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How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working?

9 Feb

As the owner of a digital lead generation firm perhaps there is no question I get asked more than “How long will it take me to get ranked #1 for my keywords?” The answer isn’t so simple, because the question itself is misguided (no offense). The question is born from an understanding of SEO that was once the reality but no longer is.

New SEO vs Old SEO

Once upon a time the strategy was to identify those keywords that were the most relevant to your business, got the most traffic, and weren’t very competitive. It used to be you would figure out 5-10 keywords that were your “golden keywords” and would bring in the majority of your traffic. When someone comes to us and says “I need to be #1 for such and such keyword,” we know they’re stuck in that paradigm. That keyword strategy is wrong, because with rarer and rarer exceptions, there is no one keyword, and no small group of keywords, that is going to drive a lot of traffic to your website–at least not compared to what you can get from the long tail of search. The bottom line is that if you’re focusing on a small group of generic keywords, you’re probably not being found by most of the people who are searching for you.

SEO today is increasingly driven by natural language search, that is, people doing searches that are more like normal questions than two or three keywords. This is happening because people are using tools like Siri and Google Now to speak their searches, rather than typing them in. And because people are including more detail in their typed searches as they seek to find what they’re looking for faster. These keywords are much easier to rank for, because they’re not as competitive. They are much more relevant because they include more detail, and therefore traffic from these keywords converts at a higher rate. And in aggregate, the number of searches in the long tail often adds up to many more searches than you would get from your “golden keywords.” Therefore the objective, when it comes to rankings, is not to rank for a few top keywords that remain the same over time, but to focus on a much larger number of natural language searches that is growing and changing rapidly.

Rankings Don’t Matter As Much As You Think They Do
Rankings matter. But they’re not the metric you should be focusing on. If, by asking “How long does SEO take to start working?” you mean “How long will it be before I get top rankings?” then you’re mistaking outputs for outcomes, as SEER Interactive founder Wil Reynolds is fond of saying. Getting rankings is an output SEO firms can easily sell because they’re emotionally satisfying, but they’re worthless unless they generate leads or sales–the outcome you want. That’s why you should only hire SEO firms or SEO professionals who focus on outcomes, rather than outputs.

The Question You Should Be Asking

Now that you know how SEO has changed and that you want leads and sales from your SEO firm rather than just rankings, the question you should be asking is “How long will it take for SEO to start generating leads and sales?”

How Long It Takes For SEO To Start Working

Now we’re ready to answer the right question. And the answer is…it depends. Frustrating, isn’t it? But it’s the truth. What does it depend on? It depends on how long your website has been around, how much SEO has been done on it previously, what shape the website is in, how much content is on it, its link profile, and many other SEO factors (see infographic below). No two websites are starting from the same place, even if they’re in the same industry and competing for the same customers. However, here is a plausible scenario for what your SEO efforts might look like during the initial months, and the results you might expect.

Month 1 – Research and discovery, website audit, keyword strategy, and planning. If research and discovery can be done quickly, then technical changes may start being made to the website within the first month. In other cases a thorough research and discovery phase can last more than one month.
Month 2 – Begin technical SEO work, that is, making modification to the website based on site audit results. In some cases the website needs to be overhauled, and this of itself can take months. Other SEO activities such as working on the link profile and building content can be done at the same time the overhaul is happening. If you find yourself in this overhaul situation, you’ll be doing “SEO” but you still won’t be seeing any results at all, since the changes being made will only start to have an impact once they’re finished.
Month 3 – Start focusing on content creation. Blogging, FAQs, whitepapers, articles, expanded product and company information, etc. Ideally you would have started on this right after the strategy and planning, but often budgets restrict what can be done at once, and so a technical overhaul needs to come first. This being the case, you might start seeing some improvements in rankings by the end of this month. If those rankings are translating into leads or sales then even better, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect them yet.
Month 4 – Continued content creation, technical optimization of the website, and development of a healthy link profile (which may include cleaning up low quality links). By this month you could expect to see a marked increase in rankings, traffic, and lead generation. It won’t be anywhere close to the improvements you should 12 months into your SEO efforts, but it should be significant enough that you know SEO is working.
Month 5 – By this month or perhaps earlier in the process you may have started incorporating social media management into your plan to amplify your content and increase direct traffic to your website. This can lead to a healthy, natural link profile, and of course generate leads in and of itself. You would continue with content creation and perhaps engage in some PR or media outreach. You should be seeing more and more traffic coming in from SEO at this point, and your leads should be growing as a result.
Month 6 – If your traffic has reached 5,000 visitors per month or more by this point, you could benefit from adding conversion rate optimization to your efforts to improve how the traffic you’re receiving converts into leads and/or sales. From this point on, your activities may be consistently focused on content creation and promoting that content, or you may be doing things that are more creative. The specific activities can vary greatly depending on what type of company you are and what kind of website you have.

Many SEO firms will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. That’s generally accurate, but bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time. Whatever results you’re getting at 6 months should be considerably less than what you’re getting at 12 months. At some point, you may see your results taper off, and then it may be a matter of maintaining results rather than growing them.

Don’t Stop Too Soon

Many companies underestimate how much time and money it takes to be successful with SEO. Success by any standard rarely comes within the first 3 months, even with a healthy SEO budget. I’ve seen companies get started the right way, but quit after 2 to 3 months and say “We just weren’t getting the results we needed to justify the cost.” This tells me they went into the exercise with unrealistic expectations. If you can’t budget for 6 to 12 months of SEO, you might be better off putting that budget somewhere else. Paying for just a few months of SEO is, in many cases, no better than throwing your money away. SEO is a long term marketing tactic, and shouldn’t be seen as a way to generate sales quickly. However, if you make the proper investment, and plan on being in it for the long haul, SEO is a marketing tactic with one of the best ROIs out there.

Why Content and Social Media Marketing are the New SEO

28 Jul

SEO is the process of making your web site more accessible to search engines.Google’s algorithmic updates the last 3-5 years (“panda” “penguin” “hummingbird”) have reshaped the SEO marketing landscape permanently.

It’s s a myth to think you can and should be manipulating search engines with back links, page keyword stuffing, duplicate content development, etc. It’s old school and much of these processes are no longer relevant to Google.

Today, SEO rankings are a primarily combination of creating and sharing great content, building a web site that works for your visitor, coupled with basic on page SEO best practices we’ve outlined below.

Best SEO Practices for Today’s Content Soaked World

  • Think of Twitter as Google’s new SEO discovery engine – use Twitter to tell Google what new content has been added to your site, with hyperlinks embedded in your Tweets to the blog post or page.
  • Build your site on WordPress with these basic page attributes to drive SEO: Title and Descriptions consistent with your copy and use the Yoast plugin.
  • Make sure your page construction HTML “score” is correct – use the W3C Validator to check your code by pasting in a URL and checking.
  • Write shareable copy; by “shareable” we mean with excellent, well written copy that educates and informs your audience and use the ShareThis WordPress plugin so visitors can easily share your content across their social accounts.
  • Don’t have a slow web site! Google penalizes sites with poor load times: checkoutPingdom’s site to understand your critical load times for a page. You want to be less than 2.5 seconds of load time per page.
  • Use PlexiSearch (click on search insights) to understand how keywords are rated and ranked by Google and Bing – back links are passé – “social” really drives SEO rankings.
  • Monitor comments via your web site and/or use Disqus for on-baord commenting to make the job easier: site popularity will drive spammers; know this going in.
  • If need be, outsource a portion of your content marketing to help you brand get more lift in the marketplace; this blog post will give you a sense of content marketing costs.
  • If consumer facing brand and/or you have sufficient marketing budget make sure  your updating Facebook on a regular basis; this will drive Bing search results which are picked up by Google.
  • Be proactive with Google: makes sure your Google Webmaster Tools account is working with Google analytics and monitor Google’s “read” of your site.
  • Create relevant “intelligent” URLs that have keywords and informative text embeddedin the URL string. This helps to drive more traffic by letting a viewer doing a search quickly get a sense for what your page is about.

 

 

A critical takeaway for savvy SEO Marketing is understanding SEO is just one strategic part of your overall marketing mix and should be integrated with other strategic marketing initiatives: content, ads (don’t forget about re-targeting), social media, email, offline and commenting on other sites.

Effective SEO 30K Foot Notes for Smartphone in Hand Execs

  • Don’t obsess about SEO! It’s an important part of your overall marketing strategy but it is not as important today as it was 3-5 years ago.
  • Do an informal or formal SEO audit depending on your marketing staff and/or budget
    • Create great content with embedded keyword phrases. We’ve been usingWordtracker for over ten year. It’s our go to “Swiss army knife” all purpose keyword research service.
  • Share and syndicate your content across the social web. Consumers and other businesses are ignoring search and increasingly relying on content accesses ed via social and/or smartphone apps, search is being bypassed.
  • Three Critical key metrics your brand should be aware of: Search, Social and Mobile.
  • Data is exploding with 10X growth with 44 Gigabytes of information online by 2020 – critical to create great content that helps your brand stand out from the crowd, with associated SEO rankings.
  • All brands today are becoming publishers chasing a digital audience that is increasingly fragmented.
  • Responsive web site design has a significant impact on SEO and your overall marketing efforts: 30-50% of your web site traffic is accessing it via Mobile and Tablet.

Content Marketing Best Practices that Drive SEO Marketing and More

  • Start slow: content marketing is a marathon process that is inherently iterative: you learn as you go.
  • Establish benchmark measurements at the outset: social engagement, revenue, email subscription, eBook download.
  • Keep moving forward: don’t get bogged down in the proverbial trenches.
  • Align content marketing with other strategies.
  • Involve your entire organization whether it’s five or fifty people: great content ideas come in all shapes and sizes: sales, customer service and/or exec staff.
  • Great content marketers “newsjack” and “borrow” from others. Content curation (great research) is critical to success.
  • Mix and match snackable short form (images, under 300 word blog post, videos) with long-form “evergreen” high value content.
  • “Chunk” and repurpose and syndicate content to leverage costs. An image curated and sourced for your web site should be featured on your pinterest board, shared on Twitter and recycled via multiple blog posts.
  • Great images help to make your brand stand out, which is increasingly important with today’s crowded markets.
  • Used an Editorial Calendar (this link will take you to our blog post with an embedded Editorial Calendar sample): it imparts discipline to your ongoing content marketing and can be integrated with a site like Trello to drive collaboration via teams of people.

SEO marketing is still a critical part of your overall marketing strategy: but, much of the old school strategies are no longer relevant!

Savvy marketers and brands realize an integrated marketing strategy drives SEO rankings. Your baseline focus has and should be writing and sharing “smart” content that informs and engages your target markets.

Please know this post is far from a comprehensive overview of any and all critical SEO practices. The intent is to point you in the right direction and help you move away from some of the old school mythology that still seems to permeate SEO marketing.

One final point: marketing strategy, technology and tactics are evolving like never before, we live in an algorithmic tech immersed world with applications and machines “deciding” what gets shared across the social web.

Smart marketers and execs have to invest quality time understanding what’s going on in the world around them.

When Should Small Businesses Outsource Social Media Marketing?

14 Jul

Social media marketing is a time-consuming initiative that can easily turn into a vanity project. Small business owners don’t have enough time to engage their social media accounts. Without resources and a strategy in place, it can be pointless in terms of ROI. One of the options is outsourcing social media marketing. Branding and engagement are important parts of your business, so when is the ideal time to do these?

After laying the foundation.
Identify your target audience, determine the best way to promote engagement, and create a style guide. Collaborate with the service provider to find the right strategy to achieve business results.

What’s the point of outsourcing if I’m going to do some work?
Outsourcing doesn’t have to mean surrendering your voice in social media to a third party, and you shouldn’t. When you hand over all the work, they’ll end up managing that part of your business. Your outsourcing partner should follow your lead not the other way around.

This step ensures that your outsourcing efforts are aligned with your business goals. No one knows your brand and its customers more than you do. You can delegate the process and still have control over the branding message.

Before turning your social media account into a wasteland or a useless mess.
If you can’t maintain a social media publishing schedule or don’t know how to make engagement viable, it’s time to get help.

Why? We’ll lose control!

An empty or inactive social media account sends a discouraging message to the visitor. If you can’t translate engagement into business value, it’s useless. Updating your Twitter is easy, but incorporating that into your marketing and sales strategy is the challenging part.

Collaborating with your outsourcing partner and due diligence reduce risks. Assign a person to oversee the processes.

Outsourcing is similar to any other deal. If you treat it as a value generator (other than a cost reduction tactic) and incorporate it into your internal strategy, it can deliver transformational results.

 

How To Track Your Social Media Marketing

23 Jun

How do you measure social media?

Some people call it metrics. Others call it measuring your marketing efforts. Whatever you want to call it, this measuring stuff can get pretty confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Think about it –  you’ve got a bunch of stats with your Facebook Insights, click-thrus in your scheduling program and your Pinterest analytics telling you which is the most pinned image.

Where do you look? Which number is more important than the others? And what the heck is the difference between a sharing metric and a consumption metric?

I’m not a numbers person. I swear, I just barely squeaked through my Statistics 101 class in college. And honestly, it hurts my head to think about this stuff.

Where do we start?

You start with understanding your goals.

I want you to think about WHY your company is using social media. And how are these social marketing efforts helping you to effectively grow your business?

  • Are you on Facebook to increase your exposure?
  • Do you post on Twitter to grow your website traffic?
  • Or are you pinning on Pinterest to generate more sales?

Your social programs may be different with each of the above questions but those are the type of business goals I’m talking about. It’s about asking the right questions to help you make a decision about what’s working and what’s not.

Let me break down these three types of goals, give you some actionable ideas to try and then show you how to measure your social media marketing.

Increase Exposure:

This exposure stuff is pretty simple. To increase your company’s exposure, you need to spend time where your customers hang out.

I’m not just talking about a post here and there and replying to comments. I mean really pulling together a posting strategy that creates multiple touchpoints where you connect with your fans.

You want to make sure you provide enough positive impressions about your company to connect with the right people.

And how do you grow your exposure?

1. Optimize your profiles with targeted key words to ensure that people running a search on your products can find you.

2. Customize your content – not just for the social program you’re on but for the audience you’re trying to reach.

3. Create shareable content with special offers to grow your followers.

Website Traffic:

Well, this one is pretty obvious. The more people who come to your site, the more they see your stuff, what you do and how to follow your marketing messages.

What are some ideas to use your social sites to increase your site traffic?

1. Use eye-catching images and attention-grabbing headlines in your posts.

I know I’ve said this before but this point is so important that I’m going to repeat myself:

This is how we connect to content online – first we see the image, then the headline and if both the image and headline have caught our attention, then we read the post.

2. Remember to add your site links to your marketing messages. Consistently schedule in your own content mixed with your promotional messages into all of your social media posts.

3. Create custom landing pages on your site. If you want me to sign up for your new online class, don’t send me to your home page so I have to look for it. Give me the direct link to your register page.

Making more sales:

This is always a tough one for people to figure out where their sales are coming from. During the sales process, there are multiple marketing messages that can contribute to the final purchase.

There are quite a few steps that happen from when someone clicks on a social media post to the day when they hit the Buy Here button. The initial post is just the start of the conversion process that takes a retweet from connection to a lead to a customer.

How can you use social media to help with your sales goals?

1. Give your connections a clear call-to-action. Don’t just assume that they know to click this link to register. Tell them what to do and what they’ll get from doing that action.

2. Include valuable content in your posts to give your fans the information they need to make their decisions. Chances are, they’ve been researching answers to their problems even before they connected with you. Why not give them what they want so they don’t have to ask for it?

3. Develop your content and your social posts for your specific target audience. Being everything to everyone may bring you the clicks to your site but they may not be the ones who will convert to a customer.

How do we track all this stuff?

I’ve lost track of the number of times I asked this question. I ran searches on Google and in Pinterest.

I found expensive programs that would run metric numbers for me, confusing spreadsheets and even a few companies I could hire to run my numbers every month.

I just couldn’t find what I was looking for so I made my own. And I didn’t even create a spreadsheet for this. I pulled up a word document, added in a table and some cool graphics behind it and check it out — my own tracking sheet!

Below is my tracking checklist that I run every month. Feel free to use my list and add your own important measurements like sales of a product that your company tracks every month. The point of this is to start tracking your numbers so you can see a pattern of what’s working and what’s not.

1. First thing I do, I log into my Google Analytics every month. In my monthly report, I include the following:

  • Page view numbers – social vs organic
  • All traffic numbers – not just my top referral sites but how many clicks did I get to come to my site?
  • What’s my top content for the month?
  • What are the top content pages on my site?
  • And I break down my top referral social site (which is Pinterest) and I see which pins were the ones that brought me the most traffic.

2. Next thing I do is track my social site numbers:

  • Which site is growing and which one is losing fans?
  • How does my fan numbers compare to the month before?
  • I add in notes to myself about anything that happened that month – did I teach more workshops? Did I do an online webinar? What could have created a change in my social numbers?

3. Then I track my blog subscribers and email newsletter signups:

  • These numbers are even more important than your social site followers.
  • Your subscriber lists are people who are interested in connecting with you on a deeper level than just following your company on Facebook. These are the people who have the greatest chance of converting to loyal customers.

4. I take a look at the big picture of all my numbers:

  • I can see which type of content is resonating with more people by the traffic it brings to my site. Can I expand on this content more or create a series of posts?
  • The numbers tell me where to spend my valuable time. When I watched my Facebook numbers go down for several months, I shifted my focus to Twitter. And when I saw that an increase in my tweets led to more clicks on my site, then I knew how to schedule my weekly social media updates.
  • When I see my subscriber number, I get a good feel for the amount of exposure I’m generating. If the numbers are slow to climb, it prompts me to re-think my content (am I connecting to the right people?). And when the numbers go up quicker, I take note as to what might have caused that (do I need to do more webinars?).

Tracking your social media marketing shouldn’t be about a bunch of numbers. It’s more about measuring your social activity and figuring out how to adjust your marketing strategy to reach the goals that help you grow your company.

By constantly reviewing the behavior and the actions of your site visitors, you’ll start to get more details about how to refine your marketing plans. And the more specific your strategies can be, the better your chances are to convert your connections into loyal customers.

 

Big #Hashtag Mistakes That Hurt Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

2 Jun

Twitter’s humble creation, the hashtag, was first created by Twitter users themselves to collate Tweets under the same category and has since become an essential marketing tool for any social media maven. The hashtag has found itself taking over many social media platforms showing its face on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr posts. Hashtags have even shown up in advertisements and TV shows and found their way into regular conversation!

What is it with hashtags that make them so popular? Well for starters, it’s a handy social media marketing tool used to highlight the latest trending topics, to tie campaigns to keywords and to segregate conversations. They’re fairly simple and easy to understand and can expertly convey a sentiment with just a couple of words.

Hashtag Blunder #1: Using Trending Hashtags Despite Its Irrelevance

The primary purpose of the hashtag is tie a current or trending topic to your brand. When you see a trending hashtag, you need to find a way to relate it to what you’re talking about in your post. For instance, if a trending topic is #skyhighheels, you can post a photo of a model wearing high heels, offer an outfit suggestion that features high heels or ask your followers to describe how they feel when they wear your brand’s high heels, while adding the hashtag to the end of the post. If #LadyGaga is trending, use the hashtag to highlight a point when she used or mentioned your product.

Some brands simply don’t get this. They use trending hashtags and insert them into their posts, even if the hashtagged topic is completely unrelated. For instance, how would #iPhone relate to a post about how you can cook kale? How would #MileyCyrus relate to a promotion about a book sale? How would #ilovekale relate to a tweet that doesn’t even involve food? It wouldn’t. This is an obvious example of trying to jump on the hashtag train, and your followers will see right through your attempt.

What you can do instead is create your own hashtag and encourage your audience to use it whenever you’re talking about a brand. You can use your brand name or you can condense your company slogan into a hashtag.

Sharpie was able to successfully pull this off when they created #sharpie. Their followers started including #sharpie when they were talking about decorating with a Sharpie, a popular artist using it as a medium or simply whenever they used a Sharpie for a personal project. This created brand awareness, and on top of that, Sharpie had more control over how its hashtag could be used.

When it comes to using your company slogan as a hashtag, it would work well if it were short. But if it’s a long sentence, you may be on a slippery slope to…

Hashtag Blunder #2: Using Long Hashtags

Long hashtags are generally okay, but if you’ve got a hashtag that looks like this: #ilovemysoyajasminemilkteadrink, then you’re keeping people from coherently reading what your hashtag is saying. Phrase hashtags are a useful tool, but if you intend to use an entire sentence in there, chances are your hashtag will be ignored as just another annoying social media gimmick.

When using a phrase hashtag, keep it short and simple. Limit it to three or four words, tops. If the audience can’t read it, let alone retype it, your brand will definitely be the only account to use it. Remember, you can also use popular abbreviations such as #lol or #yolo to convey a certain feeling without having to create a long phrase hashtag.

Hashtag Blunder #3: Too Many Hashtags

#Have #you #ever #seen #posts #like #this? Social media marketers who do this are trying to build viewership by including it in a wide range of hashtag searches to get more attention. However, the audience can tell when a brand is trying to force its way into a hashtag, and the long, confusing phrase makes the caption really annoying to read. This could lead to significantly lowering their online interactions!

Sites that don’t have a character limit, such as Instagram or Facebook, may be a victim of too many hashtags. You’ve probably already seen some brands using up a paragraph’s worth of space dedicated simply to hashtags. In these hashtag parties, they often repeat some hashtags with minor changes to the words they use. For instance, #ilovemycoffee #ilovecoffee #lovecoffee #coffeelove #lovingmycoffee #coffee #love and all sorts of other variations may find their way into a post. If you’re managing the social media of a company, do not do this, no matter how tempting it may be.

Instead, use some targeted hashtags or simply, use more relevant hashtags. As stated time and again on social media, quality matters over quantity. It may not generate as much engagement, but isn’t quality engagement more important?

For example, pretend you own a dessert bar named Lemon Lime. Instead of using too many hashtags like #LemonLime#lime#lemon and others, create your own unique one like #LemonLimeLove to express a great dining experience. When customers dine in your dessert bar, they can add #LemonLimeLove to their posts about their great dining experience to simply show that they’ve eaten at your dessert bar and enjoyed it.

Hashtags are fairly simple to understand and easy to use. Add a “#” to the beginning of a word or a phrase, and you’re almost good to go. A slipup in the world of social media is forgivable, but if you constantly misuse hashtags, not only will you have minimal interaction on your page, but you’ll most likely be unfollowed by people.

The final word on hashtags: #keepitsimple.

Facebook Gives Marketers More Audience Insights

19 May

Facebook debuts a new marketing tool called Audience Insights, available within Ads Manager.

After the recent launch of its new video ad metrics, Audience Network, and Anonymous Login, Facebook has now introduced Audience Insights so that marketers can learn even more about their consumers.

The goal of Audience Insights is to help marketers figure out how to best tailor their marketing messages to reach current and potential consumers across the social network. The new tool allows marketers to acquire insights into three types of consumers: current target consumers (created in Custom Audiences), general Facebook users, and users who are connected to a particular Page or event.

With this addition to Ads Manager, “Facebook is opening their data to become one of the most comprehensive planning tools available today,” says Bryan Maleszyk, director of strategy at digital agency Isobar, commenting on the new function.

As the image above shows, marketers can now get a 360-degree view of consumers’ Facebook behavior, including demographics (age and gender, lifestyle, relationship status, work position, etc.), Page likes, location, and language, as well as Facebook usage (how often they log onto Facebook and what devices they use to log on).

In conjunction with Partner Categories, marketers can even track consumers’ purchase activities both in-store and online. “Users now have the ability to target campaigns to people on Facebook based on the products and brands they buy across both desktop and mobile.,” a Facebook representative explains to ClickZ.

So how can you get the most out of this new tool? “Marketers should (and will) start to leverage these insights in campaign planning,” says Maleszyk. “[Audience Insights] has the ability to reduce the dependency on third-party technology research firms, as well as primary qualitative and quantitative market research. Planning communications may become a lot more agile.”

At the same time, however, Maleszyk points out that if all planners use the same analytics, agencies that have their own proprietary research data and tools may have a competitive edge.

And while the aggregation of this data may bring up some privacy concerns, Facebook says Audience Insights provides all its information in an anonymous manner. The tool surfaces information that Facebook users have already posted on the social platform, along with information provided by select third-party partners.

Custom Audience and Partner Categories use data from select third parties, including Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon. However, no personal information is shared between Facebook, the third parties, and advertisers, notes the Facebook rep.

Audience Insights will roll out within Ads Manager for U.S. marketers immediately. A global rollout is expected to follow in the coming months.

Are you eager to use Facebook’s new insights tool?

10 Things You Don’t Know About Social Media Marketing!

28 Apr

Everyone seems to think social media marketing is easy — just throw up some posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc, put your Facebook button on everything, and wait for the money to come rolling in. The other misperception is that social media marketing is cheap. Well, compared to spending $2 million on a Super Bowl ad, social media marketing IS cheap, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cost some serious money.

Unfortunately, the perception that social media marketing is cheap and easy is actually costing you BIG BUCKS! We call these opportunity costs because you’re giving up the opportunity to make more money because you’re not doing it right.

You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

Businesses hire staff or consultants who lack requisite knowledge because they’re inexpensive, which is REALLY dangerous for a small business because they’re often the entire marketing department. Businesses devote little or no money to their social media marketing program because they’ve bought into the idea that their free.

So, let’s take a look at the 10 things you don’t know about social media marketing (using the successful guide from Letterman’s top 10, here they are in reverse order of importance):

10. Gurus are spending BIG money

Yeah, you got it. All those gurus out there telling you how wonderful social media marketing is and how it’s the great equalizer for small businesses are telling you big, fat LIES.

I’m sure you’ve seen boasts about getting 1 million likes in a few weeks or driving massive traffic with a few easy steps.

Most of these are lies — or at least half-truths. These folks are getting the results they claim, but they’re not telling you they’re spending big bucks. Their results are not organic. Now, the advice might be sound, but don’t feel bad that you’re not getting the same results.

I fell into that trap early on. I was doing everything right, but not seeing the kind of massive returns I was reading about. For instance, one guru got 250,000 email subscribers. I did all the right things and only have a few thousand. What I didn’t know is this guru was PAYING folks like Guy Kawasaki and other big names some hefty fees to guest blog on his site and create ebooks. He was also paying serious money for PPC ads to promote email subscriptions.

9. Content is KING

OK, so maybe you DID know this one. But, did you know what KIND of content is KING? The kind that visitors find VALUABLE. I recently worked with a client whose previous agency was creating content — which consisted of a single blog post that was entirely promotional. Epic FAIL.

Content must be valuable to readers, over 300 words, contain related images, and authoritative links. Avoid keyword stuffing and be sure to share your content ubiquitously.

8. Quantity DOES matter

Don’t get me wrong. I’m clearly on the quality side of this debate, but you still have to produce content consistently. I strive for 3X per week, but there’s not much difference between 2-5 times per week in terms of conversion. Less than that and you won’t see the results you’re looking for!

Crappy content will still get you in lots of trouble with Google — and who wants that? Duplicate content will still get you in trouble, so avoid it.

What’s a marketer to do?

Create a content marketing calendar to ease the burden of creating high quality content on a consistent basis. Period. There are no shortcuts.

Creating good content is only 1/2 the battle. You need to curate content from other great folks. Not only is it a nice thing to do (and ensures you stay up-to-date with cutting-edge conversations around your niche), but curating content creates a tit-for-tat relationship that encourages others to share your content.

7. Social media marketing in 30 minutes a day

This is my favorite LIE about social media marketing. If you’ve read any of the earlier items on this list, you can see that social media marketing takes time. Lots of time. My guess is a small business needs about 10-15 hours a week and a midsized business problem about 80-100 hours a week of dedicated social media marketing.

And, don’t hire someone to manage your social media marketing without a clear understand of what you need and their abilities. Having a vibrant Facebook profile or a large Twitter following doesn’t mean the prospective employee knows what they’re doing.

And, that leads me to my next point.

6. Social media marketing takes cross-functional skills

Here are just a few of the many skills to look for in whoever manages your social media marketing:

  1. Strong BI (business intelligence) and A/B testing
  2. Strong writing
  3. Marketing background
  4. Technical — graphics and web design fundamentals, along with some coding and lots of online social media management
  5. Drupal, WordPress, etc.

I would look for someone who’s a generalist in these areas, with strong marketing and writing skills.

5. Social media marketing IS marketing!

There’s a reason we call it social media marketing — it’s marketing. Sure, you can hire that english major, but it won’t work as well. Face it. Marketing students spend 4 years learning marketing — consumer behavior, market research, market strategy, etc. WHY would you think you could hire and english major?

Your english major might be a good writer, but does he/she understand the tools of influence? Segmentation? How to construct a market survey?

“Nough said.

4. Subtle differences in implementation generate huge differences in results.

For instance, writing well is good, but using the tools of influence within your writing is critical for results. Influence allows you to create content that motivates the reader toward actions you need without being spammy or using the hard sell.

For instance, a client created a landing page to capture email addresses for an upcoming launch. He invited folks to sign up. Well, I’m gonna rush right out and do that!

I convinced him to change the language. The landing page now reads:

Shhhhhhhh. Can you keep a secret? We need a few good geeks to polish our gem!

This uses 2 tools of influence. 1 is the law of scarcity — people want what they can’t have and 1 is tit-for-tat by giving them something no one else has.

3. Only buyer personas matter

It really doesn’t matter how BIG your social network is, it’s how many in your network fit your buyer persona. That’s because only these folks will actually buy your brand and you’re in business to make money, right?

2. Engagement matters

Having lots of followers/ friends/ fans … doesn’t mean anything — even if they fit your buyer persona. Engagement is the fuel for message amplification and ultimately may result in viral messaging.

Engagement doesn’t happen if you’re not creating value, being a real person with a strong voice, encouraging folks to engage, etc. Engagement also requires analytics to understand how your network responds and capitalizing on what’s working.

1. Social media marketing is SOCIAL

Social media marketing isn’t just another channel for blasting out advertising messages. It isn’t traditional marketing. Spend time (and money) understanding them. Put yourself in the shoes of folks comprising your buyer personas and give them things you’d want.

How to Benefit from the LinkedIn Publishing Platform

21 Apr

Did you know you can publish your articles on the LinkedIn publishing platform?  Do you want to build more authority in your niche?  LinkedIn is opening up its publishing platform to all 277 million+ members!  In this article, I’ll show you how high-quality content creators and bloggers can use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to build their influence.

Why LinkedIn Publishing Platform?

I’ve always said you don’t have to be anointed as an influencer to build online influence. It’s up to you to contribute to your community, share valuable experience and create astute content that shows your thought leadership.

The LinkedIn publishing platform gives you the opportunity to expand your reach in a major way. Since all LinkedIn members have access to the platform, it’s critical for you to create high-quality content that differentiates you.

With the LinkedIn publishing platform, you can follow other publishers and build your own followers in the process. While your LinkedIn followers have the potential to see your LinkedIn posts, they aren’t official network connections. (It’s similar to LinkedIn’s current model for following LinkedIn-appointed influencers.)

Any posts you publish on LinkedIn are tied to your professional profile and show up near the top of your profile. This means your thought leadership insights are showcased when someone views your LinkedIn profile.  Here are some great tips to make the most of the new publishing platform:

#1: Create Valuable, Attractive Content

Before you start posting, have a plan in place. What content is most useful for your audience? Is your post too salesy? Although there’s no formal editorial process, LinkedIn makes it clear that sales-oriented content won’t be tolerated (after all, that’s what the advertising platform is for).

LinkedIn has some helpful guidelines in their Help Center about what to publish. This is a good reference for understanding how to frame your content so it resonates with and adds value to both your established audience and your potential audience (which will now be even greater than your existing LinkedIn network).

The general guidelines I’ve seen (including LinkedIn’s) recommend keeping posts between 400 and 600 words and publishing weekly. However, you could certainly experiment with these parameters and determine what works best for you.

Like other social networks, people want to consume information quickly. Make it easy for them by creating scannable, attractive content. A few best practices are using a compelling headline, placing an eye-catching image at the top of your posts, bolding important text and breaking up longer paragraphs.

Feel free to enhance your articles with YouTube videos or content from SlideShare to make them as interesting and useful as possible.

When you’re ready to write an article on the LinkedIn publishing platform, it’s pretty easy. Go to your LinkedIn home page and look for the pencil icon in the box at the top where you would typically share an update.

When you click the pencil icon, you’ll see the publishing editor. This is where you create your post.

LinkedIn’s publishing editor is very simple to use. It’s similar to the WordPress editor or Microsoft Word. You can type or paste your text into the editor and format it right there. Below is a snapshot of what my first post looks like within the editor:

Your LinkedIn post doesn’t have a bio section. You’ll need to create a bio at the end of each post. Your bio should include a sentence or two about who you are, what you do and who you help, a link to your website or blog or even a specific call to action.

It’s a good idea to make the most of all of your resources. In your bio area, you should link you name to your Google+ profile, and on your Google+ profile you should add LinkedIn to the list of sites you contribute to. This ensures that Google picks up your authorship profile for your LinkedIn posts.

Before you hit Publish, please be sure to review your post and check it for grammar and spelling (the Preview option is helpful here). But if you don’t catch everything, you can go back and edit your post any time.

 

#2: Share Your Post Everywhere

To maximize your reach and engagement inside and outside of LinkedIn, share your post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you have a LinkedIn company page, share it there as well (assuming your post is relevant to your company page’s followers).

This kind of aggregate social networking adds credibility and encourages more shares and engagement across the social web. In turn, all of that engagement sends social signals to Google’s search algorithm and can help increase your visibility in online searches!

 

#3: Manage Your Post Comments

You’ve written a useful post, you’ve promoted it far and wide and people are reading it. After all that effort and exposure, don’t forget to check your comments!

In the Comments section of your post, you can respond to and interact with members who are leaving feedback or starting a discussion.

In most cases, those who commented on my posts were people I’m not currently connected to. That means the post is getting visibility beyond my first-degree network, and yours probably will too. Unfortunately I did see one or two spam comments when I posted, but you have the ability to hide and/or flag these.

 

#4: Evaluate Content Performance

LinkedIn immediately starts to show you the number of views, social media shares and comments your post generates. I admit that it’s exciting to see those metrics changing right before your eyes in real time!

Use your LinkedIn post metrics to determine how well your content is resonating with your audience. As you build your professional content library, compare your posts to see which ones outperformed others.

When you have a feel for what’s working for you, take some time to review the posts of your favorite official LinkedIn influencers and your competitors. Evaluate their posting schedule and which posts got the most views and engagement. Consider how you can use similar tactics for your own success.

Seeing what’s working gives you an idea of what people are responding to and you may want to consider using similar topics or how-to’s that appeal to your own audience.

Learning from the LinkedIn influencers who have gone before you can help you craft a more successful content strategy of your own!

It’s critical to remember that LinkedIn’s publishing platform shouldn’t serve as your content publishing hub. It’s a place to syndicate and further showcase your existing professional content from your blog.

I’m super-excited about this publishing opportunity on LinkedIn. The LinkedIn publishing platform is an important part of any marketer’s content strategy. I think it will be interesting to watch the network grow as an online content destination for professionals.

What do you think? Will the LinkedIn publishing platform be a game-changer? What kind of content are you publishing? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing … All Need Is A Plan!

31 Mar

We build websites, all day, every day and help so many clients with SEO. And I think we do one heck of a job. Our clients love our work and send us lots of referrals. Does this mean that each one of those websites instantly made our clients millions? No, of course not.

A website without traffic is worthless. So, what then? Do SEO, do Social Media, and do Content Marketing, right? Not really.

The other day I was discussing with a client their struggles with attracting qualified traffic and getting conversions. They were doing some PPC and a little content marketing through their blog… but were convinced they weren’t doing these things the best way possible.

They are the leader in their industry. They have better prices than any of their competition. And their clients love them. So, what’s the problem?

They don’t have an integrated online marketing plan.They’re dabbling…

  • They haven’t done any real keyword research; they make educated guesses.
  • They know their clients but haven’t mapped any of these efforts with the client experience.
  • They create content but distribution is sporadic at best.

None of their efforts were tied together in any real and meaningful way. And none were fully mapped to the user experience or to any conversion goals… the only goal was to get more leads.

They could have thrown in the towel convinced that none of it was going to work. Instead they were smart enough to realize it was time to change (cue Peter Brady). They saw glimpses of the power of online marketing, but needed a better strategy.

As we explained to them, when engaging in online marketing, there is a process you should follow when developing a solid plan…

Define Buyer Personas

Know your audience! Take some time and build your buyer personas. The power of a well crafted buyer persona is incredible.

Adele Ravella, founder of the Buyer Persona Institute defines buyer personas as “an example of the real person who buys, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned from direct interviews with real buyers.”

The key word here is example. These are examples of real clients. With these highly defined examples, you will have a quick reference guide to compare all of your content and marketing efforts against.

Content Audit

Do a content audit! You need to know what you’re working with.

Make an inventory:

  • good content you already have
  • content you need to create
  • sources of inspiration or validation
  • who will manage editing and creating content
  • how each piece of content maps to your buyer personas

Content can come from lots of different places!

Review Owned Media Channels

Assess your owned media channels! Owned media is at it sounds, the media properties that you own – your website, blog, newsletter.

Do you have a website? Is it designed with your buyer personas in mind or is it a brochure stating how great you are? Here’s a hint, it should be the former!

Your owned media is your home base. This is where conversion happens.

Review Social Media Channels

Assess your social media channels! Where are your personas spending their time? Are they using all of these channels? If not, consider spending less time where they aren’t.

Or find out what kind of traffic these channels are sending to your website by looking at your Google Analytics or other statistics.

If you don’t have a way to track where your traffic is coming from, stop what you are doing and ask your webmaster about adding Google Analytics to your site’s code.

Simply posting to social channels because they’re there can be a huge time suck. Time is money. Don’t waste it.

Look at Your Competition

What about your competition?!? What are they doing with their owned and social media channels? How could you do it better? How are they doing in the search results? Can you beat them at this game?

Sometimes you might need some tools and/or a professional SEO to help with an accurate review of your competitors online.

Develop a Content Strategy

Everything you do will relate in some way to your content strategy. Content is a broad term that gets overused. For the purposes of this article, I will define content as the following:

  • Content on your site’s pages like About Us or Our Approach
  • Owned media like blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics or other images
  • Curated media such as posts from industry websites you share with your audience

This content will be the backbone of your online marketing strategy. Knowing what content you can create or curate on a regular basis will help you outline the specific strategies for your owned and social media channels.

It will also help you to track and tweak your shared media strategy. Shared media is as it sounds, your owned and curated content that is liked, shared, plussed, tweeted and so forth. Tracking shared media will show you which content is working and which is not. The signals on these social channels also help with your SEO, at least in terms of your owned media.

Managing content is much easier with an editorial calendar. The calendar can be very specific as to what content will be created, by whom and where it will be promoted.

Or it could be vague with a general outline of content topics needed for each month allowing your team to be more agile in creating this content. You can be more topical or even employ a newsjacking approach.

Paid Media?

Here’s my issue with paid media… it’s often used as a shortcut to build quick and easy traffic. This costs you a bunch of money without any long term plan for keeping and growing the traffic it may or may not send.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you own a sandwich shop. One day you decide to offer free sandwiches to the first 100 people who come in. Great idea!

But, you give away 100 sandwiches and collect no information, offer no reason for that person to return, don’t encourage them to rate their experience or share on social channels. You’re just giving away free food.

Do you see all of the lost opportunities for future growth? And you’re out a bunch of free food. This is like paying people to visit your website with no plan for what’s next. That’s pay per click with no strategy.

Don’t get me wrong, pay per click, Facebook ads, sponsored posts, and other advertising opportunities can be incredibly powerful. But think through the user experience making sure you map goals that are tied to these campaigns… conversions!

Identify your Conversion Goals

Conversion is the point where a visitor becomes a fan, client, colleague, supporter, cheerleader or whatever you want them to be. You transform them into something that is useful to your business by offering them something that is useful to them.

For example, you’ve written a very useful eBook with great tips your potential clients would love. You could post this on your site as a free download. But that would be a waste of that little book’s potential.

Instead, try giving the eBook to anyone who signs up to your newsletter or registers for a webinar you’re hosting.

Conversion should be a strategy that is fully intertwined in everything you do. I’m not advocating turning everything into a sales pitch. You need to provide the user a valued experience. But, at the same time, make it easy for them to do business with you.

If you aren’t thinking about conversion with each piece of content you create and publish, you’re missing an opportunity to grow your business in some meaningful way.

Have a Plan!

Online marketing is science, sales, creative, and communications. It’s also a discipline requiring some sort of a plan. Even if it is just a loose set of ideas in your head, always think through the user experience… what they want, how they’ll want to get it, how you’ll give it to them, and what you can expect in return.

When in doubt, ask for adult supervision. It’s easy to make mistakes that can be quite costly. There are tons of resource out there, including our weekly blog posts and Facebook page. Seek the information available, know your audience, and market for them!

 

Facebook Tweaks Algorithm…..AGAIN!

27 Jan

Facebook has just announced a slight tweak to the Newsfeed algorithm. The newest version of the Newsfeed will show fewer text-based status updates from Pages, but will serve more text-based status updates from users.

The good news for Pages administrators is that Facebook will probably be distributing more status updates from Pages that are media- or link-based, as opposed to text-based.

According to a blog post, Facebook learned through testing that, the more simple, text-only status updates people see, the more they share. In fact, the initial test resulted in an average of 9 million more status updates written every day.

However, a text-only status update from Pages didn’t yield the same result as text status updates from regular users. Knowing this, Facebook has decided to pull back on text updates from Pages.

So what should Page administrators do to make up for the traffic?

Aside from the obvious switch to more media- and link-based content sharing, Facebook recommends using the link share tool rather than embedding a link in the text of the update, as it provides a more rich media experience for the consumer.

Last month, Facebook made changes to the feed that showed more links, likely an attempt to battle other news discovery tools. Of course, rumors suggest that tweaking the newsfeed is just a battle in the war on news discovery apps, as the social network is planning to launch a Flipboard-like newspaper competitor in the near future.

Here’s a copy of the announcement:

The goal of every update to News Feed is to show people the most interesting stories at the top of their feed and display them in the best way possible. We regularly run tests to work out how to make the experience better. Through testing, we have found that when people see more text status updates on Facebook they write more status updates themselves. In fact, in our initial test when we showed more status updates from friends it led to on average 9 million more status updates written each day. Because of this, we showed people more text status updates in their News Feed.

Over time, we noticed that this effect wasn’t true for text status updates from Pages. As a result, the latest update to News Feed ranking treats text status updates from Pages as a different category to text status updates from friends. We are learning that posts from Pages behave differently to posts from friends and we are working to improve our ranking algorithms so that we do a better job of differentiating between the two types. This will help us show people more content they want to see. Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates, but they may see some increases in engagement and distribution for other story types.

Many Page owners often ask what kind of content they should post. This is difficult to answer, as it depends on who your audience is and what they want to see.

Still, one thing we’ve observed is that when some Pages share links on Facebook, they do so by embedding the link in the status update, like the one below:

The best way to share a link after this update will be to use a link-share, so it looks like the one below. We’ve found that, as compared to sharing links by embedding in status updates, these posts get more engagement (more likes, comments, shares and clicks) and they provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds.