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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.

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!

Get Started with Social Sonar

Social Sonar - Monday, November 26, 2012

First, decide which package is best for your needs. For most businesses, we recommend our full service package, since Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, and email newsletters work really well together to create a holistic brand identity.

Once you sign up for your chosen package, you'll be able to fill out your company profile. This information will allow us to pick the best writer for your needs, as well as provide us with logins, passwords, and material we can use to create your content.

We will begin setting up your accounts, or optimizing them if they already exist. We'll also begin monitoring your pages and responding to comments using the information in your profile. If we ever have any question about how to respond, we'll send you an email beforehand to ensure we're best representing you. 

You will receive a username for our system where you can see posts and tweets. This will allow you to see upcoming messages, as well as messages that have already been published.

If you have an edit for an upcoming message, simply click that post and Add a note. Or you can edit the post yourself by clicking Edit post.

If you have an idea for a new post, like an upcoming event or special, you can fill out the Request a Post form. All submissions are re-written by your writer and approved by an editor before posting, so you don't have to worry about the post being perfect before you submit it. Posts and tweets are always optimized for the appropriate social media channel.

Our system allows you to participate as much or as little as your time allows. Some clients are simply too busy to send us suggestions, or they prefer their writer develops the latest and greatest material. Either way, you'll have consistent content on your pages, which should save you time and allow you to rest easy. We manage your social media so you can manage your business.

Ménage à Trois: A Marketing Love Story

Social Sonar - Monday, October 08, 2012

Ménage à Trois translates to "Household of three". Here at Social Sonar, we often talk about the Virtuous Cycle, the three services that complement and feed each other seamlessly to create a cohesive marketing program and serve as the basis for all other efforts. Combining services does more than triple your reach; it has a multiplying effect.

Virtuous Cycle of Marketing

1. Blogging

Maintaining a blog is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business. Not only does a blog educate your customers and demonstrate your expertise, it also greatly improves your search engine ranking. Every blog post increases the number of keywords and pages on your site, so search engines will rank your url more highly than other websites with less information.

Having a more highly-ranked site ensures more traffic to your blog, which leads to more people signing up for email newsletters, and more people liking your Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you run any Google AdWords campaigns, you can actually pay less and be ranked higher than less informative sites.

Blog posts also provide you with unique content to promote in your Facebook and Twitter messages, as well as your email newsletter. You can even run targeted marketing campaigns linking to specific blog posts, which are easier to set up than landing pages.

2. Social Media

Updating Facebook and Twitter pages shows customers your business is healthy, and you are keeping up with the times. Rather than expecting people to visit your website, you are meeting them where they already hang out and making it easy for them to interact with your business or check your hours.

Social media is an ideal tool to drive customers to your website when you need them to take an action. For example, you can promote your recent blog post on Facebook and Twitter. People click the link to visit your blog and spend time on your site, where you can convince them to make an appointment or call with questions.

You can even run specials on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Post a unique coupon code and send people to your website to make the purchase. You get to keep more money than if you partnered with a deal site like Groupon or Living Social.

Tell other fans on your Facebook and Twitter pages about your positive Yelp reviews, and encourage them to review you. You can even link directly to the positive review!

3. Email Marketing

Gaining the trust to receive an email address is one of the most powerful marketing relationships you can build. Make sure you always send relevant content so recipients are less likely to unsubscribe.

Blog posts are ideal for ensuring your emails are always interesting and informative. They enable you to take a "Something for Everyone" approach, as we mentioned in our blog post What Saturday Night Live Teaches Us About Email Marketing.

Facebook and Twitter are great tools to promote signing up for your email newsletters. People who sign up to receive your emails are more likely to make a purchase than someone who has only liked you on Facebook or followed you on Twitter.

This recent article from TIME states, "Forty-eight percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends, or retailers, but less than 1% of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links... For repeat shoppers, 30% of online purchases begin with an e-mail from the retailer."

Our complete package offers everything you need for the basis of a healthy marketing program: Blogging, Social Media, and Email Marketing. Give us a call at 1-866-843-4490 or send an email to service@socialsonar.com to find out how our customized automated solution can work for 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?

 

Attracting Customers With Twitter, Part 1

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

HubSpot has released another great e-book about social media marketing.  In "Learn How to Attract Customers with Twitter," HubSpot describes how to optimize your Twitter presence to generate leads and sales.  

As we stated in our previous post about social media sites, in September 2011, Twitter received 144 million unique visitors.  All reports point to that number growing even larger each month in the last year.  Twitter looks like a good place to market your business. 

Optimize The Branding Of Your Twitter Profile

In 2011, Twitter announced they would offer official brand pages.  Larger companies like American Express, Coca-Cola and Chevrolet were launch partners and the first to test out the pages.  They allow "Call-To-Action" banners, which enables a business to add a header underneath it's bio.  They also allow featured tweets so that you can highlight an important message at the top of your feed, and a custom background (which you would most likely create using your company logo).  

Six Steps To Optimize Twitter For Search

HubSpot included six tips for helping to raise your SEO. 

1.    Make Twitter Handles Spam-Free.  Many spammers use names like @Name546789.  Google's algorithm often disregards such user names.  Your company name is obviously your best choice.

2.    Include Keywords in Bio.  While you don't want to fill the entire 160 characters allowed in your bio with hashtags and industry keywords, you will want to include enough information to accurately reflect your business and help you improve search visibility.  

3.    Build Your Reach.  You will want to build a high-quality following.  Google and Bing said their algorithms check the "author quality" of every user tweeting content.  Therefore, #TeamFollowBack may not be your best plan of action for gaining followers. 

4.    Create a Special Subset of Keywords.  Using specialized keywords and phrases in your tweets can help raise your SEO. 

5.    Keep Tweet Length in RT Safe Zone.  You are allowed to tweet 160 characters.  However, if you want any re-tweets to have room for your company name to remain in them, you should try to plan your tweets to be somewhere in the 120-130 character range.  Data shows that posts that length have the highest clickthrough rates.  

6.    Create Your Own Inbound Links.  In our last post, we described how to create inbound links.  Re-tweeting is the Twitter equivalent of an inbound link.  Post content that causes influencers to re-tweet and share your message.

Next week, we will continue our adventures in Twitter-land by discussing etiquette for businesses.  Until then, tell us how you have used the tips above to improve your visibility on Twitter. 

Building Social Links

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 04, 2012

HubSpot recently released a report entitled, "Social Link Building," which is a ten-step guide to helping companies create inbound links (also known as backlinks). Inbound links are "incoming links to a website...received from another website...." They benefit your business by creating brand awareness, bringing traffic to your website and raising your search engine rankings. According to HubSpot, "[a] business that doesn't generate inbound links is like a car without gas: it exists but doesn't work."

Here are their ten suggestions to help you build social links for your business:

1.    Guest Blog Posts. Having a guest blogger can often expose your business to a brand new audience. Contributing your work to a guest blog can help you build relationships within your industry. 

2.
    Contests. The right contest can generate buzz, increase brand awareness and attract traffic to your website.  HubSpot cites the 2008 CopyBlogger contests posted on Twitter.  The rules required a response on Twitter and a response in the comments section of the blog.  Two simple blog posts attracted 111 links and many new readers due to the buzz surrounding the contest. 

3.
    Controversy. Posting about a controversial subject certainly has the potential to attract attention. HubSpot warns that your subject should "incite debate from the inside out and not be provocative for the sake of it." Be prepared for some of your audience to disagree with you. However, if your subject is handled properly and your view can be backed up, posting about controversial subjects can promote link-sharing and drive traffic to your site.

4.
    Directories. With the Yellow Pages a thing of the past, make sure your business is listed in online directories such as the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, CitySearch, alumni websites, industry directories, etc. Having inbound links will raise your search engine ranking, which will make your company come up faster in searches on modern-day Yellow Pages like Google or Yahoo!

5.
    Lists. People love Top 10 lists. Just ask David Letterman. Corbett Barr of ThinkTraffic.net says his most popular post was "50 Photos To Inspire Life as a Digital Nomad." Putting together a list of success stories, contest winners or quotes can be a fast and easy way to create a popular blog post just waiting to be shared around the Internet. 

6.
    Define New Concepts. These days, it can be difficult to create new concepts and original ideas. However, if you are able to spot a new trend in your industry early or even just identify complex ideas and start discussions on the topics, you may be recognized as an authority, which would drive traffic to your site. 

7.    How-To Content. People love D.I.Y. People search the Internet on a daily basis for step-by-step instructions on how to do a multitude of things. If you write a how-to post, it should be instructional (teach from scratch; don't assume the reader knows where to begin); it should be accessible ("easy to digest steps"); and, it should be well-researched.

8.
    Badges. A badge is a logo/banner which serves as a mini ad for your company and should link back to your website. SocialFresh.com had readers nominate their favorite corporate blogs. The winners received badges, which linked back to SocialFresh.com. Some of those winners still have those badges on their website, which provides free advertising for SocialFresh.com. 

9.    Social Networks. Each post to your blog and website should include social media sharing buttons so that your readers can easily share content with a simple click of the button. Popular buttons are Facebook's "like" button, Twitter's "re-tweet" button and Google's "+1" button. 

10.    Content Distribution. Syndicating your article allows the content to be shared on a larger scale. EzineArticles.com is cited as one of the most famous article directories. Alltop, Technorati and SocialMediaToday.com are other services that feature your content but allow users to click through to your website. ReadWriteWeb can get articles syndicated on NYTimes.com.  Mashable can also get articles syndicated with USA Today and CNN.

By following these suggestions, you can build the social links that will help your business grow and thrive. 

Have you already implemented any of these suggestions? We love hearing your success stories!

Social Media: Secret Sales Department

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Benjamin in DisguiseThe #1 thing every business wants from Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and blogs is money, either from current customers or returning ones. Measuring the effect of your blog, email newsletter, and Facebook and Twitter accounts without coupon codes is a nearly impossible task.

There is compelling evidence social media helped you make sales, whether you realized it or not.

Influence Purchases

When someone searches for your company on Google, some of the links that normally show up in the search results are your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp pages. The searcher may decide to make a purchase based on what they see on these sites, whether your realize it or not.

One of our customers is a chiropractor who used to rely heavily on Yellow Pages. He had a new client come in and cite Yellow Pages as her source for finding the business. During the course of her appointment, however, she admitted to reading his recent blog posts, and they helped her make the final decision to use his services.

Add Legitimacy

A few years ago, it wasn't guaranteed every business had a website. Almost all business owners now realize the importance of having a website to allow customers to find them. A Facebook page and Twitter account are just as important now as a website was then. Having these pages shows your business is up-to-the times, and thus thriving.

Expand Your Presence

People love to share what they are doing, where they are going, and the coolest new things they found. People often tag businesses in posts. If you don't have a Facebook page or Twitter handle, you're missing out on free word-of-mouth advertising. On the converse, the ability to be tagged in posts allows your current customers to easily introduce new, potential customers to your business.

One of our customers owns a loose leaf tea store. His customers often mention his Twitter handle in their tweets and tag his Facebook fan page in their posts as a way to brag about going to his store or post a picture of themselves enjoying his tea.

Raise Your Rank and Reduce Paid Marketing Costs

Having a higher search engine ranking naturally leads to more sales and cheaper Cost Per Click. The higher your natural search rank is on Google, the less you pay for AdWords bids. Thankfully, your blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account all raise the ranking of your website for better visibility and more sales.

The simple truth is customers now increasingly expect you to have a social media presence. Whether your efforts on these platforms yield sales all depends on how active you are and how often you engage your customers.

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.