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RIP Google Keyword Tool

Google is going to remove the good old Google Keyword Tool (GKT) that is the basis of nearly every keyword research tool out there. I don’t know exactly when, but it’s likely that GKT will be removed/retired in a few weeks at most.

What this means is that all the software tools relying on GKT will stop working very soon, and people will be scrambling to figure out how to do their niche & keyword research from then on.
I will be looking for software and services that use the new replacement (see below) and if I find any good one(s) I’ll recommend the best to you.

What will replace it? Enter the shiny new Keyword Planner. And there are some serious
changes afoot. Here’s some documentation from Google about the new Keyword Planner:

https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2999770

So what changes?

First of all, the Keyword Planner is only available if you have an adsense account. And you must be logged into the google account associated with your adsense account to access it. I can’t even post a URL of the new Keyword Planner here, because any URL I post will not work for you, because it is personalized to my account. The best way to get to the Keyword Planner is to go to GKT — the URL is: https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer and click on the link below the green toolbar.

So — requiring you to be logged into the google account associated with your adsense account means that you can no longer do anonymous keyword research. You must now identify yourself in order to access Google’s vast information store. And do you think Google might find it interesting to see what keyword ideas you’re searching for and what you’re advertising for, if you use adsense? You bet. This is another step in their campaign to raise the revenue and profit from adsense.

Second, and this IMHO is a good thing, the broad match and phrase match traffic estimates are not available in Keyword Planner. Only exact match traffic estimates are available. The broad and phrase match estimates were wildly inaccurate anyways, so removing them is the logical thing to do.

Third, Keyword planner provides integration between keyword research and ad spend, to give you performance data for your past campaigns based on the estimate of how much traffic you’d get versus how many clicks you actually got. And if you also use Google Analytics, then you can also track how well the traffic converted. Nifty if you use adsense, but scary if you’re just doing keyword research for organic rankings and traffic.

So in summary — I’m giving you a heads up that keyword and niche research is about to undergo some major changes and the tools you’ve invested in in the past may not make the transition through these changes. Certainly if you’re considering investing in some keyword research tools now, you should ask hard questions like “will this work with Google’s new Keyword Planner?”.

And I’ll recommend some tools that do and will work with the new keyword research & traffic estimate system from Google, their new Keyword Planner.

I know it’s a pain many people are dealing with right now….. certainly I am, for my own sites as well as some of my clients’ sites. A solution that relieves this pain will be ultra welcome! If you have any suggestions of a good replacement for Google’s keyword tool feel free to leave a comment, I believe many would be appreciative of a good alternative.


Paying Your Affiliates

Having an affiliate program can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you gain the power of having hundreds or even thousands of commissioned sales people all promoting your product. But on the other, you have to deal with the tracking and bookkeeping. And come tax time, that means staying in the good graces of the Internal Revenue Service.

How the IRS Defines an Affiliate

Before we delve too far into the various forms of affiliate payments and what level of reporting you’re responsible for, let’s take a minute to talk about how the tax man sees affiliates. Since your affiliates aren’t employees, you’re not expected to withhold taxes from their payments. Much like a subcontractor (your VA, for example), you simply pay the agreed-upon amount, and he or she is responsible for his or her own tax reporting.

There is a catch

Not only does the IRS want to know from the affiliate how much he or she earned, but they also want to know from the vendor (that’s you) how much he or she paid to each affiliate. That’s where form 1099 comes into play – but only if your affiliate meets certain criteria.

When is a 1099 Required?

On the surface, it’s pretty easy to determine when to issue a 1099-MISC. If you pay a subcontractor (or affiliate) more than $600 in a single calendar year, a 1099-MISC is required. The only exceptions to that rule are if you and/or your affiliate do not live in the United States, or if your affiliate is a corporation. Sole proprietors, LLCs, and partnerships are all subject to the 1099-MISC rule, provided the $600 earnings threshold is met.

The PayPal Gray Zone

Beginning with the 2011 tax year, the IRS passed a law saying that any “payment card organization” must begin reporting earnings in excess of $20,000 on form 1099K, if those earnings were as a result of at least 200 individual transactions. A “payment card organization” is any company that handles electronic transactions, such as PayPal or your credit card processor.

What that means for a lot of affiliates is that they are potentially being reported twice – once by you, on a standard form 1099-MISC, and once by PayPal, on the new 1099K. You can see how this could cause some confusion, not only on the part of the vendor, but on the part of the IRS as well.

To 1099 or Not?

If your affiliate lives in the United States and earned more than $600 in commissions during the year, he or she needs a 1099 form. The only question is, should that form be issued by you or PayPal? Since you can’t possibly know if the affiliate meets the threshold for receiving a 1099K from PayPal, it seems reasonable that you should in fact issue a 1099-MISC. As with all things involving taxes, however, it’s probably best if you seek the advice of a qualified tax professional, rather than risk getting into hot water over missing or incorrectly filed forms.

Press Releases Are Still Relevant If Used Properly

Although online press releases have had a bad reputation over the past few years, it’s because spammy SEO companies started using press releases as an easy way to churn out thousands of back links with minimal effort and little investment. To make matters worse, the content of their press releases were almost entirely promotional.

Fortunately, there are a few simple tweaks you can make to your press releases to make them a more valuable piece on content. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the goal of a press release shouldn’t be to get more links – it should be to get more press coverage.

You’ll Want To Stay Away from Industry Jargon

When making a press release, it is important that you avoid typical jargon and industry specific language whenever possible. Write a press release so the average person can get some value out of it. Your readers likely won’t understand the concepts behind common industry language, which means they will now understand what your press release is about. It will also turn off any publishers who may have helped syndicate your content. The only exception to this rule is if you are creating a press release specifically for an industry publication.

No More Selling

An easy way to increase the value of your press release is to forget about selling. Press releases that function as little more than an advertorial will never gain traction from the media. Journalists have a duty to get beyond the sales pitch when writing articles and you should do the same. Not only will this make your press release more appealing to publishers, but it will also be more valuable to readers.

Follow the Proper Format

There are several different press release “styles” which are widely accepted. The most commonly accepted style is the traditional format. It begins with a summary of facts and then the journalist will create the story based upon the facts. The other common style focuses on making the press release the final story. This makes it easier for journalists because they don’t have to find the story; they just need to expand on it. If you are submitting your press release to major outlets then the traditional approach is often more effective.

Don’t Make Up a Story

Some online businesses have made the press release a regular part of their marketing strategy. While this can be helpful it can also be extremely counter productive. Journalists are trained to think critically and can smell a marketing only story a mile away. Always focus on keeping your press release factual and focused on a single topic. Plus, make sure there is actually a story. Journalists don’t read press releases to be entertained, they want a real story.

Create Each Press Release for a Specific Audience

Most press releases created primarily for marketing purposes will have a very specific target audience. The problem is press releases aren’t really intended for the same target audience as the rest of your marketing efforts. The real target audience is journalists. They are ones who decide whether or not your story is worth sharing.

If you are creating press releases solely to generate links to your website then just disregard this advice because your success isn’t dependent on what a journalist thinks. At the same time, you are taking an incredibly valuable asset and letting it go to waste. It’s time to make the press release a valuable part of your marketing arsenal by focusing on real syndication rather than just building back links. Remember that Google is constantly adjusting it’s algorithm and what use to work  does not work as well today.

Improve You Website’s Bounce rate

Your website’s bounce rate is an important analytic you shoul improve. Some search engines use it to help determine your page ranking, but also provides critical insight into how well your website engages your audience. You can do a number of simple things to improve your bounce rate.

Don’t Use Pop-Ups

Avoiding pop-ups is always a good idea. There is still a large percentage of the website visitors that will leave a website if a pop-up is immediately displayed. If you still want to use pop-up advertising, especially to gather opt ins, set a time delay. A time delay provides enough time for the user to already become interested in your content and decreases the likelihood they will leave. Another option would be to create an action oriented pop up. For example,  it could appear once the user begins scrolling down the page.

 Clean Up Your Navigation

Another way to improve your bounce rate is by cleaning up your navigation bar. Always put the most important pages first so users can easily find what they are looking for. The more difficult your website is to navigate, the more likely your readers will get frustrated and leave.

Manage Your User’s Expectations

An overlooked method of improving your bounce rate is effectively managing your user’s expectations. Anyone who lands on your website should immediately know what to expect. In general, website pages can be broken down into two categories – landing pages or content/the conversion tunnel. The layout of your website alone can often set up your users expectations correctly.

 Lazy Load 3rd Party Content

Improving your website load time is always a good way to ensure your users do not quickly leave. By lazy loading third-party content, you not only increase the speed of your website but also improve your overall user experience.

Take Advantage of Related Content

The easiest way to keep people on your website longer is by making it easy for them to visit multiple pages. Viewing more pages not only decreases your bounce rate, but also makes them feel more invested in your brand and your message. It also provides an easy way to get them started down your conversion tunnel without sounding like you are pitching a product or service.

Make Your Internal Search Useful

Many of us have grown accustomed to search engines. If your internal search is not useful, then they will happily go somewhere else to find what they are looking for. There are a growing number of different ways to improve the internal search results for a website, so take time and choose a technology which is effective.

Make Your 404 Error Page Useful   (Something I’ve been meaning to do with this blog)

Another way to decrease your bounce rate is by making your 404 error page more useful. Unfortunately, many people will find a 404 error page on your website, whether it is due to poor design or they simply typed in the wrong URL.  Regardless of how they got there, it is important to direct them back to your primary pages as quickly as possible.

Turn Long Posts into a Series or Add Pagination

The final simple way to decrease your bounce rate is taking longer blog posts and content and turning it into a series or adding pagination. Both of these options force your users to delve deeper into your website and become more invested in enjoying their time there.

These tips are simple and easy to implement on any site. All you need is a little time in helping to improve your websites bounce rate.

Call To Action In 5 Quick Steps

The only way to consistently get your audience to take a specific action is by crafting a powerful and effective Call To Action. The problem many of us have is creating a call to action which is simple yet persuasive. Either the call to action is too simple, which leaves it vague or is too long and loses the reader’s attention. You can get past this issue by following five simple steps.

Start with a Concise, Compelling Statement

The first step is creating a concise, compelling statement. To achieve this, it is important to focus on developing a message which tells a visitor exactly what they are gaining by taking an action. To grab their attention quickly it is important to utilize action verbs. Not only does this gain their attention, but it also directly tells them what to do without putting them off.

Size Does Matter

Once the statement is created, the next step is designing the call to action to stand out on the page. Naturally, larger elements on a webpage will draw the reader’s eye. In general, your CTA should always be at least as large as your website’s logo. At the same time, it shouldn’t be so overwhelming it becomes a distraction. An easy way to make it appear larger is by leaving some additional white space around it. This creates an invisible frame.

Strategic CTA Placement

Once it has been created, the next step is determining the right placement. The general rule of thumb is to always place your call to action above the fold. By doing this, you ensure your visitors will see it even if they do not read your entire page. At the same time, certain call to actions are more effective if they are placed below your content. For example, if you are trying to get someone to sign up to your list a call to action below your blog post can be the best option. This is because they have already read your content and determines you have something of value to offer them.

Don’t Forget SEO

If your call to action is an image, it is important to follow some basic search engine optimization guidelines. For example, you should include a keyword in the Alt tag. Every element of your website should provide a search engine optimization benefits and your or call to action button is no exception.

Set Up a Test and Analyze Results

No one will create the perfect call to action right away. To maximize the effectiveness of your ad copy, it is important to continually test it. This is accomplished by gathering data and analyzing the results. A simple split test can provide a large amount of data without dedicating yourself to a less efficient call to action. When creating a split test, it is important to only test one element at a time. Some of the most common elements of a call to action to test include the overall message, be specific text, the color, the placement, and the size of the image.

Regardless of how good your overall marketing strategy is, the call to action on your webpage plays a significant role in your overall success. Creating an effective call to action doesn’t need to be a time-consuming or complicated process. At the same time, it is important enough to merit your time and effort.