2. Do Keyword Research to Plan Your Content Strategy
Keyword research is a technique used by content creators and SEO experts. It helps you discover specific words and sentences that users type in Google and other search engines to find the content they are looking for.
Normally, beginners just rely on their best guesses when creating content. As you can imagine, this strategy is a hit or miss.
If you use the “best-guess” strategy, then a lot of your articles will likely not do well in search engines. Simply because no one’s looking for the keywords you have used, or there is just too much competition for those keywords.
By doing proper keyword research, you will unlock the following benefits:
Discover actual search terms people are looking for
Find unique content ideas for popular search terms
Learn from your competitors and beat them with better content
Create a series of pillar-articles to drive steady traffic to your blog
Now the question is how do you actually do keyword research? Luckily, it is not as difficult as you would think.
There are a lot of free and paid tools that can help you do proper keyword research.
All you would have to do is enter a keyword, a competitors blog/website URL, or your own URL to find out more keyword ideas.
The most important thing that users and search engines look for is good quality content.
For a blog, a quality piece of content is usually a comprehensive article on a specific topic that covers all the details. This makes it extremely helpful for users.
These comprehensive articles are known as “pillar articles”. Other experts may refer to them as flagship content or cornerstone articles.
Basically, these are your most important articles. You need choose the most promising keyword and then provide as much information as you could in one long-form article.
You should create as many pillar articles as possible to cover all the important keywords in your industry.
Following are some tips that you should keep in mind when creating pillar content:
Pillar content could be any type of article. For example, a how-to guide, tutorial, comparison article, opinion piece, a listicle, and so on.
The difference between pillar content and other articles is that your pillar articles are more comprehensive and provide in-depth information on the topic.
Your pillar articles are not time-dependent. They are evergreen and always useful. Although we recommend keeping them updated with new information to stay on top of search results.
We will cover more tips later in this article that will help you create high-quality pillar articles to get more traffic from search engines.
5. Make Your Content Readable
As we mentioned earlier, search engines and users love longer and comprehensive articles that provide all the information they need.
Now the problem is that humans have a short attention span.
A slight difficulty in reading or understanding will put off your users, and they will leave without looking at all the useful information that you offered.
To solve this problem before it happens, you need to make all your content easy to read.
A good place to start would be to present your article in bite-size sentences using a friendly tone and lots of visuals.
Following are just some basic tips to make your content more readable and user-friendly.
Use smaller sentences and paragraphs. This leaves a lot of white space around text making it easier to look and read.
Try to improve typography by using more readable fonts, large font-size, and plenty of line spacing.
Check the readability score of your content. Yoast SEO comes with a built-in tool for that, you can also find tons of other online readability checkers
Use a grammar checker. We recommend using Grammarly, it not only checks grammar but actually helps you write better.
Use images, screenshots, videos, infographics, and other visual elements. These media elements make your article highly-engaging and easier to read.
6. Learn and apply the SEO basics to your Website
SEO is a set of best practices that help you make your website more search engine friendly. You don’t need to be an ‘SEO Guru’ to improve your website.
Contrary to popular belief, anyone can do SEO for their own websites without hiring an expert. There are plenty of SEO tools and plugins, free advice, and step by step tutorials available that you can use.
We recommend using Yoast SEO plugin for all WordPress websites. It is the most comprehensive SEO and website optimization tool. The free version includes all the SEO features that you will need on your website.
You can learn all you need to know about SEO, in our complete WordPress SEO guide for beginners. It includes step by step instructions, and it is the exact same SEO setup that we use on our own websites.
7. Learn to Write Great Headlines
When users find your content in search results or RSS feeds, the first thing they see is your article headline.
A catchy blog post title stands out and gets more clicks. Whereas a plain and boring headline gets ignored, and users are likely to scroll by it.
This makes headlines very important.
You need to learn how to write better titles for your blog posts that capture user attention and get more clicks.
Luckily, blogging experts have been doing research on headlines for a very long time, and you can benefit from their findings.
These are the basic building blocks of an effective headline:
A good headline triggers an emotional response (joy, surprise, shock, curiosity, fear, excitement, greed, and so on).
It offers users a reward and value
It promotes the content by including target keywords
Copywriters use power words to trigger emotional responses. They tell users why the article is valuable or what they will get from clicking on the headline.
Lastly, a good headline includes a call to action for users which is often subtle and sometimes implied.
Our team regularly uses these three tools to create better blog post titles and headlines.
8. Make Internal Linking a Routine Task
Now that you have started creating good content, it is important to link to your articles from your existing blog posts. This is called internal linking, and it plays a huge role in SEO.
Here is why internal linking is so important:
Internal links help Google understand the context and relationship between different articles on your website. It then uses this information as ranking signals.
Internal links, when placed strategically and in context, can help you increase page views and reduce bounce rate.
It is harder to ask third-party websites to link to your articles. It is way easier to create links on your own site.
We recommend making it a habit to link to your older articles from your new articles.
Because internal links play such an important role in SEO, we have even made it part of our pre-publish checklist for our writers.
9. Start Generating More Backlinks
A backlink is an incoming links to your content from an external website. Backlinks are one of the most influential signals in Google’s rankings.
Getting backlinks from reputable websites and blogs is very difficult. Not just for beginners, even experienced bloggers struggle with it.
Here are some tips to get quality backlinks to your website:
Reach out to influencers and reputable blogs in your industry, and then tell them about specific content on your website that they might want to link.
Write guest posts on other blogs and websites.
Interview influencers and bloggers on your blog. They will likely want to let their users know to come checkout their interview, and you’ll get a backlink.
The easiest way to get a backlink is to add a link to your website on all your social media profiles.
10. Add Images, Charts, Infographs to Create Visually Attractive Content
In step 5, we mentioned that adding images and charts to your articles make it more readable.
Since visual elements are so important, we believe they deserved their own spot on this list.
As human beings, our brain prefers visual elements. We love colors and objects because aesthetics trigger emotional responses in our brains. This makes us more engaged and immersed in our surroundings.
People love looking at infographics because they make information engaging and easy to consume.
Images in your blog posts grab user’s attention and help them focus on not just the visual element but also the text around it.
If you’re just starting out, then it’s important to know that you cannot just use any image you see on the internet. Images are protected by copyright and stealing copyrighted material can have serious consequences.
Ideally, you want to use your own images, graphics, and photographs, but not all bloggers are graphic designers or photographers.
Luckily, there are so many great resources to find royalty free images, and there are even tools that you can use to easily create your own graphics. Here are some helpful resources:
This gives you even more exposure as YouTube itself is the world’s second largest search engine, and a popular social media platform.
There are many ways to easily create video content for your website. Here are few that you can start with:
You can create slideshows of how to tutorials with voice over instructions
You can create screencasts
Record interviews with other bloggers and influencers in your industry
Become a vlogger by adding your own videos shot in selfie mode
For video editing, if you are using Mac, then iMovie is perfectly capable of performing basic video edits. Windows users can use free video editing software like Lightworks or Shotcut for basic editing.
12. Utilize User-Generated Content
User-generated content is basically any content generated on your website as a result of user activity. This includes comments, testimonials, guest posts, user reviews, and more.
User-generated content helps you bring more traffic to your website because it gives users multiple opportunities to participate and get involved.
Users are more likely to return, share, and even purchase from your website when they spend more time on it.
There are many different kinds of user-generated content that you can add. You need to choose what works best for your blog and start from there.
13. Keep Your Website Design Clean and Clutter Free
There are a lot of great WordPress themes available on the market. The problem is that many beginners want to use a theme with all the bells and whistles. These themes are not always the perfect design for your website.
Bad website design stops your users from spending more time on your blog which decreases your pageviews.
Whereas a good design helps them discover more content, explore different sections, and spend more time.
Numbers are brain candy. Share your social media counts, email list subscriber counts, and other numbers as social proof.
Don’t worry if your numbers aren’t as big as other successful blogs, they are still powerful social proof.
24. Monitor Social Media
People are asking questions all the time on social media websites like Twitter. Set up alerts to monitor keywords on social media and then jump into conversations to answer their questions with a link back to a relevant article on your website.
You can also monitor social media websites for your brand name, links, conversations, and more.
After you have started creating content and promoting it, you need to track how well each content is performing. Furthermore, which keywords is it ranking for.
You can do this with a tool called, Google Search Console. It is a free tool provided by Google that helps you see how your website is doing in Google Search. We have a complete Google Search Console guide that will teach you how to use this immensely powerful tool, like a Pro.
Next, you would want to monitor your competitor websites. Google Search Console will not tell you who is ranking higher than you and why.
For that, you’ll need tools SEMRush and Ahrefs. Using either of these tools, you can get detailed insights into your competitors, their top keywords, and what you need to do to outrank them.
26. Track Your Website Traffic and User Engagement
Now that you have started getting some traffic, you need to know where your users are coming from, and what they do when they are on your website. Without this data, you cannot evaluate your strategy or plan your next moves.
Knowing this data helps you double down on what’s working, and stop doing what’s not.
27. Continue Learning Online Marketing and SEO
These tips will help you increase your blog traffic and continue getting more subscribers.
However as your blog grows, you need to learn more ways to grow your business.
WPBeginner is the largest WordPress resource site. We regularly publish tutorials on online marketing and SEO. We have a YouTube Channel as well, where you can learn more about WordPress, growing your blog, and SEO.
OptinMonster Blog is another great resource that you would want to follow. OptinMonster is the best conversion optimization software on the market. Their blog is where they regularly publish articles on how to get more traffic, subscribers, and sales.
Google has introduced a new WordPress plugin which brings insights from Google tools to users’ dashboards.
Site Kit by Google allows users to access information in Search Console, Analytics, AdSense, and PageSpeed Insights from the WordPress admin panel.
“With Site Kit installed, WordPress users can access unified insights and Google product capabilities directly from the WordPress admin panel. Where it is helpful, Site Kit will also provide deep links into Google products for advanced reports and product configuration capabilities.”
Google will release Site Kit to beta testers in early 2019. Those who are interested in the plugin can sign up for the beta version here.
Site Kit doesn’t add any new insights that are not already available in Google’s tools, but it does make them easier to access.
For example, users can navigate to a page on their website and click on the Site Kit button in the admin panel to see stats for that specific page.
The plugin will also notify users when they’ve hit publishing milestones and show combined stats for the most recently published posts.
Google plans to expand Site Kit’s capabilities and integrations in the future based on feedback from beta testers.
While most traditional marketing tactics (for the most part) still hold true in digital marketing today, SEO changes have quite drastically changed the landscape.
Most, if not all, of these changes have helped improve the web – and search, in particular.
Yet, some people still cling to the “old ways” and try to use outdated SEO practices to improve their brand’s organic search visibility and performance.
Some of the tactics worked a few years ago, but now just aren’t as effective as they used to be.
Yet many novice marketers and/or small business owners are still using these “zombie” SEO techniques (tactics that should be dead, but aren’t for some godforsaken reason).
Not only are they ineffective, but many of the 12 outdated SEO practices below are potentially dangerous to the well-being of your brand, websites, and other digital properties.
1. Keyword Abuse
There are so many ways webmasters and “marketers” continue to misunderstand keywords’ role in general SEO initiatives, and how they should be used in the day-to-day strategy.
Let’s take a more granular look at specific types of keyword abuse and mismanagement, including irrelevant usage, writing for a specific keyword density, and keyword stuffing.
Irrelevant Keyword Targeting/Confusion
All too often, novice SEO practitioners try and fit their content and messaging within the confines of their keyword research (and not much else).
These “marketers” will shape the content and its metadata to represent keywords it’s not properly aligned with, nor the proper intent of the users conducting the searches for the high-volume keywords being targeted.
This causes brands to likely lose the attention of readers before ever having the chance to communicate a real message with them.
If the keywords marketed for don’t align with the content on the page, the disconnect will hinder the success of content even if it’s otherwise of good quality.
Don’t try to mislead users and direct them to content that is misrepresented by high-volume keywords in order for increased visibility.
Google knows what this looks like, and it can truly be defined as an obsolete SEO practice (as well as a “black hat” technique, in many instances).
Writing for a specific “keyword density,” like many keyword-focused marketing tactics, is just missing the mark.
Google no longer depends on keyword density (or the ratio of specific keyword usage to the overall page copy) to determine whether a webpage is an effective source for answering a search query.
It is so much more advanced than simply crawling for keywords; search engines like Google use a multitude of signals to determine search results.
While keywords remain important to the topics and ideas they represent, they are not the lifeline for ranking for high-value search queries.
The quality of content and how the messaging is delivered are the lifeline for that.
This is probably the oldest trick in the book.
SEO is about keywords, right?
So, loading up our webpages with keywords — especially the same high-value keyword we are aggressively targeting throughout the website — is going to help us show up higher in search, thus outranking out competition?
Search engines have, for a long time, known what keyword stuffing is and what kind of text combinations are unnatural. They notice these as attempts to manipulate search results and demote the content as such.
Back in the day, webmasters trying to game the system would go as far as putting every keyword variation of a high-value keyword in the website footer or, even more sketchily, make those keywords the same color as the site’s background, effectively hiding them from humans but not the search engine crawlers.
Remember, you’re writing for humans, not search engines.
2. Writing for Robots
It’s important to understand that writing unnatural is, well, not natural.
And search engines know it.
The belief is: writing for the web means we should repeat a subject by its proper name every time it is mentioned, working in variations and plural/non-plural versions of the word so that “all bases are covered.”
When crawled, the crawlers see the keyword repeated, and in several different versions, thus leading the page to rank well for the keyword variations used (over and over … and over again).
This isn’t going to work anymore.
Search engines are advanced enough to understand repeated keywords, their variations, and the unfavorable experience of generally bad content.
Write for humans, not search engine crawlers or any other robot.
3. Article Marketing & Article Directories
Any attempt to game the system doesn’t usually work out in the world of SEO.
But that doesn’t stop people from trying.
Especially when these tactics offer noticeable improvements to a brand, its website, and/or its associated digital properties.
Sure, article directories worked. And they worked pretty darn good for a long time, too.
Commonly considered one of earliest forms of digital marketing, article syndication was low-hanging fruit to those in the know. And it made sense since the idea was similar to other channels like TV and print that already use syndicated content regularly.
But Google eventually caught on, unleashing its game-changing Panda update in 2011.
Panda chewed up the search landscape, targeting content farms and directories, as well as other websites offering crap content (whether it was simply bad/false, horribly written, makes no sense, or stolen from someone else).
The idea behind article marketing doesn’t make sense in today’s world, where your high-quality content needs to be original and demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
4. Article Spinning
Typically done with software, article spinning is the black-hat tactic of trying to recreate quality content using different words, phrases, and organization.
Essentially the end result was a garbled mess of an article that made the same points as the source material.
This one is still biting webmasters many years later.
Like most SEO tactics, if it seems shady, you probably shouldn’t do it.
Buying links is no different.
Once upon a time, it was routine practice to quickly pay to get a high volume of links pointing at your site.
Now we now that backlink profiles need to be maintained and optimized just like the websites we oversee, and low-quality domains with far too many backlinks pointing to a website may be dangerous to a website’s health.
Google can easily identify low-quality sites, and it will also identify when those sites are sending an abundance of links out that they shouldn’t be.
Today if you want to legitimately help boost the authority and visibility of your website, you need to earn links, not pay someone to build them manually.
6. Anchor Text
Internal linking is a characteristic of any good site structure and user experience.
This is typically done with anchor text, an HTML element that allows us to tell users what type of content they can expect if they click on a link.
There are various types of anchor text (branded, naked, exact-match, website/brand name, page title and/or headline, etc.), but some have most certainly become more favorable than others, depending on the usage and situation.
In the past, using exact-match and keyword-rich anchor text were standard SEO best practices.
This goes back to the Golden Rule about producing well-constructed content that is user-friendly and natural.
If you’re optimizing for search engines and not humans, you’re likely going to fail.
7. Obsolete Keyword Research Tactics
Keywords have certainly gone through some drastic changes over the last five to 10 years.
Marketers used to have a plethora of keyword-level data at their fingertips, allowing us to see what works well for our brand and what doesn’t, but also to get a better understanding of idea targeting and user intent.
In the years following, tools popped up that tried to replicate keyword data. But to fully recreate it correctly is simply impossible.
And yet, even with that now-stripped keyword data, marketers are required to do keyword research of their own to get an understanding of the industry, the competition, the geographic region, etc.
To do this, many marketers turn to Google’s free Keyword Planner. While the data in there has been subject to some scrutiny over the years, it’s a free Google-owned product that gives us data we previously couldn’t really come by, so many of us continue to use it (myself included).
But it’s important to remember what the data actually represents for keywords.
“Competition” in the Keyword Planner pertains solely to paid competition and traffic, thus it is practically useless to build an organic search strategy around this data.
Some alternatives to this are the Moz Keyword Explorer tool and SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, both of which are paid tools.
Google Trends is helpful for this type of competitive analysis, too, and it’s free.
8. Pages for All Keyword Variations
This was once a useful tactic to rank well for all the variations of high-value keywords targeted by your brand and its messaging.
Fortunately, algorithm updates like Hummingbird, RankBrain, and others have helped Google understand that variations of the same word are, in fact, all related to the same topic.
The best, most-useful content around these entities should be most visible due to the value it offers users on the topic, not just one variation of the word.
Aside from the fact that this will lead to brutal site self-cannibalization, it makes a website considerably harder to use and navigate since content will be so incredibly similar.
The negative user experience alone is reason enough not to do this. But the added fact that Google knows better than to overlook this practice makes it a no-brainer.
This tactic evolved and eventually helped lead to the inception of many content farms that were targeting traffic solely for their keyword value and visibility.
This was attributed to the “old way” of optimizing a website — for keywords and search engines, rather than users and their intent.
9. Targeting Exact-Match Search Queries
The tactic of targeting exact-match search queries in hopes to rank for those queries solely for the traffic numbers — and not because the search query or its answer actually pertained to the business optimizing for it — became a somewhat popular practice before the full deployment of the Google Knowledge Graph.
Marketers would strive to rank in the top spot for exact-match search queries to trigger a breakout box and an increased click-through rate for their sites.
10. Exact-Match Domains
Having high-value keywords in your URL makes sense. To some extent.
But when it becomes confusing or misleading (i.e., it results in a bad user experience), you have to draw the line.
Considering paying for reviews, getting friends and family to leave reviews, or even a ‘review swap’? Snap out of it! Google Gold Product Expert Jason Brown is here to explain how these schemes could ending up tanking your reviews, and offers some legitimate and proven tactics to generate reviews as alternatives.
Every business wants to increase the number of online reviews that they have. Whether the goal is to have more reviews than the competition, to repair your overall rating or simply to rank in or higher in the map pack, every business is looking into ways to get reviews. But you need to be smart about your strategy or you may find yourself renting reviews.
If Google catches you running an illegal review scheme, and they will, they will delete all of your reviews connected to the review scheme. The FTC also regulates online reviews. Google follows suit and has made review contests a violation of their Terms of Service. Before you stop reading this and say “I won’t get caught,” you need to know that Google receives multiple reports of review schemes every day. Your business could be next.
As a Google My Business Gold Product Expert (formerly the Top Contributor program), I answer business owner’s questions and advise individuals on how to navigate Google My Business issues. On a daily basis, I watch as business after business gets reported for ill-gotten reviews. I’ve seen reports made by marketing professionals, competitors, disgruntled employees, and upset customers.
There is more potential to get caught than there is to hide forever. If you’re like me, and spy on your competition to see what they’re up to, the chances are that one of your many competitors or their marketing company is spying on or monitoring your business.
Review Schemes to Avoid
Review contests are very popular and extremely illegal. The premise of this scheme is to enter the reviewer into a giveaway once they leave a review. I see this a lot with dentists and orthodontists. One dentist ran their review contest twice and both times they were reported to Google.
It doesn’t matter if you say any reviewer can qualify to enter (rather than just positive reviews), the fact that you are offering an incentive for the review violates Google’s TOS and so they will negate the contest.
The dentist in question more than likely received an email from Google advising them to stop the practice, which says “Please note that it is against Google My Business policies to offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.”
I would bet that this email was in the process of being sent as the dentist set up the second review contest.
Discounted or Free Services
You cannot offer a reviewer any discount on services or products in exchange for reviews. One business I’m aware of offered all of their customers a 10% savings on their next purchase for leaving a review, so Google went and deleted two years’ worth of reviews.
I’ve also seen a thread where a business thanked everyone with a free drink after leaving a review. Google deleted over 400 reviews. Those 400 individuals still kept their free drink after their reviews were deleted by Google.
I see review swaps the most in the legal niche. A review swap is basically where “you review me” and “I’ll review you”. I see it a lot when looking at a GMB listings for lawyers. One reviewer, who is also a lawyer, left reviews for several lawyers in different states.
Google’s TOS states, “Your content should reflect your genuine experience at the location and should not be posted just to manipulate a place’s ratings.”
a) don’t reflect a genuine experience
b) are posted to manipulate the ratings
When Google sees reports of these types of reviews, they delete them.
Asking Your Friends and Family for Reviews
This is the worst advice out there and it needs to be stopped. As I stated in ‘review swaps’ above, your friends and family reviews are posted to manipulate your ratings.
I see this a lot: a GMB listing has 7 reviews, all posted 8 months ago, and new reviews ever get posted. Potential customers want to see fresh and relevant reviews. Customers want to know how the business currently is and not how they were a year ago.
Review-gating is not a new policy, but Google has just reiterated their stance on this practice. Review-gating is when a customer fills out a survey and, if they score high enough, they are asked to post a review online, but if the customer scores the business too low, they are asked to provide private feedback only.
When Google receives reports of businesses review-gating, they delete all of their reviews (not just the ones deemed to violate TOS). Your reputation management tool provider doesn’t get dinged, the business’ GMB listing does. They keep your money while all of your reviews are deleted and gone forever.
Remember that you can’t stop an upset customer from posting negative feedback online. They will find a way to share their experience online. You also need negative feedback so that you can grow and improve your business, and also to make your review profile more believable. (100+ 5-star reviews? Something’s up there.).
Receiving reviews is like going to the doctor for a check-up. The doctor will tell you all the positives and the areas you need to improve upon. If your doctor doesn’t inform you that you need to lower your cholesterol, they are doing you a disservice. You also can’t completely stop an upset customer from sharing their feedback. If they are upset enough, they might report you to Google.
What to Do Instead
All of the above review schemes simply don’t work long-term. While they may have quick results, they merely open up your business to a possible fine from the FTC and review deletion from Google.
Google will and does email businesses involved in illegal review schemes. This is not the attention you want from Google. If you give away a television or an iPad to solicit reviews and Google deletes all of your reviews, you’ll realize you just rented reviews for a short time. It would have been cheaper to sign up for BrightLocal’s new Reputation Management tool.
If an iPad costs $329 USD and BrightLocal’s reputation tool costs $8 USD, a business could safely request reviews for 41 months. That is almost 2 years’ worth of legitimate Google My Business reviews that will remain and won’t be deleted by Google.
When it comes to reviews, I tell all new brick and mortar businesses that they should be getting 5 to 10 new reviews per month. This really isn’t that hard if you train your staff to listen to your customers. If a customer says how great the service is, ask them to share that feedback online and leave your business a Google review.
If a business gets 10 customers a day, that’s 50 to 70 people per week. The odds are in your favor to get at least one of those customers to leave you a review online. It’s the law of averages and it will work out in your favor. You and your staff just need to ask.
You can run a contest among your employees to see who can get the most reviews. This can also get your employees to start focusing more on their customer service skills and the level of service they provide. After all, how are you going to get a review if you don’t ask for it?
Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Reviews
Reviews are about the customer experience. They should never be looked at as “I need X amount of reviews to rank higher, have more reviews than my competitor or to repair my reputation”. That’s the incorrect thinking businesses have when it comes to reviews and that thinking is a recipe for disaster.
If you have a “5 stars or bust” mentality, then when your business gets that one negative review (and it will) it will really upset you. I often see business owners get very distraught over one negative review. They plead their case on the Google My Business forum on how:
it’s not fair
we have nothing but 5-star reviews
it’s not a customer
we have no record of the person
it has to be a competitor
…and so they respond in a rude and unprofessional manner to the review publicly.
A negative review is an opportunity to plead your case and get the customer to contact you to resolve the complaint. Google notifies the reviewer of your reply too.
The goal of your reply is to persuade the user to contact you and work out a resolution. As consumers are reading more reviews, they are also reading the replies to reviews. If you sound angry in your reply, it will do more harm than good, and that reviewer will not contact you to resolve the issue.
The bottom line is that your business needs customers to stay in business. If you’re not monitoring your reviews and replying in a polite and professional manner, your potential customers will go elsewhere.
You need to take a deep and serious look at your reviews and address any areas customers are not happy with. One business I have been monitoring for two years officially closed in October 2018. They never addressed the underlying causes of their negative reviews. Instead, they focused on a review scheme to combat the negative reviews. It didn’t work the restaurant wasn’t saved.
Review schemes will not work for your business either. To quote my favorite line from the movie Shawshank Redemption,
Depending on your business, there are a number of different campaigns you could run during the holiday season.
The type of campaign you decide to run will depend on the products and services you offer, and the audience you’re trying to reach. You will also need to consider the type of results you’re looking for, and your overall goals for the upcoming season. Constant Contact email marketing and the new Facebook Ads have been most successful.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of possible campaigns you can try out.
Offer a coupon
The key to a great offer is that it’s compelling enough to get people to act. You can add a coupon to any email and let customers redeem in-store or online.
Contests are a great way to engage your audience and can help generate buzz during the holiday season. Come up with a prize that your customers will love, and encourage them to enter by providing their email address.
No matter how strong your allegiance to Android or iPhone is, you’ll probably agree that the worst thing about Android phones and iPhones is battery life. Yes, most of the new phones will get you through the day, and the advantage is clearly on Android, as some vendors have equipped their devices with massive battery packs. But battery life is never enough, especially as the battery degrades over time. Thankfully, Google just told us how to improve battery life on certain Android and most of the new iPhones, admitting a mistake in Android design in the process.
It turns out it’s something as easy as switching to dark mode whenever possible. That’s something smartphone-savvy users have long suspected, that dark mode will help conserve battery life. There is a caveat, however. The screen has to be an OLED one. But that’s absolutely not a problem these days, as most of the flagship devices out there pack OLED screens, premium iPhone X versions included.
Google shared data about energy consumption on phones at this week’s Android Dev Summit, SlashGear reports.
The company studied energy consumptions on phones with white and dark themes and concluded that at max brightness, the dark mode on OLED always wins. With OLED screens, each pixel lights up independently, which is why dark mode helps preserve battery life.
Google also showed a comparison between the original Pixel and the iPhone 7 which is self-explanatory, as long as you’re aware of the screen differences between the two devices. OLED, on the original Pixel, does consume less power on dark mode compared to the iPhone 7, which has an LCD.
All Pixels since the Pixel 3 come with OLED screens, as do Samsung flagship devices like the Galaxy S or Note, and Apple’s iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. But you won’t really find true dark modes for any of them.
Even Google admitted that it was wrong to impose white as the predominant color for Material Design apps. Apple’s iPhone UI, meanwhile, is also heavy on white, and there’s no dedicated dark mode on iPhone either. Interestingly, Apple launched a dark mode for Mac, although all Macs have LCD screens, which means it won’t help with battery life. Samsung phones, meanwhile, will get a dark mode via the One UI update, but not all its phones are eligible for it.
Just because Google told us how easy it is to “fix” battery life on OLED smartphones, doesn’t mean we’re getting dark modes from either Google or Apple anytime soon. But there may be independent apps that may offer users dark modes, with YouTube being one such example.
As quickly as one technology trend arrives, there is another one right behind it, so it is getting increasingly difficult to keep up with all this digital innovation that is readily available at our fingertips.
In the last twenty years, we have gone from the very early stages of mobile phone usage to a world where we can do our grocery shopping with a few clicks on a smartphone. The capabilities of the Internet seem endless and the stats show us just how much impact the Internet has had over the last few years.
This infographic reveals some very interesting digital information that might surprise you. For example, did you know that across the world there are over 4 billion Internet users? A massive 2 billion of that population is located in Asia and there are now 3.2 billion social media users (as of Jan 1st, 2018).
It is hard to imagine a world without the Internet now that it has become so integral to our daily routines. Social media is not just a way for people to connect with friends; it is also a strong business marketing channel with 90% of businesses now actively using social media.
Watching videos on YouTube has become a regular hobby for all generations and particularly the younger generations. There are now more than 1.5 billion YouTube users worldwide and anyone can quickly record a video using their smartphone or create their own tutorial on a webcam.
52.2% of website traffic is now via mobile phones and we have seen changes in website development to reflect this by making websites more mobile friendly. In 2018 over a billion voice search queries per month were recorded and this is a trend that is expected to continue through 2019.
ESET found what’s known as a UEFI rootkit, which is a way to gain persistent access to a computer that’s hard to detect and even harder to clean up, on an unidentified victim’s machine. The technique isn’t unheard of; researchers have explored proofs of concept in the past and leaked files have indicated that both the CIA and the independent exploit-focused company Hacking Team have had the capability. But evidence that it has happened, in the form of malware called LoJax, represents a significant escalation in the Fancy Bear—which ESET calls Sednit—toolkit.
In a Flash
If “LoJax” sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because you might recall LoJack—formerly known as Computrace—security software that lets you track your laptop in the event of theft. LoJack turns out to be potent stuff. It sits in a computer’s firmware, making regular calls back to a server to announce its location. Crucially, that also means you can’t get rid of it by reinstalling your operating system or swapping in a new hard drive.
“It allows the attacker to take over the machine and download whatever they want.”
RICHARD HUMMEL, ARBOR NETWORKS
That’s an intentional security feature: If someone steals your computer, you want to make it as hard as possible for them to evade detection. But it also presents a unique opportunity to bad actors, as outlined in a 2016 presentation at a security conference called Zero Nights, and again in more detail this May by researchers at security firm Arbor Networks. Essentially, Fancy Bear figured out how to manipulate code from a decade-old version of LoJack to get it to call back not to the intended server, but one manned instead by Russian spies. That’s LoJax. And it’s a devil to get rid of.
“Whenever a computer infected with a UEFI malware boots, it will place the LoJax agent on the Windows file system, so that when Windows boots, it’s already infected with the LoJax agent. Even if you clean LoJax from Windows, as soon as you reboot, the UEFI implant will reinfect Windows,” says Alexis Dorais-Joncas, ESET’s security intelligence team lead.
It is possible to remove LoJax from your system entirely, but doing so requires serious technical skills. “You can’t just restart. You can’t just reinstall your hard drive. You can’t replace your hard drive. You actually have to flash your firmware,” says Richard Hummel, manager of threat intelligence for Arbor Networks. “Most people don’t know how to do that. The fact that it gets into that spot where it’s really difficult to use makes it really insidious.”
Most antivirus scanners and other security products also don’t look for UEFI issues, making it even harder to detect whether malicious code is there. And if it is, you’re in trouble.
“Decade-old software and hardware vulnerabilities are easily exploited by modern attackers, so companies must use good endpoint hygiene best practices including ensuring endpoints and firmware are up-to-date, leveraging anti-malware, and confirming other endpoint protection agents are always present and healthy,” says Dean Ćoza, executive vice president of products at LoJack developer Absolute. “We take the security of our platform extremely seriously, and are working to confirm these issues do not impact our customers or partners.”
The malware ESET observed does not itself actively steal data from an infected device. Think of it not as a robber, but as a door into your house that’s so hidden, you can’t see it even if you pore over every wall. LoJax gives Fancy Bear constant, remote access to a device, and the ability to install additional malware on it at any time.
“In effect, it allows the attacker to take over the machine and download whatever they want,” says Hummel. “They can also use the original intent of the malware, which is to track the location of the infected machines, possibly to specific owners that may be of interest to the attackers.”
“Probably more attacks will take place.”
ALEXIS DORAIS-JONCAS, ESET
Several details about the Fancy Bear UEFI attack remain either vague or unknown. ESET’s Dorais-Joncas confirmed that the device they spotted it on was “infected by several pieces of malware,” and that the hacking group targeted government entities in Europe. They don’t know exactly how Fancy Bear hackers gained access to the victim’s device in the first place, but Dorais-Joncas suggests that they likely followed their typical strategy of a spearphishing attack to gain an initial foothold, followed by movement through a network to locate more high-value targets.
The security firm has more specificity, though, in terms of how exactly Fancy Bear operated once it got that initial control. First, the hackers used a widely available tool to read the UEFI firmware memory, to better understand what specific device they were attacking. Once in possession of that image, they modified it to add the malicious code and then rewrote the infected image back to the firmware memory. The process was not automated, says Dorais-Joncas; a human behind a keyboard went through every step.
Those details offer some hope for future potential victims. Namely, the attackers were only able to write onto the target computer’s firmware in the first place because it was an older device; Intel and others have baked in better protections against that behavior, especially after the Hacking Team and CIA revelations. Using the Windows Secure Boot feature, too, would prevent this type of attack, since it checks to make sure that the firmware image on your computer matches up with the one the manufacturer put there.
“On the other hand,” says Dorais-Joncas, “probably more attacks will take place,” given that Fancy Bear has figured out how to do it successfully. And now that it’s widely known that Fancy Bear did it, copycats may not be far behind.
“Whenever we see these new tactics, it does not take long for other hackers to figure out how they did it and to mimic it,” says Hummel.
Russia’s hackers already have an elaborate hacking toolkit. But the introduction of a UEFI rootkit—stealthy, complex, pernicious—affirms just how advanced their capabilities have become. And more importantly, how hard they are to defend against.
When they gain access to a site, they plant a backdoor for future access and make modifications to the site’s code.
Malwarebytes security researcher Jérôme Segura said this malicious code filters users visiting the compromised sites and redirects some to tech support scams.
While many organizations are guarding the front door with yesterday’s signature-based antivirus (AV) solutions, today’s unknown malware walks out the back door with all their data. What’s the answer? This white paper, “The Rise of Machine Learning…
Segura also said that some of tech support scams that users are landing on are using the “evil cursor” Chrome bug to prevent users from closing the malicious site’s tab, a trick that the researcher first spotted last week.
This WordPress site hijacking campaign appears to have started this month, according to Sucuri, and has intensified in recent days, according to Segura.
Last week, ZDNet revealed that attackers had been scanning the Internet in an attempt to exploit a recent vulnerability in a popular WordPress plugin.
While Sucuri did not find confirmation that this vulnerability was now being used in this recent wave of site hacks, the company did confirm our initial report, based on WordFence’s telemetry.
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