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In this Marketing Nerds episode, SEJ’s Chief Social Media Strategist, Brent Csutoras, was joined by Peter Leshaw, Director of Internet Marketing at MDT Marketing.What Are You Doing with Automation? More Than Just Email
When we’re working for our clients and generating the search-based lead, the person is either going to do a search, land on a landing page, and they’re either going to pick up the phone, they’re either going to chat, or they’re going to fill out a form. That’s the exact order we would prefer to get them engaged initially.
The first most realistic thing that’s going to go back is that email to verify, “Listen, we intend to provide you with information, further information that you’re looking for.”Determining the Tone of Voice
The way to reply is based on the history and the depth of the conversation you’ve already had. For instance, if somebody is applying to fund their invoices, so basically they’re looking for quick cash, the selling points are going to be the interest rates. That’s something that changes quite frequently. In that sense, the tone would be more urgent.
In the case of clients we work with who are working adults looking to a career, so they’re looking to go back to college, you have to be a little more charismatic with them. We realize that they have a job, they might have a family, and that they also have a career.How to Take it to the Next Level
The next point in the process for our line of work would be to schedule an interview with somebody, right? You got to get them. It may be convenient for them to sit behind their desk and find me. They’ve requested information; now I got to get them to physically come into my office. We need to provide them with information, so it is easy for them to make the decision to come into our office.
From there, it’s about okay, you got to give them a little time to breathe. They’ve reached out to you, you’ve reached back to them, you told them what their next steps are. Let’s wait to see how long it’s going to take for them to respond. You might want to now start changing the tone to being a little bit more inspirational than getting them to act. Now they’ve said, okay, they have all the information. They know where you’re located, how to get there, how to schedule the appointment.
Well, what about making sure that that’s the right decision for them? The tone would switch to us, being more for the clients we’re working for, to demonstrate to these prospects that we’re the source that they should go to for this service offering. In that case, we would possibly send out a personalized video that could show them what their future could be. What would happen to their future as far as what that would be if they came on board and extended their career at one of the schools that we’re marketing for.How to Put Together a Personalized Video
What we do is we come up with a storyboard. Just to back up a little bit, the primary focus, and I’m just talking about it as far as an example for this conversation, is our higher education clients, which are career colleges and universities looking for students. In that case, we came up with a storyboard that was in three different segments.
A short video, could be a minute and a half. The video opens up with the entrance to the university or the college; then it shows an individual whether it’s a male or a female and it’s an over-the-shoulder shot of them filling out an application. You’re not really looking at the specifics of who the individual is, but you’re noticing that somebody is filling out an application.
The camera zooms in on an area of that page where they’re putting in their name. That’s a part that we can personalize with their name already filled in. There was a part of the video where we’re handing the diploma to the individual. The individual over another over-the-shoulder shot, you just see somebody taking a diploma, and when they go to look at it, it’s their name with the specific program that they’re interested in signing up for.
Lastly, the video rounds up with “Let’s walk down this hallway.” It’s a wide shot into a hallway and you’re passing by somebody’s nameplate on an office door to show them working or somebody behind a desk. That’s the third area. It’s not a lot, it’s just their name. It would be great if it could be more of their personality or their face, but that might be a little bit creepy and we’re not there yet.
What we’re looking to do is just show them that, “Look, we think that you’d be a great fit. We’re so indebted to that we want to show you and make you visualize what that experience could be.” Really the feelings that they get inside and saying, “Wow, this could have been me. It’s just filling out this simple form, then I can be getting my diploma a year or two from now and then I could be sitting behind a desk.”Are People Influenced by Subtle Personalization?
As marketers, we always want to stand out from our competition. In our space, there are multiple offerings for a similar service in one area and it’s very common to fill out multiple requests for more information in one market. Realistically, they’re going to be inundated with responses from, let’s say they filled out three or four requests for information. I get three or four times, however many touch points are within that campaign. So they could be hit fifty times from just filling out three forms.
Yes, we do feel it makes a difference because video and visuals, storytelling, is the future of content marketing. People enjoy watching videos online. Having something that’s different, having something that’s not only different and personalized definitely resonates with people, especially in our market because we’re trying to paint a picture of their future.
We know that there are many, many tougher decisions that they have to make than just picking up our service, the fact that these are adults balancing life and family, so we want to make it easy to them and we want to give them a visual idea of what they can expect. It goes a long way.The Metrics in Automation
Basically, if we’re tracking, if we’re doing A/B tests on the landing page, that’s just very simple. We use a tool called Unbounce. Unbounce is a great system because we can create a landing page for our client. We run it, we get some data on it, and then we say, “You know what? We’re interested in changing the headline and maybe the header image.” With a tool like Unbounce, you can simply copy that page, change the components on the variation, and launch it splitting the traffic as you want fifty/fifty, sixty/forty, whatever.
You don’t have to change any other programming on the server level because it all goes to the same URL and it’s Unbounce that separates the traffic from A to B. That’s a tool that we use there.Tools Mentioned
UnbounceConnect with Peter
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Email Marketing and Automation Learning Path Improve your email communications and marketing automation using a strategic, data-driven approach and best practices How will this Learning Path help me and my business?
This structured e-learning activity will help you or your team learn how a strategic approach to email marketing communications and targeting can boost audience engagement and sales. You will also learn practical tips and view examples that will help you to optimize your emails to boost response.What is a Learning Path?
Smart Insight’s Learning Paths are our unique interactive online training courses which explain concepts, give examples and test understanding.
Unlike many online e-learning courses, each module is self-contained, so you can quickly access guidance to help improve your marketing activities.
Common modules are shared between Learning Paths to avoid duplication of learning material. You can also complete the full Learning Path to earn a CPDSO certification.
We appreciate finding time for skills development is a challenge. Our Learning Paths enable training to be bite-sized, engaging and – crucially – results orientated. When combined with our suite of templates, you’ll soon be taking your marketing activities to the next level.Accredited learning activities with the Continuing Professional Development Standards Office (CPDSO)
Each Smart Insights Learning Path has been independently assessed and accredited by the CPD Standards Office, so you can be confident that the quality of the learning and assessment experience has been audited and recognized for its quality.Development Objective
Members who successfully complete this Learning Path have the ability to review the current contribution of email marketing and automation to their organization and then create a plan to improve subscriber engagement and value with activities to manage and optimize email sequences as part of the customer journey.
Once you have completed a Learning Path, send an email to [email protected] to request your CPD certificate.Learning Objectives
Make a case for investment in email marketing and automation by reviewing opportunities and understanding marketing automation options.
Forecast email campaign response and programme improvement by defining goals and metrics as well as auditing current effectiveness against benchmark performance.
Review techniques to grow subscribers, increase subscriber engagement and improve email list quality.
Improve lead nurture, reactivation emails and integration of SMS marketing.
Review lifecycle automation options and the use of segmentation, targeting and creative optimization to improve the response of different email and newsletter formats.
Create and agree an email contact strategy and policy and improve pre-broadcast processes and checklists based on best times and frequency for broadcast.How is the Learning Path structured?
The Learning Path is separated into these topics and modules:Topic 1 – Discover email marketing and automation opportunities
Review opportunities for using email for acquisition and retention
Understand marketing automation opportunities
Audit email effectivenessTopic 2 – Setting targets for email marketing
Goal setting for email
Review techniques to grow and improve email subscription lists
Benchmarking email performanceTopic 3 – Improving your use of email and SMS marketing
Review your use of different email types
Essential email design elements
Improve email copywriting
Create an effective e-newsletter
Test and optimize subject line effectiveness
Define data capture and profiling
Review and improve mobile email effectiveness
Integrated SMS marketingTopic 4 – Segmentation and targeting for email
Segmentation and targeting
Understand the principles of machine learning and AITopic 5 – Email frequency and contact strategy
Review email lifecycle automation options
Create an email contact strategy
Lead scoring and gradingTopic 6 – Improve email governance
Privacy law requirements for digital communications
Select an email supplier
Auditing and improving email deliverabilityRoles who will find this Learning Path useful
Company owners and directors working for smaller businesses
Digital marketing managers, executives and specialists responsible for email marketing
Consultants or agency account managers
Cyber attacks are growing in frequency and complexity, due to factors like a higher number of expert malicious actors, more distributed workforces and technologies to protect, and an increase in devices and users that can unknowingly act as attack gateways.
Although there’s no way to guarantee that an organization will stay safe from a cyber attack, several physical and technical safeguards can be established to better protect network data.
Read on to learn about how your team can stay up-to-date with the latest tools and knowledge to arm themselves against the next major cybersecurity threat.
Readers also read: Top 10 Cybersecurity Threats
Zero trust, the tools and practices behind the idea of “trusting no one and verifying everything,” is quickly becoming the most affordable and crucial part of cybersecurity efforts. Zero trust has even reached federal policy levels in the U.S., with President Joe Biden signing an executive order in May 2023 to increase national cybersecurity efforts through zero trust, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and improved encryption.
Many enterprise leaders have developed misconceptions about what zero trust means and what the security approach entails. Jim Taylor, chief product officer at SecurID, an identity and access management (IAM) company, explained what zero trust actually means when enterprises get it right:
“‘Zero trust tends to be thrown around quite a bit by marketers, so businesses should be warned: Zero trust isn’t a product, feature, or service,” Taylor said. “Instead, it’s a goal to strive toward. It’s a way of thinking, not a product. Risk isn’t the trade off we make in pursuit of convenience: It’s just a bad practice, full stop. If there’s no valid reason to expose an asset, then you simply shouldn’t, … [but] don’t get too swept up in trying to achieve true zero trust. Instead, use a risk-based approach to map the frequency, likelihood, and impact of a given event and prioritize the highest-value threats.”
Babur Khan, a technical marketing engineer for A10, a cloud and 5G network security company, believes that zero trust is an important component of cybersecurity but that it works best in combination with SSL inspection.
“SSL inspection provides in-depth traffic examination as well as detection and amelioration of malicious requests, monitoring data entering and leaving networks for analytics, and protecting against DDoS attacks, to name a few,” Khan said. “President Biden’s executive order is the most far-reaching cybersecurity infrastructure and cyberattack prevention strategy the federal government has ever put forward and its promotion of zero-rust architecture is the only practical and effective foundation for all of its goals. Adding SSL inspection completes the architecture and ensures, unlike our traditional brick-and-mortar bridges, that our cybersecurity and cyberattack prevention foundations are future-proofed.”
Getting started with zero trust: Steps to Building a Zero Trust Network
Your organization’s most frequently used apps more than likely include the remnants of users, permissions, and dated security approaches that make those tools vulnerable to attack. It’s important to check how all of those applications are configured and monitor who has access and when and how they use that access.
“The first step to keeping Active Directory secure is to ensure all aspects of AD that can be compromised are properly secured,” Melber said. “This includes users, attributes, groups, group members, permissions, trusts, Group Policy-related settings, user rights, and much more.
“A good example would be to require strong authentication on service accounts and actively manage the groups they are in. Part of this means mandating multi-factor authentication for all users. Enforce the principle of least privilege across all endpoints to prevent lateral movement, blocking default administration, denying access from a built-in local administrator account and avoiding many of the built-in groups, which have too many permissions.”
A large number of successfully launched cyber attacks make it into enterprise networks through the unknowing actions of an authorized user, usually due to a phishing email. Enterprises can’t ensure they’ll catch every instance in which a user falls victim to phishing, but they can add additional security measures to email and other applications that turn users into a gateway for external actors.
Mike Spanbauer, senior director and technology evangelist for Juniper Networks, a major global networking company, believes efforts in communications-based security are crucial to protecting your users and their network actions:
The majority of enterprise employees not only use corporate equipment for work activities, but also use personal mobile devices to check email, open collaborative documents, and perform other actions that can expose sensitive company data.
Spanbauer with Juniper Networks said the best way to make sure that personal mobile devices do not expose the network to unnecessary threats is to establish and enforce a mobile device and data management plan.
“Mobile technologies continue to gain in processing and data-gathering power, but many companies still employ a bring your own device policy,” Spanbauer said. “This is fine, so long as the resources these devices can access are sufficiently gated, and the networks they can access are restricted and robustly monitored. A proven master data management solution is always a good option. Effective inspection of the guest network can also help to prevent the spread of threats from device to device as well as to protect the organization from potential harm.”
Also read: Cybersecurity Market 2023
Employees often have trouble remembering their user access credentials, and to try to make it easier, they use simple passwords and store their information in unsecured places. Bad password habits expose enterprise networks to large amounts of risk, making it possible for malicious actors to steal credentials from any number of users.
As a result of the many cyber attacks based on credential theft, experts like Taylor from SecurID encourage companies to find passwordless and user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) strategies for user account security.
“One way to address [remote worker security vulnerabilities] is with modern security principles, including passwordless, device-based, risk-based, and UEBA,” Taylor said. “These modern techniques and technologies increase security and improve the user experience. By simply having your phone in your pocket and performing a task in the same way you always have, you create a cybersecurity stance for users that’s far easier than asking them to remember a complex password — and far more secure as well.”
No matter how much security infrastructure you put into place, every network will still have some vulnerabilities that can eventually be targeted by a hacker. Most enterprises make the mistake of only responding to these events reactively, handling the security problem as it comes but not doing any additional work, training, or policy development to prepare for other attacks.
Dave Martin, VP of extended detection and response at Open Systems, a global cybersecurity company, believes that companies need to start by updating their incident response plan and actually putting it into practice.
“Seconds count during a breach, and you cannot afford to lose precious time that should be spent responding to a successful attack in a coordinated and impactful fashion,” Martin said.
In partnership with the policy development and training that comes with creating an incident response plan, it’s important to also have regular monitoring and security auditing in place to catch minor issues before they turn into major ones.
Martin with Open Systems explained the importance of getting your people and processes accustomed to a monitoring and auditing workflow:
“Preventive security technologies such as firewalls, antivirus, proxies, multi-factor authentication, and more are necessary, but they are not sufficient,” Martin said. “The threat actor landscape has evolved from simply developing malicious software to now including the sophisticated weaponization of that software, using trusted delivery methods to obscure malicious activity.
“The only way to know if your prevention layer is working is to have security experts continuously monitoring all potential attack surfaces using best practices and repeatable processes to detect and respond to threats. Many organizations take a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ approach to the prevention layer, and as a result, continuous monitoring has emerged as an essential ingredient to minimize risk by providing an important feedback loop. Security is a journey, not a destination.”
More on network audits: Creating a Network Audit Checklist
Data security is a key point of greater cybersecurity principles, and data governance ensures that the right data receives needed protections.
Will Bass, VP of cybersecurity at Flexential, an IT and data center management solutions company, believes that strong data governance involves reviewing data at the source and protecting people from unnecessary data access on a continual basis.
“Organizations keep too much data for too long,” Bass said. “Sensitive data is a target for bad actors that increases organizational risk.
“Reducing this threat requires good data governance practices, such as deleting any data that is not required to provide their services or meet a regulatory requirement. Deleting unneeded sensitive data in the environment not only reduces the risk of a compromise, but also decreases IT costs by reducing the infrastructure footprint and narrowing the scope for privacy and other regulatory requirements.”
Especially in the era of big data, it can be challenging to distinguish between unneeded data and data to protect. But Seth Cutler, CISO at NetApp, a large data management and cloud company, believes that some of these data management best practices are a good place to start:
“Looking at the sheer volume of data that companies are having to manage, store, retrieve, protect, and backup,” Cutler said. “As this [data] continues to grow, so too does the cybersecurity implications of data overload.
“With this, developing strategies for data life cycle management, data privacy compliance, data governance, and data protection are critical. … To help remedy data overload, companies should consider data classification, data tagging, and development of clear guidance and policies on data retention.”
More on data governance: Data Governance Trends 2023
Companies tend to invest most of their time and finances into the right cybersecurity infrastructure and tools, often overlooking the importance of training all teammates on how they can protect themselves and the company from security threats.
Bass from Flexential said it is the organization’s responsibility to train all users on common social engineering attacks and phishing practices.
“Humans pose the biggest threat to keeping an organization safe,” Bass said. “With the perimeter becoming increasingly secure, bad actors are jumping the perimeter by socially engineering employees, using techniques such as phishing, vishing, and spear phishing to gain a foothold inside of organizations.
“To combat this threat, organizations should educate their staff to recognize the signs of a social engineering attempt and what to do if they suspect an attempt is being made against them. Organizations should also run regular exercises using these methods as a learning experience for their staff, to understand the risk posed by their user base and reduce the risk posed by social engineering.”
Although automation is not the answer for all cybersecurity problems, artificial intelligence (AI)- and machine learning (ML)-powered tools make it much easier to set security monitoring and other quality controls into action in the cloud.
James Campbell, CEO and co-founder of Cado Security, a cloud-native digital forensics company, believes cloud security automation is one of the most time- and cost-effective ways to secure distributed networks.
“Incorporating automation into the cloud investigation journey is essential to reducing the amount of time, resources, and money that’s required to understand the root cause, scope, and impact of an incident,” Campbell said. “With the amount of data that sits in the cloud today, organizations require the ability to automatically capture and process data at cloud speed and scale.
“Security teams shouldn’t have to worry about working across multiple cloud teams, access requirements, or the fact that their investigation spans multiple cloud platforms, systems, and regions. While all of these complexities have historically dragged out the start of their investigation or completely halted it from ever happening, automation flips the script by reducing the complexity and time required to conduct investigations.”
Read next: Key Cybersecurity Trends 2023
Every successful project relies on effective project budget management. Maintaining focus, averting shocks, and eventually completing projects that exceed expectations are essential. With effective budget management, you’ll have the plan to follow, a way to gauge your success, and assurance from knowing everything is in order.What is a Project Budget?
Project budgeting establishes the overall amount of money used for the project. The project manager and/or the project management team have calculated the budget. The budget is a projection of all the expenses that will likely be needed to finish the project.
Budgets are crucial for securing the project, supporting key stakeholders, and setting expectations. A budget also guarantees that the necessary finances are accessible and aids in performance evaluation for the team. The document defining the budget’s specifics throughout the project should be followed, updated, and evaluated.Why is Project Budgeting So Important?
Project Budgets are vital communication tools. They encourage open communication between the project team and important stakeholders. It is an important component of project management crucial to success. The following are some of the main reasons why project budgeting is vital −
Setting Financial Boundaries − A project budget establishes the financial parameters for a project and aids in determining the limitations of what can be accomplished with the resources at hand.
Monitoring Progress − A project budget is a road map for monitoring development and spotting departures from the original strategy. This makes it easier for project managers to respond quickly to problems and keep the project moving forward.
Managing Costs − Project budgeting aids in cost management by ensuring efficient resource usage and giving a clear picture of project expenditures. Additionally, it aids in reducing waste and the danger of overpaying.
Allocating Resources − Project budgeting helps project managers to effectively and efficiently allocate resources, such as persons, equipment, and materials.
Facilitating Decision-Making − Project managers have access to the data they need to make well-informed choices regarding the distribution of resources and risk management from a well-defined project budget.Top Tips On How to Manage Project Budgets Establish the Budget with the Participating Team
Be prepared to include the team in charge of the project’s execution when estimating expenses. Get feedback from all relevant stakeholders since they are the ones who are aware of even the smallest cost that should be included in the final buildups. This is crucial to providing a value quote.
The budget situation must also be known to the whole team. Keep the project team up to date on the projected budget. A strong team that takes responsibility for its initiatives is well-informed. Transparency will be achieved by informing the team about the budget situation and soliciting their opinions to prevent further misunderstanding.Track the use of Resources
The cost of labor will be one of your project’s highest costs. It will also include tools and technologies. Successful project management relies on continuously managing your resources, just as you would your budget. Review the number of employees working on your project regularly, and if you are going over budget, change your strategy. The same is true of your technology stack.
You can utilize the resources for your project efficiently if you take the time to evaluate them. It will also enable you to determine if more resources are required to complete your project effectively.Recognize the Actual Needs and Requirements of the Stakeholders
It’s not always as easy to understand upfront what stakeholders say they need or desire from a project. Undefined aims and expectations on both sides of the table may result from this. Imagine that the project manager, sponsors, team members, and suppliers are unaware of the genuine preferences of the stakeholders. Under such a situation, determining the project’s needs is impossible.
Spend as much time as is necessary to have a comprehensive grasp of what stakeholders anticipate. Ultimately, stakeholder expectations, deliverables, and other needs determine everything, even the budget. So, ensuring that project needs are precisely defined, recorded, and validated with all stakeholders — and that they are communicated to all parties involved — is the first step to an efficiently managed project budget.Hold onto your Project’s Focus
There is a propensity for some unanticipated work to enter your timetable for every project. This “scope creep” may significantly change the project’s emphasis, eventually failing its budget and the project itself. It’s crucial to often remind team members of your project’s initial goal to lower your danger of scope creep.
Unscoped work ultimately results in billable hours. Also, it can need outside assistance, brand-new equipment, or other resources. You’ll almost certainly overpay if you haven’t planned for this in your budget.
Of course, taking unforeseen changes into account is crucial for any project you oversee. Stay adaptable and open to change without worrying that your project won’t succeed if you budget for it.Make a Budget for Every Stage of your Project
While establishing a budget for each project phase, consider labor and material expenses. Salaries for project workers and any subcontractors required at certain phases are included in labor expenses (such as web designers during development). Office supplies, furniture rentals, and other items needed for each project phase are included in the material expenses.Communicate with your Employees
A project is only as good as the team working on it, and a team with poor communication will almost certainly overspend. Keeping your team updated on the project’s budget projection will promote responsibility and efficiency. Promote open communication to increase project ownership. Employees will generate excellent work if they are invested in the success of a project.Monitor and Manage Change with Precision
One of the most underrated aspects of project management is change management. Project management experts know the value of communication and how procedures affect stakeholders. A small adjustment might result in major cost increases and budgetary problems in any process. The specific solutions to deal with internal and external changes that may cause expenses to exceed budget should be identified, documented, and communicated by change management professionals in collaboration with project teams.Bottom Line
Budgeting for a project is a difficult process. Budget issues are mostly caused by either overestimating or underestimating how long it will take to complete your project. You can estimate the project’s cost by knowing how long each component will take. It’s difficult to keep expenses down, keep employees on track, complete your project within scope, and, more crucially, under budget, without defined funding in place and without continuously monitoring your expenditure and your resources.
As we pointed out in our article, Machine Learning Lifecycle MLOps systems have a lifecycle that includes various processes, and despite all the effort and time, creating an effective MLOps is not guaranteed. According to McKinsey, only 36% of companies can deploy MLOps. If the model deployment process is successful, the longest cycle in the life of a ML process, model monitoring, can begin.What is model monitoring?
Model monitoring refers to the control and evaluation of the performance of an ML model to determine whether or not it is operating efficiently. When the ML model experiences some performance decay, appropriate maintenance actions should be taken to restore performance. You can think of the process as bringing your car in for maintenance from time to time and changing the vehicle’s tires or oil for better performance.Why is model monitoring important?
Many companies make their strategic decisions based on ML applications. However, the performance of ML models degrades over time. This can lead to nonoptimal decisions for the company, which simply end up with performance degradation, profit or revenue declines, etc.
To prevent such a devastating effect, companies should consider the ML model’s performance threshold as a KPI that must always be met. Consequently, they should monitor their ML models regularly.What are the reasons for ML model degradation over time?
Changing input data is the main reason why ML models degrade over time. Input data may change due to:
The environment that ML predicts is constantly changing, so ML models should adapt to the new environment.
Operating data in the pipeline may change over time.Changing environment
ML algorithms predict the future or optimize processes based on data from the time in which the model is established. Consequently, the algorithms solve business problems according to the parameter values of that time interval. However, the environment we live in is constantly changing and so are the parameter values. Therefore, for effective interpretation of the data, the models must be updated according to the changes in the environment.
Let’s take the case of a chatbot, for example. We know that language is constantly changing. That is why it is difficult to understand Shakespearean English compared to today’s English. The words we use are also constantly changing. Some words we used a decade ago might be considered rude descriptors today. As a result, a chatbot designed a decade ago to maximize customer satisfaction could be giving customers unsafe times if left unmonitored.Changing operational data
Time to time the operational data that is used in the pipeline might be changed. It is very common since the data engineering team has a limited control over where the input data comes from. The reason for that might occur due to dynamics of the business or new business decisions of the firm. Also, regulations might be the reason for such a change.
Let’s imagine a company in Hungary that sells imported goods from the USA. Today, Hungary uses the Hungarian forint as its national currency, which means that fluctuations in the forint compared to the U.S. dollar affect operational efficiency. However, a few years later, Hungary might use the Euro as its currency, which is subject to different fluctuations compared to the forint. Consequently, the upstream data should be adjusted accordingly.What should companies monitor for healthy ML models?
In order to ensure effective working of ML models firms can check the following variables:
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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WordPress is one of the most flexible open source Content Management Systems (CMS) in the world.
So it’s no surprise that WordPress has been downloaded more than 32.6 million times or that it powers 40% of all websites.
WordPress is also SEO-friendly, to the point where even non-techies can easily implement some simple optimization techniques. This is great news for small local businesses which may not have the budget for sweeping SEO improvements, but still want to rank better in local search.
In this article, I’ll show you seven simple SEO improvements you can make to boost the local search ranking of your WordPress site.1. Optimize Your Content
Your content offerings are the most important assets on your website. Having a great site structure, lightning-fast load times, and tons of security measures won’t help you if your content isn’t up to par.
So, before you can think about optimizing your content, you need to start with something your audience finds valuable.
To do this, you’ll need to understand your audience’s pain points and know how your products solve their problems.
Once you understand this, you can turn your solutions into all sorts of compelling content, from videos to blog posts to infographics, which keep them coming back for more.
Once you have great content, the next step can seem a little daunting: on-page optimization. Fortunately, we can enlist the help of some basic tools like the Yoast SEO plugin.
Yoast SEO also points out some important on-page factors such as word count and keyword occurrences.2. Review Your Link Profile
We know from recent studies that links are still the #1 most important ranking signal when it comes to localized organic rankings.
The number of domains linking to your site, the quality of your backlinks, and the optimization of your link anchor text are all strongly correlated to your local ranking.
Good organic link building takes time to cultivate, but here are a few simple steps you can start with:Focus on Quality Over Quantity
The number of domains, IPs, and C-blocks linking to your site are important, but one high-quality backlink from an industry leader in your niche is worth far more than dozens of irrelevant, low-quality links. Use link tracking software to find and eliminate low-quality links.Find & Fix Broken Links Optimize Anchor Text
Optimize some of your anchor text for local search by including your city’s name. Just be careful not to over-optimize (e.g., changing all of your anchor text, too many exact matches, etc.).
There’s no ideal percentage for location-optimized anchors, so conduct some competitor analysis to figure out what’s generally accepted in your niche.Identify Potential Link Building Opportunities
Use a competitive analysis tool to find potential link building opportunities, such as relevant sites in your industry that link to your competitors but not you.3. Speed up Your Website
The tortoise may beat the hare in children’s tales, but you can’t say the same in the SEO world.
Site speed remains one of Google’s most important “technical” ranking factors, and if you want to beat out your competitors in local search, then you’ll need to make sure that your site is as fast as possible.
Possible techniques include:Compressing Large Images
Large image files are the biggest offender when it comes to slow websites. Use a plugin like WP Smush to compress and optimize your images.Clean up Your WordPress Theme
Caching plugins create state HTML versions of dynamic pages which significantly reduce server load times. There are a number of options for you to consider, including free options such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache, and paid options such as WP Rocket.Don’t Go Too Plugin-Crazy
You can find a plugin for practically any function, but try to stick to essential plugins that provide real value to your site. Too many plugins will slow your site down.
Alternatively, you could make your life easier by investing in website auditing software. Quality products will analyze your on-page speed factors for you and suggest ways to speed your site up.4. Optimize for Mobile
A lot of your potential customers are looking for local businesses via mobile. This, coupled with the fact that Google indexes mobile sites preferentially to their desktop counterparts, means that mobile optimization is more important than ever.
The best thing you can do to improve your mobile site is to focus on page speed and image compression, but here are a few other tips and tricks:Use a Responsive Theme
At the very least, you should make sure your WordPress theme is responsive and fits your content to all mobile devices.Design Specifically for Mobile Visitors
Use the built-in wp_is_mobile() function to detect different devices on the server level and create custom experiences for your mobile visitors.Launch a Mobile App
According to an eMarketer study, 88% of mobile media time is spent on apps. Mobile users like apps that give them a comprehensive way to engage with their favorite brands.Create Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are incredibly fast pages designed specifically for mobile. WordPress comes with a default AMP plugin you can use to create AMP pages that are listed at the top of SERPs when users search from mobile devices.5. Integrate Google My Business Into Your WordPress Site
Google My Business bundles together a number of key factors related to local rankings. Signals such as physical proximity, user reviews, and business descriptions and categories will all impact your position in SERPs.
Once you’ve claimed your GMB page, make sure you add your WordPress site to your profile, plus other key information, such as hours of operation and a description of your business.
Then look for plugins and widgets that will let you transfer key ranking signals such as photos, a business map, and customer reviews from your GMB page to your website.
You should also install a plugin that lets you add your GMB review to your WordPress site, such as the Google Places Reviews plugin. These will help increase consumer trust in your business!
You may also want to consider putting an intractable business map on your website via a plugin or widget. Google Maps Builder is one example that will help your customers find you.6. Add Structured Data to Your Pages
Ever wonder why some local business listings seem so rich – including reviews, star ratings, and robust descriptions – while others fall flat?
The difference is structured data.
Using plugins like Schema, you can feed Google additional information about your business.
This will give your customers more detail when they find you in SERPs, including useful tidbits such as hours of operation, price range, and physical location.7. Include Location Keywords in Your URLs
Generally speaking, URL structure plays a minor role in your page’s ability to rank.
When it comes to local search, however, including location keywords in your URL can help improve the user experience.
This is especially true if you have multiple landing pages targeting different locations and you want to assure your customers that they’re in the right place.
Previous versions of WordPress didn’t give you a lot of flexibility when it came to your URLs. They were all “ugly permalinks,” which looked something like this:
However, the latest versions of WordPress default to “pretty permalinks,” which include the date and name of your posts. They might look like this:Conclusion
Want to take your SEO game even further?
You can make even more improvements to your WordPress site beyond what I’ve suggested here by manually creating chúng tôi files, generating XML sitemaps, optimizing your site structure, and more.
Image Credits: Paulo Bobita
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