Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

5 Ways to Make Business Blogging Work for you

Friday, January 27th, 2012

So you have a business blog but can’t quite manage to add content on a regular basis, welcome to the club. More and more companies are jumping into the blogosphere to aid their online marketing efforts but as with most things, just creating a blog is not enough to see any real benefit to your company. To really make your blog work for you, you need to update it on a regular basis. So then the $64,000 question becomes, “How do I do that?”. It can actually be simpler than you think. Here are 5 easy ways to keep those cards and letters coming:

  1. Write what you know
    I know it sounds like a simple statement but think about it. When dealing with clients and potential clients, how often do you find answering the same questions over and over again? If you are like me, that answer would be “quite”. So if you are answering things on a regular basis, there must be some value to what you are saying so why not write it down for posterity? Whenever you find yourself repeating an answer that you have given to other clients time and time again, make a note and VIOLA!, you have a topic to write about. Talk to a few customers in a week and you might find yourself with a whole treasure trove of untapped brilliance just waiting to be shared with an unsuspecting world.

  2. Editorial Calendar
    An editorial calendar is a simple concept used in marketing departments worldwide but somewhat of a foreign concept to most small business owners. What is it you ask? It is nothing more than an outline to follow for communications each year. It usually refers to content being developed for e-Newsletters, websites and other publications to help plan how to roll out content for products, services and events throughout the year. Once such publication is a blog so why not take advantage of this useful tool and create an outline for yourself for the postings you want to generate? You can sit down and think through anything you have planned for the upcoming year (or even just quarter if you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself) and simply jot down topics that relate to your products, services or events that you want to promote at each time. And then as things evolve, you can evolve with it and simply adjust the calendar to work with any new pressing topics that may be more important that your original. The important thing is to make a plan because once you have that done, you are half way there.
  3. Contributing Authors
    Platforms like WordPress allow you to provide limited access to colleagues, employees, partners, customers or friends  so that they can become contributing authors on your blog. If they have something to say on your topic, why not make use of their expertise to help expand your reach. They can login, add their post to the system, then you can approve the content before it goes live. It is a win, win for everyone involved. You give them a voice and they help you by providing different perspectives on things that are important to your clients and potential clients. And if your existing clients are willing to contribute, you can expand the reach of your most effective (and unpaid) sales tool, word of mouth advertising.
  4. Media Content
    Can’t think of anything to say (or you spell like I do)? No problem, why not just give your audience what they really want? Turn on that webcam that came built in to your new laptop and serenade them with the dulcet tones of your industry acumen. Let them get to know the real you (and if you are like me you can share your impeccable comedic timing while you are at it). It is not only an easier way for you to communicate complex thoughts – because lets face it, you are amazing at what you do and sometimes text is just not your medium – it is also the perfect vehicle for potential clients to get to know you before they decide to do business with you.
  5. Scheduling Posts
    The biggest problem entrepreneurs face when it comes to blogging is the time to do it on a regular basis but that kind of commitment is not entirely necessary especially when it comes to platforms like WordPress. One of the most amazing and overlooked features of WordPress is the ability to schedule posts. Now I know what you are thinking, “Great, but what exactly does that mean”, well hold your horses I am getting there (if you haven’t noticed from previous posts, my wisdom is something that trickles out slowly amidst bursts of comedic brilliance). By default any new post is added “immediately”. This just means that at the time you decide to publish, it captures the date and time of that moment and uses it as the time stamp for your posting. What most people do not realize is that they can edit the post time and even set it for a future date so that your post can go live whenever you want. So, “big deal, what does that mean to me and my time, right?”. Well, what it means is you can sit down for an hour or so when you have the time and bang out any number of postings from your list of questions you have jotted down or the editorial calendar you have painstakingly setup and set them to go live over whatever period of time you see fit. Ideally you should be posting at least twice a week but that is a pipe dream for most. But you can make the most of what you have by staggering the release. You can sit down for a few hours at a time and have blog postings that will automatically post to your site over the course of a month or more. Going on vacation? No problem. Schedule postings to go while you are gone and let your site continue to communicate with the search engines and do your marketing for you while you are away. Have a conference coming up or a really big project, no problem just set that crock pot of inspiration to slow and get to work.

So now that you have some ways to get the content out there, you have no more excuses. Share your secret cache of knowledge with the world and build your thought leadership, website influence and customer relationships all at the same time.


Enhancing client interactions through social media promotions

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Most every business these days have finally broken down and entered the social media arena in one way or another but just setting up an account is not enough to truly make the medium work for you. Sure, setting up the accounts alone can help you with SEO initially because every footprint you make in the name of your company can have a positive impact in that area but that is a short-lived benefit at best of you don’t commit. The only way to really engage clients and potential clients in this brave new world is through regular updates. These updates can take a great many forms from syndicated blog postings for outlets like Facebook or simple re-tweeting of relevant information on Twitter but one of the most effective ways of interacting is through the old school use of a simple promotion.

This Ain’t Your Mama’s Promotion

Historically promotions were done in the form of a drawing. Clients and potential clients would need to go to a physical location in order to put in their entry and this was a great way to not only bring in new potential clients and reconnect with existing clients but it offered the opportunity to actually speak with the people involved. Unfortunately as things evolved into direct mail and then to email, this interactive component was lost for the most part and participation waned. Enter Social Media. The use of social media in business is working to bring some of the interactivity of yore back to the silicone landscape of today’s hermit rich environment. True, you still may not physically see the client or potential client (at least initially) but it is allowing an actual conversation to begin rather than the unidirectional neediness that businesses were directing into the cyberspace ether.

Make it Work!

I can see some nodding heads. You are seeing the potential but you are not sure how to do the Tim Gunn and Make it Work. Well, that can be a little more tricky because what works for one type of business might not work for another but in general contests are pretty universal. Contests are the oldest marketing trick in the book because they work. You set up a scenario, ask people to enter and they can potentially win a prize. It is as simple as that. And they work because the only thing you want to get out of it is the interaction with the people who participate.

A Shamelessly Self-Serving Example

As an example of how I interact with my clients each year, I give you the 12 Days of Mas Chris. This is a contest that was born out of a friend of mine wanting me to post a picture of myself on Facebook wearing a Santa hat. Seems like a rather innocuous request but as with everything else in my life, I took it to the extreme and posted multiple. They were so well received by friends and clients that I began the 12 Days of Mas Chris in which I would post a new photo of myself in a different Santa/Holiday hat each day for twelve days (And from there it evolved to be me also being inserted into different TV or Movie scenes wearing a holiday hat).

After all 12 days have been posted, people are able to vote on their favorite photo once a day for 5-7 days. I do a first, second and third place drawing from the entries and award prizes to the lucky few. In this case I give first place $50 toward any upcoming work, second place $25 toward upcoming work and third place a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Along the way clients comment on the photos and it allows me the opportunity to interact even if I am not currently doing any work for them.

The contest is so successful that I have clients asking when it is going to start because they enjoy my ridiculous photos almost as much as driving around their local neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights and have incorporated the 12 Days of Mas Chris into their annual Christmas traditions.

I enjoy creating the photos almost as much as clients and friends seem to enjoy seeing them each year and I get the added benefit of the additional interaction so it is a Win/Win/Win.

The Moral

The moral of the story is that no matter what you decide to do whether it is a simple concept or a very complex one, running promotions through your social media outlets can have a very positive impact on your customer relationships and you might just have a little fun along the way.


Making your Facebook Fan Page work for you

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Ok, so you have joined the Social Media revolution. You have one of the basics covered with Facebook but just being out there only keeps you in the game. What you need now is to take the next step and find a way to enhance your position. Something that can help with online reputation management, brand visibility, and customer engagement all at the same time. So what is this glorious next step? Well, I can name that tune in one note… Optimization. Or to be more specific, optimizing your presence to maximize your reach. I know what you are thinking, “that sounds great, but it also sounds complicated”. Well, it is a lot simpler than you might think.

Here are some simple steps that you can take to optimize your online presence to help your new social media presence help you:

First things first. Before you do anything else you need to make sure that you are properly branded on your Facebook Fan Page. This is easy enough to do as long as you have at least 25 Fans already in place. Once you have 25 fans, Facebook will allow you to create a Vanity Name for your page so rather than you can have Big difference right? So instead of an accountants nightmare for a URL, you can make sure that people know who they are going to see and more importantly, they can then more easily tell their friends :). Just make sure to choose wisely when you setup your name because there are no takesy backsies. Once it is set you are stuck so make sure to come as close to your brand as possible when creating your ID.

It sounds pretty simple but you would be surprised how many companies do not take the simple step of connecting their website to their Facebook page. You have seen it on many sites and likely used it one some of them too. That little blue “F” icon that connects your brand to your new social network. You can do it any way you like and get as creative as you want with the art you use for the link (just make sure to brand it when you do by using your Facebook Page Vanity Name). Then just make sure to add it to as many of your pages as possible to increase the number of links to your page.

Now is where you bring the traffic by accumulating fans (or “Likes”) by driving traffic to your page. First up you can try some of the widgets that Facebook offers to display fan page content within your websites. You can follow it up with staying active on your page so that your content gets out there in the news feed. And if you are feeling really frisky you can even sponsor content or place ads on Facebook to help draw in new blood.

Once you are done setting up the basics for your Facebook traffic, it will be time to put the social media circle of life into motion letting Facebook show you some of its hidden potential by allowing it to drive traffic back to your regular website. Simply add Share and Like buttons to the nuggets of wisdom on your site and sit back and watch your brilliance be spread to the content hungry masses.

As your social media circle builds steam so to will the search engine links that help drive your organic SEO. And that organic SEO boost will in turn add more positive links for reputation management, which will also increase you brand visibility and customer engagement opportunities.

Now if you only had a blog things could be really awesome…

Crock Pot Marketing: A fix to and forget it appraoch to online marketing

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Marketing is the bane of most entrepreneurs existence. On one hand it is necessary to communicate with your potential customer base while on the other hand it can be an incredible time suck taking you away from the business of running your business. It needs to be done and as the business owner you are the ideal person to get potential customers the info they need, so what is the answer? I can name that tune in one note…Automation.

Marketing, Marketing, Will Robinson

Ok, so maybe Robbie the robot is not exactly the type of automation we are talking about here but a factory analogy is not too far off. Think about it, the key to marketing (once you have figured out your message and the best way to present it of course) is messaging consistently over time to your potential customer base. The problem that most entrepreneurs face is the same issue that plagued the manufacturing industry in years past, volume. And how did manufacturers resolve the issue? Automation. So why not apply a similar principle to your marketing efforts? I know I am not making an apples-to-apples comparison here but you get the idea. It is all about having the time to generate the appropriate volume whether it be physical product or marketing content. We have established that the key to marketing is the number of touches (and no, not bad touches) you make with a potential client over time but just because you want to connect with them on an ongoing basis does not mean that you have to come back next week at the same bat-time and same bat-channel to bang out more brilliant insights. It is hard enough for entrepreneurs to get into a marketing frame of mind for their own business (even if that is what they do for others) so why not maximize that time when lightning strikes and begin filling a crock pot with marketing gems so you can set it to cook slowly, releasing your brilliance as it heats over the course of an automated campaign?

Recipes for Success

Ok, now you are sold. You know you can count on one or two good days each quarter when you can not only concentrate on marketing your company but you are actually interested in doing it. You have the ingredients, now all that is left is to find the right appliance to turn your marketing recipe into the culinary masterpiece you know it to be. So what are the Consumer Reports best buys for automated marketing:

One of the easiest ways to automate your marketing efforts is through Scheduled blog posting.  Blog platforms often allow you to set a date and time for your postings to go live. WordPress is especially good at this. You can hack out 10 blog draft blog postings and then schedule them to go live at the date and time of your choosing. This allows you to sit down on that one day a quarter and get it all out, all of the industry innovations, customer epiphanies and other nuggets of brilliance related to your business that have been building up but you had not been able to release to the wild. Then once you have extracted every last drop of insight, you can go through and set your wisdom to a slow drip so its magic fingers will touch your clients as regularly as possible. So then you can get back to the business of running your business secure in the knowledge that even though you are not even thinking about marketing anymore, your clients are receiving the benefit of your experience. And once your marketing build up reaches a critical level again you can just rinse and repeat to reset the circle of life.

Email can work in much the same way with the added benefit of your appliance restarting itself for each new subscription so each individual feels the magic fingers at the exact same rate and in the exact same order no matter when they turned on the heat. How does this miracle appliance work you ask? The simple answer is “AutoResponder”. Now I know what you are thinking, “hey, wait a minute, that is what I set when I go on vacation, how can that possible fulfill the promise that you have laid out?” But worry not, the name might be the same but the function is drastically different. Email providers like MailChimp, aWeber or even a more involved service like 1ShoppingCart allow you to set up serialized  autoresponders that run as a result of a subscription to a given email list. These autoresponders generally allow you to set up multiple emails as well as a time delay from the initial subscription so that they can be sent in the order you want them received and with the appropriate time delay between each so your touches can trickle out at the proper rate.

Social Media
Social Media content distribution can also be automated  as an additional prong in your email and/or blogging efforts. Most blogging platforms and email providers offer options for direct social media integration so as soon as your blast of radiance hits your blog or email system, the same information can be immediately distributed to your different social media outlets like Facebook, and Twitter allowing you to magnify your audience all while you are focusing your time on servicing existing customer and business needs.

The bottom line is that through small time commitments and simple automation, entrepreneurs can effectively market themselves without sacrificing the business they are trying to build in the process.

Using media to enhance user experience

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

There are many ways to enhance your user’s experience when they visit your website from simple graphics to full multimedia immersion. Most sites depend on graphics (at least to a degree) to help sell the content. And while as a designer I am all over this because it helps feed my Starbucks addiction, there are sometimes simpler ways to enhance an otherwise decent design that may be in need of a little freshening up. One of the best ways to breath new life into your site is with the discreet use of multimedia.

Although it can be pretty old school in its execution, a little movement goes a long way.

Flash – No matter what Steve Jobs says (and I generally listen) Flash is the best and most accessible way to implement animation on your website. It is fast, it is clean and iPad’s and iPhone’s not withstanding (I know mine aren’t) it is accessible to most people on the net. The only real drawback is the need for an experienced designer to help you out with it (again, happy to feed my coffee addiction with your animation needs) but it allows for you to please most of the senses (sorry no smellivision available, but I am sure someone is working on it) with sight and sound.

GIF – A little more old school but no less effective is the tried and true GIF animation. Although only the flip book of online animation offering no sound to accompany the visual goodness, judicious use of this type of animation can draw attention and revitalize an otherwise flat site.

Although not as compelling as animation, adding sound to your site can enhance the experience for your users as well with the added benefit of you being able to record the audio yourself. Most newer computers (or even older ones for that matter) have some rudimentary capacity to record and play audio. A simple message from you can be enough help draw users in and help engage them with the content of your site.

Given the ubiquity of video enabled cellphones and digital cameras (including the simplicity of the flip video camera) the ability to add video to your marketing endeavors has grown exponentially in recent years. Now, without need for professional assistance (although in some cases it is still needed…seriously…but I digress) anyone can add exactly what they need to show potential customers exactly why what they have to offer is second to none. And to make it even easier, enter YouTube and Vimeo as free resources for hosting your video content while allowing you to stream it directly to your website so it appears to be embedded. Giving you a professional sales tool without the expense.

And while these things have sometimes been considered gratuitous in the past (and still can be depending on your implementation), the media that you are looking to add to your site today ain’t your Mama’s video.  It is no longer just about dazzling them with shiny objects. Those shiny objects now serve a purpose beyond drawing your visitors ever closer to the poisoned donut. Recent changes to Google’s search ranking algorithms  are giving more prominence to what it considers to be high quality sites which are defined as sites with more original content. And what is more original than the audio and video you are producing for your potential clients?

So what are you waiting for? Get out there – be little Murray Sparkles (and if you get that reference you definitely have kids) and start enhancing both your user’s experience and your site ranking AT THE SAME TIME!

Adding some pizazz to your social media

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

As more and more marketing relies on the use of social media, and more and more customers use social media outlets as a primary means if communication, companies have to make more of a concerted effort to integrate their corporate identity into their different media outlets. It is no longer enough to just “Be” on Facebook or Twitter you have to be recognizable to your customers and potential customers but how to do it?

As social media has evolved so have the platforms on which they were built allowing users more and more control over the message they are sending. But not everyone is taking advantage of this personalization. Too many businesses make do with base templates rather than customizing the experience for their customers.

WordPress is arguable the most prevalent blogging platform out there with literally thousands of free themes available to customize the look, feel and functionality of any given blog. Themes are easy to install, and easy to modify (OK, maybe easy is not the right word, and not all themes allow customization through the admin area but you can at very least change the header graphic to make it more in line with your current identity). Unfortunately, many site owners do not even get this far. Changing out that header graphic should be done at a minimum but with WordPress you can take it even further depending on your need.

Custom themes
So how do you know if you could benefit from a custom word press theme. Well, riddle me this, Batman – Do you have an established identity for your company? Wouldn’t it be great if a customer reading your blog KNEW they were reading a product from your company rather than having only a vague notion that they might have some affiliation with the writer (like their best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who is pretty sure she once had an out-of-body experience that possibly involved a company like the one who was writing all this great content). Well then what you might need is a custom theme. Custom themes can be as simple as a unique design and layout that is specifically created for your company and as involved as a great deal of custom functionality that allows you to show and maintain everything exactly they way you want it, in other words something that “ain’t your mammas blog”.

You can also take it a step further while you are at it. Word press has evolved into a full on CMS (content management system) and as such it is good for more than just blogging anymore. If you have a site and a blog hosted separately and would love to have it all under the same roof, now is the time. You can have a custom theme created to match your existing site (if it totally rocks) or if it is nothing to write home about and you are apt to put on your best John Cleese and say “now for something completely different”, you can just go with a whole new design. Either way you will be able to have the best of both worlds with your regular site pages and your blog posts all housed in the same easy to use CMS you have been used to. And depending on your functional requirements, the costs can be very reasonable too. Just think, a new site with built-in blog all while removing the need for a Web professional for ongoing updates. And if you are updating your site as often as is prudent for SEO that can begin to add up.

I would bet that a day has not gone by of late when you have not heard about someone “tweeting” or how many followers someone might have but even if you were the one doing the talking, have you ever given any thought to what people see when they come across your brilliance while searching twitter for the absolutely most current info on your area of expertise? Chances are you are like far too many twitter users, you set up your account using the defaults and just started spewing your wisdom to anyone who would listen. This is not a bad thing by any means, after all as I have stated many times before, content is king. But in order to increase the number of subjects under your thought leadership you have to pay at least some attention to your identity so they when someone happens upon you, they’ll tell two friends or at very least be able to figure out how to learn more about their newest addiction…you.

In order to feed the masses chasing the dragon of your wisdom, you need make sure they can find your blog (I mean you can only get so much across 140 characters at a time) or better yet, your website so they can tell all of their friends about this great new resource for products and services. The best way to do this with twitter is by creating a custom theme for your twitter profile. There are a number of tools available to edit your account look and feel with something as simple as a color scheme that matches your corporate identity and something as involved as a custom background image that has your logo, photo and/or other pertinent information staring at your users as they soak up your brilliance.

Many companies have bitten the bullet and setup a fan page for their company or product but like with their blogs, very few have taken the time to take advantage of all of the resources that are available to enhance the experience for their fans.

Profile picture
At very least, anyone with a Facebook fan page should use a custom profile picture that includes your logo as well as other pertinent company information so when someone arrives at you Wall page they know exactly where they are and how else to get in contact with you and although company info is available on the “info” tab, it is always better to make sure that your customers and potential customers do not have to hunt around for ways to get in contact with you.

Custom tabs
When a sweet profile picture is not enough, and getting them to the wall is not the goal, it is time create a custom landing page for your users. Making use of Facebook’s HTML Application allows you to add completely customized content to your fan page so you carry your corporate identity right into your fan page as well as add custom forms and more. And for those of you who want your fans and wannabe fans to land right in the middle of all this greatness, you are I luck because Facebook allows you to decide where they land.

The Networked Blogging application allows you to syndicate your blog content so other Facebook users can subscribe to it while at the same time displaying it for your Facebook Fans on its own tab of your Fan page.

These are just three examples of ways to enhance the user experience with your social media. Identity consistency across all marketing mediums helps customers and potential customers to know they are in the right place right away so they can concentrate on the pressing business of engaging you in conversations that will help them while providing you with valuable interactions that will ultimately help you grow your business.

FREE Tools to Ease Your SEO Woes

Monday, November 8th, 2010

No matter whether you are getting your feet wet with SEO for a new website or just trying to make sense of things for an existing site, there are a number of tools available to help you at a price you can afford…FREE.

Analytics is kind of a buzz word these days but in this context it refers to something very important to your site, you traffic. As the name implies, the tools allow you to analyze your site traffic so you can see the patterns of behavior that are hidden to the naked browser. There are many packages on the market to help you understand you website traffic but by far the most popular (and best choice for most users) is Google Analytics. It is robust, easy to use and best of all it is FREE. Not only is it great for individual site owners but developers love it because it allows you to track multiple sites within the same account.

Once you sign up for an account all that you have to do to get started is to add a simple script to any page you want to track (pretty much all of them). Once you code is set, just wait a few days and then take a look at the treasure trove of information available about your site traffic. The more time that passes the better your insights can become because the patterns that can emerge over time.  And with the simple graphical display emerging patterns are easy to discern so you can concentrate more of your time on your business.

Now don’t be fooled by the simplicity. Analytics are great but  getting the information is the easy part, it is what you do with it that counts. The tools available have hundreds of built-in ways to access your data and they are also easy to customize so you can see the information the way it makes the most sense for your business. And once you begin seeing the data in a meaningful way it will allow you to change the way you look at things enabling you to adjust your marketing and email campaigns accordingly.

Webmasters Tools
Now that you know how to see who is looking at you, it is time to take a look at how you are seen. All of the major search engines offer what are known as webmasters tools to allow you to see yourself as the search engines see you. This is invaluable information because it allows you to truly maximize your SEO potential.These tools allow you to see what keywords you are ranking for,  how often you come up in searches, what sites are linking to you as well as general performance information that will help you fix problems you may not know you had.

And although most things these days are geared toward Google, it is important to make use of the tools from Yahoo and Bing as well so you can get a more complete picture of how you are perceived across the net. Taking this balanced approach will allow you to maximize the effectiveness of any SEO changes that are made as well as giving you more insight for potential SEM campaigns that you might run in the future.

Those sound great but how do I get to them?
The tools are all technically Free to use, but as you know, there is no such thing as a FREE Lunch. In order to access the tools you will have to set up an account with each of the Search Engines. In general this is not a problem but you may want to make sure and bookmark each of the pages as you go because these tools are not exactly easy to get to. While you are at it you might also want to set up email accounts with the different providers for testing purposes. I like to set up Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail accounts during this process so I have them to use for testing email campaigns going forward (while you are at it, if you are thinking about email testing, you should also set up an AOL account as well just to round it out).

Use the links below to check out the different tools and setup your accounts now:




Used properly, these tools can help you to significantly improve the efficacy of your online identity as well as your ongoing marketing efforts.

Keyword Research on a Shoestring

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

The cornerstones of any SEO or SEM project are the search terms used to set your content apart from the crowd. These terms, commonly referred to as Keywords, are how all of your potential organic SEO traffic is eventually directed to your site. But how to you determine what keywords fit best for your site? That is a tough question with a number of answers but they may be simpler than you think.

The best place to start with any keyword research is in your own head and there are two ways to do it:

  1. Try to put yourself into a potential customers shoes and think of the non-industry specific, jargony keywords and keyword phrases that you would use as a layperson trying to find your product. Then begin writing your site content keeping those search terms and phrases in mind to be sure they are included


  2. Start writing the content for your site the way you think it should be written and let the keywords fall where they may.

Either way you decide to go, you are well on your way to where you want to be. The next step, once your content is complete and your site is up, is to consult one of the many Oracles that Google provides in the form of online tools. In this case what you want is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Although this tool was ostensibly developed to be used for Search Engine Marketing (SEM), it is still an excellent Free resource to use to help with basic organic SEO.

So how does it work?
Essentially the way the keyword tool works is that is looks at your site and then tells you what IT thinks your keywords are based on your content. Intrigued yet? I thought you might be. This now allows you to see how the other half sees. You think you are optimizing for one thing and it turns out as far as the spiders are concerned you are talking about something totally different but once you know what it is seeing you can begin make the adjustments that will ultimately help bring in those elusive customers.

From here you can fill out your list with keywords you may not have considered before and start breaking things down using some of Google’s built-in “Grading”. The grading allows you to see how many searches are done each month on a given keyword . You will see some amazing search numbers and be tempted to try to rank for words like “internet”, “Computer”, “Security” (or the like depending on your industry) but don’t get sucked in by really high numbers – remember that the broader the term, the more competition there will be for it. As a small business you need highly qualified leads and you can’t afford to compete with Fortune 500 companies for searches that will, in all reality, have nothing to do with what you have to offer. The best option here is to narrow the terms (or more specifically phrases because single terms will almost always be too broad) as much as possible.

Once you have done that you can narrow it down further by the number of searches (remember, the more the better, but within reason – lets not get greedy). And here is where you play the SEM card for your basic SEO needs. Along with showing the number of searches and a general competition ranking, this tool also shows how much Pay-Per-Click advertising is going for on each keyword or phrase. The more it is going for per click, the more the competition is likely to be for regular organic traffic as well. So when you find your balance between competition, search volume and cost per click, you have found your keyword. then as with everything else you just rinse and repeat until you have ten to fifteen strong keywords that you can use as a base for your site.

Then it is just a matter of optimizing the content on the important pages to make use of up to three of these keywords (and they can be different on each page) and then you can go back to your analytics and other tools to see how things work out and adjust accordingly.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a reason why there are almost as many SEO companies out there as lawyers in this country, they have a lot of expensive toys and know how to really bend the search engines to their will. Depending on your needs it may make sense to work with one of these companies rather than trying to go it alone but for most small businesses, this tool is just one more example of the ways that individual site owners can take some measure of control over their web presence and enhance their organic search engine traffic without sacrificing any body parts to a deity not of their choosing.

How do I measure success with social media?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Success in any marketing endeavor all starts from the same basic formula: define your objectives, determine your placement and measure your results. Simple, right? Then why does social media marketing seem so daunting? Well, it may look daunting but looks can be deceiving. Although social media does not necessarily conform to traditional methods of measurement, the basics still apply, you just have to adjust your thinking from the outset and everything will fall into place.

Define objectives
Social media is a different animal from most marketing because the objectives are drastically different. Rather than trying to convince someone to buy your product directly, social media is more about capturing mind share. So the real objective in most cases is simply to start a conversation with potential customers that allows you to display your thought leadership about a certain topic. Once engaged in this manner, potential customers begin to see the benefits that you offer over your competition.

Once you have defined the objectives for your social media marketing the next thing to determine is a proper venue. Blogging, Facebook and Twitter have great broad reaching appeal but make sure to look into smaller more industry or interest centric social networks as well to determine the best place to start your conversation.

Now that you have the what and the where, the how of success measurement becomes infinitely easier. Since your objectives and placement are different for social media than they are for your other marketing efforts you need to conform your measurements to fit situation as well and in this case you will conform your measurement to the individual venue.

  • Members/Comments
    If you run a membership site or blog that allows users to comment on posting, you can use the number of members/comments as a barometer for the usefulness of the content. Not only that but the comments themselves can contain invaluable information related to your individual postings that can help you in other areas of marketing and product development.
  • Fans/Followers
    The number of “fans” or followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter indicate the popularity of specific content you are providing. While growth in the number of these over a period of time can show how well your messages are penetrating your target markets.
  • Social bookmarks
    The number of times your content has been posted to sites like Digg or Stumbleupon can indicate that not only is your message effective but that you are also building the mind share among potential customers.

And the list goes on and on. A unique measurement criterion can be determined for each type of if not each individual social media outlet but once the objective of your social media marketing campaign, the measurement metrics will very quickly present themselves for you.

Once you go through the process once you will have it down. Then all that you need to do is rinse and repeat with the basics for your different campaigns and don’t be afraid to tell people about your success. Who knows, your success with one campaign could be the source of another success just by spreading the word.

Know your reputation – Ignoring it won’t make it go away…

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Companies spend years building their reputations but all of that work can be for naught if they don’t know how to manage it. I know what you are thinking, you have a great reputation for excellent products and outstanding customer service, but the reputation you have cultivated with your loyal customers over the years may not be the same thing that potential clients are seeing online. The main reason for this is that once something gets loose on the Net it is almost (if not completely) impossible to remove.

All it takes is one negative blog posting on a popular site and new prospects might overlook you out of hand because that negative posting about your inferior quality products or your non-existent customer service is showing up with higher rankings than your well designed, fully optimized corporate site. This type of information can hang around long after they are posted whether or not they were ever true or have since been fixed. And although these things may never go away completely, there are things that can be done to mitigate their impact:

  1. Control the message
    The key to any reputation management plan is to control the message. Make sure that all of your online communications follow the same guidelines. Wherever the company is mentioned, it should always be portrayed in the same light which means knowing what is being said on Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online outlets is a must. It is a big job but you need to set aside time to review these sites every week.
  2. What to monitor?
    Find a group of blogs or other social medial outlets to monitor. Not just your company but competition, industry as a whole and messages to see what is resonating. You can usually start this with a simple Google search to see what is going on in your space. But don’t stop there, it is also a good idea to keep en eye on employee blogs and personal websites to identify possible internal risks to your online reputation as well.
  3. Making sense of it all
    Not all conversations will affect the company. Focus on the ones that impact perception. Make note of the audience impacted using each platform as a guide (Twitter=followers, Facebook=Fans, etc). Know what is being said and to whom so you can determine the best way to respond.

Once you are set controlling, monitoring and interpreting, you will be ready if things go south and you suddenly find yourself facing some high-ranking negative information. If this happens, you can use social media to set it right again. Time is of the essence and with the recent roll out of Google’s Caffeine, and the fact that you have been paying attention, you can now make a bigger impact even faster. Keeping track of your online reputation allows you to take out those negative blips before they fester into any significant business impact by pushing them down to the level of insignificance in the search engines.