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Your Simple Guide to Twitter #Hashtags

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There’s no doubt Twitter has changed the world we live in.

From its launch in July 2006 to its current state 13 years later, the microblogging website has become the ultimate news source, outreach platform, meme supplier, political soapbox, and so, so much more to so many people.

One of the many results of Twitter and its growing popularity was the rise of the hashtag.

Twitter infamously helped create the hashtag in 2007, first used by Chris Messina, which changed not just Twitter, but all of social media – and much of the world around it – in a big way.

What Are Hashtags?

A hashtag is a keyword index tool written with a #, or the pound symbol, at the beginning of a series of space-less keyword sets to refer to a specific topic, idea, or trend.

Hashtags are metadata tags consisting of letters and numbers – excluding spaces and punctuation – that categorize keywords and ideas (typically on social media platforms, like Twitter) by turning them into clickable phrases that are indexed with other, related tweets.

After debuting on Twitter thanks to Messina, hashtags flourished, first on Twitter, then on other social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and even business-oriented LinkedIn.

Hashtags have become a staple on most social media platforms and are embedded in the everyday fabric of social media.

And, thankfully, they’ve made categorization in a world of data overload easier than ever before.

How to Use Hashtags

Hashtags help categorize content among a plethora of information, thus making it easier than ever before to find and sort specific bits of information as they are published across Twitter.

It has become a legitimate source for breaking news, official statements, campaign launches, and even jarring photos and videos that have led to arrests and accusations, as well as other unexpected, unprecedented, and unbelievable interactions.

When using hashtags – either ones that are already trending or trying to kickstart a new one for a specific reason, campaign or idea – there are basic guidelines to using the right one, at the right time, with the right content. This will limit the potential for unintentional blowback, and later, damage control.

Creating a new hashtag and hopping on an existing one are drastically different moves and need to be handled as such. But they’re both helpful and are skills all quality social media marketers (and Twitter users) should understand.

Creating Hashtags

Creating a hashtag can be tricky.

Like most “viral” content on the web, some of the strangest ones will find a way to break through the surface and become a multi-day Twitter trend.

Others will fall to the wayside with very little effort.

Even the best hashtags benefit from influencer piggybacking, overall timing, and general luck to becoming a common trend on Twitter.

In addition to those aspects, you should follow a few other rules when creating a new hashtag if you want it catch on and become popular.

The three most important rules for creating hashtags are:

Keep It Simple

Keeping it simple is the most important aspect when it comes to creating a hashtag.

If it’s too complicated or elaborate, it will likely not catch on.

It also can’t be so vague that it’s impossible to separate it from other, unrelated hashtags with similar keywords or ideas.

Keep It Memorable

Clever hashtags tend to get legs easier than ones that are not.

If it’s witty and easy to remember, not only will the hashtag likely catch on and be used, but it will also likely have a longer shelf life than a hashtag that is not that memorable.

Give It the ‘Common Sense Check’

This is just as critical as the first two rules for creating hashtags, if not more.

Does the hashtag you’re trying to create make sense?

Can it be confused with another topic or hashtag that has nothing to do with your goal?

Most of all, does it offend, confuse, or lean toward the idea that this isn’t the best hashtag for your unique messaging?

A simple common sense check should help direct you as to whether your newly developed hashtag is going to be a winner or if it’s danger looming.

Using Existing Hashtags

When using hashtags that are already being used by others on the platform, there are some important rules to consider as well, but they are a bit different than those for creating new hashtags.

The three most important rules for using hashtags:

Research the Hashtag Before Adopting It

It may not mean what you think it means.

Your first step to ensuring it is the hashtag you’re looking for is to research it; look at other tweets using the hashtag and make sure they are in line with your thinking.

Too many times, users miss the mark with this one and adopt a hashtag that really means something completely different than what they intend.

Just ask DiGiorno’s Pizza about #WhyIStayed.

Make Sure It’s Relevant

Once you know what it means, make sure it makes sense to use for your messaging. Miss the mark and suffer the consequences.

Be Clever

Be sure to use your wit and personality and put your brand/personal spin on it.

Remember, the right hashtag has been used hundreds or thousands of times before you. This is the chance for you to stand out in a crowded room. Do it!

The biggest aspect of this to realize and remember is that, if hashtags are used incorrectly, it could come back to hurt the brand.

Being associated with a poor user experience is a quick and easy way to lose followers, fans, and even customers.

Potential Hashtag Nightmares

Just like anything else on the internet, there are people who will try to manipulate the system to gain an edge by doing less than others.

When it comes to hashtags, lazy (and bad) marketers will piggyback on popular and trending hashtags to gain increased visibility, sometimes compromising the integrity of the hashtag if misleading tweets aren’t filtered out.

These piggy-backers are rarely, if ever, rewarded. And brands that try it only suffer the backlash of the public, then the history books (i.e., American Apparel’s Hurricane Sandy Sale and other piggybacking disasters).

Like most things in the digital marketing realm, make sure what you’re doing is ethical and sensible. It’s unlikely you’d be penalized for that.

When to Use Hashtags

Hashtags have a time and place to be used, and it can be in every tweet a brand publishes.

It also doesn’t need to be, either.

Be genuine in your messaging and use hashtags to help categorize information, not to manipulate or deceive. Customers will remember it and they know what they want.

Why Use Hashtags

Simply put, hashtags improve your messages’ general visibility on Twitter (typically).

In addition to the increased organic visibility, hashtag users also tend to see increased engagement on the platform, increased brand awareness, and increased customer feedback, among other things, when effectively (and properly) using hashtags – all of which result in increased visibility.

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Rand Fishkin on optimizing for and against Google

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NEW YORK – Google’s relationship with brands has shifted from referrer to competitor, SparkToro CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin said at SMX East on Wednesday during his keynote about how the search engine’s business model has been evolving.

Now that the majority of Google searches are no-click, companies will have to find on-SERP opportunities to reach their audiences and strengthen their branding so that users will actively seek them out, said Fishkin.

The zero-click search trend

More than half (56.1%) of Google searches conducted from a mobile browser and 34.9% of Google desktop searches ended without a click to other content, according to Jumpshot data. “However, the trend is the same: organic, going down; while paid and zero-click searches are on the rise,” said Fishkin.

Source: SparkToro.

“In September, 7.5% of all searches resulted in a click to an Alphabet property,” said Fishkin. “Google is the biggest beneficiary of Google Search today. Nobody else comes close to that 7.5% number.”

From middleman to “competitor”

In addition to organic click volume eroding, Google’s direct answers and its foray into verticals resolves searches in numerous industries, such as weather, travel, local, and reviews, without the user ever having to click through to the sites that originally published that information.

“This is widespread, friends,” said Fishkin, citing results from Google Hotels, Flights, Jobs, the local pack and other types of rich results surfacing on the main results page. “We are talking about results that are taking business away from Skyscanner and Kayak in travel, from Eater and Yelp in local results, from U.S. News and FiveThirtyEight in the college rankings, from Wunderground and Weather.com, from MetaCritic and PC Gamer, and basically everybody but Alphabet when it comes to a lot of popular culture and media stuff.”

What brands can do about it

“We have to find ways to make our brand what searchers seek out,” said Fishkin. “I don’t want searches for ‘weather’; I want searches for my brand: I want searches for ‘Weather Underground’ and ‘Weather.com’ and ‘Weather Channel.’ I want to find ways to benefit from zero-click searches.”

Despite the bleak outlook for organic traffic in certain industries, there are still a number of ways that brands can influence what Fishkin refers to as “post-search behavior.”

Source: SparkToro.

Designing content with rich results in mind is one way companies can increase their visibility on the search results page — what Fishkin refers to as and “on-SERP SEO” — and the attribution from those results may help familiarize users with your brand. Buying ads will also help you do this, Fishkin said.

Offline brand campaigns, such as billboards, radio and TV ads can also influence search behavior. If users are actively seeking out your brand, claiming or suggesting changes to your knowledge panel can help you positively influence brand perception. To bolster your brand even further, Fishkin recommended reputation management SEO to help control branded search results.

The prisoner’s dilemma for brands

“The prisoner’s dilemma is ‘Do I optimize for zero-click searches, for providing these answers, for marking my results the way Google wants them — and potentially losing traffic as a result?’” said Fishkin, highlighting the predicament that many brands are now finding themselves in.

If your brand doesn’t benefit from ranking for a given query without traffic or doesn’t receive credit for it, you should instead optimize for keywords that do send traffic, Fishkin said. Source: SparkToro.

Fishkin’s mechanism for navigating this dilemma divides the issue into two categories: one for all types of content that can surface as a rich result (above), and another specifically for search results derived from structured data (below).

Brands should consider whether they will gain or lose value from adding structured data, and whether it’s more practical to cede the answer box to a competitor and pursue other keyword opportunities. Source: SparkToro.

“All of us have to try and build walls to protect against the competition that will absolutely come to sector after sector from Google as they search for growth … that is just the reality,” said Fishkin. “But, I think we have an opportunity to build our own brands and still succeed.”

Relying on search engines to reach your customers inherently makes brands susceptible to the way those search engines deliver results. However, by complementing your SEO efforts with a strategy that creates demand for your brand, you may be able to insulate yourself and stay ahead of the competition.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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Understanding referrer clicks and how they can skew search engine market share

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As every search marketer knows, clicks are a key metric in measuring search traffic, yet counting clicks can be a complicated thing. All clicks are not the same. There are paid clicks. There are organic clicks. There are mobile clicks. And many times there are clicks that get quickly redirected in the blink of an eye without a user even realizing it. These redirected clicks can cause discrepancies and confusion in click reports.

Consider this: a recent post from StatCounter shows a search engine market share of Google 88.37% and Bing 6.07%. At the same time, other sites such as Statista, show Google at 62.5% with Microsoft sites (Bing) at 25%. And even another site, comScore, places U.S. Bing share at 36% on PC and 20% across all devices. Why such large discrepancies? What is driving the confusion? The answer requires an understanding of the mechanics of ad serving and web referrals.

Referrers are links that drive traffic to other websites, moving people around the internet. A referrer site is simply the site that a person was on right before they came to your page. But sometimes referrer sites get misrepresented. A click can get diverted to an ad server, then quickly redirected to your page. Take for example the retailer, Kohls. A person is surfing the Kohls website and clicks on a picture of a TAG Heuer watch:

From a user experience, this shopper goes directly from the Kohls website to TAG’s website. And yet on paper, the referrer click gets credited to Google. Why is this? Through Google’s AdSense program, the click from Kohl’s gets quickly redirected to Google’s ad server before going to tagheuer.com. The click referral is attributed to Google not Kohl’s. The clicks from ad servers can add up and skew market share, even though these are not direct search queries from a search engine.

It’s good to understand how sites such as StatCounter or JumpShot calculate their data by combining search engine referrals with ads from syndicated websites in their referrer metrics. Referrer can be rich with insightful information, but should be carefully analyzed and understood before making any optimization or business decisions. Search marketers should also stay vigilant for redirects on referrer click reports as often times there is more to a click than meets the eye.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

​Christi Olson is a Search Evangelist at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. For over a decade Christi has been a student and practitioner of SEM. Prior to joining the Bing Ads team within Microsoft, Christi worked in marketing both in-house and at agencies at Point It, Expedia, Harry & David, and Microsoft (MSN, Bing, Windows). When she’s not geeking out about search and digital marketing she can be found with her husband at ACUO crossfit and running races across the PacificNW, brewing and trying to find the perfect beer, and going for lots of walks with their two schnauzers and pug.



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Want to speak at SMX West? Here’s how

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Want to showcase your knowledge of search marketing to our SMX West attendees? We’d love to hear from you, and if you wow us with your proposal we’ll invite you to speak at the conference. To increase the odds of being selected, be sure to read the agenda. Understand what the sessions are about. Ensure that your pitch is on target to the show’s audience and the session. Please also be very specific about what you intend to cover. Also, if you do not see a particular session listed, this is because there are no openings for that session. Use this form to submit your request.

PLEASE NOTE: We have changed the pitch process. We’ve put together session titles that we plan to run at the show, and we’re looking for you to tell us what key learning objectives and takeaways you’ll offer to attendees. Detailed instructions are on the pitch form.

As you might guess, interest is high in speaking at SMX conferences. We literally sift through hundreds of submissions to select speakers for the show. Here are some tips that will increase your chances of being selected.

Pitch early: Submitting your pitch early gives you a better chance of being selected. Coordinators accept speakers as soon as they identify a pitch that they think best fits the session, just like colleges that use a rolling admissions policy. So pitching early increases the likelihood you’ll be chosen.

Use the form: The speaker pitch form (http://marketinglandevents.com/speaker-form/) is the way to ask to speak. There’s helpful information there about how your pitch should be written and what it should contain.

Write it yourself and be specific: Lots of pitches come in that are not specific to the session. This is the most effective ways to ensure that your pitch is ignored. And this year, we’re no longer accepting pitches written by anyone other than a proposed speaker. If you’re a thought leader, write the pitch yourself… and make certain that it is 100% focused on the session topic.

“Throw your best pitch:” We’re limiting the number of pitches to three per person, so please pitch for the session(s) where you really feel you’ll offer SMX attendees your best.

NEW: SMX Insights Sessions. What are they? 8-10 minute solo sessions that pack a punch and wow attendees with content they can’t and won’t see anywhere else. Tactical. Specific. Actionable. Speakers are challenged to deliver the goods in a limited amount of time: one must-try tactic, one nugget of sage advice, or one takeaway that makes you more productive. Have a gem to share with your colleagues? Pitch your idea and you may make it to the SMX stage!

You’ll be notified: Everyone who pitches to speak will be notified by email whether you are accepted or not.

And don’t delay—the pitch forms for each session will close as sessions are filled, with everything closing Friday, November 29.


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