Using (free!) SEO to get your website found: The basics

A valuable marketing tool for all businesses is to make sure they are applying the principles of search engine optimization, or SEO, to their websites. SEO is a free way to get your website found by consumers. To clarify, there is another branch of marketing called search engine marketing, or SEM, but that focuses on paid ads. If you have ever searched on the Internet for a product or term, you have no doubt seen ads, which generally appear at the top of the listings in a slightly pink area (in Google) or to the side. The organic results, which appear below any ads, are based on SEO. This post focuses on SEO.

There are many things you can do to improve the way search engines find your website, including:

  • Do keyword research. Keywords are the terms that people use to find products and services for businesses like yours. These aren’t necessarily the terms that you would like your business to be known for, but the actual terms that real people use every day. You can find these terms by doing research using a tool like Google’s free Keyword Tool. This is a tool aimed at people who are creating paid ads on Google AdWords, but the tool works well for SEO terms, too. You can enter phrases close to what you think might be popular. The tool will show results for that phrase and also show you a list of similar terms and their results. You are looking for phrases that have a combination of high search volume (the “Local” column is the US) and low competition. You’re more likely to get found using these terms. Adding the geographic area you serve, if applicable, can also help. And, another great source of keywords is to ask your own customers what terms they have used to find you online.
  • Make sure you use a title tag for each page that includes good keywords for that page. The title tag is very important to search engines, as is the description. Make sure these are accurate for the page they describe and that they use important keywords.
  • Make sure to fill out the metadata tags on each page you want to optimize for SEO accurately and completely. You might not need or want to optimize all of your pages for SEO. Do the pages that contain the most important information about your company first. Don’t know what meta tags are? If you have a webmaster helping you with your website, they will know what these are.
  • Write your website pages for humans, and then do a light rewrite for the search engines. Search engines like to see that the page includes keywords, but don’t overdo it. The search engines will penalize you if you use the keywords too often on a page.
  • Make sure to include keywords in headings, subheadings, and links, when it makes sense. The search engines value these words in these key areas, but don’t try too hard to put the keywords in these areas. Remember you are still writing for humans, and headings, subheads, and links need to make sense.
  • Add good-quality content to your site often. Search engines like new, good content. You can add content to your site through ways like blog posts.

These measures just scratch the surface of what you can do for SEO. Here are some other sources of information for you to consult:

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything at once. Start with some basic steps and then build on them. SEO is a constant process of refinement, and you should revisit your strategy and keywords at least every six months. By doing this, you can drive more and better traffic to your website.

Finally, here’s an infographic outlining the simple steps to SEO:

Ten Ways To Improve SEO

From http://www.interactivitymarketing.com/ten-ways-to-improve-seo-rankings/

 

 

 

Is Pinterest right for your business?

Did you know that Pinterest is the third most used social channel in use, after only Facebook and Twitter? According to a Pew Research Center study from late 2012, about 15 percent of social media users use Pinterest, and the typical demographics of these users are that they are:

  • Women
  • White, non-Hispanic
  • 18-49 years old
  • Graduated college
  • Make between $50,000-$74,999

If this sounds like the target market, you might want to consider setting up a business account on Pinterest.

Before we go further, let me back up and give a quick explanation of Pinterest. This is a social media site that, according to Pinterest, “helps people collect and organize the things they love.” People can pin and repin things, especially visual images, to boards, which are collections of related pins. For businesses, this can be a way to drive traffic back to your site. If you were a restaurant, you could pin pictures of  tempting dishes, recipes, or ideas for setting a beautiful table. Own a furniture store? You could pin ideas for turning small nooks in your house into places to read or to store books. The idea — as is always the case with content — is to share thoughts regarding what your audience cares about, not necessarily your products. Social media is about starting a conversation before you ever anticipate converting to a sale.

If you’re interested in setting up a Pinterest for Business account, visit the Pinterest section dedicated to business users. In this section, you can get an overview of what Pinterest is, how some other brands are using it, and get started setting up your own account. To see additional information, check out this unofficial Pinterest blog, totalpinterest.com and especially the marketing section, for some helpful “getting started” advice and ways to encourage activities like getting more repins.

Another recent development for businesspeople is the introduction of Pinterest analytics. You can use this tool from Pinterest to see what about your content people are responding to and repinning. It can also tell you how much traffic Pinterest is driving back to your site. To use this tool, you must have a verified website and be using Pinterest’s new look. This article from SwellPath provides even more information about the kinds of information you can track with the new tool.   

For more best practices about using Pinterest for business, I thought you might like this infographic from sociallysorted.com.au, posted on entrepreneur.com (below). Then let me know about your experience using Pinterest as a business.

The 10 Commandments of Using Pinterest for Business

Is the future of mobile in ads that interact with consumers?

Mobile advertising spending is on the rise. According to a study by emarketer.com and reported in this article on Mashable, spending on mobile advertising will increase to $7.19 billion in 2013, up from $4.06 billion in 2012. That’s an increase of 177 percent in just one year.

Mobile advertising includes a lot of different kinds of advertising like mobile search, location-based advertising, and ads inside apps. As a change of pace today from practical advice, this post is about what might be the future of mobile advertising: ads that talk back to you.

People with smart phones are probably familiar with a great feature, which is that you can use a microphone button on screen to do a voice-based search in a search engine or dictate a text or email. You touch the microphone button, and then start talking. The phone does the typing. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty ingenious.

Similar in concept is a new interactive type of ad that can carry on a two-way conversation with the consumer. Just this past April 1, a 20-year-old software company called Nuance announced an initiative to start figuring out how to make these interactive apps a viable possibility. According to Nuance CMO Peter Mahoney speaking to AdWeek “Mobile advertising hasn’t worked well. Engagement has been a challenge, and we think that’s where voice ads come in.”

According to the same AdWeek article, some big marketing companies who are seeing the potential are partnering with Nuance; these companies include Leo Burnett, Digitas, and Millennial Media.

An NPR story also recently covered this phenomenon. NPR’s Henn noted that these apps are still pretty new and unsophisticated, but they have potential. According to Stanford professor Clifford Nass, who studies human-computer interaction and was interviewed for the NPR story, “The human brain is built for speech, so anything that sounds like a voice, our brains just light up and we get an enormous range of social and other responses…. Our brains are built to treat these conversations with computer-based voices to an incredible degree like [conversations] we are having with actual people — including flattery, flirtation and all the rest. We will see all of those same responses [with ads that speak].”

These ads also have the potential to go really wrong. Again according to Nass “When they work well, they’re fantastic; when they work poorly, they’re really insulting and disturbing.”

What do you think about ads that interact verbally with you? Would you be more likely to spend time with them than a traditional ad?

To create or curate (content), that is the question

Businesses without an agency or agencies working on their social media strategy might be wondering how to create content, and whether they should just curate content instead. Curating content is when you post the work of others instead of your own. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Why creating your own content makes sense

When you create your own content, you can become the expert in your space, you can give content your unique and consistent voice, and you can ensure the content is tailored to your audience. Creating your own content also allows you to create pieces that meet your specific marketing goals, ensures content is there when you need it, and gives you exclusive rights to that story. The downside to creating your content is that it takes time to create good content, and it can sometimes seem taxing to be thinking up new ideas all the time.

Why curating content makes sense

Curating content can seem like a godsend to a busy professional because someone else has already done the work. The downside is that the content isn’t exclusive to you, it doesn’t establish you as an expert, and it isn’t necessarily targeted to your audience or marketing goals. Also you have to be careful that the content you’re sharing is both authoritative and not from a competing organization.

Finding the middle ground

A good way to start a content strategy could be to try a mix of creating and curating at a ratio of 60 percent creating, 30 percent curating, and 10 percent promoting.

You can find good ideas for your own content in sources like:

  • Use case studies of customers to create interesting videos, podcasts, or writeups.
  • Takes statistics from studies you have done and show your customers and prospects why they are interesting and relevant to them..
  • Create How-to pieces showing what you excel at. Do you sell jewelry? Show people how to pick the perfect pair of earrings for work, evening, and play. Do you sell motorcycle apparel? Make a how-to video for dressing for the weather and safety.
  • Create interviews with experts at your business or in your field covering topics of interest (not your products).
  • Report information coming out of events in your industry, especially if you go to them yourself. Talk about the important topics that were discussed or the ideas of an interesting speaker.

If you curate, you can follow some basic guidelines for success:

  • Find authoritative articles to reference from experts in your field who aren’t tied to a competitor.
  • Look for interesting ideas related to your industry that someone has put forth and comment on them. Agree with them or disagree with them and explain why.
  • Look for sound statistics or studies in your field and find something interesting about them. Create a piece of content with the statistics as a basis.
  • Follow industry experts and discuss what they are saying about your industry. Add your own two cents to help establish your own credibility as an expert in the space.
  • Scan the news for tips and trends in your industry and share them with your audience.

And about promotion

While I certainly don’t advocate creating content that is all about you, I also wouldn’t recommend forgetting why your there. It’s OK once in a while to talk about yourself and encourage people to visit you, either in person or online. About one time in 10, go ahead and promote a sale or a great product you have, explaining why it’s going to improve the life of your target audience. Remember that even when promoting yourself, it’s still all about your customer and what’s in it for them.

 

Of course, no matter where your ideas come from, you need to create a content calendar outlining story ideas, when pieces are needed, the format (written story, picture, video, etc.), and where they are being used (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Staying organized is key. On your calendar, even mark out time to research and create pieces.

These are just a few ideas to help you think about content creation. For more information about the “create or curate” debate, see this article from Social Media Today.

This infographic has some great information about content creation. The accompanying article, both posted on SEOMoz, is interesting, as well, so check it out.

Guide To Content Creation Infographic

Posted on SEOMoz

 

Who has time for social media? Part deux

After just talking about managing social media in my previous post, I see that a blogger I follow found a great infographic showing how you could spend time doing different kinds of social media. Check out her post here:

http://melissabestblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/rocking-social-media-work-smarter-not-harder/

The graphic looks small, but click on it, and then you can even zoom in to read it.

While this graphic shows several emerging media channels, remember that one of the keys to being successful is to only choose the social media that your audience uses. Trying to use them all is a sure recipe for failure! Just because you have the 64-color box of crayons doesn’t mean you use them all on one picture, right?

Who has time for social media?

Social media is a really big, sometimes scary, proposition for a lot of businesses that don’t have the budget of a Coca-Cola or Target. If you can’t afford to hire a big agency, how are you ever going to find time to do social media along with all of the other tasks you have going on? You can make the time with a little focus and planning.

1. Figure out where your audience is. To be successful at social media, you have to have a realistic plan. So, it’s important to pick the best places to spend your limited time. Figure out the demographics of your customers and prospects and where they spend time online. You can ask them in person if you have a brick-and-mortar business or through an enewsletter poll. You can also find statistics for various channels in secondary research, like this report from the Pew Center.

If your customers and prospects don’t spend time on a certain channel, then don’t use it. It would be like advertising car supplies in a home decorating magazine. Once you have the list of places your prospects and customers go, make a short list of the top 3 or 4 you want to focus on. Again, make the list realistic. Maybe you start with only 1 channel, and that’s OK.

2. Make a content plan. Before you ever commit to social media, start making a content plan for one of the potential choices. Understand how that platform is used, and then plan out content for the next month to see what you could do. For example, if Facebook was one of your choices, many people post about twice per day. (See below for more information.) What kind of content could you find to post twice per day for 30 days? The best content is the content in which your audience is interested, not just thoughts about your business. For content, think about the questions you get from current customers, tips that could help them, and industry events they would find interesting. Can you plan enough content for a month? You’ll be generating content like this every month once you start.

3. Make a schedule. Did you know that there are some times of the day better than other to post to certain social media channels? The infographic below by KISSMetrics, posted on Socialtimes.com shares research about the best times per day to share on various channels. Use this data to figure out when would be the best times to post for your top channels.

As a next step, figure out how many times per day you might need to post. For example, according to this study by Socialmediatoday.com, if  you are on Twitter, you should post relevant and interesting content at least 2 to 5 times per day for maximum impact. Looking at Facebook? Maybe start with 2 or 3 relevant and interesting posts per day and see the response, and check the metrics. This article from tracksocial.com has more information.

Once you have this information, start planning a schedule of when you would post each day. Block out that time on your schedule, even before you start posting for real. Treat it like a standing appointment that can’t be overbooked.

This is just a starting point, but it’s an important one. Try doing these activities for a couple of weeks before you go live, from content research to scheduling time to writing the actual posts you would use. It’s a great trial run to see what actually committing to adding social media to your day would be like.

Infographic by KISSmetrics posted on socialtimes.com

Content marketing for the small business: The 10,000-foot view

You might have heard the expression that “content is king.” You might even know that it means that creating interesting content is the way that businesses build relationships with prospects and customers. People buy from people they know and trust, and they get to know and trust you through the interesting information you give them. Good content posted on your website will also get you found by customers using search engines like Google.

The issue is that too many businesses today are focused on talking about themselves. Yet, when you meet someone like that at a party, how long do you stick around? Probably not very long. To keep people interested in what you’re saying and want to share it with other prospects, the information can’t read like advertising or self-promotion.

The key is to talk about topics that your audience cares about. In this article from AdAge, you can see ways some big brands like Coca-Cola, Expedia, and Red Bull have gotten content marketing right by focusing on what their audience cares about, not on their products.

Image

Expedia’s Find Yours site

These sites offer inspiration, but If you’re not a huge brand like these, you’re probably thinking “That’s great, but how does a smaller company get it done?”

Three steps to getting started with content marketing

Here are the three basic steps to getting started.

1. Generate your story ideas. If you run your own company, you are probably an expert in what you do. When deciding what content to your prospects and customers, start by asking “What motivates people to come to my business?”

If you’re a gardening center, they probably come because they love having a great yard to spend time in, a vegetable garden providing them with produce, or a flower garden they can use to create beautiful bouquets to bring the outside indoors. With that in mind, give them the content they want. Your content could be about prepping the garden for spring planting, recipes for cooking with summer vegetables, or tips on keeping weeding time to a minimum. They might enjoy tips on arranging flowers, interviews with a master gardener, or ways to kill aphids on roses organically. For other ideas, think about the questions customers ask regularly, as well.  

2. Figure out how your customers and prospects like to get content. Do they like monthly newsletters? Do they spend time on Pinterest or Facebook? How about Twitter or YouTube? If you don’t know, you can do research on the Internet about people like your audience, such as women 30-50 years old who live in the suburbs. Another great way to find out their preferences is to ask. If you own that gardening store, ask people when they check out, like “Would you read an enewsletter about gardening tips?” or “Would you watch videos about topics like how to build raised beds?” or “Do you follow businesses you like on Facebook or Twitter?” Don’t ask all the questions at once – just try one or two for a couple of weeks, and then ask about a couple of others later. Have employees keep a tally and don’t just rely on their memories.

3. Plan the delivery. Once you know the topics and the means of delivering them, do an editorial calendar that tells you what stories you are going to use when. In a garden center, you could definitely plan content related to the seasons. Then, apply how you’re going to deliver the content. There are lots of ways to make that happen. Have employees blog about topics they know. Interview that master gardener when you go to a home show and turn it into an enewsletter article and a video. Post pictures of the flowers in bloom right now on Twitter and Pinterest.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s manageable, and sustainable. Start small; don’t try to tackle everything at once. And make sure to measure results so you know what’s working and what isn’t worth your time.

For a good short series of articles about how to get started, see this article by Volusion. This company is focused on online businesses, but most of the ideas apply to brick-and-mortar businesses, too.

Is now the time for businesses to start using Instagram?

In a recent post, I included an infographic that noted that people’s attention span has plummeted to a mere 5 seconds, down from 12 minutes just 10 years ago. This fact might be one of the reasons sites like Instagram are growing in popularity.

Now owned by Facebook, Instagram is a free photo-sharing mobile app for iPhone and Android that has traditionally been used by individuals to take photos on their mobile phones, add a filter to make it look more professional or have more personality (think Polaroid effect), and easily post it to Instagram. Users can also share the photo to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Followers of the individual get to see and process an image in an instant. For some statistics on Instagram, see the infographic from the Digital Buzz Blog below.

Even though it’s traditionally been used by individuals, now might be the time for businesses to explore using it. According to an article titled Why Instagram will be the next big social media platform, while only 18 percent of people currently have an Instagram account – far behind sites like Facebook and Twitter – the rate of usage “in the last 24 hours” is higher than all sites except for Facebook. This is a measure how avid users are of a platform. And if you look at the infographic below, you can see that, as of April 2012, Instagram grew at a rate of about 20 million users per year, on average. At this rate, it will reach the 100-million-user mark in two more years, which is the same rate of adoption for Twitter. (Facebook reached 100 million users in four years.)

But is it right for your business? The answer to this question always starts with “do my prospects use Instagram?” Current statistics from the Pew Research Center suggest this tool could be right for your business marketing toolbox if you market to any of these groups:

  • 18-29 year-olds
  • African-Americans
  • Latinos
  • Women
  • Urban residents

If one or more of these groups is your target market, you can use Instagram in a variety of ways to build an audience or build a better relationship with that audience.

  • In this article by the Social Media Examiner, see some great suggestions for using Instagram to create engagement with contests, encourage viewers with promo codes, feature customers, and promote events.
  • An article on the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) illustrates how you can use Instagram to build your brand and share your expertise. It also gives advice about using hashtags to help people find your business’ posts.  
  • See this article on Social Media Today for idea about using Instagram to show your products, what your products can do, and how they’re made. Also see suggestions for uses like introducing employees or giving loyal customers who follow you sneak peaks at new products, features, or events.
  • In this post on the Instagram blog, see how you can now show your photos to people on the web. Originally, Instagram was only available via mobile phone.
  • As with any social media, make sure you’re delivering good content, via pictures, that’s relevant to your business, but not necessarily all about your business. For example, if you sell beading supplies, don’t just talk about products or sales. Instead, show followers some beautiful examples of jewelry they could create themselves, or that would at least spark ideas of their own. Ideas are everywhere.
  • Don’t forget to not only post your photos to Instagram but share them on your other social media outlets like your Facebook page or Twitter feed. This is a good way to repurpose content and reach your other followers who might not use Instagram (yet).
  • Have a plan for how often you are going to post. Even better, have an editorial calendar for what content you’ll post. Make sure to make a commitment to using this tool well. If you can’t do that now, then consider putting it off until you can commit the time and resources to it.

 In addition to having an Instagram account for your business, you might soon have another way to reach your target prospects. According to a December 2012 article on the Social Media Times, paid advertising is on the horizon for Instagram.

So what’s stopping you from using social media like Instagram? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  

Reprinted from the Digital Buzz Blog

As a business, how can you possibly keep up with emerging media?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, Pinterest. These names represent just a fraction of the emerging media sites that have come into existence over the past decade or less. In fact, this blog entry by Randall Craig suggests that more than 500 social networking sites might exist.

Emerging media present an opportunity for people to connect to others in a way not possible before because it removes the barriers of physical distance and time zones. In an article published by the Pew Charitable Trust, the Trust shared findings like:

  •  Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties
  • The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American
  • Internet users get more support from their social ties and Facebook users get the most support

However, this brave new world also poses challenges, like the deterioration of attention spans and increase of distractions, which are a detriment to productivity. (See the infographic below, published by Singularity Hub about the negative effects of emerging media. Produced by Assisted Living Today, it is based on data from sources like Mashable.com and wired.com.) The plethora of activities online also introduces the problem of “shiny object syndrome,” where there is always something new to look at or do.

What does all of this mean for marketers? While it has never been easier to reach consumers more directly without going through the gate of a major publication or television station, it has also never been harder to know where to find the people you are interested in talking to. It’s like being in a room with a million other people and hearing all of these conversations going on and trying to wade through the crowd to find the people you have something in common with. And if you do find them, how do you keep their attention long enough to have a meaningful dialog with them? How do you build a relationship when there are so many conversations they could be having at that moment? Just as importantly, how do you find out what they are saying about your brand when you aren’t there? Because now, consumers have just as much power to have conversations outside conventional, and controlled, means, like writing a Letter to the Editor. Now, for better or worse, they can tell everyone online their opinion very easily.

While it will by no means have all of the answers, this blog will discuss trends in emerging media and try to give them context to businesses thinking about establishing or expanding their marketing strategy in the digital space. I hope you find it helpful, and I’m looking forward to the conversation.    

How-Social-Media-is-Ruining-Our-Minds

Republished from Singularity Hub.com