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.

28 June 2010

1 A Marketing Lesson from the Mexican Street Vendors

Recently I was speaking to a colleague about her trip down to Mexico. Eventually our conversation came around to the plethora of street vendors that you inevitably run into in any tourist district when something she said hit me as profound and honestly smart marketing at the simplest level: “Everywhere I walked people would yell ‘Hey there, you honeymooners!’ and even once ‘Hey, you, the Broncos fans!’”

Lesson: Know your audience. Pay attention and look for clues. 
These street vendors weren’t relying on simply standing around waiting for someone to come to them. They were seeking their potential customers out, but more importantly they were paying attention to clues about their potential customers.

It’s marketing 101, however all too often I see businesses forget this step. They get wrapped up in getting out their message and forget that if you want to get someone’s attention and appeal to them, first you have to know something about them!

In my colleague’s case their clues were fairly simple to ascertain. Her and her companion are in their mid-twenties, holding hands, grinning at each other constantly and sporting shiny new rings.  Honeymooners wasn’t really a stretch of a guess in their case. As for the broncos fans bit, her husband had just purchased a Broncos poncho and was still holding it in his hand. But the vendors didn’t stop looking for clues there. One was smart enough to take in their dress, recent purchases and what the vendor had seen them looking at in one of the other kiosks to draw their attention to specific wares that he had for sale. By paying attention and applying what he learned (saw) he made the sale.  

Putting Theory to Work:
Here are a two quick online marketing and social media tips for putting this theory to work.
Pay attention to your Google Analytics. What pages on your website are your visitors hitting more often and spending the most time on? This can help you pinpoint what you have to offer that potential clients are the most interested in and also what areas of your business you may need additional efforts to effectively promote.

Pay attention to your fans & followers interests. Most people’s social media accounts are brimming with information that will clue you in about them. For example, take your Twitter followers: What are they tweeting on? Who are they following? Same goes for Facebook, only here your fans give you their information on a platter. Browse their information page.

A Social media Success Story: 
Recently I discussed this strategy with a plastic surgeon client of mine. After taking some time to view his fans’ profiles we found an interesting trend, over half of his fans were also fans of Grey’s Anatomy. Since offering discounts on his services wasn’t really feasible or significant enough to drive interest, we took to using a Grey’s Anatomy DVD giveaways of the latest season to encourage fans to recommend his page to friends and engage in conversations on his fan page. The results? He saw an almost 60 percent increase in on page activity and almost tripled his fan base. The best part is he continued to experience significant page activity after the giveaway by engaging fans in topics that were in the show, giving his opinion, asking for their's and sprinkling in a little self promoting information along the way.  

24 June 2010

0 LinkedIn Becomes More Interactive

With 70 million users, LinkedIn has been lacking in its interactive sharing capacities, at least for a social networking site it has. While it has always been fairly easy for you to let your connections know what you are working on, it hasn’t been very easy to truly share information. The good news? LinkedIn has realized that and is rolling out several features to not only make sharing easier, but to increase the ease and usability.

LinkedIn has taken a few pages right out of the Facebook and Twitter’s books with some of the new interactive features for everything from its Group Forums to the look of profiles.  LinkedIn will be rolling out the updated features live throughout this week.

Conversation Editing Capabilities – Have you ever been typing a response in a group discussion and after posting it you notice you’ve made a typo? This can be extremely embarrassing, but it won’t be as big of an issue anymore. You will now be able to preview, edit and delete your conversations.

Group Activity Tracking – Now you have the ability to view all of your activity history for all of your specific groups.  
The “Like” and “Pass” buttons – It’s back! In the Groups area you will be able to “like” a discussion. Not only that, you can “Pass” on a discussion. Facebook, why haven’t you given us this button yet?

Follow – The new follow button makes it simple for you to follow discussions and people. Like what a certain person had to say? Click “Follow” below their picture to keep up to date on their contributions across groups that you share.  

Top Influencers – If you are interested in learning who the industry leaders are for specific groups, you won’t have to wonder anymore. The new Top Influencer’s feature shows you which professionals are the most active in that Group.

Privacy of Updates - LinkedIn has rolled out another feature to help you target your communications. You can now specify who can see your updates. You can let everyone, only your connections, or only specific people or groups see specify updates.

Re-Sharing - This is similar to the retweet feature on Twitter. Now you can conveniently share content someone else posted.

Tiny Urls - In the land of 140 characters the shortened url is king.  LinkedIn is now making shortened urls available to accommodate the 140 quota.  

Profile Picture – Social networking is all about the sense of community, so why should a professional networking site be any different? If you’re anything like me you’re a visual person. Names don’t stick, but faces do. LinkedIn has made it easy for all the visual people by adding the professionals picture to their LinkedIn activity creating more of a community and shedding the hundreds of faceless name links.

Jobs Tab – If you’re not in the market for a new job then the endless stream of job posts that appear in the discussion areas of your Groups can easily become very annoying. LinkedIn has created a jobs specific tab within its Group area to separate it from the actual discussion. The best part?  LinkedIn also included a handy Jobs tab on the discussion tool bar to flag any ill placed postings.

These changes all bring LinkedIn into a new level of social community to further foster interaction and conversation. Way to go LinkedIn.

What is your favorite new LinkedIn feature?

22 June 2010

0 Ok Go's End Love Viral Spread

Ok Go is no new comer to using the power of social media to promote its music. The pop band creates original and slightly quirky videos in time to the tunes of their songs. Remember the treadmill dance scene from the Here It Goes Again video (believe me it’s not as easy as they make it look) that won them a YouTube Video Award for Most Creative Video in 2006, not to mention a Grammy. Now the band that showed us how to get over 1 million views in less then a week is at it again – only this time their stepping out with Facebook.

Ok Go has launched a contest through Facebook to promote their newest video for End Love. In the My ‘Friends’ Are Cooler Than Your ‘Friends” End Love Contest fans are encouraged to share the band’s new video to their little heart’s desire. The fan that uploads the video to their profile and receives the most comments on the video receives a custom engraved iPad for Ok Go, completely stocked with the band’s music and videos.Publish Post

The band that originally gained immense popularity with its viral videos gets extra props for delving into its existing fan base and using virtual word-of-mouth to increase its audience and promote the newest song.  They have built an identity centered on viral promotion and their fan base is predominantly the social media savvy.  Not only is this newest endeavor good viral marketing, but it is also an excellent branding choice.

17 June 2010

0 A New Website Face Lift

Hollywood celebrities aren’t the only ones who should consider a face lift to stay competitive. Your business or organization should too! We live in an age where technology rules. Your public - be it investor, customer, potential employee, blogger, media, or competitor –can find a wealth of information on your organization in minutes thanks to the internet and our good buddies at Google. More often than not your own website will be one of those information stops on the internet highway. Do you really want the virtual face of your business to be circa 2002?

This is an exact conversation that I had with a legal client recently. While my work day is spent online, I realize not everyone’s is, least of all my client’s. And really 2002 wasn’t that long ago, so you may wonder, how could their website be that out of date? But if we take a trip in the way back machine you’ll learn that in 2002 the average screen size was 800x600, today the average monitor displays 1280x1084 or greater! The average screen displayed 65,536 different colors, today’s monitors display over 16 million. Those are huge differences!

Now consider that the majority of websites were designed in tables and any form of dynamic flash element was still relatively new. Not to mention the world had yet to even hear of MySpace, Facebook, YouTube or even the Motorola Razr. Considering this how can one of the top birth injury legal firms in the U.S. realistically expect to stand out and catch a web user’s attention with a website from 2002? They can’t.
While the niche website was bringing in a significant number of new visitors a month, between 900-1,300, it wasn’t keeping them. By early 2010 the website was averaging a bounce rate of roughly 70% with users visiting an average of 1.67 pages and staying on the site for approximately 58 seconds. Incoming web leads were almost nonexistent. It was apparent that something about the site wasn’t appealing to them. It was easy to figure out what was most likely the cause – the design. The website was designed sometime in 2002 and gave the initial impression of an amateur parenting advice site run by an internet newbie in 2002, not a leading New York City law firm in 2010.

The Before Design

Last month we rolled out the new website. The client was adamant about avoiding flash. They didn’t want it to look too “lawyery”, but sharp, clean and professional. I’m very happy with the results of the new design, as is my client, but most importantly so do users. Over the last three weeks we seen a significant increase in the time users are spending on the website and how many are pages they are visiting. (I’ll post again when I have more concrete stats.)

The New Design

Notes on a Few Features to Check Out
1. The header image  - This image consistently changes as you click to other pages of the website. If you return to the site another time (or hit refresh) the image you see may not be what you saw the first time.
2. The internal page images - By far one of my favorite elements of the website. The designer incorporated Web 2.0 technology to bring the images out to the user, if they want to take a closer look, in a very professional presentation. (Pictured below, but for the full effect you have to see the live thing here)  

Take a closer look at the after design for Trief & Olk’s Erb’s Palsy Info site.

24 May 2010

1 Collective Buying Power – Does it Pay to Play Together?

First there was Groupon, then came Buywithme, Qponus, LivingSocial, and Coupme ferrying in the online collective buyers dream.  In a tough economy, consumers love a deal. These sites provide an opportunity for consumers looking to save a buck to connect with local businesses looking to make one. Does it really pay to play the together game? In one word, definitely!

In our technology driven world it is increasingly important for businesses, whether big or small, to participate in internet marketing. With the limited marketing budgets that many small businesses operate on, collective buying sites provide an opportunity to reach out to new consumers. While Groupon is predominantly the heavy hitter that has grown in leaps and bounds with over 2.5 million users nationwide, each of these websites allow people to save money.

How it Works
Each day the sites feature a new local special that typically ranges from a 40-90% discount. Subscribers receive a daily email alerting them to the special the site is offering. If a consumer is interested they can click on the “Buy” button. The service will then send the consumer their deal or load it into the consumers account, depending on the service.

In addition, most of these services offer incentives to users to spread the word about a deal. For example, many sites provide a special referral url to the deal. With Groupon if someone a user refers then buys the deal, the user will get a $10 credit toward their next deal. LivingSocial will give the user their deal for free if at least 3 people they refer also buy the deal.

How Businesses Can Benefit
The biggest benefit to businesses is that your business uses their email marketing system to reach new consumers. Businesses are able to reach a significant number of consumers in their specific area that they may never have reached otherwise. So not only do you get the word out about your business, but it also provides a significant source of new customers. On average businesses report see a significant spike in incoming business following being featured on an online collective buying site.

Business owners offer the deep discounts and depend on volume as a return on the investment. To insure that the business makes money off of the deal, the site sets a minimum number of discounts that have to be bought before the deal is active. If not enough users purchase the deal they pay nothing and the business’s deal is essential off. However after meeting the minimum number of deals bought the deal becomes active. These sites generally do not require a payment from the business. The site will keep a portion of the total purchases and pay the business the remaining income from the deal. It's a win-win for retailers and consumers.

What do you think about collective buying power and would you use it for your business?

18 May 2010

0 Why Your Business Needs to be on Facebook

I’ve said it time and time again. Social media isn’t just a fad, as the #1 activity web users engage in online it’s here to stay! In March 2010, Facebook officially became the most visited website in the United States beating out Google. Yet, I’m constantly surprised how many business owners and executives are hesitating to join the conversation. Let’s take a quick look at why you should care about Facebook:

“Kids” aren’t the only ones on Facebook, so are your consumers, employees, and other stakeholders
Consider the facts:

  • On average Facebook has 400 million monthly visitors, 125 million of which are monthly US visitors.
  • Only roughly 26% of users being 24 or under.
  • 35-49 year olds are the fasting growing demographic

With these stats it’s reasonable to believe that some of these users are your business’s existing stakeholders. On top of that, think of all the potential stakeholders your business has yet to reach!

Word-of-Mouth isn’t only verbal, it’s viral
People are consistently spending more and more time online. Half of Facebook’s active users log on every day. In addition, the average user spends 55 minutes a day on Facebook, according to a statistics reported by Social Media Energy.

Not only are we connecting with our day-to-day friends and acquaintances anymore, we’re able to connect with anyone we’ve ever known on a daily basis regardless of distant and time. The average Facebook user has 130 friends. When a user comments on your business, service, product, etc. it reaches all of their friends.

Consider this:

  • 78% of consumers report trusting peer recommendations
  • reported an 80% increase in visits referred from Facebook after Facebook released the “LIKE” button
  • has seen its users create over 350,000 links and references on Facebook  

Can your business really afford to keep silent?

10 May 2010

0 Google's Sponsored Local Listings – Is it right for You?

Sponsored local listings are nothing new. Citysearch and Yellow Pages have been offering them for years. But now search engine companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Recently Google announced it was expanding its “enhanced local listings” feature adding to Houston and San Jose, CA, its initial two trial markets. The enhanced listings are now available in Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Boulder and San Francisco.

What is it?
Google's sponsored listings are essentially an opportunity to call attention to your business's local listing by tagging it. The cost for a sponsored listing is a flat monthly fee of $25. The business can choose from one of seven types of “tags” that are drawn from content in the Google Place listing. Throughout the month the business can change up the tag as many times as they want. Businesses can choose from:

Here are a few examples of what a sponsored listing would look like.

Is it Right for You?
With over 20 percent of Google’s online searches being done for local services, I think the new enhanced listings could be very beneficial to businesses, especially if you’re in a very competitive industry or market. Before jumping in head first and buying the tags, I recommend strategically thinking about what you want to accomplish and what sets you apart from the competition.

Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Does your website not show up on the first page of the organic listings? Then use the website “tag”. But it’s important to make sure your website is presenting the best face possible for your business. If your website is significantly dated or lacks in substance, you may be doing yourself more harm than good by calling attention to it. However, if you have an informative, aesthetically appealing website I highly recommend highlighting it.

Do you have custom video footage of your services or compelling client testimonials? Do you have a great deal running right now?  Do you notice that you spend a significant amount of time giving clients directions to your office? You may want to consider using one of the other tags instead. Google tracks the number of clicks your tag receives so you’re able to track the effectiveness of the tag you use through the Google Place dashboard. You can easily switch up the tag you use from month to month to see which is most effectively meeting your goals.

07 May 2010

0 Google Universal Search & Real Time Search – What Are They?

Recently I’ve spoken to a few clients who have had questions about Google’s Universal Search and Real Time Search. With all the new features and applications that Google has recently rolled out it can easily get confusing as to what each feature does, and, more importantly, how it will affect your internet marketing strategies.

Universal Search
Google’s new Universal Search incorporates listings from its news, local, images, videos, book and blog search engine results into it standard organic website search listings. Now when you do a search on Google you may see results from more than one of these areas along with the regular website listings. Think of this as Google’s way of cutting back on the clicks necessary to find what the searcher may be looking for.

Below is an example search I did for Cosmetic Surgery. Instead of only seeing listings for websites, Google has incorporated news results, local businesses, blog posts and book results along with the regular website results!

Real Time Search
Google’s new Real Time Search automatically pulls in new results as they happen. These results are displayed in a “Latest results” area. The feed will constantly stream new results while the user is viewing their search results. Results are pulled from Twitter, Facebook, Google’s News and Blog searches, new web pages, recently updated web pages, MySpace updates, Google Buzz and a number of other social networking sites.

However, the Real Time Search feature will not always appear in your search results. For the Latest Results section to appear there must be a real-time component to the search topic. If Google recognizes a sudden spike in queries or information for a certain topic, then this section will be activated. The results are ranked by time, site authority and relevancy to the topic.

For example, on the day I did this search Jason Elam had just announced his retirement from the Denver Broncos. Since this is a significantly newsworthy topic (especially if you are in the Denver area like I am) the Real Time Search feature appeared in the results (see below for example). It continued to scroll new results as they were generated and pulled in. When I searched for Jason Elam today, the Real Time Search feature no longer appears since there is no longer a relevant buzzworthy topic related to him.

What Does It Mean For Your Business?
With both of these new features you have an opportunity to gain more significantly more exposure for your business. Want to increase your chances in showing up in the Real Time Search? Then, if there is a specific topic that is gaining considerable attention in your industry, regional area, etc. discuss it in on your social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, or write a blog about it. If your blog and social accounts continually have content relevant to your industry, it’s very likely that each is already acknowledged by the search engines as being focused on specific topics concerning your industry. Continue to post relevant topics on a regular basis, build your authority and utilize that to your advantage.

Google’s Universal Search also opens up plenty of new opportunities for increasing your business’s online exposure. This search silos information from multiple search areas. Not only could your website appear in the search listings, but your business’s videos, images, news, blogs, local listing and social networking pages could also appear! You can easily increase your chances of being found by utilizing these different areas. Have business videos? Post them on YouTube. Have a blog? Register it with the blog search engines. Also, consider how you name the images on your website and what keywords are in their tags. You can further increase your exposure by verifying and optimizing your local business listing, as well as developing a social networking presence.

Below is an example of a search I did for one of my clients, Dr. Terry Bass a cosmetic dentist in Oklahoma City. Not only does his website appear in the organic listings on the first page, but so do his Facebook page and his YouTube videos!
With the one stop shopping method that Google has embraced your business isn’t limited to being found only through its website anymore. Consider expanding your business’s existing online marketing presence and exploring new areas to increase traffic and exposure. After all, the first step in connecting with your customers is to be found!

27 April 2010

0 New Grads - Embrace the Intern Life

Everyday we hear how the economy is turning around. The DOW is up, the recession is over, blah blah blah. But if you are in the PR industry you have probably scoffed back "Sure it is." In an industry that is often hit the first and hardest when money needs to be saved, as PR people we have become the natural skeptic to all indications that the recession is at an end.

As a person who has worked in Marketing Communications & Public Relations in the various facets from Professional Sports and Travel to Government and now Internet Marketing, I was happy to meet with a group of soon to be graduates from my alumna mater this week. As we sat down to lunch I began fielding the typical "How did you get that job?" "How do I get that job?" questions I have become accustom to at these events. What surprised me was the reaction of these students to my inquiry about their experience (especially since I know that their professor has emphasized the importance of internships). Several soon-to-be graduates had yet to have any form of internship.

When I asked why not I heard all of the typical responses from "I want to intern at an agency," "I can't afford to take a non-paying internship," and "There aren't any internship opportunities where I live." (Maybe I should note that I'm an alumni of the University of Wyoming and there really are very few formal internships in the nearby vicinity.) I thought I'd share my responses to these questions here:

"I want to intern at an agency."
That's great. But you live in Wyoming. Your options are limited. So turn your head eyes to Denver and start contacting agencies. Almost all of them have an intern program and their happy to give new grads some real world experience. However, these internships are competitive so research the agency and don't just apply to one agency. Be prepared for an internship that will help hone your tactical skills, but don't be surprised if your don't receive much high level planning or "big picture" experience. This isn't only an opportunity to grow as a young professional and gain new skills, but this is the perfect opportunity to see if the agency world is right for you and if it is, if that agency's culture is right for you. Just don't expect to get paid.

"I can't afford to take a non-paying internship."
Too bad! That's life and honestly in this job market and industry you'll most likely need to. But don't fret. There are options. 1) Get an part-time unpaid internship that will allow you to gain experience while also letting you work another job part-time to help you get by. Unfortunately that is one of the joys of being a new grad. 2) Talk to your current employer about doing some public relations or marketing work for them! You may not get compensated for it, but then again you just might. Plus this is something you can work on outside your normal work hours so it won't interfere with your existing work schedule.

"There aren't any internship opportunities where I live." 
Yes, there are! They just might not be a formal intern program. First, look to non-profits in your area. They can always use a little extra help. Next look to local small businesses. Often these organizations do not have the capital to pay someone specifically for public relations. Let them know what you would do for them and how their company or organization will benefit from letting you "volunteer" as an intern. Work with them to setup the goals of your internship and the service you will be providing for them.

Internships don't always have to be a formal program that is setup by an agency. Be proactive! In truth, a proactive person who has worked to establish their own internship program will most likely set themselves apart in the job market later on. But no matter what internship you undertake, be sure to embrace the concept. You're future employers weren't too good to be interns in the beginning and neither are you.

0 Welcome the AP style guide to 2000s

As with any official change, it's taken a long time but the AP style guide has finally entered into the new century. We can now officially call it a "website" instead of "Web site" and be grammatically correct!  In honor I'm officially changing all of my tags.

30 March 2010

0 6 Public Relations Tips for Business Owners & Do-it-yourselfers:

Often times small businesses don’t have the capital to hire a public relations agency to help them with their strategies. Unless you’re a non-profit you’re pretty much out of the running for the pro-bono work. And hiring a full-time or even part-time communications professional is also often out. So where does that leave you? Doing it yourself. Here are a few PR tips for you.

1. Develop a strategic plan.
This will keep your efforts on track. Outline your key Public Relations Goals and how they help to meet your business goals. Before implementing a new effort, ask yourself: “Does this meet one of my PR and/or business goals?” If not, don’t waste your time on that tactic. By developing a solid strategic plan you can keep your PR efforts from being put to the back of your priorities list, as well as cutting back on wasted time on tactics that don’t fit into your strategic plan.

2. Develop a Communications “consciousness.”
If you can become more involved in your marketing efforts and develop a basic understanding of what is effective you will become more inspired and have more valuable ideas for your company.  I suggest reading a book on marketing, attending seminars, learning more about your website and working closely with your marketing consultant to get the most out of your efforts.

3. Keep asking questions.
Continually ask questions of your consultants and see if they have new recommendations for you to enhance your campaigns. Touch base with your small business networks or friends in the public relations profession. They are your most valuable allies and a good consultant will know what works and will be attuned to your competition so you can learn from other's successes.

4. Use a blog.
If you don’t have a blog on your website I highly recommend taking the time to set one up and then regularly contributing to it. This is an excellent platform to give your stakeholders a look into your “softer side”. You can easily highlight your experience, strengths, products, services, and establish your business as an authority in it's niche market.  I suggest inviting your stakeholders to check out your latest blog posts. Blogging builds credibility and will help keep your company name in the forefront.

5. Use Press Releases.
Email press releases to your local media outlet whenever you have anything newsworthy.  It is a free and easy way to keep your company name prominent and should be part of your overall PR strategy. Just remember to keep it newsworthy. Sure, some great newsworthy topics are receiving government grants or opening a new business location, but don’t forget to think outside the box. Is there something newsworthy happening in your market? Then write a press release about it. For example, health care reform is huge now. If you’re a private practice then write on the changes you expect to see in your business as a result. Or if you are a tax professional you can write a news release discussing the tax credits associated with the bill and what they will mean. Also, don't forget about cost effective online news distribution services such as 24-7 press release, or small business specific services such PRWeb. This can help you get a little more bang for your efforts.

6. Utilize Social Media.
Social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent relationship building tools.That is what public relations is truly all about - building positive relationships with your stakeholders! Learn more about what Facebook has to offer and how to engage your Facebook fans.

17 March 2010

0 Hello Facebook - Welcome to the top!

Everyone’s favorite social networking site Facebook squeezed past search engine giant Google to become the most visited website in the US last week. According to industry tracker Hitwise, Facebook has been riding on a 185 percent increase in visitors compared to the same week in 2009. With over 400 million users and 125 million monthly US visitors can businesses continue to ignore social media and exclude it from their marketing and public relations plans? Absolutely not!

Did you know:
  • 42% of users are 18-34 years old
  • 62% of users make over $60K annually
  • 35-49 year olds are Facebook’s fastest growing demographic 

With stats like these it is essential for businesses and organizations to join the conversation. I’m constantly surprised by the number of businesses who don’t have a presence on Facebook yet, and of those that do have some sort of presence that are not using it to even a fraction of its potential. What does Facebook have to offer?

1. It’s a free branding tool! The average user has 130 friends. When a user is a fan of a page, Facebook will automatically suggest that page to all of that fan’s friends. Therefore that fan isn’t just one impression. The fan is worth 130 impressions. Branding can expand even further using targeted PPC campaigns.

2. It is relationship building platform allowing you to engage and interact with users beyond the traditional business to audience relationship.

3. It can be used for reputation management. You can respond to comments or feedback on your own page, as well as public platforms. You can add testimonials and allow users to add their own testimonial.

4. Cheap form of communication. You can inform your fan base of specials, upcoming events, business news, open job positions, industry trends, new products or services, philanthropic efforts and much more!

5. It’s a platform to bring all online content together. You can connect to your website, YouTube, Flicker, Twitter, Blog, Linked In, etc. If it is online then there is an application for it (Yes, Iphone isn’t the only one with this technology).

Still not convinced? Take a look at this video produced by Socialnomics. We are living in a people driven economy and the time for interaction is here and now. Any business can harness it.


15 March 2010

0 Doritos Crashes PR Week's Product Brand Development Campaign 2010

PR Week recently named the Doritos Crashes the Super Bowl as their Product Brand Development Campaign 2010.  This was a campaign that I absolutely loved. Year after year dorito has tapped into superbowl gold. After all who hasn't wanted to break into a vending machine, let alone with a snowglobe (thank you superbowl ad 2009). Throw a kid in a commercial slapping someone four times their size or turn a dorito into a chinese throwing star and your bound to make USA Today's Top Ads the next day. But the real genius isn't in the creative 30 second clips, but in the way Frito Lay has tapped into their consumer market.

We are a society that isn't content with just consuming or buying a product anymore. We want to interact, whether it's tweeting about it, letting all your FB friends in on it, blogging on it's merits or commenting on someone else's opinion. We love to get involved. Frito Lay tapped into that desire by allowing it's fans to get involved and let lose their creative juices, a concept that appealed directly to their consumer market. After all isn't one of our main goals with marketing to reach our consumer audience?    

26 February 2010

0 6 Tips Toward Engaging Your Facebook Fans

February was unofficially Social Media month in my world. I've spent countless hours working with clients on setting up new Facebook fan pages, discussing strategies for getting more fans, and most of all answering the question "I have a fan page, now what?". Social media is all about engagement, so here are a few tips to help get the conversations started.

1. Start a Discussion
Social media is all about connecting and sharing. Start the conversation with a discussion application. This will help to open up your fan page from being a source of information about your business page to an engaging social media page.

An easy way to start a discussion is to ask for opinions or questions about a recent news topic related to your industry. If your business is related to plastic surgery or beauty, you could start a discussion about the ABC News story on at transfer instead of implants for breast augmentation. You can briefly share your thoughts about the procedure and/or story and end by asking fans what their thoughts are or if they have any questions they would like answered about the procedure. Write a teaser and post a link to the discussion as a status update.

2. Take a Poll
This is a quick and simple way for your fans to share their opinion. Thinking about doing a special on a service? Ask your fans what they would be most interested in seeing a special on. As an extra incentive to cast their vote, you can always provide a free or discounted service to a randomly chosen voter. Does your company make philanthropic contributions to charities? Have your fans vote to determine which charity you'll give to. You can poll about anything, but I recommend keeping it related to the business in some way. Get creative!

3. Host Events
You can connect with your fans offline as well as on. Keep the event related to your business in some shape or form. You can add details about the event, setup RSVP feeds, allow comments by attendees, and much more! The event application is also handy as a notification tool the company will be represented at any public event including someone being a featured speaker, a TV or radio appearance, an event sponsor, etc.

4. Join the Conversation
I've seen numerous pages that don't allow their visitors to comment! This is a serious issue. By allowing comments on videos, posts and photos you open the door for a conversation. But it is not enough just to allow comments. It's essential to join the conversation! If someone leaves a comment, then make sure that you comment back. It's best to have a dedicated admin to take care of this.

5. Become an Informational Resource
The most common mistake I see is in fan pages are companies that only talk about themselves. They tote their specials, charity events, blog posts, staff, etc. and nothing else. While I do recommend you share that information on your fan page (after all it is your company's page), I highly recommend posting interesting and relevant content that has to do with your industry, not just you. Have you recently read an interesting blog that someone else wrote? Then feel free to share it! This helps to make users not only fans, but turns them into repeat visitors!

6. Offer Fans Exclusive Incentives
While I realize this may not be feasible for every business, for most businesses it is an easy opportunity. When someone new becomes a fan, send them a welcome message along with an incentive code for a free or discounted service. In addition to sending out an initial fan incentive, you can periodically send incentives to all of your fans or you can just send them to the fans that are active on your page to thank them for their input.

The fundamental basis of all social networks is connection and sharing. So get out there and get the conversation started!

17 February 2010

0 Google is all a Buzz

It's seems like everyones into social media these days and Google is officially on the bandwagon. No, I'm not referring to the elusive and exclusive Google Wave, but the new Google Buzz! If you have a Gmail account then you recently received the notification upon logging into your account about the new Google Buzz. Maybe you accepted it and went on checking your email, maybe you poked around a little bit. For those who haven't had to chance to explore Buzz here is a little info for you.

Google Buzz is the new social network tool that combines the four major Google ventures YouTube, Picasa, Gmail and Google Reader into a single area. You can share videos, photos and status updates, start conversations, link to your tweets, and more.

So what is supposed to set Buzz apart from other social network sites and tools? The idea is it recommends posts you will be interest in based on topic or relationship with the poster and weeding out the stuff your less likely to view. Ah yes, a social too that doesn't bombard you with info about everyones lost animal on Farmville!

However since the roll out buzz about the program has been far from positive. Gmail users are automatically enrolled into the network, a feature that has many Gmail users far from happy. There have been concerns about privacy features, specifically about anyone you've emailed being able to see any other Gmail account holder you have ever email.

As with any social media the next step for Marketing and PR people is to figure out how we can use it to our advantage. Any thoughts?

10 February 2010

0 Google's Juicing Up

Recently I've had a few clients asking me about Google Caffeine. They've heard it mentioned or seen it referenced somewhere but aren't sure how to interpret what it means for them. In the world of online marketing, when a search engine rolls out a new system that may effect SEO or your Web site's place listing your first instinct is often panic. Here is some basic points of Google's new tool, Google Caffeine.

What it is
Google Caffeine is the new search algorithm that is coming online in early 2010. Google has yet to confirm if it has been fully implemented at this point. SEO experts are in agreement that once Caffeine is in place, user aren't likely to notice a difference in their search result experience.

How it effects website rankings
While search engine users may not notice a difference, Web master's may see either a positive or negative impact to their placement. Some factors that may cause a change include:

  • Frequency of updates to the Web site - more is better
  • Load time for the site
  • Better understanding of synonyms
  • Links out to relevant Web sites
  • Broken links within the site
  • Social media placement becoming higher on listings
Google Caffeine wasn't a system setup to send SEO people and Web masters into a panic. It is established to increase the effectiveness of the search engine and better guide users to the results they are looking for and to provide them with quality results. So shake off the jitters, look at the above factors and determine where your Web site can improve.

02 February 2010

0 Increasing Your Facebook Fans

I'm a big believer in the power of Social Networking. I'm constantly encouraging my clients to get online and in the game. After your facebook fan page is live, your posting regularly and you've suggested all of your friends become fans, the question I often receive is "How can I pursue more fans?" I often hear clients complaining that Social Media is time consuming and actively pursuing clients takes up too much of their time. However, it doesn't have to. Here are a few simple and creative ways to get more Facebook Fans without a lot of time and effort.
  1. Put up a sign in your office asking people to become a fan.
  2. Add a reminder to find you on Facebook on your business cards, appointment cards, stationary, newsletters, and other collateral.
  3. Add a link in your email signature letting people know that you are on Facebook.
  4. Add Facebook calls-to-action on your website. 
  5. Add a link back to your Facebook Fan Page on your other Social Networking sites.
  6. Add a become a fan widget to your blog.
  7. Offer special discounts or incentives for customers who are your Fans on Facebook.
Facebook is tool for creating buzz about your business. I encourage you to give it a try. I bet you will be surprised at the results.

28 January 2010

0 Powering Positive Reviews

If you work with an SEO company or are an aggressive online marketer, you've more than likely heard the emphasis on the importance of getting reviews. We know potential consumers use reviews to gage your business, services or products and the possibility of them using your company. We even know search engines use reviews, particularly in ranking your local business listing. But how do you go about getting reviews, and more specifically how can you make sure you get positive reviews?

The answer is simple, be strategic. Sure sending a solicitation email to your entire contact database may be the quickest and easiest way to request reviews, but it is also a sure fire method for opening your business up for less than stellar responses (no matter how great your company is there are always nae sayers) or reviews that lack substance (the classic "These guys are great!" response & nothing else).

Instead, strategically identify clients that you have very positive, long-term and/or substantive relationships with. Include any clients that you know are tech savvy or influential.

When you draft the request, don't just ask for reviews to help your websites search engine ranking. Customer don't care about that. Here are the important elements you will want to include:
  • Instructions for posting the review on specific sites (Do they need to login to the site to review, etc.)
  • Links to your company profile on the review site(s). Don't make them go searching for your profile.
  • Let them know that they are a valued customer and you appreciate their opinion. Let them know that their opinion you will help you service them better. (They need to know what is in it for them.)
  • Mention why you want the review. Specifically the importance of existing customers feedback and experiences on potential customers.
  • Thank them for their time and opinion.
  • If you are able to give an incentive such as a discount on products or services for their review, let them know it! Let them know it is for their time.
I also recommend not sending the primary request as part of an extensive list of information about the business, new news, etc. While you can always include a link and quick blurb in a newsletter, sending the request out solo will garner the attention it deserves.

Reviews are a positive tool for bringing in new business. Take the time to solicit quality reviews and you may be surprised at the results.

21 January 2010

0 Who Wants to Be Smart When You Can Be Stupid

In the marketing business we are always talking about the importance of knowing your consumers, going where they go, being where they are, and the importance of speaking to them rather than at them.

The new Diesel is the perfect example of knowing who the consumer is. The new campaign and the strategy accompanying it is perfect for the apparel company. Kudos to London based agency Anomaly.

So tell the next person who tells you "Don't Be Stupid" that they may have brains, but you've got balls. Life is way more interesting for the stupid people.

12 January 2010

0 The Site of Your Company Clients Should See

One of the things I've noticed that numerous advertising and public relations agencies have in common isn't the stellar amount of client work plastering the walls or the staff frantically measuring their billable hours, but more often than not they lack self marketing. An agency's main purpose is to sell, promote and increase awareness of its client's services or products, however many agencies forget to truly market themselves on the most used information avenue, the internet.

You may be thinking hold on just a minute. I have a Web site. It is visually creative. And it has a blog.  All of that is well and good, however what is the Web site saying about your agency? What can you do for my company? Why should I hire you? Here are three internet marketing elements that as an agency, you may want to rethink:

Design + Functionality
How dare I ask you to reconsider your Web site’s design! After all you are a creative agency and the Web site reflects that creativity! Stop for a second and rethink that statement. What is wrong with it? That is right; nowhere in that statement does it consider the site’s primary user, prospective clients. 

The Web site is an introduction to the agency itself. Sure it should show that you are creative, but it should also be highly functional. As a prospective client I should be able to find the information I’m looking for. Don’t make me hunt for it. I’m more likely to leave the site than spend the time trying to figure out what is going on there. Before you add tons of flash, widgets or forty little buttons I can click on but can’t figure out what they are right away, consider your audience.

Sure. You’ve got that covered. Look at all of your ingenious work. Next topic please. But wait a minute. Stop and think about the user again. What do they want to know? What do you have to offer? What are your expertise? Have you ever worked with companies like me before? Who are you? Why are you the best for the job? 

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love seeing the work that an agency has done for its clients, but I want to know what you can do for me as a client too. I want to know that you will take the time to understand my brand, my business and my consumers. Show me why I should pick you.

You may have a great Web site, beautifully designed and full of information about what you do for your clients and what you can do for prospective clients. Wonderful! Now your website has to be accessible. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. By optimizing your website you insure that your prospective clients can find your agency. 

Please note that effective SEO is not a one time and we are done thing. Optimization needs care and attention. To be effective it makes sense to hirer another company to assist in your SEO campaign if you do not have someone on staff that specializes in it. 

The internet is the first medium prospective clients turn to for information, so if they are looking for more information on your agency and what it can done it stands to reason that the Web site will be their first in-depth look at your agency. Show your website and agency marketing strategies the same care and attention that you show your clients.

05 January 2010

0 Skilling Up in a Down Economy

In an industry that is constantly changing with advancements of social media and other new technologies it is incredibly important to stay on top of your game. If you are in the job market arena or took a position outside the Marcom/PR industry here are a few tips to keep your skills sharp or build new ones in the interim.
  • Go Pro Bono - Agencies aren't the only ones who can donate their services and expertise to non-profit charities or organizations. Many organizations are ecstatic to receive services that they would otherwise have to pay for. Besides the fuzzy I did something good feelings you get, you may just end up with something extra to add to your resume or portfolio.
  •  Meetup with other Pros - is nifty social networking community that allows you to find a group in your city that shares your same interest. See if there is already an existing group that meets your field or interest in PR, if not start one of your own! This is a great way to learn new skills, techniques, tools, etc. from other flacks.
  • Embrace the Intern - Many professionals believe that internships are only for college students or fresh graduates, Not True! Internships are a great way to break into a new industry, hone up on new skills and new technologies or just explore another avenue of PR. Don't bulk from the unpaid either. 
Taking a proactive step is key to developing the career you want. Brush up on industry news, explore new medium and always remember to embrace a new experience.