Category Archives: Small Business

Small business

7 things to look for in a Social Media Specialist

Social media is still the Wild West to some extent, and a lot of us are still figuring out the rules. One thing is clear: Social media is here to stay.

Therefore, your social-media manager or director is a critical and strategic hire who will be responsible for formulating and executing your strategy, as well as educating your whole organization and aligning it with that strategy.

But a lot of people who claim to be social-media experts are far from it. How can you sift the wheat from the chaff?

Below are the seven killer virtues of a social-media leader. There are certainly more, but not all are deal makers.

1. Passion

Passion for the job is an important characteristic of any employee, but it’s fundamental for a social-media manager. Many public relations and marketing folks use social media, but they aren’t passionate about it.

Social media goes 24/7, so you need someone who can live and breathe it without burning out. A good social-media manager will have the drive of a sales representative but has a light touch that influences people without appearing to “sell” to them.

2. Credibility

Social media is not a silo. You need to balance technical skill with business acumen. Research the candidate’s professional credibility in your particular industry.

The social-media manager will become one of the “faces” of your company, so you need someone with a broad business background and a grasp of marketing, sales, operations, P&L, product management, business process, and customer relationship management.

3. Strategy

Because social media is fun, many people can get caught up in using it without a clear purpose. If a social-media program is implemented companywide, it can become a big time investment.

Therefore, it’s vital that the social-media director provide leadership for senior management as well, ensuring that they buy in to the program and understand its goals. Strategic, big-picture thinking coupled with a willingness for shirtsleeves implementation is a must.

4. Service-orientation

Because social-media managers are the face of a company, they need to be relentlessly committed to helping people in social channels. Customer service should be part of that person’s DNA. Customer interaction is not a bother; rather, it’s something to enjoy, it’s the new marketing.

Customers, partners, prospects, and analysts will need help and advice around the clock, which puts the social-media manager in a unique position of acting as an advocate for the company and brand, as well as the community.

As an advocate for the community, the social-media director helps the company design better products and services, leading to happier and more-loyal customers. And when the products and services are better, the social-media director can evangelize on the company’s behalf in a more natural way.

5. Risk-tolerance

The social landscape is changing at breakneck speed. The social-media leader must be comfortable with constant change and course correction.

Because many social efforts are in uncharted territory, the perfect social-media manager will be the proverbial self-starter, a true pioneer, unafraid to head into the darkness.

The social-media leader can’t wait for directions from the boss, since the boss may not know as much about social media. And if there’s a failure, the social-media leader must dust off and start all over again.

6. Decisiveness

It seems as if there’s a new social-media product every other day. Social-media practitioners must keep their tool set full of sharp new tools, but they need the wisdom and experience to recognize which trends have lasting power and which are ephemeral.

It’s also crucial that they commit to social-media programs and stay with them long enough to evaluate their success or failure, yet be willing to jettison what isn’t working.

7. Action hero(ine)

As noted earlier, change is the only constant in the social-media world. To say that the social populace expects real-time action is an obvious statement.

Although creating quality content is important, it’s equally important to avoid “analysis paralysis” or get caught in an endless loop of approvals.

If you wait to publish a blog post or tweet, it will be yesterday’s news tomorrow. The social-media director must strike the right balance between perfection and action, with action being paramount.

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Five Tips for Writing Search-Engine-Friendly Content

Words of wisdom from the Whole Brain Marketing Blog

Five Tips for Writing Search-Engine-Friendly Content

You have a great website. It has beautiful images, a compelling theme and intuitive navigation, all designed to take eager visitors to complete descriptions of your proprietary products and services. The only problem is your website shows up somewhere after page 10 on search engine results. Since most referrals to sites come directly from search engines, search-engine-friendly content is imperative.

Here are five tips to make sure search engines love you and your prospects can find you.

1. Clearly identify your SEO goals. SEO isn’t about ranking first on every area and page on your website. Rather, the goal should be to incorporate search-engine-friendly content that performs well on the most important “money phrases.” These are areas that you’ve identified that typically lead to additional action by visitors and prospects (or, make you the most money!).

2. Choose Important Keywords. Using your “money phrases,” identify and analyze a list of possible keywords that users may search to find your information. The word “keyword” is a bit misleading because this list should not be individual words. Try to develop very specific phrases that relate to your topics. For example, if you sell doors, your keyword shouldn’t be “doors,” that’s too vague. A better keyword phrase would be “aluminum exterior house doors” or “solid core wood doors.” search-engine-friendly content will flow simply from expanding on each of these phrases.

3. Organize your content. After you’ve identified the appropriate keywords you want to use throughout your site, group similar keyword topics into silos. Using the doors example above, silos may be interior doors, exterior doors and garage doors with the specific types of each category being grouped together. This also simplifies your website’s architecture if it isn’t already in place.

4. Write for the audience, not the search engines. The actual content writing itself becomes an art of balancing the technical needs to make the search engine spiders happy and the clear, concise, benefit-focused information needs of your audience. When in doubt, err on the side of your audience. Search engines may love you but if your content isn’t attractive to your visitors and they choose to leave your site, all your work is for nothing. Write page copy with enough specific keyword density to be search-engine-friendly but not so dense that it becomes meaningless. After your first draft of copy for each section is written, use one of the many density tools available to evaluate each of your pages. A good rule is 3-5% saturation on each page.

5. Expand the reach of your keywords. After you’re satisfied with your content and your keywords are loaded into title tags, meta descriptions, H1 tags, etc. Focus on driving inbound links from reputable sources. For example, make sure your search-engine-friendly content is included in all of your PR activity and encourage media outlets to link to you. Strive for inbound links direct from industry resources or organizations. The more links to your site, the more important you’ll look to search engine spiders.

Keep in mind that your results won’t be instant, they’ll improve over time. Search-engine-friendly content is just the start.

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How Google Instant Will Impact Your SEO & PPC Campaigns

The introduction of Google Instant means that searchers can constantly refine their query without actually clicking on the “search” or “enter” button and still get a concrete list of better & faster results. However, many are trying to figure out what effect Google Instant will have on their businesses and are asking “is SEO dead?” The answer is simple: “Of course not.”

Google Instant does not change the ranking process of Google’s search results (says Google engineer, Ben Gomes). However, SEO techniques are continuously changing and although Google Instant Search will not kill SEO, there might be a few changes to your SEO strategy.

How will Google Instant affect your SEO/PPC strategy?
Google Instant will now change how many people see and click on your site because for all you know Google Instant could be persuading searchers to enter a completely different keyword than what they had actually set out to search for.

The first major change is in the drop down “suggestion box” that tries to predict queries even before they are completely typed. Depending on the query, the search result occupies one and sometime up to three of the advertisement positions on the first page. Google is bringing the paid and universal search listings as high as possible, but is simultaneously pushing the SEO results “below the fold.”

So you need to plan out your SEO strategy keeping in mind:

  • Your page Titles are going to need to be even more compelling than before.

You need to not only attract the searcher to your listing, but you have to get them to commit to the search query. That’s going to take a lot of engagement on your part.

  • Take a close look at what long tail keywords Google Instant suggests.

Make sure you have a page ranked for all the important variations. Show up, no matter what final keyword string the searcher commits to.

Top ranking is now more important than ever.

Users are less likely to scroll below the fold as related results are instantly reconfigured as the search query is completed.

Good & bad news for PPC advertiers:

Google’s Johanna Wright says there will be no change to the ranking of ads under Google Instant, however ad impressions will change (for the better). Google will now record an ad impression if a searcher types a partial query and clicks within the search results page or if he stops typing for three seconds while an ad is displayed. For PPC campaigns it will calculate as an impression (affecting CTR) only after a pause of three seconds.

Showing PPC ads on “predictive queries” that may or may not be relevant to what the user is ultimately searching for could push down the click-thru-rates of these ads.

Here is what Google’s Advertiser FAQs say:

  • When someone searches using Google Instant, ad impressions are counted in these situations:
  • The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search).
  • The user chooses a particular query by clicking the Search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries.
  • The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.

At an average of 9 seconds per query, that’s 2 additional add impressions before a customer actually tells Google exactly what they are looking for. This should give your business even more exposure to searchers.

While Google Instant is great for searchers by giving them faster results, it will certainly pose a challenge for business owners and search marketers.

by Courtny Mills of ineedhits

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SEO and Page Rank

Someone asked me yesterday, “What do you think of PageRank?”  That’s kind of asking “What do you think of sunshine?”

Google is the 800 lb. gorilla.  PageRank is part of their “secret sauce” in determining how your site pops up in organic search results.  PageRank just IS – it’s part of the SEO game.

You might not agree with Google as to what is relevant; you might not agree as to what is timely; you might not agree as to what is popular; and you might not like sunshine.  However, what can you do?  You have to play the game if you want to be high in the search results.

The rules change all the time – on purpose.  Just as soon as you think you have it figured out Google will tweak their algorithm and you go from the #1 result to the #10 result.

SEO is the physical fitness of your site.  You can’t go to the gym once and work out for 30 minutes – then lose 30 pounds – and become the fit “Mr. Universe.”  SEO takes constant work (i.e. – working out). You have to keep tweaking your site and your strategy to keep up with the tweaks that Google makes in their algorithm.

Finding someone to help you with SEO and Social Media Strategy is like hiring a personal trainer to help you get fit.  In getting personally fit you can read a book and follow the diagrams and see some results taking place in your physique.  However, if you REALLY want to see results you hire a personal trainer who will take into account your body type, your diet, your goals and your budget (time and money).

So if you REALLY want results for your company find a certified professional who will take in to account ALL your marketing needs – it’s called Integrated Marketing – bringing all your “traditional” marketing channels together with all these “new” digital opportunities.

One size does NOT fit all – think of me as a digital tailor.

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SEO Link Building

I just received an unsolicited email from somewhere in India.

1) The #1 red flag – it is addressed Dear Sir/Madam
2) The #2 red flag – the bad grammar

This “feels” like one of those Nigerian email scams.
Here is what it looked like:

Dear Sir \ Madam,

We are a fast growing INDIA based Web Development Services company.

We provide complete Natural Link Building Solution in professional Internet Marketing Services with our core competency.

We have a dedicated team of 35 professionals to serve you. Our Link Builders who specialize in getting theme based targeted links for Client’s website.

Our Link Popularity Building Services is designed to increase your traffic and link popularity.

Our links are direct and search engine friendly as we do not get links which are with redirection script or with indirect.

We provide you one way link building with following essential parameters

Be careful – your web site is one of (if not THE) most important marketing tools you have.  There are many “black hat” companies out there that will make exorbitant promises about driving you up to the top of the search engines.  DO NOT fall into the trap of Dear Sir / Madam emails – you could seriously damage your site’s reputation.

Remember, any thing worth doing is worth doing right.  Most of the time it takes time and patience to drive you up in the search engines.  Link to credible sources and people you know.

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50+ is the HOT Social Media demo

At times like this I love to say, “I told you so!”  Those of you who have been reading my blogs and/or have attended one of my workshops will NOT be shocked by this news. Social Media use within the 50+ demographic has nearly doubled according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.  In April of 2009 just 22% of the 50+ demo were using sites such as Facebook – in May of 2010 that jumped to 42%.  In the 50 – 64 demographic 47% are using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The results I obtained through the research I conducted for the University of Texas – Dallas Ph.D. program for the School of Arts and Technology were also reinforced by this study.  “Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,” said Mary Madden author of the Pew report. “Email is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social media platforms to help manage their daily communications.”

This proves that Social Media is NOT all about 18-24 year-olds.  You have to:

1) Develop an Integrated Marketing Strategy.  How are you going to bring together your “traditional” marketing channels (TV, Radio, and Print) and these “new” digital marketing channels (SEO, PPC and Social Media)?

2) Think about WHO is going to “quarterback” your marketing department or company down the digital field – a “walk-on” quarterback from a Division II school OR an All-Pro who knows what it takes to find your target customer and make your cash register ring.

I’m sure there are marketers with a few grey hairs that have experiences similar to mine. I’ve been involved with eCommerce since the early days of the Internet.  I’m certified in SEO and Social Media Strategy.  I’ve seen CRM evolve from a mailing list for postcards and coupons to psychographic databases for targeted digital inserts.

I’m sure there are CFOs that started with a ledger book and a calculator who are now using complex back office software programs to balance the books.

We have a saying here in Texas, “Fish where the fish are!” Make sure you have an experienced “fishing guide” to teach you the right bait to use.  Look for someone who “has been there, doing that.”

That’s the News
From Clint Hughes

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Testing email marketing campaigns

Here is a great blog from Kristen Gregory about testing your email campaigns.
9 Tips for Testing Success

Want to make sure you’re conducting the best tests you can? Keep these tips in mind:

1. First, always run tests more than once. Flukes happen. You can’t try something one time and be certain of anything. I recommend running a test AT LEAST three times (if not more!) to determine an actual trend.

2. Stick to one test variable. When you test more than one element, results get fuzzy and which element really made an impact becomes more difficult to determine.

3. Make sure that you are testing segments of your list that are large enough to make the test valid. If you’re sending to a list of 300 people, how valid is a 5% test segment? As a rule, I say go larger with test segments if the list is on the smaller side. The larger the test segment, the more valid the results will be.

4. Focus on the right – or all – data points to determine winners. Typically, subject line tests are designed to drive opens, though they can drive clicks by being more call-to-action-oriented. If boosting revenue is your ultimate goal, make sure you’re looking at the full picture.

5. Give the test enough time to run before declaring a winner. If you send out test segments at 9 am, you probably don’t want to declare a winner by 10 am and send that creative out to the remainder of your list. You need to be sure that subscribers have had enough time to see, open and interact with your messages.  Allow as much time as you think would make sense, and, at absolute minimum, a few hours. Recognize that a test segment that looked like it was “losing” when you declared a winner can pull ahead in the end. Always take a second look when more time has passed.
 

6. Be smart about WHEN you send test segments. I’ve seen some marketers send test segments at 2 am and the winning creative at 7 am. I would argue that unless you’re assured that your audience is comprised of early risers with plenty of email-browsing time, this isn’t the best way to test.

7. Choose the right kind of split test. Some platforms, like Bronto, enable marketers to send tests to a smaller portion of a list and then automatically send out the winning version (based on most opens, clicks or conversions) to the remainder of the list later that day or the next. This is a really fantastic way to optimize within a single send. At the same time, I believe some testing works best if you let it run its course and evaluate afterward. For example, when evaluating major creative changes or offer options, I think it’s more valuable to see the full results (rather than exposing a small test segment for a small amount of time) and be certain you’re making the right choices for the future.

8. Always be testing! Make testing an integral part of your everyday program. If nothing else, run a simple subject line test each time you send.

9. Actually look at results and adjust future tactics. Make sure to review what’s working best so you can play off of lessons learned and continue to improve.

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Testing Your PPC Advertising

I wanted to share a powerful marketing tip with you today.  This is something that when done properly, can improve your results and increase your sales WITHOUT adding a single penny to your costs.

This may sound simple – but it is very important for your integrated marketing activities. Test, Test and Re-test!

Here is a simple example:

You run a PPC campaign on Google AdWords and you have one ad running. Let’s say you sell shoes, and here is the ad you were running.

Designer Shoes are Affordable
Women’s Designer Shoes
Big names, great prices

Now, let’s say your click through rate (number of people that click on your ad) is 4.2%.  You are happy, because that’s better than you’ve ever done before. What most people do is keep running with that ad.  What we want you to remember to do is Split Test.

All that means is create a second version of your ad, to compete against your first version and see who wins.

So, now look at version 2:

Designer Shoes are Affordable
Lady’s Designer Shoes
Big names, great prices

Do you see the difference?  Only one word (more about that in a minute).  In the first ad we have

Women’s Designer Shoes and in the second ad we have Lady’s Designer Shoes.

So, let’s look at the results.

Ad 1 – 4.2 click through rate
Ad 2 – 5.1 click through rate!

You just increased your response rate by 21.4%!  No extra costs, simply changing one word and getting an improved response.

Why did more people click on Lady’s than Women’s?  We don’t know, we may never know, but we also don’t care.  All we know is have now improved our click through rate!

Now are we done?  Not even close.  Now we take Ad 2, and create another ad to split test against Ad 2.  You can constantly test 2 ads against each other and incrementally increase your response rates.

What can you test?  Anything and everything!  Test your ads, test headlines on your site, test your pricing.

Test, test and re-test.

There’s so much more about testing that I could go into, but we’ll have to save that for another time.  For now, just remember these 2 important points…

1. Test EVERYTHING!

2. Only make one change in each test for accurate results.  If you were to change the headline and the middle text on Ad 2, you wouldn’t know which was the cause of the higher response.  So, take one thing at a time and test, test, test.

By the way, Google has a great tool (that is available at no cost) that allows you to set up these split tests easily.  Check out Google Website Optimizer!

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Ethical SEO

SEO is complex.  SEO is maddening.  SEO is confusing.  But more than anything  SEO is EFFECTIVE.

It is unanimously agreed that SEO is the top source of driving targeted traffic to sites. Everyone wants top SEO rankings.  The problem is, you look at the SERPs (search engine results pages) and you find sites there that you don’t expect to.  You see sites that are filled with spam, you see sites with no content, you see sites with no inbound links.

And worst of all is what you don’t see – YOUR site.

It makes no sense – you’ve done everything you can, followed all the rules and still your site is no where.  How are these other sites that don’t belong there holding on to your coveted spot?

The truth is, as smart as the engines are, they don’t catch all the garbage sites out there as quickly as we would like them to.  There are 2 things we can do to help eradicate this problem.

1.  Report any and all spam and garbage sites to Google (and the other engines you use).  This is not being a tattle tale, this is not going out for revenge.  This is simply asking Google to uphold the rules that they are asking you to follow.  It is saying, “I’m playing fair here, so level the playing field so my competitors that are “less-than ethical” don’t rule the SERPs”.  To notify

Google of a spam site, click here:
http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html

2.  The second thing you can do is follow best practices 100%.  Be aggressive, be proactive, but be ethical.  The more people insist on “black hat” tactics, the more sites we’ll see that are sneaking by Google.   Know that with active efforts Google is making daily to weed out spam – you have everything to gain by patiently, aggressively and ethically optimizing your site.

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