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Learn to Stop Worrying and Love SEO

Social Sonar - Wednesday, January 08, 2014

SEO is dead. SEO is alive and well. SEO is evolving. Which philosophy is your marketing approach based on? Look up “Search Engine Optmization” and you’re bound to find any number of blogs debating whether traditional modes of boosting your visibility through search engines have disappeared completely, changed fundamentally or retained some of their tactical value. 

No matter who you believe, one this is certain: there is a lot of anxiety over the best way to approach web visibility and search engine ranking in 2014. Marketers shouldn’t be surprised though. Big changes have been brewing for over a year, with search engine giants like Google looking for a more intuitive and efficient approach to delivering results to users.

One of the developments that’s stirring up controversy amongst SEO experts is last year’s release of Google Hummingbird. Hummingbird is an updated algorithm that employs features like conversational search to make searching for information easier and more like everyday speech. Important features like PageRank, which haven’t been officially discontinued, are receding to the background and might eventually stop being a part of the equation.

Does this mean you should abandon old approaches to SEO? If you’re used to rattling off a bunch of keywords in the attempt to capture the attention of Google’s algorithm, then yes. Part of Google’s strategy has been to create search methods that exclude gibberish from content farms, which used to produce high ranking material that failed to truly satisfy a searcher’s query.

What can you do to secure a space at the top of search engine rankings? Without altering the actual architecture of your site, there is still a lot you can do by simply being a better blogger. Establish yourself as an authority on your topic and make your platform an important voice for your industry. Google’s approach to delivering results favors quality sites that contain links to other healthy sites. Make sure that each post is like a resource bank that redirects people to more quality content. If you’re already focused on creating the best content for your readers, this should really take care of itself!

A good approach to SEO in 2014 goes hand in hand with good writing. Counting keywords may not be as important as it used to be, and this might comes as a relief to many. Step outside the prescribed formula of meeting keyword quotas so you can really say what you mean with your writing. If you’re avidly blogging about your business, keywords should naturally occur without too much hand wringing about whether it’s “enough.”

Most of all, remember that making sure you’re easy to find online is just part of your overall marketing approach--a piece of a dynamic puzzle. Your offpage efforts to direct traffic (either in real life or through social media) to your homepage shouldn’t be ignored in the pursuit of chasing keywords.

Keep an eye on search engine trends, but don’t don’t be a slave to rigid schemes. As companies like Google move to more organic ways of delivering results, great content will float to the top and irrelevant junk will sink to the bottom. Where you end up has less to do with a single rubric for success and more to do with creating a page that users love to visit for its great material.

What Teens Can Teach You About Social Media

Social Sonar - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Remember the old adage about children being “seen and not heard?” That saying may have held some weight for previous generations, but today's teens and tweens have become drivers of the way we communicate, building and participating in online cultures in ways that leave some folks in the dust.

Kids are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. Combine that with a formidable collective buying power and you have a demographic whose impact is impossible to ignore.

Young people can drive the success and failure of social media platforms, forcing them to adapt or die. Their recent mass exodus from Facebook to other places like Twitter and Instagram is one example of how shifting demographics have forced some companies to adapt (quickly) to the pace of young people's tastes and desires in an attempt to recapture them.

As a cornerstone of internet culture, teens and tweens build and contribute to massive online ecosystems, develop internet shorthand that spills over into real life and participate in social media in ways that small businesses could stand to learn from.

Getting Ahead of the Game

Teens and tweens are usually early adopters. They're one step ahead of the game when it comes to new technology and the latest social media platforms. Being an early adopter lets you stake out a space before others get there. It also makes you look like a leader who understands new trends and blazes ahead instead of lagging behind.

Connecting Real Life and Digital Networking

Young people are expert networkers. They actively seek out people to follow, stay engaged, ask questions and prioritize extending their influence online. More importantly, they realize that digital life and real life aren't separated by an iron curtain. Networks spill over, making real life connections become digital ones and vice versa.

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The upcoming generation of millennials is often accused of being the “Me” generation, but that doesn't mean that their efforts at self promotion aren't worth emulating. Teens and tweens aren't afraid to toot their own horn and you shouldn't be either. Put your accomplishments on display so the world knows just how great you are at what you do.

Joking Around

The internet is a place to let loose! Let your voice shine through by being honest. Writing for the internet doesn't require the formality that other media demands, so take the opportunity to be creative and put your sense of humor on display. People will see your brand as more personable and relatable that way.

A teen's life online may seem like fun and games, but young people are masters at learning new tools of the trade. Take a cue from teens and tweens so you can stay adaptable, curious and open to taking on new challenges. You'll be one step ahead of the competition and spearheading your way to a more creative approach to social media.

3 Ways to Grow an Opt-in Email List

Social Sonar - Thursday, February 28, 2013

Growing an opt-in email list takes time. It is highly discouraged to buy an email list, since the people on it are not qualified, and more likely to mark your email as spam. Once too many people mark your emails as spam, service providers like Gmail will send your messages to the Spam box for legitimate recipients, as well. Here are some more fruitful tactics you can try.

email list1. Find a Partner.

If you want to reach a lot of people quickly, consider partnering with another business that has a larger opt-in email list. The joint email should be very clearly marked as a partner email so you can build upon the trust the recipients have with the existing brand. It should simply be presented as an introduction or a special offer for people on the list.

Ideally, you would create a special landing page for the people on the partner company’s list so there is continuity in the message. A special discount code never hurts, either.

2. Use Your Existing Customers.

If there are not any relevant companies willing to partner with you, you will need to build your own list. You should start by asking all of your current clients for their email addresses. If you already have their email addresses, you can send them an initial email asking if they want to receive regular email messages.

It is a good idea to send all optional email messages from an email address that is different from the address you used to send admin communications. This way, if the customer unsubscribes from the new email series, they can still receive notifications about system outages and updates, as well as billing information.

According to CAN-SPAM, since you have an existing business relationship with your customers, you do not need to ask for their permission to email them. However, to keep people from marking your email as spam and affecting your deliverability, you want to be sure you have their permission before you send a second one. This is known as a double opt-in, and is often a required step for legitimate email service providers like MailChimp and Emma. It also ensures that anyone on your list has chosen to be there, which should improve your deliverability in the long run.

3. Ask for New Email Addresses.

There are a number of different ways you can collect email addresses. If you have a physical location, the least painful way is to keep an iPad at the front counter or desk so people can sign themselves up. This saves the time of retyping and prevents having a paper sign up sheet where people can see each other’s email addresses; it protects your customers’ identity security. If you have to have a paper sign up sheet, ask your employee to keep it hidden until people need to sign up.

You can also ask people to sign up online. You should have an email sign-up form on your website, and preferably on your Facebook page, as well. Many of the most popular email service providers have a Facebook app that allows you to easily add a form to your profile.

It’s a good idea to let people know the type of content you will be featuring in your emails as an incentive to add their name to your list. You can also offer something for free in exchange for an email address, like an e-book, but it needs to be compelling enough for people to give up their real email address. Jay Abraham is doing a very excellent job with this. He gives away the transcripts for all of his books as a way of building his email list and developing a relationship with potential clients.

You can also ask for email addresses as a required field in live chats.

Slowly but surely, you will build a list of interested recipients. Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know.

3 Business Tools I Can’t Live Without

Social Sonar - Thursday, February 21, 2013

There are a number of tools I’m using these days to increase my productivity. I think other small business owners will benefit from them as well.

1. Google Apps for Business

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I have easy access to all my spreadsheets and documents no matter where I am. It’s ideal for sharing information if several employees are working with the same clients. I really enjoy the ability to limit who has access to the documents. It’s great for people who work in multiple locations throughout the day, including the office and later again at home.

2. Skype

Skype allows me to take calls from anywhere. I have our 1-800 number and Google Voice number redirected to my Skype phone so I never miss a call. I can have international phone calls for next to nothing. I record all my calls in case I ever need to reference them. I can also instant message my coworkers, which comes in handy if they encounter a roadblock and need an immediate answer to get working again.

3. Live Chat

My clients get answers so much faster by sending a chat than an email. Answering questions via live chat also reduces the number of inquiries waiting in my email inbox. It enables me to answer questions in real time so my clients feel valued; they’ve actually mentioned live chat as one of their favorite features, as well.

What are your favorite tools? Share them below!

5 Basic SEO Strategies

Social Sonar - Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Search engine optimization (SEO) may not be part of the social media, but if you're creating or maintaining a blog, it may be particularly helpful for your business. Online portals like Google and Bing help give visibility to business using SEO. In the end, knowing the tricks these search engines use can help you create a sale for your business. Here are some basic SEO principles to help your site.

1. Tracking
If you don’t track and analyze your marketing efforts, how can you know if something is successful? The easiest first step is installing Google Analytics. It’s free for basic functions, so once you get used to various features, you can determine whether you need the paid version. Just try it out and start looking at conversions today.

2. Keywords
Determine keywords that fit the business and services that you provide. Utilizing keywords within your content, including tagged photos, is the best way to optimize your site. Since Google and Bing algorithms do all of the work, it won't cost you anything!

3. Site Map
Clean up the structure of your site. Don't overwhelm search engine crawlers with too many bells and whistles. While some sites use Javascript to give the site a sleek look, search engines can't read this design, meaning your website won't be visible to your potential consumers when they run a basic search.

4. Landing Pages
Creating targeted landing pages for services, products, or FAQs provides visitors answers to their search inquiries. Your homepage is certainly key to your business because it’s the introduction to your brand, but it’s not the only page to worry about. Providing a range of landing pages means your business will be optimized for search engine ranking and obtaining consumers.

5. Links
Structure your links. Make sure your content is strong and your pages are specific to what you are talking about. Example: www.yoursite.com/press_release/May_2012. Failure to provide specific links to content, or having links unrelated to the content itself, doesn’t help your SEO ranking.

Though these tips are helpful to remember, the bottomline is that if you don't provide strong content that showcases your business, services or products, the best SEO optimization will not bring people back to your page. Be sure to keep content creation in mind as much as these technical specifics!

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It might feel like there are far too many social media platforms in the virtual world.  Here's a list of the top websites and why they might benefit you.

FACEBOOK  

Facebook is approaching 1 billion users (although that number was recently challenged due to the number of fake and/or inactive profiles).  Those with a Facebook profile generally leave their browser open for many hours a day, but most are there to connect with friends and socialize.  With so many users, this platform can be helpful in both B2B and B2C marketing.  Make sure you understand the difference between profiles, fan pages and groups.  

TWITTER  

Twitter receives approximately 144 million unique visitors each month.  Reportedly, Twitter users are multi-taskers who are easily distracted.  This platform is more open, which can be overwhelming but useful when searching keywords.  Hashtags can help you be part of a larger conversation about topics.   

GOOGLE+  

Google+ will reportedly have 400 million users by the end of 2012.  Sixty percent of their users are web developers or software engineers.  Seventy-five to 85% are men, and the most popular age range is 25-34.  Google+ is definitely rising in the ranks and may certainly take over the top spot someday if Facebook continues to frustrate users with format changes.

LINKEDIN  

LinkedIn has over 100 million users, the majority of which are there for professional reasons.  Over one million are high-ranking executives with decision making authority.  LinkedIn is best used for B2B marketing.  

REDDIT  

Reddit receives millions of visitors.  It is a social site that allows users to submit links, and then allows other users to vote those submissions "up" or "down," so that popular posts are more easily found.  The site can be useful to help create viral ad campaigns and cause awareness.  

STUMBLEUPON  

StumbleUpon calls itself a "discovery engine" that finds web content for its users.  It recently surpassed Facebook as the highest traffic referrer of any website.  To catch the StumbleUpon user's attention, use flashy photos and catchy headlines.   

YOUTUBE  

YouTube reportedly has a brand value of $18.099 billion.  As the internet replaces the yellow pages, television and radio in the advertising department, YouTube can provide you with a format for releasing visual content.   

PINTEREST  

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard.  It relies heavily upon photos and videos, which are the most popular posts for business fan pages on Facebook.  Women between the ages of 25 and 44 make up 59% of its membership.    

TUMBLR  

Tumblr is a very simple blog site and, like Pinterest, is photo/image-based (well over half of the content uploaded are images).  Tumblr offers seven options for posting content: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, Video.  Users can then "like" your post or "re-blog" it.  Tumblr had over 15 billion page views in January 2012.

The top two social networking sites remain Facebook and Twitter.  However, there are many other sites out there.  Ask your customers where they spend their time and consider spending some time there yourself.  Which sites do you use to promote your business?

What Is SEO And How Do You Get It?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Search Engine Optimization. SEO. You may have heard those "buzz letters," but what do they mean? SEO "is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural," or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic"), search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users."  (Via Wikipedia.) 

Basically, SEO is what helps people find you faster. How do you raise your SEO and help your customers find you in a sea of competitors? Some of it is simple -- things you may already doing:

  • Add a blog to your website
  • Add Google Analytics to every page of your website
  • Don't use excessive code
  • Make every single page unique
  • Use meta tags
  • Don't use repetitive wording
  • Include footer links on every page
  • Create separate pages for each keyword
  • Use keyword rich title tags on each page of your website. 

However, recently it was revealed that Google's new algorithms also include social media in the SEO-raising criteria. Updates can also determine when websites are trying to trick the algorithms into raising their ranking. Therefore, you not only need a great website, you need to be a social media conversationalist.

What else should you be doing to stay relevant in the online world? We hate to sound like a broken record, but...

Maintain your Facebook page: Post interesting content (photos, links, etc.) and respond to questions or comments. It is truly important to have a conversation on Facebook. 

Share tweets about your industry, not just your brand. And share interesting links and information so that others will be compelled to re-tweet and respond to your posts.

Upload videos to YouTube (which is owned by Google). Include a link to your website somewhere in the description. An interesting video can go viral and give your brand a boost. The goal is to create content that others want to share.

If you are on Pinterest, pin or re-pin interesting visuals. Don't just pin photos with links back to your website.

On LinkedIn, you should join groups and participate in conversations: answer questions and post your company updates. Although it doesn't necessarily raise your SEO, it contributes to brand recognition. 

Since Google obviously owns Google+, it is certainly a place that you may want to consider spending time if you are looking to raise SEO. It may not weigh heavily now, but as Google+ gains momentum, it may matter more in the future for those trying to raise awareness of their brand online.

As you work to build your brand, your ranking in any search engine should organically rise as well. Which sites are you using to build your brand and optimize your search engine ranking?

 

Social Media in the News

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

 

1) Facebook has purchased photo-sharing software company, Instagram, for 1 beeelion dollars. In his official announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg says, “For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.” Link to Story.

2) On Saturday, Quebec juice maker Lassonde was forced to settle a lawsuit after intense online backlash. After the details of the Lassonde’s 7-year trademark battle with a tiny beauty company over the use of the name “Oasis” went viral, a social media uprising gave the “juice giant” a big reality check. Link to Story.

3) Google has beaten out Apple, Facebook, and Twitter for the title of Most Popular Tech Brand. According to the poll, conducted by Langer Research Associates, a whopping 82 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Google overall, while 53 percent hold a "strongly" favorable opinion of the expansive Internet company. In regards to favorability, Apple still came in a close second. Link to Story.

4) A New Study has pegged Pinterest as the #3 Social Media Website

Experian Hitwise has collated website visitors for the last month, and ranks Pinterest as the number 3 social media website, behind Facebook and Twitter, and just ahead of LinkedIn. Here are the top 6:

1. Facebook: 7 billion
2. Twitter: 182 million
3. Pinterest: 104 million
4. LinkedIn: 86 million
5. Tagged: 72 million
6. Google+: 61 million

Link to Story.


Guest Blogging, Part 2

Social Sonar - Saturday, April 07, 2012

Last week we briefly discussed the benefits of guest blogging, and why it's important in light of new search engine algorithms. This week, we'll discuss the specifics of how to become or utilize a guest blogger.

How do I become a guest blogger?

Here are some of the steps that Liz Strauss of Successful-Blog.com suggests:

1. Search for a blog that relates to your niche or your interests. Perhaps you like to write about fashion. So, you look for fashion blogs. Be specific in your search. Perhaps you want to hone in on fashion for pregnant women.

2. Check to see if your blog of choice accepts guest bloggers. Some blogs have specific guidelines for guest bloggers. Make sure you understand what is expected of you.

3. Examine the blog to see if it seems to be a blog with high traffic. This can be difficult to ascertain. I like to look at comments, number of tweets and the amount of content the blog produces. I check to see if I can see a pattern in the number of posts per day/week.
Tip: You want to find a blog with decent traffic so that people will become familiar with your work. I’m not saying to never write for smaller blogs. But you should keep your purpose in mind.

4. Choose a topic that hasn’t been covered on the blog. Try to aim for a unique angle. For instance, with my pregnancy fashion example, you could write a post about swimsuits and cover-ups that flatter that baby bump.

5. Write the post.

6. E-mail your post to the blog’s owner. Most blogs will have a contact page, where you can find an e-mail address.

7. Wait one week, and respond with a follow-up e-mail if you don’t hear anything. Your short, simple follow-up e-mail could read as follows:
I wanted to make sure you received my guest blog post “Flattering That Baby Bump At The Beach.” I sent it on Wednesday, June 12. Will you be able to publish it?
Tip: You might want to attach your post again in case it has been overlooked. It will save your contact the time of having to ask you for your blog post and waiting for your response.

8. Wait another week. If you still don’t hear anything, use that guest blog post on your blog, pitch it to another relevant blog or use it for article marketing.

What if I want someone to guest blog for me?
Come up with a set of parameters for your potential guest bloggers. As an example, popular blog, Addicted2Decorating (http://www.addicted2decorating.com/advertise-with-a2d), has a great guest-blogger policy. Then, put the call out. Be sure to use all of the social media channels available to you, as well as your local business connections to find potential bloggers.

Is there way to track the benefits of guest blogging?

Yes, actually. There are now tools available that can help you to make sure your links aren’t tampered with after the fact and track things like Facebook likes generated by your blog post.

Guest Blogging, Part 1

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 04, 2012

 

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging entails writing a blog post for someone else’s blog. You get credited as the author of the post, and it links to your own blog or website so readers can find your site. For small businesses, it is most beneficial to guest blog for sites related to your market.

How being a guest blogger benefits you...
You’ll make business connections, engage new potential customers, and maybe get some clout out of the deal. You’ll also hopefully get the most important payoff - traffic to your site.

How your guest blog benefits others...

“...in the post-Panda era, guest blogging is one of the most powerful ways to rank higher with Google. The Panda-dubbed updates to the Google algorithm that started changing ranking factors (and search results) in early 2011 have dramatically shifted the search marketing game.

Where once a brute-force effort to blanket the internet with spammy back-linked content and stuff keywords for ranking could convince Google that a site was worth a high rank, now the focus has shifted more clearly to original, quality content. Google is in the business of serving up the most relevant online resources, so naturally, it wants websites to earn their search placement, not take it.” - Social Media Today, “Google Panda Makes Guest Blogging Easier”

This means that more and more webmasters are in need of high-quality, content-rich copy in order to improve their rankings in the search engine. Your guest blog gives them exactly that!

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this blog to find out how to become a guest blogger and more.