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Google+ Gains Momentum

Social Sonar - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Only two months ago, we reported that Google+ was growing but not yet expected to be a major contender against Facebook.  In that short amount of time, Google+ traffic has increased 55% and some estimate they will have 400 million users by the end of 2012.  That certainly seems like game-changing information.

As we mentioned in our last post, two of the best reasons to use Google+ are: Circles (allowing you to pick and choose who sees certain content) and Hangouts (video chat between you and certain customers or friends).  In addition, Google+ allows you to create saved keyword searches so that you can easily search for users who may be talking about your industry.  You can also use their "View Ripple" tool to see how your content is being shared or talked about.  Using Google+ can also give your website an SEO boost.  If you place +1 buttons on your product pages and blog, it allows people to easily promote your website and products for you. 

There are a few things of which to be aware if you decide to enter the Google+ ring.  First off, Brand Pages are tied to one single individual Google+ account.  You cannot add admins to pages at this point.  This means that if you are not administering your page yourself, you will need to give your employees your log-in information in order for them to manage the page.  Second, although Google+ is growing, Facebook and Twitter are still King and Queen.  At this point, you may not see the benefit of managing an additional social media site if everyone on Google+ is also on either Facebook or Twitter already.  Finally, at this time, Business Pages can only add other Business Pages to their circles.  Until they can add individuals, growth for those pages remains somewhat small.

Again, while Google+ may be growing as a social media site, it does not yet appear to be a requirement for social business.  We will continue to monitor its growth and let you know if our opinion changes. 

In the meantime, have you used Google+?  Do you use it for personal or business purposes?  If you are not yet there, are you considering it?  We would love to hear your opinion!


Social Media and Lead Generation

Social Sonar - Saturday, December 17, 2011
Although most social media experts suggest focusing on building your brand and having a conversation with your customers rather than trying to make a sale, you want to know that the time you are spending on social media sites is actually paying off. Webmarketing123 recently released a report entitled, "Social Media: The Tailwind for SEO & Lead Generation." This is a summary of their report and recommendations. 

One important way to help build your brand is to raise your ranking in search engines. Almost five billion inquiries are processed on major search engines every single day. Search engine optimization (SEO) is about getting your business to the top of those lists. By cross-promoting Facebook posts, likes and tweets, you will link your social media optimization (SMO) to your SEO program. Therefore, by communicating with your customers on social media sites, you may actually raise your SEO rankings. 

Webmarketing123 suggests mapping out your plan as follows:

    1.    Diagram: Choose your social networks.
    2.    Test: Figure out which types of campaigns work best with your audience.
    3.    Strategize: Decide which content you will promote.
    4.    Implement: Launch your campaign and grow your audience.
    5.    Monitor: Track growth.
    6.    Measure: Measure return on engagement (ROE) across periods of time.
    7.    Optimize: Develop fresh content and schedule posts and tweets to encourage customer interaction.

Your ultimate goal is to drive more traffic to your website, which raises your SEO rankings and makes it easier for customers to find you.  You also want to boost the number of "likes" on Facebook and increase re-tweets or replies.  Both people and search engines like fresh, keyword-rich content.  By keeping Facebook and Twitter updated with engaging and interesting content, you are improving your rankings. 

Close the circle by adding share buttons on your website.  This makes it simple for customers on your website to "like" or tweet about new content.  You should also cross-promote your blog on Facebook and Twitter.  Learn how to use keywords and hashtags on Twitter, so that search engines will add them to the search results page, which will help drive more traffic to your website. 

You can the measure your ROE by monitoring traffic on Google Analytics, measuring your buzz on Facebook and growing your followship on Twitter.  "In social media, your ROI is your ROE."

The social media/SMO/SEO/ROE/ROI world can be very confusing.  If you would like us to explain how social media can help improve your business, please let us know!


Here Is Your Post-Black Friday Checklist

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday 2011 is history. Small Business Saturday is almost over. Cyber Monday is only a day away. The holiday shopping season has officially begun. Here is a checklist to maximize your post-holiday success with a social media marketing plan to keep those customers coming back.

1. Website.
Even if it is only a simple website with your contact information and store hours, websites are a basic requirement these days. Your website should also link to all of your social media pages so that your customers can decide which mode of contact works best for them.

2. Newsletter.
You should also have an e-mail newsletter that goes out on a regular basis. Whether it is weekly or monthly, connecting regularly with your customers keeps your business on their mind. Unless you are correcting a mistake, don't over-do it by e-mailing too often. You want your customers to look forward to hearing from you. Make signing up easy by having a sign-up button at the top of the front page of your website.

3. Blogging.
We have said it before and we will say it again: Publishing a weekly blog about your company and its products or services is an important part of your social media plan. Keeping your website updated with fresh content raises your rankings within search engines. This means when someone "Googles" your company, it will come up faster.

4. Facebook.
With 800 million users worldwide, your customers are most likely on Facebook. If you create a fan page for your business, it gives your customers a fun and easy place to connect with you. Also, when a customer "likes" your fan page, it is published on their wall for all of their friends to see, thereby exposing your business to another layer of potential customers.

5. Twitter.
With over 200 million users, Twitter is another great way to connect with potential customers. You can use the search function to find potential customers in your geographic area. You can also search tweets and profiles for key words to connect with people who may be interested in your business. If you tag your tweets with proper hash tags, it allows users to find you when they are searching for certain topics.

6. Other social media platforms.
You may decide that Google+, LinkedIn, Yelp, YouTube, Foursquare or other sites are important for your business. You don't want to create a situation where you are trying to manage too many profiles. However, if you know your customers are congregating in a certain place then you may decide to spend some time there as well.

If you would like to read some of our success stories about how other companies have used social media to promote their business, please check out this link: http://www.socialsonar.com/social-media-success-stories. Which sites are on your checklist? Leave a comment below to let us know!

Five Tips For Writing a Great Blog

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blogging is an important piece of your social media marketing plan. Here are five tips for writing a great blog.

1. Post on a regular basis.
The first rule of blogging for your business is posting regularly. If I go visit a website and the blog hasn't been updated in six months, I always wonder if they are going out of business, or if they've just lost interest.

2. Write great content.
Posts should be entertaining and contain interesting information. Each blog post does not, however, need to be long. Shorter blogs that include a variety of content, like photos and videos, are usually easier for the reader to digest.

3. Encourage interaction.
Great blog posts cause the reader to respond. Asking questions will encourage your readers to leave comments. Make sure you respond to comments so that your readers feel a connection.

4. Link to other websites.
Don't be afraid to link to other blogs, articles or websites. Also, make sure you are tagging your posts properly for higher search engine rankings.

5. Ask for help.
If you hate writing, hire someone else to do it for you. Your time is valuable. When you are in business for yourself, there may be many tasks you may not feel comfortable handing off to other people. Blogging doesn't have to be one of those tasks.

Blog posts should be short, fun glimpses into your business that allow you to connect with your customers in a different way. Do you have a blog for your business? Tell us about it here and leave a link so we can read it!

Encouraging Your Customers to "Check-In"

Social Sonar - Saturday, September 03, 2011
Our smart phones offer many different options for "checking-in."  Yelp, Gowalla, FourSquare, Facebook places...  Many different versions of the yellow pages exist in digital form, allowing anyone and everyone to "check-in" and announce to the world exactly where they are hanging out at that exact moment.  Most of these apps on our phones link directly to Facebook and Twitter, giving an even wider audience to each post. 

BAM!  Free advertising for businesses! 

I often see these check-in's on Facebook and think to myself, "Man, I love the burritos there...I need to hit that place up," or, "I have a coupon to that store, I really should get in there and use it!"  Whether you have a shoe store, restaurant, day spa or flower shop, you probably have competition out there and if your customers can give you a leg up by recommending your store via the check-in, then you should take full advantage!

How can you get your loyal patrons to advertise for you? 

For some people, it's simply fun to be acknowledged.  I visited a costume jewelry store that had signs everywhere asking customers to "like" their fan page on Facebook.  The store offered to take a photo of the customer with their new purchase and post it to their fan page.  Most customers than happily scrambled to tag themselves (tagging themselves also exposes their entire friend list to your store's fan page as well).  It was like they were a celebrity being photographed by paparazzi in a jewelry store -- fun for them and free advertising for you. 

For others, perhaps offering a discount will help prod people into checking-in.  Maybe if a customer checks into your store during the check out process, you can offer 10% off.  People love feeling like they got a deal, and they didn't even have to work very hard for that one.  Another thing you can do is a special discount offer by e-mail when you see that someone has checked in (which will require some monitoring of your social media sites).  More simply, post on your Twitter and Facebook pages that you will give a discount if the check-in deal is simply mentioned at check out.  It could get people into your store regardless of whether they actually checked in or not. 

You can also hold a contest.  The customer who checks-in the most over the month will get a special gift package, discount or gift card to your store. 

The "check-in" certainly won't save the world, but it can definitely expose your store to new customers.  Sit down and figure out what will best encourage your customers to check-in and then implement it! 

If you need assistance with understanding the checking-in process or monitoring your social media sites, please visit www.socialsonar.com

How Does Google Think? The Principles of Search Engine Rankings

Alison Kawa - Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everyone talks about the specific methods of getting your site highly ranked in natural searches, but the algorithms Google and other search engines use are constantly changing. While it's sure to remain some combination of placement and number of keywords, number of pages, and number of strategic links to and from other sites, it might be a better strategy to think about natural search from Google's point of view.

They want to return relevant information from a user's query so that person will return to search again on Google. Here is a list of questions Google engineers keep in mind when they tweak the algorithm:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don't get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

You can find more details on Google's blog.

In short, it's not how you get your site ranked high, it's why. Please feel free to comment or contact us if you have more insights or questions about natural search.

Why Having a Blog Is Crucial for Your Business

Social Sonar - Saturday, May 21, 2011

It raises your natural search engine ranking.

WordPress LogoWe'll use Google as an example of a search engine, since it holds 80% of the market share. Google determines the ranking of a website with the following:

  • relevant keywords to the search
  • number and placement of the keywords
  • number of pages on the website
  • frequency of site changes
  • and many more (secret) methods

Every time you write a blog post, you:

  • increase the number of keywords on your site.
  • automatically create a page for each post, thus increasing the number of pages.
  • change your website and creating something new for the crawler to find during the next visit.

See the pattern?

It complements your SEM strategy.

Having a high natural search ranking actually increases your ranking for paid search, as well. By keeping your site relevant and timely with a blog, your ads will appear higher on the page and cost less per impression.

It gives you something to talk about.

Facebook and Twitter posts are great for a short format. If you have a big idea that warrants some explaining, a blog post is a great way to offer added value to your customer.

It's free advertising.

Blog posts are easy to share. By setting yourself up as an industry expert with a lot of experience, people are likely to listen to what you have to say, and share this information with friends and co-workers.

How to Master Search Engine Optimization

Alison Kawa - Saturday, May 14, 2011

How do you rank high in natural search?

The answer is simple and refreshing: Be useful. Have content people want to read. Not only will you be helping your customers, you will also increase your natural search ranking.

Many people create content with a blog. A blog is a great way to talk to your customers in a more informal tone. They get a better feel for you and your company, and they often find additional, useful information. In talking about your business, you are bound to use keywords that rank you higher in natural search results.

Make lots of friends. The more sites that link to you, the more important search engines think you are. It’s just like people. The more people have heard of you, the more important people think you are. The quality of the websites that link to you, however, is really important. A link from a major website like the BBC is much more important to your ranking than links from one hundred really small websites.

Have a lot of information. The more pages you have on your website, the higher your ranking in natural search.

Avoid Flash with every ounce of strength you have. Flash “breaks” your website for search engines. If you look at the code of a website using Flash, it simply states, “Must have Flash player to view this site”. It doesn’t tell the search engines anything about your website, or why it is relevant to the search.

Do your business a favor and focus on natural search from the beginning. Your money will be well-invested!

How Natural Search Works and Why It's Important

Alison Kawa - Saturday, May 07, 2011

How does natural search work?

Search engines like Google want to return useful information when you search so you will use their services again. Search engines send out "crawlers", "bots" or "spiders" to look through websites and catalog their content. The search engines keep track of "keywords", or words commonly used to search for things, on the website. When a person searches for something in a search engine, the search engine displays the results according to how useful they are to the person searching. In other words, how closely the keywords on the website match the words in the search.

As a small business owner, you want to make sure your website is listed as high as possible in natural search rankings. Search engine optimization, or, making it easy for search engines to find and catalog the keywords on your site, is crucial to getting a high ranking in the natural results of a search.

For example, if you are a wedding photographer, you want to have the words "wedding photography" on your site, as well as your location. "Chicago", for instance. When someone searches for "wedding photography" in the Chicago area, Google can tell what location the search originated from, so it returns results relevant to Chicago. The more times you mention keywords and your location, the more relevant Google thinks your website is for the person searching.

Can't you just list keywords over and over again on a separate page on your website?

In the early days of search engines, it was simple to trick Google into thinking your site was useful for the searcher. People would do things like put keywords in white on a white background so people couldn't see them on the website, but crawlers would catalog them. But search engines are smart and adapt quickly. Nowadays, websites are punished for using cheap tricks like the one mentioned. Their ranking is actually lower than it could be if all the content was original and contained the same number of keywords.

Why is natural search important?

Natural search is non-stop, relatively cheap advertising. Your only cost is creating content. Lots of people have paid search programs with services like AdWords. In order to have your ad appear on the right side of the search results, you have to continue putting money into the program. If you don't pay your AdWords bill, your ad no longer appear on the right side. When you invest money and time in search engine optimization, the investment stays with you. Even if you turn off your paid search program, your ranking in natural search will still be there.

Natural search actually works in tandem with paid search. Google displays ads not only according to how much money the person paid for the ad, but also how relevant the website is to the search. You could pay less and be ranked higher than the next company down if the search engine thinks your website is more useful.