Category Archives: Social Media

The Best Free Stock Photography Sites

What do blog articles, websites, and social media posts all have in common?

They all require images (well, the engaging ones at least).

Any web designer or digital marketer will tell you that finding relevant, high quality images to use can be challenging. Not only are many stock images cheesy and outdated, but they also can be quite pricey. Luckily there’s an increasing amount of free stock photography websites popping up, and some of them are pretty awesome. Here’s a list of some free stock photo sites worth checking out:

Unsplash is my personal favorite. It features a huge collection of free high-resolution images, and none are tacky. Many of the photos on this website are landscapes and scenes, with 10 new photos added every 10 days. You can find what you’re looking for on Unsplash by checking out the different photo collections (top left), or by using the search bar at the top right.

Gratisography features free high-resolution images taken by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design. New photos are added each week, and all are free of copyright restrictions. There are many quirky images of people and animals on here that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use, but the site also has some nice outdoor shots.

Splitshire is a collection of free stock photos taken by Daniel Nanescu, and is updated almost daily. This site features more photos of people and objects than nature.

New Old Stock consists of vintage photos from the public archives, and are free of known copyright restrictions. Most of the photos on New Old Stock have a description below of where the photo was taken, or what is happening in it.

PicJumbo offers free photos for commercial & personal works. New photos are added daily from a variety of categories including abstract, weddings, nature, food, technology and also seasonal categories like Christmas.

Life of Pix, created by Leeroy advertising agency in Montreal, offers free high-resolution photos with no copyright restrictions. New photos are added to the site weekly.

Negative Space posts 20 new free, high-resolution photos every Monday. You can search photos and sort them by category, colors and copy space position.

Superfamous Studios, the LA-based studio of Dutch interaction designer Folkert Gorter, allows you to use its photos as long as you provide credit. The site features many aerial and landscape shots.

IM Free is a curated collection of free web design resources, all for commercial use. Some collections include templates, business, people, sports, nature, transportation, cityscape and more.

Finally we’ve got Little Visuals, a site with some great photos (mostly landscapes). Sadly the owner of the site passed away in November 2013, and nothing has been added since. All photos that have been posted were released under the creative commons license public domain dedication.

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6 Pinterest Marketing Mistakes I Keep Seeing

“I use Pinterest all the time for fun, so I’ll be great at managing it for my business, right?”

One of the most challenging types of clients to work with are those who think that because they regularly use social media to share photos of their dogs and get home décor ideas, they know what’s best for their business page. I mean sure, you’ve been re-pinning images of your dream kitchen and creating boards filled with healthy dinner recipes, but does that mean you know how to make your Pinterest profile SEO-friendly, or how to link to your website so you can track everything properly? I’ve learned from experience that the answer is often no.

I’ve spent years managing Pinterest accounts for brands in an array of industries, and have seen what an amazing platform it can be to showcase services or products, connect with consumers, and increase website traffic. However, I’ve come across many brands that are making mistakes that hurt their marketing instead of helping. Here are some of the most common Pinterest marketing mistakes I see:

Promoting only your brand

Remember, they call it social media for a reason.

I’ve seen Pinterest amateurs get so over-eager to create their business account and promote their products that they overlook the importance of sharing content from others as well. When building your following on Pinterest, it’s important to share content from other likeminded brands, make some friends, and then post about your brand. Look at this strategy as a marathon: it’s better to pace yourself and do well in the long run, than to sprint and burn out quickly.

I recommend an 80/20 ratio: 80% of your pins should be about sharing relevant, unbranded content, and about 20% should feature your brand and its products.

Giving boards bad names

Some users will follow all of your Pinterest boards, and some will only choose to follow certain ones. How you name your boards has a lot to do with how users select which ones to follow. Avoid these naming mistakes:

Vague, irrelevant names- i.e. Guest Posts, Random, IDK, Misc., <3, etc.

Overly long names- Just like really long email subject lines that get cut off, if a person can’t read the whole the board name without clicking into it, they may just move on.

Unsearchable names- Board names with hearts, symbols, or a space between every letter are not ideal. While these board names do not hurt your SEO, they definitely don’t help. If Google sees the name “Wedding Dresses,” it will understand what the board is about. However, it will not understand “<3 W e d d i n g D r e s s e s <3.”

Not filling out your entire Pinterest business profile

First, make sure your Pinterest account is a Business Account (not a personal account), and complete all areas of the profile.  Make sure you add a branded logo, write a detailed description in the (200 search-engine-optimizable character) “About” section, and add your website URL. Make sure you also take the steps to verify your website.

Not linking to the proper product pages

Product pins that don’t link back to a product page are missing out on an incredible marketing opportunity. If a Pinterest user is interested enough to click through to your website, make sure they are being taken to the correct product page. You can also take this a step further by creating custom URLs, so you can see exactly which pins are sending traffic to your site.

Not writing strong pin descriptions

Adding pins without a good description means that your pins are not going to show up in a Pinterest search, reducing your odds of getting clicks, likes and repins. It is also thought by search marketers that robust Pinterest descriptions may help with SEO.

If your pin features a product, write a description about exactly what the product is. Make sure to include the brand and name of the product.

Pinning small, dull, or poor quality images

On Pinterest you’re constantly competing with the other pins that fill the screen, so it’s important that your images stand out and make users want to click on them. Here are several best practices when it comes to images:

  • Choose images that are large, vibrant and attractive
  • Avoid images that are small or low quality (be careful with images taken on phones- they don’t always look so great enlarged)
  • When using an image you didn’t create yourself, make sure you obey copyright laws and give proper credit

WTF Are You Thinking, Snapchat?

Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged but I’m just a little outraged at the moment and I need to let it out.  Snapchat’s 23-year old co-founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, gets offered $3 BILLION (with a B!!) in cash from Facebook, and the kid turns it down?  Who do these kids think they are?

I don’t even understand how this kid is eating and paying bills now.  Even with millions of users, Snapchat has yet to make a single dollar of revenue, and it has not shown any clear strategy of how they plan to be profitable.  The company’s founders are also in a controversy over whether they did or did not cheat a friend out of his fair share.

Spiegel’s obviously holding out for a bigger payday, as Snapchat has been getting some serious attention from other investors and potential acquirers, such as Chinese e-commerce company Tencent Holdings.  Tencent supposedly offered to lead an investment that would’ve valued Snapchat at $4 billion, but Spiegel might be waiting for something even bigger than that.  According to anonymous sources, “Evan Spiegel, will not likely consider an acquisition or an investment at least until early next year. … Spiegel is hoping Snapchat’s numbers … will grow enough by then to justify an even larger valuation.”

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has tried to acquire Snapchat.  Last year Facebook reportedly offered Snapchat a $1 billion buyout.  After they were denied, Facebook took a stab at creating its own ephemeral messaging app- anyone remember Poke?  Probably not, as it was a flop.

I certainly respect holding out for what you think you’re worth to a certain extent.  But when Mark Zuckerberg offers you a room full of cash-filled suitcases, you take the money, say thank you and move the fuck on!  Go travel the world, kid.  Buy your parents a nice house.  Start a new project.  What is $4 billion really going to buy you that $3 billion can’t?

Some people say that we shouldn’t be calling Spiegel and the guys at Snapchat crazy for turning down Facebook’s cash offer. A writer at CNN thinks the company was smart to hold out because it has something other social media services don’t: erasable messages.  So what?  Snapchat’s erasable messages are cool today, but next week something else will be the hot new thing. After all, it is the teens and young people who use the app, and we all know how fickle this age group is.  I think it’s a pretty big gamble for Spiegel to wait until next year, especially when this is $3 BILLION (again, with a B!!) at stake.

It might be possible for the guys at Snapchat to get more money from the competition between prospective investors and would-be acquirers, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk of overplaying their hand and crashing and burning.  Either way, it should be an interesting next few months for Snapchat and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

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Red Flags to Look For When Link Building

It’s been a rough summer for some unfortunate website owners and SEO professionals who are feeling the wrath of Google’s Penguin 2.0 release.  Since the big update in May, many have been scrambling to re-evaluate their link profiles and make sure that nothing comes back to haunt them.

The original version of Penguin, released in April 2012, taught us that the quality of links to your site matters much more than the quantity.  If you tried to outsmart Google’s algorithm by playing the numbers game, there’s a
chance your site got hit with a penalty.

Link building for SEO is huge, so it’s important for search marketers to understand what they’re looking out for.  In a recent article I explained the qualities of a “good link,” but I didn’t get too far into how to spot the red flags of a bad link building opportunity.  Here are a few qualities of sites that you should probably stay away from when building links:

Easy

If you find link building easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. It’s very possible that these links are even hurting your site! The best links you build are often based on relationships, which take time and effort.

Irrelevant

Acquiring a link from a well-trusted fantasy football site won’t really help if you’re a Pilates studio. You’d be much better off working to get links from fitness-related sites instead.

If you’re ever unsure about whether a link is relevant or not, ask yourself the following: “Would this link actually drive the kind of traffic that I want to my site?  Will it expose my brand to people who are potential clients?”  If the answer is no, this probably isn’t the best link for your site.

Keyword Overload

Related keywords on a site are a good thing… in moderation.  Pay close attention to how many times the keywords are listed on the page.  If the site is stuffed with keywords it will likely get penalized at some point.

Lack of Design

You can often tell the quality of a site just by looking at it.  If the site looks like the owner put no time, money or love into it consider it a red flag.  Spammy sites often look dull- think free themes, no branding elements, nothing special.

No Social Links

If a website owner didn’t put any effort into making his site look impressive, chances are he or she also didn’t take the time to create social media pages.  Every smart business owner understands the importance of a social media presence, so if the site lacks social links consider this a red flag.

No Contact Info

If you can’t find contact information or figure out who owns the site, it’s very possible that it’s part of a link farm network.  Google doesn’t like those!

I hope that these tips I listed help you out, but it’s also important to remember to use your judgment when it comes to link building.  Trust your instinct, and if you feel that a site looks suspicious, listen to your gut.

What Do Internet Marketing & Beautiful Women Have In Common?

Happy Friday, everyone!  Here’s a few cheesy jokes that those in the internet marketing industry can appreciate.  I hope they make you LOL a little ;)

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You walk up to her and say, “I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s DIRECT MARKETING.

You are at a party with a bunch of friends and see a beautiful woman. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, “He is very rich. Marry him.” That’s ADVERTISING.

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day you called her and say, “Hi, I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s TELEMARKETING.

You are at a party and see a beautiful woman. You get up and straighten your tie, walk up to her and pour her a drink. You open the door for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her a ride, and then say, “By the way, I’m very rich. Will you marry me?”  That’s PUBLIC RELATIONS.

You are at a party and a beautiful woman walks up to you and says, “You are very rich.” That’s BRAND RECOGNITION.

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You walk up to her and say, “I am very rich. Marry me.” She gives you a nice hard slap across your face. That’s CUSTOMER FEEDBACK.

You take a shower, shave and put on some clean clothes. You go to a party. Everyone in the room smells bad. A beautiful woman walks up to you and gives you her number. That’s INBOUND MARKETING.

The lines above were written by Carole Mahoney.  I thought they were funny (well, as funny as marketing can get) and decided to make up a few of my own about internet marketing:

You see a beautiful woman at party.  You make friends with everyone else in the room and they all tell her “He is very rich.  Marry him.”  That’s LINK BUILDING.

You see a beautiful woman at a party.  You pay someone to go up to her, point to you and say “He is very rich.  Marry him.”  That’s AFFILIATE MARKETING.

You are at a party and see a beautiful woman.  You get her name, find her on Facebook, message her and say “Hi, I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING.

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You go up to her and get her email address. The next day you email her and say, “I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s EMAIL MARKETING.

The beautiful woman is at the party to find a man.  The man knows this, and stands close enough so that she will notice him first.  That’s SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION!

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Instagram Gets Videos!

Today is a rough day for Vine, as Instagram has finally caught up.  Instagram, owned by Facebook, announced today to its 130 million users that it has introduced a video functionality.

Vine, which is owned by Twitter, was great for a few months, but like many other short-video services, its video time is limited.  Instagram’s videos are limited as well, but at 15 seconds long they’re more than twice the time of Vine’s.  Unless Vine extends their video time to longer than 15 seconds and comes up with some cool new features, I don’t see a way that they could keep up.  But I do have faith in them.

According to Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, the 15-second limit was chosen after testing different times.   He called it the right balance “between not too short that it constrains your creativity” and not so long that you have to wait a while for a file to upload.

Instagram’s video-sharing feature was widely expected and has excited many users.  Described Systrom as “everything you love about Instagram — and it moves,” video is designed around three core principles:

  • Simplicity — It needs to be easy to use and edit
  • Beauty — “We need to do to video what we did to photos.”
  • Community — Instagram continues to look and work the same way when it comes to sharing and viewing content.

Here’s what else we know about Instagram Video so far:

  • The videos can be between three and 15 seconds long and include any number of individual video clips
  • It came to iOS and Android at the same time and supports 13 custom filters, created by an artist specifically for Instagram video
  • Users can edit the frames of their videos and remove segments of the footage
  • A mode named “Cinema” acts as a way to stabilize footage
  • Users can choose a cover photo for their videos, which will appear in the stream as a regular photo
  • For now, videos can only be shot from within the Instagram app.  There is not yet a way to upload existing video from your phone’s camera roll

To get the video function, update your existing Instagram app.

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YouTube Now Gets 1 Billion Unique Viewers a Month

When asked to think of a video sharing site, chances are the first one that comes to mind is YouTube.  For almost a decade we’ve gone there to watch, share and be amazed by videos created by all walks of life.  There’s no doubt that YouTube is the biggest video sharing site around, but just how big is it?

On the YouTube Blog, the YouTube team just announced a new milestone: the site is now getting more than 1 billion unique visitors every month.  To give us an idea of what a billion tuning into YouTube looks like, the YouTube team gave some comparisons:

  • Nearly one out of every two people on the Internet visits YouTube.
  • YouTube’s monthly viewership is the equivalent of roughly 10 Super Bowl audiences.
  • If YouTube were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China and India.
  • PSY and Madonna would have to repeat their Madison Square Garden performance in front of a packed house 200,000 more times in order to reach an audience the same size.

With this said, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite YouTube videos of all time- ones that have made me laugh or feel happy over the years.

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Mark Zuckerberg is Glassdoor’s Highest Rated CEO

It’s been a bit of a rough year for Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, following the social network’s disastrous IPO last May.  The company’s stocks have dropped and Zuckerberg has had to deal with some harsh critics.  But he must be doing something right, as he has defeated Apple’s Tim Cook as the highest rated CEO.

According to Glassdoor’s 2013 Highest Rated CEOs index, Zuckerberg received a 99% approval rating from his employees, which is a 14% increase from last year.  While Zuckerberg’s approval rating went up this year, Cook’s went down 4%, from 97% to 93%.  This was enough to not only push Cook out of the top 10, but all the way down to the 18thslot.  Cook’s decline comes about a year and a half after the death of former CEO Steve Jobs and as the Apple’s stock has tumbled almost 40% from all-time highs.

Glassdoor is a free jobs and career community online that offers an inside look at jobs and companies.  The site features “employee generated content” – anonymous salaries, company reviews, interview questions, and more – all posted by employees, job seekers, and sometimes the companies themselves.

To compile its list of Highest Rated CEOs, Glassdoor surveyed hundreds of thousands of employees across many industries.  CEO approval ratings are calculated much the same as presidential approval ratings.  Employees were asked questions such as “Do you approve or disapprove of the way your CEO is leading the company?”

One unnamed Facebook employee told Glassdoor that Facebook possesses “an open community from Zuck on down.” There is “mutual trust companywide and a sense of community and drive, instilled by our CEO who we all truly respect.”

After Zuckerberg, the rest of the top 10 included, in order:

  • Bill McDermott & Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP (99%)
  • Dominic Barton, McKinsey & Co. (97%)
  • Jim Turley, Ernst & Young (96%)
  • John E. Schlifske, Northwestern Mutual (96%)
  • Frank D’Souza, Cognizant Technology Solutions (96%)
  • Joe Tucci, EMC (96%)
  • Paul E. Jacobs, Qualcomm (95%)
  • Richard K. Davis, U.S. Bank (95%)
  • Pierre Nanterme, Accenture (95%)

Click here to see the full list of Glassdoor’s 2013 Highest Rated CEOs.

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Mistakes That Can Render Your Website Worthless

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I didn’t really have a vision or goal for it.  I just wanted to use it as a place to put my thoughts and to write and document what I’ve learned about the internet marketing industry and life.  I’m up to about 66 followers (thank you, guys!) and the stats tell me that my site has visitors every day.  However, I’m not seeing as many visitors as I had in the beginning and I know it’s my own fault.

The most successful bloggers know that it takes a good amount of time and dedication to keep users coming back to their sites. One of the biggest mistakes that many bloggers make is putting in a ton of work in the beginning, and then kicking back and counting on the website to perform all the work later on.  If you do this, expect to see your traffic decline.  If traffic is your goal, avoid these mistakes that could render your site worthless.

Not Posting Enough

This is where I have gone wrong.  Work, family and life have got me really busy, and I am not updating my blog nearly enough.  Essentially, blogs should be updated with unique content at least once a day, and the most successful ones are often updated multiple times.  For SEO purposes and the sake of keeping people interested, you must generate new articles as often as possible.  Skipping a day here and there is not a huge deal, but posting at the rate that I have been (once every week or two) can kill your site.  Luckily it can be brought back to life, if you commit to putting in the time and work and make it a habit.

Going Overboard With Ads

The goal of many bloggers these days is to generate profit through their site.  However, if you are going to put advertisements on your website, make sure that you are careful not to go overboard.

There’s nothing wrong with a few well-placed ads that provide visitors with links to sites that are relevant to the content on your site. But promoting everything under the sun on your site by filling it with banners and ads is not a good idea.

A Sloppy Appearance

Looks matter.  If your website looks like a lot of work and thought went into it, your audience is much more likely to take it seriously. If you want to attract a decent amount of traffic to your site, give users something that they’ll actually want to look at.  If you have the money, I recommend hiring a web designer to help you build it.

Going Overboard With Images

Just like banners and ads, there is a such thing as too many photos.  A few are good to have, as they add visual interest to your site and can actually help to bring in visitors.  But if you make the mistake of going overboard, it can have the opposite effect and push visitors away.  Don’t use more than a few images for each post.

Posting Offensive Material

Think about who you may be offending before you type!  I cannot stress this enough!  This rule applies to your entire internet life, way beyond just your blog.  This applies to social media, discussion forums and any other articles that you may have written.  I’m careful what I say through emails, even when I’m just talking to close friends.  I have seen first-hand how things that you said long ago can come back to haunt you down the road.  I’d avoid posting content about religion, politics, gossip, and strong opinions on any other controversial topics.  I also recommend being careful about the jokes and pictures you post.

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Valentine’s Day Spending

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  While today is no Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it is still a major retail and e-commerce event, and a boost for stores and shipping companies early in the calendar year.  With the help of the National Retail Federation, UPS , Ad Age and the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker survey, I’d like to present you with Valentine’s Day by the numbers.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend $18.6 billion overall on Valentine’s Day gifts.

Jewelry is the big-ticket item for gift givers.  $4.4 billion will be spent on diamonds, gold and silver.

$1.9 billion will be spent on flowers today.

$1.6 will be spent on candy; 51% of those surveyed give sweet treats to their loved ones.

Who would have thought- $1.5 billion will be spent on gift cards.

$815 million will be spent on the ones who love us unconditionally- our pets.

UPS will ship 95 million flowers for Valentine’s Day, with the bulk coming from Latin America on UPS temperature-controlled aircraft from Ecuador and Colombia (big rose-growing countries).

6,000,000 are expected to get engaged on February 14; that number is up from 4 million in 2012.

3,000 TONS of flowers will move through a massive refrigerated warehouse in Miami that UPS has set up to keep flowers fresh.

Can you guess what the average U.S. consumer plans to spend on candy, cards, gifts and more this year?  The answer is $130.97- up from $126.03 last year.

So how much is the average woman spending on today? About $88.78, which is less than half of what men are estimated to spend (an average of $175.61 on jewelry, flowers, and a romantic evening out).

40.7% of smartphone owners are estimated to have used their handhelds to shop for gifts.

26.3% of Valentine’s gifts are found online, up from 19.3% last year

29% of those surveyed said they’d post sweet nothings on Facebook.

Americans spend an average of $8.49 on friends for Valentine’s cards and gifts; they’ll shell out an average of $5.12 on colleagues.

7% of consumers who in a survey said they send their Valentine’s message via Twitter in 140 characters or less.

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite