Archive | September, 2012

Social Media Marketing Got You Stumped?

24 Sep

Are you having trouble managing all your social media accounts? With so many articles and special reports on the topic of social media marketing, you would think it was a complicated topic. But at its core, it’s not really hard to understand at all. Using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to find new clients is more like “old-style” marketing techniques of networking and word-of-mouth advertising than anything else.

When you think of them in that way, working with these sites seems less daunting. In fact, it seems more like the other things you already do to grow your company. To see what we mean, here are three easy ways to get more from social media marketing:

 1. Have custom profile designs. In the old days of networking, having the right look and materials (a nice suit, good business card, etc.) was important. In the same way, having custom profiles designed for your Facebook and Twitter accounts not only makes an immediate strong impression, it helps you stand out in the crowd.

2. Post regularly to your social media profiles. As anyone who spent lots of time networking in the past can tell you, it wasn’t something you did once and forgot about – building relationships took lots of small efforts and gestures. The same applies to social media marketing, where posting regularly to your accounts and slowly building up a following is the name of the game.

 3. Be friendly and funny (but still professional). Perhaps the biggest mistake people make on social media sites (at least professionally) is the same one they make when meeting other business contacts in the real world: finding the right mix between being personable and staying professional. If you struggle to locate the right style, begin by imitating someone whose social media marketing efforts you admire. Over time, you’ll find your own voice.

These three tips might not tell you everything you need to know about social media marketing, but they’ll give you a big leg up on your competitors. So, get out there and give them a try today.

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How to Choose the Right SEO Tactics for Your Small Business

17 Sep

When it comes to SEO, many business owners are overwhelmed. There’s so much information out there, much of it conflicting, making it nearly impossible to drill down to the right strategies you should be employing. In this post I’ll try to walk through several of the considerations you should be taking into account in determining which SEO tactics to prioritize for your business.

 

Different people often describe different SEO tactics in different ways, but at a high level we can think about SEO in two basic categories:

  • On-site SEO: This is basically anything that you’d do to your own site to generate more relevant search engine traffic. This includes specific on-page elements such as title tags, image ALT tags, meta descriptions, internal linking strategies, as well as technical SEO (i.e. duplicate content issues, etc.). On-site SEO is important for any Website, but may be more or less valuable depending on the type of site you have – for instance this should often be the primary focus for larger websites that have a lot of robust content, broad distribution “built in,” and already have a lot of authority and trust with search engines (such as news sites).
  • Off-site SEO: This is essentially a variety of things that would be classified as “link building” such as guest blogging, link outreach and producing share-worthy content. If your site has a relatively small amount of content and is targeting a smaller basket of keywords that are highly relevant to your business, after you get the basics in place with regards to on-page SEO your focus will likely be on building links to help rank for your core terms.

Choosing the right SEO strategies – those that make the most sense for your business — is the first step to a successful campaign. This is followed by the decision between managing these tasks in-house and outsourcing to an SEO agency. Here’s a breakdown of the main strategies falling under each category and how to determine what tactics will make the most senseyou’re your business.

 

On-Site SEO

On-site content: The content appearing on your Website is the foundation on which you can build the rest of your SEO strategy. Without a solid base of content, traffic-building efforts will produce lackluster results. If your business involves highly technical information, and you have someone on staff with both the bandwidth and the skills to produce quality content, it makes more sense to retain content production in-house.

On the other hand, if your content needs exceed the capabilities of your staff, options include outsourcing to a content provider or hiring a dedicated staff writer. It’s also possible to maintain production in-house and outsource to an editor to refine content before publishing.

Blogs: Blogs alone can require a significant time commitment. But the nice thing about blogs is that having multiple voices is encouraged. In this case, multiple staff members can often contribute content, at least initially. But as your audience grows you may find that you need more frequent updates, so you may choose to outsource to an agency. Like on-site content, if the blog content is highly specialized, it’s probably better to keep it in-house.

Keywords, site structure, & technical SEO: Formatting the navigation and code of a website is one of the most technical aspects of SEO. This is one task not easily managed in-house, unless you’re already employing an SEO specialist or developer knowledgeable in SEO best practices. That said, for many smaller content sites a periodic SEO audit can be effective in keeping your site up to date with best practices without having to retain an SEO on an on-going basis.

 

Off-site SEO


Overall link building strategy
: There are a variety of methods that can be used to drive traffic and links. One of the most effective that is also highly useful for branding and thought leadership is content marketing. You’ll want to spend some time thinking about the different types of content creation and promotion that will be the most efficient and effective for your business, and consider how best to use your resources to execute a content marketing strategy. This could be as simple as periodically publishing well-thought out articles and infographics, or it could be as complex as publishing multiple posts a day and adhering to a strict editorial calendar.

Guest blogging: Guest blogging is a widely-used strategy for both networking and linkbuilding. The process involves outreach, pitching and producing content appropriate for placement on related websites.  Guest blogs are often used as a way to establish thought leadership and brand awareness, so informative posts coming from a CEO or other high-level executive have a bigger impact. Still, it’s possible to have posts ghostwritten if you don’t have the capabilities to produce it in-house.

Content creation and linkbait: This category includes case studies, white papers, list posts, edgy blog posts, infographics, webinars, and all the content pieces that can be used to grab attention and encourage social sharing. Infographics should almost always be outsourced unless you employ a skilled graphic designer, while the other tasks can be managed either in-house or via outsourcing depending on the skill level required and the technical level of the content.

Before you determine whether your focus will be on on-page SEO or more on content creation think about some of the following questions:

  • Do you have a large site that targets a number of different keywords on a variety of different pages? If so your focus should likely be on technical SEO issues and internal linking and information architecture.
  • Do you have a smaller site focusing on a shorter list of keywords? If so you’ll want to find a way to build links into specific pages, likely spending more of your efforts – particularly your ongoing efforts – on content marketing and link building.
  • What types of content resources do you have available (who has the ability and bandwidth to write a blog post, an in-depth article, etc.)?
  • What types of outreach resources would you have available (in the event that you need to identify a list of sites to promote a contest/piece of content/etc. to who could carry out contacting those sites, if anyone)?
  • Do you have any graphic resources available internally?
  • Do you have any programming resources available internally (someone who could potentially build a simple widget designed to attract links or make updates to the site that would benefit SEO)?

Obviously in areas that are logical for you to focus on where you have adequate resources you can get those internal resources to work for you. If you’re lacking in the areas that you’ll want to dedicate the most attention to, however, (if your focus should be on technical SEO but you lack technical resources, for instance) those would be areas where you’d want to consider outsourcing.

The Pros and Cons of Klout Score for Businesses!

10 Sep

Just as we have varying objectives for using social media for our business, there are many different ways in which we can use Klout scores to support our social media marketing activities. For instance, if you’re an emerging brand or business looking for a way of getting a general idea of how “influential” you and your brand might be, then Klout may just be what you need to see how you might be affecting people online. Aside from gauging your influence and tracking your results, the following features may also be of use to you:

▪                Recent Buzz: current topics being talked about in your network that you may want to share

▪                Influential Topics: topics you are most probably influential in based on what you talk about online

▪                Influencers List: list of people in your network that you influence who just might be the brand advocates you’ve been looking for

Measuring your weight online is seemingly a good idea, but many critics have bashed Klout for many different reasons, including supposedly pulling numbers out of thin air. Many also question the score’s usability and if influence can even be measured at all. Although an explanation has been posted on their blog, Klout allegedly refuses to disclose how exactly the calculation goes, and what process they go through to calculate scores. Of course, divulging the algorithm, just like making Google’s search algorithm public, could allow the system to become easily “gamed.”

Aside from these potential transparency issues, Klout has also been criticized about privacy issues, specifically about pulling in information of minors and Facebook users with accounts set to “Private” just because they commented on a public post. If this worries you and you suddenly wish to delete your account, their opt-out function is not that easily accessible and is at the bottom of, ironically, their privacy policy page, which people think to be just a little too “hidden”. CEO Joe Fernandez may have apologized for these issues, but in spite of this, there are still many who continue to delete their Klout accounts.

Should you or shouldn’t you use Klout?  In the end, it’s up to you to decide, but should you go ahead with it, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Any single metric will only give you a hazy idea of how you’re doing online, so it would be best to have other means of monitoring your social media metrics and use your score to complement your findings.  Klout, however, is definitely here to stay, as its recent announcement of new funding would indicate, so as brands and marketers, we have to continuously adapt with the tools that exist, and utilize the good aspects and filter out the bad that any “score” provides us.

PPC for Beginners!

3 Sep

If you’re new to PPC, it may seem easy: just pick a few keywords, write an ad, enter your credit card, and watch the sales roll in.

In the early days, back in 2002, this wasn’t far from the truth. There weren’t many competitors, $0.05 clicks were commonplace, and AdWords was a lot simpler.

Nowadays, though, PPC has become a complex science. It’s become a robust program full of useful features for advertisers to maximize ROI and achieve business objectives. It’s certainly more complicated than picking keywords and entering a credit card.

So as a PPC beginner, here are some tips to get the best results from your PPC campaigns right away.

1. Maximize Quality Score

In the early days of PPC, there was no Quality Score, and it was common for advertisers to lump hundreds of keywords into a single ad group. This often led to less-than-relevant ad copy, as well as management headaches for PPC managers.

With the advent of Quality Score, 100-keyword ad groups are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, it’s best to launch your PPC campaign with many ad groups, ideally with no more than 10-15 keywords per ad group.

Write your ad copy so it includes as many of the keywords as possible (while still getting your message across). You’ll have a much better chance of establishing good Quality Scores, which is important to the success of your campaign.

2. Bid on Your Brand Terms

A common PPC misconception is to assume that you don’t need to spend money bidding on your brand name, because chances are you already rank number one for your brand organically. Don’t make this mistake.

Even if it’s true that you rank number one, not everyone clicks on organic listings. But more importantly, the  trademark policies won’t prevent your competitors from bidding on your brand name. I’ve often seen competitive PPC ads on brand terms featuring an exclusive, bargain deal — likely designed to steal the brand’s customers!

While you can’t prevent your competitors from bidding on your brand, you can make sure your ad is there to take up a spot on the search engine results page. Also, you’ll almost always get a great quality score for brand terms (it should be 10 out of 10), and your competitors won’t — so you’ll probably rank ahead of them anyway.

3. Test Ad Copy

I’m continually surprised by how many PPC advertisers don’t test ad copy at all. This is one of the most useful features of PPC advertising: the ability to test ad copy messaging and see what resonates best with your audience (and better yet, gets the most conversions!).

Take advantage of it. I like to write one ad that I think will perform the best, and one ad that I think is just a little crazy.

Remember, PPC generates results fast, so if the crazy ad doesn’t work, you can just pause it. But you might be surprised! And you won’t know unless you test it.

4. Track Conversions

This is another thing that continually surprises me: the number of advertisers who spend a significant amount of money, yet have no idea which keywords, ads, or ad groups are driving sales or leads.

Both Google and adCenter offer free conversion tracking: it’s a simple script that goes on the “thank you” or other page that indicates a visitor has taken a desired action. Many great third-party web analytics programs do this too. Use them! Use more than one, even!

The reason PPC is so great for generating ROI is because everything can be tracked down to the keyword level — but only if you set up conversion tracking! If you’re running a PPC campaign and aren’t tracking conversions, put this article away and go talk to your web development team to get tracking enabled. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

5. Walk Before You Run: Get Comfortable With the Basics First

We’ve come a long way since the early days of PPC. The engines have added a myriad of valuable features like interest-based ads, Conversion Optimizer, Ad Scheduling, Campaign Experiments, and much more. These features sound great (and they are), and sometimes novice advertisers are tempted to give them a try right away.

You absolutely should try them — but not before you establish a baseline. Use the first four tips in this article to set up a well-designed basic campaign. Measure results like crazy for a good 2-3 months and make sure you have a good handle on your click-through and conversion rate.

Don’t make too many changes in a short period of time. Get comfortable with the basics before trying any advanced features. Make sure you have an accurate yardstick before you try to measure the effect of advanced features.

By working through these tips, you’ll be on your way to getting the best results you can from your PPC campaign.  To partner with Sala Social Marketing for your next PPC campaign contact us at (860) 984-3440.  We also offer PPC training services!