We think that Youtube is also a great way to inspire you and your team to dare the impossible and live the dream, through a particular genre of inspirational videos – sometimes profound, sometimes funny, often both.
XML sitemaps are powerful tools that belong in every eCommerce and web publishers toolbox. Not many people use them effectively, though. (Or at all!)
In this post: How to use them, how to get the most out of them, and some mistakes to watch out for.
Don’t depend exclusively on XML Sitemaps
XML sitemaps should be considered a supplementary or “support” tactic. You should design your site such that it’s “naturally” crawl-able by search engine spiders.
That means you should have straight links to all of your pages. Never depend on XML sitemaps for getting pages indexed. (This isn’t just dodgy SEO – it’s bad navigation, which is absolutely fundamental to any site or business!)
If you have a website with 100 pages or less and it’s irregularly updated and/or generally static, you don’t need an XML sitemap. There’s no harm in having one, especially if you’re preparing for future expansion – but you’ve probably got more important things to worry about for now.
If you have a site with 1,000 pages or more, frequent changes, and/or lots of new content added regularly…then yes, you should be using XML sitemaps.
If you have a large website with over 10,000 pages, or one with deep content (content that requires more than 4 clicks from the homepage to reach), then you absolutely need to use XML sitemaps.
EditorialPages – This XML file will have links to any editorial, articles, or informational sections and pages your website may have.
Blog – This XML file will have links to your blog pages. It should have listing for individual posts, archives, tags, author pages and any other templates you are using.
You can have more than one sitemap per segment, but it’s really unlikely that you’ll ever need to. (If you have 50,000 products, for instance, surely you’re better off getting rid of the weaker performing ones altogether so that you can focus on the good ones!)
Common XML Sitemap Mistakes
Listing files that are blocked in Robots.txt. Don’t include files you are blocking from being indexed.
Not changing the <Last Modified> tag. This is an optional tag but if you are going to include it make sure you update it whenever a file changes.
Submitting files that no longer exist. Remove files that no longer exist on your website from all XML files.
Here at ReferralCandy, we’re always looking for cool and innovative ways to market great products. One of the leading experts in this field is Rand Fishkin, CEO of software company SEOmoz and a master of inbound marketing. His advice on how to earn customers without paying for them is relevant for all e-commerce businesses.
Rand started his SEOmoz blog in 2004, and as he tells it, slowly built it from struggling no-readership material to a behemoth in generating publicity and genuine interest from readers interested in SEO.
We recently stumbled upon a video of an exceptional impromptu talk that he gave at a Hacker News Meetup in London. It’s worth watching in its entirety, but if you don’t have 60 minutes to spare, here are the top 5 things that resonated with us from his video.
1. INBOUND MARKETING IS A HACK FOR MARKETING
Inbound marketing is essentially putting interesting original content onto innovative channels, so that your target audience gets to know your brand and product, and that leads actually come to you. It could come in the form of a viral video, a blog post (like this one), an infographic, or anything really that draws readers and viewers in.
The good news is that inbound favours the nimble and clever startup rather than the giant corporation. This is opposed to outbound marketing, which is paying for advertising, cold-calling and playing the numbers game to generate leads.
Rand’s main point is that inbound marketing shouldn’t be seen as distasteful “black magic” marketing, but rather as a hack for marketing that accomplishes more outreach and generates more sales with usually no money down. In fact, according to him, Inbound marketing can generate up to 80% of traffic as compared to 20% from paid marketing (10:50 in the video). It’s a no brainer that we should use inbound!
As Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist of Apple once said, “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains
than money, you should focus on inbound marketing!”2. CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT
So you’re sold on inbound marketing. But what’s the secret sauce you ask? The truth is that “you don’t buy those visitors, you earn them”. Creating good content and doing work that you’re proud of is the basic building block of inbound marketing.
It’s simple, if you can recreate relevant and even exciting content that people will tweet, blog about and link to, they’re going to want to know your name and what you do. In inbound marketing the content draws interest in, rather than you pushing your product out.
The content that you create needs to engage readers. Good content requires research and hard work to put a fresh spin on things or even say something totally new. It could be an infographic that makes sense of the latest trends and figures in a compelling and intuitive way, or even a product that is so compelling it gets your target audience buzzing (Rand cites the ingenious example of a “USB Doomsday Device” at 16:17). For an in-depth view on how to create good content, check out this blog post on content creation.
3. THE RISE OF SOCIAL IS NOT THE END OF SEARCH
Social Media channels are a natural fit for great content. We all have a favourite advertisement video or blog post that went viral on social media channels and brought great publicity for a particular brand. Rand cites the brilliant example of the Dollar Shave Club commercial. Although the business model is simple (selling cheap razors online for a dollar a month), the commercial has garnered almost 5 million hits on Youtube.
While social media channels are great for generating brand awareness, this doesn’t mean that we should underestimate Search Channels. According to a Pew Internet Survey, 91% of Americans are searching for information online, compared to 66% using social media channels. Ranking high on searches through SEO remains a great way to drive targeted traffic to your site. Of course, social media will remain a huge influence in driving higher rankings on searches.
4. CONVERSION OF CUSTOMERS MEANS LISTENING, TESTING AND RE-TESTING
Getting page views does not always translate into sales. Rand tells us that optimizing conversion of interested eyeballs into paying consumers depends on listening to consumers, and then using that information to refine your product. Once they hit your landing page, understand what makes them buy, or more importantly not buy your product.
Rand’s team listened to customers of SEOmoz and tried to figure out what made them move further down the sales funnel upon hitting the landing page, and what put them off. By listening, reformatting and constantly testing their landing page, they achieved over $1million more in subscribers per year.
5. BUILD TRUST BY KEEPING IT REAL
So now we know that inbound marketing is powerful stuff, it’s centred on engaging content, works well on social media (but don’t neglect search!) and that conversion is key. But perhaps the most important takeaway that we got is to “keep it real.”
As Rand puts it, “Instead of thinking about what will make my page rank higher, what will get me more followers, I really like thinking about it from the other way. What are the things I can produce that people will wanna share, love, make them trust me. That’s gonna be much more powerful and much more successful.” (see 29:30).
FINALLY, HAVE FUN!
We couldn’t agree more that ultimately, it’s about building trust and being genuine with potential customers that see your content and your brand by creating content you love. This way, you’ll not only build brand awareness and loyalty that lasts, but you’ll have much more fun while you’re doing it.
Tell us below about your attempts, successes and failures in creating inbound marketing content. We want to hear from you!
For small businesses and eCommerce merchants, keeping up with the new social media services that sprout up faster than weeds in a garden, is an overwhelming problem. How to use these services for SEO, to gain links, traffic and ultimately prospects, customers, and sales is even more complicated. In this article we’ll take a look at Pinterest, and some ideas on how businesses can leverage to their advantage without being considered a
Terms of Service and Community Culture
As with any social media service, the first two steps are reading the terms of service, and watching the community BEFORE getting involved. Terms of service pages are notoriously boring, but you want to get an idea of any legal pitfalls and what the service’s stanceon is like before posting your own content.
One of the interesting differences on Pinterest is that the user is responsible for making sure they aren’t violating any copyright restrictions posting pictures. So if you upload a picture, drawing, or item that someone else owns the copyright, you are legally responsible and liable, not Pinterest.
The second part of becoming involved in any social media community is watching, observing, and getting a feel for what is generally considered “acceptable behavior”. As a real life example: wearing a bikini to a pool party is acceptable, wearing the same bikini to a formal wedding isn’t. Context is everything. On Pinterest, it’s a culture of showcasing awesomeness, aspirational quotes or ideals, pictures that are funny or outstanding, or anything that showcases uniqueness and creativity. It’s a positive community, not a negative one of confrontation.
The Crisco Game Plan
Crisco the cooking shortening was introduced in the 1870′s. At the time people were mostly cooking with lard, and getting people to change was difficult. In 1912, Crisco released it’s first cookbook, which they gave away for free. The idea was to show people how to use the product and they would buy it. This has been a tried and tested method that has stood the test of time.
Home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot have large how-to sections on their websites on how to lay flooring or install tiles, showing you how to use the products they hope you buy from them. This can also work on Pinterest, for example Family Handyman posts DIY home improvement projects to their account. The key to getting the most out of this strategy as a merchant is to post your best, most useful, problem solving content.
Contests and User Submissions
Another effective strategy is to get users to pin pictures of themselves using your products. You can incentivize this behavior with weekly/monthly contests. A fun way to keep it interesting would be to vary the theme of the contest every month – most creative, most artistic, most unusual, etc. Run a cooking website where you sell baking equipment or cake decorating equipment, run a chocolate cake contest one month, then a cupcake contest, followed by a muffin contest. Contest laws are tricky and vary from state to state so be sure you review the terms of service and any legal restrictions that may come into play.
Link, No-Follow and User Data
Many people look at social media services and see the links are no followed, and assume they have no SEO value… In my opinion, this is only partly true. In the classic sense a link with a rel=”nofollow” tag will not pass any link equity or anchor text keyword value, and insteadwill act strictly as a “pointer”. In my opinion these pointers have value, especially if they generate click throughs and user data. I would rather have 1000 links that are nofollowed, that users click through, generate user traffic and sales, as opposed to 100 normal “straight” links that no-one sees, clicks on or generates user data. For more on this be sure to read the link building experts interview 2012 edition.
So in conclusion:
Look at social media services like Pinterest, see if they
are a demographic match for your community
Read the terms of service or legal restrictions, and get a feel for the
Look for ways to post your best content, that shows people how to use your
Look for ways to get your customers to upload and share pictures of things
they have created using your products
Don’t focus on links that pass keyword equity, focus on links that drive
customers, traffic, sales, and generate user data