you plan on fixing that. Use charts and visual graphics for added value. There are lots of comparison infographic templates out there.

Downloadable Checklists and To-Do Lists

This type of blog post does more than drive traffic and engagement. It also generates leads. The idea is to offer the reader a downloadable checklist or to-do list that fits into your niche and industry. For example, on the post below, Coschedule shares a content marketing checklist in exchange for a sign-up. Usually, these downloadable are created as PDFs. There are plenty of resources online to help you create one.

How to Create Posts with Downloadable Checklists and To-Do Lists

1. Find Out What Your Readers Need

Use social listening to find out what the communities in your niche are looking for. Think of things that can help them get better results in their own business. Come up with an idea that isn’t too long and can be used easily.

2. Create the Download

Use a graphic design program to create your download. These are so popular that you’ll have no trouble finding templates to simply fill in with your content and idea. Make sure to use your brand colors and fonts!

4. Don’t Forget the Call to Action

Create the post where you’ll promote the download. Tell your users how this download will help them. Add a call to action above the fold with a lead capture module. Make sure your email provider sends the download as soon as they sign up.

36 Free Places to Promote Your Website Online

36 Free Places to Promote Your Website Online

Promoting your website to reach wider audiences is a multi-tiered process. One of the first steps is to find valuable websites and online platforms that allow you to highlight your site’s URL in one way or another. To save you the leg work, we compiled a list of 36 great places for promoting online content. These links will help you establish your online presence one by one. Some work with a simple URL submission while others require a more strategic approach, but they all share one thing – they are free of charge.

What have you got to lose? Start now!

Online Directories for Businesses

Ranging from the most high-profile platforms to local directories, these websites cover a range of audiences. The flow is pretty much the same – you submit your website’s URL, as well as additional information about your business or organization. These sites, in turn, incorporate your info to their data banks, ensuring that your link is there when users are searching your content categories. In addition to direct display of your content, adding your links to these directories improves your site’s Search Engine Optimization, gradually improving your website’s ranking on search results.

Social Media and User-Generated Content

Social media has plenty to offer website owners. You’ve all heard of Facebook, of course, but are you using it correctly to promote your site? Have you considered the advantages of Pinterest, for instance? What about user-generated content like guides and tutorials on sites like WikiHow? The links below can all prove extremely useful for promoting your website. All you need to do is explore the ways in which they do.

Social Bookmarking and Curating

While these websites also operate on the basis of link-submission, the emphasis here is on content. You could submit a link to the main page as well as to individual pages, products, posts, images etc. These platforms then circulate your content to their audience base and drive traffic into your site, while also helping to boost your SEO by connecting your links to textual descriptive content.

Getting ahead of the marketing curve: 5 digital trends you must capitalize on now

Getting ahead of the marketing curve: 5 digital trends you must capitalize on now

Many digital marketers believe that their brand provides a positive user experience. However, in many cases, the consumer feels differently. This disconnect can damage brand reputations and hinder the success of marketing efforts.

We now live in a customer-first world. Consumers today have their choice of countless companies within nearly every conceivable niche, and it’s up to the organizations to demonstrate why they should gain more business over their competitors. Staying ahead of digital marketing trends and adapting strategies accordingly are essential to success.

The brands that succeed are the ones that build an online experience tailored to the consumer, meeting their needs every step of the way. Sixty-one percent of customers report that they would not return to a brand’s mobile site after a negative experience, and 40 percent say they would go to a competitor’s site, according to Google.

The need to have an intimate familiarity with customers, what they like and the platforms they live on, is critical. As technology and customer expectations mature, brands need to be alert to the rising trends so that they can provide the optimal user experience for consumers. These top five trends below comprise a critical component of the modern digital marketing strategy. Here is what you should know to make it a part of your organization.

Trend 1: Data and personalization

In the increasingly competitive digital ecosystem, brands need to stand out for their customers. These consumers want to know that you care about their individual needs, and thus you need to create a highly personalized experience. Personalized calls to action, for example, convert 42 percent more than ordinary CTAs. Data and personalization will be the cornerstone of marketing moving forward.

Data can help you uncover topics that matter the most to your target audiences. It also allows you to better track how different personas interact with your content, move through your buyer’s journey, and learn what material will be most helpful for them next. Thus, data informs personalization efforts.

Tips for succeeding with data and personalization

  • Secure data on a broad scale by uncovering trends within your industry and important topics that matter the most to your customers. Rising topics can help you get material published before competitors, building a strong presence in those areas as well.
    Look at personal data to see how particular personas use your website.
  • Look at the content they enter your site on, how they move about the site after reading it, and how they go from visitor to lead to customer. This will help you create personalized experiences, because you will know which content to display next to visitors.
  • Gather statistics about how data and personalization impact the traffic and revenue of your site.
  • Examine your site statistics before beginning these campaigns, including bounce rates, traffic rates and revenue rates, and then compare them to the statistics once the efforts have been enacted. Successes will help you build a case to budget more for data and personalization, driving your site strategy forward.

Trend 2: AI and intelligent agents

The demands of technology and customers are quickly outpacing the capabilities of human marketers. Although the amount of data is expected to reach 40,000 exabytes by 2020 (up from just 130 in 2005), the human brain is only capable of holding about 1 million gigabytes, according to Northwestern University professor Paul Reber. The technology available today can collect information about user behavior and help marketers better understand personas, points in the buyer’s journey and what that particular customer likely wants to read next.

The key to using that information, however, will be artificial intelligence. AI could double the rate of economic growth by 2035, according the Accenture.

AI will never replace quality marketers, because it cannot replace human creativity. What it can do, however, is help optimize content throughout the creation process, make it easier for brands to select topics and assist with the creation of digital strategies. It will allow for the automation of all the steps that can be completed simply by analyzing data and spitting back answers, freeing marketers to focus on how to best utilize this information.

What’s interesting is how digital marketers view and implement AI. There is a clear disconnect between importance and adoption, and brands must come to grips with implementation of AI in 2018.

Tips for using AI for your brand

  • Find areas in your marketing strategy where AI can help, such as the optimization of content or triggering email campaigns. This means taking a closer look at steps that can be automated.
  • Avoid excessively using AI to the point where customers are turned off or feel uneasy interacting with the brand.
  • Incorporate AI into the broader strategy. The same way marketers in different departments, such as PPC and SEO, need to learn to work together, brands need to make sure their AI technology seamlessly integrates with the rest of the team.
  • Have a defined role in the workflow, such as uncovering popular topics and guiding them through the optimization process, to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Trend 3: Mobile and connected devices — the Internet of Things

We already know that mobile has begun to dominate search: The number of searches performed on mobile devices in the US, and several other countries, outpaced desktop back in 2015. Google has also announced an imminent mobile-first algorithm that we should see by 2018. Optimizing content for users should be second nature for website owners now.

Moving forward, we also need to consider the rise of alternate mobile devices, such as fitness trackers and smart watches, as well as the growing importance of voice search, both with personal assistant devices and on these mobile devices.

Customers use this technology to gain rapid answers to their questions, often while on the go. Brands that want to thrive need to make sure that they have prepared their content and digital strategies for these trends as well.

Tips for succeeding with mobile and connected devices

  • Optimize for more verticals than before. Technologies such as personal assistant devices, often use alternate search verticals to find the information for their users. As an example, Kayak.com is used by some devices to pull flight and hotel information, or Yelp supplies information on local businesses.
  • Use schema and high-quality content to move into top spaces whenever possible. With the smaller screens on mobile devices, and even fewer search results given on many non-smartphone devices, brands need to prioritize gaining access to the top spots on the SERP and earning Quick Answers whenever possible.
  • Monitor how customers interact with your content. When you do earn top slots, see how it impacts your mobile traffic and conversion rates. This will offer key insights into how customers interact with your content and help you improve your strategy.

Trend 4: Content and SEO convergence

SEO and content cannot be regarded separately. All content developed needs to be optimized to boost its rankings on the SERP and to ensure its relevance, which means that content and SEO teams need to work together from the beginning.

Fortunately, most companies seem understand this need. A survey completed by my company, BrightEdge, found that that 97 percent of companies view these two functions as more integrated or converging into a single function. There are still ways that companies can improve their integration.

Tips for succeeding with SEO and content convergence

  • Remember that customers recall experiences more than text. Use SEO insights, such as trending topics and keywords, to find topics. Then create outstanding content for digital experiences that align well with customer needs.
  • Do customer analysis. Look at how customers interact with your material, including what devices they use to read your material, customer impressions of your brand and what customers want to see from you.
  • Set realistic goals for your content, and regularly measure how well your efforts align with these benchmarks. Goals might describe traffic rates, rankings, conversions or revenue.

Trend 5: Native advertising growth

Native advertising will increase exponentially over the next few years. An estimated $7.9 billion was spent on this style of advertising in 2015, but that number is projected to reach an incredible $21 billion by just 2018. Mobile native ads are also expected to reach 63 percent of the mobile display ad revenue by 2020.

Native advertising has taken off because of its ability to fit more smoothly into the user experience. Customers have turned away from disruptive advertising practices. They do not respond to pop-ups or other ads that hinder their user experience. They want to see promotions that relate to them and their needs and experiences.

Native ads, which focus on creating ad copy that is relevant and natural for customers reading a particular web page, create positive outcomes both for the host websites and the company formulating the promotion. This form of advertising focuses on creating ads that align with the content that already appears on the website, thus making it more appealing to customers who had arrived on the page organically.

Tips for succeeding with native advertising

Research the audience and the target site’s content. The more familiar you are with these criteria, the easier it will be to select advertising platforms that align best with your target audience while also making it easier to create content that fits well with those visiting the host website.

Create content that will add something for the reader. To attract readers and make a strong impression, you want to focus on creating content that creates a positive experience for them. Just like your search optimization strategy, your native ad strategy should include providing value for those interacting with the material.

Test what advertising content works best where. Unlike using PPC advertising on Google, for native advertising, you have a better ability to target particular audiences that fit particular personas. Track not only what customers respond best to your content, but also the platforms where you find them and how well the traffic on your advertising content ends up becoming leads and then customers on your main site.

Digital marketing continues to change rapidly as technology and customer expectations evolve and mature. Brands that want to not only keep up with the curve, but thrive in this environment, need to capitalize on these emerging trends. These five that I have identified I believe will be the most significant moving forward through the rest of 2017 and into 2018.

3 Ways to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines

3 Ways to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), focus keywords often get all the attention, but they aren’t the only element you need to keep an eye out for. Meta descriptions are also critical to achieving a good click-through rate from search engines, and you’ll need to pay attention to them if you want to increase your organic traffic.In this article, we’ll go in-depth about the role of meta descriptions in SEO, discuss their benefits, then show how to optimize your own in three different ways. Let’s get our SEO hats on! 

An Introduction to Meta Descriptions (And Their Benefits)

Simply put, meta descriptions are the brief descriptions that appear below the title of your pages on search engines. However, they can also appear wherever you share your content (social media, for example), so it’s important to make sure it gives readers an idea as to what to expect.

An example of a meta description.

A great meta description is all about providing as much information about your piece as possible within a narrow format (usually 135 to 160 characters). To do so, it should fulfill the following criteria:

  1. It should be straightforward and not come across as too ‘salesy’.
  2. Your post’s focus keyword should be included.
  3. It shouldn’t be a duplicate of any of your past meta descriptions.
  4. You should include a Call-to-Action (CTA) if possible, since it can help boost your click-through rate.

Point number two can be particularly important since Google highlights the keywords it finds within your meta description. If we were to do a search right now using Elegant Themes as our keywords, here’s how one of the results would look:

The result of a search using the keyword, Elegant Themes.

Technically, the bolded text doesn’t make any difference in your Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), but it can help boost your click-through rate by making your content pop. When it comes to search engine traffic, you need to use every tool at your disposal to make your site look more attractive.

3 Ways to Optimize Your Meta Descriptions for Search Engines

So far, we’ve already discussed what makes for an excellent meta description. Now it’s time to talk about how you can improve yours using three simple techniques (that apply regardless of your field). First, let’s talk about structure.

1. Consider the Structure of Your Meta Descriptions

Similarly to blog posts, your meta descriptions should be clearly structured, yet more condensed. Your structure is key because you have only a limited amount of words to play with. As we mentioned earlier, the ideal length for a meta description is somewhere in the range of 135 to 160 characters. Any longer and search engines will truncate the text, which means potential visitors will only see part of your description, which may not be enough to ‘hook’ them.

In most cases, your meta description should first introduce a compelling problem, fear, desire, or question, then present an answer.

An example of a well-structured meta description.

Structuring your meta descriptions properly is the best way to adapt to the format’s limitations.

Take this article for example. In this case, we went with the following meta description:

Meta descriptions are critical to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and this post will show you three ways to optimize them for search engines!

This excerpt checks all the right boxes: it falls within the 135–160 characters mark, presents a desire, and promises a solution. While we’ve only used a handful of words to describe the article’s content, in conjunction with the title, you should be able to glean what the post is about. On the other hand, expanding the description means readers wouldn’t get the full information due to truncation. In that case, they might choose to go for another, simpler result.

2. Match Your Meta Description’s Tone With Your Content

Tone – in this case, the ‘writing voice’ you use – is just as important as structure. In fact, it’s one of the biggest factors in whether the reader will click through to your article, so it has to be right.

An example of a meta description with a friendly tone.

A friendly tone is always useful when it comes to tackling complex topics.

The tone you use will be based largely on your site’s branding, and it’s usually best to try and harmonize the tone of your article and description. That way, there’s no dissonance once readers click through. For example, we usually strive for a friendly tone in our articles since it can help to explain and understand complex subjects. Our meta descriptions try to match the tone so potential visitors have an idea what they’re in for.  Take this example from our archives:

Landing your ideal client seems like a dream. In this guide, we’ll show you how to make that dream a reality and get noticed by potential clients.

It comes across as friendly, and looks to strike an inspiring tone. On the other hand, if our blog had a more technical slant to its pieces, we might have gone with something such as:

Landing your ideal client is all about selling yourself. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to do that in three well-structured steps.

While this description is a bit more to the point, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the wrong approach. In this case – as in most others – your unique voice should be the deciding factor. If your writing has more of a technical style, your meta descriptions should match it – otherwise, it might come across as forced.

3. Use Keywords Properly Within Your Meta Descriptions

We’ve already touched upon the importance of including focus keywords within your meta descriptions, so let’s discuss how to properly include them.

An example of a meta description with a highlighted keyword.

Keywords don’t need to be overly complex to succeed, but some may be more competitive than others.

First off, you may be tempted to stuff your meta description with multiple instances of your keyword, but that’s the wrong approach. The same rules on keyword stuffing in articles also apply to meta descriptions, and not heeding this could impact your SEO. What’s more, keyword stuffing could affect your description’s tone, make it sound stilted, and take away from the limited real estate you have to ‘sell’ your post.

Let’s take another look at this article’s meta description:

Meta descriptions are critical to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and this post will show you three ways to optimize them for search engines!

You’ll notice that the focus keyword is only included once. It’s all you need for the sentence to make sense, and placing it near the beginning of the description makes it pop out even more in the SERPs (visually speaking).

A bad example of how to approach using focus keywords within a description might look something like this:

You can get more clicks on your articles by optimizing your meta descriptions. In this article, we’ll talk about how to improve your meta descriptions using three techniques.

Not only is this description way too long, it also sounds stilted and it repeats the focus keyword unnecessarily. When it comes to meta descriptions, even the smallest details are amplified by the short format – paying attention to all of them might just give your content the boost it needs to succeed.

Conclusion

It’s easy to overlook meta descriptions in favor of other elements, but that’s an SEO mistake you shouldn’t make. If you pay attention to your meta descriptions and craft them carefully, you could find your posts making their way up through the SERPs.

Before we wrap up, here are the three main ways you can go about improving your meta descriptions:

  1. Consider the structure of your meta descriptions.
  2. Match their tone to that of your content.
  3. Use keywords properly within your descriptions.

Do you have any questions about meta descriptions and their impact on SEO? Ask away in the comments section below!

What off-page SEO is and why your brand cannot afford to ignore it

What off-page SEO is and why your brand cannot afford to ignore it

by | May 10, 2017 | SEO

In the SEO world, we don’t need to be convinced of the value of off-page SEO.

We know that well before people seek our brands out, they have formed an opinion of it based on reviews, comments from friends, family members, or online acquaintances, and whatever information we can glean online or offline (apart from your website).

Therefore, we’d be fools to disavow making off-page SEO a priority, given how important it is.

However, the more common mistake — among SEOs at least — is to see off-page SEO through only the prism of link building, which, while important, is not the be-all and end-all of off-page SEO.

That is, in working to build your brand’s off-page SEO prowess, links are certainly a benefit, not the goal.

Think of it this way:

So while it’s important to think of links when making off-page SEO a priority, it’s also vital that you (a) view them in context (important but not singularly so) and (b) give priority to the host of factors that lead to off-page SEO providing a boost for your brand.

Those factors include, but are not limited to, creating an excellent, worthwhile product or service; guest posting on popular, relevant blogs; building relationships with influencers; earning positive press; capturing positive reviews and responding to negative reviews; and monitoring mentions of your brand, to name a few.

Because our goal is to create a post that’s accessible, interesting and immediately useful, we’ll break down what we think are 8 key areas worth focusing on for off-page SEO under three umbrellas:

The intention is to provide a prism through which you can more easily categorize your efforts and a framework by which you can make those efforts a reality.

Brand

“No amount of SEO in the world can help a crappy product or service (at least not for long).” This is a sentence I frequently utter to folks who refuse to prioritize what they offer in favor of trying to put lipstick on a pig.

#1: Create a 10X product or service

When your product or service is recognized as the best in its class, your job as SEO becomes much, much easier.

That’s because both online and offline, people are likely saying great things about the product and brand, which leads to visits to your website, positive reviews on third-party sites, and increased sales of the product.

This only occurs, however, if you focus first and foremost on creating the best product you can.

Easier said than done, I know.

Here’s a great place to start, depending upon where your product/service is in the evolution cycle:

#2: Customer service

No one who’s watched the United Airlines meltdown needs to be sold on the value of customer service as an effective asset for off-site SEO. The brand will be paying for that epic disaster for years as millions of folks continue to share the video and images of the event.

It’s not hard to imagine how poor customer service has made the brand’s SEO and PR teams’ reputation management efforts a nightmare.

For your brand, focus on a singular goal: Leaving everyone your brand/brand spokespeople comes into contact with — online or offline — feeling as though the interaction could not have been more positive.

For example, at in-person events, make sure staffers wear a smile, empathetically interact with everyone they meet, and go out of their way to answer questions or provide general help. It also means ensuring any content you create leaves people feeling good about your brand.

Blog_Moz_Billboard.jpg

It’s unlikely this billboard was much of an off-page SEO benefit to SouthBendOn.com.

# 3: Focus on web searchers’ intent

Turns out the old cliche that “you attract more flies with honey than vinegar” is very relevant to SEO. People are typically more willing to buy and use your products and services if they can first find them.

A lot of times, our products and services fail to live up to their full potential because we aren’t matching our offering to the needs of our prospective audiences.

A great example of this is creating and sharing content without keywords the audience might be using to look for a similar product.

In addition to matching titles, descriptions, and keyword phrases to searcher’s intent, make sure you focus on where the content is shared and discussed.

It also starts with putting the needs of the audience first.

“For uncovering searcher intent…[s]earch, refine, broaden queries, talk to people, read discussion threads, have empathy,” wrote Rand Fishkin in a recent tweet.

Use Google Autosuggest, Keywordtool.io, and Answerthepublic.com to get in front of what it is people are looking for online relative to your product or service.

Audience

The better you know your audience, the more easily you can interact with, share with, and learn from them.

What does this have to do with off-page SEO? Everything.

Next to no one wakes up and decides to interact with your brand.

#4: Have a responsive social media presence

A typical search comes about because a person has an unmet need (e.g., “where is the nearest pizza joint?”) or has a question they’d like answered (e.g., “how tall is the biggest building in Tokyo?”).

After using Google Autosuggest to find the answer, they’re likely to visit social media to learn more, ask questions, and interact with their friends, family members, and acquaintances.

You see where we’re going here, right?

Social media must be an invaluable component of your off-page SEO strategy.

It’s much easier than most brands think, too:

As you can see, the price of unresponsiveness on social media negatively impacts far more than SEO:

Blog_Moz_CostofUnresponsiveonsocial.png

Source

#5: Build connections with social media/online influencers

When people say “Social media does nothing for my brand,” most SEOs must think, “Oh, but how wrong you are.”

Whether it’s the largely unmeasurable dark traffic social sends to your site or the connections with a base of people who could be customers or supporters at some point, social media can be an asset for any brand, if used wisely.

For off-page SEO, one of the biggest benefits of social is the ability to create and nurture lasting relationships with influencers, those people with huge reach in the way of name recognition, myriad followers and fans, and connections with numerous high-ranking websites.

They’re also typically very much connected with other influencers.

As we see in the image below, even if Google isn’t using social signals to help determine rankings, the interplay of influencers and the sites they represent, like, and visit makes being on their radar a positive.

Blog_Moz_SocialGraph1.png

Image source

An effective strategy for enlisting the help of influencers to boost your off-page SEO is to get to know them in person, at events, and online via group chats/tweets and such, which puts you on their radar without much heavy lifting on your part.

Then, in the future, when you do create and share content, they’re more likely to recognize you and your brand and might share the content themselves.

Even better, later on, after you’ve developed a stronger relationship, you might even collaborate on a piece of content — for their site, your site, or a publisher such as an online magazine.

#6: Recommit to frequenting forums and discussion boards, and comment blogging

Want to get noticed by your desired audience and the influencers they follow?

Visit the most popular blogs in your vertical, and leave comments. In recent years, comment blogging has fallen off in popularity, in large part because comment spam led to most blogs no-following their links.

For the purpose of off-page SEO, links are less of a priority.

Your goal is simply to be where the action is and to leave a thoughtful comment that might catch the eye of the blogger, the platform’s editor, and any influencers who might be reading the content.

The same applies for sites like Reddit and Quora, where you can follow topics specifics to your brand or vertical and quickly get noticed for being knowledgeable, thoughtful, and empathetic in answering others’ questions or helping to drive discussion.

The SEO subreddit is very popular, frequented by many of the big names in SEO.

The relationships formed on these platforms have a way of paying huge dividends and can be invaluable for off-page SEO and reputation management.

Often someone notices your comments on one of these platforms, starts following you there, and then later does a Google or LinkedIn search to learn about you or your brand, which ultimately leads them to your website, where they might sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your blog.

#7: Quit guest blogging for links

You read that right.

Instead of guest blogging solely for links, use this tactic to help you build a rapport with some of the top publishers, editors, influencers, and brands online.

If done correctly, the links do come. But as long as you make links the priority, whereby it’s obvious that you’re looking for a transactional relationship as opposed to one that is mutually beneficial, the tougher it’ll be for you to use guest blogging effectively for off-page SEO.

Read, leave comments on their blogs, and connect with the top publishers in your vertical — or publishers that cover your vertical. Once you have developed a rapport and, hopefully, have a reputation for creating quality content, inquire about creating a guest post for the platform, assuming that option is available.

Even if that door doesn’t open, you’ll be able to hone your pitch and eventually get a foot in the door with other publishers.

Remember, too, that your website is but one tiny fish in a vast ocean of options. You need to connect with others in many places off-site to build the reach and influence that’ll drive attention and visits to your site, which is where guest blogging can big a huge asset.

Your brand’s success depends upon a lot of factors outside your website. Image source

“Should you do guest posting for SEO? As a primary objective, I’d say no. But… reality is that the indirect impact remains very powerful,” wrote Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge. “There is nothing like building your reputation and visibility to cause people to want more of your content. You get to build up your own audience, and ultimately some of these people will find their way to your site, find great content there, and link to it.”

Content

When most people say, think, or write “content,” they most often think of text, images, videos, and information shared via social media.

In reality, content represents the entirety of the experience your brand designs, creates, and shares online and offline, from logos and tag lines to personnel, phone calls, signage, blog text, images, videos, etc.

If a prospect or customer can interacts with it, you’d better believe it’s content.

And before you offer up, “Well, Ronell, what if one of my staffers has mustard on her shirt in a video we post online?” (Trust me, someone would ask that.) “Is that content, too?” Yes, that faux pas is part of the content experience a prospect or customer could have with your brand.

In fact, it’s the sort of thing that can lead to someone seeing your company as not having all of its ducks in a row, injuring your reputation in the process.

#8: Experiment with content types

But don’t fret. When it comes to off-site SEO, the main thing I want you to focus on with regard to content is to see beyond text.

I’m a writer. I love words.

As a newspaper reporter, I always argued with my editor when he said “Words without images lead to words getting ignored. Images sell.”

The same for video. People eat it up.

You’ve no doubt heard that mobile is gobbling up the world as I write this. Well, guess what those untold millions are doing on their mobile devices?

Largely consuming videos, which are expected to account for 85% of the content being shared online by 2019. Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook Live, anyone?

Image source

Videos and images can be a huge boon to your brand’s off-page SEO, largely because they can both be a low-investment/high potential vehicle used to drive awareness and traffic back to your site, enhancing your off-page reputation in the process.

A few low-cost, low-effort ways to use video and images include:

Video and images are great way to show some personality and make your brand feel human, real, and alive to people who might not have heard of your company, or who’ve only recently discovered it.

They can also work wonders for your off-site SEO.

For example, say your brand has found that customers who visit your white papers have an increased likelihood of becoming customers. You might shoot video interviews of the subjects or clients featured in the most popular websites, then post the videos to YouTube, in addition to sharing them with the clients to post on their site and disseminate via social media.

This increases the likelihood of even more people seeing the videos and wanting to learn more about your brand.

It’s time to think holistically

The complete list of off-site SEO tactics that can bring your brand success contains far more than eight elements.

Our goal with this post is to spur you to think beyond what’s comfortable or convenient, and instead consider what’s (a) doable in a reasonable amount of time and a reasonable degree of effort, and that (b) has the potential to yield a significant amount of success.

We’re convinced that a brand who works diligently to deploy the tactics listed above will be better able to thrive.

Recommended resources:

Brand

Audience

Content