Archive for the ‘Marketing Tips’

7 Ways Your Content Can Increase Facebook Engagement

November 19, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

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engagement-science

Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered how some brands seem to dramatically and exponentially grow their fan and comment count, while others, even with a similar content strategy are still struggling. Fact is, there is real science behind what makes us interact with brands and businesses online.

While traditional wisdom points us in the direction of advice such as following the 60/30/10 formula, wherein 60 percent of your content is designed to entertain, 30 percent to inspire, and 10 percent on promotional content, it still doesn’t dive deep enough.

Since studies have shown that engagement with a brand can have a real impact on profit – comScore’s 2012 data shows a 38 percent lift in purchases for fans exposed to Starbucks advertising on Facebook, and fans of Target were 19 percent more likely to purchase at Target in the month following exposure to Facebook messages – how do we make the 60 percent more entertaining, the 30 percent more inspiring?

It’s critical to engineer your firm’s content strategy in way that makes it as engaging, and thus as effective, as possible.

Recently, members of Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania released their findings from a study on the effect of social media content on customer engagement. In the study conducted via Facebook, Dokyun Lee and Kartik Hosanagar of the University of Pennsylvania, and Harikesh Nair of Stanford, set out to investigate what type of content was more effective to engage the target audience for an advertiser on social media.

Some of the key questions they looked to answer included:

Did informative posts talking about product price or features get a better response than persuasive or philanthropic messages, or vice versa?

Did posts designed to solicit user response (“like this post if…”) actually work or did they turn users away?

How does content strategy vary across industries?

Since only about 1 percent of fans of a page actually engage with the brand by commenting, liking, or sharing posts, how can content be used to improve brand engagement?

In what is described within the study as a painstakingly thorough and exhaustive research and analysis process, they analyzed over 800 firms and over 100,000 messages, to come up with findings that had broad applicability across different types of businesses and industries.

Below are seven key points from their findings from the study and some recommended actions you can take based on those findings:

1. Persuasive Content Has the Highest Engagement Levels

Persuasive content, or content that works to build relationships such as small talk or banter, has the highest levels of engagement, especially if it contains strong emotional or philanthropic content. Interestingly, philanthropy-related content and content with an emotional hook beat out humor in terms of effectiveness when it came to engaging with consumers.

2. Informative Content Negatively Impacts Engagement

Informative content, especially content that talks about price, deals, or product features, tends to have a negative impact on engagement. However, mixing in persuasive content with the informative content within the same message stemmed the negative effect on engagement.

3. Mentioning the Holidays Decreases Engagement

Mentioning the holidays actually decreases engagement, but the theory the authors have about this is that there are so many mentions of the holidays on Facebook, that the saturation dulls the effectiveness of the message. By all means don’t shy away from mentioning the holidays at all, but do so in moderation. Try to come up with a different angle for talking about the holidays then your competitors, or what your audience might be getting exposed to.

4. Less is More

Overly long or complex messages lessen engagement rates as the study showed that they are liked and commented on less than shorter, more succinct messages. Stick to the point and the old adage that less is more. Test different lengths to see what works best for you, but shorter messages that don’t get cut off with a “read more” link are much easier for people to read and react to.

5. Make Your Posts Interactive

Asking questions or having “fill in the blank” style posts increases comments, but at the cost of likes. “Fill in the blank” type messaging is even more effective than questions for increasing comments.

6. Ask People to Take an Action

Asking for likes has a powerful impact on increasing likes, as does asking for comments, though the latter does come at the cost of likes. Be bold in asking for the action you’d like people to take. Give them interesting reasons why they should like or thumbs up the page.

Calls to action work for a reason – telling people what you’d like them to do next can go a long way toward increasing the odds that they will take that action.

7. Use Images

Photos tend to get the most comments and likes out of all types of content, even more than status updates or videos.

Have more fun with images and Photoshop – rather than posting a simple fact as just text, turn it into a little image, or post inspirational or interesting photos or illustrations that can attract attention and interest.

Summary

Reviewing the insights from the study, it’s still important to keep in mind the importance of mixing up the messages on the page. If suddenly all the content a brand posted on Facebook was only about philanthropy, it would backfire and not maintain the right brand image or customer interest. Test and devise a strategy that works best for your audience.

Have you tried other tactics that have worked well for you? Please share in the comments.

(Purna Virji, , source from: searchenginewatch.com)

For more information about website design or SEO plan, pls visit www.systemtek.net 

 

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Google Starts Indexing App Content

November 05, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

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google-app-indexing

If you have an Android app, you’ll be happy to hear the latest feature by Google for app developers. Developers will now have the option to get their app content indexed, and that content to be opened up within the app on Android devices. This will help provide a seamless user experience for users when they are alternating between websites and apps.

Googlebot can now index the content contained within an Android app, either through a sitemap file or through Google’s Webmaster Tools. This means that if someone searches for content that is contained within an app, and the user has that app installed, they will have the option to view that content within the app, rather than just on a usual mobile webpage. For sites that have content on their main website as well as their app being displayed in the same search results, the app results will appear as deep links within the search listing.

Right now during the testing phase, indexing is only available to an initial group of developers. Signed-in searchers within the United States will start seeing these results on their Android devices within a few weeks.

App developers can sign up to let Google know they are interested in having their apps indexed. Developers can fill out an application of interest at Google but they should be aware that they do need to have deep linking enabled within their app. Developers will also need to provide Google with information about alternate URLs, either within their sitemap or in a link element within the pages of the website.

App indexing is only available for Android apps at the time. No word yet on whether it could expand to iPhone or Windows apps as well.

For website design or SEO plan, pls visit www.systemtek.net, or contact with johnli@systemtek.net

(Source: Search Engine Watch)

There is No ‘New SEO’ – Just a New Fad!

August 08, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

By 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s tired of seeing posts like “Social Media is the New SEO” or “Content Marketing is the New SEO”. In fact, Google shows 4.64 million results for the query “intitle:is the new seo”.

Obviously, there aren’t that many different posts out there with that in their title… it just seems like it sometimes. But there are also 3,080 results returned for inurl:is-the-new-seo, so it would seem that a lot of authors are eager to see SEO redefined.

Let’s get something straight, people: There isno “new SEO”!

SEO is search engine optimization, period. Channels come and go or rise and fall in popularity, but that doesn’t change what SEO is any more than adding a row of tomatoes to your garden redefines agriculture.

Is it Too Hard?

A few years ago, when I decided that RDFa was a great way to help the search engines understand what a page’s content was about, I soon noticed that adoption was pretty sparse. I never noticed anybody penning any blog posts proclaiming it to be the new SEO.

I think the reason for that is pretty simple… it’s not easy. It requires considerable effort to learn and implement. Sure, it has lots of benefits, but too many people are more interested in benefits that require as little effort as possible. For most people, RDFa didn’t fit the bill.

What catches on quickly are things like Pinterest and Twitter. They require a lot less effort than learning a new markup language. Developers have even gone so far as to create single-button browser add-ons to Pin an image or Tweet a page. A really tough job made so much easier, right?

Before social became the SEO du jour, we saw a spate of folks bellowing about content marketing (some still are). There have been times when some voices were touting forum signatures, blog comments, even press releases, as well.

And of course, the cacophony of posts and websites praising guest blogging is just now beginning to subside a bit. That’s a rant for another day, though.

My point is, I think people take the easy way out in a lot of things… what they do and what they write.

Why Make it Too Easy?

SEO has an almost non-existent barrier to entry. Folks that have barely learned to spell SEO declare themselves experts, and proceed to lead unsuspecting clients down the garden path with abandon, probably chuckling all the way to their PayPal screen.

Giving people like that fodder for their “marketing” ploys, where they push techniques that are easily automated (and detected) does each of us and our field an injustice. We are, in effect, lowering the bar, by allowing such idiotic redefinitions to go unchallenged.

Still, there are posts to be found on any given day, either pushing a technique that’s been around for too long already or one that never saw the smart end of the stupid-stick. And the authors either don’t think about or don’t care that there are many people that read whatever they can find, to learn more about a topic. Often, they can’t tell the crap from the gold.

So Really, What’s so Difficult?

What is it about the Internet that’s so different, that makes people think they can say whatever they want, and never be held accountable? Years ago, most of us would have thought twice before showing our ignorance in a Letter to the Editor to the local paper – but not on the Internet!

Is it so difficult to be responsible in the tacit advice we offer? That’s what it is, after all – advice. With multitudes of people searching online for information, is there some logical reason to believe that it’s OK to publish crappy information that’ll be seen as advice? If so, I’m not seeing it.

The Internet will sort itself out, eventually, when more users realize how much garbage is published every day and begin holding people responsible for what they say. Whether it the New York Times or Aunt Susie’s Blogging Corner, we need to call out the purveyors of wrong information, shoddy journalism, or spammy tactics.

It’s either that or endure more and more of it. I know what my choice is. Do you?

http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2287287/There-is-No-New-SEO-Just-a-New-Fad

How Much Should You Spend on SEO Services?

May 13, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Jayson DeMers, May 13, 2013

seo-money

Nearly every business today must decide how much to spend on search engine optimization (SEO). This isn’t an if question. Robust online marketing is imperative for survival in a web-driven world.

The question every business professional must ask is, “How much will we spend on SEO?” Keep reading for all the information you’ll need to make that decision, plus some helpful tips on how SEO agencies work so you can be successful as you forge a crucial partnership with an online marketing firm.

SEO Payment Models

To understand the dollars and cents discussed below, you must understand payment models used by agencies. SEO agencies typically offer four main forms of services and payment:

  • Monthly retainer: In this model, clients pay a set fee each month in exchange for an agreed-upon array of services. The monthly retainer is the most common payment model, because it provides the greatest ROI. Monthly retainer arrangements usually include regular analytics reports, on-site content improvements, press releases, link building,keyword research, and optimization.
  • Contract services at fixed prices: Nearly all SEO agencies sell contract services. Often, before a client is ready to engage a monthly retainer, they will select contract services that they want to have completed. The services that an SEO agency offers are often advertised on their site, along with a price. A typical example of this is an SEO website audit which can help determine existing strengths and weaknesses in the client’s online presence, competitive analysis, as well as keywords that have the highest potential to return positive ROI.
  • Project-based pricing: Project fees are similar to contract services with the exception that they are custom projects created specifically for a client. Pricing varies according to the project. For example, a local cupcake shop may ask an SEO agency to help them with their local online marketing. The client decides that they want the agency to establish their social media accounts. The cupcake business and the SEO agency will decide on the scope and cost of the project.
  • Hourly consulting: This familiar consulting model is an hourly fee in exchange for services or information.

Most SEO agencies use all of these payment models. Likewise, clients may work with an agency using more than one model. For example, a client may choose to enter into a monthly retainer, purchase a contract service, and engage in a special project with the agency, thus entering into three of the payment models.

Typical SEO Costs

So, what should you expect to pay? Here’s a survey of the range of the costs according to the payment models described above.

  • Monthly retainer: $750-5,000 per month. Within this range, the amount that a client pays depends on the size of their business and the extent of services provided by the agency. On the lower end of this spectrum are small SEO agencies that offer a limited range of services. On the upper range are businesses with greater needs working with full-service SEO agencies. Most businesses pay between $2,500 and $5,000 for a monthly retainer.
  • Contract services at fixed prices: price variable. Businesses that are just testing the waters in SEO usually choose a contract service as an entry point. Typical contract services include things like SEO copywriting ($0.15-$0.50/word), site content audit ($500-$7,500), link profile audit ($500-$7,500), and social media site setup ($500-$3,000).
  • Project-based pricing: price variable. Since there are a variety of projects, there is a wide range of prices. Most projects cost from $1,000 to $30,000.
  • Hourly consulting rate: $100-300/hr. SEO consultants, whether individuals or agencies, usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour.

(Some of these figures are taken from a 2011 SEOmoz survey of 500 consultants and agencies.)

Things You Should Be Suspicious of

Any discussion of SEO agencies and pricing isn’t complete without a few warnings. To help you guard against indiscriminate SEO agencies with unethical business practices, read and heed. Be suspicious of the following promises:

  • Guarantees. SEO firms generally can’t provide guarantees due to the constantly changing nature of the industry.
  • Instant results. True, some SEO tactics can get “instant results” by gaming the system. Be warned that these can hurt you in the long run. Instant results often involve SEO practices that are against webmaster guidelines put out by search engines. Invariably, Google seeks out these techniques and penalizes them, resulting in lost rankings that can take months to recover.
  • #1 spot on Google. If an agency promises you the number one spot on Google, it sounds great. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get it. However, it’s not something that a firm can promise to hand over to you.
  • Costs lower than $750/month. When it comes to SEO, you aren’t shopping for the lowest price; you’re seeking the best level of service. Be wary of rock bottom prices or “unbelievable deals.”
  • Shady link building services. Link building is a crucial part of SEO. You can’t have a highly-ranked site without inbound links. But there’s a dark side of link building. Link trust is gaining importance to appear high in the rankings. Before you enter into an arrangement with an SEO agency for link building services, ensure that their link building services are ethical, white label services. You may even wish to ask them where they may be able to gain links for a business in your industry.

Things to Keep in Mind

As you begin shopping for SEO agencies and making your decision, be mindful of the following points:

  • SEO takes time. A monthly retainer is best. Think of SEO as a long-term investment. Aggressive campaigns and major pushes may have their place, but the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship. In SEW’s Mark Jackson wrote, “The real value of SEO efforts are, generally, not realized in the first month(s) of the effort.” It’s true. SEOs don’t wave a magic wand and get instant results. Instead, they perform extensive operations that will produce results months down the road.
  • SEO changes, and your rankings will change, too. The field is full of competitors, and rankings rise and fall with the changing of algorithms and the entrance of new competitors. One-and-done SEO tricks simply don’t work. It takes constant monitoring to keep your website ranking well and performing at top-notch levels.
  • Not all SEO services are created equal. Again, SEO isn’t about shopping around for the lowest prices. It’s about finding the finest agency you can. Look for an SEO agency that defines its scope of services, and takes the time to educate you.
  • SEO is important. Do it. The point of your website is to increase and/or improve your business. Unless people are finding your website, it’s not even worth having one. The smart thing is to pay what it takes to keep your site findable by the people who are looking.
  • Hiring an SEO agency is best. You may be thinking, “Can’t I just do this SEO thing on my own?” A tiny percentage of business owners or professionals have the skill and savvy to do their own SEO. Even so, comprehensive SEO takes way more time than most business owners can afford. Even an employee who “knows a lot about SEO,” will be hard-pressed to deliver the level of services and excellence found in a SEO agency. You’ll rarely come out on top if you try to go it alone, and you’ll never get the same level of ROI that you would with a competent SEO agency.

You Decide

For most businesses today, SEO is the highest ROI marketing effort. The benefits it provides exceed the value of other marketing approaches – direct mailing, broadcast advertising, online ads, etc.

No longer do businesses decide whether they need SEO services. Instead, they decide how much they’re going to spend. As long as they choose a quality SEO agency, their decision will lead to incredible amounts of revenue.

You can decide how much that’s worth to you.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com.

Which Social Network is Best for B2B Marketing?

May 10, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Jasmine Sandler, May9, 2013

Which social network is the best for B2B marketing? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube each offer B2B marketers value. Let’s review these top sites from a B2B social marketing perspective so we can crown an undisputed champion.

The Keys to Social B2B Victory

When it comes to using social media as a marketing tool for B2B organizations, which have an end goal of qualified lead generation, the underlying key to success is to drive thought-leadership and credibility around a desired market position that will yield target engagement. To do so, a B2B organization must first have a solid social media plan that defines the market position and a review of the online competition.

The online brand that will be delivered in social must align with a B2B organization’s brand promise, mission, and value proposition. Choosing the appropriate channel(s) depends on a number of factors including:

Audience breakdown of network.
Target audience types.
Content types by audience.
Purpose of social network.
Tone of network.
Engagement levels of network.

Google+

Google+ is becoming the next big social network for business. As of March 2013, Google+ had 350 million active users. That is more than on LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

When your content is placed on Google+ it has the chance to rank higher because the content is fed into the personal search results of your Google+ circles. And content that is feature-rich, like online video (YouTube – a Google product) and images supported with text gains ultimately more exposure.

Feeding content to Google+ from a YouTube channel or Pinterest board is a good idea. Google+, as a Google product, means it will undoubtedly be integrated into other developing applications supporting content marketing and organic search. Social signals are the gold piece for any B2B marketer.

With Google+, you can have a business page as well. This means that a person can follow and engage with your business on a personal level, creating opportunities for relationship building. Relationship development is what B2B sales is all  about.

The Google+ Hangout real-time video application is another major bonus to Google+ as a B2B social network. All you need is a webcam and an audience and you can run video conferencing within the tool. This keeps business professionals talking on Google+. Further that those Hangouts can be published directly to YouTube.

On the negative side, Google+ is a platform for content delivery more than a way to “business network.” Conversations on Google+ can get out of hand and can be a turn off in the same way that too many emails can do to a B2B prospect.

Finally, Google+ for business users and business pages are still an area lacking in terms of overall B2B adoption. For Google+ to win here, Google will need to invest in marketing that feature.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn makes it easy to build relationships with your target prospects. LinkedIn was born and bred to create and develop business relationships, and has grown to have 225 million active users in more than 200 countries.

The obvious opportunities in using LinkedIn as a marketing tool include personal branding for executives, sales development for business development professionals and marketing opportunities via LinkedIn targeted, real-time lead gen advertising.

The key to winning on LinkedIn, as it were, is to use LinkedIn on a daily basis to provide valuable support to your connections and Groups.

Marketing on LinkedIn is sophisticated. A marketer can run a targeted ad by location, industry, title, company and other specific demographics. Further, those ads can capture leads on the fly (a great feature).

On a company level, LinkedIn provides businesses with opportunities to engage with company followers on a one on one level. LinkedIn is the ultimate social networking tool for business professionals. Real networking happens in Groups and in the context of comments and status engagement.

LinkedIn also provides multiple paid opportunities to use the tool as more of a CRM with features like Lead Builder and Profile Organizer.

The most compelling feature of LinkedIn, in general, for anyone in B2B sales is the ability to learn everything, on a professional level, about a target prospect. Further, find appropriate ways for warm introductions.

On the negative side, LinkedIn as a website, has multiple user experience and functional issues. In the haste to make LinkedIn feature-rich, at any time, issues may arise from unnecessary messages, pop-ups and disabled links.

LinkedIn networking and marketing doesn’t necessary work on its own. This is why it is crucial to take your LinkedIn developed relationships offline, whether on the phone or in person to close the deal.

Twitter

Twitter is, for busy business professionals, marketers and CEOs, the easiest way to get the message out, so to speak. A microblogging tool that forces copy-like conversations, Twitter enables quick information to link backs to important web pages of conversion (i.e., your website and your blog.

Twitter is a great place for B2B marketers to find and engage with, via Twitter private lists, for example, targeted media.

B2B marketing on the Internet is all about three key components: Online reputation, Thought-leadership and a Strong Online Brand. Twitter can be very useful in addressing these areas.

The mobile app for Twitter and ability to tweet 24/7, as many social media marketers do, is easy to do.

Twitter is where the news breaks. Twitter is where real-time conversations are happening. Twitter is the best social media tool for covering events and running events live.

Event marketing of conferences, workshops and seminars are crucial to the success of any B2B organization these days. Twitter’s search algorithm and use of hashtags makes it easy for reporters to find interview subjects and speakers.

On the negative side, because of Google’s ownership of Google+ however, any article shared on Twitter will become visible in organic Google results after the same on Google+. Also, Twitter yes makes it easy for you to reach out to reporters and business professionals you do not know, but this does not mean you will get a reply.

Twitter followers are nowhere near as substantial as a LinkedIn connect whom you have, if you’re doing LinkedIn marketing correctly, developed a relationship.

YouTube

Online video, done correctly, meaning with the brand in mind and well thought out for target engagement needs to be a crucial component of any online marketer’s social media marketing program.

YouTube, as a Google product and video-serving platform, in itself is an opportunity for B2B social networking. Most videos when made compelling and shared appropriately can certainly serve to drive qualified inbound leads.

YouTube links of videos can be embedded and shared on websites, such as SlideShare, another necessary B2B online marketing tool. In doing so, these videos can then become visible to target connections on important B2B social networking sites like Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

As a standalone B2B social network, YouTube isn’t truly where the lead capture happens or where relationships are developed.

Facebook

Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla, is certainly the number one B2C social media network. As a B2B social media tool, Facebook does serve to deliver client services, online promotions and event announcements primarily.

Another important B2B feature provided by Facebook is the ability to gain opt-ins for e-mail marketing on a business page.

B2B marketers who turn to Facebook as a social media tool need to heavily engage in target and organizational groups and pages.

Creating direct B2B sales relationships from Facebook is certainly done, but not at the level of a LinkedIn or even Twitter.

And the Top B2B Social Network Is…

Hands down, LinkedIn is the best social network for B2B marketing. LinkedIn is the only real B2B social network that was developed purely to develop direct B2B sales relationships for B2B marketers.

The other social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube – all should be in the toolbox of any serious B2B marketer. But if you’re on limited time and resources and looking to greatly increase your bottom line, you should invest wholly in LinkedIn.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com.

5 Rules to Effectively Use Press Releases for Links

May 01, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Jennifer Van Iderstyne, May 1, 2013

newspapers-and-glasses

Press release marketing has come under a lot more scrutiny for the kind of links that can look “unnatural” in a link profile. The issues that can arise from some press release networks are the mass-scale duplicate content and redundant anchor text links across numerous sites with little real value.

So yeah, there may have been some misuse of press releases along the way as a “fast” way to pick up some “easy” links. But the press release is still a valuable tool for online marketing in a number of ways. Using press releases effectively can still help get links, in a real way.

1. Keep Your Press Release About Real News

The real shame of the press release for links trend was all the sad attempts to drum up “news” or keyword stuff a headline. That’s done. Press releases won’t do anything for you in that respect.

But if you have an exciting acquisition, or are truly leading the way with a new idea, process or partnership that could affect others in a significant way, that’s worth it.

2. Don’t Over Optimize Your Press Release

Safe syndication practices would encourage you to go easy on the optimization in a press release. Brand names and URLs are pretty innocuous or a keyword that is more company than product related may also be a natural fit. But use an easy hand.

If you followed rule number one, and your news is really that good, you can get picked up by bloggers and other journalists that will re-write and re-reference your site in a different way. But if you rely solely on the duplicate prints, over-optimization could hurt later on.

3. Send Readers to Other Interesting Assets

Use the press release and the news as a draw to bring readers further into your site. Whatever it is you are announcing accompany the release with additional, in-depth information or a related asset on the site.

When you offer something to accompany the press release, an extra reason to engage the visitor you create a deeper user experience and create additional assets for linking and sharing.

4. Send Your Press Release to Specific Sources

Choose some individuals or local institutions to send your news to before you release it to the public at large. It will give these sources an opportunity to break the news which could be advantageous to them, and helps to form a relationship with your news source.

Strong press contacts can make for valuable assets. In addition to mainstream channels for news distribution, you can also become a go-to source for expert quotes on subjects within your industry which leads to links and potentially more exposure in the future.

5. Time it Right

I remember the first time I used a press release, the nice guy I talked to on the phone actually gave me the tip. He said that I’d be better off releasing my news on a Tuesday instead of a Monday morning. Now that may or may not be true or anecdotal, but it did make me think about when my target audience would be most inclined to be catching up on the news, writing about it and sharing it.

On a larger scale, month, time of year, or proximity to a huge event in your market are other factors that could mitigate your choice of release date. But weigh them all and find the time that is going to be most advantageous in terms of interest.

Summary

Like anything, don’t shoot down press releases all around as a way to build links simply because there is a bad way to do it. Just learn how to distinguish between doing it right and abusing the system.

Choose wisely, not every press source is legit. If it’s too easy, it’s probably not that useful. And if it’s hard to accomplish and requires a lot of planning and synergy on your end, then you’re probably doing it right.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com.

Search & Social Synergy: Build Buzz, Get Links, Grow Your Brand

April 22, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Mark Jackson, April 22, 2013

search-site-social-opportunity

For some time now, social has been all the rage. Yet, many people are still trying to figure out exactly how social plays into their search strategy.

Where are things headed? What rightful place does social has in the search marketing mix? What are some tactical considerations you may want to incorporate into your plans?

For some insights on those questions, as well as how to attain search and social synergy, I interviewed my friend Rob Garner, former VP of strategy at iCrossing, member of the board of directors and vice president at SEMPO, and author of “Search & Social”, published by Wiley.

Mark Jackson: What do you think are some of the most important elements of synergizing social and SEO efforts?

Rob Garner: First, leverage natural language for both search and social. Language is the tie that binds search and social together. Language informs content, dictates keyword theme, and sets the tone for social conversation. Study the language of your audience through keyword research and social listening to create solid strategies that will resonate in these channels.

Second, remember that without content, search engines and social networks do not exist. If your strategy leads with meaningful content, then you are on the right track. Content strategy that links between search and social channels is the key to overall success.

Third, get your search and social teams to work together, and not separately. This may not be much of a problem with individual practitioners who understand the nuances of both, but it is a big issue for business that operates these channels in silos. Get them together to understand how each of them can benefit the other to get more out of your overall efforts.

MJ: Do you believe that tweets (and specifically retweets) are “counted” in search engine algorithms?

RG: Yes, particularly in Bing. In Google+, their own version of the retweet is the share, and is used for personalized and G+ search.

MJ: Google’s Matt Cutts has said that links are still “the” metric. In your book, you mention that Bing uses Facebook Likes to rank content. Where do you think we are with Likes being the new links?

RG: Likes are being used as links in different forms of Facebook and Bing social search, but they are very weak in terms of forming a direct intent signal toward many types of content. The main reason is that a Like only represents one feeling, and therefore as a signal it has no range of feelings at all.

People use the same Like button for a picture of a kitten in the same way as they do about a story on serious local crime stories. People Like things that they truly don’t like, and this muddies it up as a search signal.

Facebook has a lot of work to do on leveraging the Like as a true link, and true signal of intent. They could start with a Dislike button to disambiguate intentions.

MJ: What are your thoughts on where Facebook is with respect to Graph Search? How do you see this impacting, if at all, market share of search with traditional search providers, Google and Bing?

RG: For many years now, I have written that the game to watch in modern search is to find out which entity has both the best crawler-based engine technology, combined with the best human social layer. Neither Google nor Facebook are there yet.

Facebook search and Google search are apples and oranges, and always will be to some degree. What I do like about Graph Search is that it has the potential to be a true social search engine, or in other words, a search engine about people, rather than topics, shopping, or websites.

Overall, it is a vertical play within the overall definition of search engines as we know them, though there is potential to take some market share, and it is in single digits percentages at best.

If Facebook wants to get serious, they will need a full crawler based engine to complement their social layer. This will happen through deeper integration of Bing, or who knows – maybe an acquisition of Bing at some point.

MJ: When drafting an editorial calendar for a corporate blog, do you focus more on viral-ability or keywords?

RG: The short answer is “both”. Planning is certainly important, but “planning for the moment” is also a key consideration.

Turning on a dime with good content is critical, and simply being fluid in social monitoring and content response are the key considerations here.

There are essentially two types of real time content. One is “planned,” and anticipates seasonal or predictable events. The other is “unplanned” or more serendipitous content that comes up in social conversation or topical events. Both require being present in social spaces, good keyword research, having a nimble place to publish your content, as well as have a quick process for approval

MJ: When it comes to pushing content, which social sharing platforms do you believe carry the most “juice” for search engines?

RG: For Bing, the social platforms with the most juice are Twitter and Facebook, because they have direct integration with both of those properties.

Google uses a myriad number of social signals, especially if you have a wide definition of the term “social.” So this includes quantity and quality of comments, voting, shares, etc. Of course, Google uses Google+ signals.

MJ: Do you find that social activity increases brand awareness or otherwise increases the number of searches for a brand/company name?

RG: There is no question that search and social are in complete balance in the Internet universe. I can’t recall anyone I’ve met who only uses social networks, but does not use a search engine.

The people who use search engines and social are the same people. This seems very basic, but it is worth repeating over and over, because I believe many marketers miss out on this point.

The bottom line is that social interest drives search interest, and vice versa. People seek answers, content, and conversation in both search engines and social networks, so marketers need to be in both places where these conversations and searches are occurring.

MJ: What are you favorite tools to find social influencers?

RG: I like to use my brain, and I believe that smart people are the most overlooked tool of all. I manually view networks and look for influencers who are active, authoritative, and responsive. No tool can do this as fast as a knowledgeable person. One hour of manual review can save you weeks of headaches.

If most marketers would open their eyes, they would find more than enough key influencers to work with for a very long time. If you don’t have knowledgeable people indentifying influencers “manually” or using tools, your influencer outreach strategy is screwed.

MJ: There’s no doubt that social “works.” But, in what capacity would you say it “works”? How should one set expectations for the CEO?

RG: The key for readers of this interview is be sure and carefully define what you mean by “social”, and what your CEO understands the meaning of “social” to be, before you start to qualify and quantify it for them.

Social works in a variety of ways. One key way is that social works in the same way that links work. So if your CEO buys into the importance of links to your SEO visibility (which is SEO 101, and they should), then social is now just as important of a cornerstone for SEO. Social works also in terms of user-generated content, and also in development of audience language.

MJ: You mention that traditional SEO and social signals are very much alike, in your book. I have often said that until social figures out “spam” (fake profiles/automation, etc.) the way that search engines have figured out link spam, social signals can’t be as relevant as we might like. What are your thoughts on this?

RG: This is one of the reasons that social networks are becoming more algorithmic, and more like search engines. As they get bigger, they must deal with a tsunami of spam to maintain a good experience for the user.

Those of us in search know that Google has been fighting this battle since its beginnings, and they are the experts. As social networks become more algorithmic, you will see more social media marketers reverse engineering their presence (some are already doing this for EdgeRank).

It is also fair to provide a definition of the word “social” here. Because the term “social” is used to mean almost everything on the web these days, I would posit that that any signal that shows true human activity is a social signal, as opposed to robots and scripts, and can potentially be used as a signal.

The implication for sustainable social marketing strategy is to keep everything clean, and maintain your social presence just as cleanly as you maintain your website presence for SEO.

MJ: There has been a lot of chatter about “real time marketing” recently in the context of the Oreo ad during the Super Bowl blackout. Is this really what “real time marketing” is all about?

RG: The Oreo ad created by 360i during the Super Bowl blackout was a great example of spontaneous real-time marketing, but it was only one small slice of what true real time content marketing entails.

RTCM does not have to happen during a major media event, and the truth is that successful RTCM requires a marketer being present during many other smaller events and topics that are relevant to their business. It is the sum of these events, along with a fluid real time content presence that makes them successful.

There are some companies that actually produced ads during the Supreme Court hearing on DOMA, and also on the naming of the new pope, and this is a total misrepresentation of true real time marketing. Real time marketing is a philosophy that affects all parts of a business, not just on-the-fly creative.

The foundation for RTM was created by Regis McKenna back in 1995, and while his original writings are nuanced to the time, I believe his work foreshadowed modern Internet marketing, and also what we now call social media.

MJ: How does social relevancy compare to search relevancy?

RG: Social relevancy and trust is measured on the same model that search engines use to measure the authority and trust of websites, as well as the linked connections between them.

Every social media presence has a domain or user ID, and smart social networks apply the same principles as search engines. So your likes can infer intent, your connections like followers and friends infer a link, and the language used in your streams infers a theme and keyword relevancy.

MJ: “The more you give, the more you get” is a philosophy that I have believed in. What are your thoughts?

RG: All successful Internet publishers operate this way to some degree. This philosophy is the foundation of original Internet culture. Open source, GNU, and Creative Commons licensing are all based in this spirit.

The bottom line is that marketers need to apply this line of thinking in the way they produce content and publish commercially on the web. So if the “business as publisher” is going to be successful in a similar way, they need to understand this culture and rapidly adopt it.

Bottom Line

I rarely send out a proposal for search engine optimization services without mentioning, sometimes heavily, the need to incorporate social. Everything from the power to write content that is “human friendly” on a corporate blog, to promoting content to followers/influencers so that you can earn the “buzz” and – yes – generate some natural links to the website and what impact all of this activity can have on growing your “brand” online…all of these things, we know, aid in building up your presence in the SERPS.

While some will call this “content marketing”, others call it “social media marketing”, and still others (such as I) will just say that search engine optimization is (as it always has been) evolving to include these methods of marketing the business and generating natural presence across a multitude of channels.

Social channels have a way to go to perfect their algorithms so that they can, as the search engines have before them, account for spam. Additionally, many companies are still struggling with their “voice” and how they might create engagement with their target audience in a more “human” way.

The key here is to get started. And, try and have a plan for how social works with other things that you’re doing, from PR, to web design, to promotional marketing and – yes – to search engine optimization.

This article originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com

10 Killer SEO Landing Page Tips

April 15, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Grant Simmons, April 15, 2013

landing-page-engage-beyond-the-click

When we talk landing pages, most online marketers think pay-per-click, where the input of a destination URL into Google’s or Bing’s paid search offerings allow marketers to drive keyword-targeted traffic to (hopefully) optimized pages.

My previous article extolling the death of keywords talked about developing intent-based topics and building content that connects with those topics – intent to content.

We can now apply that mantra in a “first engagement” scenario, after a user clicks a search result, to ensure SEO landing pages:

  • Connect with intent: Offering a user what they expect.
  • Resolve (initial) user query: Answering their initial query.
  • Engage the user: Sending user signals to search engines.
  • Drive further user engagement (if necessary): Additional signals to both users and search engines.

A searcher intent to site content engagement scenario I call “CRED“.

In these scenarios where signed in users, search query modification, Chrome browsers, “cookied” users and toolbar data provide massive datasets of engagement signals to search engines on how users interact on sites, we need to drive optimal engagement scenarios.

Here’s a checklist of 10 “killer” tips to ensure you’re able to add a bit of CRED to your SEO campaigns, as well as demonstrate campaign success!

Connecting

1. Are the primary headlines aligned with intent?

The first thing users notice is content structure, headlines, headers, bolded elements, graphics etc. Your 2 seconds of opportunity to grab attention begins with a mental assessment that needs to immediately connect with the original search query and inspire additional engagement via clear communication of what the page is about.

Content should be created with specific intent in mind, with headlines, and/or graphic headers that are obvious, short, surrounded by adequate white space. And the content must be specific enough to inspire a user’s attention.

2. Are you matching content type with query intent?

If the target query includes “how to”, “best”, “top 10″, “compare” or other intent refining modifiers, or if the query demands a certain level of text content, are you obviously offering something that visually connects, confirms relevance, displays lists, video or images?

Users won’t have time to read, but they will make a quick decision on whether the format they review matches an expectation. For example, a query on top 10 bars should have a list with numbers displayed – or one entry with numbers. Or a query on the history of search should probably have an index and look robust – not just a 200 word paragraph.

Users have short attention spans, and most have a preconceived expectation of what theyshould find, not matching that initial expectation can equate to a quick “back click.”.

Resolving

3. Can users perform a quick scan above the fold to answer who, what, and why?

As noted above, users don’t actually read on a first pass, they make a decision based on visual cues and click expectations (what they expect after they click).

Some websites fail in obviously reinforcing the click expectation, missing an opportunity for engagement, underscoring brand recognition, and providing obvious reasons of time-worthy value.

Click through to your site and ask the following:

  1. Is your brand obvious?
  2. Is it obvious what you do?
  3. Is it obvious why they should stick around?

Especially important with homepages, but equally important on other SEO landing pages, is ensuring your brand is obvious. Make sure what you do, or how you plan to address the user’s intent, isn’t buried. Give users obvious information and/or justification to stick around and/or click around is key to moving people to engage further.

Remember: for instant user assessment of resolution potential, anything below the fold doesn’t exist!

Engaging

As noted with the Home Depot example, key engagement options exist such as an “add to cart” action button, search for intent refinement or modification, other options to dig into additional information and links to similar products that other customers have purchased.

Each of these elements contribute to answering the next question:

4. Is it obvious what they should do next?

For Home Depot, the answer is most probably yes. It’s easy to find the “Add to Cart” button, it’s placed in an obvious position and there’s multiple options to view additional information.

The product page offers multiple ways to engage, with a zoom button (subjectively probably not big enough), and plenty of other user-centric options such as writing reviews, checking inventory, etc.

Occasionally there can be too many options that can confuse users. In the Home Depot example there appears to be duplicated “check inventory” buttons/links, but these may have been tested and justified.

5. Are there on-page modification options? (based on query modification)

Home Depot offer a good example of obvious search functionality, related products, and other options that can help modify the user’s search query onsite rather than have them click back to the search results to modify.

These kind of onsite modifications do not always need to be driven by site search.

Breadcrumbs, side navigation, filters, related prods, color/size selection are all feasible options to mitigate click backs and improve onsite engagement signals.

Driving

6. Are ‘next clicks’ consistent?

Part of great site engagement is a consistent user experience for similar queries. By monitoring user interaction on a per query basis, website owners can identify consistencies or deficiencies in matches of search intent to site content.

Duane Forrester of Bing said in January 2013:

“In the long run, the brand names secure rankings through depth of content, trust in brand, and user interaction (searchers clicking a SERP result and staying on their site because the site is trusted and answers the searchers question)”

Providing key “next clicks” – obvious steps from landing pages to conversion or core information – is a better user experience = better potential rankability.

7. Can they share what they’ve found?

Probably the most obvious of tips, it the provision of social sharing and social connection buttons. If landing pages provide the value users expect, will they be inspired to share, and if they are, can they?

Sharing of a page is different than a click through to your social property (i.e., Facebook page or Twitter stream), and should be a key component on most landing pages, with the caveat of audience vs. social platform.

For pages with images, is there an option to share on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter? For business text content, is LinkedIn an option? Social signals are imperative in closing the loop on user intent satisfaction, demonstrating to both users and search engines an endorsement of your content.

8. Ultimately, can users find the banana?

Seth Godin published a book a few years ago called “The Big Red Fez” – rather than repeat all the key concepts, I can state simply is it’s all about bananas – users finding what they need from obvious choices. There’s an excellent synopsis here.

Give your users clear navigation to improve consistent engagement and “banana-discovery.”

Measurement

The final two tips cover justification through measurement of metrics that matter.

9. Have you segmented traffic by topics?

Google Analytics offers segmentation by query topics through Analytics filters (beyond the scope of this article but more information can be found here) or by exporting data and consolidating offline in Excel.

Custom segments allow you to monitor performance across keyword query topics, understand topic traffic and conversion trends, and leverage this data to identify the key landing pages for each topic.

10. Are you tracking first click queries for optimized pages?

Although in an ideal scenario the page you optimize will attract the keyword queries you’d expect, custom segments by topic also offer up insights into competing pages (entry pages in your site that compete against each other), highlighting opportunities to consolidate similar pages, mitigating potential thin content issues and improving topic relevance on merged pages.

Utilize custom segments, organic traffic keyword query reports, together with landing page association to provide insights into potentially competing pages.

Summary

Landing pages have historically been the domain of paid search marketers seeking improved conversion rates.

User experience, site usability, and onsite engagement have become more important for major search engines in their assessment of a site’s “rankability”, so SEO practitioners need to ensure SEO landing pages have CRED as a key to SEO success.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com

How to Avoid PR Disaster With a Social Media Policy

April 05, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Lisa Buyer, April 5, 2013

social-media-policy-tips

Does the saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” apply to social media blunders gone viral?

Your brand ending up as a gag skit on “SNL” because of a socialmedia mishap is probably not part of the PR strategy. As opposed to the social media sentiment when you land an interview with Oprah that trends on Twitter, gets replayed on YouTube, and shared on Facebook with a behind the scenes shot on #Instagram.

If you think social media and public relations are two different departments with separate agendas, think again.

Zen of a Social Media Policy

The good, the bad, and the ugly stemming from social media sentiments that bubble up to a brand are a direct reflection on the company’s image, credibility, influence, and visibility – and if you’re a public company or a company trying to raise money, how about those investors?

In more cases than not, employees behaving badly by accident or intentionally have the formula for PR disaster. Now social media is part of the PR department and it’s their problem.

Your Employees are Social! #FTW or #FAIL

As the popularity of social media grows, brands small and large must face the fact that the people with the closest connection to your organization – employees – are active on social channels.

While employees can be your perfect brand advocates and evangelists, they can also burn your reputation when they lose control on social media networks.

The Employee Social Media Manual #Trending #HR #PR

To mitigate that risk, develop a company-wide policy that clearly defines acceptable (and unacceptable) behavior in social media, and dictates how employees can effectively communicate your brand culture, voice, and message.

Include guidelines about confidential and proprietary information and how each should be treated and balanced against the transparency that consumers increasingly expect from social media.

Social Media Training Program #Breaking #Success

The company picnic and holiday party just got bigger, wider, and riskier with social media snapshots landing on Facebook and Instagram. Is that a shot of tequila the CEO is doing? Hello front page news and public relations hangover!

Who is providing your employees with these resources takes the guesswork out of determining what’s appropriate to post, tweet, or share? It also increases the consistency of communications about your brand. Consider delivering these resources to your employees as part of a company-wide social media training program.

A recent report published by the Wildfire Google Team – The Road to ROI: Building Strategy for Social Marketing Success speaks to how to influence the conversation without trying to control it. One of the key areas focused on was the internal planning of social media and how that ties into the external public relations and reputation management of a company.

Top 10 Questions Your Social Media Policy Should Answer

  1. What are the goals of your social media policy?
  2. How will you update your policy and reinforce it?
  3. What information about your business can employees share?
  4. Which social networks will you maintain a presence on?
  5. How will you monitor conversations about your brand on social channels? Who will monitor these conversations?
  6. How will you maintain a consistent social tone and style across these networks?
  7. Will you encourage employees to participate in social media as a representative of your brand?
  8. How will you respond to consumers who communicate with your brand through social channels? Who will respond on your brand’s behalf?
  9. Who is authorized to proactively post on your brand’s behalf? Does this authorization account for different regions and teams?
  10. What constitutes a social media “crisis” for your business? What is your process for handling a post that could be categorized as a crisis?

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch website.

Linking From Within: How to Generate Links Through Existing Relationships

March 27, 2013 By: admin Category: Marketing Tips

Brad Miller, March 27, 2013

inside-the-box-links

When I brainstorm with colleagues about their approach to link building, the most common starting point is to analyze the websites and backlink profiles from their competitors and peers. They’ll start asking questions like:

  • Where are my competitor’s backlinks coming from?
  • Can we get the same links?
  • What strategies did they use to generate their links?

I call this approach, “looking externally” because you’re identifying link opportunities based on another website’s strategy. While this approach is certainly valid and should not be overlooked, I’d like to challenge it as the first place to start a link campaign.

I believe there are often greater opportunities that can be found by looking within the organization. I also believe that these opportunities are almost always overlooked. Why? The easiest answer is forecasting.

It’s difficult to forecast an unknown opportunity than a known opportunity. For example, you can identify 1,000 sites you want to get links from, have an average contact rate of 20 percent and pickup rate of 10 percent = 20 links. This can be put into a process loop and predicted, which is great! However, this can lead to spammy practices, so please be careful! Let’s consider a different approach…

Linking From Within?

Instead of looking at what other websites are doing to build links, identify the potential links that can be generated through existing relationships the company has naturally established from standard day-to-day business practices.

Why is this approach a better starting point? Many reasons, but most important is accessibility. Looking at external factors, again, while effective, can be very difficult and take a ton of time.

For example, if you want to connect with all of the sites that your competition is getting links from, you first need to run the analysis, then identify the sites worth an outreach attempt, find the contact info and finally make contact. Most often, the outreach attempt will fail because the person you’re contacting doesn’t know you from Adam, and gets these requests all the time.

If you look internally first, you can pick off some low-hanging fruit in my opinion, much faster. The most difficult part is finding the low-hanging fruit and hidden opportunities. However, this is more fun and certainly more productive. Let’s look at some examples of what I’m talking about, which might help get the ideas flowing for your specific company:

Partnerships

Most likely, your company has a B2B relationship with many other organizations. Examples are value-added resellers (VARs), hardware/software agreements and company vendors. Look for linking opportunities within them. Chances are, many of them are already mentioning your brand name anyway. Ask them for a link.

Example: I had a conversation recently with a national software company that partners with hundreds of localized businesses for a joint special offer. The local business promotes the software at a discounted rate as a value-add to their product. All of these local businesses were mentioning the software, but not linking back to the site. These local businesses all had solid domains and appeared to be receiving sizable traffic volume.

Community Service

Most companies provide services to their communities: This can be something as simple as working with colleges for company tours, pro bono projects, sponsoring marathons or charitable contributions. You can ask these strategic partners to link back to your domain. Or, at the very least you can create a joint PR initiative that is housed on both sites.

Example: A company I was working had a relationship with a local hospital (.org) where they gave hundreds of their ink cartridges away, and the hospital cashed them in. We asked the hospital to simply provide a link, thanking my company for the help. They were happy to do it.

Why wouldn’t you ask these organizations that you’re working with to link back to you? Most likely, SEO and link building isn’t even in their vocabulary … but it doesn’t matter, because it’s no skin off their back. They’d be happy to do it, and it also makes sense. You have a formal relationship with them and are doing good things in the community: Let Google know about it.

Employees

Most of your company employees will have 3+ social media profiles. There’s a good chance they’re also engaged in other online communities. This can include industry specific publications, groups and social platforms. It can be easy to scale links from the profiles across your employee base, starting with those that have the most recognition in your vertical.

Universities are another great place to look for link relationship via your company employees. Alumni relations are always hungry for success stories from the graduates. Reach out to the colleges and universities that your management team attended and graduated from. This can also be scaled across your employees that have been successful in their given careers.

Marketing Campaigns

If you’re working for a company that has over a couple hundred employees, chances are there’s a ton of marketing going on that you’re not part of. This can include events, product marketing, partnerships etc. Chances are, there’s little link building nuggets in all of them.

Where to Start?

The best place to start is just talking with colleagues. My go-to contacts and the first place to start are usually Product Managers. Then I’ll look for employees that have been with the organization for a long time, or the most connected.

If you’re an internal digital marketing person, simply take these folks out to lunch. If you’re an agency, set-up a meeting with them through your contact and have them facilitate some introductions. Taking them out to lunch is still a great option!

You can also do some simple branded searches online, and chances are you’ll come across something (brand name -site:brandname.com) .

Summary

The most difficult thing about looking for existing real-world link opportunities is to simply find out what your company is doing. But I think the process of doing so is more productive than boring link outreach. You’ll get to know your company or clients in much more detail and meet some cool people along the way.

This post originally appeared on searchenginewatch.com