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!