MARKETING

  • “SEO IS DEAD” – A MISTAKE OR CLICHÉ?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    There are a couple of ways in which writers and marketers try to phrase the “SEO is dead” statement.  Normally, this is merely a tactic employed to talk about SEO’s recent best practices.  Others have actually tried to suggest that SEO is dead.

    As we confront these attempts, one thing is clear – it is both a mistake and a (bad) cliché.

    The Roundabout Cliché

    SEO stands for search engine optimization.  In short, SEO refers to the techniques/processes used to improve a website’s visibility in the search rankings.  These organic search results (as opposed to paid search marketing) can drastically help a website get more traffic.

    To suggest that SEO is dead is to suggest that these methods do not exist or work.  We know that this is not true, barring a complete change in the way that search engines function.

    Why would anyone say that SEO is dead?  A few reasons emerge:

    • There Are New Methods: This is the most popular angle.  The writer will talk about how the SEO landscape has evolved greatly, so much that there is a “new SEO” of sorts.  Yet, SEO has merely changed – just like web development, social media, and anything else in technology.
    • It Draws Eyes:  It is daring and thought-provoking to suggest that SEO is dead.
    • SEO Value: It is ironic – talking about whether SEO is dead or not actually provides SEO value.  There are 320 average monthly searches for the phrase, according to Google AdWords.

    The above combination often forms a tandem that can easily fill 500 words of content.  After asking the question, running through the Google Panda developments, and drawing on recent techniques like social media, content marketing, and more – the writer will focus on how SEO has changed.

    For the majority of articles that discuss this topic, they don’t legitimately suggest that SEO is dead.  It is merely a roundabout ploy to generate intrigue, or at best to answer this question for beginners that do not know the basics of SEO.

    A Serious Mistake

    In a recent post, Tim Anderson did a rare thing: He suggested that SEO is actually dead.

    His initial thrust is easily met: “A striking post by Dan Graziano reveals that a Google search may only display 13% organic results.” However, what this statistic reveals is that organic search results account for 13 percent of screen real estate above the fold on a 13-inch laptop.

    There are a lot of ads in your average search.  Yet, this is not relevant to the effectiveness of SEO.  To quote a meaningful statistic, organic search results receive a click 94 percent of the time versus paid search results.

    The next portion from Anderson focuses on how local searches are gaining in steam – along with social media.  There is truth to both, as social media is becoming much more popular, especially for local searches.

    Once again, though, we don’t get the full story – Google searches have grown year after year.  Also, local SEO is still SEO.  And social media optimization can help SEO, since a strong social media presence is known to greatly impact a website’s SEO value.

    SEO is Not Dead

    SEO is alive and kicking.  It has certainly changed, notably from the recent and ongoing developments from Google.

    It may rely heavily on quality content marketing, social media, and other elements that were not seen in past years.  It may keep changing, changing to the point to where some businesses may be out of luck from relying on outdated strategies.

    However, SEO is quite active and relevant.  Take a hard look at any alleged evidence before you believe the contrary.

  • IMPROVING YOUR BOTTOM LINE WITH GOOGLE ANALYTICS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Around 60 percent of websites do not use any sort of analytics solution to track statistics.  Sayf Sharif reports that the number is even higher for nonprofits.

    An analytics solution like Google Analytics is not tantamount to numbers and statistics that lack overall relevance.  It can guide your SEO and social media strategies, help you determine your engagement with your target audience, and much more.  Analytics can help the blogger looking for some exposure or the big business needing some insight into all things digital – and anything in between.

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  • EMAIL MARKETING: INCREASING CONVERSIONS ON CONTACT AND OPT-IN FORMS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Email marketing should be the central focus of your efforts.  Social media has its place, but email campaigns can and should be the cornerstone.  It is the most personal medium and the one that you control.

    Contact and opt-in forms may form an unglamorous subset of online marketing, but they can’t be underestimated.  As catalysts for your email subscriber list, these forms can lead to gains in hits, social media followers, and your overall business.

    An Easy Way to Increase Conversions on Contact Forms by 120%

    All they had to do was to reduce their contact form from 11 to four fields.  As a result, Imagescape gained a 120 percent conversion increase.

    Simplifying a contact form can do wonders for its conversion rate.  Other information from the QuickSprout infographic makes it clear that it’s optimal to have fewer fields:

    • 25 percent conversion rate for forms with only three fields
    • 20 percent conversion rate for forms with three to five fields
    • 15 percent conversion rate for forms with six or more fields

    The key is to make things easier and simpler.  For instance, drop down forms did not perform well, peaking at a conversion rate of 16 percent.  Ordinary forms that required telephone numbers and contact information saw declines as well.

    Another interesting finding was the word used on the form’s button.  Instead of the default “Submit,” buttons that had less-intimidating terms saw the following increases in the conversion rate:

    • 30 percent for “Click Here”
    • 25 percent for “Go”
    • 15 percent for “Download”
    • 10 percent for “Register”

    Opt-In Forms: Color, Placement, Wording, and More!

    An entirely different ballgame awaits your website opt-in forms.  While they certainly have the same goal as a contact form, implementing them well requires some finesse and an eye for design.

    From the form’s placement and colors to the text and thank-you page, there is a lot going on here.  You will have to grab the user’s attention, make a statement, and compel the reader to join.

    The first two examples from Shane Melaugh’s “Opt-In Form Clinic” speak to the directness that your form must have.  In the original opt-in forms, specificity is lacking.  Instead of saying little other than “Sign up for free updates,” you want to ignite something in the reader that makes them want those updates or that free e-book.

    It should sell itself.  It should stand without any other content.  As Melaugh says, it has to pop.

    Make sure that your opt-in form stands out visually.  Colors that immediately capture the reader’s eyes work well.

    Worried about social media links?  Keep them for your thank-you page.  Once you have the opt-in, you can ask for follows and shares on that page and within your email campaigns.

    The Bottom Line

    Keep your contact and opt-in forms direct and to the point.  If there are too many fields on the contact forms, you could scare a potential subscriber away from connecting with your business.

    Test contact and opt-in forms to see what works best.  Keep the contact form simple and play around with its placement.  On the opt-in form, experiment with different copy and design elements to see what truly stands out and inspires the visitors.

    And remember to do A/A tests before you do A/B tests.  The tool or software you use might not display accurate information.

    These tricks can open up your company to a wide body of email subscribers.  That’s just the start – as your email campaigns can lead to social media, RSS, text messaging, and other opportunities in the world of marketing.

  • LEARNING THE ROPES OF SEO: A STARTUP GUIDE (PART 3)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Once you have identified keyword for your website, you can set your sights on the driving force of SEO – content marketing strategy.  Learn more about this with the final post in the series, extending from part one and part two of this series where we looked at the importance of SEO and keywords for your business.

    Utilizing SEO in Your Posts

    Create blog posts that target specific keywords and phrases to build SEO value.  Aim for high-quality, insightful content that is at least 250/300 words in length.

    Some of the best blog posts are those that target those low competition keywords that are searched for often.  In fact, one of the earliest articles I published in my career has been viewed nearly 55,000 times since September of 2009 – simply by targeting a lesser-used phrase that is still common.

    Don’t let the term “content marketing” scare you.  Take the opportunity to give your business a voice online.  In keeping with our example of an online lighting fixture retailer, you could create posts that showcase interesting DIY lighting projects, beautiful photos of homes that are well-lit, and tips for keeping utility costs low.  You could also do promotional and semi-promotional posts, such as those that characterize the benefits of a certain lighting fixture, and tips for cleaning fixtures.

    Cover news in your industry.  Point your audience to anything that entertains, informs, or is otherwise of interest in your industry.  As you do this, keep these tips in mind:

    • Use keywords in the title, subheads, and content (body text) naturally.  Don’t overdo it and/or make it look obvious.  In fact, it may be easiest to write your posts and then go back and insert keywords appropriately.
    • Keywords have maximum value toward the beginning of the title and subheads, as well as the first sentence or two of the post.
    • Go back and refer to other posts you have written, linking to posts that expand or diverge on a topic.  This creates internal links that can help with SEO.  It will also help keep readers on your website.

    Other Areas that Affect SEO

    Content marketing doesn’t stop at your website.  Blog posts may be the most effective way to gain SEO, but there are other areas that do that as well – and they can bring impressive marketing value to the table.

    Here are some various items that can help you gain a larger web presence.  They can all do wonders for SEO:

    • Social Media: Described as one of the three pillars of SEO, social media is not removed from SEO at all.  In fact, as you gain a larger social media presence, search engines take note and can bump you up accordingly.  These are called social signals.  Other items are at play here, too – for instance, having a Google+ presence will be prominently displayed on Google in the search results.
    • Onsite SEO: Optimize your static pages for SEO.  This includes reworking title tags (the title of a webpage) to include a prominent keyword.  For instance, you might want to rework your homepage title to “COMPANY NAME | Online Lighting Fixture Retailer” or something similar.
    • Links: Consider creating guest posts on websites in your industry, press releases, and more.  As you have more and more sites that link to your website, this can result in SEO gains.

    Analytics

    It doesn’t take much to make ground in SEO.  I believe that any business can begin creating effective blog posts in their industry, leverage them on social media, and begin considering other techniques (e.g., YouTube videos and guest posts for links) to build a web presence.

    Make sure you have an analytics solution on your website.  Google Analytics is the standard, and it can be installed easily on a site – simply check with your developer or theme.  You can also opt for another free/paid option (Clicky is particularly noteworthy, with a very clean interface).

    Having analytics will allow you to see where your visitors are coming from to get to your site.  You can see what portion of your visitors have arrived via organic search, which means that SEO is working.  You will be able to see what search terms resulted in a visit to your site.

    Use this to learn about effective SEO techniques that you have used.  Build on that success to improve your rankings in search results.

    Closing Thoughts

    SEO doesn’t have to be difficult.  While you can make an investment with a marketing agency, or an SEO specialist and a writer or two – you can also do it yourself.  Perhaps you can gain some ground on your own, and then consider taking it to the professionals at the right time.

    Perform keyword research, come up with a list of keywords for your audience, and then follow through with a content marketing plan that involves social media, links, and more.  That’s all it takes.

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  • LEARNING THE ROPES OF SEO: A STARTUP GUIDE (PART 2)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Any SEO progress that is made without keywords is incidental.  Extending from the first blog post in this series, we learned the ultimate goal and purpose of SEO: to rank highly for keywords that relate to your business and your audience.  Once that happens, your website will increase in views.

    What are those keywords for your business, though?  Keeping our imaginary business that sells lighting fixtures online, we dive into some examples and strategies for quick and effective keyword research.

    Keyword Research Made Easy

    Take the opportunity to bookmark Google’s keyword tool, which will come in handy.

    Place relevant words and phrases in the tool, which will generate keywords along with the corresponding competition, global and monthly searches, and local monthly searches (for location-based businesses) for that term.  These results will help you learn more about the SEO landscape in your country.

    Put together a list of primary keywords that describe your business, products, and services.  For instance, if your lighting fixtures include popular brands, you would want your website to register highly for “BRAND lighting fixtures” search terms.

    Also, don’t be afraid to look for keywords that are related to your industry but not your products or services.  For example, a great blog post on DIY lighting could generate website visits and establish your business as a thought leader in the industry.  This strategy could do wonders for gaining a following, making it well worth the effort.

    Compile the tens or hundreds of keywords in a safe place.  You will target these with your website, blog posts, guest posts, social media posts, and much more!

    Long-Tail Keywords and Low-Competition Keywords

    While “lighting fixtures” is searched for on Google 673,000 times each month, ranking highly on that term could be a daunting task for a company with a new web presence.  Why not set immediate sights on keywords that are a bit less competitive – while keeping an eye on your big goals?

    This is one of the best strategies for newer companies and blogs.  Over an extended period of time, you might be able to make ground on the highly-competitive, high-number searches.  Even making it to the second or third page can be worthwhile.  However, this can take time, as your main keywords are obvious and likely conquered by your competitors (and their large budgets).

    Turn your attention to these related keywords:

        • “diy lighting:” 49,500 searches
        • “diy lights:” 49,500 searches
        • “ambient lighting:” 33,100 searches
        • “brand” lighting: Several brands from 1,000 to 9,000 searches

    These keywords all have low competition, according to Google.  With a little bit of work, that imaginary business could rank well for these terms, gaining an impressive boost in traffic.

    Here are a couple of additional points from Juan Pablo Castro that can help you generate effective keywords:

          • Long-Tail Keywords: Longer phrases are searched quite often.  Experiment with synonyms, words like “best” before and after a main keyword, and plurals to mix things up.  Maybe your business should use terms like “wholesaler” or “retailer.”
          • Urgency Keywords: This is an excellent point from Castro.  Taking our thematic example, perhaps “same day delivery” or something pertaining to shopping would be appropriate.  This would be well worth the time, as these terms reveal that the searcher is looking to buy.

    That’s All

    Place these keyword lists in a safe place, such as a spreadsheet.  You can even consider organizing your keyword lists in terms of priority, competition, and category (location, promotional, product/service, entertaining, etc.).

    These will help you create content that incorporates keywords in the title, content, and subheads that will get noticed by search engines.

    Stay tuned for the final part in the series, which dives into content marketing approaches that will have SEO value.  We will also look at viewing your progress in a simple-to-use analytics solution.

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  • LEARNING THE ROPES OF SEO: A STARTUP GUIDE (PART 1)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Search engine optimization (SEO) is a household term that is used across the web.  It basically works to improve a website’s position in the results of a search engine, such as Google.  Since the websites that are higher in the results will get more visibility and subsequent “clicks” (website visitors), it pays to invest time and effort into SEO.

    As opposed to other forms of online marketing, it doesn’t cost anything when you do it yourself.  This means that you can learn how to implement SEO best practices on your site without a professional marketer/marketing company or advertising funds.

    How does it all work, though?  This three-part series will teach you the basics that you can implement immediately.

    Understanding SEO – What’s the Take-Home Point?

    Why do you want to optimize your website for search engines?  In 2011, there was an average of over 4.7 billion searches each day.

    It doesn’t matter how narrow the market is for your business or blog.  There are tens of thousands of searches each day in which your site can rank highly.

    Let’s pretend that you have an online store that sells lighting fixtures.  According to Google’s keyword tool, there are 673,000 global monthly searches for “lighting fixtures.”

    Imagine if your business was the top result in Google for that search term.  A study suggests that you would receive 18.2 percent of those visitors.  Second place in this result would have a click-through rate of 10.05 percent – and so on down the line.

    That means that your business would receive over 122,000 organic (natural, non-paid) visitors each month.  Compare that price (free) to the average cost per click of a paid search campaign (over $47,000), which was $0.39 according to a recent report.

    It’s not exactly a fair comparison – but it makes the point pretty clear.

    The Ultimate Goal

    Think about the difference that additional traffic could make for your business, blog, or other type of website.  If your website increases its visitors, that could lead to conversions: sales, social media followers, email subscribers, and more.

    The goal of SEO is to rank highly for keywords that relate to your business and your audience.  Once that happens, your website will practically market itself.

    Next to be covered is finding those keywords that can quickly improve your site in the rankings.  If you are spending time with the wrong keywords – or without an eye towards keywords at all – you are missing out on a great opportunity.  Finally, we will take a look at simple content marketing approaches that can easily make a dent in SEO.

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  • THE DARK SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

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    In the world of online marketing, there are plenty of scams and shoddy practices that propel business – and social media marketing is no exception.  Perhaps you have seen a recent example on your Facebook News Feed lately, as this practice has become commonplace.

    How does this happen and what can you do about it?  A further look can shed light on the situation.

    A Lot of Fans = Big Money

    You could pay several thousand dollars to own a popular Facebook page.  Becky Worley reports that owners can solicit paid ads, transforming a simple Facebook page into a lucrative business for some.

    She tells the story of a mother who noticed that her daughter’s picture, a child named Katie who has Down syndrome, was used without consent with the following text:

    This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome and doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful.”

    The page received 3.5 million likes.

    Once the likes, comments, and shares come in from these types of posts, it can result in pages with staggering followings.  This can mean a hefty price tag for owners that want to cash in on the advertising exposure that they crave.

    Black Hat Social Media and SEO

    These types of stories define the essence of black hat marketing.  The “black hat” term is often associated with SEO, but it works with social media, as well as any marketing arena.

    Here’s what it looks like for social media and SEO – on two different levels:

          • Social Media: Katie’s exploitive story represents some of the worst practices on social media.  On a lower level, pages can ask for a like or a share depending on an answer to a question, or ask eye-catching questions simply for the comments (“I bet you can’t name a city in X that doesn’t contain the letter ‘E’”)
          • SEO: Some sites earn plenty of money by targeting popular search queries; they simply pile in the keyword phrases and ad spaces, which generate income based on the number of visitors.  On a lower level, companies can take keywords too far, such as if a dining establishment has “best Mexican restaurant in Chicago” in the last five titles of their blog.

    These practices can be illegal and/or unethical.

    What Happens?

    According to Worley, pages like this one on cuddling will go for sale for $7,000.  Some websites built around black hat SEO techniques could still make a profit.

    Yet, there is good news on the SEO front: Google is pushing less-than-respectable operations into oblivion, punishing them for spam, paid backlinks, and more.  It’s creating a lot of problems for those who don’t embrace the best practices of SEO.

    Social media is much more difficult to control.  Worley notes the “cat and mouse game” nature of regulating sold pages and fraudulent behavior.  But even if that occurs, it won’t stop unethical posts that deceive people.

    You can unlike pages and posts.  You can report spam to Google.  However, the best option is probably to take the high road – ignore the black hatters, spammers, and sources that may simply not know better.

    A site like Snopes can help you determine if a viral story is true or false.  Before you comment in outrage that baby carrots have chlorine, execute a quick search and read a few posts.

    And for those of you that are engaged in social media marketing, take the high road.  After all, just seven bad tweets or Facebook posts could ruin your business.

    A strong social media and website presence will translate into success.

  • STATISTICS SHED LIGHT ON GLARING LOCAL SEARCH TRENDS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Why should your business pay attention to local SEO and social media optimization?  Based on a recent search study’s glaring numbers, local establishments will need to up the ante to compete for local search results.

    Local Searches on Mobile Devices Soar

    Mobile searches are on the rise, according to a recent local search study from comScore, Nuestar/Localeze, and 15 Miles.  A few statistics tell the story:

    • Mobile search accounts for the number one function on mobile browsers
    • 56 percent of mobile users need local info on the go
    • Visitors to search sites saw a 26 percent increase in 10 months (mobile searches)
    • 87 percent increase in local searchers via mobile apps in the past two years

    Businesses should also know that mobile searchers are closer to making a purchase.  Greg Sterling notes from the study that 78 percent of mobile phone searches and 77 percent of tablet searches resulted in a purchase.  Only 59 percent of PC searches ended in a purchase.

    While mobile searches increase in numbers, the same can’t be said for PCs and laptops, which saw a 17-percent decrease in local searches, with a five-percent decrease in non-local searches.

    Is Facebook the Future of Local Searches?

    As local searches rise across the Internet, the study revealed impressive numbers regarding Facebook, the social media giant.  With the following results in mind, it seems like businesses will need to take local searches on Facebook seriously:

    • 92 percent of searchers looking for local business information on social networking sites use Facebook (second and third are Google+ and Twitter, respectively, at 23 and 21 percent)
    • Facebook is the second-most used app for local search, behind only Google Maps and ahead of the likes of Mapquest, Bing, and Apple Maps

    These are significant figures.  With Facebook beating out other apps in local searches, Nearby and Graph Search offer an interesting opportunity for businesses.  While there is no comparable number in this year’s study, last year’s study found that 49 percent of mobile owners used apps to find local information.

    Facebook is closely behind the leader, Google Maps (35 to 24 percent on mobile phones, 25 to 23 percent on tablets).  It could be poised to take over the mobile app world for local searches in due time.

    The Moral of the Story

    The takeaway point is clear: Local businesses need to optimize listings, especially on Facebook, to appeal to local searchers.  Mobile users will use local search tools to find a nearby business – those lagging will be left behind.

    Take to Facebook and make sure that you have a page for your business, as well as additional locations as needed.  All information, such as the address, phone number, photos, and website links should be present.  Branch out on Google+, Bing, and other sites to create a consistent presence that welcomes mobile users.

    Taking these steps will improve your local SEO, SEO, and social media presence.  It will, quite literally, put your business on the map.

  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ON FACEBOOK CAN ALTER YOUR BUSINESS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Jameson Brown is right: Social media customer service is a game changer.  Brown took time to write a personal blog post about an experience on Facebook with a company – and he’s not the only one who has voiced an opinion in this way.

    After waiting a bit too long on an important Christmas present, he cried out to Zappos.com’s Facebook page to locate the shoes that recently disappeared from the site.  Surprisingly, and after several back-and-forth messages, the team managed to find the shoes at a third-party site – a place where Zappos wouldn’t even make a sale.

    Brown ended up purchasing a similar pair at Zappos, where he was given further assistance to make sure that the right gift would arrive on time.

    He isn’t alone in reaching out via social media.  Of the 95 percent of customers that share bad experiences with others, research shows that 45 percent take to Facebook, Twitter, and other big-name platforms.  Sadly, around the same number (46 percent in the U.S.) of B2C companies track and follow up on brand mentions on social media in a separate study.

    Lacking a social media plan to customer service can have disastrous consequences.  Customers will take their complaints, comments, and cries for help to Facebook – in full view of others.

    The right approach to social media customer service, to borrow a term from Jameson Brown, can have a profound impact on not only service, but brand identity and marketing power.  When they know that your brand is listening, responsive, and eager to help, you have already achieved a great deal.