Facebook Marketing Strategy Fails: Do This, Not That

Often times, the best way to teach someone how to do things right is to point out everything they’re doing wrong. This is especially the case when it comes to Facebook marketing strategy. Don’t take it personally. We wouldn’t be writing about what you’re doing wrong if you were the only one.

Here are four things that an overwhelming number of people are doing wrong on Facebook and what everyone should be doing instead:

Facebook Marketing Strategy Fail #1: Like Gating

What You’re Doing: Requiring people to “like” your page before they can view your page. You read that right. You can no longer “like-gate” your business page. That means that you can’t require people to “like” your page or opt in with their information before they can see it. This isn’t just a suggestion to beat the algorithm – it’s Facebook policy.

What You Should Be Doing: Facebook advertising, which is now an essential aspect of successfully marketing yourself on Facebook. You can create campaigns to increase likes, engagement and send traffic to your website, targeting exactly the audience you’d like to reach. We completely understand that the cost of social media marketingcan be high enough as it is, but if you’re not willing to invest a few hundred dollars a month in new clients or customers, you probably have bigger issues that you need to face.

facebook marketing strategy

Facebook Marketing Strategy Fail #2: “Like-Bait” Posts

What You’re Doing: Telling people to “like” and “share” your posts. This used to be a great way to increase interaction, but people and pages have started to use and abuse it and now, Facebook will actually bury these types of posts. Of course you still want your fans to “like” and “share” your content, but this is not the right way to go about it.

What You Should Be Doing: You should still being using calls to action in your social media posts, but instead of telling people what to do, engage them by asking them what they think. Not only does this give you an opportunity to get valuable feedback about your product or services, but posts with more comments actually tend to get more impressions in the latest Facebook algorithm. Your goal should always be to start a conversation, rather than to get people to click a button.

Facebook Marketing Strategy Fail #3: Using Hashtags

What You’re Doing: Once upon a time, Facebook experimented with hashtags, taking after Twitter and a number of other social networks. When it didn’t quite catch on, Facebook actually started to bury posts that use them. Yes, we know your cousin probably uses #throwbackthursday and #icebucketchallenge like they’re going out of style, but here’s the thing – on Facebook, they already have. Using hashtags will make your business page look outdated and desperate.

What You Should Be Doing: Paying attention to trending topics and tagging other pages when it’s relevant to. This will make sure your posts are put in front of people who truly want to engage with your brand. There’s no trickery involved in this one. If people are talking about a topic that’s related to your industry or even relatable to your industry, you should be joining in the discussion as well.

social media image size cheat sheet

Facebook Marketing Strategy #4: Using The Wrong Image Sizes

What You’re Doing: Sure, it may look fine in the preview, but how are your images showing up to your audience? Posting images that aren’t the right size makes your brand look sloppy and unprofessional. The next time you post on social media, check what you just posted on a different device than the one you used to post it. It probably doesn’t look the same. People access your page from tablets, smart phones and laptops and they’re all using different brands, operating systems and browsers.

What You Should Be Doing: Check out what the latest sizes requirements are and consistently adhere to them. Unfortunately, Facebook tends to make updates to their interface without much notice, so you should constantly be on the lookout for changes. Here is the latest social media image size cheat sheet as of the day this post was published, courtesy of Digital Trends.

So where do we get all of these up-to-date, relevant nuggets of wisdom? We read. A lot. Our favorite newsletters to subscribe to for Facebook marketing strategy advice areMediaBistro and Jon Loomer Digital, and if you want more info we strongly recommend you check them out. Both sites both do a fantastic job of noticing Facebook trends before they’re officially announced. Of course, you can always contact us for consulting guidance or to find out more about our social media strategy services.

Have questions about the latest changes on Facebook? Leave a comment below.

Know of a small business owner who can benefit from this info? Share it with them, and if you @ContentFac on Twitter or tag us on Facebook we’ll be sure to interact with you.

Facebook Marketing Strategy Fails- Do This, Not That

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The Only Guide to Managing a Business Tumblr You’ll Need to Read

In November, 2012, something big went down. A monumental change occurred, but unless you (like us) constantly keep your thumb on the pulse of all things social media, you probably didn’t even notice. Few people did, but that change could be the beginning of a social media networking takeover. Why? Because in November 2012, the term “Tumblr” outranked the word “blog” in Google searches. Tumblr for business is now a real thing – and social media marketers are scrambling to figure out how to squeeze the most ROI out of tumbling.

Like the expanding gulf between Lindsay Lohan and her hopes of ever winning an Oscar, the gap between the search terms has grown continuously wider since that original flip-flop, and it’s a trend that has some social networking pros predicting that the term “Tumblr” may one day completely replace the term “blog” – just like the brand name “Kleenex” eclipsed the word “tissue.” But what does this digital name game mean for your business? In two words, a lot. A whole, whole lot.

Business Tumblr

What Is Tumblr and Why Should You Care?

Asking a group of social networking pros “What is Tumblr?” is a bit like asking a group of teenagers what twerking is. So uncool. To save you from looking like a total square, we’ll give you the gist of it. Tumblr is a social media platform. In fact, it’s one of the most popular social networking sites on the web. If you sneak up behind anyone under 30 and they quickly minimize a tab, there’s at least a 50% chance they were scrolling through their Tumblr dashboard (though we’ll never know for sure, sneaky bastards).

Formed in 2007 by David Karp, Tumblr currently employs only 147 people, but the site hosts over 91.8 million blogs. The majority of those blogs belong to single users – artists, writers, tech junkies, angsty teens, people who are way, way too into One Direction – but a growing number of businesses and brands are joining the ranks. IMB, Rolling Stone and even Twitter (yes, really) are uploading blog content to the site and getting their tumble on.

In the world of business, everyone wants to sit at the big kids’ table, but if the growing number of Fortune-500 companies who are using the service isn’t enough to convince you to set up a business Tumblr, here are a few more reasons to consider creating a Tumblr blog for your brand:

  • what is tumblrIt’s free. Let’s be real, that’s one of the best reasons for doing anything.
  • It’s easy. Tumblr is one of the most user-friendly social media networks out there. Posting images, text, videos and more is simple, and custom templates are easy to edit and make your own.
  • It’s fast. Keeping your business Tumblr updated takes far less time than it would to publish blog content on other sites thanks to the reblogging feature, which allows you to quickly curate posts from other popular Tumblr accounts. You can use all that saved time for important business projects, or you can spend it scrolling through the kitten gif tag – your choice.
  • It’s fun. The atmosphere of Tumblr is much more casual and playful than that of other social media sites. As David Karp told the New York Times, “People are creating identities and personalities that Facebook and Twitter are not designed to allow you to do.” You may want to try setting up a blog that’s written from your mascot’s point of view, or one that challenges followers to use your products in wacky ways.  
  • It’s viral. The content you post on Tumblr doesn’t live and die a slow, painful death on your blog – it’s shared by other users through reblogs. Popular Tumblr posts can continue to bring traffic to your website months and even years after the original post is published.  

Of course, as with all things, there’s a difference between managing a Tumblr for business and managing a Tumblr for business well. (You only need to go to karaoke night once to learn that lesson, right?) Not all blog content is created equal, and neither are all Tumblr accounts, so if you’re ready to create your business Tumblr, you’ll need to follow a few tips to make it count.

The Keys to Creating A Popular Business Tumblr:

Like all social media networks, Tumblr has its own beneficial features, niche audiences and unspoken code of online ethics. In other words, there’s a lot to learn if you hope to create a popular Tumblr account for your business. If this is your first dip in the Tumblr ocean, learning to ride the waves may take you a while. We’d hate for you to embarrass yourself (we’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty) so we’ve developed something of a cheat sheet.

Tumblr ChallengeKnow Your Audience. Before you make your first post to your business Tumblr account – before you even choose a concept and theme – ask yourself who you’re trying to reach. If you sell support stockings or crocheted toilet paper caddies, then we have bad news: creating a business Tumblr is probably a waste of your time. Why? Because the site’s users are less likely to be your customers and more likely to be their grandchildren. If the prevalence of Avengers gifs and the trend of fangirling over Korean pop stars wasn’t enough to convince you, here are some hard stats about Tumblr for business, courtesy of Mashable:

“Here’s the breakdown of who is using the blogging platform, according to Mark Coatney from Tumblr: In the U.S. the audience tends to be younger – 56% of the service’s 25.2 million monthly visitors are under 34, and users skew slightly more male (52%). If that sounds like your average customer, you may want to give it a go.”

That’s bad news for brands whose consumers don’t fit with these demographics, but if your business hopes to build a relationship with a younger audience, a business Tumblr account could be the missing piece of your social media networking puzzle.

Optimize Your Tumblr Posts. In the world of Tumblr, the normal SEO rules apply, but if you really want to maximize the impact of your posts, there are a few additional rules to follow:

Tagging. Always tag your posts. Always. Tumblr users constantly search for posts by tags, and adding keywords that target your audience will boost your visibility in a big way. But don’t get crazy – your posts will only show up in searches for the first five keywords you list, and posts with dozens of tags are considered tacky (and frankly, a little desperate).

Linking. When posting original content (not reblogs), always list the source as your business’s website. This is especially important for image posts, because users who click on the image will automatically be taken to your website. That’s a major traffic booster. Also, unless you really like hate mail and would enjoy losing followers, never list yourself as the source of a post that’s not yours.

Pinning. Like most social media networking sites, Tumblr allows users to pay to promote themselves. For $5 Tumblr will mark your selected post with a red pushpin. This pin keeps your post at the top of your followers’ dashboards for 24 hours, or until they click on the pin to return your post to its normal spot on their dash.

This feature should be used very, very (read: VERY) sparingly. Even the most popular Tumblr users never use it more than once every three months, and when they do, the pinned post is almost always an important announcement (Coco Rocha has been known to pin her Vogue covers, for example). That little red pushpin is like a giant glittery sign screaming LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! Use it with caution.  

Connecting. Your business Tumblr lets you connect with consumers in ways that other social media networks don’t allow. It’s one of the main reasons why creating an account is beneficial, and it’s part of why it’s so much fun. Try these ideas to create engaging blog content:

most popular social networking sites1. To gain followers and influence people, reblog other users’ content and add your own thoughts on the subject.

2. Create and post your own animated gifs (gifs on Tumblr are hugely popular, and gif posts tend to get reblogged more than other kinds).

3. Post a Tumblr challenge for your followers. Ask them to make a certain kind of post every day for a week. Tumblr challenges are a bit like the Myspace surveys of yore, and they always get people engaged.

4. Tap into fandom. Is your CEO a dedicated Doctor Who fan? Do you have a video of your PR team jamming out to Lady Gaga? Share it! Most popular Tumblr users are ardent fans of at least one TV show, celebrity or band. Show them that you are too and you won’t only boost your interaction – you’ll give your brand a face and gain some fans of your own.

Of course these aren’t the only ways to gain popularity points in Tumblr land. If you’re the master and commander of a popular Tumblr and you’ve come across some creative ways to boost engagement, leave us a comment below to share the love.  

Keep Calm and Tumble On

We’ll be honest. When it comes to predicting social media trends – to identifying which online social communities will go the way of the dinosaur and which will rule the world – there are no certainties. We know, because we polled the Magic 8-Ball, that fortune teller booth in the mall and Miss Cleo, and they all told us different things.

Besides, as social networking pros we know better than to speak in absolutes when we work in a market that evolves by the day. You won’t see us donning sandwich boards downtown and thundering into a megaphone: “THE END OF FACEBOOK IS NEAR! REPENT! REPENT AND TUMBLE!” Instead, you’ll find us behind our keyboards, teaching ourselves as much as we can about Tumblr for business and then passing on what we’ve learned to our clients.

Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us today and one of our social networking pros will work with you to develop a plan that’s perfectly tailored to your business’s needs. If you just want to be part of the conversation, post your business Tumblr URL in a comment below and feel free to give constructive feedback to readers who do the same. If we missed an important tip that you’d like to share, we hope you’ll post it in the comments too. And finally, if you can possibly find a Tumblr weirder than this one, we may give you some sort of award.  

How to Set Up A Twitter Auto Responder (Our New Favorite Twitter Hack!)

twitter bird tweeting social media Twitter marketing for business is serious stuff. If you don’t believe us, try snatching a keyboard from a social media networking expert and see what happens. Just try it.

At The Content Factory, we tweet so much that we hashtag things in our sleep, and we find it difficult to unplug from the world of Twitter marketing, especially because we know how important a quick response can be. When Ricki Lake replies to you, you do NOT leave Ricki Lake hanging.

But as much as we love social media networking, we also enjoy time away from the office. So when we heard about a new way to balance our Twitter marketing with our analog lives, we were pretty pumped, and of course we had to share the love. We’re talking, of course, about automating our Twitter responses. We learned this awesome Twitter marketing trick on Media Bistro. Here’s how to make it work:

How to Set Up a Twitter Auto-Responder

1.    Create a Twitter App

  • Sign into dev.twitter.com with your Twitter account. Create a new app, add a website and a callback URL (http://www.google.com/script) and then write a description.
  • Click the settings tab and select Read and Write for the Application Type. To save your work, click Update.
  • Then head over to the OAuth tool tab and write down the Consumer Secret and Consumer Key.

2.    Create an Auto-Responder Script

  • Go to script.google.com.  Select File -> Make a copy to copy and paste the auto-responder script in Google Drive.
  • Choose the beginning and ending days for when you’ll be away. Also enter the Twitter app keys and your Twitter handle.
  • Next, click on Run -> Start to initialize the auto-responder. If asked to authorize access to Google Script services, click on Yes.
  • Select Run -> Start again, which will prompt an “Authorization Required” box. Give authorization for the script to connect to your Twitter account, and your Twitter auto-responder is now complete.

Not so hard, is it? We don’t just use Twitter for a business, we use Twitter for a lot of different clients, so we’ll be sharing this awesome tip with them too. Are you a social media networking expert who could use some screen-free me time? Try creating an auto-responder. Post a comment to tell us how you spent your time back in the real world.

Learn How to Spend Your Marketing Budget Wisely Using SEO

For a lot of business owners, SEO is an afterthought – when it’s even a thought at all. Because many people don’t understand the value of SEO, they opt to go with a marketing plan using platforms that are more familiar, which generally means TV, radio and print. While these outlets shouldn’t be discredited for the results they’re still able to achieve, it’s time for business owners to step up their marketing efforts and begin integrating all the options that are available to them if they really want to get the most for their money and see their goals accomplished.

Don’t Let Your Advertising Money and Efforts Go to Waste

So why is it important to include SEO in your marketing campaign? Think about this: you put together the perfect commercial, a compelling radio broadcast and/or an eye-catching print ad, all of which have a positive impact on consumers and make them want to find out more about your products or services. However, when they actually get around to searching the Internet for that product or service – we all know pretty much everything hinges on a Google search these days – they can’t recall your company name specifically, so they decide to contact the first business they see offering the same thing. Without SEO, your website isn’t likely to be found on the first page of search results, which means your commercial, broadcast or print ad just drove your would-be customer straight into the waiting arms of your high-ranking competitor.

This should not only answer the question of importance, but also show why, instead of being an afterthought, SEO should be at the forefront of your mind as a business owner and utilized as the starting point for a marketing program rather than a last resort.

The Power of Integrated Marketing

The idea isn’t to ditch traditional methods of advertising altogether, but to combine them with digital methods. Integrated marketing – which incorporates TV, radio, print, online banner ads, social media, link building and optimized web design – allows you to connect with a large group of targeted consumers that you wouldn’t be able to reach using just one or two of these approaches. Having your business name work its way through all these different channels is powerful in gaining you brand recognition and also gives you the opportunity to provide additional information about your products or services, and relate with consumers on a more personal level.

SEO Promotes a Call to Action

A commercial or print ad can encourage consumers to pick up the phone and call or stop by, but chances are, they won’t be ready to take action right at the moment your ad pops up in front of them. On the other hand, SEO promotes immediate action through one-click CTAs. For consumers who are searching for what they want on a mobile device and are ready to take the next step toward a purchase or scheduling an appointment, this means they can easily hit a button to call or get directions. With this unavailability in traditional ads, you’re just hoping for a consumer to follow through with their interest at a later time.

The Many Strategies of SEO

SEO is probably best known for its role in link building by publishing unique content, but there are several other ways it can support a marketing program as well. Various SEO techniques can be used throughout the development of websites to ensure visibility in all the search engines, and off-page SEO strategies often include social media and online banner/remarketing advertisements. These both focus on bringing your business an increased awareness of your brand.

The bottom line is that higher search rankings generate more website traffic, which naturally leads to greater conversion rates. The closer you are to landing in the No. 1 spot on each of the major search engines, the better your chances at beating out your competitors, and the most effective way to gain success in this is through an SEO campaign. So before you sign up to do more TV, radio and print advertising, make sure your listings are where they need to be because being on the second page of Google simply won’t cut it.

How to Keep Facebook’s Algorithm Update from Burying Your Posts

Facebook Algorithm Update

You may have noticed that you have fewer memes asking you to share to show your support of homeless kittens and kids with cancer in your newsfeed. No, your Facebook friends haven’t finally come to their senses. However, Facebook has – and it’s something you need to know about.

 

Recently, Facebook announced that its new algorithm will bury “like-bait” posts, which is basically any post that directly asks users to “like”, “share” or “comment” on it – standard calls to action for Facebook business page updates. The goal of this is to prevent spammy and duplicate posts from showing up in your feed. This is good news for your personal Facebook feed, but bad news for marketers who aren’t aware of the algorithm update.

 

Here’s what you need to do to adjust your Facebook marketing strategy given the recent change:

How to Beat Facebook’s New Algorithm Update

  1. Create High Quality Content – The truth is you don’t want to have to resort to cheap tactics in order to get your fans to like and share your content. By creating high quality blog posts that speak to your audience, not only will you get more interaction on your Facebook page, but you’ll also increase your brand awareness overall.
  2. Adjust Your Calls To Action – Just because Facebook doesn’t want you to boss people around into liking and sharing your content doesn’t mean you don’t need to give them some direction. For example, ask open ended questions to get the conversation going. Comments and shares are more valuable than likes on your Facebook page anyway.
  3. Invest in Facebook Advertising – Facebook ads and promoted posts have the potential to be very targeted and result in high quality traffic and conversions for your Facebook business page. Even $250/month can make a huge difference in the number of impressions you’re able to get on your posts.
  4. Don’t Be Self Promotional – Posts that do nothing but push people to buy your pruduct and/or desperately ask them to enter your contest or sweepstakes without context will get buried. Also, don’t copy/paste content from your ad campaigns into your posts. Facebook is on to your game.

The primary focus for the change in your Facebook marketing strategy is in the calls to action that you include in your posts. Previously, it wasn’t a big deal to ask for likes or shares – or if you’re on Twitter, retweets (in fact, including those types of CTAs leads to a much higher engagement rate – on Twitter, asking for retweets can increase retweets by 43x). Now you’ll have to adjust your calls to action a bit if you want to maximize the visibility of the posts on your Facebook business page.

 

Why it is not possible to survive online competition without SEO?

Are you thinking of taking your business to a whole new level by taking it online? It is one of the wisest moves that you are making now. Today customers first go to the internet regardless of what they want to buy or hire. The internet proves to be a very good and reliable resource for many for finding the best services and brands in a given area. Not only that people also complete the entire buying transaction online as they find it very convenient, they do not have to leave their home or drive in cold winter.

As a result, a huge scope is created for online businesses, which has made thousands of businesses go online very month crowding the web and increasing the pressure of competition. In this situation, if you launch a website and if you want to get the attention of your target audience, you are required to know how to play the search engine game.

Customers today when they make a search online they will not go beyond the first two pages of the search results. In other words, all that it counts is the first two pages or the first twenty listings in the search results page.

As an outgrowth of this trend, to help customers get the best online visibility possible, hundreds of SEO companies have emerged. All these SEO companies are competing for customers and to lure their customers, they are ready to say just about anything as long as they could rope in new customers. This has resulted in a number of mediocre service providers. On the one hand, your business cannot survive without SEO and on the other hand, there are many mediocre SEO services out there. If you need to approach one of these companies, you need to be careful so that you are not taken advantage of by your SEO company.

One of the ways of ensuring that you get the best SEO services for the money you pay and excellent results that will give your website the visibility that it deserves is to use pay for performance SEO service. You will need to pay here only when you get the promised search engine ranking for the chosen keywords. This is certainly one of the best and the most satisfactory SEO service options.

When you choose guaranteed performance SEO, you need not have to worry about the competition because the SEO service provider is compelled to get you the best results if not they will get paid. So this is certainly one of the best ways to fight the online competition. Hiring SEO services without any guarantee will put all the risk in your court. Whereas on the other hand with performance based SEO solutions the SEO service provider is sharing the risk. They are required to work hard to deliver the best results. They will therefore help you fight the competition better when compared to the other types of SEO services.

THE 10-Step Guide to Hosting a Killer Twitter Chat

How to host a Twitter chat

If you’re using Twitter for business and you spend a decent chunk of your time marketing on Twitter (as we suggest you do), you’ve likely come across an organized Twitter chat. When done well, Twitter chats can generate a ton of social engagement, increase your following and maybe even propel you into the role of being a trend-setting thought leader within your industry. Done poorly, and you could actually damage the value of your brand. This guide is designed to help you become a master Twitter chat organizer in 10 simple — but important — steps.

You say you’re a total newb? No worries. We’re here to help, not judge, so let’s start with a couple basic definitions:

Twitter Chat – A public conversation on Twitter that takes place at a designated time, usually on a specific topic, and is tied together by participants using a common, unique hashtag.

Twitter Party – Basically the same thing as a Twitter chat, the term “Twitter party” has become more vogue in certain circles (think mommy bloggers, contest pros, etc.).

The two terms are often used interchangeably, with the Twitter party usually having the additional element of prize giveaways — a smart incentive if you’re hoping to draw a large, active crowd out of the gate. But whether you refer to your event as a Twitter chat or a Twitter party, the steps to preparing and hosting will remain the same.

Preparing for Your Twitter Chat

1. Choose a Hashtag – While it’s not the only social channel to utilize the hashtag, it is more important when marketing on Twitter than on any other social network. Any time you’re using Twitter for business, selecting an appropriate hashtag is key — and it’s never more crucial than when prepping for your company’s Twitter chat. Think of it as the invitation or password to your party. As stressful as it might seem, having the right hashtag might just make or break your Twitter chat. In order to make sure your hashtag is a boon to your chat, follow these four steps:

  • Make sure it’s relevant to your brand – Many chat hosts use all or part of their company’s name in the tag for further branding. There’s a fine line between being relevant and being too salesy, and you should make sure to stay on the right side of it.
  • Keep it short & snappy – Keep your tag brief enough so that it will leave plenty of room for your chat participants to compose meaningful Tweets (remember, the hashtag will appear in every Tweet during the chat)
  • Make it easy to remember and type – You want to make sure your Twitter chat is fun and easy for your guests and the tag should reflect that. If users misspell your hashtag, their Tweet won’t be seen by others who are following the chat. That’s bad, as your guests will quickly lose interest in a Twitter chat that doesn’t result in quick engagement.
  • Don’t step on anyone’s toes – Above all else, never assume your hashtag is unique until you’ve thoroughly searched for it on Twitter and sites likehashtagify.me. You need to be 100% certain that the tag you’re promoting isn’t being used by others, as this type of mistake can create brand confusion, embarrassment and possible legal action.

2. Select a Well-Rounded Twitter Chat Topic – One common mistake people make when using Twitter for business is selecting Twitter chat topics that are boring or too specialized to encourage participation from those outside of their niche.

While it’s important to demonstrate your expertise, it’s also smart to seek converts outside of your inner circle when marketing on Twitter. One way to do this is to make the topic of your first Twitter chat something of a “101″ level. This will encourage new followers, and the idly curious, who may be too intimidated to participate in a conversation that requires guru-like knowledge of the topic at hand.

3. Write Compelling Questions – Most Twitter chats are of the Q&A variety, so it’s imperative to compose your questions in a way that will encourage engagement from participants and lead the discussion in the direction you want it to go. A general rule of thumb is to write about 10 questions initially that can be pared down to seven or eight.

Eight questions asked over the course of an hour is usually enough to allow ample time for answers and discussions between questions. It’s good to have a few “bonus questions” up your sleeve in case any of your main questions fail to elicit a reaction from the chat participants. When you’re marketing on Twitter, few things are more brutal than having your Tweets ignored as they float around in the vast void of Internet space dedicated to things that nobody cares about. Preparing some backup questions might get you out of a scrape when you need to pivot quickly.

4. Plan & Share Your Questions – Assuming you’ll be having some special guest co-hosts or moderators (a great idea as we’ll explain in point #6), allow them and others on your social media team to see and comment on the questions well in advance of the chat. This will give co-hosts time to prepare answers that fit the character limitations, as well as shrink any links they may want to share. Sure, the chat should maintain a live feel, but not everyone thinks (or writes) well on their toes. A combination of thought-out responses and off-the-cuff remarks are safer bet than hoping everyone can quickly and eloquently Tweet their thoughts in the fast-paced environment of a Twitter chat.

Share all of the info about your Twitter chat on a shared Google Doc with the other people that will be helping you admin the event. This doc can include pre-written, numbered Q&A Tweets, shrunken links to relevant pages, optimally-sized images, and some talking points so that you won’t forget everything you’re trying to convey in the hour-long conversation.

5. Promote Your Twitter Chat – The first thing you’ll want to do is write a short article about your Twitter chat (including the hashtag, date, time and topic) and post it on your blog. This gives you a new landing page to promote and drive traffic to via your social channels. Mention your Twitter chat on all of your social media pages every day leading up to the event and create a custom graphic to get more attention for your posts. Sites like Canva offer excellent pre-measured templates to make pro-looking designs quickly and for free.

If you’ll be offering prizes during your Twitter party, you’ll also want to promote on sweepstakes sites like freestuff.com and online-sweepstakes.com. Once word gets out that you’re having a giveaway in conjunction with your Twitter party, similar contest sites will pick up the lead and help you promote the event to their readers as well.

How To Keep Your Twitter Chat Running Smoothly

6. Plan for Success (but Prepare for Disaster) – Remember that time you were enjoying your favorite show on Netflix and the Internet bumped you offline? Annoying, right? Now imagine that same Internet provider shutting down four minutes into your world reknowned Twitter chat! Planning for such a technical tragedy will ensure that your show will go on, regardless of how many bars the Wi-Fi gods bestow upon you when it’s go-time. To prevent an unfortunate bout of radio silence from taking over your Twitter chat, make sure to run your chat with a partner who is Tweeting from a different location (or at least running off of a different internet connection).

Stay in constant contact with this chat assistant before, during and after the chat. Skype, Google Hangout or speakerphone contact will set you both at ease and could come in handy for real-time instructions since your hands (and theirs) will be busy typing, copying, pasting and searching during the Twitter chat. This vocal partnership could include something as simple as “Hey, we’re getting a lot of engagement from so and so, can you retweet her while I look for the link I want to respond to the last person with?”

This lifeline of yours could really save the day if your browser crashes or you experience a power outage. That’s when the speakerphone part of your plan could include instructions like, “Okay, I’m not able to log in, be sure to copy and paste the questions from our Google doc into Tweetchat.com every 3-5 minutes. I’ll let you know once I’m back online.”

7. Pace Yourself – The key to an enjoyable user experience for your Twitter chat guests is controlling the flow of information that they view on their feed. On smaller chats with only a handful of participants you might need to space your questions out and try to elaborate on responses to keep the conversation moving. If, however, your Twitter chat or Twitter party is sizable (say 50-100 participants) the responses can fly at a dizzying pace.

You’ll need to stay in control of the Q&A to keep things on schedule and occasionally reel in the conversation if it goes down too many unproductive rabbit holes. With that said, allow participants to be themselves as humor can be the main ingredient of an enjoyable Twitter party with return guests.

8. Use Tweetchat.com – While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using Twitter directly to manage your chat, your life will be made a lot easier if you adopt a third-party Twitter app. One of the best is Tweetchat.com. Here’s why:

  1. It’s free!
  2. It allows you to create a “Chat Room” (holler if you remember AOL!) where you and your participants only see the Tweets from your chat without the distractions you may encounter on your Twitter page.
  3. It automatically adds your hashtag at the end of each Tweet while still providing you with the other Twitter tools such as retweet, comment, fave and character count.

Keeping the Momentum Going

Twitter Party

9. Follow Up On Progress Using Hashtracking.com – Once again, there are several services that allow you to summarize the chat based around your hashtag, but hashtracking.com provides a robust asssortment of tools to easily calculate your ROI (something everyone who is using Twitter for business should be measuring). Hashtracking.com offers free trials, and once you subscribe, you’ll be able to see:

  1. In-depth reports of all engagement (number of Tweets, timeline deliveries, participants, reach, etc.)
  2. Useful graphs and charts to share with your clients
  3. Buzzwords related to your Twitter chat to help you understand your market (and to help you plan your next chat)
  4. A transcript of the Twitter chat — something that could be useful for your own evaluation after the chat ends and could also be used as content for a blog post about your Twitter party

10. Reward Your Guests – Remember when you’d leave your friend’s birthday party as a kid and some thoughtful parent handed you a little goodie bag on the way out? Even if the prizes were totally lame (and they usually were) it left you with positive feelings of your party experience and hosts. Twitter parties are similar in that your guests will appreciate a parting gift (or at least a chance to win one) even if the reward seems small to you. The truth is, some of your guests may only be there for the prizes. While this may leave you feeling used or like you’ve missed your target audience, it shouldn’t. Even those who are just attending your Twitter chat for free swag will provide a valuable service in helping you increase your reach by sending out retweets to their (often large) followings.

The prizes that you offer should be relevant to your business and be clearly explained and showcased in your blog post about the Twitter chat. You should also be clear about any age or country restrictions for winning and the means by which winners are selected (e.g.: randomly, by most retweets, most engagement, etc.).

Once your Twitter chat wraps up, select your prize winners and contact them quickly to get their addresses. In the pre-promotion, you should’ve reminded people to follow you on Twitter so that you can contact them for more info if they win. This boosts your following and makes chat follow up go much faster.

Be sure to ask your winners to Tweet an announcement that they’ve won and then again when they receive their prize, preferably tagging any giveaway partners. This way your Twitter chat hashtag gets even more reach, you’ve got fun content to share on all of your social media platforms and you’ve got valuable incentive to attract more participants to your next chat.

Our Twitter Marketing Toolkit

If you’re planning on using Twitter for more than just a chat here or there, we suggest you get familiar with our favorite Twitter tools. While we’ve already gone over a few of these, all of them deserve your attention.

  • Hashtagify.me — As mentioned earlier, Hashtagify.me allows you to analyze and search for hashtags. Not only can it show you what’s currently trending, but it can give you a list of patterns that you can take advantage of, regardless of if you are planning a Twitter chat or you’re just looking to expand your social media presence.
  • Hootsuite — Hootsuite allows you to manage multiple social media networks inside one window. That way, there’s no need to juggle ten different windows when you’re trying to monitor all of your social accounts.
  • Tweetchat.com — Tweetchat allows you to easily create spaces to monitor your Twitter chat, making it easy to monitor who is saying what.
  • Hashtracking.com — Hashtracking is a more streamlined, yet more analytic-focused site that is similar to Hashtagify.me. Hashtracking also allows you to monitor your efforts over time, allowing you to pinpoint which Twitter (or Instagram) campaigns are working best.
  • Google Docs — Google Docs almost needs no explaining — as a colobrative tool, you can’t do better (especially since Google Docs is free!). If you plan on collaborating with partners while running your Twitter chat (or just your social media channels in general), then it’s a good idea to take full advantage of Google Docs.
  • Canva.com — If you’re serious about using Twitter for business, you need to make sure the images you post are high quality. After all, if it looks like some lazy intern made all of your graphics in Paint, you’re going to have some trouble expanding your influence. Canva allows you to make professional-looking grapics with an easy to use WYSIWYG editor — no art degree required.
  • FreeStuff.com + Online-Sweepstakes.com — If you’re looking for some free stuff to give away during your Twitter chat, there’s no better way to create a stash than these two sites.
  • Skype — Finally, you’re going to need to keep connected if you’re partnering with anyone else during your Twitter chat. We strongly suggest that, in addition to a cell phone, you also have Skype running. Remember: you want as much redundancy as you can handle, as it’ll prevent a tech issue from causing your chat to go up in flames.

If you’re planning on using Twitter for business, you should plan on having a Twitter chat on a fairly routine basis. Typically, your results will snowball over time as your Twitter network expands — and as your network grows, your reach will exponentially increase. Once you have a few chats in the bank, you’ll be able to easily graph what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to finely hone your social media strategies — and hopefully attract plenty of new business.

6 Online Marketing Musts for 2015

Online marketing changes from year to year and 2015 is no exception.  Sometimes keeping up with all the changes and advancements can be a daunting task.  New innovative ideas come alive and old ideas get more attention and power while some just dry up and blow away.

We can surmise that marketing methods such as social media and SEM will never go away but changes will take them in different directions.  We need to be aware of those new directions so we don’t get lost in our marketing efforts.

Below are some of the major marketing trends for 2015 and how some of them will be changing.

1.  Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Search engine marketing includes strategies such as search engine optimization and paid search engine advertising.  According to the Search Engine Journal, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine.  Obviously your website needs to be in on that statistic.  Search engines drive over 300% more traffic to websites than social media.  This year the search engines will be all about quality over quantity more than ever.  Your site needs to have quality content and quality inbound links.  Concentrate on content that answers people’s questions and links from high-powered informative sites.   Keywords will be diminishing in importance as over-stuffing of keywords tends to cause webmasters to lose focus on more important factors such as user experience.

2. Mobile Marketing – Mobile marketing has been like a lion waiting in the bushes.  When it pounces, its force will be extreme.  This year promises to be a big year for mobile marketing.  You have to have a mobile-friendly website as more and more people are going mobile.  Almost 80% of smartphone owners use their devices to shop online.  And this stat will only get bigger.  First thing you need to do is visit your site from a mobile device and take note of everything that needs to be changed, tweaked or redesigned.  There are mobile site design services which are free or affordable.  If you can’t or won’t make the necessary changes to your site an alternative is to make a mobile-friendly sister site and link it to your main site.  This is a better strategy than just ignoring the ever-growing number of mobile consumers.

3. Content Marketing – 2014 was the year that content became king but this year it looks to evolve even further.  Content marketing is marketing by creating and sharing information and other quality content.  For effective content marketing you need to analyze your audience’s needs and articulate those needs successfully in your content.  Visual content such as infographics are becoming very popular and can do a lot for your campaign.  Add graphics to your how-to articles for more effect.  Creating entertaining and informative videos can also escalate your content marketing.  Visual content will go to the next level and become a necessity in content marketing.

4. Social Media – Social media usage has increased over 100% in the last five years and will only continue to grow.  If you have not yet gone social, you need to start building your social presence.  For most small online businesses, it would be nearly impossible to build a solid presence on all the social sites.  Research the social networks and choose the top three that would be the best for your business.  Focus on building your brand on these sites by posting consistent, interesting, entertaining, and helpful content.  Always respond to comments whether they be positive or negative.  Research what types of content draw in the most engagement.  Learn all you can about social media and how it works so you have a deep understanding of the power it has and how to bring this power to your business.

5. eMail Marketing – You might have seen the headline, “eMail Marketing is Dead” but email remains the leader in spreading the marketing message.  According to emailexpert.org, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25.  Almost 100% of online consumers use email.  eMail marketing will become more straightforward and should always be permission-based.  Although email marketing is alive and kicking, spam-like methods are dead.   Do not use hype and spammy words in your email subject line.  Keep it short and to the point.  Your subject line is the doorway to your email and will determine if it is opened or not.  Be sure your email messages are also mobile-friendly.

6. Meme Marketing – A meme (pronounced “meem”) is a growing and popular internet trend where a cutesy or funny image is paired with a clever quote or saying to create an entertaining or funny situation to which we can relate.  Memes are also becoming more popular in billboards and other offline advertising.  You can create your own memes at websites like memegenerator.net.  They enable you to use your own images and add your own text.  Memes are meant to bring humor and entertainment to everyday situations which can go a long way in the online marketing world.  They will increase sharing and engagement to help build your social media presence.  As always be careful as not to produce and offensive or inappropriate meme.  Memes are a fun and interesting way to go viral and take your online marketing to the next level for the New Year.

Keeping up with the Joneses so to speak in the marketing world can seem impossible at times but you need to keep up with the changes and trends for each year as they evolve and become more important.  Take some time to research each marketing strategy and learn as much as you can so 2015 will be your most successful year ever!

7 Elements for Building a Successful Online Brand

In this digital era, any brand or business looking to grow must consider an online presence. Even those who rebelled against it few years ago realized its importance nowadays. Well, better late than never. However, developing a website and owning a Facebook page isn’t enough. Successful brands create online marketing strategies to attract new audiences and convert them into loyal customers. But how do they do it? Here are 7 common elements for building a successful online brand:

Understanding the audience & delivering their needs: Most brands and businesses aim to target a specific audience instead of diving in a broad market. Therefore, the first step to take is; identifying and understanding your target market. Once the full analysis of the demographics, interests, and needs of your target audience is done, then you’ll be able to better serve them. Ignoring this step puts the business on a wrong path that leads to failure.

Creating a unique brand identity: The most successful brands can be recognized from their logos, slogan, colors, tone of voice, mood and other elements. Recognition helps a brand gain the consumers’ trust as they will already be familiar with it. Refer to a digital agency to conceive an online brand identity that makes you recognizable amongst your competitors and gets you closer to consumers. Take the example of Dove. Every once in a while, the brand releases real social media campaigns promoting beauty and self-confidence. Dove became known as an advocate for boosting women’s self-confidence in their beauty.

Being consistent: Once all the elements of your brand identity have been established, reflect them on every platform. Brand consistency plays an important role in maintaining the same image through the different customer’s touchpoints. However, using different identities on each platform drives customers into confusion and distrust. For instance, if you are using an energetic and encouraging tonality on your website, apply the same tone of voice on your social networks.

Focusing on the benefits: When promoting a product, service or others, ask yourself the following question: How does it help consumers? Keeping the answer to this question in mind, helps you focus on people’s interest by communicating about the benefits of your service or product instead of describing its components. For example, if you are promoting an online tool helping users better manage their social networks accounts, focus on the visibility people will get rather than on how to use it.

Building strong relationships with consumers: One important objective for brands is to stay on the top of their target’s mind. The best way to stay unforgotten is by building a strong bond with customers using the different social networks, loyalty programs and email marketing. Hire professionals, like a social media company, to keep you close to your customers as it is a key to their heart.

Keeping promises: Trust is a delicate factor for brands. It alone can break it or make it. So to be a successful brand, avoid making promises you can’t keep as it can ruin your business. For instance, if you promise consumers a 20% discount once they register on your website, give it to them as soon as they do. Otherwise, it will ruin the image you are trying to build.

Educating the consumers: Whatever your business is about, keep on providing the audience with information helping them better understand your brand and the industry. Don’t only focus on educating consumers about your offering, but also on the aspects related to it. For example, if you are providing ready-made ecommerce websites, writing blog posts and creating videos about the future of ecommerce provides an additional argument on the importance of selling online. In addition, educating your audience with hints and tips makes you a reference in the field for people.

Building a successful brand online needs a smart and effective strategy. Therefore, working hand in hand with a web design company and a social media agency would be a wise choice. These two entities have already acquired some experience in this field and can advise you with what is best for your company, while you put your focus on the business. Finally, don’t ignore an online presence as, in today’s world, it’s the most effective way to grow a business.

Building More Jobs via Marketing

With new construction on the rise, the construction industry is experiencing a shortage in qualified workers.

As a result, many in the construction industry are turning to marketing and social media to find new recruits.

Here are just a few ways the construction industry is building more jobs through marketing and social media:

Construction Industry Marketing Practices

As the construction industry continues to recover, the need for qualified, skilled workers is quickly becoming a top priority.

In order to reach out to new recruits, construction companies of all sizes are turning to marketing and social media to fill their ever-growing job openings.

Among the tactics being deployed:

• Job Boards – A large majority of recruiters in the construction industry post their jobs on online job boards. Although job boards like Monster and Career Builder cover all kinds of careers, most construction recruiters focus their listings on construction specific job boards such as Careers in Construction and Construction Job Force.

• LinkedIn – Part social media site, part job board, LinkedIn is quickly growing in popularity with construction recruiters. There are currently more than 90,000 construction job openings listed on LinkedIn. This social site allows construction companies to promote their jobs, accept applications, and review qualifications quickly and easily.

• Facebook Outreach – There’s no ignoring the outreach potential of Facebook, which is why construction companies of all kinds are creating Facebook pages to spread the word about their companies and post job openings.

The headline “Construction Industry Officials Warn of Growing Worker Shortage” is just one of the reasons construction companies are boosting their outreach efforts.

Along with the examples above, here are just a few more marketing routes the construction industry is taking….

 

Onsite Marketing

Although online and social media marketing is quickly becoming the norm, traditional marketing still has its place. Construction sites naturally grab attention, which is why construction industry recruits are marketing job openings at their jobsites.

By posting “now hiring” and “help wanted” signs alongside company signs in front of jobsites, construction companies are finding more workers.

A number of companies are including their websites on their signage as well as encouraging workers to follow them on social sites like Instagram and Facebook.

 

Mobile Outreach

Construction recruiters are also turning to mobile marketing; this in an attempt to attract new recruits to the industry.

With SMS marketing, companies are able to connect with potential recruits directly on their mobile devices by sharing short codes that prompt more information on job openings.

Likewise, construction companies are also offering text alerts that notify text campaign subscribers when new jobs become available. This direct line of communication is helping increase outreach to new workers.

Website Job Openings

Tried and true methods are still being used in the construction industry to recruit new workers. This includes construction companies posting job openings directly on their websites.

By including a “work with us” page on their websites, construction companies can feature current job openings, job requirements and qualifications, and even accept digital applications. This makes the construction recruiting process much more streamlined.

When it comes to the recruiting process, the construction industry is finding success through marketing and social media.

How to Become a Marketing Specialist

Close-up of marketing specialist going over data.
Marketing specialists may be born with some of the innate abilities that make them good at what they do, such as being creative and good with people, but there’s also much you can learn in school. If you aspire to be a marketing specialist, your first step is to obtain a degree in marketing. You can also study business or communications. Whatever you choose to study, expect to spend a lot of time training in your individual specialty after college.

Skills and Education

  • All marketing professionals need to be organized and creative, with strong organizational and communications skills. As a marketing specialist, however, you also need skills specific to your particular niche. If you want to specialize in market research, you must be good at crunching numbers and analyzing data. If you want to specialize in brand management or consultant, you need the ability to work effectively with clients. To gain expertise, attend as many marketing events and seminars as you can, and get advice and support from professors and fellow marketers to learn more about your strengths and where you should specialize.

Getting a Job

  • If your university offers recruiting fairs, attend them to network with potential employers. Outside of college, look for entry-level jobs in sales or marketing, either at marketing firms or individual companies that want in-house marketing specialists. Examples of entry-level jobs include assistant brand manager jobs, social media managers and sales associate jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that market research analysts and marketing specialists earned a mean annual wage of $67,780 as of 2013. However, the bottom 10 percent of earners — which likely includes a lot of entry-level professionals — earned $33,490 per year or less.

The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Marketing With Pinterest

It’s very likely that you have a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page set up for your business (and if you don’t, for the love of Pete, do it now). You’ve also probably heard of marketing with Pinterest but are thinking that you don’t have time to devote to it and that it’s completely unnecessary as a social media networking strategy. Well, the good and the bad news is that you can’t afford not to set up a Pinterest account for your business.

Pinterest is now the third largest social network behind Facebook and Twitter (for now, anyway), and the traffic stats are insane. According to Mashable, Pinterest sends more traffic to websites than Reddit, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn. And as you’ve seen in your Google Analytics (you do check that, right?), those sites are nothing to sneeze at – with the exception of Google+, that is.

It may seem like Pinterest came out of nowhere with guns blazing, but it’s actually existed since 2010. The fall of 2011 was when it really started blowing up, and that’s when marketing with Pinterest started becoming a significant part of digital PR strategy. No one knows why exactly it’s one of the biggest social media trends right now. There was no crazy acquisition and no major redesign. Here are our theories:

  • Instagram has become almost as popular as YouTube videos of people falling down. It was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, and it’s now available as an app for Android, making it that much more marketable. Instagram makes it easy for just about anyone to take awesome photos and share them, so the focus on images makes Pinterest even more relevant for users.
  • The focus is on what is shared, not who is sharing it. When you’re friends with someone on Facebook and they post something funny or interesting, you don’t like it because you like them necessarily, but because –  well, because you like it. Pinterest focuses on what is being posted. It’s less personal than a Facebook share or a retweet, but that turns out to be a good thing.
  • Cell phones have amazing cameras in them now, making it super easy to feel like you’re a hotshot photographer. People love sharing the pictures they take.
  • It’s simple, and it looks clean. While there are, of course, ways to make your Pinterest boards and pins stand out from the rest, it’s pretty difficult to make them look bad. This makes marketing with Pinterest significantly easier than with some of the other social networks. Facebook pages and Twitter profiles, for instance, can start to look pretty ugly if you don’t know what you’re doing.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Marketing With Pinterest

Creating Your Account

To get started marketing with Pinterest, create your own account and start experimenting as part of your overall social media networking strategy. Simply request an invite and it’ll guide you through the process. In our opinion, it’s one of the easiest social media setups we’ve seen.  It gives you an option to connect it to either your Facebook account or your Twitter account. Go for the Twitter account, as you can’t connect your Facebook page to your Pinterest account. Don’t worry – you won’t start automatically tweeting what you post on Pinterest.

Follow People

Once you’ve created your Pinterest account, find some people to follow. Simply click on “Find Friends” (it’s a drop-down in the top right-hand corner, below your picture). Then, find your Gmail contacts who are already using Pinterest. You’ll be surprised to find out how many people are already on there.

Create Boards

To see examples, you may want to check out a few boards created by other people, but the concept is pretty simple. The important thing to remember is that the boards do not have to directly relate to your business and should not be all about you. Here are some examples:

  • Web humor
  • Infographics
  • Favorite brands
  • New products

You should really infuse these boards with your own personality. It’s a great opportunity to show that there are real people behind your branding. People dig that. The cool part is that you can easily edit both board names and content, so if you set something up and then realize the next day that it looks dumb, you can totally go in and change it. You can also keep adding boards to your heart’s content. In fact, we recommend doing so. We’re particularly fond of old black and white photos that are in the public domain, like the ones that are in this blog.

What To Pin

Now that you have a few boards, it’s time to start pinning things to them. You can share any sort of content that has an image attached. This includes:

  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Products
  • Fun pictures
  • Quotations

You should have a combination of the following:

  • Uploaded original photos, both from your own website and from other websites (give them props, of course).
  • Images of your products with descriptions and prices attached. A typical product image probably isn’t going to work, because a picture that is 300 pixels wide will be too small to pin. Choose the largest product photos you can from the appropriate URL on your site.
  • We just mentioned this, but it’s worth reiterating. Infographics are great to pin. Pinterest does not limit the vertical length, so awesome infographics are good. They’ll take up space, and people will be more likely to notice them.

Interaction

Like any other social network, interaction is key when it comes to Pinterest. Don’t just pin images from your site and be done with it. Here are the four ways to interact on Pinterest:

1. Follow other users’ boards.

2. Repin other users’ pins.

3. Comment on other users’ pins.

4. Like other users’ pins.

If you really really like something, like it! You can be a bit pickier about what you want to repin, because you want to keep your boards looking spiffy. You also don’t need to comment on the pins of others if you don’t really have something to say.

 

What To Write

While Pinterest is obviously visually based, you should also pay close attention to what you’re putting on your profile and on your pins. Pinterest is actually a great opportunity to utilize your keywords and say something awesome in the meantime. Here are some things to remember:

  • Pinterest gives you 500 characters, but it’s pretty tacky to use all of them. Try to keep things short, sweet and descriptive.
  • Use hashtags to further categorize your pins and make them easy to find. Just like Twitter, you should do some research to find out which ones are the best to use. The hashtags are hyperlinked, so when a user clicks on one, they’ll find all the other pins that use it.
  • If you take an image from a site and want to send users to another site, you can change the URL. Be careful with this one. You don’t want to confuse users, and you don’t want to use other people’s images without crediting them.
  • Use SEO keywords in your descriptions and your profile. Google is now incorporating social networks into its algorithm, so this is an awesome opportunity.
Pinterest Contests

Now that you have everything set up and you’re wasting hours pinning images when you should be writing a blog (which is totally what we did while writing this), it’s time to use Pinterest to its full potential. You’ve probably run Twitter and Facebook contests before (if not, get on the stick), and Pinterest opens up a whole slew of new ways to engage your customer base. Here are a few ways you can run a contest while marketing with Pinterest:

  • pinterest contest winnerHave users create a board showing your products and have them choose the one that looks best.
  • Have users take pictures of themselves along with your product, or have them show a creative way that they’ve used your product. For example, if you have a hot sauce company, have users post pictures of food that they’ve put that hot sauce on. Choose the most creative photo.
  • Create a campaign that tugs at the heartstrings, like a “cutest baby” contest (if you have a business that has anything to do with that).

As you would with any contest, choose a prize that people actually want to win. We’ve all seen one too many iPod Shuffle giveaways in our time. Gift cards are always good, but make sure that they’re worth a decent amount. Contests are one of the most popular social media trends for a reason so go to town.

Tools To Enhance It

There aren’t nearly as many neat tools for Pinterest as there are currently for other social media networking sites, but as Pinterest grows in popularity more will most definitely come out. Here are a couple that we’ve found:

  • PinReach – Similar to Klout, it determines what your total influence is on the network. Klout hasn’t quite caught up to Pinterest yet, so it’s definitely worth it to pay a visit to PinReach to see if you’re headed in the right direction.
  • PinTics – Similar to HootSuite, PinTics allows you to manage multiple Pinterest accounts. HootSuite hasn’t quite caught up to Pinterest – and frankly, the current interface probably isn’t up to it even if they tried – so for now, this is also one that’s worth experimenting with.
What kinds of success has your business experienced as a result of marketing with Pinterest? Are you impressed?

How to Sell Magazine Articles

A freelance magazine writer is a much sought-after position, and for many, it seems like an impossible task. There are things you can do, however, that can make it easier to pitch the right stories to the right places and sell magazine articles.
How to Write Articles for Money

Instructions

  1. Go to the magazine’s website to find out about their contributor’s guidelines. This gives you information on how to pitch to that magazine and what they are looking for.
  2. Look at their editorial calendar. This can give you tips and ideas about when to pitch certain editorial essays to that particular magazine.
  3. Read the magazine thoroughly. You can only sell magazine articles to a particular magazine when you have a good grasp on who they are selling to, the voice of the magazine and the target age of the magazine.
  4. Research some lesser known magazines for your first and second time around. The huge glossy magazines pay well, but they rarely take a chance on an inexperienced newcomer.
  5. Investigate the bylines of the magazine articles. If the names match those staff members listed in the front of the magazine, then the magazine uses few freelancers. The magazine that has a various list of names probably uses freelance writers a lot.
  6. Pitch articles to the right magazine, and use every query letter to sell your story idea and yourself. Be sure to use the same style, either formal or informal, in your query letter, and be sure to keep track of who you send what idea to. Most magazines do not wish to have the same article pitched to them and to two others at the same time.
  7. Check up on the magazines you are interested in writing for, and see if they accept articles in advance. For instance, some magazines start looking for articles about Christmas while most people are sunning themselves on summer vacation. Keep this in mind, and you can sell magazine articles.

Our 10 Favorite YouTube Marketing Campaigns

YouTube marketing is serious business, and if you’re unconvinced then just consider this statistic: in 2011, YouTube had over 1 trillion views. That breaks down to about 140 visits for every person on earth. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

Advertisers who use YouTube for business reasons would love nothing more than for their campaigns to go viral, but when you realize that 72 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, it’s clear that the competition is pretty stiff. What does it take to become a YouTube superstar? Creativity, luck and a little something extra that’s hard to define. Nobody can recite the secret recipe, but we all know magic when we see it. Take a look at these 10 video campaigns, and be dazzled:

10. Yes They Did. “Did Will.I.Am and John Legend just sing me proof of Barack Obama’s awesomeness?” asked millions of twenty-somethings in the weeks leading up to the 2008 election. The celebrity-packed “Yes We Can” music video wasn’t created by Obama campaign officials, but those officials definitely weren’t upset with the result. The video may have even have had a small effect on election results. If that isn’t YouTube marketing success, we don’t know what is.

9. Blended Entertainment. The “Will It Blend?” series of videos, released by Blendtec, lets viewers watch as everyday items are stuffed into blenders and systematically destroyed by rotating metal blades. It’s not hard to see why this YouTube marketing campaign set the social media world on fire. After all, who doesn’t want to see golf balls and cubic zirconium pulverized into powder? That’s right – no one.

8. YouTube’s Got Talent. Everyone’s a critic, a fact that NBC capitalized on last year when it partnered with YouTube to allow viewers to submit their “America’s Got Talent” auditions online. The resultant two-hour TV special earned first-place ratings, and millions of viewers saw Kmart’s ads. But our favorite part? The cringe-worthy auditions. There’s nothing like a little schadenfreude with your orange juice in the morning.

7. The Force Is Strong. If you had a roundish graph that showed Internet addiction percentages as a function of subculture membership, you’d be holding geek pie. So if you want to use YouTube for business reasons, follow our advice and use the force. That’s what Volkswagen did, and their pint-sized Darth Vader went viral faster than Jango Fett’s seismic charges can destroy an asteroid. Yes, we speak geek.

6. The Evolution Revolution. These days we’re inundated with airbrushed magazine photos,  so much so that we don’t even notice anymore. So when Dove’s “Evolution of Beauty” video used time-lapse photography to show exactly how many degrees of separation exist between a real model and her glossy counterpart, women everywhere listened. Think about what happened here. A beauty company effectively managed to make money by pointing out how screwed up the beauty industry is. That’s no easy task.

5. YouTube Loves Cats. Want social media sites to like your YouTube marketingvideo? Here’s a tip: put a cat in it. The fluffier, hungrier or sleepier he is, the better. Anything you do after that is automatically guaranteed to be successful. One of the biggest players in the field of viral cat marketing (that’s Internet videos with kittens, not the trafficking of diseased felines) has to be Skittles. You know, the candy people. Their interactive “Touch the Rainbow” video starts out fun and ends up disturbing – kind of like every visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s.

4. Bear With Us. This YouTube marketing video, “A Hunter Shoots a Bear,” is more genius than it sounds. The reluctant hunter refuses to follow through with the video’s promise, and instead uses Tipp-Ex brand correctional fluid to blot out the violent title. Viewers can type in alternate ideas to unlock different bear-friendly videos. So basically, when you watch the full-grown man shake it in a bear suit, you’ll be learning about Tipp-Ex in the process. Actually, are there any other reasons to learn about correctional fluid? Like we said, it’s brilliant.

3. Pizza-Pocalypse. “Deliver Me to Hell” is a lot less like a series of videos and a lot more like a choose your own adventure story. Created by Hell Pizza, a chain of pizza shops based in New Zealand, the campaign follows a hapless delivery boy as he does his best to survive the zombie-infested streets with his brains and his pizza intact. At several steps along the way, viewers can choose his fate by deciding what to do next.

When the videos were first published, users who made it to the finish line were rewarded with a contest entry for a chance to win a year’s supply of free pizza. Although the contest has since ended, the gory adventure is still up, and it’s sure to zap at least 15 minutes from your work day.

2. Videos With Drive. DC Shoes’ Gymkhana series is not for the faint of heart (or for mothers of teenage drivers). The series follows stunt driver Ken Block as he drifts through hairpin turns, catches wicked air (people still say that, right?) and miraculously manages not to die. It’s easy to see why the fourth video of the series was the most shared video of 2011. It’s hard to take your eyes of of Block’s car even for a second. Since it’s completely plastered in ads, we’re guessing that’s the point.

1. Spice Up Your Life. No discussion of YouTube marketing would be complete without mentioning Mustafa, or as most of us know him, the Old Spice man. Clever copy and flawless delivery made these videos an instant hit, but the interactivity is what really helped them go viral. By incorporating user comments into future videos, Old Spice struck Internet marketing gold. By staging a social media battle between Mustafa and Fabio, they achieved something far more impressive: successful product placement in the dreams of ladies everywhere.

Don’t think you have the creative abilities to outrank these YouTube marketing all-stars? You’re in luck, because on the Internet, terrible videos can go viral even faster than awesome ones. So if you don’t have the budget to hire a stunt-car driver, you can always tack your business’s logo on a bed sheet and hire your drama-queen cousin to film a “Leave Britney Alone” style meltdown. It might just be crazy enough to work.

But if you want to convince the boss that your ability to use YouTube for business campaigns warrants a new promotion, it wouldn’t hurt to run your ideas past a few colleagues first, just to be safe. Remember, what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. Forever.

How to Conduct Public Relations for a Nonprofit Organization

Conduct Public Relations for a Nonprofit Organization
The more visibility a nonprofit has, the more grant dollars it will attract and the more community support it will win. How does a nonprofit’s public-relations person meet this challenge?

Instructions

  1. Communicate – above all else – both internally and externally. Make sure your “internal” public – those in the nonprofit – see the benefits of hiring a PR person when typically the budget is shoestring.
  2. Make sure everyone in the organization understands the organization’s mission statement – and that a large part of your job is to help bring that mission statement to life in the community.
  3. Write your plan. This is one of the most important jobs you can do as a PR person in the nonprofit world. Once you have your plan written, give copies of it to everyone in the organization, including your board of directors.
  4. Prepare your media kit and collateral materials. When you plan is ready to be executed, you will be ready with the press releases, fact sheet, collateral piece on your organization and any other reading material that will allow any lay person to understand your mission.
  5. Generate your media and community lists. Investigate your local media; get to know the media contact people. Send them a letter introducing yourself and ask for a one-on-one meeting. Investigate the high-profile community leaders and do the same with them. The more you know these people, the better stories you will get written about your organization.
  6. Gather your group of volunteers for your organization’s speakers and tours program. Remember the name of the game is visibility. This is so much more easily accomplished when you have representatives of your organization, usually staff members, helping you get the word out. Make sure the people who sign up are comfortable in unfamiliar speaking settings and could handle a speaking engagement or tour at a moment’s notice.
  7. Introduce yourself to your board of directors. Write them a letter with your credentials and let them know of your plan and your PR mission and – most important – enlist their help.
  8. Outline your methods of internal and external communications tools: e.g., newsletters, Web site, public service announcements (PSAs) in print, radio and television. This should lead you right back to your plan.
  9. Measure your success. Give yourself a reasonable timeline to see if all of your efforts have paid off. Pay attention especially to the most apparent results – things like increased grant monies and donations – that are a result of your work.

Picture Better Internal Marketing and Branding

As any company owner knows, employee meetings are key to disseminating information, implementing new projects, and bringing everybody up to speed on ongoing projects.

Meetings are also necessary for public companies that need to open the company to shareholders, companies of all kinds that have a board of directors, and much more.

Even with the proliferation of collaborative software that make it easier for workers in the field to team up with colleagues online, in-person meetings will never lose their place in the corporate environment.

Maximize Meeting Value with Film

One of the best ways to get the most from your meetings is to film them.

This may be an unusual concept if your company has never considered filming meetings before. But there are many benefits to filming company meetings.

As the article, “Filming corporate meetings for internal marketing and branding” notes, it just makes a lot of sense.

Following are just some of the ways that video can enhance the value of your company meetings:

Gain Transparency with Film

When your company films company meetings, you gain corporate transparency.

Anyone who’s interested, or who you grant access to, can view the film and see behind the closed doors of your company culture. This is a powerful tool in this era of transparency.

magine how your company can gain customers’ trust when you publish one or more of your company meetings on your business social media pages.

Film as a Legal Tool

Company meeting tools can serve as an effective legal tool in the case of litigation against your company.

Though this isn’t a good reason to film company meetings, the film being in existence could still serve as proof against possible prosecution, if the need ever arose.

For example, you could prove where an idea for a product originated, that an employee was not abusive (or was), and as general proof of the overall company culture.

Film as a Sharing Tool

Video of company meetings could be used as a way to share information to those who were unable to attend the meeting in person.

If an employee was out of town during the meeting, they could still either stream it or download the file for viewing at a later date.

This would allow them to stay in the loop with more information than any meeting notes could convey.

Film as a Training Tool

Filmed company meetings could be included as part of a training package for new employees.

Trainees could get a better sense of projects that the company is currently working on, who the players are, and how meetings are traditionally run at your company.

Implementing Film at Your Meetings

To implement film at your meetings, it’s best to hire a third-party.

Since it’s their business to film meetings, they would be able to advise you on the practice and let you in on how other companies manage it.

They can typically also provide streaming services for your company meeting videos.

For the latest in internal marketing and branding for your company, consider video for your future company meetings.

7 Reasons Why Article Directories Will Hurt Your Site

Article marketing used to be a very popular SEO technique about 6 years ago. The main idea behind the concept would be that you could write an article on a topic related to your niche and submit it to as many online article directories as you could. It was also possible to use an article “spinner” that would automatically generate unique content based on one unique article that you wrote. You would then get a link back to your site. Article marketing by submitting to directories was very popular back then for a good reason: it actually worked.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case anymore. In fact, submitting articles to various directories, even the popular ones, isn’t just pointless, it can actually harm your site. Here are some reasons why:

1. Your Articles Will Often Be of Poor Quality

The fact is, the majority of people are simply poor writers. And we all know that with the recent algorithm updates, Google frowns upon poor quality content. Some webmasters believe that they can outsmart Google by posting hundreds of articles to various directories and in order to do so, they will hire dirt cheap writers that promise to give them “quality, unique articles” for a low price like $1 each. In most cases, what you will get in return are articles that are so poorly written that you’re left scratching your head as to what the author was trying to mean. Other times, the work will simply be plagiarized, with the “writer” lifting an existing article from the web and changing a few words here and there. Using such articles for SEO is at best a waste of time, at worst a way to incur a severe penalty.

2. Article Directories Themselves are Repositories of Bad Content

Even if you do manage to write highly engaging, unique and interesting content, your articles will be placed on a website where good content quality is the exception, rather than the norm. If you want proof, simply go read other articles on the directory that you’re uploading to.Many will be loaded with spelling and grammar errors. Others will be nothing more than thinly veiled advertisements for whatever website the author is promoting in their links, without giving the reader any useful information. Because of this, search engines like Google tend to have a pretty low opinion of article directories.

3. Article Directories Give a Bad User Experience

Due to the poor quality of the content presented, very few articles in directories will actually be useful to a human reader that is looking for an answer to a question they have, or to gather information on a certain topic they’re interested in. For this reason, Google will give very little value to article directories themselves. If you do a query now, you are very unlikely to find content from directories on the first page, unless you are searching for a very specific and obscure keyword.

4. Duplicate Content Is Bad

Duplicate-Content-Is-BadMost webmasters know that having duplicate content on their own site is very bad for SEO. But so is posting the same article to dozens of different sites with your links in them. In an effort to get around this, some will choose to use article spinning software that will introduce subtle variations within the text to make it appear unique.

This may have worked back in 2009, but doesn’t anymore. Google’s most recent algorithm updates are now able to detect more spun and “nearly identical” content than before. This can lead to your site being penalized in rankings.

5. Too Many Links Within the Content

Rules related to the number of links you may include within your article will vary from one directory to the next. Some will allow only one or two links, while others don’t place a limit on the number that you can include. Some webmasters will abuse this option and fill their articles with links back to their website. The result: the article produced would look unprofessional to a human reader and will bear all the hallmarks of a “made for SEO” piece.

Google is now smart enough to detect excessive links within content, especially placing links where they just wouldn’t make sense to a human reader. Therefore, there are really no SEO benefits to putting a dozen links in your articles and uploading them to a directory.

6. There are Better Places to Post Your Content To

Just because article directories are now mostly dead when it comes to SEO, it doesn’t mean that content marketing is out. Search engines like Google still love high-quality, informative and original content. If you are able to produce such content, or have it produced for you, don’t waste it by uploading it to low quality article directories. There are many places where your content will be very useful and will bring you SEO benefits, in addition to traffic to your own site.

Starting your own blog will definitely still be beneficial, as long as it is updated regularly with fresh content that is related to your niche. You can use social media to further promote your blog posts and bring attention to them.

Another way to take advantage of your content is to become a guest blogger on another website. This will give you the possibility of gaining high-quality backlinks to your site and can even help you build authority in your niche. But you have to be careful about where you make these posts. Blogs that allow anyone to submit posts about anything they want are usually not appreciated very much by Google. Instead, you should build relationships with other webmasters that run a blog which is related to your niche. While very few will be able to get their posts published on a major website like Forbes or Cnet, if you take the time to network, you might be able to become a guest blogger on sites that has a good reputation and is already ranked high in search results.

7. You Will Be Wasting Your Time and Money

You-Will-Be-Wasting-Your-Time-and-MoneyAll the time that you spend creating, buying or spinning articles that end up on article directories, plus all the money you would spend on automatic publishing tools, content spinners, and premium memberships at directories (which actually don’t give you anything useful) can be better spent on things that will actually be beneficial for your site.

You could use the money to develop online advertising and marketing campaigns that will bring actual quality traffic to your site, in addition to helping you become well recognized in your niche if people share your site via social media. You could also use your time to improve various on-site factors, such as creating useful content for your own site or blog, changing your site’s layout to make it more user friendly and easy to navigate, or write newsletters that you would send out to the subscribers of your email list.

Discover The Internet Marketing Techniques Used

Ready to begin with your own internet marketing plan? Do you know where to start or how to begin? Do you know what products will work for you and your business? If you have no clue how to answer these questions, the tips that are listed below are for you.

Signing on with a pay-per-sale affiliate marketing plan is risky but it can pay off. When you have a PPS affiliate, you will only be paid if advertising on your site induces a visitor to make a purchase from the advertiser. This is a rare occurrence. When it does happen, though, the payout can be considerable, possibly even a commission on the product sold.

To be treated fairly, you should avoid web marketing companies that do not pay you a lot. You should compare offers and negotiate. You should expect a bonus of at least 20% on each product that you sell to a customer. Any company offering less is not treating you fairly.

If you have proven yourself a successful affiliate marketer, you should ask for a higher commission from your best affiliates. If you are making consistent sales and using great marketing methods, the company will do what it can to make you happy.

To increase the success of your online marketing, be sure to test products before you advertise them. If you are displeased with the product, it is likely that your customers or subscribers will be as well. Advertising an unsatisfactory product will decrease your credibility and trustworthiness, while advertising a quality product will do the opposite.

Make sure that you like and trust the product you are asking your audience to click on. If you are heavily promoting items that are not good or spamming your page with every type of program imaginable, people will stop coming. It’s your repeat visitors that will make or break you, don’t lose their trust in you.

Do not try to trick your readers, by hiding your financial stake in your links. Your visitors are used to affiliate promotion and they know that you are running a blog or site in order to earn money. Let them know that you will be making money from the links that they click on. They will be more likely to go ahead and click, if you are upfront with them.

To get better results from your affiliate links, use only contextual links. Pages containing contextual links are more likely to garner results from search engines. Visitors are also more likely to click links if the text around them relates to the product. Promoting a product in the text around a link can significantly encourage purchases.

If you have a rapport with the people who visit your website you can boost the performance of web marketing by making personal endorsements. This does not work for all webmasters. If you run the kind of site where visitors get to know and trust you, though, your visitors may respond well to an honest endorsement from you.

Affiliate programs differ tremendously in terms of the services and payment structures that they offer. If one program doesn’t seem to fit your revenue goals, then consider a different one with a different financial arrangement. Although there are many large affiliate networks, don’t forget about the smaller ones as an excellent source of revenue.

Convincing visitors to do surveys on your affiliate site is not easy. Be upfront about the topic and the time they need to spend to complete the survey. As an incentive you may offer coupons to websites related to the topic of the survey and you can also display links and get paid for the purchases your survey takers make.

Is it worth starting an affiliate website when it requires lots of time, money, patience and hard work? Consider affiliate promotion as your ticket to get away from your current pointless, low-paying job. A well designed, professionally operated and managed affiliate website can generate enough income to provide financial freedom to the owner.

With web marketing, there is no best network. There are many favorites, and everyone has their own personal reason as to why they prefer one over the other. You will find that each network is good in its own right. Your network selection should be based on what the network can do for you.

Build up your email list. When readers stop by your site and visit your affiliate link, you get one chance to make a sale. Adding readers to your email list gives you a chance to send follow-up broadcasts and emails telling your customers about your products. This also allows you to tailor your message to each product.

Something that every affiliate marketer should take care to abide by is to always make sure that you disclose your affiliates rights from the start. This will give your visitors a sense that you are on the up and up and can be trusted. Also, they will not feel manipulated later on.

It is important for every affiliate marketer to understand that if you want to make money through affiliate promotion, you must choose a product your visitors will embrace. All the promotion in the world will do very little to sell a product that nobody wants. Take the time to find a products your readers will enjoy.

Keep track of your personal budget to ensure that the web marketing you’re partaking in is actually paying for itself, and your bills. Include server costs, hourly wages for the work you’re doing online, including email creation, and meals eaten while working. This should all be paid for by the commission you’re receiving. If it’s not, you’ll need to rethink your strategies.

Do you know how to begin your own plan now? Can you now find a place to begin with it? Do you know what will work for your business? If you can now provide an answer to these questions, then you have read and understood the previous tips and are ready to make affiliate promotion work for you.

A Marketing Plan for a Software Company

Young female seamstress shopping online

Every marketing plan follows a basic structure that outlines strategies and tactics for pricing, promotions, product and place, but plan content must be tailored according to industry. Regardless of what your software does, a competitor is likely offering similar features — if not now, then he will soon. So tailor your marketing plan to emphasize your customer rather than your product features. Demonstrate how your software makes your customers’ lives easier or better.

Software Differentiators

  • According to veteran technology software marketer Mike Feeley from Austin, Texas, marketing should be targeted to the audience for which the software was built. This relates directly to your product pricing: Software can be very expensive, limiting the target audience. You can’t afford to woo self-employed consultants working from home if your software is out of their price range and better suited for larger companies. However, if your software is on a mobile platform, target the road warriors who depend on their “smart” electronic devices. This expands your customer base to include those willing to spend a few dollars for a mobile software app.

Gathering Users and Early Customers

  • Many technology companies find Beta testers as their “guinea pig” customers, offering their products for free in exchange for user feedback. This is a helpful development tool and a strategy to get early adopters as customers, while getting them to influence other prospective customers. If you’re selling business software, offer a free trial or limited functionality installations that allow users to access some of the features but not all until they purchase the product. You can give the software away to individuals and businesses but charge an annual licensing and maintenance or support fee. You then have customers ready to buy your next version or upgrade.

Differentiate Yourself Online

  • Assume all of your competitors are online in some way, so it’s easy to get lost in a crowded online environment. One way to differentiate your software from your competitors’ is to create “explainer videos.” These allow you to be creative in a field that can be droll without spending a lot of money. Using humor and eye-catching visuals, demonstrate how your software solves real-life problems that your target audience can relate to. Detail upcoming software versions. Hiring a good scriptwriter, voice talent and even an actor are good uses of marketing dollars. Put the videos on your website and social media sites, then conduct regular searches to see if they are shared on other sites you can target in the future.

Become a Thought Leader

  • Build your image as a thought leader by creating a strong online presence through content marketing. This will put you at the top of Internet searches. Write blogs and articles to share on social media and on websites that allow users to post material. Ask a local newspaper if you can contribute a regular column. Also use videos, slide shows and infographics. Vary your topics so you’re not always promoting your product; demonstrate that you identify with challenges your customers face. Use reader feedback to qualify customers for sales leads.

How to Write an Ezine Article

Writing articles for ezines (Internet magazines) is a great way to share your expertise and opinions, build a writer’s portfolio, get your name in circulation and even make some extra money. While writing material for an electronic medium follows exactly the same principles as prepping your work for submission to a hard-copy publication, the turnaround time for receiving a response from an editor and getting “into print” is much faster.

How to Submit an Article to Time Magazine

Instructions

  1. Make a list of topics that really interest you, especially those on which you consider yourself an expert.
  2. Identify websites, ezines and newsletters that publish the kind of articles you want to write. If, for instance, you want to share your travel experiences and tips with fellow minded adventurers, start with a search of “online travel magazines”, “travel newsletters” and “travel sites”.
  3. Study the websites’ content, including their archives, to assess whether your article ideas would be a strong match. Likewise, pay attention to the writing styles (including vocabulary, tone and structure) and whether articles are accompanied by photographs, artwork, charts and/or links to other resources. Your objective is to mimic what the ezine is already doing but also offer something with a fresh spin.
  4. Review the submission guidelines for the ezines you think would be the most receptive to your work. These guidelines address minimum and maximum word requirements, when and where to submit queries and manuscripts, how submissions should be formatted, pay rates and what rights the authors retain.
  5. Determine the best way to frame your article concept under the umbrella of a catchy title. This could take the form of a “How To”, a “Top Tips” list, a checklist, an anecdotal/story approach, an interview format with an individual or panel of experts, or even a review of products and services that appeal to the ezine’s target demographic (i.e., a review of screenwriting software programs for teens who want to write for the movies).
  6. Outline your article prior to actually writing it. Your outline should consist of an introduction that tells readers what the article is about, a body that provides a series of stories or sequential steps that helps readers understand a concept or master a new skill, and a conclusion that reinforces your main ideas.
  7. Use key words throughout your article. Key words – also referred to as “tags” – are significant for search engines to generate hits for your article. Key words also reinforce for the reader the concepts you’re trying to explain. If, for instance, you’re writing an article about playwriting, you’d want to include words that are often associated with this craft; i.e., stage, drama, theater, plays, scripts, actors, etc. Many ezines will ask that you provide tags at the end of your article. You can either come up with this list when you first start your outline (as a way to stay focused) or circle key words during your writing or after you’re finished.
  8. Compose a professional query and proposal that highlights what your ezine article is about, what readers will learn from it, and why you’re qualified to write it. If you’re querying by snail mail, attach a few short samples of your work. If you’re querying by email, refer the editor to your website or links where she can find samples.
  9. Include a brief bio and a link to your website at the end of each ezine article you submit for publication. This will help establish you as a professional in your field. Many ezines are also receptive to modest self-promotion tactics such as a reference to books you’ve written, workshops you’re teaching, or consulting services you provide.

Animated Explainer Videos!

Animated explainer videos are on the boom these days. Every business seeks to look out for explainer Videos Company so that it can have an amazing demo video for its products. But many people seem to get confuse that why they are being given such importance? Why they have become a need of the hour? Why is that so that businesses have made demo videos essential for their products? To all the people out there, who have such confusions, I will help you a great deal in removing your confusions!

Significance of Animated Explainer Videos
Animated explainer videos have gained importance in the recent time since they are so amazing in conveying the message to the audience. The animations, cartoon characters, astounding drawings, background music, moving visuals, voice over, power full images, well written scripts and story; When all of these are blended together in the right proportion, they make a perfect explainer video that successfully communicates the core marketing message to the viewers.

Communicating the Difficult concepts
There are messages that an organization wants to give it to its customers, but the message is somehow complicated and difficult to understand. Now if he simply states that message in article, there is higher probability that readers won’t get the essence of that message. Whereas, if an explainer video is made for conveying that message, then it would definitely work.
Since, the message is supported with animations, vibrant colors, music, drawings, moving visuals that make it attractive for the consumer.

Conversion rates

You can see that the explainer video contributes in increasing the conversion rates which is beneficial for your business.

Length of the Video
Your animated explainer video has to be so impressive and impactful. It can’t be too long. The ideal explainer video is of 60-90 sec. Videos that are shorter than that, lack the briefing about the features of the product and the longer ones tend to exhaust the customer.

Perfect Blend
One thing that is really important to remember is that people these days are so much in hurry. They really don’t give a watch to those things that bores them or that lack interesting factors. You have to come up with such animated explainer video that really amazes them; well written story and script , the use of images should be appropriate, the music should go with the situations of the video, the voice over should be done by professional artist, the message should be brief, concise and to the point, the animations should be perfectly synced together with the illustrations.

Explainer video gives opportunity to the new businesses to tell people about their arrival and to the old businesses to put a reminder to the people about their presence. It gives an extraordinary opportunity to the business professionals to add and retain the customers. It depends on them how well they use it. If all the ingredients of explainer video are mixed properly, then it can surely create a magic! Magic that would last for a long time in the consumer’s mind!!!!

Selfie advertising: is this the next big thing?

Today’s technology means we can live fast-paced lives filled with things to do and pictures to take. But did you know that the selfies are now the norm? People won’t go anywhere without their phones and the ability to take a selfie and post it online. In fact, it is so normal that we don’t even question it when our friend posts a hundred pictures of themselves online. Now, your business can actually use selfies to advertise. Selfie advertising may just be the next best way to reach out to new customers.

Kind of like word of mouth

We already know the most effective way to get new customers is through word of mouth advertising. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then you’ll be getting a lot out by advertising through images. One way to do this is through an ad campaign where you offer a prize for the best selfie including your image in it, or something to that extent. Posting these on social media will mean you have engaged current customers (which is always something to strive for), and all their friends get a chance to see your product. Even if you offer a service rather than a product, you can still offer a prize based on selfies using a hashtag with your company name in it. As a growing portion of your customer base is taking selfies and watching each other on the internet, you’ll be able to reach out to more of your audience than ever before.

Personal recommendation

If you see your friends have it, you’ll want it, and if you already know someone who likes it, you will use it. This is the basic idea behind selfie advertising and showing people what you do and what companies you like to use. This is a powerful tool that is especially useful for pay per call campaigns where affiliates are responsible for finding the customers to call your business. As an affiliate, your job is to find as many new customers are possible for other businesses, and what better way than to actually show off the product or service in a selfie?

How much longer will it last?

With some advertising, you only have a short window of opportunity. You may be wondering how much longer people will actually use the selfie. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the selfie may not always be the crazed trend it is now, but it will probably never go away. We’ve already gotten too much invested into our pictures and smartphones that make it easier than ever. Even if it isn’t the best method of marketing forever (nothing ever is), you will be able to reach a lot of new customers for now.

Lead Nurturing a Smarter Way for Deepening Relationship with Prospects

The success of any business: Lead nurturing
Undoubtedly, leads form to be an essential part and asset behind the success of any business. Leads act as a lifeline for smooth functioning and operations in an organization. One cannot imagine his or her business without leads. Hence, it becomes a key requisite for companies to pitch in right and accurate set of leads to convert them into potential customers. Once B2B lead generation process gets accomplished with the help of lead generation companies, it becomes a prime responsibility of companies to manage their leads properly. Lead management or lead nurturing refers to a marketing terminology for developing relationships with potential customers irrespective of their need for product or service.

The attitude and behavior of companies matters greatly in maintaining the relationship with one’s leads. Organizations should not view leads as cash cows. There is something more beyond it. By showing concern, importance and giving to leads, one can nurture the leads effectively. However, there are several companies who fail to implement the process of B2B lead nurturing accurately. Thus, explore some essential steps for lead nurturing.

Lead Nurturing: Deepening Relationship with prospects

1. Acquire quality leads and prospects:
The sales funnel in your company should only comprise those leads that can be converted to actual customers in coming time. Hence the database should be filtered out with redundant entries that are not profitable for companies.

2. Response generating email:
An email should be drafted in such a way that elicits response from the client. The content included in email should contain relevant information with respect to company, product or service. Moreover a stipulated date and time should be mentioned within which the response should be availed.

3. Promises are valuable:
Companies should not miss to keep their promises made with the leads at the time of contacting them. Hence, do not miss to make a slightest of delay.

4. Tempting offer to attract upon:
Content plays a vital role in luring your leads towards you. The offer made should have something valuable and useful for them to explore. Come up with a unique content in the offer given so that it enables the company to position well in their minds.

5. Explore customer’s tastes and interests:
Leads get easily impressed when their needs, interests and likings are given a great amount of consideration and value. While communicating with your leads, it is wise to explore their interests. It is good to pay attention while the customer is speaking out. Save this valuable information and utilize it for qualifying them.

6. Give special treatment to your customer:
It is essential to make your lead feel comfortable and valuable. In order to do so, provide your lead with a twitter address, direct phone connect, web URL, etc…

7. Maintain constant touch:
Request the lead for their additional contact information with respect to email address, phone number, etc… for better connectivity and communication.

8. Give a special deal:
On exploring a specific interest or liking of the lead, it is great to offer them with white paper or an ebook.

9. Ask for a referral:
As the conversation is about to close, it is good to ask the lead for a referral contact. This will ultimately leave the lead with a thought of concern and response.

3 Most effective ways for online lead generation

Online lead generation is a concept that comes from the traditional marketing where you have to attract and capture the attention of your target audience in order to generate sales for that product or service.

As of now we are living in a modern world where everything is going online and that’s the reason why the importance of lead generation marketing can’t be ignored. Now it is very important for the companies to make their digital presence because buyers are looking and searching for them through search engines and social media.

So the 3 effective ways for online lead generation can be considered as a low cost, durable and long term solutions for customers.

1. Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is always a primary strategy for the leading marketers because it gives tremendous results in terms of online leads generation. This might be because of the consumer involvement that searches for the particular product or service every day. Major portion of SEO lead generation techniques is through Organic searches, improvement in ranking in search engines can results in a more visibility to the global visitors which results in more leads generation.

Multinational Organization uses many SEO techniques to became spotlighted but the most effective, result oriented and customer centered approach that marketers put their emphasis upon is content marketing. SEO methods are cost effective because you don’t have to pay any money for advertisement and for clicks.

2. Social Media Marketing

Presence in all the digital mediums is very crucial in order to get success in online lead generation and for that social media plays a very vital role because you actually participate and talk to your customers, you develop relationship with them. Companies can share their latest developments with the customers and in return customer’s queries can be resolved with absolutely no cost.

Social media is a very comprehensive communication channel, Organizations are now using social media for MLM lead generation, Which means that the companies are using your friends, relatives or somebody you know to refer the product and services. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are a free where Organizations make their pages and link it to their websites to start interacting with consumers. Social media pages and websites are updated regularly and traffic is gone through social media to Companies website which eventually results in Lead generation.

3. Email Lead generation

Email Lead generation is an old but effective method which is sometimes underestimated, but leading companies gives it lots of importance. This is because it’s a personalized method where you can interact with the customers individually and can convince them buying your product or services. Surveys also indicated that email marketing also effects positively on consumer buying behavior, because its sets up their minds before they go for the shopping.

One of the major benefits of Email lead generation is that it can get you to the specific targeted audiences which are more likely to be your customers because of their interest, likeness or age etc.

These methods of online lead generation discussed above are used excessively by most of the successful organization of the world, these methods are considered economical, effective and produce long lasting results.

I’m 36 years old from Milwaukee,WI married for 14 years with a ten year old daughter and one on the way.I love helping people where they need it most. I believe if you help others get what they want you in return get what you want. ://onlineleads.joindanabogan.com/

How to Become a Journalist for National Geographic

National Geographic pays writers and photographers competitively for their work.

National Geographic magazine was created by the National Geographic Society in 1888. In the decades since, the magazine has developed a loyal readership intrigued by its in-depth articles and eye-catching photos covering everything from the wonders of nature to the history of humankind. If you would like to be a part of National Geographic as a writer or photographer, review the writer’s guidelines for its publications.

National Geographic Magazine

  • Of all the National Geographic magazines, this will be the toughest publication to write for because there is so much competition for jobs. According to the magazine’s website, many of its writers have studied the sciences, journalism and English. Some have also studied several languages. Most have extensive experience working for newspapers or magazines. If you seek a staff position as a writer, you will likely need expertise in some of these areas as well as prior experience in journalism. To search for a job as a journalist, go to the National Geographic website and click on these links in order: general, jobs, and career opportunities.

Write for National Geographic Traveler

  • National Geographic Traveler is published eight times a year. It looks for stories on locales that most travelers will go to on vacation – not just wealthy travelers. For staff writer positions, go to the National Geographic website and click on these links in order: general, jobs, and career opportunities. Unlike National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Traveler does encourage queries from freelance writers. The magazine prefers articles on national and state parks, historic places, train trips, cruises, driving trips and undiscovered places. According to the magazine’s website, writers should “see destinations with fresh eyes and real insight. We place a premium on surprise and good storytelling.” Unsolicited articles are discouraged. Write one or two well-developed proposals that do not exceed one page each. Send it with resume, writing samples and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Query Editor.

Take Photos for National Geographic Traveler

  • National Geographic Traveler has staff photographer positions available from time to time. To find out what’s available, go to the National Geographic website and click on these links in order: general, jobs, and career opportunities. National Geographic Traveler also encourages queries from photographers. Assignments are not made to photographers who cannot provide evidence that their published work was taken on assignment. The publication suggests you hone your skills by viewing Glimpse.org. When you feel ready, select the story idea for your photo. Next, create a portfolio that includes no more than 100 photos that you took on assignment. This will demonstrate you can meet the requirement of the publication’s writer’s guidelines. Submit your portfolio to one of the photo editors and send it along with a SASE.

National Geographic Kids

  • Published 10 times per year, National Geographic Kids magazine is for ages six to 14 years of age. To see if staff writer positions are available, go to the National Geographic website and follow the same instructions included in Sections 1 and 2 above. If you want to get your foot in the door as a freelancer, you will need the expertise to write articles on natural history, science, history and geography. The staff will assign most stories to you. However, you can pitch fun ideas. Just think from a kid’s perspective. Unsolicited manuscripts and phone queries are not accepted. Send a query letter of 250 words with a headline. Queries by mail should be sent to the Science Editor, Associate Editor or Editorial Assistant. You can send your photography pitches to the photo director.

3 Essentials of Building a High-Quality Website from a Scratch

Building a website is a venture which never quite ends; there is always something to improve, to enhance, and to add new content. However, laying the foundation right will make all the work much easier. The three essential points of kicking off a successful website are its hosting, domain and content.

Picking a domain

Without a domain it would be hard for people to find your website. If you’re not sure what that actually is – “google.com” or “amazon.com” are domains. It’s important to choose a domain name which describes the theme of your site well; for example, if you’re setting up a small business website, the name should reflect the business you’re into and be memorable. However, you’ll soon discover that plenty of simple and good domains are already taken, so you’ll have to get creative. We suggest you try to avoid hyphens – websites spread via word-of-mouth and people are more likely to remember your domain incorrectly if it contains hyphens or digits; you should, thus, make the spelling as simple as possible.

But does not necessarily mean that shorter domains are a better choice; sometimes even a long domain name can be remembered easily if it’s catchy enough. There are also numerous domain extensions such as .com, .org, .net, .info and so on. The most frequent is the .com and we suggest using either that one (or .org if you’re building an association’s website or something along those lines). Domains are usually purchased on a period of one, five, or even ten years – once you decide upon a domain, be sure to renew it annually – you’d be surprised how many established sites forget to renew their domains, which can cause significant trouble if somebody else purchased it in the meantime – often with a goal to sell it back to the original owner for a hefty price.

Appropriate content

This may seem like a no brainer, but there are plenty of sites whose content is either unrelated to their main topic to a high degree or, even worse, there is little content at all. What is your website about? What information your visitors seek? Is that information clearly presented to them? These are the main questions you should ask yourself when writing content. Don’t ever plagiarize or copy content from other websites as your site will lose allcredibility (you’ll have a lawsuit on your hands in a worst case scenario), people will not take you seriously and even search engines will shun you as their algorithms can distinguish original from plagiarized content. Be sure to update the site regularly – new content on a regular basis will create a base of regular visitors and attract new ones. If the site hasn’t been updated for a while, it will seem abandoned and obsolete.

Hosting

Hosting companies provide you with online space on which your website will be stored. There are two basic types of hosting – free hosting and paid hosting. People who don’t have previous website-building experience often ask: why should I pay for hosting, when I can obviously get it for free?

Well, free hosting providers earn money by putting advertisements on your website. These advertisements are most often unrelated with the topic of your website and make it seem cheaper (and unprofessional, if it’s a business site). They are also often flashy and decrease the aesthetic value of your site’s design. Free hosting is not as reliable as paid hosting when it comes to downtime, that is, the amount of time your website won’t be accessible because the server which hosts it crashed. If you’re serious about your website, we strongly suggestgetting a decent hosting which guarantees constant uptime, has a customer service and is completely ad-free.

What is a Step and Repeat & Why Does Your Business Need One?

Step and repeat banner panel

What is a step and repeat banner? It’s the backdrop thing with logos on it that you see behind celebrities in pictures at red carpet events – or at least, that’s its technical definition.

We prefer the marketing-specific explanation: step and repeats are an inexpensive way to increase brand awareness by getting your logo and company name featured in the backgrounds of images that’ll be used everywhere, from newspapers to Facebook profile pics. A step and repeat banner also adds a distinctly hip factor to any event, and gives off the impression that you represent a legit company. If you’ve got a step and repeat, your shindig is officially swanky – and worthy of Instagramming selfies from.

You don’t need to roll out the red carpet for a step and repeat to work its magic – they’re just as useful at trade shows, conventions, demo days, grand openings and every other kind of event that you want your company to have a real presence at.

Here’s everything you need to know about finding, buying and using the perfect step and repeat for your business.

How Much Do Step and Repeat Banners Cost?

For the purpose of comparison, let’s assume that you’ll purchase the smallest standard size banner: 8′ x 8′. You can expect to pay between $98 and $500. Why the big spread? The price will be dictated by the quality of the step and repeat you choose, as well as its material. When it comes to the material, you’ve got two primary choices: vinyl or fabric.

Vinyl is both the most common and the most inexpensive. Its major drawback is that it can give off a glare from camera flashes, though some manufacturers offer what’s called “matte vinyl” that helps mitigate the problem. The glare issue can also be addressed through your choice of lighting and ink, which we’ll discuss below. Vinyl can also crease and wrinkle, which will give off even more glare (and look like the step and repeat equivalent of linen pants that’ve been worn on a hot and humid 8-hour bus ride).

Fabric, on the other hand, will never reflect light – unless you go for some sparkle-woven monstrosity. And depending on the material, it can even be 100% wrinkle-free.

Stickers-Banners sells a vinyl backdrop for $98. StepandRepeat.com offers a fabric backdrop that comes with a stand for $550. Event Step and Repeatconveniently combines a vinyl backdrop, stand and fancy red carpet for $295. If you want to go crazy, you can even order custom red carpets that feature your branding (although it’s unlikely that the carpet will make it into many images, so feel free to skip this add-on).

What You Should Look For When Buying a Step and Repeat

There are several key points you want to consider when you buy a backdrop, and you should make your decision based on what will get you the most mileage out of your step and repeat. If you’ve got a bigger budget, you may even want to buy several options to rotate through, depending on the space limitations of the events you attend.

Size

The standard height for a backdrop is 8′, and the width can be customized to your preference (the widest we found without going custom is 16′, but there’s really no limit). Another alternative to a traditional step and repeat is a 4′ x 8′ panel stand with your company’s logo and information printed on it – this will fit in more spaces, but unless you’re only taking close-up photos you’ll be able tosee the edges of the backdrop.

Reasons to spring for a wider step and repeat:

  • You’re less likely to see the edges of the backdrop in images
  • They allow multiple people (or even groups!) to be photographed at once
  • They provide a striking visual at your event – think the entrance “wow” factor

Reasons to go for a smaller step and repeat:

  • They fit in smaller spaces, like behind your booth at a trade show
  • They’re more portable
  • They’re more affordable

We often say that the best of two options is usually both, unless the they’re mutually exclusive. If choose a panel design for your step and repeat (like the image at the top of this post), you can combine two or more to form a wider step and repeat. If space is tight, you can opt to set up only one panel.

Logo

The main consideration is that your logo be small enough to fit – readably – in the frame, regardless of the number or height of the people being photographed. This usually results in logos that’re 9-11 inches wide and 5-7 inches tall, set in a repeating pattern across the full length of the backdrop.

Color

Ink is far more reflective than the white vinyl itself, so the more white space you leave, the less you’ll have to worry about glare. And in most cases, that white isn’t actually white – the pros recommend that you ask for a slight grey tint instead to further reduce glare (don’t worry, it’ll still appear white in the photos). If you prefer that your background have some color to it, go with fabric – that much ink will be wildly reflective on vinyl. Whatever color you choose, make sure you pick one that will help your subjects pop off of the background.

Ease of Assembly

The last thing you want to be struggling with at an event is the setup of your step and repeat (and you definitely don’t want it to crash on people). When buying a backdrop, consider the ease of assembly and quality of the stand that will be supporting it. Have you ever tried to put together an IKEA filing cabinet? That’s not the kind of experience you want to have with every setup and takedown.

Portability

Most step and repeats will roll up nicely for storage, and if you can get your hands on a carrying case it may be worth the extra cash to keep your backdrop clean and wrinkle-free. And can you even carry it yourself, or will you need help? You’re going to be schlepping this package around airports and convention centers, so make sure you can get it from Point A to Point B on your own if you don’t expect to have help on hand.

Why Should Business Owners Invest in Step and Repeat Backdrops?

They provide free advertising for your brand. Location, location, location – that’s what you’ll get with a step and repeat banner bearing your company’s branding. How? It’s prime advertising real estate as Facebook and Twitter profile pictures, which often remain in place for months at a time. Or even just as general photos that’re uploaded to profiles – they tend to get a lot of engagement (read: eyeballs). Social media users like to see and be seen, and a red carpet-esque shapshot says, “Check out my enviable social and professional life!” While making their friends jealous, they’ll also be promoting your business.

They can give you expensive photos on the cheap. A step and repeat is also a clever way to get recognition for your business from whomever poses in front of it. Grab pictures with thought leaders, industry executives and/or celebrities in front of your backdrop, and you’ll walk away from the event with images you’ll use for years to come.

They make your company stand out at trade shows. Step and repeats – or smaller standup banners if the space is limited – make for impressive backdrops to your booth or table at trade shows and conventions. You’ll look more professional, attract more people to your space and earn the envy of other exhibitors. You don’t want to have to say, “Look for my competitor’s huge backdrop, I’m three booths to the left of it…” when telling people where your booth is – and we’ve actually heard people say that at trade shows before.

They provide a fantastic return on investment. You’re going to own a giant advertisement that people actually want to spread around for you, so the possibilities for using it will begin to pop up all over your radar. Charity events that you co-sponsor, grand openings, trade shows, conferences – if there will be camera-happy people present, your step and repeat should be there as well. Plus, you can use the same one for years (you’ll only have to buy a new one if you lose your old one or rebrand your business).

Pro Tips for Buying and Using a Step and Repeat Banner

1.) If your budget is limited, get another company to help you pay for it. You’ll notice that many events feature multiple sponsor logos on the same backdrop (like the above pic of the Cartier/Mercedes-Benz banner). Want to save some money on yours? Offer to feature complementary companies’ logos on it in addition to your own, and see if you can split the cost. Co-branded step and repeats are less likely to be reused, though, so keep in mind that this will likely be a one-and-done purchase.

2.) Don’t skimp on the lighting. If you’re opting for vinyl, the best way to avoid glare is to provide ample lighting yourself, which will discourage photographers from using their own camera’s flash. Professional umbrella lights are ideal. Remember: the better the people look in their photos, the more likely they’ll be to share them. Consider hiring a professional photographer who will make sure that the lighting is right and the subjects of the photo look amazing. Encourage people to like your company’s Facebook page on the spot by telling them that the images will be uploaded en masse after the event.

3.) Preserve your investment. Trust us – keep your backdrop rolled neatly in a case when it’s not in use. If you don’t store or transport it correctly, you’ll end up with wrinkles and stains (which can be difficult to get out). You want your step and repeat to be clean and crisp, just like your image.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to get the most out of attending trade shows and other events, check out TCF’s free Guide to Marketing Your Business at Trade Shows. Traveling and tickets to these shindigs aren’t cheap, and this guide will help you squeeze out every dollar of ROI possible.

SEO Crisis: User Experience vs. Backlinks

Over at Entrepreneur, Jayson DeMers wrote a controversial SEO guide that is technically correct, but potentially misleading to small businesses. His thesis is pretty straightforward: “The happier your users are when they visit your site, the higher you’re going to rank.” Simply put, you don’t need advanced technical skills to do SEO right. Just create great content, lower your bounce rate, and watch your rankings rise.

He suggests that the key to successful SEO campaigns involves six points:

  1. Great user experience
  2. Quality content
  3. Being recognized as an authority
  4. Social media marketing
  5. Building your local reputation
  6. Using modern content management systems

Those are six great pieces of advice for any SEO campaign. They’re also overly simplistic to the point where small businesses end up a bit confused. Doesn’t every recent SEO article also say, backlinks are still a major ranking factor? Are we to believe they will magically appear when great content is produced?

Understandably, people, particularly small business owners, so badly want to believe this is true. After all, it’s easy to believe a lie you really want to believe. SEOs’ jobs would be so much easier if we didn’t need to worry about XML site maps or diagnosing site crawl issues, or earning great backlinks. Unfortunately, the thesis here – that SEO boils down to making your users happy – is true, but it’s not the most immediate issue for many small business websites.

“Ultimately, there’s only one motivation that drives Google: the experience of its users,” DeMers says.

Hey, I wish I could believe that, too. I wish I could believe that Google, in its infinite benevolence, sits around Silicon Valley dreaming up ways to make its users’ lives better, rather than trying to maximize their advertising revenue and coming up with new ways to spin the message that all you need to succeed at SEO is great content, low bounce rates, and happy thoughts. But when I look back on our most successful SEO campaigns, I can think of dozens of technical skills we needed to get that Page One ranking, including great backlinks we earned along the way.

Picking Keywords is Part Science and Part Art

If anyone tells you focusing on keywords doesn’t matter anymore, they are over-simplifying too much. Honing in on the right keywords is still a crucial first step in any campaign, but it involves a lot more than picking out the most searched keywords from a list and a title tag adjustment.

The best SEO companies know how to pick keywords that small businesses can actually afford to target. And that means breaking down the numbers for them, including the cost of PPC campaigns for that search term and the amount of money it will take to see traction on their keywords. If you don’t know how to pick the right keywords and manage expectations, you can easily bite off more than your client-particularly a small-business client who’s depending on you to do SEO right-can chew.

technicaldifficulties

Technical Skills are Just as Important as Ever

Entrepreneur is hardly the first publication to suggest that you don’t need to know coding languages, like HTML or CSS, to practice good SEO. Again, that’s mostly true, but let’s see what Moz has to say. Rand Fishkin breaks down exactly why this is not the end of the story:

“First off, there’s no acknowledgment – and I find this a little disturbing – that the ability to read and write code…can take your SEO efforts to the next level…So being able to look at a web page, view source on it, or pull up Firebug in Firefox or something and diagnose what’s going on and then go, ‘Oh, that’s why Google is not able to see this content. That’s why we’re not ranking for this keyword or term…It’s because it’s loading it after the page from a remote file that Google can’t access.”

Then, there are the regular adjustments that surprise Penguin and Panda updates will require. And yes, most modern CMS platforms make designing and updating a website simpler than ever, but does the average small business owner have the skills to ensure their site is optimized for mobile devices, too? A decisive 83 percent of consumers expect local businesses to have mobile-friendly sites. And with more people searching for those businesses with their phones, anyone who lacks the coding skill to redesign a website will fall behind, and fast. That means you’re failing a very basic SEO test because you lack technical expertise, to say nothing of the more advanced SEO tests you’ll have to pass on your way to Page One.

Just Write Great Content!

Since at least 2012, Chicken Littles have been warning that the “content bubble” was about to pop, raining destruction down on search marketers the World Wide Web over. But, I think most of us would agree that content remains one of the most effective digital marketing strategies in our toolkits, period. Unfortunately, the content naysayers are right about one thing: there is a lot of content on the Web in 2015.

How often have you heard the advice, “Just write great content?” Again, this is wishful thinking. First, most people lack the writing skills to produce engaging content on their own, to say nothing of crafting the perfect headline and the most clickable meta description. Plus, too many people forget that not all content is written. Few people have the time, skills and desire to design an eye-grabbing infographic, produce a video or organize live-streaming webinars.

ux-backlinks-cartoon

Social Media Marketing: If it were Easy, Everyone Would Have 10,000 Followers

No matter what you’ve heard, it’s not enough to just write great content. Without an effective marketing plan in place, that content will disappear within hours under a mountain of similar content. This philosophy of SEO seems to follow the Field of Dreams approach to content marketing. If you build great content, they will Tweet it. Nope.

A solid promotion strategy is an SEO requirement. You need a network of social media followers already in place. Plus, you need to know how to effectively market that content without getting flagged as a spammer or unfollowed by Joe Facebook, who thinks you’re posting too much: a delicate balance for even the most experienced SEO experts.

More than likely, most business owners don’t realize that after all the hard work to build a strong Facebook and Twitter following, posts aren’t always visible to all of their followers. Add “learn about promoted posts/Tweets and figure out how to set up campaigns” to the list of technical SEO skills.

The Big Picture

Finally, it has never been easier to track the results of an SEO campaign – if you know how. Without the experience that comes from running hundreds, even thousands of SEO campaigns, all that data is just noise. Sure, you can write great content, lower your bounce rate, and provide a great user experience. But will that help you identify the problem when you suddenly see a surge in traffic from spammers? Will that help you figure out exactly why you aren’t seeing any traction on a particular keyword? No. The insight that comes from managing and analyzing many campaigns simultaneously is essential to troubleshooting problems (and there will be problems).

Conclusion

While it is true that focusing on the user experience will greatly improve your chances of ranking, it is also true that this oversimplification is confusing to small businesses. A focus on the end user will help you build better content, which is required for great SEO in 2015. But so is a technical understanding of onsite SEO, and attention to the continuing importance of backlinks.

Put Videos to Work in Promoting Your Small Business

Are you using video to promote your small business?

No matter what kind of small business you run, video is a powerful promotional tool.

Just what can video do for your business, and how can you make the best of it?

Advantages of Using Video in Your Business

Video is a worthwhile investment for your small business.

Video is a dynamic way of getting your message across. Your customers are subjected to a lot of marketing messages every day; a well-planned video can help your business stand out from the crowd.

Some of the advantages of video include:

  • Putting a face to the name – Video is a good way to show the human side of your business, especially if you feature real team members;
  • Showcasing benefits – A video lets your customers see for themselves what makes your business stand out;
  • Telling a story – You can use video to tell a story, gaining and keeping your customers’ attention as the story unfolds;
  • Eliciting a reaction – Whether you want to inspire trust, hope, happiness, security or any other feeling in your customers, video can help you do it;
  • Creating a connection – Video can be as informative, emotive or entertaining as you like, creating a connection between your business and your customers.

How to Create a Winning Business Video

The advantages of video for your small business are clear. But how do you go about creating a winning business video?

The good news is that you don’t need to hire a video production company and a troupe of actors.

Those are certainly options if you have the budget and want to add that extra polish to your video. However, a simple video camera (or digital camera with video capability) is sufficient.

The first thing your business video needs is a message. What do you want the viewers to take away from it?

Focus on what will be most useful or entertaining for them.

A simplified history of your business is unlikely to grip them, but a demonstration of how your business can improve their lives will.

Choose one clear message and focus on conveying that. Trying to pack too much into one video is a common mistake, and leads to confusion.

Once you know what you want to say, say it clearly and well.

Plan-out your video using a script, storyboard, or flashcards to highlight the main points.

Choose a place to film where you are guaranteed good light, pleasant surroundings and a minimum of noise and interruptions.

 

Choosing a Video Hosting Service

The article “The Amazing Rise of Beauty Videos” says that businesses who want to stand out from the competition need to post some videos on YouTube.

YouTube is certainly one of the most popular video hosting services. It’s easy to use and has a large and active user base of 1 billion unique visitors a month. But what about other video hosting sites?

Take a look at:

  • Vine videos are only six seconds long. It sounds daunting, but in fact a short video (or a series of them) is an excellent way to distil your main point and create something memorable;
  • Google Hangouts offers a Hangouts On Air option for if you want to live stream a video;
  • Instagram’s 15-second videos offer a little more space and flexibility than Vine. Instagram has an active community of 300 million users;
  • Vimeo is a smaller community, with a very creative and artsy focus.

YouTube is undoubtedly a good choice for your small business video, but these alternatives each have their benefits too. Compare them and see which best fits with your video style and small business aims.

If you want your message to connect and make a lasting impression, it’s time to start using video to promote your small business.

RealWebMarketing :Testing in Marketing

Years ago, I cut my teeth in marketing in the direct marketing arena. That’s a figurative expression of course. When I started in marketing, I already had teeth. But what I mean is that I learned how to do marketing, by working in direct marketing.

Direct marketing is a term referring to marketing where you are offering something, and you are asking the person to respond right now, and you carefully track that response. Usually by buying a product or service right now. But there might be a step or two before the buying happens, like you might offer some sort of soft offer like a free report on the topic of the product or service. But the point is, in direct marketing, you track the level of response.

Originally direct marketing referred mainly to direct mail, or to display advertising. But the key was that you tracked the response rate very exactly. That meant you had to know exactly which direct mail piece or which ad the person was responding to. You usually did that with 4-digit codes associated with each individual piece.

I read books on direct marketing, where the idea was that you tested things. You tested different offers, different ad copy, different headlines, different graphics, different headlines on the outside of the envelope, different pictures. And guess what you did when you tested something? That’s right, you tracked the results.

You can test 5-6 campaigns, or two dozen campaigns, carefully track your results, and invariably one or two of them will perform far beyond all the others. And that’s even if all your campaigns are based on survey results. But guess what? If you only run one campaign, you may get one of the winners, or one of the losers. Chances are, you are not going to get a home run on the first try. But if you test a bunch of different approaches, you increase your odds astronomically.

I was reading a book by Perry Marshall recently, and he said “It wasn’t a failure, it was a test.” I think this is the proper attitude to have in marketing. You have to test multiple things, and you can’t just run one campaign and that’s it.

And you have to have a good ration of humility to work in marketing, direct or otherwise. Because sometimes we thought we had the most brilliant idea that ever came down the pike, but it bombed miserably. And other times we had an idea we thought was OK, and that idea hit the ball out of the park. And you have to base your decisions, when you are evaluating different promo pieces or different campaigns, on the response statistics.

These days, people still do direct mail, and it still works. But the trackable promotional medium of all trackable promotional mediums, is Google AdWords. AdWords allows you to test a bunch of marketing ideas and approaches against each other, all at once. And you can know how each ad did, how each keyword did, how each landing page did, and what your cost per lead was. You can test different ad headlines, different copy in the first line of the ad and in the second line of the ad, different landing pages, different offers, different pictures, different color schemes.

Some people make the mistake of testing a couple things on AdWords, getting something that works OK, and just leaving it. That isn’t applying testing very well. You have to go for continuous improvement. If you do that, you will eventually get your cost per conversion down and start to dominate your market.

In direct marketing, you have one piece, or one ad/landing page combination, that is your best performing one. In direct marketing speak, that is called your “control.” You should always be trying to beat your control, by replacing it with a new ad and landing page that works even better. Continuous improvement is where it’s at. That means continuous testing, and basing decisions on the results.

Job Description of a Social Media Administrator

Businesspeople sitting around conference table with social media words around them.
A social media administrator serves as the brains behind an organization’s social media platforms. He writes and curates content designed to engage followers and promote the brand in a positive manner. A combination of marketing skills and social media expertise is required to do the job well.

Job Duties

  • The social media administrator creates and executes social media campaigns to promote the brand. She conducts research to see what competitors are doing and to learn popular trends to incorporate into the strategy. To ensure customer satisfaction, she must respond to complaints, questions and comments left on the company’s social media pages in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition, the social media administrator continuously monitors site analytics to see what types of content followers respond to the most and adjusts the strategy accordingly.

Qualifications and Experience

  • A social media administrator should be a creative thinker with a passion for social media. Extensive experience using popular platforms is a must, combined with a desire to keep up with current social media trends. Excellent writing skills and the ability to connect with key influencers is an important aspect of the job, to create engaging content and properly promote it. To be considered for a job as a social media administrator, you typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications or a similar field and a minimum of five years in marketing.

Work Environment

  • A social media administrator usually works in a traditional office environment. Although he typically works standard office hours, he is often expected to stay connected to the company’s social media pages on nights, weekends and holidays to help monitor and track customer questions, comments and concerns across time zones.

Average Salary and Opportunities for Advancement

  • According to the Indeed job site, the average salary of a social media administrator is $41,000 per year as of 2014. Advancement opportunities include moving into a social media director or supervisory position. Because social media is usually part of the marketing department, the administrator may also have the option to move into other marketing roles.

7 Secrets of Professional SEO Article Writers

SEO blogs and articles are a really, really important part of our online PR services and social media management. At The Content Factory, we write around 40 SEO blogs and articles per week for our clients — not including landing pages — and each one helps drive traffic to their websites. Regularly posting fresh content on your site is one of the easiest ways to introduce potential customers or clients to your brand.

Of course, you can’t just throw a bunch of words on a page and expect people to come running. Pro SEO article writing services know that if you build it, they will come…but only if you build it the right way.

Here are the 7 secrets of professional SEO article writers:

  1. Get your keyword research on. If you’re going to post content on your site anyway, you might as well take the time to make sure Google takes notice of your effort. Find out which keywords and phrases people are searching for (as well as what you can be competitive in), and make yourself a spreadsheet. Keep track of how many times you work the keywords into your web content writing, and use the right tools to track where you rank for the keywords you target. Don’t know where to get started? Check out our comprehensive guide to keyword research for SEO.
  2. Put the keywords to work. It’s not enough to just use the keywords in 2-3% of the copy. You need to put the primary keyword in the title of the blog/article, as well as in the first and last sentence. By doing this, the keywords stand out to the search engine crawlers, as well as the eyes of the readers. Remember, the people using search engines are searching for that particular phrase because they want to know more about it/buy it, so it makes sense to give them what they’re looking for. You’ll get more clicks if you do — it’s one of the tricks of the trade for professional SEO article writers.
  3. Write about something people care about. Nobody knows your business like you do — so what kind of expert advice or tips do you have that you can share? If not, you can at least discuss news relating to your business. When in doubt, look at your list of SEO keywords and see what kind of list, link bait or in-depth posts you can work those keywords into. Don’t be afraid to interview some experts, either (if you quote them and feature their expertise in your post, they’ll be likely to share your content via their social channels — this way, you can leverage larger networks to increase the size of your own).
  4. Make it long enough to count. Sure, 100 words of fresh content is better than no new content at all. Still, search engines tend to give preference to longer blogs and articles. Try to shoot for at least 300 words, but if you can get to 500 or more, go for it. There has been a lot of research that shows that search engines tend to favor “in-depth” content of at least 2,000 words — we’ve seen this work for ourselves and our clients, and many of TCF’s most popular blog posts are at least 1,500 words.
  5. Optimize the optimization of your web content writing. If you use WordPress as your blogging platform, there are lots of free online PR tools (in the form of plugins) you can take advantage of. At The Content Factory, we use Yoast and Shareaholic, along with several others. Free and easy web PR is as simple as hitting the “install now” link.
  6. Edit your work. The only difference between professional SEO article writers and regular people is an eye for self editing. Programs like OpenOffice, Google Docs and Microsoft Word make it easy — the red and green squiggleys give most of it away. Having an eye for aesthetically pleasing formatting is also important. Stay away from super long paragraphs and sentences that go on for miles.
  7. Become your own online PR agency. Once you’ve written and posted the fresh content, the work is only half complete. The final step of all web content writing is acting as your own online PR agency — link to your content all over the place. Comment on blogs and link back to your site. Submit your content to Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon. Social media management and web content writing go hand-in-hand, and as soon as you hit the “Publish” button on your fresh article or blog, you should tweet your heart out. Want more tips?

How to Find Christian Writing Assignments

Christian writing topics are a great way to make extra cash while also educating and inspiring people through your writing. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities out there for writers to write on Christian topics. From newspaper and magazine articles, to Web content, blogs, columns and so much more.

How Much Does a Columnist Make?

Instructions

  1. Purchase a copy of the “Christian Writers’ Market Guide” by Sally Stuart. Updated annually, this reference tool provides contact information and writing needs for Christian online publications, newspapers, periodicals, book publishers, specialty markets, poetry markets and more (see Resources below).
  2. Contact Christian magazines and ask for writers’ guidelines, then pitch an article idea to the appropriate editor.
  3. Ask your pastor/priest if they have any connections with Christian publications, and if so, ask them to recommend you.
  4. Become a member of the website faithwriters.com to network with other Christian writers and find Christian writers via their website (see Resources below).

3 Content Writing Tricks We Learned From Reading Cosmo

Don’t think Cosmo has anything to teach you about content writing? Think again. Cosmopolitan Magazine is distributed in more than 100 countries. It has 64 international editions and it’s printed in 35 languages. While it might seem easy to laugh off its absurdly-named Kama Sutra positions and dubious dating advice (trust us, your man does not want to listen to your favorite Alicia Keys album while you get it on), there’s a reason why Cosmo is the largest selling magazine for young women in the world – the editors know what they’re doing. Here are some of the best tips for writing content for the web that we learned from reading Cosmo:

Cosmo’s Best Content Writing Tips

  1. bigstock-Cosmopolitan-Iii-1213545Titling Tricks. You’ll find two kinds of titles on almost every Cosmo cover – numbered lists and questions. This is no accident. Titles like “25 Ways to Kiss a Naked Man” pique readers’ attention (that’s a lot of ways – some of them are bound to be weird, right?) and titles with questions like “Are You Letting Your Dream Man Get Away?” automatically engage readers. “Oh god,” they think, “What if I am!? Come back, Ryan Gosling, come back!” The best thing about this content writing trick? It works for every single topic, not just ones that involve sexy dudes.
  2. Actionable Content. Need a quick fix for static cling? Battling frizzy winter hair? Looking for a cheap date idea for you and your new boo? Cosmo can help. The magazine is packed with actionable content, tips that readers can actually use to solve their day-to-day problems. Think about the kinds of issues your target audience might be tackling in their personal and professional lives, then create some blog content featuring unique ideas that can help. That’s exactly what we did when we decided to write this article, and surprise – you’re reading it!
  3. Evoking Emotion. Here are the three titles from Cosmo’s “Need to Know” section in their November issue:
  • The Scary Crime No One’s Talking About
  • What Your Gyno Must Never Do
  • Sh*t Politicians Say About Women

These topics all have one thing in common – they invoke an emotional reaction, thereby hooking readers on the content. Our advice for writers? Focus on articles that do the same, especially ones that will scare or anger readers. Not only will your blog content attract more traffic to your website, but the comment section will catch fire too, and that helps your controversial content writing go viral. Just be sure to do your research before you make accusations. You want to evoke emotion, not incite wrath.

As you can see, you can find helpful advice in the pages of Cosmo even if you’re not a broken-hearted teenage girl. Content writing experts of all stripes can discover some helpful tips from the editors at Cosmopolitan Magazine on how to capture the interest of readers and keep them coming back for more. So go ahead – pick up a copy and see what tricks you can find to boost the power of your website copy. Who knows, you might just learn some sexy new moves along the way. Research people, it’s all about research.

Do you have a friend whose blog could use a little Cosmoing up? Tweet, Facebook or email them this post.

Matt Cutts: Using Article Directories for Links? Just No

If you’ve worked in the SEO industry for more than a couple of years, you probably remember the days when article directories were all the rage. You could write a quickie article, submit it to literally hundreds of article directories, link it to your site, in hopes others will publish it on their own sites to add content.

However, with duplicate content filters and link penalties, article directories definitely fell out of favor for many webmasters. That said, there are many article directories that are still actively soliciting articles and publishers who continue to republish that content.

What is Google’s official stance on article directories such as Ezine in 2014 – good or bad? This is the topic of Matt Cutts’ latest webmaster help video, which begins with a history lesson on the rise of article directories:

Over time article directories have gotten a little bit of a worse name. So just refresh everybody’s memory, an article directory is basically where you write 3-, 4-, 500 words of content and then you’ll include a little bio or some information about you at the bottom of the article, and you might have three links with keyword rich anchor text at the bottom of that article. And then you’d submit that to a bunch of what are known as article directories, and then anyone can download them or perhaps pay to download them, and they’ll use them on their own website.

While the video specifically mentions ezine.com, there are hundreds of similar article directories that all accept articles from site owners and publishers. While the sites often make money from advertising of the articles or even from spyware and malware, writers hope that others will syndicate it and they will get links out of it, or at least a bit of traffic.

The theory behind that is if somebody finds it useful and puts it on their webpage, then you might get a few links. Now in practice what we’ve seen is this often tends to be a little bit of lower quality stuff. And in fact we’ve seen more and more instances where you end up with really kind of spammy content getting sprayed and syndicated all over the entire web. So in my particular opinion article directories and just trying to write one article and just syndicating it wildly or just uploading it to every site in the world and hoping that everyone else will download and use it on their website, I wouldn’t necessarily count on that being effective.

SEOs largely abandoned article directories many years ago, but there are still new webmasters who see the opportunity, think it’s a great idea, but don’t realize the implications of it. The reality is that article directories have become overwritten with low-quality, stolen or spammy content but many just don’t realize it.

Cutts also hinted that their search algorithm is filtering, or perhaps even penalizing, mass article directory spam.

“We certainly have some algorithmic things that would mean is probably a little less likely to be successful now compared to a few years ago, for example,” Cutts said. “So my personal recommendation would be probably to not upload article like that.”

While many SEO practitioners haven’t touched article directories for several years, clearly some webmasters still don’t realize it’s a bad idea. Right now, the most useful things a webmaster can use an article directory site for is to simply get topic ideas and then rewrite in their own words for their own sites, because there is no ranking perk from submitting to them.

What Is Marketing Collateral?

A team is coming up with a catchy marketing design.

Marketing collateral includes print materials a company creates and distributes to promote its brand, products and services. Brochures, fliers, newsletters, fact sheets, technical papers and press releases are common examples of marketing collateral.

Brochure Benefits

  • Brochures are folded, standalone items or insert pages. A brochure typically includes several sections that outline a company or product. A product-based brochure might include features of the product, types of users, benefits, graphics and contact information. Brochures offer distribution flexibility in that you can send them to prospects in the mail, set up a display in your business or hand them out at meetings or events.

Usefulness of Fliers

  • Fliers are single-sided pieces that include a mix of images and words. Fliers also offer distribution flexibility. You can send fliers to prospects in the mail or drop them off at local companies and ask them to share information with their workers. This approach is effective for event promotion. Communities also have public venues and bulletin boards where you can place fliers. Though some towns have restrictions, you might have the ability to hang fliers on light poles in a business district.

Document-Driven Collateral

  • Fact sheets, white papers and press releases are more copy-driven types of marketing collateral. A fact sheet is a list of data or intriguing insights about a brand or product. White papers are research-driven, technical documents that emphasize the innovation behind a new product. Press releases include information for news media to present to readers, viewers or listeners. All of these types of media are intended for mass communication through media channels.

Newsletter Distribution

  • Companies use newsletters for both internal and external communication. As a form of marketing collateral, print newsletters are mailed to prospects or customers. Newsletters typically include announcements, current events and forward-looking insights. The primary goal of a newsletter is to keep fresh brand information in front of targeted prospects. Newsletters also help with customer retention by maintaining an ongoing interaction with existing customers. It is difficult for customers to forget your brand when you have a newsletter in their mailbox one or more times each month.

Drawbacks

  • Marketing collateral does present some challenges. First, with access to free digital promotion tools such as email and social media, companies sometimes hesitate to invest in print collateral. To stand out with an attractive, colorful design, you have to invest even more. Also, you often have a very low return on investment with marketing collateral. For example, the Direct Marketing Association indicated that direct mail had a modest 4.4 percent response rate as of April 2012, which means many of the brochures, fliers and newsletters you mail get tossed out or ignored. However, those rates are much higher than the average response rates of email campaigns.

3 Ways Web Writing is Different Than Creative Writing

You worked hard to earn that creative writing degree. You held back tears as professors ripped into your best stories, and you somehow found something positive to say every time that guy in your workshop class turned in another three-page poem about smoking cigarettes. You even read The Waste Land – twice. If you made it through your university’s acclaimed creative writing program with flying colors, surely you can handle a little web writing, right? Right?

Slow your roll there, Dickens. This stuff is harder than it looks. Even if you were the darling of your university’s creative writing program, you’ll need to unlearn a lot of what you were taught before you can rule the world of content writing. To help you get started, here are three ways your online content strategy should differ from your creative writing strategy:

1. F_Scott_FitzgeraldClarity is King. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter —to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

So ends F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved novel “The Great Gatsby.” It’s an ending that sticks with you, thatasks more questions than it answers and that forces you to carry those questions with you long after you’ve finished reading. We think it’s pretty brilliant, but try to cop Fitzy’s style for your blog content and your clients will be less than impressed. Effective web writing is clear and concise, not serpentine and enigmatic. So save your nuanced allusions for your next short story and make sure your content strategy emphasizes clarity over all.

2. Screw Your Vision. In creative writing, it’s your vision that matters most, and you have the right to defend that vision to the death – even when an entire workshop of undergrad writers tries in vain to convince you that the sudden appearance of a dragon in the last paragraph of your short story is a bad narrative choice. That dragon is your vision. One day, those plebes will understand your brilliance.

But guess what? In the world of content writing, your vision takes a back seat to the client’s. If the client wants to scrap your witty metaphors and hard-sell the company’s products instead, you need to do it. At times, you may even have to scrap entire articles and start again from scratch. If you can’t slash and burn your writing without crying like a child, you’re not going to last long in the field of content writing.

3. This Isn’t Your Legacy. What do Kafka, Dickinson, and Poe all have in common? These authors achieved true fame only after their deaths. If you hope to leave a literary legacy behind you when you shuffle off this mortal coil, then it’s okay to create writing that people won’t necessarily appreciate right away. If you want to pursue a career in web writing, however, your writing needs to be relevant now.

You’ll need to plan ahead for seasonal stories and identify trends in esoteric fields like turnkey property management or medical ID bracelets. And no grant will fund a year at Walden Pond while you struggle to find your true voice. You’ll need to churn out work continuously, so brew another pot of coffee and pull yourself together.

So, what do you think? Do you feel confident in your ability to craft a page of text that doesn’t contain an embedded sestina or end in a hauntingly vague way? Are you capable of placing that captivating personality of yours on the back burner to focus on function and purpose instead? If so, maybe content writing is for you. If, however, you fear that separating yourself from your art would be like ripping your soul from your body, then maybe content writing isn’t your calling – and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. That’s why The Content Factory has a team of in-house writers dedicated to creating the high-quality content writing our clients need. We’ll keep developing content, you keep slaving away at that Great American Novel. We believe in you.

How to Become a Regular Magazine Contributor

Strong people skills and reliability can land you an ongoing magazine gig.

Some magazines post ads seeking regular freelance contributors, but for the most part they choose from resumes and story ideas submitted to them. Securing an ongoing gig requires impressing the editor not only when you first reach out to her but also with the quality and timeliness of the work you deliver. To persuade an editor to work with you regularly, demonstrate that you can address the audience’s needs and consistently turn in stellar work.

Show Editors Your Credentials

  • At many publications, you can break in by sending the editor a letter of introduction that outlines your qualifications and demonstrates that you understand the magazine’s audience. In your letter, mention other publications you’ve written for, especially those in the same niche or industry as the magazine you’re targeting. Offer to submit writing samples and ask how you can be considered for a contributing writer or contributing editor position. You can also include one or two story ideas to show the editor you can pitch ideas of interest to the magazine’s audience.

Start Small

  • While those glossy national magazines look appealing, if you’re seeking a regular position as a contributing writer, you might have better luck at a small newspaper or magazine or at an industry publication. Many cities and states have their own magazines, sometimes run by the tourism office. Also, browse trade magazines. Nearly every industry has one, from pizza parlors to dry cleaners. In addition, many professional associations publish magazines. They’re often more open to working with new writers or those without established reputations, and they often prefer to work with a stable of regular writers.

Give Your Best Effort

  • Treat even a one-time gig as though it’s the beginning of an ongoing relationship with that publication. If you work the way you would for a full-time job, editors are more likely to see you as cut out for being a regular contributor. Don’t begin an assignment until you’re sure you understand the editor’s instructions. Offer frequent updates and reply promptly if the editor asks for a progress report. Also, prepare to change the direction of the piece or change or add information if the editor requests it.

Nurture Client Relationships

  • Winning ongoing writing gigs is sometimes simply a matter of keeping in touch with editors you’ve worked with. Once you’ve proven yourself to an editor, it’s easier to ask for repeat assignments than to send a cold email to someone new. Inquire about topics editors need covered or if they’re open to you pitching additional ideas. You can re-establish communication with editors you’ve worked with in the past, but they may be more likely to offer you additional assignments if you ask immediately when you turn in the first one, especially if they had a good experience working with you.

What is Content Marketing and Why Does Your Business Need It?

“In the digital age, every business is in the publishing industry.”

content marketingThat’s a quote from a recent Huffington Post article, and it says so much about content marketing that for us it’s something of a mantra when we discuss strategy with new clients. We’ve written, tweeted, posted and pinned for businesses that sell everything from condos to sex toys (yes, you read that right), and our results have proven it’s true. If you want your business to succeed in the digital age, you can’t just produce your product – you have to produce high-quality content too.

For us, this view of content marketing is second nature, but for business owners who are new to the concept, it’s often hard to understand just how important content marketing is in determining a company’s success, both online and off. We’re always looking for relatable ways to explain this importance to our clients, and this week we stumbled upon an incredibly informative article from CIO.com that does just that.

We loved the entire article, but there’s one gem inside it that we knew we had to share – a section that outlines some pretty creative ways to ensure content marketing success:

There’s a thin, but important, line between success and failure in content marketing. To help you find that line, our experts offer these 11 tips to put you on the right path.

  • Ask yourself some key questions, Kuenn says: Why are you creating a particular piece of content? Who’s the intended audience? What’s your brand’s voice? What types of content should you create for your audience? Finally, what does success look like?
  • Think like a publisher, Fasser says. Build an editorial calendar that details who’s writing what; assigns deadlines, lists the focus keywords for each particular piece of content, notes how the content ties into your overall SEO program, identifies the problems customers have that the content addresses, and so on. “If you don’t nail all that down, you end up developing content just to develop content,” he warns.
  • Text Content on colorful wooden cubesAct as a resource to prospects and customers. “If you can bring someone into your site who is actively looking for a solution to a problem, and you can solve it for them in an in-depth way through content, you’ll have higher-quality visitors to your site who tend to convert more,” Fasser says.
  • Use social media to syndicate your content. “When you develop high-quality content and share it through social channels, others interested in the topic will likely connect with you,” Fasser says. “That’s super important, because the more you can grow your social networks, the bigger the potential audience you’ll have for new content.”
  • Establish benchmarks as you begin a content marketing program. That way you’ll know if the efforts are paying off down the road. Among the things to track are the number of new visitors to your site from a particular piece of content, the number of page views and leads generated from that content and how often the content has been liked or shared on social media, Fasser says.
  • When brainstorming content, get people from across departments together in a room and get a dialogue going, Kuenn says. Find out what questions customers ask them the most… read more on What Is Content Marketing, and Why Does Your Business Need It?

Dedicated content marketing experts (that’s us!) will take care of many of these tasks for clients, but business owners can make a huge contribution by following that last suggestion. After all, you know your business better than anyone else, and you know what your customers want and need. If you want to make your content as relevant as possible (and obviously you do) you should ask employees from every branch of your company what concerns and questions your customers bring to them.

Why? Because your customers are probably looking for answers to the same questions online. Build your web copy, blog posts and articles around these questions and you’ll earn major traffic while establishing yourself as an industry expert.

So consider this your weekly homework: poll your employees and create a list of common customer inquiries. Then compile the questions in a spreadsheet for your content marketing manager. The more work you do for your content, the more your content will work for you.

Are your customers asking some crazy questions? Share the hilarity in a comment below.

The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Business on Reddit

reddit marketing bubble

Why is Reddit important to your marketing strategy? In a word, traffic. On Alexa, Reddit ranks 26th globally, and 11th in the United States. Reddit is often the birthplace of all kinds of memetic content — typically, when something hits the front page of Reddit, it ends up spreading way past Reddit. This is both because of the site’s popularity and because of the demographics of its user base. Most people using Reddit are fairly Internet-savvy individuals, and so if they see something that makes them laugh, or otherwise impresses them, chances are it’s going to be shared with many, many other people.

Likewise, as is the case with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, there are a lot of “influential” people who use Reddit, who are often scouring it for content for their own sites.

Getting on the frontpage of Reddit is like hitting a homerun. The amount of traffic — and awareness — you will give whatever thing you’re linking to is absolutely incredible. We’re talking anywhere from 100k – 1 million hits (if not more). Likewise, while that’s immediate traffic generated, don’t forget that there will be a persistent bonus as well!

Here’s the thing, though: when you engage in Reddit marketing, you aren’t just counting on that big home run — in fact, you can get your product out there successfully without ever seeing the front page. That’s because…

The Two Ways People Use Reddit for Marketing

When you go to Reddit, you’ll see a frontpage with a handful of “default” subreddits. These are, as the name implies, the subreddits that the site will show you by default, without any customization enabled. As of now, that means you will see content from these subreddits:

announcements, art, askreddit, askscience, aww, books, creepy, dataisbeautiful, DIY, documentaries, earthporn, explainlikeimfive, fitness, food, funny, futurology, gadgets, gaming, getmotivated, gifs, history, iama, internetisbeautiful, jokes, lifeprotips, listentothis, mildlyinteresting, movies, music, news, nosleep, notthonion, oldschoolcool, personalfinance, philosophy, photoshopbattles, pics, science, showerthoughts, space, sports, television, tifu, todayilearned, twoxchromosomes, upliftingnews, videos, worldnews, writingprompts

While some people never customize their, er, “Reddit experience,” many do. Reddit gives its users the ability to select the subreddits that they see — allowing them to create a page that tailors content directly to their interests.

A more experienced user might have a browsing experience that focuses on a specifc niche, likes cars. That means that while they might not follow any of the default subreddits, they’ll be active in cars, Subaru, justrolledintotheshop, and rally.

Other people will follow all of the default subreddits plus one or two others that highlight some interest that they have. Why is this important? While getting on the frontpage is nice, it isn’t necessary in order to nab some good traffic. The “cars”subreddit still has 157,000 active users for example. The “coffee” subreddit has 98,326 active users. Sure — that isn’t much compared to the six million plus of the default subreddits, but it absolutely will give you a noticeable boost.

How to Actually Use Reddit Marketing to your Advantage

First off, you need an account. If you want to go hard on Reddit, you probably need more than one. After all, your client that sells lube probably doesn’t want to be affiliated with your other client that sells fax machines. Second, you’ve got to use the damn thing — and you need to use it honestly. Just like every other social media platform, if you are constantly spouting off “Hey! Look at this product!” everyone is going to know what you are, and no one is going to like you. Likewise, if it’s obvious that you are an “outsider,” you probably won’t make much new ground.

So, in short, use the account. Find subreddits that are relevant to your clients and relevant to your own interests. Likewise, find out what people are saying about your clients. Have there been missed opportunities in the past? Are you being mentioned at all?

On your personal account, you should do your best to legitimately interact with a community of your choice. Not only will this give some legitimacy to your account (for when you post a link to something you’re trying to market), but it will also give you a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work on Reddit.

How to Post a Link that Generates Traffic/Buzz

Want to make sure your content makes it to the top? Follow the steps below:

  1. Before you post any content, you first have to find a community that’ll dig it. Look at what’s being shared there. Does it look like your content? Does it feel like your content? If so, you’ve find fertile ground.
  2. Post your link between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. (EST) — links posted at this time do better than ones posted at any other time, because these links tend to be in prime position to be tackled by Americans as they wake up and go to work. Likewise, before 9, there isn’t as much competition, meaning that your content has a much better chance of rising to the top.
  3. When you post your link, you need to understand that you are vying against everyone else for position on the subreddit you’ve just posted it to. On an active subreddit, things are being constantly submitted, and if something doesn’t pass a certain threshold of upvotes in a certain timeframe, then it’s likely your content will disappear and no one will ever see it.How do you prevent that? Easy — make sure you’re posting good content. Seriously, this is as obvious as it sounds. If you’re posting something good, chances are it’ll ride the wave all the way to the top. If what you’re posting is just pure product promotion, then chances are it will languish in a pit of downvotes for all eternity.The key to Reddit marketing isn’t to sprinkle some magic fairy dust on your post and then count to three before letting it make the rounds — it’s just to post damn fine content. Like the saying goes, if you build it, they will crash your server with a tidal wave of traffic and make your web team angry at you (or that’s what I’m told).
  4. Want to help give your post a boost? Don’t be afraid to share it with your friends. While having your friends upvote the post is against the ToS (and won’t make you a very popular person on Reddit), it’s completely okay to see if they’d like to comment on it. While a few comments might not seem like much, they generate weight, which helps links move up the page. Just remember: no begging for upvotes.

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to play by the rules — a key to successful Reddit marketing is to avoid trying to steal honey from the hive. It might work once or twice, but eventually you’ll end up like The Atlantic. You don’t want your PR on Reddit to be generated by a story about how your company got its hand caught in the cookie jar.

reddit marketing professional

How to Spot Marketing Opportunities on Reddit

When it comes to Reddit marketing, not every PR opportunity is going to revolve around posting content. In addition to posting stuff you think adds to the conversation, it’s a good idea to periodically search Reddit for people talking about your products. For example, if you’re marketing a dating app, you’re probably going to want to keep an eye on the dating subreddits, doing a search every so often for users talking about your product (don’t forget to search for acronyms, shorter versions of your product/company name, and competitors names — you never know what you might stumble upon).

If you spot a user talking about your product, consider chiming in with something relevant. Are they talking about how much they like your product? Let them know you appreciate it! Are they talking about a feature that they want to see? Let them know their feedback is being directed to someone that’ll be able to use it.

Of course, not every mention of your product is going to be positive. While this is a bit of a danger zone, don’t be afraid to join the conversation if you really believe you might be able to do a little cleanup work.

With that said, remember that this is the Internet, and there totally will be users salivating at the chance to take down someone like you. Be honest with yourself: does the risk look like it’s worth it? Are you turning something into good PR, or are you tossing up a softball to a troll who is only looking for a fight?

Yes, that’s a risk of all social media marketing avenues, but Reddit is just a bit different, and if you accidentally step into the bad stuff, you might find yourself (and your client) in a lot of pain.

Which brings us to…

Reddit Loves Reddit, Hates You (And Reddit Marketing)

Reddit does not want your advertisements on Reddit. Like, really. It really hates you. It hates when you try to be cool. It hates the very concept of Reddit marketing, or any company in general trying to promote itself on Reddit. It will — quickly — sniff out accounts that exist solely to post “marketed” content. Companies trying to “subtly” post memes will get caught — and laughed at. There’s even an entire subredditdedicated to this sort of stuff.

You don’t want to be that brand.

Paradoxically, though, while Reddit hates being advertised to, Reddit loves when advertisers “get it” — or, alternatively, when they basically aren’t hiding who they are or what they are doing. Take Nissan, for example — they had a huge, obvious Reddit campaign in which they very clearly identified themselves. It worked. The end result of the campaign went viral, and it gave them a ton of good press.

A smaller example is something like Transamerica, who knocked it out of the park with an excellent example of Reddit marketing. Essentially, they went into the finance subreddit, and posted Reddit-targeted financial advice, along with something that introduced “them” as “friends” of the site (for details, go through the slides foundhere).

If you keep an eye on the frugalmalefashion and malefashionadvice subreddits, you’ll often see fashion-specific brands popping their heads in from time-to-time. They’ll usually open with something along the lines of, “Oh, hey! We just happened to notice we were getting a lot of traffic from Reddit lately…”

Once again, they will mention how much they appreciate the community, and then they will offer the community some sort of “Reddit-focused” deal. Not only does this situate them as a cornerstone product within that community, but it also allows them to come back at a later date, perhaps setting up another post, or a series of posts down the road.

Other Ways to Make Reddit Work

If we’re being honest, Reddit has a bit of an image problem. “Redditors” are frequently seen as white, male, and usually in their late teens or early twenties. If you spend some time on the site, you’ll often find this stereotype confirmed over and over. Of course, if that isn’t your key demographic, Reddit marketing can still work for you, you just need to do a little extra research first.

While the techie-dude vibe is strong on Reddit, it certainly isn’t the only demographic. Reddit is a bit more diverse than just a couple of dudes sporting fedoras and talking about Linux.

MakeupAddiction is probably one of the most popular makeup forums on the ‘net. There’s a good chance a popular product will be gone from your local Sephora’s shelves if it’s making the rounds on MUA (which, by the way, is almost certainly a case of some crazy Reddit marketing magic going on). Fitness is a huge workout community, andXXFitness is the same, but targeted toward women. If you spend any time on Reddit, you’ll see the line thrown around that there’s a subreddit for everything. While that might sound crazy, well…

By now, you should be getting the picture: Reddit is a pretty diverse place.

That diversity should also help you out a bit, as it can often give you a good idea of what’s popular with the demographic you’re trying to market to. Before we pitch an article on a subject, our first stop is often Reddit. We look to see what people are talking about — or, sometimes better yet, what they aren’t talking about. A successful campaign that revolves around Reddit marketing starts with a lot of research. Reddit is smart — if your link is visible for any serious amount of time, it’s going to be researched and pulled apart in all kinds of ways. You want to make sure you — and your content — is prepared.

Even if you don’t have a brand account you can swoop in on to take advantage of some thread that has to do with your product, you can see the sorts of things you need to be covering. What guides would hit with this community? What products would? What tone would? All of this can help you build a better campaign — not just for Reddit, but in general.

reddit marketing toolbox

A Few Handy Reddit Marketing Tools

If you’re looking to get your brand into Reddit marketing, there are a few tools and links that might help you out.

  • For one, don’t just trust the Reddit search to find subreddits. Instead, try browsing through a list of the top 5,000 subreddits. With this list, you can spot subreddits that might be worth your time — even if they don’t have that many subscribers at the moment. Another tool for finding subreddits is Metareddit, which will show you subreddits related to any other subreddit.
  • Snoopsnoo is another good tool, especially if you use it on other marketing accounts. With Snoopsnoo, you can get a handle on what content works best, and maybe more importantly, what content doesn’t work.
  • Finally, an absolutely must have — the Reddit Enhancement Suite. RES, as it is known on Reddit, is incredibly useful. Not only does it make your browsing experience a lot smoother, it allows you to tag users, allowing you to note who has positively responded to your posts in the past.

If you’re looking into Reddit marketing, the best way to start is, well, to start. The sooner you get your hands on Reddit, the sooner you’ll be able to interact with the community without seeming like an outsider. Just beware — there’s a reason why Reddit has grown so fast, and if you aren’t careful, you might find all of your time sucked away by the productivity vortex that is Reddit!

Moz Ranks Ranking Factors

Moz released its largest-ever study on ranking factors. But unlike the Searchmetrics study from two weeks back, which simply described methods for getting ahead on Google, Moz actually ranked the ranking factors.

For its biennial study, the Seattle-based SEO platform interviewed 150 top search marketers on 90 different ranking factors, using correlation studies to measure them. Moz used its own data, as well as that from Ahrefs, DomainTools and SimilarWeb. The data came from the suggested queries from the 22 top-level categories in AdWords, which provides 800 queries per category. For each query, Moz looked at the top 50 search results on Google.

In a broad sense, respondents ranked the top features as domain-level link-authority features, such as quantity of links, trust and domain-level PageRank; page-level link metrics, such as quality of linking sources and anchor text distribution; and page-level keyword and content-based metrics, such as content relevance and on-page optimization of keyword use. On a scale of 1 to 10, the three were given scores of 8.22, 8.19 and 7.87, respectively.

moz-google-ranking

On the flip side, domain-level agonistic features (domain name length, TLD extension, SSL certificate) and page-level social metrics (quantity and quality of Facebook shares, Google +1s and tweeted links) were ranked at the bottom, with respective scores of 4.09 and 3.98.

Factors in the middle, in descending order, were page-level, keyword-agnostic features (content length, readability, load speed); user usage and traffic/query data (data SERP engagement metrics, clickstream data, quantity and CTR of queries); domain-level brand metrics (offline usage of brand/domain name, mentions of the brand/domain in the media); and domain-level keyword usage (exact-match keyword domains, partial-keyword matches).

Moz confirmed Searchmetrics’ claim that “technical factors” are the most important of all. On a page level, the most important factors included keywords present in the title element and main content area of a page, the uniqueness of content, mobile-friendliness, topical relevance of linking pages and domains, and raw quality of links from high-authority sites. Top domain-level factors included uniqueness of content across the whole site and relevance and quality of linking domains.

However, Moz differed from Searchmetrics where social is concerned. The latter listed social signals as a ranking factor, an assertion that inspired a debate in our article’s comments. However, engagement was the highest-ranking social factor, according to Moz respondents, who only gave it a score of 3.87. The raw counts of Google+ shares, Tweets associated with the URL, and Facebook likes and shares were the only other social factors scored higher than 3.

Respondents ranked the factors that get pages higher in Google; they also looked at what will get your page buried. With a score of 8.26, “total number of unnatural links to page/subdomain” was judged as the most negative ranking factor, though the negative scores were generally closer together. Page links to spam, not being mobile-friendly, the amount of over-optimized anchor text, and thin and duplicate page content were all given scores between 7.3 and 7.74.

It’s Not Us, It’s You – Why Your Content Writing Didn’t Make The Cut

Content writing is a bit like writing poetry: every amateur fancies himself an undiscovered genius. That’s why, every day, The Content Factory’s inbox is flooded with applications from freelance writers who claim that their skills and their social media savvy make them a perfect fit for our team. Yet more often than not, the applicant who sells himself as the William Carlos Williams of website copy turns out to be incapable of accomplishing a task as simple as, say, typing out the directions for microwaveable soup. Don’t be so quick to chuckle to yourself, writers – we could be talking about you. So before you pen that cover letter, be warned: these mistakes are an easy way to earn a one-way ticket to TCF rejection land.

1. Quality Content Writing Begins With Quality Research

566px-William_Carlos_Williams_passport_photographWriting for The Content Factory means you’ll need to be a guru of human hair extensions one week and an expert on Florida turnkey property investment the next. When we say our clients are diverse, we’re not exaggerating, and while we don’t expect you to be some kind of Trivial Pursuit champion who knows everything about everything, you will have to do enough research to seem like you do. You may have to completely compromise your Google search history in the name of unique, actionable content writing, but that’s what it takes to become an authority.

2. We Need Content, Not Creative Writing

Our writers know how to turn a killer phrase, but they also know how to follow directions. So if we need 600 words of blog content on pacemakers and a writer sends us a 5,000-word one-act play entitled “Memoirs of a Heart Murmur,” we may be less than appreciative of his outside-the-box thinking. Have you heard? Thinking inside the box is the new thinking outside the box. So stick to the assignment – you can flex those poetry workshop muscles at your local coffee house’s open mic night instead.

3. If You Can’t Answer Your Phone, Website Copy Writing is Not For You

There’s never a dull moment in the life of a content writing expert. While most of our team members still manage to live glamorous social lives (or at least to expose themselves to natural sunlight for a few minutes every day), we stay in almost constant contact with one another. When a client calls us at 9 p.m. with a scoop on a press release they need the next day, we assemble faster than the A-Team. So if you’re impossible to reach – if we’ve gotta hound you with emails and blow up your Twitter to get a response – your hard-to-get act is going to backfire bigtime.

4. Look at Content Writing as a Marathon, Not a Sprint

It’s true that website copy and blog writing assignments often require a fast turnaround. When we need to complete a project quickly in order to satisfy a client, our writers have to rise to the challenge – without compromising the quality of their work. Try to sneak a rushed assignment past our editors and they’ll just send it back. Show us that we’re worth your time and that you’re invested in the quality of your work and we’ll invest in you.

5. Your Content Writing, Like You, Is A Bit Creepy

We’re the first to admit it – our group dynamic is closer to the Addams Family than the Brady Bunch on the quirky family spectrum. But while we respect individuality and even a generous helping of absurdity from time to time, every once in a while we’ll have to turn down writers because – and there’s no nice way to say this – they’re freakin’ weird.

Their content writing is stuffed with references no one gets. He insists on Skype video chats, then stares straight ahead with unblinking intensity. She’s called “the odd one” –  by the clients themselves. Content writing isn’t just about writing. It’s about communicating with your team and your clients, about being relatable to readers and consumers. You can’t do that if you’re constantly giving everyone the heebie jeebies.

If you’re guilty of one or more of these content-writing deal-breakers, don’t despair. We’ve all made mistakes, and admitting you have a problem is always the first step. If you missed the mark on you first attempt, that doesn’t mean you can’t win back our love and adoration in the future. So like an American Idol contestant who’s just been ripped to shreds by Simon Cowell, don’t stand their screaming at the judges. Instead, strut off the stage with your head held high. Vow to come back next season and knock our socks off with how much you’ve improved. We believe in you, you loveable underdog, you. We’ll be waiting.

Enterprise Link Acquisition for Top of the Funnel Marketing

Links are integral to the web, fundamental to SEO, and yet, even big companies are failing to secure the links they deserve. Simply being a large company with brand recognition isn’t enough to rank for everything. It helps, but despite a robust backlink profile, these companies still often have valuable assets that aren’t getting the links they need and deserve, and are subsequently languishing in obscurity.

In a 2014 study, BrightEdge found that 51 percent of all website traffic comes from organic search. Search is not a channel to ignore, and that means links cannot be ignored either. Link strategy should be part of your online marketing agenda.

My experience marketing on the Web is that links require intentional, strategic effort to secure, particularly if you want search visibility to a specific page on your site. This is where many companies are struggling: securing meaningful visibility for top of the funnel pages. The goal should be to build a strong site entrance that will build awareness and establish value for our client’s audience.

Enterprise Necessitates Strategy, Not Tactic

First, it’s important SEOs recognize the importance of strategy, versus a handful of tactics. When applied to enterprise SEO, strategy should comprise a combination of research, analysis, tactics, and implementation. You can’t execute a tactic or two, and expect success or trust from the client. Any link acquisition campaign will need to be customized to a variety of factors critical to the business, including:

  • Current marketing initiatives
  • Target audience
  • Brand affinity
  • Partnerships
  • Community engagement
  • Press coverage
  • Linkable assets
  • Site analysis
  • Determined goals
  • Unique selling point

Link campaigns for enterprise businesses are more involved, plain and simple. Here are some pain points SEOs need to address, both before and during a link campaign for enterprise brands:

  • Quality
  • Brand representation
  • Integration
  • Scalability

The Example: Williams-Sonoma

Let’s look at the example of Williams-Sonoma. Looking for linkable assets and opportunity, I started with the company’s blog, Taste.

The quality of the blog is fantastic and it’s clear Williams-Sonoma invested significant effort into creating useful, shareable content for their audience. And it’s paid dividends for SEO:

williams-sonoma-blog-backlinks

There are 3,289 referring domains; is there even anything worth improving? This immediately led me to the recipes page. Recipes are a perfect example of searchable content which focuses completely on audience value, and can build brand affinity and translate into customer loyalty.

This is classic top of the funnel marketing: Williams-Sonoma is not pushing its products or services, but rather, finding a relevant way to add value for its audience. Recipes have huge opportunity to bring real people to Williams-Sonoma’s site.

williams-sonoma-recipes-blog

The recipes are composed of strong visual content with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. They also represent a decent portion of Williams-Sonoma’s content strategy: about one in 10 posts is a recipe. So, let’s look at the links to the recipe page.

williams-sonoma-recipe-backlinks

Five referring domains. Checking the deeper categories such as breakfast and soups reveal a similar situation: virtually zero links. Poorly-linked content in competitive SERPs means Williams-Sonoma is not ranking on page one for head recipe terms such as:

  • Breakfast recipes
  • Soup recipes
  • Dessert recipes
  • Starter recipes

The individual recipe pages also have few, if any, links, although they rank decently well individually, in long tail searches specific to the recipes, based upon the authority of the domain. General analysis of William-Sonoma’s site also reveals issues beyond links. There are also a handful of technical SEO and UX issues, as well.

First, the URL: http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/cat/recipes. Having the recipes page live in the subfolder “cat” is less than ideal. There is no content on blog.williams-sonoma.com/cat. It’s not great to tell Google that cat – as in, an adult kitten – is relevant to this content.

Second, the recipe page, while visually pleasing, doesn’t present the best UX. There are 73 pages of various recipes, sorted chronologically. The only way to sort the recipes is by hovering over the recipes page and choosing one of the submenus:

williams-sonoma-recipe-categories

These category pages also present recipes chronologically, with multiple pages (as many as 23) per category, and no way to further sort.

Third, and worst of all, Williams-Sonoma has duplicated the recipes between its main site and blog, which is a subdomain. For example, check the pan-fried halibut recipe on the blog and on the main site. Both pages are using rel=canonical with themselves as the source. Every single recipe is duplicated between the blog and main site, and all have rel=canonical tags pointing to themselves.

Fourth, Williams-Sonoma hasn’t actually created subcategory pages – such as simple breakfasts – but rather, built in dynamic search functionality on click: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/search/results.html?activeTab=recipes&words=simple_breakfasts.

This is not good for indexation, and creates very sub-optimal results and experience for anyone coming to these category pages via search. For example, searching “breakfast recipes” in Google returns this page, which ranks 25th. For reference, here is the blog’s breakfast recipe page. A very suboptimal result.

However, the recipe page itself is good: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe. There are 72 referring domains, as well. There is opportunity here.

williams-sonoma-recipe-main-page-backlinks

Long story short, Williams-Sonoma has technical SEO issues with a dash of UX considerations to fix. Recipes offer a huge opportunity for top of the funnel marketing, but unfortunately, Williams-Sonoma is missing the mark in search.

I would suggest investing more into building well-designed recipe pages, cleaning up the rel=canonical issue, ensuring optimal internal linking, and creating a link strategy for this asset so it gets the search traffic it deserves.

Disclaimer: I did this analysis as a quick example; this is not meant to be an SEO audit or an example proposal. Based on what I did find, I’m sure there are issues I didn’t address. A real analysis/pitch would be much more comprehensive.

Now that I’ve covered an example of the top of the funnel marketing I’m discussing, I’d like to briefly mention vital elements of any link acquisition campaign for an enterprise business.

1. Campaign, Strategy, and Link Quality

Enterprise means structure. There is a chain of command, and everyone will have a supervisor. The most common phrase you will hear is, “I need to sell my boss.” Proposals, objectives, KPIs, and fiscal planning are vital. You do not want to make the mistake of going into a meeting or proposal with enterprise businesses to discuss “link juice.”

Explain your recommendations in a professional, clear manner, demonstrating business value first. Quality is key. Enterprise businesses have the budget to afford the best. Your proposal should be detailed, refined, clear, and concise. It should outline:

  • Strategy assessment
  • Campaign goals
  • Proposed tactics
  • Site/audience analysis
  • Potential obstacles
  • Expected results
  • Budget

There are no shortcuts in large brand link building, and quality across the board is key in service, communication, proposal, campaign, and most of all, link acquisition.

2. Brand Representation

Brand equity is a key concern for enterprise-level marketing. It’s vital that any SEO pursuing link acquisition accurately represents the brand, with minimal oversight.

Because link acquisition requires interacting with a wide variety of online communities relevant to the brand, the ability to represent oneself well is crucial, as is building trust within the company itself. You’ll need trust to independently represent the brand well, which means you must prove your ability to represent the company appropriately before the campaign even starts.

Any SEO pitching a link strategy will need to speak to brand representation, demonstrate a keen understanding of brand positioning, USP, and audience.

3. Integration

Any good link campaign starts with opportunity analysis. The Williams-Sonoma is hopefully a small example of this.

Simply being a recognizable brand in the space creates opportunity. Furthermore, there will be current marketing campaigns or previous campaigns that create favorable link opportunities. Leveraging opportunity in link acquisition can take a variety of forms, such as:

  • Broken link building
  • Mentions
  • Proprietary images
  • Competitor backlink analysis
  • Partnerships
  • Community involvement
  • Charity

Integrating with other departments, consulting on future initiatives, and building your link acquisition strategy around current opportunities is imperative.

4. Campaign Scaling

Campaign scaling does not mean automation. Quality, longevity, and brand integration remain key.

Enterprise businesses compete at high levels. Whether that means more competitive markets with other recognizable brands, or competing in more diverse markets, or both, the end result is the same: a fiercely competitive marketspace. Depending on goals, the pages you’re promoting and opportunities available, you’ll need to be ready to scale your efforts to meet demand.

The opportunity for growth with enterprise clients is tremendous if you prove campaign efficacy. You’ll need to establish trust within the company, drive results, and fight for budget. Then, you’ll need to be prepared to scale with budgetary increases.

This means scaling human effort. If you aren’t ready to grow and scale your campaign, you’ll never meet the needs of an enterprise-level business.

What Is Referral Traffic?

Smiling young woman working on laptop at home

Whether you’re running a blog or a commercial site, you’ve probably often heard the term “referral traffic” thrown around as something that can boost your visitors or sales. Referral traffic is not easy to obtain, but if you can get it, it can help you reach your readership or sales goals. You should know a few things about referral traffic if you want to increase the number of visitors to your website, blog or online store.

Definition

  • Referral traffic is used to describe visitors to your site that come from direct links on other websites rather than directly or from searches. For example, other sites that like what you have to say or sell may post a link recommending your site. You can also try to drive your own referral traffic by leaving links on other blogs or forums you have joined. Pay-per-click ads also count as referral traffic.

Importance

  • Referral traffic increases the “page rank” of your blog, which boosts it in Google search results. High rankings in Google are coveted, as being listed on the first page of a search can lead to many more clicks than if your site showed up on the fourth or fifth page of search results. Referral traffic is also important because it provides a steady source of traffic outside of search engine hits. Referral traffic drives targeted visitors to your website, which may increase revenues as they are more likely to purchase a subscription or buy your product. A person who finds your site at random may find it has nothing to do with what he was looking for.

Good Referral Traffic

  • Some referral traffic is good, but some is useless. If visitors aren’t subscribing, buying a product or making return visits to your site, you’re getting the wrong kind of traffic. It’s a good idea to find out if you’re getting the right kind of referral traffic, and a good way to do this is to use a free tool like Google Analytics or Yahoo! Web Analytics. These tools break down exactly how many return visitors you’re getting, what pages they are checking out, how long they’re staying and from where they came. This can give you clues as to which pages on your site are generating visits.

Increasing Referral Traffic

  • Increasing referral traffic is not easy, but it is possible with enough effort. Your site must be original and provide information about a new product or service before most everyone else. If you have a blog, you might also write honest reviews of other products and ask for a link, or write a series of posts on a particular subject. You might be able to use social media to your advantage; for example, Typepad’s official blog notes that adding a Facebook “Like” application can boost referral traffic by 50 percent.

Why People like HTML Email Marketing Messages

The results of a recent survey showed that people preferred HTML email marketing messages and newsletters because…

28%- HTML email newsletters accomplish a more effective layout 24%- Color can be used in the email newsletter 21% – Images can be included in the email newsletter 20%- Ads can be more effective in HTML email than text email

In the “other” reasons, people brought up the fact that embedded links are more effective in HTML email for two reasons: 1) they can be hidden behind the text and are therefore less intrusive, and 2) links can be shorter avoiding the “zillions of characters long” link problem that affects many text-based mailings.

They also mentioned that text could not accomplish all that HTML email marketing can, such as the ability to embed forms into the email. Clearly, the benefits of HTML email are how layout, color, and images can affect the reader’s ability to process and enjoy the content WHEN IT IS DONE WELL. However, the people, who preferred the plain text emails, were also clear – don’t distract me with too much chaotic layout, color and images or worse yet – missing graphics or broken links.

So, what does this mean? Why doesn’t everyone prefer HTML email marketing?

There are two possibilities. One possibility is overall, HTML emails poorly implement the use of color, layout and image obscuring readability, encouraging more people to prefer plain text. A second possibility is that some people absorb information differently than others and if they receive an optimized HTML email, will still prefer plain text emails. Either way, there are a few lessons to gather from this survey.

1. Give your readers a choice of HTML email or text I thought it was most interesting that people were split almost down the middle in their choice of HTML vs. text. This sends a clear message. There is no obvious winner so your best bet is to create two versions (or more to compensate for email client variations) of your email and allow the recipient to specify which one he or she wants. Good email marketing software programs (like SuccessMail) allow you to do both – first give your readers the choice, and if a choice is not specified, then send multi-part.

2. If you are sending HTML emails a. Think simple. I believe it is human nature to try to do more. More color, more images, or more layout blocks are not necessarily better. Think simple when creating your HTML design. Decide what the most important part of your message is and design all other elements around it, but make sure the main message stands out. Ask someone to look quickly at your email and tell you without thinking about it which part of the email grabs their attention first – if it’s not the most important part, go back and try again. b. Don’t forget about mobile readers. Even if someone has picked HTML because he or she normally read their email at their desk, they may also periodically read it on a mobile device. The problem is that you won’t know when they do. If you can, see what your HTML email looks like when viewed on a mobile device like a Blackberry or a Palm. Consider minimizing the HTML tags at the top of your email, or use a multi-part format. c. Test, Test, Test. Sadly, HTML is not yet a truly universal format. Your layout may look perfect on your own reader, but less than perfect on others. At the very least, set up a few free email accounts and test your campaign before sending it. This is especially true if you are embedding forms or using other advanced HTML techniques. A recent study showed that almost half of the email messages sent did not display properly because they had missing graphics or broken code.

3. In your Plain Text emails… You can make text look good. The more people you have who choose plain text emails, the more time you should spend on your plain text version. If a significant percentage of your audience is choosing plain text, take the time to do it well. Your layout options are limited – you can’t change colors or fonts when you use text, but you can use interesting spacing and characters to create an illusion of a more sophisticated layout.

The bottom line is that you CAN take the best of each format and merge them into your email marketing. Remember it’s all about your audience. Think of them as you create your email marketing messages – keep things simple and clear. Before you send an email message, ask someone what they think, and don’t forget to test, test, test.

How Writing Articles Less Benefits You More

Writing articles for submissions is one of the most effective online marketing strategies in use today! Marketing with articles offers multiple benefits to the author that other strategies can not claim which compels people to produce as much as they can. The reasoning is the more published articles you have the more exposure and traffic you will receive. Although this reasoning is sound, when rushing to produce more, quality tends to be compromised and your work schedule becomes more hectic. Now you have countless published articles in circulation that lack the quality needed to stir the interest of readers. At this point you are now overworked and experiencing diminishing results from your efforts. The fact is that this hurried approach undermines several benefits marketing with articles can offer you! The reality is that you would stand to gain more by writing less!

Here are 7 ways you as the author would experience greater gains by actually slowing your writing efforts down!

Learn Something New

Without being in a ‘frantic’ rush to develop more content, you as the author can spend more time doing research and even applying some of what you learned. The idea behind article marketing is to share useful information with others so it only makes sense that you benefit from what you have learned as well!

Give People Something Worthwhile

As mentioned above you can give yourself additional time to research your subject so that your published articles will contain a higher quality of information. Now you are presenting to people material more worth their while to read and this is something they will remember and appreciate!

Each Effort Has an Impact

Your research and the writing process takes time and effort so make each effort count for something. It is easy to overlook the lack of impact an article may have due to your haste in researching and composing! When your published articles are of good quality this reflects well on you helping to build credibility which is a huge asset when working online! Creating just one article of superior quality will benefit you much more than ten that contain mediocre material! Besides, if nobody is reading what you wrote, your efforts are useless in terms of traffic generation as well!

Share Knowledge Clearly

By not rushing to publish ‘quantity’ you are better able to compose yourself and your thoughts so that readers understand what it is you are sharing with them! When marketing with articles you always want to be sure you are communicating your thoughts and making your points in an understandable fashion!

Allows More Time to Devote Elsewhere

Avoiding the temptation to ‘rush’ the writing process to publish as much as time will allow now lets you focus on other areas of your business! This time can be used to research and develop new product ideas, other online marketing strategies, customer relations or even to simply relax and recharge!

Helps Avoid Burn-Out

Tapping away at the keyboard on a continual basis especially if you are not getting the results you are looking for can easily lead to burn out. As already mentioned rushing to ‘kick out’ the next article can lead to poor quality work. When you have a significant number of published articles returning very little in terms of results it makes your efforts that much tougher as your frustrations mount!

Time to Re-Purpose Your Content

A huge benefit of this strategy is that you can take what you have already published and put it to use elsewhere in your business. Of course you will need the time and creative energy to do so which may be difficult if you are always busy trying to compose something new.

Writing articles is one of the most effective and multidimensional online marketing strategies in use today. The tendency for many to focus on having as many published articles as they can however results in diminishing the quality of their content. The discussion above serves to show how writing fewer articles can actually boost the benefits experienced by not only the readers but the author as well! Marketing with articles not only educates but also affords the opportunity to take a one time effort and use it in multiple and strategic ways. By taking a slower and more deliberate approach anybody using this strategy can get much better results out of their published articles even if they may be fewer in numbers!

Keyword Research Revealed: How to Find Keywords for SEO

finding keywords in Google

Keyword research and competitive analysis are two things you should tackle first when building a website or improving your web presence. After working with hundreds of businesses over the years, both in the B2B and B2C space, we’ve learned that search engine optimization (SEO), specifically keyword research, is the one thing business owners are most likely to screw up (or get screwed on, if they hire the wrong agency). If your keyword game isn’t on point, you’re missing out — on site traffic, on leads, and on money.

This blog post will walk you through the keyword research process, including an overview of the tools you’ll need, how to find keywords for SEO, how to prioritize the keywords and how to implement them into an effective blogging strategy. And, in case you’re a total newbie to this, there are screenshots that will help break down the process.

These tactics will work well, whether you’re looking to overhaul your SEO keyword strategy or are just looking for some choice keywords to weave into a blog post you’re working on. In fact, the method outlined in this post is the same one we’ve used for our site, and TCF currently ranks #1 for a variety of highly competitive, very lucrative keywords. If you follow the guide, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve the same results for your site.

First, let’s review the tools that you’ll use while finding keywords — and what they do:

Keyword Research Tools

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of SEO keyword research tools that you can use to collect information — and a lot of them do similar things. Some marketers prefer Moz (formerly SEOmoz) or SEMrush, others opt to do everything within Google’s Keyword Planner. Using any of these tools is better than using none of them, and it’s important not to let a plethora of tool choices get in the way of actually getting the job done. Essentially, they all take you to the same place, it’s just that some take you via a different path and offer more information along the way.

In the interest of keeping things simple — because we recognize that this can be overwhelming — we’ll only review the tools that TCF actually uses to find keywords for clients. But, if you learn SEMrush you’ll have the knowledge base to move around to just about any of the other tools, should you find it necessary.

Free Keyword Research Tools:

SEOsiteCheckup – We’ve been singing the praises of SEOsiteCheckup.com for years, and for good reason. First, it’s free. Second, in about a minute it can tell you everything that’s wrong (or right) with the back end of your website’s search optimization — and you don’t need to know anything about SEO in order to understand it. Go ahead, try it out! It even explains how to fix what’s wrong. This enables business owners who know nothing about website design to go back to their developer with a comprehensive list of technical items that need to be fixed.

Google Keyword Planner – This is promoted by Google as an AdWords tool, but it’s also a great organic research tool. You’ll need a Google account to access it, but if you have Gmail you’re already set.

UberSuggest – This can help you identify keyword-related phrases that people are searching for, and give you additional ideas for keyword opportunities.

Paid Keyword Research Tools:

SEMrush – ($69.99/month). If you use one tool on this list, it should be SEMrush. This is the most valuable tool that we use to find keywords and analyze competition, and it’s also where we like to start our research. This shows you which keywords your site currently ranks for, what position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) you’re in, where you were last month, which page is ranking, etc.

WordTracker – ($27/month). Helps you to identify keywords and suggests alternate options. Should be used before UberSuggest to find additional keyword opportunities to capitalize on.

Moz – ($99/month). Moz is similar to SEMrush, although it does give you a few extra options to track SEO rankings (and potentially spot future opportunities). Some marketers have even found it worthwhile to use both SEMrush and Moz together.

Almost all of the paid keyword research tools available operate on a monthly billing structure, and we’ve yet to find one that doesn’t offer a free trial, meaning you can find one that suits your needs before you’re forced to open your wallet. Now that we’ve reviewed the keyword research tools, let’s get into how to use them.

Step 1: Find Out if Your Website is Properly Optimized for SEO

Before you can get into keyword research and implementation, you need to make sure that the back end of your site is set up for success. If it’s not, all the effort you’ve put in to find keywords and work them into your copy won’t be nearly as effective as it would otherwise be.

At TCF, we like to say, “before you throw a party, you need to clean house.” The same is true for on-site SEO: before you invite people to find you via search engines, you need to clean up any mess that may be hidden on the back end of your website. Fortunately, SEOsiteCheckup makes it straightforward and simple.

check your site SEO

Go to SEOsiteCheckup, enter your website’s URL and click the green “Checkup!” button to the right. This will take you to another page, which will create a report based on all of the important back-end SEO aspects of your site. The report takes about a minute or two to generate, and once it’s finished you can download it as a PDF and then email it to your website designer with a “please fix all of these red X marks” note included.

The best part is, you don’t need to understand much about SEO in order to implement the changes. The “explain this” and “how to fix” buttons on each section spells everything out for you. Here’s a section of the report I ran for TCF, which alerted me to the fact that we’ve got a broken link on our site:

site SEO diagnostic tool

Although SEOsiteCheckup is fantastic for pointing out glaring issues with on-site SEO, and is always accurate when it comes to aspects like meta descriptions, keywords, broken links, etc., we’ve noticed is that it isn’t always 100% accurate for the smaller things. An example here is the red flag that’s being thrown up for Google Analytics — we definitely have those set up, and I review them every morning. For some reason SEOsiteCheckup doesn’t recognize this, but in the grand scheme of things this isn’t such a big deal.

Depending on what you’ve already done to optimize your site for search engines, you may have focus keywords selected for your site already. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re all set, especially if you haven’t chosen the right keywords to focus on. In Step 3 we’ll cover that, but before you start finding new keywords you should check to see what existing keywords your site is already ranking for.

Step 2: Find Keywords Your Site is Already Ranking For

In our experience, it’s a lot easier to bump your site up from 15 to 5 on the SERPs than it is to go from unranked to 15. Because of this, it’s important to know which keywords your site is already ranking for, so that you can focus on the low-hanging fruit and achieve some quick wins as you work toward long-term keyword goals. The keyword research tool you want to use for this is Moz or SEMrush. We’ve used both, and find that SEMrush is a little easier for novice keyword researchers to dig into.

When you go to SEMrush and type in your website, this is the dashboard that comes up (and you don’t need a the paid version of SEMrush to access it). Here, I entered The Content Factory’s website:

keyword research

This gives you at-a-glance information about which keywords you’re ranking for, your SERP position (with last month’s position in parentheses, indicating forward or backward movement), monthly search volume and the ad value equivalent (cost per click, or CPC) for both individual keywords and every search term that you’re ranking for. It also gives you a graphic representation of your paid and organic search traffic over time. TCF doesn’t run ads, so the orange Ad Traffic line is flat at the bottom.

I ran this report for TCF, and it shows that our site generates $21,663 worth of search traffic per month. This means that if we were to run a Google AdWords campaign targeting the keywords that we’re ranking for (for free via SEO!), we’d have to spend $259,956 per year to generate similar results. This is where the ROI is for SEO — why pay to run expensive AdWords campaigns when you can rank organically and get the same results? The SEO work we’ve done means that we don’t need to rely on AdWords campaigns at all, and our site still attracts over 25,000 visitors per month via organic search traffic.

Diving into the keywords in SEMrush by clicking on “full report” in the Organic Keywords section gives you even more information. Here, you can see that TCF’s site is ranking for 412 keywords. If you click on the “Pos” button at the top, it will sort your keywords according to what you’re ranking highest for.

Note: if you’re new to this, you may not rank for any keywords, or for very few of them. This is okay! Everyone’s got to start somewhere, and at one point TCF was in the same boat. Don’t get discouraged — get determined, and follow this action plan to achieve the SEO results you want.

finding keywords

The Results column tells you how many total results Google pulls for that particular keyword, and it’s a good indication of how much content there is on the subject floating around the Internet. These are all keywords that we’re ranking #1 for, as well as the individual pages on our website that are ranking for these keywords. Note: the vast majority of the content we’ve gotten to rank has been on our blog, not our home page. This is normal, and why it’s so important to have a consistent blogging strategy.

Ranking #1 is great, but the real opportunities are in the SEO keywords that you’re increasing or decreasing in the SERPs for:

keyword research

We wrote a blog post about the cost of web content writing a while ago (we update it regularly to keep the info fresh), and it’s now ranking #1 for a few phrases — although it appears to be slipping on a few others.

Considering that those look like strong keywords, it’s worth potentially targetting them with our next content push. That means we need to produce more content targeting those keywords, or improve our content marketing for the existing pages of content that we have. Either option can get us where we need to go, but going back to the “it’s easier to bump an existing page of content up the ladder than get it on the ladder in the first place” point, it would probably be more efficient to edit or add to existing content, or market it more, than to create a new page of content and start from scratch.

Once you have this report for your site, create a spreadsheet with all of the keywords that you’re currently ranking for, your position, the monthly search volume and the cost per click ad value. You don’t need to create this yourself — SEMrush will export it as a spreadsheet for you, and then you can delete the columns that have less relevant data. This will be your base spreadsheet, which you’ll add to in the next steps.

If you’re just starting out, you might not be ranking for any keywords. That’s okay, it just means that you’ve got a wide open playing field and can go in any direction you’d like. If this is the case, set up a spreadsheet with all of the info listed above and plug in the keywords and corresponding data in steps 3 and 4.

Step 3: Find Keywords for SEO

Not ranking for any keywords? Like we said above, everyone’s got to start somewhere. Starting out with a blank slate can be exciting, as it means you have complete control over which direction you’d like your content to go in. With that said, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you start researching keywords:

  1. What is your target? Do you have a specific market or demographic? Are your marketing to businesses or consumers? Don’t just think about what you sell, think about what your customer is coming to you for. If you have a security consulting company, for example, your customers might come to you for penetration testing, or for network management.
  2. What does your content budget look like? How much do you have to spend on content, or how many of pieces of content can you write in house? Do you have the resources for an all-out assault on multiple keywords, or will you only be able to produce one or two blog posts every month or so? What’s your content marketing plan, and how much money do you need to throw into Facebook/LinkedIn/whatever ads?
  3. What are your goals? Similar to the above question, you should set a realistic goal when you’re doing keyword research. If you’re a small company and you’re writing all your content in house, you shouldn’t focus on the biggest, juiciest keywords, but instead keywords that other businesses might be ignoring that bring in comparable, useful traffic.

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to begin to do some keyword research. A good place to begin your keyword research when you’re starting from scratch is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. The keyword planner will do its best to redirect your search query (under “product or service”) toward a list of keywords that are somewhat similar. For example, here’s a search for penetration testing:

pentest

Here, we can see a list of keywords that Google has suggested to us. Just like with SEMrush, you can download these keywords into a spreadsheet for analysis later. Compile all of the keywords you’ve found into a single spreadsheet so you can review, sort and prioritize them all in one space. You should do this for a number of ideas you’ve come up with. While your keywords should be specific, it’s always good to have a bigger pool to comb through when you’re trying to plan your keyword strategy.

Before we get into the analysis, it’s worth pointing out that you can do something similar to this with SEMrush, just by typing in individual keywords instead of website URLs. The downside, however, is that SEMrush will only provide you with keywords that include that string (so, if you search for “penetration testing,” it won’t show you “security policy,” whereas Google will recognize that as a related term).

Now that you’ve got your keywords, it’s time to figure out which are worth focusing on.

Step 4: Don’t Just Find Keywords, Find The Right Keywords

Now that you have a list of the keywords that you’re already ranking for, it’s time to start sorting and prioritizing them. But before you can do that, you need to establish what makes a “good” keyword vs. a “bad” keyword. You want to find keywords that are likely to convert, that you also have a shot at ranking for (in either the short or long term), and ignore all the rest.

When looking at keywords, here’s what you need to focus on:

The “Search Intent” of The Keyword – Moz has a great rundown of search intent, which breaks search queries down into four primary types:

  1. Navigational queries. These are queries for a specific site — they search Expedia instead of typing Expedia.com into the URL bar. They’ve got a destination in mind, and they’re going right to it. These types of queries do not make good keyword targets.
  2. Informational queries. These are queries based on a specific question, like “How many feet are in a mile?” or “What actor played Anthony in Designing Women?” Not good keyword targets. TCF’s “Twitter Autoresponder” blog post falls into this category, which is why that page doesn’t convert nearly as well as ourHow Much Does Professional Web Content Cost? post (which is a page targeting transactional queries). We’re ranking #1 for several Twitter auto responder-based searches, but it’s an informational query so it’s not making us any money.
  3. Commercial investigation. These queries walk the line of between research and commercial intent. These searches may include “best DSLR camera”, or other searches related to sourcing products or services. These types of keywords are not as likely to convert as transactional queries, but they’re much more likely to convert than informational queries or navigational queries (unless the person is searching for your website, specifically).
  4. Transactional queries. These queries are dripping with commercial intent, but they don’t necessarily involve an on-site transaction. For instance, “create a Google+ page” (for Google+) and “best margaritas in Pittsburgh, PA” (forMadMex) are both transactional queries, as is “best DSLR camera under $500”. These types of keywords are where the money is at, and what you should focus on ranking for.

The number of people searching for the keyword – This is a good indication of how big the pie is — the bigger the pie, the bigger your potential piece. But there is such a thing as “too big”, and if 20,000 people are searching for a term monthly it’s probably because it’s a vague, short-tail phrase. If you’re an attorney who only deals with wineries, “wine lawyer” is a good keyword for you to target, even if it only gets 20 monthly searches. If just one of those searches converts per quarter, you’ve more than made up the cost of targeting highly relevant keyword, even if it’s not searched for often.

The AdWords equivalent of the keyword – A good indication of whether or not a keyword is worth targeting is the AdWords value of the term. Generally speaking, the higher the CPC value the better the keyword (if others think it’s valuable enough to spend a lot for each click, maybe there’s a good reason). For instance, keywords related to “mesothelioma attorney” have some of the most expensive CPCs of all keywords. This makes sense, considering the average value of a winning mesothelioma case is around $6 million. In this case, the $382.89 AdWords CPC doesn’t seem so high.

expensive seo keywords

How likely you are to actually rank for the keyword – Think you’ve found a good SEO keyword? Do a quick Google search and take note of the content that ranks in the Top 3 positions on Page 1. How big and well respected are the websites that currently take the top spots? Can you write better web copy than that, and/or market your content better? If so, you’ve got a shot at ranking. If you find a Dictionary.com or Wikipedia page takes the top spot, know that you’re probably not going to be able to overcome them. If that’s the case, you should go for a longer tail version of the keyword instead, because you’ll have better results.

Pro tip: when you run Google searches for keywords, make sure you’re doing so in an Incognito window if you use the Chrome browser. This way, your social media, email and browsing history won’t skew the results. Otherwise, your research won’t be accurate.

The long(er) tail – Long tail keywords account for around 70% of all search queries, and you’ve got a better shot at ranking for them. Stay away from one-word keywords, because they’re going to be borderline impossible to rank for and are so generic, any traffic that would be sent your way likely wouldn’t convert. This is why “mesothelioma” as a keyword only costs $115.22 per click, while “mesothelioma attorney” costs $382.89 – the latter is much more likely to convert, and to be targeted traffic.

Step 5: Getting Competitive with Keyword Research

Marketing — and keyword research — doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Chances are, when you stumble on keywords you want to rank for, you’re not going to be the only person with that goal in mind. While that might seem obvious, it’s something you can’t forget when you’re choosing keywords to focus on. Not only is it a good idea to know what to expect from your competition, but by analyzing your competitors, you might be able to find some holes in their SEO strategy that you can take advantage of. Are all of their pages up to par? Are they actively trying to hold on to specific keywords? These are all worthwhile questions to ask.

Before you start planning out how you’re going to topple your competition’s rankings, you need to figure out what they rank for. For this example, say that you’re a network security firm that does consulting for other small businesses. Your first step should be to run one of your competitors through SEMrush, to see which keywords they rank for:

capta2

In this screenshot, we’re looking at site (fishnetsecurity.com) that ranks for 362 keywords — a fairly sizeable number. It’s safe to assume that we can ignore all of the keywords involving their company’s name, as their prevalance would make it near impossible for you to gain a foothold on any of them. With those out of the way, a few others immediately should grab your eye. For this guide, we’ll focus on two in particular: spear phishing and dlp security. Why those two? Let’s break them down:

  • spear phishing: This keyword is bringing in a ton of traffic to their website — 2.3% of their total traffic is due to this keyword. Additionally, while it is competitive, it isn’t hyper-competitive. Best of all? It has a CPC value of 16.05, which while not jaw-dropping, is fairly high considering the competition level of this keyword and the target market.
  • dlp security: While this keyword is more competitive than the first one we’ve picked out, it also has a higher CPC. While its volume isn’t phenomenal, that CPC value is worth looking at.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that these aren’t the only good keywords — they’re just the ones we’re using as an example here.

Our next step is to see what page is ranking for those specific keywords. In this case, it appears that both keywords are referring to blog posts. At this phase in your analysis, you should take a peek at the blogs that are ranking for those specific keywords. Try to be objective as you can when you are looking at these sites. Are they well constructed? Does it appear to be a well-written post? Do a quick search for the keyword. Can you find instances of it on the page? How many?

As you are reading through their content, make sure you’re asking the most important question of all: can you do better? If you spot a page that doesn’t have the keyword in it, or you spot a page that is poorly constructed (perhaps it doesn’t look authoritative, or maybe the layout is ages old), then you’ve found a perfect keyword for your company to target.

After you’ve posted, shared, and marketed your content, your next step is to monitor it closely. Pay attention to your own analytics in addition to SEMrush. How is your page ranking? Are you encroaching on enemy territory, or is your page languishing on the seventh page of some obscure Google search? In the same way that you took a critical eye to your competitor’s content, you should scan your own for flaws. How many times are you using the keyword? Is it in the headers? Provided you’ve done your due diligence, your page should be climbing.

Don’t be afraid to edit a page that isn’t doing well — or, on the flip side, one that is doing very well. Sometimes, an extra 500 words is all a page needs to push it over the top. Just be careful, as you obviously don’t want to throw knives at copy that’s doing a good job as it is. Be surgical when you edit, and make sure you’re not overwriting copy that’s bringing you value.

Even after you start monitoring your SEO, you shouldn’t stop doing keyword research. While you should monitor your progress on a consistent basis, every few months you should do another analysis of your competitors (and your own site). What rankings are changing? What can you do better? Finding keywords and doing research isn’t just about the initial push — it’s also about how you can hold on to and maintain your own rankings. Likewise, you never know when an opportunity might arise for you to take advantage of an area where one of your competitors is slipping.

Goals for a Marketing Manager on How to Change a Department

Marketing manager giving meeting in office room.
Marketing is often the determining factor between success and failure in the competitive — and congested — marketplace. The overwhelming influx of advertising combined with the short attention span of consumers and the universal popularity of social media have sent many marketing departments back to the drawing board. Although a declining economy has resulted in sharp decreases in most marketing budgets, these departments are expected to swiftly adapt to change, deftly adjust their strategies, and quickly produce results.

Create Buy-in

  • Successful change is dependent on creating buy-in within the marketing department and throughout the organization. Ensure all stakeholders understand and agree that change is necessary. Provide examples and statistics on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of previous marketing efforts, and include data on the need to adapt to a changing environment driven by social media. Present this as a new and exciting opportunity, but at the same time, everyone should understand that ultimately the company’s success is dependent on its ability to adapt and change to the new marketing environment.

Develop a Comprehensive Plan

  • Clearly defining the vision and then methodically outlining the steps necessary to reach the desired destination is an important goal for marketing managers. Within the marketing department, this may involve a change in the reporting structure or employees’ responsibilities. It may include a shift in how market research is conducted or used, or the implementation of new tracking software. On an organizational level, it may involve developing new operating procedures for marketing projects. It’s important to communicate that during the transition process, the department won’t miss any marketing goals or drop the ball on major projects.

Establish Relevance

  • Marketing managers must also ensure the changes will make the department relevant and effective. Change – in and of itself – doesn’t equal success. The changes must make the marketing department significantly better and position it to be a contender in the changing marketplace. According to Albert Pusch in “Brand Journalism,” to be effective, “modern marketers need to create new content every day that promotes and encourages dialogue with their target audience. They must also monitor new blog entries, videos and other items using (for example) RSS feeds or Twitter.” Maybe you can’t incorporate all of Pusch’s suggestions, but any changes should address the marketing landscape of the 21st century.

Provide Training and Education

  • Another crucial goal in changing the marketing department is to ensure that its employees are trained. You may need to reorganize the staff to meet the burgeoning social media needs, but everyone may not feel comfortable being a blogger or handling other areas of content media. Provide them with the training necessary to be proficient in handling these new duties. Also, educate colleagues outside the department about the relationship between social media and the new marketing strategy and help them understand how embracing these changes will advance the company’s marketing efforts and improve the bottom line.

How to Use Pipes in Title Tags

Bad titling and titling that doesn't make branding easy to spot can lead to reader confusion.
Google and Bing rank Web pages in search listings by a number of factors, including the contents of the TITLE tag in the HTML document. While the title of a given page is only one factor in search-engine rankings, it needs to be readable. Use the “pipe” character “|” as a separator between human readable phrases in your Web page’s titles.

nstructions

  1. Open your Web page in your Web editor of choice and look for the the <TITLE> tag. If you’re using an online website editor like Wix or Joomla, there will be a field in the form with the page’s or website’s title.
  2. Enter your title into the <TITLE> tag. Keep the Web page’s title short and memorable. Both Bing and Google truncate titles at 70 characters.
  3. Insert a space after the last word of your title. Enter a “|” character. The key for this character is immediately to the right of the “}” character on your keyboard.
  4. Add another space after the “|” character and then enter your branding information, such as your domain name or business name. An example of a completed title would look like this:

How to Become a Public Relations Manager

A public relations (PR) manager is a very experienced PR worker who oversees and directs many other workers or runs all external communications for a company. The PR manager has consistently provided clients with excellent results and takes on many of the most challenging assignments in the PR firm. You’ll need some special skills and experience if you want to become a public relations manager. Read on to learn more.

Career Aptitude Tests for Adults

Become a Public Relations Manager

  1. Study for your bachelor’s degree in communications or a related field to help you break into the PR industry. After a few years of work as public relations associates, many people go back to school for their master’s degrees. Most, but not all, public relations manager positions require advanced degrees.
  2. Specialize your public relations skills. While PR associates often handle a variety of clients, many PR managers only work in one industry. For example, you could specialize in health care, public relations or digital-reputation management.
  3. Think about starting your own public relations firm. After years of working for another company, many PR managers decide to start their own companies and hire associates to help with the work.
  4. Attend a career-development class to help you figure out the best way to move up in the industry. Many courses are offered by the Public Relations Society of America (see Resources below).
  5. Look for promotion opportunities with your current employer. Many PR firms and PR departments prefer to promote from within the company because they need workers who are already familiar with their goals and structures. In order to become a public relations manager, you’ll need around 10 years of experience in the field.
  6. Check online job postings for PR manager positions. Since a certain degree of expertise is required for a manager position, many companies conduct countrywide job searches if they cannot promote from within. Websites like Journalism Jobs often post public relations manager positions (see Resources below).