Free Stock Photography Sites for Web Editors, Content Writers and Developers

You’ve just written an amazing Blog post and you are ready to share it with the world. Just one problem! You forget to get some images for your killer piece of blog content or cornerstone content. Fear not dear reader, We’ve been doing web development for years and we want to share with you the most reliably high-quality stock image sites for your sites.

The Top Free Stock Photography Sites used by TopSailDigital:

Pexels

I love Pexels, because they consistetnly have top knotch stock photos that don’t feel like stock photos – for free!


Unsplash

This site has been around for some time and they haven’t moved to the paid only model – and I’m thankful because they do a great job!


Kaboompics

If the 2 above don’t help, I have found some good photos here, again for zero dollars.


Honorable Mentions

Although I haven’t used these stock photography sites extensively, it’s worth checking them out.

PixaBay

Maybe not the best for commercial type photos, but it’s worth a look if you need a photo for your site.


FreePik

This one is new to me, but it’s another resource for you! Enjoy.


Twenty20

Another new entry, but the more- the merrier!

The Best SEO Podcasts (As Chosen by Phil of TopSailDigital)

Quick Disclaimer – This is my personal opinion, there are no offical awards being handed out. You may have different favorite podcasts, thats ok too

SEO and Digital Marketing can feel like an echo chamber at times, and for a while, I shut myself off to the noise. There are many “experts” in this field who parrot the opinions of more advanced SEOs without adding their own spin or perspective. You won’t find that here. Check out these great podcasts for their content quality, amazing guests and the helpfulness of their advice (actionable!)


Our Favorite SEO and Digital Marketing Podcasts


Experts on the Wire

Why We like Experts on the Wire This is my first true Digital Marketing Podcast and I have watched Dan’s Podcasting develop since he started a few years back. He’s managed to get some top tier SEO talent on his show as well as super insightful guests that I have never heard of. Check the show notes for the topic of the podcast to see if it’s something you can utilize, because he has many episodes to choose from.

Experts on the Wire on Spotify
Experts on the Wire on Apple

Authority Hacker

Why We Like Authority Hacker Mark and Gael of Authority Hackers are very intelligent Affiliate Marketers. Also, they are process oriented, like me. I can always use new tips to keep my systems in place and running smoothly. The show is not brand new by any respect and their awesome catalog will have your listening for a while.

Authority Hacker on Spotify
Authority Hacker on Apple

Here are a few that are worth mentioning but aren’t included above for one reason of another.

Keywords Everywhere

Why We Like Keywords Everywhere Keywords Everywhere is a great SEO tool and The Keywords Everyuwhere was a great but short lived podcast! I can’t give it a full endorsement becasue there was only 5 or 6 Episodes. Those Episodes are still quite good! If anyone is listening, Please Consider bringing this back!

Keywords Everywhere on Spotify
Keywords Everywhere on Apple

Web Equity Show

Why We Like Web Equity This is techinically not an SEO podcast but is a super interesting look on how to develop, maintain and eventually sell your own sites. Juctin and Ace are master website portfolio advisors and dig into the fine art of running more than one online business at once!

Web Equity Show on Spotify
Web Equity Show on Apple

In House vs FreeLance vs Agency: Which is best for your Business?

Imagine that your car has broken down in front of your home. After frantic Googling, you have found the issue. There are hundreds of YouTube videos online that can assist you with nearly every aspect of car repair. But do you have the time, technical skills, dexterity and, frankly, the elbow grease to tackle a project like this?

Search Engine Optimization, like car mechanics, deals with many moving parts and there is a certain barrier to entry if you are on the other side of the fence, looking to develop your brand’s digital marketing presence. In both car mechanics and SEO, you can dive in yourself or hire a professional.

Here we arrive to our age-old question: Does your company or brand need an internal SEO Team or is hiring an SEO agency a better decision? What about a Freelancer? Each choice has distinct advantages and disadvantages, making the decision quite difficult.

We, as SEO professionals, have worked in many different settings and we’ve tapped into that knowledge as well as discussions on the web to compile this information.

In-house SEO Teams

An internal SEO team is just that — it’s a group within your organization that’s dedicated exclusively to developing your unique digital marketing strategy. Win or lose, it’s all in your court, and that has some pros and cons. 

Advantages of In house Digital Marketing Teams:

They’re right next door.

Digital marketing is changing at exponential speeds. Your business needs to keep pace to be successful. With an in-house SEO team, you can shift focus on a dime without waiting for an agency to catch up to your needs. Walk down the hall for a quick confab — no appointments or out of office meetings are necessary.

They understand your brand.

No one knows the nuances of your brand better than the people closest to it. Use their knowledge to your advantage while maintaining oversight over content creation.   

You have internal support.

Businesses have singular missions but many moving parts. The more your product development, IT and SEO teams support each other; the more unified your long-term digital marketing strategy will be.       

 Your needs are the only ones that matter.

Why wonder if the agency you hired is giving priority to the competition’s account when you can get individual attention from in-house staff. No one will be a better advocate for your success than the people who share in it. 

Disadvantages of In House Teams:

Developing the right team takes time and know-how.

Growing an SEO team is playing a waiting game. You can start hiring today, but do you have the expertise necessary to choose the best candidates? Do you understand what makes or breaks SEO? Bringing in the right talent is no small feat, and when you make mistakes, your needs wait. Can they afford to?

It isn’t cheap.

Assigning ad hoc SEO projects to staff who are neither skilled nor motivated enough to give them the attention they deserve doesn’t cut it in today’s ultra-competitive business environment. But creating a dedicated SEO team means more people on the payroll, and it requires a permanent budget. 

Getting everyone on board is a challenge.

Allocating resources to creating an in-house SEO team can seem like a snub to existing staff who may not grasp the value of digital marketing. You’ll need to educate employees across the board about the value of SEO and create a culture of cooperation between departments. It doesn’t happen overnight.  

SEO Agencies

SEO agencies are private digital marketing firms. Can hiring one be a better choice than going it alone?

Advantages of SEO Agencies

Agencies offer comprehensive solutions. 

It takes more than SEO to drive traffic to your website — it takes a complete digital marketing plan.  Agencies are independent. They can audit your current strategy and create measurable goals based on hard data. They never lose sight of the big picture.

Progress is monitored, and approaches that don’t work are revamped or replaced. From website design and content creation, agencies offer one-stop solutions to building better brand awareness. 

They’re staffed by experts.  

It can take months — even years — to build a well-qualified in-house SEO team, but agencies are staffed with well-seasoned professionals ready to work for you on day one. They hire people who bring experience and the right tools to the table. You benefit from their diverse skill sets without overhiring.

Services are scalable.

Agencies can tackle one project at a time or work on a contractual basis. Use only the services you need. Hiring an agency costs more per hour than paying in-house staff, but there are no offices, equipment or employee benefits to pay for. Its scalability can make it a more affordable choice.

Disadvantages of SEO Agencies

It can be a time suck.

Your business is unique, and you want to keep it that way. So you’ll need to invest time in helping agency staff learn more about your company’s mission and culture. That means plenty of meetings, e-mails and phone tag.

Their time isn’t exclusively yours.

Agencies make money based on the number of clients they serve. They divide their time among a range of accounts. When crunch season comes, will they devote the necessary resources to your needs, or focus on a more lucrative account belonging to your competitor?

SEO Freelancers

FreelancerSEO

SEO freelancers are self-employed individuals with top-tier digital marketing skills. It’s like hiring an agency of one, and it could be a good fit for your needs. Why?

Advantages of hiring an SEO Freelancing

It’s a bargain.

Competition among freelancers is stiff and overhead is minimal, so rates tend to be lower. Among the three ways to approach SEO planning, it’s usually the cheapest option. 

There’s no job too small. 

Freelancers are more likely to see small projects as worth their time. They won’t insist on binding contracts or large volumes of work to take you on as a client. Like agencies, services are scalable — pay only for what you need.

The best individuals are on your side. 

Do you need an SEO strategy for two entirely different product lines? Working with freelancers allow you to choose the most experienced individuals for each project.

Disadvantages of SEO Freelancers

Juggling projects by the hour is time-consuming.

Most freelancers work by the hour. That makes it easy to refine your budget, but planning and tracking several hourly projects concurrently is challenging. In-person meetings are rare, but reading and responding to email will take up a chunk of your day.

Learning your company culture takes time.  

As individuals, freelancers can learn about your company quickly — but only if they have time. It’s not unusual for them to be working on dozens of projects simultaneously to make ends meet. You won’t always be at the top of their list.

Conclusion

Whether you opt to keep SEO in the family or go with outside experts, certain skills make some digital marketers more successful than others.

Choose people with curiosity. If they’re not nosy about what you do, you’re more likely to get a generic SEO strategy instead of the laser-focused plan you want.

Go with pros who are up to date on the latest in digital marketing technology. The online environment changes quickly. A freelancer working on Windows Vista may not be the best choice.

Finally, find mavericks willing to take chances. In this world, it’s nothing ventured, nothing gained. Staying atop your field requires taking thoughtful, calculated risks.  


Ready to talk Digital Marketing with us?


Contact Us

Metrics That Matter in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is great for Digital Marketers, but I have had many Digital Marketers and Business owners ask “What do I need to pay attention to in Google Analytics?”

I consider my Google Analytics data to be my “Holy Grail” of interactions that users take on my site.

What is Google Analytics and Why do we care?

For me, Google Analytics is my “source of truth” where I can see just exactly how my site is performing.

Basically, Google Analytics is a suite of tools that allows you to track the ways that visitors interact with your site.

Did my client’s site have an increase in traffic in March? Well, it’s my job as a Digital Analyst to figure out what factors contributed to this increase.

You will need a foundation in Google Analytics to interpret this data. Hopefully, my guide will lessen the learning curve of Google Analytics and you can get started on interpreting this data in a meaningful way sooner, rather than later.

Again, why do we care?

It’s highly configurable, allowing you to adjust the types of data you gather and allows you to make informed decisions about content that may or may not resonate with your visitors!

With all this data, you can change the date ranges and anticipate seasonality as you see trends. If you sell products or book services on the site, you can track how many people start on the site vs how many actually book (called your Conversion Rate). What you do with this powerful data is up to you!

Overview of Google Analytics

I’m almost positive that you have taken the Fundamentals of Google Analytics in the Google Academy and if not, maybe consider that as a first step.

But if you have completed the Fundamentals of Google Analytics and you still aren’t sure what the heck is going on… it’s ok, you aren’t alone.

I want you to understand 3 concepts that make Google Analytics valuable: Metrics, Sources, and Goals.

If you can understand these concepts by the end of this article, my job is done.

We are going to do a brief installation guide and then get into these 3 key elements.

Getting Started with Google Analytics Installation

Skip this part if you have your Google Analytics tag already installed on your site.

Head on over to Google Analytics and create an account.

You will need to have your site up and running for us to add the Unique Google Tracking ID. I know this sounds scary, but the person who helped you build your site will know exactly where this belongs.

Simply copy/paste the code snippet onto the site. The blue highlighted text the Google Analytics code and the red part is the unique part of the code (which I have blocked).

This code belongs in the <head> of your site.

For WordPress, please use a child theme and add it by going to Appearance – Editor and adding it to the Header.php part of the page. There’s a countless guide online to help you with this, so don’t worry if you get stuck., Just Google it!

After this step, we can begin to see traffic.

Go ahead and check to see if you can see yourself in Realtime – Overview. If you are on your homepage in a browser, you should see something like this:

If so, congratulations! You’ve installed Google Analytics and we can move on to discussions the Metrics that Matter in Google Analytics.

Digging into Google Analytics

The greatest part of Google Analytics is that we can begin segmenting our traffic to see which marketing efforts are paying off or where we have the biggest opportunities for growth.

My favorite tab for this is the Reporting – Acquisition – All Traffic – Channels.

You can see all this cool data and more once you get in, but you will want to give it time for the data to be collected. Google Analytics will only capture data while the code we installed is live, so give it some time.

Sources in Google Analytics

Google Analytics (mostly) does a great job of organizing our traffic into a few sources. When we view these sources, we get an idea of how our users reached our site. Here’s a breakdown of our sources.

  • Organic – Did this user arrive on your site via a Search Engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo? Then the session will be in the Organic category.
  • Direct – Direct Traffic is when a user lands on your page by typing in your URL into their search bar or maybe they had the page bookmarked. While editing your own site, your sessions will appear in the Direct traffic category. I recommend Filtering out your own IP Address in Google Analytics too.
  • Paid – If you are utilizing Paid Traffic campaigns like Google Ads, you will see those users and sessions in this category.
  • Referral – When a user or a session is taken from a site you don’t own to your own site by clicking on a link, it will be reported here.  
  • Social – Pinterest, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media visits will be listed here.
  • (Other) – Sometimes, Google Analytics doesn’t understand how users get to your site. This is unfortunate but we can help Google out by utilizing the URL builder.

As we said above, Not all sources carry over, which creates some confusion within Google Analytics. When configuring PPC or Email campaigns, I recommend using the Google URL Builder. We are going to have a separate blog post on Why Use the Google URL Builder very soon.

Metrics that Matter in Google Analytics

  • Users – Each Person that visits your site will be counted as a unique user. Think of this as your visitor count.
  • New Users – This is an indication of how many new people are landing on your site. Your past Users aren’t counted here, so checking this out can give you an idea of overall organic growth!
  • Sessions – If a User lands on your site multiple times in a period, they will be counted as 1 User. But each visit will be counted as Session. Think of sessions as a unique hit, regards of if it was a returning user or a fresh face on your site.
  • Bounce Rate – This is a % of how many users left your site after only viewing one page. Let’s be clear: A Greater % is Bad. A high bounce rate means that people are leaving without checking out more on your site.
  • Pages / Session – How many pages your visitors check out (on average) while they are on the site.
  • Average Session Duration – How long did sessions last on your site? More minutes and seconds are better than less. We want users to be engaged and read more.

Goals in Google Analytics

Let’s step out of the Digital Marketing world for a minute. Most of my conversation with my clients is about how to bridge the gap between the “real world” and the online world.

The way I contribute to a customer’s bottom line is through creating Goals in Google Analytics that correspond with their Key Performance Indicators (Called KPIs).

If my client makes money by selling concert tickets, It’s my job as their Digital Marketer to create Goals in Google Analytics that “count” the number of Ticket Sales. That way when a Concert Ticket is sold, our Google Analytics dashboard counts that KPI interaction as a “hit” and Phil can make an ROI argument that our Digital Marketing efforts contributed X ticket sales last month.

I love increasing a site’s traffic, but my clients cannot take their Organic Traffic increases to the bank and pay their employees.

With Google Analytics Goal Tracking and Reporting, my clients get a clear idea of how many leads/sales/sign-ups or whatever they’d like I am generating per month.

My weapon of choice for reporting is Google Data Studio. We are going into Google Data Studio dashboards setups in a later blog post – stay tuned for that!

Interpreting your Google Analytics Data

Now we understand Metrics, Sources and Goals, let’s talk about how to interpret this data.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, as far as Digital Marketing Skills sets.

Can you turn the numbers that you see into your Google Analytics dashboard into meaningful recommendations and observations?

Honestly, this is the toughest part of my job. If I cannot articulate WHY our organic traffic is down, then I’m not able to offer recommendations or avoiding those Web Marketing activities that cause our traffic to increase or drop.

This will become more familiar as you create, review and deliver reporting to your clients, but here are a few tips I can provide that helped me:

  • Talk with your clients and understand the historical context of the data.
    • EG: If traffic was down in March, ask questions: “Did we not do an email campaign in March vs Feb or April?”
  • Look at larger data sets
    • Sometimes you just have a bad week, I prefer to look at months.
    • This gets away from “sample size” problems
  • Understand your site’s seasonality
    • It’s almost universal that December traffic is poor. But there are seasonal factors that affect your site’s traffic and you must be able to explain that to your client. Looking at your data Year over Year can help reveal seasonality trends.
    • I love dropping all this session, user and engagement data into tables in Data Studio.
  • Use the Google URL Builder
    • The URL Builder will help you categorize the source and mediums of your traffic, and get away from Direct and (Other) traffic Sources

Conclusion

I hope that this post helps you understand how important and powerful your Google Analytics data is for you and your clients.

Reach out if you have any questions or comments on this article. If not, get out there and make that Google Analytics data meaningful!

Need Digital Marketing or Google Analytics help?


Contact Us

8 Email Tips to Supercharge your Outreach

If you have been in Digital Marketing for any amount of time, you know the importance of Link Development for your website.

Links are viewed as a “vote of confidence” for your website in Google’s Eyes and Digital Marketers have leveraged content marketing to get more of those valuable links.

In 2019, the game is tougher than it’s ever been, and smart Webmasters are tired of seeing the same old emails requesting a guest post.

I’d like to share a few tips that I have used to make connections with awesome content providers across the web in hopes that your email Outreach levels up to provide steady, relevant links to your site.

We will not be talking about the types of links or link building strategy or link prospecting today – but rather how to make the best 1st impression on your email outreach.

Here’s what I would like to share with you:

•Offer Value
•Be Likeable
•Use External Validation if Possible
•Use Unique Emails – No boilerplate emails
•Impactful Subject Lines
•Nurture the Relationship
•Send a Follow Up – Don’t Call it a Follow Up
•Bonus: Reciprocity

Offer Value in your Content Pitches

We don’t send emails to say “hello” or have a courtesy social call. We email to offer advice, content or something of value. Nine times out of ten, an email is a request for something or assigning an action item to someone.
But how do you convince a stranger from the internet that you got what it takes to provide killer content in a sea of content pitches? Provide real Value.

Now I must be frank here, you need to have top notch content. Original, Unique and Passionate is the name of the game. If your content is the same as your competitor’s, this will not work. Take time to craft the content (or at least the pitches for your content and write this stellar content later).

If you cannot provide 3 content pitches that are dynamite and super relevant to the website that you are reaching out to, step back and develop your content pitches.

I like to provide webmasters with 3 possible content pitches that are SUPER relevant to their audience. Take time to understand the audience, the site and then it will be clearer what type of content pitches to furnish.

If the content pitches that you create don’t strike this webmaster/editor like lightning, then consider if your content pitches aren’t specific enough for your prospects. Relevancy is crucial.

Be Likeable – Common Courtesy and Charm

In the digital world, much of the emotional context for human interaction is stripped away. Without these emotional cues, it’s very easy to sound like a bully, a jerk or just unpleasant.

The outreach psychology I began using stemmed from my days as a sales associate. In those days, I had heard time and time again that “People want to buy from their friends”.

Up until this point I hadn’t applied this to my outreach, but it’s very much the same idea of a buyer and seller relationship.

You, as the content marketer, are selling your content to the buyer and it’s in your best interest to be likable. Finding a common interest is crucial.

If you are doing prospecting in a field where you cannot identify common interests between yourself and the people of the industry, you might be in the wrong industry!

Bloggers love to embellish their sites with the things they love. Take your time to listen (or read rather). The best salespeople practice active listening and perhaps it’s time to bring that into your own outreach.

Use External Validation – Boast a Little!

Everyone wants to bet on a winning horse. Once you get some great links, it becomes easier to cite experience or victories that are relevant to the content that you are pitching.

Listing the publications that you have contributed to provides a great track record for you to cite later. Establishing authority and trust will help you out immensely.

Heck, it doesn’t even need to be link building related.

• Have you volunteered in a community program related to your industry? Put that in!
• Have you done some public speaking or led a community discussion on the subject matter? Add it!

Get creative and find a way to cite past experiences or contributions to establish that you are an authority and capable of creating value online.
Use Unique Emails – No Boiler Plate or Cookie Cutter Emails

I was under the illusion that copy/pasted the same walls of text and sending it off to webmasters all over the web was more efficient. But if your copy/pasted outreach emails get 0 responses, it is truly a wasted effort.

The realization hit me that these webmasters see hundreds of emails each week that do not project a personality or show minimal attempts of personalization. Don’t join the ranks of the discard email majority!
It’s easy to slap a bunch of emails into a mass emailer and “fire and forget” but impersonal email outreach is easily noticed. Save yourself the heartache – Get Personal!

Impactful Subject Lines

A subject line is the first impression. Be sure to dazzle and delight. A copy/pasted Outreach email often has a lack-luster subject line. Webmasters can see right through this.

Tell me which do you think is a better headline (imagine I was pitching this very article to a content source):

• “Email Outreach Tips for Digital Marketers”
• “8 High Impact Email Outreach Tips for Digital Marketers”

Yes, it’s a loaded question, but it’s the same content – just in a different packaging.
Use numbers, adjectives, and hooks to get attention. Tailor the subject lines to the content source and Get Creative!

If you are responding to a particular query, like a HARO request, be sure to let the reader know that you can answer their query with a super relevant subject line.

EG: If a HARO query is asking for Cosmetic Experts to discuss the impacts of Vitamin C on Skincare, I would structure my headline like:

• “3 Ways Vitamin C Supplements Provide Radiant Skin”

You get what I mean. It’s Problem-Solution structuring. They have a problem or a question provide the answer in your Impactful Subject Line.

Get More Email Outreach Tips at TopSailDigital

Nurture the Relationship

If you are dead-set on a particular website or content marketing opportunity, it’s not a bad idea to “lurk” a little bit prior to sending your outreach.

Engage with them in the comment section, find them on Linkedin or engage/share their content on Social Media.

That way when you start pitching content, you have laid the foundation of the relationship previously.

Send a Follow Up – But Don’t call it a Follow Up

Most email outreach attempts won’t get a response. It’s a simple fact, even if you follow all the steps I have highlighted in this article, you may get a null response.

It’s ok to reach out again, but do not call it a “follow up”. Diving into the psychology a bit, using the word “follow up” implies that your reader or content opportunity failed to read or register your 1st request.

Remember, we want to be nice and helpful, so attempting to invoke a sense of guilt for the content source is counterproductive.

After reaching out again, if there’s no response, feel free to email someone else within the organization.

Bonus: Reciprocity

And my final secret:
I reach out to people all day, and many of them don’t get paid to care about me or my success. But I have seen such an increase in positive responses when I include the phrase (or something very similar):


“Please reach out to me if I can assist in any way”

See what I did there? I am asking for a favor or expediting a due date or something. But this is simple human psychology at work. Reciprocity is innately human and we shouldn’t forget that there is a human on the other side of that screen, and how it feels to be appreciated and reciprocated.

I hope you’ve gotten new ideas to supercharge your email outreach program. Feel free to reach out to me using the form below if you need help with your Digital Marketing Campaign or to ask any follow up questions.

Please reach out if I can assist you in any way!

Need Digital Marketing or Email Outreach help?


Contact Us

Get more Digital Marketing Tutorials and Tips
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.