27 August 2010

1 How Google's Page Rank is like High School

High School. No matter how far we go in life the lessons we learned there seem destined to stick with us. It didn't matter if you attended a private school on the east side of Manhattan, a rural school in Montana or a public high school in the heart of Houston they all had their jocks, their slackers/stoners, the band, the click, and tons of other niches. This classification system was universal, so what better way to explain Google's Page Rank then to take us back to high school? That's exactly what Zippycart did. So put on your letterman jacket, grab the pom-poms or tuba case, a settle in for a little lesson high school style.

 Click image to view full size.

(image courtesy of State of Search)

16 August 2010

2 5 Things Press Release Can Do For You - My Take

Recently there was an article on the 5 Things Press Releases Are Still Good For on Business Insider. I’m such a staunch supporter of public relations. It’s where I began my career and I still believe that it should be a crucial element to any marketing plan. Here is my take (and elaboration) on their list of how a press release is still serviceable today.

Grow incoming links
"A press release can be a great way to seed the web with your company's name. 'It's a quick way to get a lot of links from good quality sites--much more effective than the old link exchange route.'"
This is very true and very important for SEO. On the internet content is king and inbound links are definitively the queen. To effectively use this strategy, the press release should be submitted to a distribution service, such as PR Web. Using a distribution service increases the likelihood of the article being picked up by various online sources. One thing to be aware of is that the majority of these links will be fairly short lived and will drop off in the subsequent months.

Target the right resources
"Sending a press release to a journalist that doesn't fit their work is the fastest way to piss them off."
Thank you! Nothing is more annoying to a journalist then receiving a pitch or press release from a PR person who is obviously using the spray-and-pray method. Take the time to build targeted lists. Notice the plural. Not every journalist you communicate with is the best recipient for your release. Consider having different lists that you work from initially. For example, you can easily begin by focusing on regional, local, and industry. However, don’t forget to continue weeding them down from there. Targeting the right journalists and outlets for your pitch will not only help you to build brand credibility, it will also help you to form valuable relationships making it easier to pitch to that outlet in the future.

Raise your profile
"If you are a major consumer brand or person of interest, social media may be enough to get the message out. But if you run a typical business, as unpopular as it may sound, you probably need a press release even more than a social media strategy."
Build reputation
"Social media is a great way to reach a broad audience, but it doesn't necessarily enhance the reputation of your brand. The traditional press release is a good way to build your company's credibility online."
Interesting points. I’ve lumped these two together, because I feel they are best addressed that way.

I’m a firm believer in the power of social media, however I think this statement has a very valid point. First off, not all businesses are right for social media. Honestly if you’re a local exterminating business, Facebook is likely a huge waste of time for you. However, a press release is not. It’s an excellent way to establish yourself as an authority not only online, but also with your local media and their local audience – your potential customers. Using a new, eco-friendly technique? Is there likely to be a particularly high insect population because of recent flood and you have tips for how to reduce the issue? These are valid reasons for writing a press release, demonstrating your expertise and raising awareness for your business.

Improve SEO
"A well written press release is key for search engine optimization. The audience isn't just a few media outlets, either, but exponentially larger - including countless bloggers and other outlets. That makes it more imperative than ever that the press release is well-written, scannable, easily understood, free of jargon or Franken-speak, and search-engine friendly, so it'll be indexed and easily found by those who.. well, search for it!"
To add to this I would emphasize Google’s adoption of universal search. With this change, search results now show not only website listings, but also images, videos, tweets and news articles. If you’re utilizing a press release distribution service, your release is likely to be picked up in the news search and may be funneled into the universal search results.

In conclusion, I think it is also extremely important to point out the importance of making your press release newsworthy. Having a newsworthy release will substantially increase the possibility of it being picked up by not online traditional news outlets, but also bloggers, search engines and other outlets in turn lending to the 5 above mentioned benefits.

28 July 2010

1 3 Ways Businesses Can Benefit From Facebook Questions

It’s official. Facebook’s new Questions feature is live and asking what you want to know. The best part? Fan pages can ask questions, respond to comments on their questions, and answer other’s questions. With all these questions flying around you may instantly be asking one of your own “How can my business or organization benefit from Facebook Questions?”

1) Market Research
Currently about 1 percent of Facebook users (about 5 million people) will have early beta access to Facebook Questions, and it will be gradually rolled out to the rest of Facebook's 500 million active users. With the new tool you’re not limited to only the opinions of your friends or existing fan base anymore. All questions and their responses are open to the public. As a result, with the new Questions feature you will be able to tap into the opinions of Facebook’s network of users serving as a resource for some impromptu market research.

In addition to asking an open-ended question you have the option of creating a poll to focus the information you find. For example, if you’re a plastic surgeon looking to find out more about consumer behavior, specifically what would be the strongest influencer for users considering surgery you could ask: “What was the deciding factor for choosing your plastic surgeon: surgery cost, surgeon’s experience, before and after pictures, word of mouth, convenient location, impression in consultation?”

2) Establish Yourself as an Expert
One of the key elements of the new Questions feature is the ability to tag questions with keywords to associate them with specific topics. The questions a user asks will be shown to people who have expressed interest in the particular topics that were tagged, as well as to their friends and friends of friends. Users will also be able to browse topics to find answers to different questions.

The whole idea behind the questions feature is to help connect the Facebook community with people who are in the know ensuring that users get the best possible answers to their questions. You can establish yourself as an expert in your specific area by searching topics relevant to your specialty and providing insightful answers to users’ questions. Users have the ability to see your answers to other questions you have posted by clicking the “See more from…” by your thumbnail image. You will also want to sign up to view new questions about these topics to instantly receive updates on new questions in the topic area.

3) Increase Awareness of Your Brand
I constantly hear clients tell me that consistently expanding their fan base is an area that stumps them. By joining the conversation you can reach out to new people and gain exposure for your business through the conversations generated in the Questions feature. Just remember what the tool is essentially for and forget about blatant self plugging. Remember social media is all about sharing. Listen to the community and engage them in conversation by sharing insightful information. If a user finds your answers helpful it is very likely they will be interested in learning more about your organization. They can easily click on your name or thumbnail to view your organization’s fan page or your personal profile.

Facebook is unique in having one of the largest communities of people and it is a community that is already used to asking questions to others on the social network. There is significant potential for organizations to utilize the new questions feature to learn more about their target market while also increasing public awareness and interest in their services, products and expertise.

26 July 2010

1 Case Study: Effectiveness of Regular Blogging

As an Account Manager I spend a lot of time talk to client about investing in their marketing plans and efforts. It’s a well known Catch 22 that to make money, you have to spend some money. But what do you do when your budgets are a little strained?

Recently an SEO client that I’ve been working with was having this same problem. Their Page 1 listings were slowly decreasing as other plastic surgeons in the area began to increase their online marketing efforts. Unfortunately, the client didn’t have the financial resources at the time to invest in their own online marketing efforts. I had to come up with a very low cost option for helping boost their website’s positioning.

The Blogging Strategy
After several discussions with the client, a Pittsburgh breast surgery office, I came up with a plan that would allow the client to generate significant content by answering typical questions about the procedures and services the practice offered. The blog was also removed from the website and housed on a different URL to enhance the inbound link building efforts. I generated a list of over 80 common questions for the client to work from. The client and his patient coordinator submitted 1 paragraph answers to the questions, the blog text was linked back to the website and the blog posts were scheduled out for posting at the rate of one per day.

The Results
We began the new strategy in May and by July we have seen a significant increase not only in the website’s search positioning, but also the conversions and unique visitors!

This strategy isn't limited to blogging questions. It can be applied to blogging in general. The key is to provide consistent quality blogging with targeted link building tactic. If your looking for a way to boast SEO results consider giving it a try. It doesn't matter if you are a plastic surgeon, a non-profit, a B2B, a marketing agency or any other type of business. Blog about what you know on a regular basis and take advantage of scheduling tools to keep your posting consistent.

14 July 2010

1 Old Spice Successfully Hits the Social Media World

Almost everyone has seen the new "Old Spice Man" commercials. Yes, your man may not be like him or look like him, but he can definitely smell like him. You know you have a good ad campaign on your hands when it becomes viral and gets the social media world buzzing about it. But the creators behind the Old Spice Man haven't stopped there. The Old Spice Man is getting in on the action.

The Old Spice Man isn't staying silent on what people are saying about him online, he is joining the conversation and responding. The best part, he's doing it from his bathroom bringing back the set from one of the steamer commercials. The campaign is taking the next step in engaging it's social media audience by posting video clips on the Old Spice YouTube channel responding to comments from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Even celebrities aren't exempt.

What a great idea! Take a look at a few of the posts:

13 July 2010

0 4 Tips for How to Get Shared on Facebook

Your public’s experience with your business and brand isn’t limited to your Facebook page. The fundamental element of social networking is to share – share thoughts, interests, knowledge, findings, goofy dancing baby videos, and whatever else people may find interesting or entertaining. It’s all about the sharing. Here are a 4 tips to increase the sharing power of your content.

1. Emphasize Social Proof 
The more we see a certain action, the more we believe it is correct. It’s human nature. To emphasize your social power consider incorporating “retweet” and “like” buttons at the top of your content. Take the below example articles:

While both articles are essentially the same article, one clearly flexes its social influence muscles. Based on this quick glance, which article would you be more likely to read? Surveys show that the socially buffed article would instinctively get more attention as it appeals more to the “cool” niche as discussed in the Lessons from the Science of Facebook Marketing.

2. Readability = Sharability! 
Studies show that Facebook users want to be entertained, and as such they don’t want to think too deeply. Another important factor to consider that the average reading grade level on Facebook is fairly low, with the majority at 9th grade and below.

A study done by HubSpot showed that the use of nouns and verbs increased sharability of content, while adverbs and flower adjectives are too subjective and as such they get less attention.
3. Publish on Weekends 
Friday-Sunday equal higher sharing times with Saturday being the highest! During the weekdays people are often overloaded with work and other daily activities. As such they are less likely to spend as much time actively participating in social media.

4. Think Mainstream 
What people the most interested in outside of social media are most likely to be the same things they will be interested in sharing online. Before publishing consider the topic. Below are a list of the most and least liked topics on Facebook. However, even if your topic isn’t the most popular, you can still get your content shared. Consider the newsworthiness and entertainment factors of your content. Both are important elements for being shared.

12 July 2010

1 Lessons from the Science of Facebook Marketing

Recently I took part in a Webinar on the Science of Facebook Marketing through HubSpot. I can be a bit of a statistics geek, especially when it comes to social media. With so much advice and opinions out there on what to do and how to do it, I find that strong data is a helpful tool in not only ensuring that my efforts are paying off, but also in explaining why I recommend certain things to my clients. Here are some important concepts and a few stats that I came away with:

1. Facebook is about facilitating existing relationships. 
Think about it. Do you really want to be friends with someone on Facebook that you do not know in real life? No. Facebook is an avenue for building stronger existing relationships whether they are personal or for your business and brand. People who like your business’s Facebook page do so because they have some experience or association with it. If you’re looking to aggressively build new relationships, turn to Twitter.

2. Facebook is just like high school. 
No, really it is. Users are hyper sensitive to what people may think about them based on their likes or interests online. Essentially, each user wants to look “cool” to their network (See what I mean about high school). Would you honestly like a wart removal page on Facebook? Most likely not. It’s important to consider how your page can increase your users’ affinity with other users through your brand.

3. Really know your audience.
This may seem obvious, but it is incredibly important to really know your audience, not simply have a general idea of whom they are. It goes way beyond their general age group, gender and location. Consider what their Facebook activity level is like. How often do they post to walls, how much information do they make available about themselves (i.e. interests), etc.  Here are a few interesting stats to consider when thinking about your audience.
(Click on image to view larger)
Notes: Younger Users are more social. They chat more, post more and have more friends.
Older users are more open with their interests and value privacy more.

Another useful tool for quickly learning about the demographics of your existing audience is Quantcast. All you need is an existing website. You may be surprised by what you find out. Note: Your site does have decent traffic for this tool to work.

4. Your ambient awareness may be higher than you think.
The average Facebook user has 130 friends. We already know that for any user who likes your page, Facebook will recommend the page to all of their friends at some point. But have you ever stopped to consider how ambient awareness may be affecting your brand? Consider this, not only may your page be suggested to a user, they may see a comment from a friend about your brand, a comment from a friend on your brand page, a conversation about you brand on wall post, or a PPC advertisement along the side. All of these little elements add up. It may not have the user’s direct attention; however it does become part of their ambient awareness.