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Understanding Content Marketing : Sharing Content

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

content_is_kingContent Marketing is defined as any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.  Each time you update your status, write a blog post or share a photo or a link online, you are a content marketer. Last week we discussed where to find the content to share online.  In this post, we are going to cover sharing the content you found: Where to share it, when to share it and how to share it.

Step Two: Sharing Content

Once you’ve found content you wish to share, here are a few tips to get it out to your audience easily and effectively.

Where to share

All social networks are not the same and the things you share on Twitter may not be appropriate for your Facebook or LinkedIn audience. Although you always have to determine what works best for you, here are some general guidelines to follow.

  • Share more personal and visual content on Facebook and Google+.  Company milestone celebrations, New product or service launches, new employee welcomes, life milestones (child graduation, new babies, etc.) are all great options for Facebook.  Did a longtime customer visit your office?  Did the staff participate in a charity event? Did your office have a bake-off? Great! Snap a photo and post to Facebook.

  • Contests, giveaways and coupon codes should stay on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Keep LinkedIn professional. LinkedIn is not the place to share your award winning chili recipe or your company retreat photos.  Stick to sharing professional mentions of your company and articles about your industry.

  • Twitter is best for short, specific messages. Headlines with a link to a photo, article or video are best.

  • If you have the technology to create short videos instead of written text, do it! Sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter’s video component Vine make uploading and sharing this content easy and this opens up your content to a fresh set of eyes.

  • Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr are all ideal for visual content.  If your picture is worth a thousand words, then one of these platforms is the right place to post it.

  • Have a lot to say on a topic? Write a blog post. Nothing draws people more directly to your website than fresh content.  The more you update your site, the more often it gets visited by Google and the more doors are created for you to be found.

When to share

Believe it or not, there is a science to sharing content and many studies have been done on getting more retweets, the best time to post and even myths of social sharing.   Here are the big takeaways.

  • Facebook posts later in the week get more engagement.  If you only have the time to post once a week, make sure it’s sometime between Wednesday and Friday.

  • Don’t skip the weekends! People are more likely to check Twitter when not working.

  • Most people do their blog reading in the morning and Mondays are the best day to post.

  • 11AM is usually the highest trafficked hour for most blogs.

  • Overall content posted on Thursdays gets the best engagement.

How to share

Now that you know what you’re sharing, where you’re sharing it and the optimal time to share, here are a few tips to help you share like a pro!

  • Links inserted 25% into the copy of a tweet get more shares.

  • Shorten your URLs for Twitter to give you more characters. Check out bit.ly to shorten quickly and easily.

  • Make sure to cross-promote! Add social sharing buttons to your website, link your social sites in your email signature, completely fill out your social profiles to include links to your other social sites.

  • Always use a thumbnail on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.  Posts with images are more interesting and engaging.  If the article you are sharing doesn’t have a relevant image attached, you can upload one on your own.

  • Remove permalinks from status updates on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Once the preview generates, you no longer need the long link.

Screenshot 2014-07-15 16.10.05

And there you have it!  By now, you know how to find content to share and are able to share it like an expert.  Next time we’ll talk about how to repurpose your content to keep the cycle going.

Understanding Content Marketing: Finding Content

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

content_is_kingThere is a lot that goes into building a business from having a creative vision to hiring a staff to finding and nurturing your customer base.  And all this effort is directed toward keeping your business relevant and growing. Marketing – the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service –  is a necessary part of business growth.

In the online world, getting the word out about your business is accomplished via the content you post online.  Content Marketing, therefore, is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. Seems pretty simple, right? Anytime you post to your blog or share a status, link, photo or video via your social media sites, you are a content marketer.

But, how do you find that content?  Where do you post it?  How do you share it so you know it is reaching your audience?  The answer is surprisingly complicated.  This post is the first in a three-part series on understanding content marketing.  Finding content, sharing content and repurposing content.

Step One: Finding Content

Before you can share content, you have to find it or create it. There is a lot of content out there, but not all of it is suitable for sharing.  Some content is outdated, some doesn’t share your point of view, some is poorly written and some is great, but written by your competitors! Here are a three ways to find shareable content.

1.  Google Alerts: One of the first things any business owner or new hire should do is to set up Google Alerts for their own name and the name of their business.  You can also set up alerts for key terms about your business or industry.  For example, if you run a financial services firm, you can set up alerts for financial planning, retirement and wealth management.  Setting up alerts will send the top matches for these to your inbox daily so that you can review them and share what interests you.  Or you may find content that you feel compelled to write your own commentary on or counterpoint to on your blog.  Just be sure to link to the original source!


2. Twitter Searches: Twitter searches are a great way to find content to share.  There is a search box at the top right of your Twitter account or via content management tools like Hootsuite.  Typing a keyword into this field brings up all tweets that use this terms as well as suggestions of Twitter accounts to follow which heavily feature that term.

Screenshot 2014-07-10 15.36.06

3. LinkedIn Groups: LinkedIn is the number one social network for business and can help you find prospective employees, promote your business and connect with other professionals and prospective clients. LinkedIn hosts nearly two million groups related to every professional topic imaginable. When you join a group, you are apprised of new threads created within the group which can be merely informative or used for sharing. Best of all, the topics created contain links that have already been curated by professionals in your industry for suitability!


Now that you are familiar with finding content, we’ll use our next post to talk about the best ways to share that content. Stay tuned!


How Fit Is Your Social Media?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

socialfitA recent Huffington Post article compared the use of social media to a physical fitness regimen and the comparison is particularly apt. In order to be successful with a fitness program, you have to consistently and consciously put forth the effort long before reaping any benefits, and the same is true for social media.

Just as one aerobics class or a salad for lunch is not going to magically remove years of unhealthy habits from your body, neither is tweeting for a week or setting up a Google+ page going to magically double your site traffic or sales.

According to the article:

“This instant gratification mentality is certainly the pervasive attitude of many entrepreneurs as they dive into social media marketing. When, after a couple of weeks of sporadic tweeting, random Facebook shares, and an occasional Google+ post fails to catapult them into the next tax bracket, they’re often left feeling bewildered, because despite their most Herculean efforts, they inexplicably have not been able to garner more than a few likes, retweets, and followers.

The inevitable conclusion: Social media does not work.

  • I tried Google+. Nothing happened.

  • I tweeted like mad last week. Why didn’t my sales double?

  • I changed my profile picture on LinkedIn and I’m still unemployed. What gives?

What gives? This is what gives:

The one ingredient that keeps people from reaching their social media goals is the same ingredient missing in most fitness plans: consistency.

Social Media is not a short-term tactic; it is not a quick-fix method you can employ to drive instant sales; and it definitely is not something that “works” when it is dabbled with inconsistently. For social media to be effective for you and your business, you need to change your mindset. Simply put: Social media is a lifestyle.”

The article goes on to describe the main areas to which you want to consistently apply effort in order to make social media work for you including the frequency with which you post,  the consistency of your messaging, how well you connect all of your efforts together and making sure that you are using social as a two-way channel, engaging with your followers rather than talking at them.

I would further expand the analogy by adding that you should also embark on any social endeavor just as you would a fitness program; set up milestones to hit and goals to achieve from the start.  Create a schedule and stick to it no matter how tired or busy you are and take time out every once in a while to sit back and celebrate your successes.

And if creating and maintaining your social presence just isn’t for you?  Not to worry! Unlike personal fitness, social media can be outsourced. We’d love to talk with you about your options.  Be sure to contact us today!

40 Social Media Marketing Acronyms Revealed [Infographic]

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

In the social media universe, it is often necessary to keep your messages brief. This has brought about an explosion of Internet specific acronyms used to communicate thoughts and ideas quickly and efficiently. Whether you are new to social media or a self-proclaimed expert, there will come a time where you’re perusing your favorite social site and you wonder, what in the world does that mean?!?!

For your enjoyment and edification, may we present forty popular social media marketing acronyms and what they stand for.

SM Acronyms

40 Social Media Acronyms Revealed

1.  API = Application Programing Interface

2.  B2B = Business to Business

3,  B2C = Business to Consumer

4.  CMGR = Community Manager

5.  CPC = Cost Per Click

6.  CTA = Call to Action

7.  CTR = Click-Through Rate

8.  CX= Customer Experience

9. ESP = Email Service Provider

10. G+ = Google Plus

11. GA = Google Analytics

12. FB = Facebook

13. FTW = For The Win!

14. DM = Direct Message

15. IG = Instagram

16. ISP = Internet Service Provider

17. KPI = Key Performance Indicator

18. LI = LinkedIn

19. P2P = Person to Person

20. PPC = Pay Per Click

21. PV = Pageviews

22. ROI = Return on Investment

23. RSS = Really Simple Syndication

24. RT = Retweet

25. RTD = Real-Time Data

26. SaaS = Software as a Service

27. SEM = Search Engine Marketing

28. SEO = Search Engine Optimization

29. SERP = Search Engine Results Page

30. SM = Social Media

31. SMB = Small Business

32. SMM = Social Media Marketing

33. SMO = Social Media Optimization

34. SMP = Social Media Platform

35. SOV = Share of Voice

36. TOS = Terms of Service

37. UGC = User Generated Content

38. UV = Unique Visitor

39. UX = User Experience

40. WOM = Word of Mouth

See any that we missed? Please be sure to add them to the comments!

Does Your Business Need Pinterest?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

0pinterestPinterest is the newest darling of the social media world – and with good reason! Pinterest boasts 70 million users 23% of whom use it every day. User demographics are overwhelmingly female (80%) and mainly from the US (60%). The average time spent on the site is 14.2 minutes.

That’s a large, captivated audience with substantial buying power that you could be in front of. But, the question still remains, is Pinterest a good fit for your business? Before jumping into Pinterest, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you have a large female clientele? As mentioned, 80% of Pinterest users are female. If you sell men’s health products or farm equipment, Pinterest may not be your target audience.

Do you currently use a lot of visuals? Pinterest is a visual platform. All items are shared via picture and those pictures click through to content. If you use a lot of charts, infographics and photos to showcase your business or product already, Pinterest might be a good avenue for you to explore.

Can you find a way to make Pinterest your own? As with any social media site, the emphasis is on social. This means that it is not meant to be simply a marketing channel where you sell to people, but an open forum where you share content that relates to you, your company and your industry.

Within this framework, many brands have found a way to pin creatively. Baylor Health Care System created dozens of boards with healthy recipes, advice and inspiration, while finance leader Dave Ramsey has a Get Out of Debt board containing helpful tips, tools, articles and support.

Do you have the time to maintain a Pinterest account? Pinterest is free, fun to explore and has the potential to refer a lot of traffic to you. However, creating and maintaining your boards takes a time commitment. In order to be successful, you need to be sure you have an hour or so each week to devote to curating and adding to your boards.

Once you have decided to take the Pinterest plunge, jump in and explore! Get a few boards started, start following the boards of others, like pins, comment on pins and share great pins via your Twitter and Facebook accounts. In no time, you will be a pinterest master.

5 Reasons Hashtags Are the Unsung Heroes of Social Media

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

hashtagThere are lots of tips and tricks out there to help you get the most out of your social endeavors, but if you only become proficient in one, it should be the use of the hashtag.  Why is the hashtag so great, you ask? It’s just a symbol.  A couple of lines intersected by another couple of lines.  How can it possibly help promote me or my business?

So glad you asked! Here are the top five reasons why hashtags are the MVP of Social.

Hashtags Travel

Once upon a time, hashtags lived only in the land of Twitter.  However, when the other realms saw how well this simple character worked for organizing categories, finding relevant content and search, they began to adopt hashtags to function in the same way. Adding a hashtag to a word or phrase on any of the major social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram) will allow that content to be seen via searches for those terms.  This is especially important if you tie your social accounts together or schedule messages.  Now one message with a hashtag can expand your reach on multiple platforms with minimal effort.

Hashtags Collect

If you’re trying to find specific content on social media platforms, a hashtag search will provide all content with those tags.  If you tag your own content, it will show up when others search.  This maximizes the reach of your message and puts you in front of people who may not already be following you.

Hashtags Connect

Hashtags are a great way to find customers or like-minded people via social.  Have you ever gotten started on a social site and wondered who to follow? A hashtag search for your business keywords or interests can lead you people with whom you’d like to interact or whose questions you may be able to answer.  It will also lead you to competitors so you can evaluate how they interact and adopt the practices that fit for you. In addition, you can use hashtags to connect on a deeper level by creating a specific hashtag to sort a conversation out of the general stream. This can be a one-time event or a weekly conversation on a specific topic.

Pro Tip:  Did you know that you can hashtag your profile information on Twitter? This is another great way for people to find you. Not sure how to do that? Click here.

Hashtags Report

Hashtags are an easy, instant way to view and quantify the results of a social media campaign.  By choosing a unique hashtag and asking anyone who participates to use the hashtag or providing a hashtag for people to use at offline events, you can easily quantify how many people participated while expanding your reach.  Also, since social media sites are time stamped, you are able to determine the effects of a campaign over time.

Hashtags Lead

A quick and easy way to get involved in breaking news is to follow along with trending topics.  These may be sorted globally and locally giving you several opportunities to join active conversations and get in front of a larger audience.  Of course, the caveat to this is to make sure that you are not spamming the trending topic with irrelevant messages and always strive to be sensitive to the situation at hand.  You certainly don’t want to be that company highlighted as a ‘Don’t’ example across the internet by using a national tragedy to help you sell shoes.

And there you have it.  The top five reasons why you should live, learn and love the noble hashtag.

All Hail the Hashtag!

Incorporating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Into Your Online Marketing

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

As most of us (hopefully!) know, Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11th) and Father’s Day (Sunday, June 11th) are coming up fast! While you’re probably already planning ways to celebrate your own parents, it’s also a good idea to post something on social media to acknowledge any clients of yours that may be parents. After all, who doesn’t like a little appreciation now and again!

To give you some ideas, here are eight ideas of ways you can celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on social media!

1.    Post a Happy Mother’s/Father’s Day gif. Create or find a free-use image wishing your clients a Happy Mother’s or Father’s Day for them to see when they log in. This doesn’t have to take long, but it will make any mothers or fathers who follow you feel very appreciated!

2.    Share your plans. Sometimes people are at a loss for how to celebrate these days with their parents. By sharing your plans, you’re not only letting your followers get to know you better, but you could potentially give a follower or two an idea for a great day!

3.    Post a family picture. Even though these holidays never fall on #ThrowbackThursday, that doesn’t mean you can’t share a throwback picture! Not only would it be easy to share a picture of you and your parents as a child, your followers would get a kick out of it!

4.    Offer a discount or free gift. While this may not seem like the most obvious choice, there are still ways where a discount could work for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. For example, if you’re a nutrition or fitness expert, offer free reports on how moms and dads can feel their best.

Retirement experts may want to offer a free report or consultation as well. And this could work one of two ways (or both): a free report on ways to help your parents transition into retirement, or one parents can give their children to help them start planning for retirement. After all, parents never stop worrying about their children, or it’s not uncommon for children to start worrying in return as they and their parents get older.

5.    Tell a story. We all have fond memories of our parents, so why not share them with the world. You can also ask your followers to share their favorite memories with their parents in return. Similarly, you could share what you respect most about your parents, the greatest piece of advice they ever gave you, etc.

6.    Go ahead and bring your own kids into it! Yes, I know these holidays are about the parents, but what parent wouldn’t jump at the chance to gush about their kids?

7.    Make a short video. It’s so much more personal when your followers can see you, so why not shoot a short video wishing all the moms and dads out there a special day? With smartphones being as advanced as they are, you don’t need a lot of time, or special equipment! You can not only share this video on social media, but you can send it via email, and post it in a blog on your site!

8.    Involve your employees. Combining some of the ideas below, you could easily create an online gallery of each employee with their mom or dad, and ask them to share their favorite memories of their parents.

Now that we’ve given you some starter ideas, plan something and get at least Mother’s Day scheduled now, so that you’re ready to celebrate mothers and fathers when the day arrives!

What Myths Do You Believe About Your Website?

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In the third article in our series about online marketing myths, we’re going to tackle the myths many people still believe about their websites! Not only are many of these pervasive ideas outdated, they can actually hurt your web presence!

1)   Regular redesigns are imperative. Actually, regularly overhauling your website can hurt you. Once your clients become used to a certain design and layout, drastic changes can be jarring for them. Even worse, if they once knew exactly where something is, but then can’t easily find it on the new site, they can get frustrated and leave. Instead, make changes to your site that make sense! For instance, if there’s a new widget that can get you new Facebook likes and shares, then by all means, add the widget. Or, if your web company didn’t do a great job with the design and layout, find someone who can do better! But try to avoid complete overhauls as that can hurt your previous branding work.

2) Design and layout don’t matter. While you don’t need to pay an exorbitant amount for a designer, but you DO need someone who specializes in web design. Even a great print designer is not necessarily going to understand the requirements for a good website. For instance, you need to make sure your most important credentials are easily visible, and you should have a photograph of yourself as a focus!

3) People will just show up. If you have a party, but don’t send out invites, how many people do you think will show up? No one, of course! It’s the same thing with your website: if you don’t promote it, share it with your clients, employ good SEO practices, etc. people won’t know your site exists.

4) Maintaining a website is difficult. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. If you find a good company, they’ll be able to listen to your needs and capabilities, and set up a site you can manage. One really common solution is a content management system, which essentially lets you input blog and articles into a simple form. Granted, something a little more complicated will look more sophisticated, but sometimes you have to work with what you have! Even better, find a company that will handle updates for you, so you don’t have to worry about it at all.

5) Stock images are fine! This is one of the biggest website misconceptions I come across. Think about it: if you go to a company’s website and it seems incredibly generic, what questions does this raise in your mind? That they don’t want to show who they are? That they won’t have a unique enough approach to meet your unique needs? That they didn’t want to put the effort in to doing something better? Instead, show them you. Show them your staff. Give them the ability to put a name with a face, so that they feel more connected to you when they call. As we always say, “people buy people.” And they buy the people they talk to, not generic stock photo people.

So there are five of the biggest website myths that I hear from clients all the time! Wondering if something you’ve been told is fact or fiction? Don’t hesitate to ask!

Are You Safe From Heartbleed?

Friday, April 18th, 2014

As companies have rushed to find out if they’ve been affected by Heartbleed, and what to do if they were, I’m sure you’ve received emails or read articles about how to protect yourself from this security flaw.

And the question most people have is simply “Is my website safe?” And if your website was built with CelebritySites, we’re happy to assure you that it is! So, if your clients have been asking if their information is safe with your site, you can confidently tell them that your site is secure and their data is safe!

Now that we’ve been able to assure you that your website is safe, let’s talk about what Heartbleed is, and how it happened. Essentially, Heartbleed is a coding flaw in the heartbeat (hence the name) extension of the OpenSSL library. It sends a malicious server request that asks for more information than it needs, which exposes additional memory on the server.

While the hackers can’t control the information they receive, they could end up with anything from encryption keys that allow them to read data to access to information like usernames, passwords, and credit card information. What they receive can also allow them to impersonate a user.

While the developer insists it was an accident (and we don’t even know if anyone with malicious intent knew about or was able to manipulate the bug before discovery), there are a few known instances of the bug being exploited before patches were installed. For example, a 19-year-old Canadian was arrested this week for using the flaw to steal around 900 Canadian Social Security numbers.

The vulnerability may have existed for up to two years, and is said to have affected around 2/3 of the Internet, including major sites like Pinterest, Google, and Yahoo. While the majority of sites reportedly patched, you can double-check sites you’re concerned about via a tool from LastPass.

As for the question of whether or not you need to rush to change all your passwords, the answer is that it depends. If a site hasn’t been patched, the odds are that changing your password now won’t do you much good. If an affected site has been patched, the answer still varies. For instance, Google says you don’t need to change your password, while Pinterest is saying they’ll be in contact with any users they think may be vulnerable. Mashable has a handy guide that compiles responses on how to proceed from some of the Internet’s most popular sites.

Heartbleed was discovered by three security engineers from Codenomicon, as well a researcher from Google Security.

Celebrity Branding Online: Are You Speaking Your Audience’s Language?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

The world of online marketing is evolving rapidly. Social media, SEO, video production, content marketing, and the list goes on. If you are like most small business owners, just trying to understand these various strategies is overwhelming – let alone actually implementing them successfully for your business.

But despite the rapid pace of change and the often-confusing technical terms, it’s important to understand that internet marketing, like all marketing, eventually boils down to having a conversation with your target market. Sure, the technologies and the strategies that you use may change, but ultimately, they are simply providing a platform for you to interact with your target audience.

For that reason, it’s critical that you, as a business owner, are effectively guiding this conversation with your market. You don’t have to understand the nitty-gritty technical details, and you don’t have to be up to speed on all of the latest developments, but you do need to be in control of the message. In this article, we’re going to put aside the technology and focus on one important aspect of your marketing message: the language you’re speaking to your audience.

No, I don’t mean English, Spanish, or Mandarin Chinese. I’m talking about the unique “language” that your target market speaks. Many business owners habitually speak in their language – an IT consultant uses complex technical jargon, a lawyer speaks “legalese”, an investment advisor talks about interest rates and financial ratios.

And that’s fine when you’re talking to your employees or your colleagues. But when you’re talking to potential customers, if you’re not using language that they understand, you might as well be speaking Chinese! It’s critically important that you speak to customers in their language – that you boil down complicated technology and terminology into words and concepts that make sense to your audience.

Below are several ways you can do this. These concepts should be applied to your website, your social media presence, your e-mail marketing, and any other marketing “touch points” you have with your customers and prospects, whether online or offline.

1) Ditch the technical jargon. You can’t talk to your customers in the same way that you talk to other professionals. If you’re a lawyer, speaking in “legalese” is going to leave potential clients confused and intimidated – and most likely looking for help from someone else. For instance: a woman going through a divorce doesn’t want to hear about Petitions, Affidavits, or Addendums. She wants to hear that you can help her, that you can guide her through the process, and that you’ll fight for her rights and her interests.

2) Don’t bore them with specifications – focus on the benefits of doing business with you. Many business owners like to talk about their products or services… how big the hard drive is, how fast the processor is, how high of an interest rate they can earn. This is a mistake, because it’s not what customers ultimately care about. They don’t care about the hard drive, they care about storing pictures of their family and friends. They don’t care about the interest rate directly, they care about the secure retirement you can help them achieve. Don’t focus on the details, focus on the benefits for your customers.

3) Appeal to your audience’s emotions. What keeps your audience up at night in fear? What are they secretly dreaming about? It is important that you understand your market’s emotional needs and seek to address them – ideally the benefits of your products and services (that we discussed in the previous section) will line up with their emotional needs. Don’t focus on dry details – focus on the emotional needs and desires of your audience.

4) Share stories of success. People love stories. And your customers are no different. One great way to help them understand the advantages of doing business with you is to share success stories with them. They’ll quickly substitute themselves for the individual who the story is about and will then have a clear picture of how you can help. Make sure that these stories line up with the benefits you provide and the emotional needs of your audience, as discussed above. An example is a retirement advisor sharing a story about a now-retired couple who came to him years ago in a panic. In the story, the advisor could describe how he helped them to create a plan which allowed them to achieve their goals… and now, they’re living “happily ever after” travelling the world, golfing, and spending time with their grandkids.

5) Be entertaining where appropriate. In order to hold the attention of your audience, it’s important that you’re engaging and entertaining. Platforms like social media, in particular, offer an opportunity to communicate in a very conversational, down-to-earth style. But even on your website and other marketing channels, read through your content and look for opportunities to make it more engaging. If you bore your audience, they’re not going to stick around.

6) Make your website and social media profiles visually engaging. Speaking the right “language” is about more than just words. The pictures and images that surround your content have an important role to play. If the visuals are dull and boring, there is a chance that potential customers won’t even bother to read what you have to say. Do your best to create a website and a social media presence that is visually appealing and engaging – so that your audience will stick around to hear how you can help.

If you aren’t speaking the language of your audience, they’re not going to understand you. Take some time right now to evaluate the content on your website, your posts and information on social media, and the content elsewhere in your marketing presence. Is there too much technical jargon that won’t make sense to readers? Are you appealing to their emotions and clearly communicating how you can improve their lives? Are you telling stories and keeping your audience entertained? Are your visuals engaging?

These are key questions when it comes to the strength of your marketing message. The bottom line is very simple: it doesn’t matter how technologically advanced you are, or how “cutting edge” your marketing presence… if you’re not speaking your audience’s language, they’re not going to get it. Please get in touch with me today if you’d like to learn more!

Fact or Fiction: Social Media Marketing Myths

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Now that I’ve covered some of the biggest email marketing myths, let’s go over some of the biggest social media marketing myths that persist today. Unfortunately, it seems that there are even more social media marketing myths than there are email marketing myths!

One of the most pervasive is that purchasing followers will help you, when in fact, it will only hinder your social media presence. Not only does is just look bad when you have 2,000 followers on no retweets or favorites on a regular basis, but, when it comes to Facebook, it will actually decrease the number of people who see your posts.

What causes the poor follower to engagement ratio that hurts your social media presence? It’s simple. Most of the people that offer all these new followers are just creating quick, fake accounts with a new email address and then never do anything with them ever again. So these new “followers” aren’t real people, and they won’t become real clients.

Another common misconception is that you need to be on every social media account in order for your social media marketing to have a real impact. Just like in the situation above, more isn’t necessarily better here either.

If you don’t have the time to devote to all those different sites, your attention is going to be lacking somewhere. Then, when people look you up in search engines, they’ll find half-done and rarely updated profiles, which doesn’t look very good. It’s better to determine how much time you can devote to your social media presence, and then pick a couple or a few of the sites that will best fit your goals. After all, you can always add more profiles as more time (or help!) becomes available.

A third common misconception is that businesses expect to see results fast, whether it’s with an increase in sales, or an increase in followers. I think this misconception is often one of the reasons businesses resort to buying followers!

However, real growth takes time. How much time? Well, that will depend on your type of business, your goals, your target audience, and the amount of time you’re devoting to your social media presence. But, just keep in mind, even if you work on your social media all day and spend quite a lot of money on promoted posts, you’re not going to go from 0 to 1,000 followers overnight!

Finally, one of the biggest myths I come across on a regular basis is that people think that all they need to do is promote their own content and their profiles will grow. This is wrong on two levels.

First of all, you have to do more than just promote your own content. You want to present yourself as the expert, but part of being an expert is staying up-to-date with your field, whether it’s national news, industry-specific updates, or even funny images that come up related to what you do. Showing your followers that you stay up-to-date is a great way to further solidify your credibility.

Secondly, just posting isn’t enough. You need to be available to answer questions from clients, say thank you if they compliment you, or just in general interact with other people on social media. Too many people have the idea that social media is just another sales platform, when it’s really for connecting and building relationships. That, over time, leads people to trust and respect you, and then they’ll want to buy your products or services.

Do you have any other questions about social media? Has someone suggested something to you that just doesn’t sound right? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch today!

Email Marketing Myths Debunked

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

In honor of Gmail’s 10th birthday, I thought now would be the perfect time to go over some major misconceptions about email marketing, and why you still need to take it seriously as a way to connect with your clients and prospects!

The biggest misconception is that email marketing is either dead, or dying. While some online marketers have been predicting in its demise for years, these predictions have yet to come to fruition. And why is that? Because far too many people still use it.

For example, Gmail alone has about 425 million active users. Outlook, which replaced Hotmail, has 420 million accounts. Yahoo Mail has 273 million accounts. Even though there’s likely some overlap (many people do have more than one of these), all of them combined still equal well over a billion users, and that doesn’t include the fact that those are just the top three services! If you take into account that these services are all still actively growing, it’s easy to see that email isn’t going anywhere.

A tangent of the previous myth is that email is going away because younger generations don’t like to use it, instead preferring to communicate via Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, or other social media accounts. To the contrary, Gmail and Outlook are both more likely to attract users in the 18 to 34 range (although Gmail skews male and Outlook skews female).

Yahoo Mail pulls in a wider range (18-49), while AOL is the only one whose likely user base starts above the average of the other three (35-64). If this information shows us anything, it’s that almost everyone fits into the average user age profile of one of the top email services.

The final misconception I’d like to address is that mobile email marketing doesn’t matter because people access the same email accounts on their computer. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Mobile email opens are up to 51% in December 2013, after growing 21% over the course of the year. This number goes up to 68% when we’re talking about Gmail and Yahoo Mail users.

Even more importantly, emails read on a mobile get more unique click-thrus than those read on other devices (around 40%). So if you’re not making sure your emails look good on mobile, you’re missing the best opportunities to connect with your customers!

Have any questions? Then don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d love to talk to you about ways you can grow your email marketing program!

Paid Vs. Organic

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

There’s been a lot of talk over the past couple years over the use of paid vs. organic. While paid on search engines is commonly accepted, paid on social media is less so, and sometimes for good reasons.

So, which is better on social media: paid or organic? The answer is that it depends. After all, there’s a big difference to paying for reach, and paying for followers. When you’re paying for reach, your ads and sponsored posts are shown to real users. However, when you’re paying for followers and fans, that’s often not the case.

Some social networks (Facebook, for example) have been accused of deprioritizing organic reach in their algorithms in order to push users towards buying paid ads as these companies find ways to monetize. While that may be part of the goal, it’s not the only one. It’s part of a larger effort to make sure companies are putting up quality content instead of just spamming users. And as someone who has seen many company pages post links to the same site content over and over and over again, it’s something to be grateful for.

It’s similar to the algorithm approach from search engines, where they’ve fought very hard to minimize approaches to search engine optimization that were “spammy” instead of high quality. Of course, the downside of this is that there are now three ways to be seen: 1) create powerful, engaging content; 2) pay for ads; or 3) pay for ads for powerful, engaging content. The first approach is definitely the best approach, but bumping those posts up with ads can encourage genuine engagement amongst people who don’t know about your brand yet.

On the other hand, when you try and buy followers, you will most often end up with fake followers. Why? Because the people offering you 500 followers for $5 aren’t actually getting their friends to follow you. Instead, they’re quickly creating a bunch of fake profiles in the hopes that they can get enough people to buy their services to make it worth their time. Even worse, some of these “followers” are spam accounts hoping that they’ll be able to get you to click on some fake link, and then share whatever they’re promoting with your followers (sometimes a virus) without your prior knowledge.

For a business, the true problem with these fake followers is that they kill your engagement and discourage more people from following you. On Facebook, the algorithm promotes posts with high engagement (which comes from genuine followers) and hurts those that have a miniscule percentage of engagement compared to the number of followers. Even on Twitter, which doesn’t use a complicated algorithm, it hurts genuine engagement when you have so many followers, and so few favorites or retweets. With savvy audiences, it screams disingenuousness.

In short, it never hurts to promote genuine content to real people. It’s no different than any other form of legitimate advertising. On the other hand, promoting your content to fake followers will only hurt your cause, especially in the long run.

Back to Basics: Common Website Terms You Need to Know

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Last week, I covered some of the terms you need to know in order to fully expand and grow your social media presence. This week, I’ll explain some key website-related terms you need know to make the most of our your online presence!

Here are the terms you need to know:

1)   Visits. This is the number of times a website was frequented. It does not take into account repeat visits, so if John Doe visits your website 10 times, this will be counted as 10 visits. Visitors will tell you the number of people that visited your site.

2)   Page views. This will tell you have many pages on your site were looked at during any given period. It’s different from visits, because visits tracks the overall visit no matter how many pages a person looks at. On the other hand, page views gives you a more accurate perspective of how many pages each person is visiting.

3)   Ezine. Do you send out a monthly print newsletter to your clients? An Ezine is basically an email version of that, and it provides news about your company, as well as valuable information for your clients. Your blogs and articles are perfect information to include!

4)   Call-to-Action. A Call-To-Action is simply a form on your site that allows people to take further action by signing up for an Ezine, requesting a consultation, requesting a free chapter or report. Your Call-To-Action will have better results the stronger the draw is. For instance, a complimentary workbook to go with your book will draw in more people than a request to sign up for an Ezine.

5)   Autoresponder. When someone signs up via a Call-To-Action on your website, you don’t want to just send them to a thank you page and be done with it. You need to keep the user engaged. One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up an autoresponding sequence, which is just a series of emails with useful information that you send to subscribers. For instance, if someone has requested a free chapter of your book, the first email in the sequence would send them the link to download the chapter. The next might tell them how to connect with you on social media. A well-spaced sequence will keep users from forgetting about you.

6)   Landing page. The landing page is just the first page on your site that a visitor sees. For instance, if you link to your blog on social media, then that blog is the landing page for people who click on the link.

7)   Bounce rate. The bounce rate tells you how many people left your site after looking at the landing page. It’s normal to lose a sizeable percentage of people on that first page (50% is generally considered the average bounce rate), but a bounce rate that’s too high says that your content isn’t connecting with users, and that’s costing you clients.

8)   Referrers. These show you where your traffic is coming from, and can including search engines (from paid or natural search), or any place you promote your content (such as on your social media profiles).

9)   Keyword. The keywords you see in your report tell you what words people are searching for that brings them to your site. They can be pretty straightforward (i.e. “financial planner in Illinois”), or, increasingly, they’re longer and more conversational (i.e. “how to save for retirement past 50”). The latter type is called a long-tail keyword.

So, there you have it: the terms you need to help you understand your website and how it’s doing! Have any more questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Back to Basics: Common Social Media Terms You Need to Know

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

With a constant influx of new social media platforms (and constant updates to old ones), it’s easy to get confused about the latest social media lingo. Even worse, different sites use different terms to describe the same thing, which makes it even more confusing!

So today, I’m going to explain ten of the most common social media terms to help you navigate today’s social media landscape. Here we go!

1)   Followers/Friends/Fans. While most sites (Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.) use the terms “Followers” to describe the people who subscribe to receive your posts, Facebook uses “Friends” for personal profiles, and “Fans” for Pages.

2)   Tweet/Blog/Status Update/Pin. All of these refer to posts you create and share as the original poster (OP). So, if you share your opinion on an article from USA Today, then that is an original post. Twitter uses the term tweet, Tumblr users blog, Facebook users post status updates, and posts on Pinterest are called pins!

3)   Retweet/Reblog/Share/Repin/Regram. Facebook is the most accurate here, by simply using the term “Share” whenever another chooses to share your content with their own followers. Twitter uses “Retweet,” Pinterest uses “Repin,” Instragram uses “Regram,” and Tumblr uses “Reblog.” Getting people to share your content is important on any new site, because it exposes you to potential new followers (aka a large prospective client pool).

4)   Like/Favorite. “Liking” (on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Instagram) or “Favoriting” (Twitter) a post is a way to say you enjoyed it without sharing it on your personal feed. However, it won’t necessarily encourage other people to then retweet you.

5)   Bit.ly. If you spend much time on social media, you’ll eventually come across links from bit.ly (or ow.ly, t.co, etc.). These are just shortened links that help users stay within the character limit requirements social media sites impose. They also help sites like Twitter (which uses t.co) limit the risk of users being taken to virus-laden pages. Using a site like bit.ly can also offer additional benefits, such as the ability to track the number of clicks each link gets.

6)   Hangout. This is the Google+ video chat service that allows you to video chat with up to 10 users at once. It’s becoming more and more common for businesses to conduct remote calls, small webinars, or client coaching sessions via services like Hangout.

7)   Hashtag. A hashtag is an annotation that goes in a social media posts. They serve two main purposes: additional commentary or a way to index posts. If it’s additional commentary, someone might post “#ilovemydog” on a post that features a picture of their dog, or “#didntseethatcoming” on a post about being surprised. Really, it can be anything! For the latter, the purpose is to help other people find the posts. For instance, hashtags that use a trending topic allows those searching for the topic to find related posts. Even a general hashtag like “#retirementplanning” can help interested parties find your post.

8)   Engagement. The rate of engagement refers to the number of people who interacted with your post, whether they like, share, or comment on the post. A high engagement rate improves your reach, and helps you get new followers.

9)   Reach. This refers to the number of people who see any individual update you post. Surprisingly, this is rarely the same as your number of followers due to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which we’ve covered in the past. If no one interacts with the post, fewer people will see it. If people engage with the post, then you’ll have some of your followers, plus the followers of anyone who interacted with the post!

10) Cover photo. Different than a profile picture, this is the large photo that goes at the very top of your profile. While profile pictures are almost always square or round, cover photo size requirement vastly vary from platform to platform. Always check the individual sites for specifications before getting one designed!

I hope this clarifies some of the most common social media-related terms! If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Spring Cleaning Your Online Presence

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

With spring thankfully only two weeks ago, it’s time to think about Spring Cleaning! But we’re not talking about cleaning your house, or even your office; we’re talking about sprucing up your online presence!

Too often, people set up their website and social media profiles, and then never re-review the text. This is a big mistake! After all, your business has experienced growth and change over the last year, and you want to make sure your sharing your best assets with current and prospective clients!

Here’s what you need to review and update this spring, to make sure your website is up-to-date:

1)   Website bio. When’s the latest time you read your website bio? Last year? In reality, it’s probably been longer than that, even if you’ve created a new website since then. The bio is something most people slip to the bottom of the to-do stack when they’re busy, but in reality, you’re selling yourself short if you’re not telling your most current story.

2)   Staff profiles. If you’ve added new staff in the past year, make sure they’re on your website so your clients can put a name with a face! And if staff members have moved somewhere else, make sure to remove them, so that clients aren’t spending time trying to get a hold of the wrong person. Adding titles and a short description of what each staff members does can also make it easier for clients to get in touch with the correct person.

3)   Check forms. Because technical errors can happen, it’s always a great idea to periodically test forms on your site. This is also a great time to review your autoresponders and make sure they’re the best they can be!

4)   Videos. Again, since video hosting services changes their technology, it’s always a good idea to make sure videos aren’t returning error messages for your visitors! While you’re reviewing the videos, you can make a list of what you have, and then brainstorm what could be useful to your clients that you’re currently missing.

5)   Social media descriptions. When many people set up their social media profiles, it sort of becomes “set it and forget it.” However, whenever you update your contact page, About page, have any new accomplishments, etc. you need to update your profile information on your social media accounts as well.

6)   Social media cover photos. In the world of social media, cover photo requirements get updated constantly. If you haven’t checked on your image in over a year, there’s a chance it’s blurry, stretched out, cut off, or needing some other update. It’s worth checking it to make sure your profile looks its best.

7)   Email lists. Periodically, it is good to do what is called “list hygiene.” This is where you send an email to those who haven’t opened an email in a certain period of time (6 months is common, but 1 year might be good if you don’t send emails often) to see if they still want to be on your list. The benefits include perks ranging from giving you more accurate open rates, to reducing the risk of being blacklisted because people who want to unsubscribe just report you as spam.

8)   Profile picture. How long ago was your profile picture taken? Have you drastically changed your hair? Gotten Lasik? You don’t want prospective clients to be caught off guard when they come to your office, so make sure your picture reflects the current you!

So there you have it: eight tips on how to Spring Clean your online presence. Don’t hesitate to get in touch in you have additional questions!

The Power of Testing

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Often times, companies either stick with what they’ve always done, or they make haphazard changes without checking to see if they’re helping or hurting their business. Either way, you can lose out on clients and purchases. However, you can make sure the changes you’re making are the best for your website with some simple testing.

The key to effective testing is to test one thing at a time. You can’t test a color change and a text change at the same time; the results won’t tell you which change made a difference!

Using your call-to-action as an example, here are just a few things you might want to test:

  • Size. This applies to both the size of the call-to-action box and the text, and it can be different for different audiences.
  • Location. While having your call-to-action above the fold is almost always the best idea, different placements might work for you, depending on the overall layout on your site.
  • Color. Color psychology is a frequently studied subject, and it would be worth looking into the affects different colors can have on users. After all, you want to make sure your call-to-actions match the feelings you’re trying to evoke.
  • Text. Of course, testing your wording, font, and font size are all great places to start!

Once you’ve chosen your tests and had the design changes set up, then you need to pick a program to use to set up your test. There are many different options, but today I’m just going to cover a few of the most well known.

  • Google Analytics Content Experiments. While this program is free, it does require coding to be able to do the tests.
  • Optimizely. While you do have to pay for Optimizely, you only need to make one-time coding updates, which makes testing simple for those without an on-staff developer. Plans start at $17 a month.
  • Unbounce. This is also a paid service, but it features a simple drag and drop update interface that makes it extremely easy to use. Plans start at $49 a month.
  • Five Second Test. This tool allows you to test first impressions of your content by giving testers five seconds to view your content, and then answer some questions of your choosing. It’s a great way to check on the quality of the first impression your site gives. Plans start at $20 a month, but there are free options available.

One last thing to keep in mind: testing isn’t a one time thing. Just because a specific wording or color works this year doesn’t in mean it will work next year. And if you’re a site with frequent repeat visitors, the same set up may lose effectiveness over. For the best results, constantly experiment to find out what’s working for you!

Five Ways to Improve Engagement

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Many professionals are catching on that having a well planned website and continuous content are an important way to help you brand yourself in the Internet age. However, too many are throwing up dry content that could only be interpreted by someone in their own field. If potential clients can’t connect with your content, they’re not going to buy your product or services!

To help you create more engaging content, I’m going to go over five tips to help make it easier for current and prospective clients connect with your content. Let’s get started!

1)    Don’t use jargon. While you want to show your clients that you are the expert in your field, you need to be able to do that without a minimal amount of jargon. And even more, you need to explain to be able to explain words that prospective clients will be unfamiliar with in simple, clear terms. If they can’t understand what you mean, they won’t understand why you’re the expert.

2)    Connect emotionally. If people are looking for your services, there’s a reason why. A couple may be excited to beef up their retirement planning so that they can enjoy an active free retirement where they are free to explore their interests. A small business owner might be feeling nervous because he’s in trouble by the IRS. If you can show how you can bolster their joy or assuage their fear, they’ll be much more likely to engage with you.

3)    Show, don’t tell. You can’t just tell prospective client you can help them, you need to prove it. Luckily, there are many ways you can do this: sharing statistics from studies that prove your point, sharing the stories of other clients you’ve helped, weaving testimonials from happy clients into your bio, creating videos or graphics that clearly demonstrate the facts … this list could go on for a while. If you can back up your opinions with facts and success, prospective clients will begin to trust you.

4)    Keep it brief. With people spending so much time on social media, most people are becoming more and more accustomed to reading shorter blocks of text online. After all, Twitter’s limit is 140 characters, and studies have shown that posts with between 100 and 250 characters get 60% more likes, comments and shares on Facebook. That’s not much to work with! Although your website content certainly shouldn’t be that short, it’s important to keep in mind that attention spans are definitely decreasing online, with most readers only reading about 60% of articles online.

5)    Draw them in early. The first ten seconds a visitor spends on a webpage are the most important. This is when most people “bounce,” or choose to leave after only one page. If you can get them to stay for those first several seconds, you’re likely to get them to stay on a page for at least two minutes, and then hopefully visit other pages on the site. This is why having an engaging title, and interesting, clear first paragraph are so important.

If you follow these fives tips, you should start to see a difference in the amount of time people spend on your pages, and the frequency with which they share your content. If you have additional questions about how to improve engagement for your content, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Could You Benefit From a New Domain Extension?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Web.com has recently released 50 new domain extensions, giving business owners and experts a whole slew of new options to choose from when setting up their websites. Instead of the standard options like .com, .org, and .net, site owners can now choose from a wide range of options, including .guru, .tips, and .training. Many of the new extensions will be of particular interest for small business owners.

How could this benefit you? For starters, it gives you further options for branding your business. If you’re a business coach who specializes in helping people set up systems for their business, having the domain business.systems could help you get a leg up on the competition, both in terms of an easy to remember URL, and in search engine friendliness. Health.tips or weightloss.tips are further examples of domains to get in on quickly.

Also, if you once came up with a great URL for your website, only to be disappointed to find that the .com, .net, and .org versions of the URL were no longer available, now is your chance to get the very best URL for your business. If your preferred URL contains one of the new extensions, even better.

At the very least, you’ll want to register for appropriate domains that contain your name (like lindsaydicks.me), especially if you have a very common name! You certainly don’t want your competition picking those up.

Of course, because the standard domains will remain the most popular (at least for the time being), you can now scoop up the domains most relevant to your business for less than you’ll be able to in the future. However, domains are just now in pre-registration, so if there’s a lot of interest, that can drive the price up. If multiple people request the same domain, it can also send the domain into auction, where you’ll need to bid for it!

Now, this is a topic you’ll need to keep an eye on for a while, as more domain extension are scheduled to role out in the future. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be rolling out another set in 10 to 12 months. The organization, which currently handles Internet governance issues such as top-level domain assignment, has 1,930 new extensions planned.

If you need help choosing the best new URLs for your brand, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me today!

Back to Basics: Does Your Site Need a Call-To-Action?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

The quick answer is: Absolutely! Many clients come to us without any way for people to sign up for something on their site, even a basic newsletter, so they’re missing so many opportunities to connect with new and potential clients.

If you don’t have a Call-To-Action that encourages people to sign up via your website, here’s what you’re missing:

1)   A way to keep in contact with current clients. Clients are bombarded with ads and mixed messages every day. Getting their emails so you can send them a monthly Ezine that showcases your latest expertise (in the form of a blog or article) helps keep them in the forefront of their minds, and reassures them that you are the expert.

2)   The ability to share your knowledge. Ideally, your Call-To-Action should include an offer for a free report, book chapter, or some other piece of tangible information that you can then send to the client as soon as they fill out the form.

3)   New prospective clients. Many clients look at multiple options before choosing who they’re going to work with, and one of the first things prospective clients will look at in this day and age is your website. Offering a free Call-To-Action will entice them to sign up and give you their email address. From there, you can reach out and further share your expertise.

4)   An autoresponder sequence. When people fill out the forms on your website, you should have your forms set up to automatically send them a thank you email. This is called an autoresponder. Of course, you don’t want to leave it at that one email. Instead, set up a sequence that includes your thank you email, an offer to connect to your social media profiles, and some other other, such as a free white paper. This sequence gives visitors additional ways to connect with you, but you can set up a sequence without Call-To-Action.

Now that we’ve covered why you need a Call-To-Action, let’s go over a few different versions you can use.

1)   Ask people to subscribe to your Ezine. This is the most basic version of them all, and simply asks visitors to sign up to receive your e-newsletter. However, because people are more enticed by a free offer, I only recommend if you don’t currently have something you can offer. It is better to have something than nothing at all.

2)   Offer a white paper. Conveniently, you can turn just about any blog, article, or other piece of writing you have that shares your knowledge into a white paper in minutes!

3)   Give away a free chapter of your book. If you’ve written a book, giving away a free chapter is a great idea! Not only can it entice visitors to want to read more, but it seems like a heftier gift, since books have a purchase price.

4)   Offer a bonus for those who have purchased your book. Even a free worksheet that helps them process the information they’ve read can be very helpful for everything from life coaches to health experts to financial advisers. What pre- (or current) retiree wouldn’t like a little help getting started on retirement planning?

5)   Offer a free series. If you have something you give clients each month, such as a free workout video, free recipes, etc. offer it up as a free series to subscribers! This makes for an intriguing offer that will continue to keep you in steady contact with the people that sign up.

So not only do you now know why you need a Call-To-Action, you have some ideas to get you started. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

5 Email Marketing Best Practices to Remember

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Each day, every single one of us is inundated with emails. While a few of these are from family and friends, many are from things we’ve signed up for ages ago, such as a requesting a coupon or entering a contest. Because we’re overwhelmed, many emails featuring content we’re interested in and/or need to see often end up in the trash.

As you can imagine, if you’re overwhelmed with the number of emails in your inbox, it makes sense that your clients are as well. However, having an email marketing program is extremely valuable, so you need to make sure your emails stand out in the crowd, and actually get read. Here are five best practices to help you make the best of your email marketing program:

1.   Be consistent. It can be very damaging to your email marketing program if you only send emails sporadically. If people just receive an email from you after 6 months, they’ll likely have forgotten why they signed up. Conversely, sending emails too frequently can cause people to unsubscribe. Of worse, report you as spam. You should try sending at least one email a month, but beyond that, aim to find the happy medium that works for your business. One way to do this is by asking your subscribers how often they’d like to receive emails!

2.   See what works. Testing can seem overwhelming, but it is an important thing to do. And, even better, it’s also not nearly as difficult to set up as many people think! All you have to do is create two very similar emails, and then set the emails up in your email marketing program to automatically send each email to a random half of your list. However, keep in mind that you can only test one thing each time, or you won’t be able to easily determine what your results mean!

3.   Don’t use generic subject lines. One of the simplest mistakes I see as I’m looking over my inbox and trash folders is the number of emails that either use the same title over and over again, or they use something that tells the subscriber absolutely nothing about what’s in the email. For example, I have an email in my trash folder right now that has the title “News Update for January 28th.” I didn’t click on it because it said nothing that intrigued me and made me want to click. If the subject line doesn’t peak your subscribers’ interest, they won’t open the email.

4.   Don’t leave them hanging. If a client signs up for your email list the day after you send out your monthly email, it will be quite a while before they actually receive an email from you. While a thank you page is great, it doesn’t do anything to further the connection between now and the next email.

A great alternative is to set up a short sequence that sends emails a couple of times after someone signs up. If you have a Call-to-Action, rather than a standard sign-up, the first autoresponder can send them the item they signed up for, like a free chapter from your book. The next step can be to ask them to join you on social media. Whatever you do, make sure to keep them engaged!

5.   Make it personal. Even the littlest things, like making sure you start with “Dear John,” instead of “Dear client,” can instantly (and easily) make an email seem more personal. You can take this even further by adding tags to each subscriber’s profile in your email marketing system to allow you to easily narrow the audience for each email you send. For instance, you wouldn’t end up sending an email about a client appreciation event to someone who’s not yet a client, nor would you send an email introducing your services to an existing client.

So there are five best practices to keep in mind while building your email marketing program! Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Email Marketing 101: Creating the Perfect Template

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

While it may seem obvious to just create an email template that looks like your website, that’s actually only part of the solution when solving your email marketing problem. In fact, there are many best practices for creating your ideal Ezine template!

Here are the tips you need to create the email template that will make you stand out from your competitors:

1. Make sure it’s branded. You want customers to instantly recognize your Ezine as yours, so don’t just use the color scheme from your website and call it a day. You need to make sure your company logo and—preferably—your picture are prominently featured. Remember, “people buy people,” so make sure they know you!

2. Promote your expertise. If you post blogs, articles, and press releases on your website (which is always a good idea), make sure to push that content through in your Ezine. An Ezine and social media are two of the easiest ways to share your knowledge with existing clients and maintain a consistent relationship, so make sure you include space for them in your template.

3. Include a Call-To-Action. Give people some hook that encourages them to go to your website and ask for more information from you. This could be a free chapter from a book, a free special report, or whatever else you want to offer. You will want to change it up occasionally, so that people continue to be intrigued.

4. Don’t forget social media. Make sure you include a logo that links to all your social media profiles to continue remind people to follow you on social media for the most recent updates. You don’t want this to be a one-time thing, because you just never know when someone is going to join any particular social media site, and you don’t want them to forget to follow you!

5. Show off your credentials. If you’ve written a book, been in a magazine, or been on TV, don’t forget to give that information priority placement! After all, this information not only gives credence to your expertise, but it also helps you stand out from the competition!

6. Make sure it looks good on mobile. Over half of all emails are now checked on a mobile device, so you need to test and make sure your email template works on more than just a desktop computer. If it’s cumbersome to read your Ezine on a smartphone, there’s a good chance your email will just end up in the trash folder.

7. Don’t forget unsubscribe links. A “clear and conspicuous” opt-out option is required to be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, so make sure it’s easy to find. Also, make sure opting out is a quick and simple process to ensure people don’t just report you as spam. If you get too many spam reports, you can be blacklisted by providers, and your emails won’t go through for that provider.

So there you have it: the seven things you need to keep in mind when designing your email template. Have any questions? Get in touch today!

The Online Marketing Year in Review!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

As the final day of 2013 winds down, let’s take a few moments to look over some of the biggest stories in the rapidly evolving world of social media and SEO in 2013. From new apps taking the world by storm, to major changes in how we do SEO, it’s been a busy year in online marketing!

  • Facebook added hashtags. One of the last to add the prominent social networking symbol, Facebook finally added hashtags this summer. While their use on the social networking is growing, they still aren’t nearly as popular as they are on Twitter, and they’re definitely not having the same viral effect.
  • Google released Hummingbird. The new algorithm put the proverbial nail in the coffin for people who still try to keyword-load, and made it a priority to create unique and high-quality content if you want your site to be seen.
  • They also updated Google+. Not only did Google+ jump on the hashtag bandwagon before Facebook, but they also made the site more visually-focused and adding photo-editing tools.
  • Vine launched. It’s hard to believe, but the mega-popular 6-second video platform just launched this year. Even more impressive is that they’ve managed to gain over 40 million users in under one year.
  • Instagram introduced video. While it didn’t turn out to be a Vine-killer, the update is still well-liked, with over 5 million videos uploaded in just the first 24 hours!
  • Pinterest became one of the most popular referrers. It’s now only second to Facebook, whereas Stumbleupon and Reddit have dropped as referrers (although they’re both still in the top five).
  • Snapchat exploded in popularity. While the disappearing-message app launched last year, it only took off this year. As of October, 9% of phones had the app installed on them, and hundreds of millions of messages are sent and received each day.
  • Twitter went public. Through careful planning, including taking advantage of rule in the JOBS Act that let them keep information under wraps until about a month before going public, the company managed to avoid many of the missteps Facebook made last year.
  • Yahoo! buys Tumblr. Yahoo! is seeking to refresh their brand’s image, and one of the most-talked about steps they took to accomplish that was the $1.1 billion dollar acquisition of the personal-blogging site.
  • Twitter is pushing photos. Just last week, Twitter updated their iOS app so that it automatically defaults to your photo gallery instead of your keyboard when you go to compose a tweet. It looks like most social media networks will be image first in 2014!
  • Ads are becoming ubiquitous. In an effort to increase their profit margin, social networks across the board ramped up advertising options. From simply adding them to feeds to them becoming completely unavoidable on Facebook, 2013 has become the Year of the Social Ad.

So there’s your 2013 Year in Review! Now, what are you most looking forward to in 2014?

Five Online Resolutions to Make for the New Year

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Christmas is this week, which of course means that New Year’s is just around the corner! While many people are making resolutions to improve their health, to get organized, or to volunteer more, you shouldn’t neglect making resolutions to improve your company’s online presence in 2014!

Here are the five resolutions you need to make in 2014:

  • Commit to a schedule. While it’s best to post something on social media every day, even a schedule of three times a week is better than posting a sporadic once or twice a month. For your blog, it would be ideal if you could commit to creating and posting two blogs a month. Keeping your site current and updated is the best way to keep your business in your clients’ minds, gain new followers through social media and syndication, and give yourself the greatest chance on Google.
  • Use your email. While social media is a great way to share your content with the outside world, it should not be your only way to share. In addition to syndicating your blogs, articles, and press releases, having an Ezine is an ideal way to share your content with existing clients. Creating a simple template that features a blog and a press release every month is a quick, easy way to be able to send it out every month, and drive your existing audience to your site (and hopefully get them to share)!
  • Monitor your data. You don’t have to check it every day, but it’s important to check in at least once a month and see how things are going. Not only will this help your figure out which content and social media posts are a hit, and which are a miss, but it can help you see whether your traffic is growing or shrinking at a glance. You can also find out which long-tail keywords are already bringing traffic to your site, so that you can capitalize on those and get even more traffic!
  • Keep setting goals. If you want to achieve big things, it’s important to set small goals to help you get there. This is true of achieving any goal in life, including big online goals. You might start off small with something like just making sure you post regularly, but eventually you can move on to figuring out how to double traffic to your blogs in any given month. Whatever your big picture for your online presence is, setting small goals can help you achieve them.
  • Focus on visuals. Throughout 2013, social media has become more and more visually focused, and I’m sure this trend will only continue through 2014. Therefore, you need to make sure your online efforts match the trend and are image- and video-heavy. For instance, if you’re not regularly posting videos on your website, now is the perfect time to start!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and if you need help with your online efforts in the new year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Bringing the Joy of Christmas to Social Media

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year! Life is filled with Christmas carols, sparkly decorations, and spending lots of time with friends and family. As it gets closer to the big day, you’ll want to spend more and more with loved ones, and less time focusing on social media. If you plan now, you can keep sharing your expertise (and Christmas spirit!) with your followers all season long.

Here are ten ways to spread Christmas cheer all the way through the December 25th:

  • Make a Christmas card to share. Get everyone in your office to show up dressed in a Christmas theme (this can range from Santa hats to the ugly Christmas sweater trend to just wearing red and green) and take a group photo. Make sure to use a wide-enough angle that you’ll have room to add text that says something like “Happy Holidays from Acme!” Then share it on social media!
  • Give gifts. In the days leading up to Christmas, why not have your own 12 Days of Christmas by offering a series of free “gifts” to your followers? These might be things related to your business, like a special free chapter of your book, or something just to share some holiday joy, like a cute Christmas-themed YouTube video.
  • Offer a discount. Most businesses offer some sort of discount during the holidays, and your business shouldn’t be the exception. Now’s the perfect time to offer a percentage off to new clients, or a free gift to those who sign up!
  • Share your office’s favorite holiday traditions. You can send a short survey to your staff (asking them for things like their favorite Christmas carol and favorite Christmas treat) and create a Facebook album with their pictures and responses. Not only does this give you some Christmas-themed content, but it also allows your followers to get to know your staff better. It’s always a great time to improve client-company relationships!
  • Don’t forget to share office party photos! Office parties are a great way to celebrate and have a good time with colleagues, but it’s also a great way to show off office fun and personalities to your followers.
  • Send a holiday video. Now that smart phones are ubiquitous, it’s easier than ever to shoot a quick video to wish your followers a Merry Christmas “face-to-face.” You can even have some fun with it and sing a short Christmas carol (like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”) to put a smile on everyone’s face!
  • Spread good tidings. Christmas is a time of giving, not only of gifts to those you love, but also to help those in need. In fact, 34% of the Americans who give to charity are more likely to do so during the holidays! Now is the perfect time to highlight your company’s commitment to helping others, and hopefully bring in even more donations for the cause close to your heart!
  • Sharing is caring! Ask your followers to share their favorite holiday carol, tradition, recipe, or craft. Who knows? You might just pick up a new favorite.
  • Give your profiles a Christmas theme. Celebrate Christmas all season long by adding a holiday vibe to your profile pictures, backgrounds, and cover photos. Updating your profile with snowflakes, gift packages, Christmas trees, or any other holiday décor automatically delivers the holiday spirit.
  • Schedule a “Merry Christmas!image post. Find or create a festive image to wish your followers a Merry Christmas, and then schedule it to go out Christmas morning. When they log in (and let’s face it: most people probably will), they’ll see a friendly holiday greeting from you!

That should get you started on keep your holiday campaign going on season long! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

What’s Going to Make a Splash in Social Media in 2014?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

While 2013 is coming to a close, there’s that much to look forward to in social media in 2014. From new Facebook features that could help small businesses, to more ways to reach potential customers in your zip code, 2014 is going to be an exciting year!

Here are some of the big upcoming developments that are going to have a big impact on the next year:

1)   Twitter now offers geo-targeted ads. What does this mean for you in the coming year? It means that you’ll be able to target new customers on Twitter by their zip code! Instead of sending your ads out to people who don’t even live near you, you’ll be able to advertise your business to an even more prime audience.

2)   Facebook is adding reviews. And they’ll appear directly below the company name under the cover photo, giving them very eye-catching placement with the potential to give companies a major credibility boost. This is set up automatically for any company that lists their business address, and you cannot remove individual reviews. To help get your page started, it would be worth asking some trusted clients to add their rating!

3)   Foursquare is not going away. Despite there being many predictions of it’s demise, Foursquare has found a way to branch out and integrate itself into larger, more dominant sites like Pinterest and Instagram. By expanding it’s location-based data and notification services to other sites, Foursquare could end up being very helpful to companies looking to target people who are actually local to their business in new and creative ways.

4)   Ads are expanding. In 2014, paid advertising will become even more of a focus on social media. Instagram will soon roll out ads, and Tumblr is working on expanding their offerings, including a “Sponsored Trending Blog” option. Facebook is also pushing ads by lowering a page’s reach. The rational? There’s so much new content constantly being posted that it’s making it harder for as many people to see it. The advice? Make sure your posts are engagement and, of course, buy ads.

5)   Content creation will be more important. Many publications, including Forbes, are predicting that creating unique, informative content related to your brand will be even more vital in the new year. Creating content that highlights your expertise is one of the best ways to leave your mark on a very crowded World Wide Web.

I hope these five points help you when you’re planning out your online presence for next year. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Tools to Help You Maintain Social Media Over the Holidays

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

As it gets closer and closer to the end of the year, you’ll be spending more and more time with your family and friends, and less and less time on social media. However, you don’t want to just leave your followers hanging over the holidays. Not only are you likely to lose followers, but you’re also missing great opportunities to connect with your clients on a more personal level.

To help save you time, and make maintaining your accounts stress-free, here are five apps you can use to help you out during this holiday season:

1)   Hootsuite: No one wants to spend their time tweeting while they’re decorating cookies with their children, or at a holiday party. Instead, schedule holiday posts in advance so that you’re truly free to spend time with those you care about.

2)   Buffer: If you work with a social media company that normally manages your social media accounts, they’ll likely have your accounts in Hootsuite, and two people can’t manage the same account at the same time in that program. Buffer is a great (and really easy to use) option so that you can schedule any personal posts you’d like to add. It’s free to set up one account per social media site.

3)   Over: With more color and font options than many similar apps (and the ability to buy more fonts), Over allows you to easily customize photos with fun graphics and text, and then share them on many popular social media sites right from the app. It’s a perfect way to add a little holiday cheer, and it’s only $1.99 for iPad and iPhone!

4)   Chisel: You can download the toolbar add-on, then turn any highlighted text on a web page into a beautiful quote image in just a few minutes. It’s the perfect way to share your favorite holiday quotes, song lyrics, etc. with all your followers, while only using a tiny amount of your day.

5)   Canva: The site is still in closed BETA, but if you reserve your URL, you’ll get access pretty quickly. Canva is a little more in-depth than the other sites listed, but allows you to create nicely designed graphics for your blog and social media in a short amount of time, with NO Photoshop skills necessary. Almost all of Canva is completely free, unless you want to use one of their premium (but fair-use!) images. Then each image is just $1.

I hope this helps you continue to maintain (and have fun) on your social media accounts all season long, without taking precious time away from your friends and family. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

How to Choose the Right Social Media Sites for Your Business

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Unless you’ve hired a social media marketing company or designated staff to handle your profiles, you’re likely trying to figure out where you can get the most bang for your buck. After all, you’ll quickly eat up a large percentage of each day if you try to maintain profiles on all the sites available to you, and even then you might not be building the relationships that will really benefit your business!

Below I’m going to go over some of the most popular social networking sites, and describe the types of businesses will have the best results. If you have the time, you can make many sites work for you, but today we’ll focus on picking the best sites for each small business.

  • Facebook works for the greatest percentage of small businesses, because with over 1 billion people using the site, your customers are already using the site. Therefore, you can create a page to share tips and news with your clients, as well as somewhere to address their questions. However, you need to let your clients know the page exists by putting buttons on your site, and sending around a promotional email once the page is set up. It’s also a good idea to invite friends from your personal page to like your new business page.
  • Twitter is also rather general, but customer service can be more difficult because of the character limits on responses. Not that it isn’t possible, but if you have limited time, and your goal is customer service, I’d pick Facebook. However, Twitter is great if you want to share news, tips, and other content with your clients. Even though this is true with most social networks, you’ll need to be especially careful to be too self-promotional, since any tweets with images, videos, etc. have to be expanded before the content appears. If you’re being too self-promotional, your feed will start to look like a wall of the same thing over and over again.
  • Google+ has become one of the most visual social networking sites, so this is a great place to share everything from holiday parties to visual inspirational quotes to infographics. If you’re hoping to rely solely on text posts and links to your articles, I wouldn’t count on gaining a large audience on Google+.
  • LinkedIn is the place for professionals, making it a great places for tax exports looking to work with small businesses, financial planners looking to connect with executives, and anyone else looking to connect their businesses with professionals who need it. It is not a great place to dispense relationship advice, fitness tips, recipes, and the like.
  • Pinterest is extremely popular, but has a very particular lifestyle niche. If you’re a fitness expert, real estate agent, chef, or anyone else in lifestyle field that offers a lot of visual inspiration, Pinterest will be a great fit! Less visual fields, like retirement planning or tax experts, aren’t going to work as well, because Pinterest users aren’t going to the site for information on those topics. You’d have to share the types of content that are most popular on the site (recipes, fitness, home décor, and style are a few examples), and then slip in your advice in occasionally and hope your followers are interested.
  • YouTube can be a great way to share your advice with people searching for your expertise, but it is more time-consuming than many of the others site, although you can get away with not posting as often. But if you’re willing to create at least one video a week, it’s a great way to share your knowledge (and increase your expert status)!
  • Tumbr is, in some ways, a combination of a long-form Twitter and Pinterest. You can create short blogs to share with your followers, although much of the content is created and shared is visual. The key is to keep blogs brief, and make sure most of your content has a great visual with it. If you’re a life coach, fitness expert, or relationship expert (“love” is one of the most popular tags on the site), Tumblr would be perfect for you.
  • Instagram is one of the newest “it” sites for social media, but it really shouldn’t be your main target in most cases. However, if you’re in fashion, photography, or any other artistic field, Instagram could offer a great boost to your business.
  • Quora allows you to post both your own blogs, and answer questions from other users. You can answer questions submitted to the general public on the site, or individuals can submit questions straight to you, which is a great way to share your knowledge (although answering specific questions can get time-consuming). It’s perfect for retirement planners, tax experts, and anyone trying to share written expertise on a topic. It would be less useful for anyone whose product is mostly visual, like a photographer, unless you’re wanting to share tips on technique.

So there’s a brief overview of several of the different social networks to help you determine which might be the best fit. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Now’s The Time To Start Planning for Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

And no, we’re not just talking about planning your menu and décor, and inviting your guests. We mean for social media!

Not only is Thanksgiving a great time to publicly give thanks for your clients and followers, it’s also a perfect time to let them get to know you a bit better! By getting a bit more personal, you’re letting your clients feel like they know you on a personal level, which is really important on social media!

Here are ten ideas to get you started with your planning:

1. Give thanks. As I mentioned before, this is the perfect time to thank your clients, your followers, and your staff. A great way to thank your clients and followers is by taking a staff picture and adding text along the lines of “Everyone at Acme would like to take this opportunity to let our clients know how thankful we are for them. Happy Thanksgiving!”

2. Offer a discount. Not only is offering a discount a great way to show thanks, but it’s also a great way to offer something up for Black Friday. An alternative to offering a discount would be to offer a free special report that’s perfect for this time of year. For instance, a tax attorney can offer a free special report on end of year tax tips.

3. Share family photos. You can either show a family photo from this year, or you can post one from years ago (after all, Thanksgiving is always on Throwback Thursday). Either way, it’s a great way to help your followers connect with you.

4. Say what you’re thankful for. Many families have a tradition of going around the Thanksgiving table and sharing what they’re thankful for. Why not extend this tradition to social media by sharing what you’re grateful for, and asking your followers to do the same.

5. Share a favorite family recipe. Is your great-great-grandmother’s stuffing recipe the best stuffing recipe in the world? Then share it! It adds a fun and personal element to your social media—and who wouldn’t want to try the best stuffing in the world?!

6. Update your cover photos. Add a Thanksgiving element or two to spice up your Facebook, Twitter, and other cover photos, and celebrate the holidays! Depending on your existing theme (and where you live), you could add a turkey standing in some fall leaves, a fresh pumpkin pie, or a snowman wearing a fall-themed scarf!

7. Create a video. Make a quick video of you and your staff wishing your followers a Happy Thanksgiving, and post that on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc. Such a video wouldn’t take long to make, and has a nice personal impact.

8. Ask questions. Ask your followers to share their favorite family traditions, holiday activities, recipes, etc. with you. Not only does that increase your engagement, but you might just a new holiday favorite out of the deal!

9. Get employees involved! Your followers will love being able to connect with the people they talk to with the faces they go with, so think about creating a Thanksgiving-themed Facebook gallery that matches a photo with that person’s answer to any of the topics above. For example, you could ask each employee for a favorite family recipe, or to share what they’re grateful for this year.

10. Share the blessings. While many people spend Thanksgiving giving thanks and celebrating with their families, counting our blessings also often inspires us to contribute to our favorite charities and causes, whether that’s by donating food, buying a toy for a child in need, or giving money to an organization. Help your favorite charities get a leg up this holiday season by sharing why you support them with a link to a video, about page, or success stories on your social media.

Now that you’ve got some ideas, don’t forget to start planning now before the hustle and bustle starts! You can even schedule your posts in advance so that you can focus on spending time with your family, while still spreading some holiday joy!

Back to the Basics: Why Blogging is Important

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Sometimes when people hear the suggestion to create a blog, they just shrink away. They think it will be too time-consuming, they think no one will read it, they think it’s a waste of time … However, it’s none of things, or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

A blog doesn’t need to be time-consuming at all. If you write what you know and what you care about, the words should come relatively easily. Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be new developments in your field that you’ll need to research on occasion, but realistically, you’ll need to do that research whether you put it in blog form or not. One of the benefits of putting it in a blog is that it allows your clients to see that you’ve done your research, instead of just hoping you have.

If blogging isn’t something you enjoy, try hiring someone or having someone on your staff write blogs for you. Many people have a ghostwriter to help them share their ideas and expertise with the world.

Another important reason to have a blog is to boost your Google search results the natural. Writing quality blog content about subjects your current and potential clients are interested in is a great way to cover a variety of topics (a.k.a a variety of long-tail keywords) that people are searching for. It also shows people searching for someone in your field in your area that you know what you’re talking about, and that you stay up-to-date on the latest news.

Getting traffic to your blog doesn’t have to be very complicated either. One of the easiest ways to do this is to push it out via your social media profiles. It’s important to have social media profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other site that’s relevant to your field, and one reason it so that you can share your new content with your followers.

Once you’ve shared it with your existing followers on social media, share it on social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious, and Technorati, among the many others that are out there. While this may seem time-consuming, it can actually be done quite quickly once you get used to the sites. Just make sure you use the keywords people are most likely to be searching for (i.e. retirement vs. your company name), and you’ll get your expertise in front of those who need it.

Devoting an hour or two a month to creating and sharing blogs can be extremely valuable to your business. While you shouldn’t expect results overnight, you’ll start to build up your credibility and Google search results over time. An added bonus: once you create a blog, the benefits don’t go away after a week, or a month. A blog can continue to bring you traffic and new leads years after it’s written, if the content is still relevant.

The Link Between Images and SEO

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Since Google made the switch to change to their Hummingbird algorithm, things have changed for images used on your site, in addition to your content posts. Luckily, though, the changes aren’t that drastic, and most of them point back to what we always urge: use images and descriptions that clearly reflect your content instead of generic stock images with meaningless descriptions. Here are five tips to help you out:

1. Make sure your pictures relate. Far too often, content creators rely on things like pictures of people smiling for every single blog. However, this is a big no-no with the Hummingbird updates, since Google will now be able to recognize content in pictures and then direct people accordingly. If you’re using a generic smiling person, then Google is going to pull up your site’s pictures for people who may have not be looking for your area of expertise.

2. Don’t rely on generic stock photos. I’ve said it before because of quality value, but it’s now even more important if you want your content to have a higher impact in search engines. Relating to the point above, if 200 sites are using the same stock photo of a smiling person, then your results won’t stand out in the search engines. Make sure your pictures are unique, and people will pick your picture out of the crowd.

3. Upload images at the size you need. Google includes page load time in its algorithm, and large images slow down the page load. Therefore, re-size your image to the size you want it to show up on your site using a basic photo-editing program, and then add it. Don’t use a widget in your site to re-size the image, which can sometimes lead to distorted images.

4. Use a meaningful file name. Sometimes people don’t think to change their file names from whatever comes off their camera, but this is a big mistake. Something like “Cannon440” or “IMG2259” tells search engines absolutely nothing about the content of your image. So, instead of just going with those, clearly describe your image by changing the name to something like “housing-sales-chart-august-2013” (and make sure to use hyphens not underscores).

5. Don’t forget alt text. Alt text may be hidden in the background of your site, but it has multiple uses. First of all, it shows up in search engines, so your alt text needs to clearly and simply describe your image. Secondly, alt text is useful on Pinterest, where your alt text can automatically show up as the description on Pins. This just emphasizes that images need to be related to your post, and your alt text needs to clearly describe your image!

So there you have it: five tips you need to make your images work with, instead of against, search engines. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch today!

Basic Tips To Get You Going With SEO

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Now that we’ve gone over Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, let’s go over some of the basic things to keep in mind when trying to optimize your site for search engines, both for search engines crawling your site, and the people searching for content!

  • Make sure you localize. Unless you have a national or international business, you’re most likely looking for local clients. In return, when it comes to car dealerships, financial investors, doctors, and many others, clients are looking for someone who can help them locally as well. So, make sure to make sure your site is clear on where you’re located, and give Hummingbird a helping hand with pointing those looking for your content to your site.
  • Hold off on internal links. Because of recent changes, Google now penalizes those who use keywords to link back to related pages in their content. For instance, if I’d hyperlinked the words “Google’s Hummingbird algorithm” to last week’s blog post, I’d have been penalized for that. So even if you have something that you find useful for someone reading your current blog, hold off, and instead making sure it’s easy for visitors to navigate to other interesting content.
  • Change your focus when writing. Instead of thinking in short, clunky keyword groups, write your content as if you were explaining it to a friend, client, or colleague. Not only will this help you ensure that your content is easy to comprehend, but making content conversational will help Google pick up on long tail keywords that will help them point your content to those that could most benefit from it.
  • Use a unique META description on each page. The META description may get hidden in the code on your website, but it can be immensely helpful in showing people that you have the information you need. This text shows up under the Google result for your page, so if it says that “John Doe is a financial planner in Honolulu, Hawaii” on every page, that doesn’t let the person know if you have any information that can help them. Instead, craft one sentence that let’s searchers know exactly what’s on your page.
  • Use your keywords in your page title. Too often, people use ugly links with numbers and random letters, which gives those using search engines absolutely no clue about your content. Instead, make sure your URL describes your content! One simple idea is to make sure you have a brief but descriptive title, and then use that as your URL, with each word separated by a hyphen (not an underscore). This makes it easy for both humans and search engines to read.

Now keep in mind that these are just some of the basic tips to use when creating your online content. Later on, we’ll go into more details on specifics points, but for now, I’ll leave you with this: never try to game the system. Search engine algorithms are being increasingly designed to ensure that people are creating genuine content versus trying to “over-optimize,” so it’s as important as ever to just be authentic.

What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for Your SEO

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Google just recently released it’s Hummingbird algorithm, and those checking the top keywords bringing traffic to their site have likely already noticed a difference: instead of groups of words like “small business organization help,” the keywords are suddenly more conversational. Google’s aim is to better determine a searcher’s intent, and then provide the content that best suits that intent.

While this is bad news for those who are still relying on trying to keyword-load to beat the system (a practice Google has been trying to discourage for years), it’s great news for everyone genuinely trying to create content of value.

A benefit to the content creator is that they’ll get a clearer glimpse of the things people are talking about and searching for, and can tailor their content accordingly. After all, tailoring your content to what your audience actually wants and needs to read has always been the best practice.

However, seeing “tax help” in your data is so general that’s not of much use. If you’re a tax attorney, you already know people are looking to you for tax help. On the other hand, seeing “does a tax lien get removed when non collectable status expires” gives you a very specific question that people need answered. These long tail keywords will help you help even more people!

Another benefit for businesses aiming to serve locally is that Hummingbird will now use any registered locations to help point people to results in their current area. So instead of finding answers to questions from a company located on the other site of the country, people could see results from someone in their own city. This creates better quality leads for you, and helps consumers find an expert who can answer their specific questions more easily.

Here are a few tips to help you create Hummingbird-approved content:

  • Regularly publish high-quality content. If you just have a static website with an About page, Contact page, etc., but no regularly updated content, people aren’t going to keep coming back, and people searching for your type of expertise will not return (or they’ll leave quickly) because you’ll have a limited amount to offer them. Publishing blogs and articles remains an extremely important way to keep people coming back.
  • Use those long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are basically telling you exactly what your site visitors want to know, so make sure you give them what they want. And use those keywords well, so that people can easily find the content. For example, if you find the keyword used above, “does a tax lien get removed when non collectable status expires”, turn that into your blog title and your META title to help people quickly find what they’re looking for.
  • Link to other pages on your site. But only when it really works. But if a current blog references a topic that you’ve written about before, then point your readers to that related blog using clear keywords that fit the current blog. If searches are bringing people to your site, put it in the effort to keep them there with more high-quality content.
  • Make sure to share your content online. Whether it’s on your own social media profiles or through social syndication, anything you can do to encourage people to share your content will increase your site’s authority, which is something that continues to be important to Google.

Have specific questions about how Hummingbird could affect your site? Don’t hesitate to get in touch today!

The Importance of Syndicating Your Content Online

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Creating fresh content for your site on a regular basis is an extremely important way to improve your Google Search rankings. Not only does it give you more results, but it also allows you to easily share your expertise with those searching for someone in your field. For example, if someone’s looking for a financial planner in Tulsa, and you’re the only financial planner that’s regularly posting blogs, articles, and press releases, then you’re going to be the financial planner in Tulsa that seems the most credible and trust-worthy.

However, creating new content isn’t just important for your Google Search rankings; it also allows you to share your expertise with current and potential customers on social sites.

The most obvious way to utilize this is by making sure to share your newly published content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, and any other social profiles you have online so your existing followers can see it. If it’s engaging and helpful, they’ll hopefully decide to share it with their friends and followers, giving you access to potential new clients. On Facebook, people don’t even necessarily have to share content in order to increase your reach (i.e. the amount of people who see your post). Because of EdgeRank, even a quick like or comment increases the number of viewers for each post.

Of course, you shouldn’t stop there when sharing your content! Social bookmarking allows you to easily and quickly share your content on popular websites, and tagging your bookmarks correctly allows you to share it with those who are looking for what you’re writing about.

Currently, some of the most popular social bookmarking sites are as follows:

When choosing tags, try to focus on what you think people are searching for instead of tagging content with the same words you would use as SEO keywords. For instance, you don’t want to geotarget your tags, because it’s far more likely that people will be search for the general category “retirement” instead of “retirement experts Tulsa” on social bookmarking sites.

The general rule is to try and think of words you would use if you were looking for that information. Then add those tags to your post and hit publish!

If you have further questions about using social bookmarking to share your content, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Is Tumblr the Right Fit For Your Business?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

When many people think of Tumblr, they think of it as the domain of teenagers. But while it is popular among teens, over half of users are actually over the age of 35, and most of those users are college-educated, making it a great fit for a variety of businesses.

Another benefit is that users are spending more time on Tumblr per visit than they are on Facebook or Twitter, giving you a better opportunity to get your content in front of their eyes.

It also allows for both strictly visual content and longer form blogs, so you can post anything from quote gifs to longer blogs, all in one place (it’s still advisable to keep the text short—people only read an average of 28% of any given web page, and the percentage decreases as the word count gets higher).

As with anything, the higher a percentage of the population your industry directly affects, the more luck you’ll have on Tumblr. However, even if you’re topic is more niche, Tumblr can still be extremely effective for you because of tags. Tagging several related keywords allows those who are interested in your topic to find it, which is better than no one seeing it at all. After all, getting your content in front of 30 really interested people is better than 1,000 people who aren’t going to particularly engaged.

So here are the key tips you need to keep in mind to be successful on Tumblr:

  • Make good use of tags. As I previously mentioned, using tags is the best way to get your content in front of the right people. And unlike with other social media sites, it’s more generally accepted to use five tags instead of the one or two used on Twitter, and people definitely click on them to find related content.
  • Don’t forget to re-blog. It’s standard practice on Tumblr (probably more-so than any other social networking site) to get a large percentage of your content by re-blogging others posts. In fact, doing so helps you become more ingrained in the community. So if you see something you like, go ahead and share it!
  • Rely on images! While Tumblr allows for long-form blogging, most posts you’ll see on your dashboard will be images. Those posts are also more likely to get re-blogged than plain text posts. So instead of just typing out those quotes, use an online app to create a shareable image!
  • Post regularly. Just like Facebook, most Tumblr users just get their content from their dashboard, and only visit a specific page about 30% of the time. If you want people to see your content, you need to post regularly. Otherwise your followers will forget you’re there!

Tumblr can be beneficial to your business whether you’re a doctor, a financial planner, or a fitness expert, as long as you make sure to focus on your target audience instead of sheer numbers! If you have questions, please get in touch!

Using Social Media During Your Events

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

In celebration of the National Academy of Best-Selling Authors’ Thought Leaders Summit and Golden Gala Awards this week, let’s talk about how you can use social media to help you capture and make the most of your upcoming events!

Whether you’re going to a major event to receive an award for becoming a Best-Selling author, or hosting a workshop for your clients, there are plenty of ways to include social media. Here are some tips!

  • Create a custom hashtag. While you can’t “own” any particular hashtag, you can pick one that’s unique to your event and encourage your attendees to use it. This has benefits for both your and your guests, including letting you answer any questions that may come up, and allowing them to find and connect with other attendees on social media.
  • Project those tweets! Use a site like Tweetdeck or Twub to project tagged tweets during the event. Not only does this allow you to encourage and display real-time participation in your event, but you can also use these programs to keep track of participants and offer a prize! If you’re an attendee, don’t forget to participate!
  • Get video. With the popularity of Vine and Instagram, it’s easier than ever to get and share behind-the-scenes video from an event, no expensive video equipment needed! You can then embed those short videos on your site and/or on your wrap-up blog about the event!
  • Don’t forget photos. In takes mere seconds to capture an event and share it to social media, so it’s a given that you should take as many pictures as you can! To keep from frustrating your followers with constant posts, add the photos to a Facebook gallery in related groups, and then share that gallery via your other social media profiles.
  • Let guests contribute! Depending on the size and type of the event, it could be good to create a shared Facebook gallery or Pinterest board so that your guests can post their pictures from the event. While you do really have to know your audience, it’s a great way to get more photos from different perspectives, and get those images (and therefore your company) shared with even more people.
  • Stream your event! Allow those who aren’t able to attend to participate in the experience by live-streaming relevant parts of your events (like speeches) via YouTube, Facebook, Livestream, or Ustream. Don’t forget to share permanent versions on your social media after the even too!
  • Tag your guests! When your share pictures, quotes from speakers, and anything else related to a person at your event, make sure to tag them! This not only gives them the opportunity to respond, but it gives them the chance to share their experience with their friends and family. People are often really excited to do this, so give them the chance!
  • Use your hashtag to keep attendees up-to-date. Encourage your attendees to keep track of your hashtag for up-to-the-minute updates on current happenings. For instance, if you have to move rooms for a breakout session, social media can be one of the easiest ways to let participants know without disrupting other sessions.
  • Set up different locations for your event on Foursquare. By encouraging your clients to check in, you can get some valuable information on which workshops or events were most popular for your next event!

Need help putting together a specific social media for your upcoming event? Get in touch to discuss your options!

How Embedded Posts Can Help Your Brand

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

With most social media platforms jumping on the embedded post platform (Google+ being the latest), people are starting to wonder how they can use this new tool to beef up their online presence.

While the practical uses may be limited, there are some simple things you can to take advantage of this tool. Here they are:

  • Customer reviews. It’s quite common nowadays for customer to leave their commentary on a company’s social media page. Now that you can embed posts, it would be really easy to create a “From Social Media” section of your testimonials page and embed all your great reviews there. Seeing the person the review comes from helps add an extra layer of legitimacy in the eyes of the person reading your site.
  • Related posts. If, for instance, you have a Facebook post that’s related to a blog you’ve posted, you can embed it in the blog as an added bit of information. This is especially helpful with photos, quote images, and tip images. If the post generated good conversation with your followers, even better! Hopefully it will encourage your blog readers to keep the conversation going, and it will definitely encourage them to go follow you!
  • Real time updates. If you embed posts from Facebook (vs. Twitter), your readers are able to interact directly from your website and their responses will show up on your website and on Facebook. This encourages and builds up engagement both on your site and on Facebook in one fell swoop!
  • Customer sharing. Since your business page is public, other users will be able to embed your posts on their own sites. For instance, if a blogger finds your tip of the week useful and then posts about how it helps them, they’ll be able to embed your tip directly into their blog, which increases your reach and can help you gain new fans!
  • Custom apps. If you have a custom app that offers a coupon or another offer for liking your Facebook page, you can then embed that on your website to entice your blog readers to follow-through with liking your Facebook page. Then you’ll be able to share your other content with them on a more consistent basis.

Those are just a few of the ways you can make embedded posts work for you! Have more questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

How to Get the Most Out of Your Google+ Local Listing

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

The world of online marketing is fast-paced, to say the least. I talk to clients every day, and many of them confess that keeping up with all of the latest trends and developments can be overwhelming. I’ll tell you the same thing that I tell them… which is, don’t worry, that’s my job!

Today, I am going to bring you up to speed on an online marketing platform which is becoming more and more powerful… Google+ Local. Google+ Local is a platform by which local businesses can list their information, similar to a Facebook business page. Consumers, meanwhile, can use the service to find local businesses. In addition to the usual information, like contact details and a company description, users can also read reviews, look at pictures, leave feedback, and more.

It’s a particularly powerful tool because of the importance Google assigns to these listings when it comes to search results. Creating a Google+ Local page, quite simply, is going to help more people find you through Google.

So if you are a local business, it’s time to get engaged if you aren’t already. To make the process a little easier, below are ten keys to creating an effective presence on Google+ Local.

1) Fill out your profile completely. Google+ Local gives you the ability to list your address, your phone number, and your website. But it gives you more options, as well. Take the time to fill out everything that you can—your hours of operation, your company description, and so forth. This makes it easier for consumers to answer their questions, and it also provides more information for Google to index.

2) Use a local phone number. Many of you have a toll-free number in addition to your local phone number. For Google+ Local, you are better off using the local number. For one thing, the majority of the consumers that find your profile are going to be locally based. In addition, it is likely that Google will treat profiles with local numbers as more credible, considering that the whole point of the program is to connect consumers with local businesses.

3) Ask for recommendations. As you probably know by now, positive testimonials and reviews are a critical sales tool. This is particularly true on a platform like Google+ Local, as most of your viewers will also be viewing the profiles of other businesses. The presence of strong reviews (or the lack) will often be a major factor in determining which business the consumer chooses. As I tell my clients, don’t be afraid to ask your customers and clients to leave you a review. Many of them will be glad to support you in this way.

4) Brand your profile as much as possible – logo, company colors, etc. As always, it is important that your brand is properly reflected on your Google+ Local page. While the design options are limited, at least for now, you should still take advantage of every opportunity to use your logo, your company colors, and so forth. Your profile shouldn’t feel “out of place” when viewed alongside the rest of your internet presence.

5) Link to your website. This should be obvious, but I’m telling you anyway because it’s important! Many consumers will start their search on Google, flip through a few profiles, and then click through to the website of a business that they’re interested in. Not listing your website can cause you to lose out on a new customer. Don’t make this mistake!

6) Double-check that all information is correct and matches your website. Many consumers will click through to your website with the specific purpose of verifying that your contact information is correct. Make sure the information on your profile matches what’s on your website. Incorrect information is a quick and easy way to lose credibility, so check everything carefully.

7) Use accurate, descriptive language—don’t try to fill your profile with SEO keywords. Some business owners may be tempted to use the old SEO strategy of stuffing their page with keywords. This is a losing strategy for two reasons. First, Google recognizes excessive usage of keywords and will likely penalize you for it. And second, real people will read the information on your Google+ Local page—and they want English, not SEO-speak.

8) Use photos as much as possible. You’ve heard me talk about how important photos are for your website and for your social media presence, and your Google+ Local page is no exception. Upload pictures of your team, your services, consumers enjoying your products, and so on. This gives viewers of your page the confidence that you’re a legitimate business and it gives you the opportunity to strengthen your brand at the same time.

9) Link to your profile from your website and from your social media presence. Now that you have built a great profile, make sure it gets noticed! Link to it from your website. Highlight it on social media. Invite customers to take a look (and leave a review!). The more exposure, the better off you will be, so make sure that it is highly visible!

10) Monitor your profile regularly. Finally, you can’t forget about your profile listing! This is something that many business owners are guilty of, on Google and elsewhere. If you move, you need to update your contact information. If you change your phone number, update it. If you change your business name, your logo, your scope of services, and so forth… update your Google+ Local profile! Otherwise, consumers are going to find it, try to find you, and end up frustrated. In addition, you want to know when you get new recommendations and other interactions, so check up on your profile regularly!

I know… I know… the last thing you want is *another* social media platform to worry about. But for better or for worse, Google is the dominant player in the search industry, so it makes sense to maintain a presence on their platform. The good news is that setting up your Google+ Local profile isn’t difficult. As always, I’m here to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Good luck!

Creating and Growing a LinkedIn Group

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

LinkedIn groups can be a great way to present your expertise and thoroughly engage with potential clients. It can help your increase your influence and your LinkedIn connections. And luckily, starting one is not difficult!

1)   Pick a topic you’re an expert on. Don’t be too general, because that will make it difficult for people to distinguish if your group is to help the general population, or if it’s just a networking group for others in your industry. For example, choose “Planning Your Perfect Retirement” instead of just “Retirement”.

2)   Let people know you’ve created a group! Your clients can’t join if they don’t know the group exists, and they definitely can’t invite their friends. You should post about it on your LinkedIn page, as well as all your other social media accounts. If you send out an Ezine, include a note about your new group in the next edition!

3)   Decide whether or not to pre-approve members. Some experts may not be concerned about this, but it can be a very handy tool to help you devote your time to better leads. You can create a group policy that specifies your criteria, and then only approve members who meet those criteria. Being selective will help you focus your efforts. Who wants to spend a lot of time working with someone in California, when you only work with clients on the Southern East coast?

4)   Take the lead. Now that you’ve created your group and it has members, it’s time for you to start posting and responding. You can post a short synopsis of an important tip or point, and then invite your group to add their comments and questions. Make sure to respond to comments and moderate the group (especially discussions your members start!), and you’ll be well on your way to establishing trust with your members.

5)   Send group announcements. The members of your groups are clearly interested in what you have to say, so make sure you share your opinion! Group announcements are the perfect way to let members know about your new blog, book, video, or any other bit of expertise you have to share. Just don’t send them too often, or people will leave the group! Anywhere from once a week to once a month is a good number to aim for.

There are five tips for creating and maintaining a LinkedIn group. And don’t forget to join existing groups that meet your interest! After all, participating in existing groups is a great way to connect with new people!

Tools to Make Your Social Media Images Stand Out

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

bill-cosby-succeedWith Facebook’s announcement that the site is adding shared photo albums (allowing you to add up to 50 contributors per album), I thought now would be a great time to share some free online tools that will make the images you post on your social profiles stand out from those of your competitors!

  • Skitch. Instead of just posting your favorite quotes to your social media, you can your posts noticed more by taking an image of the person you’re quoting, and writing the quote directly on the image. If you’re currently thinking “But I’m not a designer!”, don’t be alarmed. Skitch allows anyone, designer or not, to make a nice-looking graphic quote in a matter of minutes.
  • LiveLuvCreate. This site also allows you to create images using quotes, your tip of the week, or something like “Five Things to Keep in Mind When Planning For Retirement”. It provides a variety of background images to choose from, as well as several fonts, filters and effects. Essentially, there are an unlimited number of combinations to create!
  • Recite. While Recite is the most limited option so far, it’s the quickest option to use. While you can’t determine text placement, font or color, and there are limited templates available, you can create an image that’s guaranteed to look good in under a minute.
  • Pixlr. Pixlr has multiple settings, depending on the time of edits you need to make, and it also has iPhone and Android apps. Pixlr Express just covers the basics, like cropping or other simple corrections. With Pixlr Editor is much more complex, with layers, toolbars, and the more traditional tools that you’d find in Photoshop or GIMP.
  • PicMonkey. A combination of the sites listed above, PicMonkey has some photo editing options (like cropping, color correction, and even an auto-correct option), will also letting you add text, themes, and other options.
  • GIMP. This powerful editing tool is the most-frequently compared to PhotoShop. While it doesn’t have all the various tools Photoshop has, it’s a great free alternative for someone looking to get into more high-level photo editing.
  • Aviary. Aviary is more basic that GIMP, but it’s an easy-to-use tool that allows you to adjust certain photo qualities like brightness, add filters, and re-size or crop your image. There’s also an app that makes photo-editing easy to do on the go.

So there you have a variety of tools that will allow you to make the best out of the images you share on social media. They require a variety of skill levels, so there’s no need to feel overwhelmed or limited. And if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today!

Five Things to NEVER Do on Social Media

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Lately we’ve been going over all the things you SHOULD do on the various social media sites, but this week I thought we’d go over some of the basic things you should never do, especially when your clients follow you.

1)   Argue with followers. At some point, it’s likely that someone will post a negative review or comment about your company, whether it’s on your profile, or on a social review site like Yelp. Some people will have genuine concerns, while some people will just be trolls. In both cases, it’s best not to argue about the incident listed in the complaint. It’s not productive, and it doesn’t make you look good to be arguing publicly. Worse, it just antagonizes trolls.  Instead, post a genuine response apologizing for any problems, disappointment, or offense, and ask the complainant to call your office so you “can get to the bottom of the matter”. Then you can discuss the issue privately, and this will usually stop trolls who are just looking to stir up trouble.

2)   Don’t just promote yourself. Unless you genuinely have something to offer (such as new blog or article), don’t just constantly promote your site. After all, people will get bored and unfollow you if all they see if “Need the best accountant in town? Call John Doe today!” Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with announcing your new book, or posting a press release about your TV appearance. Your followers do want to share in your good news, and those posts tend to get likes because people are genuinely happy for you. But, that falls more under the category of sharing good things from your life, versus blatant self-promotion. Instead, focus on sharing things that will either help your followers (such as a weekly tip), or posts from your life. If you need some ideas, check out this blog.

3)   Don’t ignore customer posts. One of the biggest mistakes I see is people making their profiles a one-way street. If you ignore clients who are commenting on your posts, messaging you, or otherwise interacting with your page, it comes across as bad customer service. Even a simple “Thank you!” when someone says they like your service is a great place to start. After all, social media is social, so if you wouldn’t ignore someone’s response in an in-person conversation, don’t ignore it on social media.

4)   Don’t over- or under-post. Posting only once a week can be just as bad as posting five times a day. EdgeRank gives fresher content a higher score, so posting only once or twice a week limits the number of people who see your posts. However, posting every hour comes across as spam, especially if all your content is very similar. A good general rule is to aim to post once a day, and definitely no more than three times a day. Of course, these things can be subjective, so if you want to try posting a little more often (or a little less) and see if it affects engagement, you can use Facebook Insights and bit.ly to help you find out.

5)   Don’t spread yourself too thin. While having a presence on social media is imperative in this day and age, don’t commit to more profiles than you can manage. While you can use many posts across multiple platforms, some do require different character counts, or different elements such as images. If you’ve created profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram, make sure you have time to use them, or delete the ones you don’t have time for. Just having the profiles isn’t enough.

If someone Google’s you, these profiles should show up high in your search rankings. If half of the accounts are inactive, that doesn’t look very good. Not maintaining profiles will also cause whatever followers you do have to unfollow you. It would be better to pick the one’s that are the best fit for your business, and focus on those.

If you still have any questions about what you can do to improve your social media presence, get in touch today!

Ten Ways to Stand Out on Instagram!

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Instagram was launched less than three years ago, but it’s already amassed over 150 million monthly active users, and over 16 billion photos have been shared. As it expands, first by adding video, and then by introducing photo and video embeds, it’s becoming more and more of an asset to businesses.

If you’re looking for ideas of how you can use it for your business, then look no further! Here are ten ways to use Instagram to help your business stand out …

1. Share your company culture. People want to get to know your company and who you are. As I’ve said in the past, “people buy people”, so the more your audience connects with you and gets to know you, the more comfortable they’ll feel doing business with you. This could mean anything from posting pics from your company’s holiday party to showing off the office dog; anything that let’s followers see the real you is fair game.

2. Show off what you offer! This could be anything from your new Best-Selling book to the results you were able to get for a client trying to lose weight. You can also show off your awards, newspaper features, and anything else that highlights your expert status!

3. Share advice. People are out there looking for advice, so make it easy for them to find it! You can either post a short, nicely-designed image tip, or post a short video offering advice. You can get as much into a 15-second Instagram video as you can in a tweet, and then you can embed the videos in blogs or another location on your site. If you make these quick clips regularly, you may even be able to add a Tip of the Week video to your front page.

4. Demonstrate a tip. Many people need to see something demonstrated versus just reading about it, and Instagram can be the perfect place to share these visuals. For example, if you’re a yoga expert, then posting an Instagram image or video of the correct position for specific poses would be extremely useful for your followers. If you’re a tax expert, posting a brief image or video explaining how many deductions to select when filling out your W-4 would also help a lot of people.

5. Quotes. People are always looking for inspiration, whether it’s success quotes from a business leader, marriage quotes from a marriage counselor, or wellness quotes from a health expert. You just need to add your quote over an image (try Quozio to help you out) and share it with everyone who follows you. Hopefully they’ll then share the images with their own followers!

6. Pictures from events. If you have an event for your clients, share the pictures on Instagram. Instagram is all about people sharing their lives, so join in on the fun! Just don’t share too many in a row, or your followers will feel like you’re spamming their feed! I’d limit it to 2-3 images per event.

7. Tease new products. If you’re going to be featured in a new book with a high profile expert, have a good time with that on Instagram! Instead of just saying who you’re going to be in a book with, blur out a picture of their face (preferably with you in the picture as well) and post it with a clue about their identity. Let your followers have some fun guessing, all while you get to promote your upcoming project!

8. Respond to follower comments and questions. Clients love to know that companies they support actually listen to them, so make sure to respond to any comments or questions your followers leave below your posts. Even if it only requires a simple ‘Thank you!”, engaging with your customers will keep them engaging with you, both online and off.

9. Share your posts on other sites. Instagram makes it really easy for you to share your pictures and videos on other sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Not only does this help streamline posting across multiple sites, but it also let’s your followers on your other social media profiles know that they can come follow you on Instagram.

10. Use the right tags! While tagging is more important on some social networking sites than others, it’s very important on Instagram. You can find posts under almost any tag you can think of, so pick the best tags for your industry to help you find the right followers (such as #retirement for a financial planner). Keep in mind that, unlike on Twitter, you will need to use hashtags even with single words. And don’t overtag! Your followers will get frustrated if they have to sort through lists of 30 tags under every post.

Instagram is all about having fun, so don’t be afraid to have a good time with it! And if you have any questions you need answered, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Getting the Most Out of YouTube

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Last week, we went over some tips and tricks for Twitter. This week, we’re going to go over how to get the most out of YouTube.

YouTube is the third most popular site in the world, and appeals to almost everyone, making it an optimal place to share your knowledge with the people looking for it. As we covered in this blog, YouTube can work for almost anyone willing to give the site a chance. There’s definitely a niche for you!

However, there are ten key things you need to keep in mind to make the most out of the experience. Here are some tips:

  1. Use a unique name. Many people come up with something generic, like RetirementGuy101, which just gets lost in the crowd. Make sure to use your name, or your business name (which will help you build your Google results, as an added bonus). This makes you seem more official.
  2. Add a cover photo. While YouTube cover photo requirements are larger than many sites (2560 x 1440), it is imperative that you have one. Many people simply leave this off, which leaves the strange, boring background on display. This does not make your company look established and trustworthy. Getting the dimensions and layout right can be tricky on YouTube, but they do provide a handy guide here.
  3. Include an “About” description. Create a short, concise description of you or your company. Make sure to describe the ideals, qualifications, and bragging points that make you unique. You are trying to convince new people to pick you over the competition, after all. And, since this is social media, making sure to keep it short to keep viewers engaged. Around 245 characters is a good limit.
  4. Embed them on your site. You already have a built-in audience on your website, so make sure to embed them there. If you don’t already have one, it would be a great idea to create a media page for your site! You should also prominently feature a link to your YouTube channel (and other social networking sites!) near the top of your site.
  5. Link back to your site. Not only can you include a link in your description, but you can add an annotation over your video that gives the URL of your site, and then links directly to the page. It’s also a great idea to have a call-to-action annotation at the end where you give people a special incentive to visit your site. Offering them a free report or free chapter from your Best-Selling book (that links to where they can sign up to get it) are great options!
  6. Take advantage of the title and description. You never want to leave one of these blank! Not only will a descriptive, catchy title encourage people to click on your video, but it’s a great place to mention your name/business name and give your search engine rankings a boost.
  7. Don’t forget tags! I cannot stress this enough. Tags are how new people will find your videos on YouTube. If you leave them off, you’re missing so many perfect opportunities! For instance, if you’re a financial planner, tagging common terms like “retirement”, “retirement planning”, and “Retirement 101” will help those planning their retirement find you. YouTube can also be good about suggesting common tags, so make sure you take a look at what they suggest when making your choices.
  8. Notify your followers that you have a channel. If you have an email list or other social networking accounts (including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest), make sure to let them know you have a channel once it’s live! A quick announcement is a good way to start, and then I’d recommend promoting all new videos through your email and social media sites.
  9. Announce new videos to your subscribers. When you are uploading a new video, there’s an option under “Basic Info” to “Post to your subscribers”. You should always do this! You never want to count on your subscribers to come back and find your videos, especially if you post sporadically. Which brings me to my next point …
  10. Post regularly! I would try to commit to at least one video a month, or your subscribers will get bored and forget about you. If you can do one a week, that’s even better! In addition to keeping your current clients interested, this will help you gain new followers. After all, if you’re searching for videos on “retirement”, are you going to go with the person with one video under that term? Or are you going to click on a video from someone who seems to consistently put out reliable content? Exactly! And don’t forget to like other videos, comment, and subscribe to other channels. This also makes your channel seem more active and reliable.

Now that you know the ten key tips to help make your YouTube channel a success, what are you waiting for? You can get started on creating your channel today! If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me any time!

Tips and Tricks for Twitter

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Twitter is the 12th most popular site in the world, and adds hundreds of thousands of new users each day. To say the least, it’s important to have a presence on the site. However, many people still think Twitter isn’t right for them. They may think they can’t make a dent amongst the millions of users, when really, they’re only aiming to reach a select subset of those on the social networking site.

Or, they may think Twitter is only for Millennials who aren’t quite ready to buy their products. In reality, the site has a large number of users across every age demographic. In fact, a GlobalWebIndex study from earlier this year shows that Twitter is showing the fastest growth among those 55- to 64-years-old!

Many are also concerned that people are only looking to talk to their friends, or follow celebrities, and not read the advice they’re giving. Instead, finding the news and doing research are two of the top five ways people use Twitter (men are actually more likely to use Twitter to find news than they are to post a status update, and it’s pretty close for women).

So, now that we’ve cleared up a few misconceptions, let’s go over a few tips and tricks to help you get started:

  1. Make sure you completely fill out your profile. This may seem like common sense, but so many small business profiles only provide half of the information needed. The most common omissions are a cover photo and a link back to their website. Having an incomplete profile makes it look like the person isn’t committed to participating in the site, like the business doesn’t understand the site, or like they just don’t really care. None of these look good to a potential client.
  2. Don’t follow people randomly, buy followers, or use some other program to gain followers quickly. While it may give you thousands of followers in a short period of time, these followers will not be high quality. In fact, many purchased “followers” are just spam accounts. It’s a much better idea to send an email to your email subscribers, Facebook fans, and other already interested parties to build up your follower count naturally. It will take longer to gain a solid following, but quality is much more important than quantity here.
  3. Add variety, and add value. If you want to attract followers, you need to generate interest. Posting the same things all the time won’t generate interest. Only self-promoting for the sake of self-promoting won’t generate interest. You need to be offering something useful to people. This is why it’s a great idea to tweet out your blogs and articles, because those contain valuable information. You can also tweet news articles related to what you do, and add your expert commentary. A tip of the week is also a way to add value. The goal is to make people see why they need to follow you in order to get the best advice and information.
  4. Interact with your followers. Once people feel like they’ve gotten to know you through your tweets, they’ll start to respond and retweet. If someone responds with a great thought on your post, retweet it. If they ask a question, give a thoughtful response in a timely manner. And don’t be afraid to reply to people you follow either. Interacting is a great way to create a loyal audience.
  5. Use hashtags wisely. When people first get started on Twitter, they sometimes think they need to hashtag every keyword in order for people to find their content. However, you don’t need to hashtag a general term like retirement, since people can search for that would all on it’s own. Hashtags work better for phrases, such as #retirementplanning. Keep an eye on the trending topics, and that will help you get a feel for what needs a hashtag and what doesn’t.

You should also search for hashtags you’re interested in to find high-quality people to follow yourself. This is also a good way to find Twitter chats related to your industry.

While Twitter is definitely a platform where slow and steady wins the race, it is a great site to use! Just focus on building genuine relationships instead of attracting thousands of followers overnight, and it will be a great experience for you!

Pinterest Do’s and Don’ts

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

As promised in last week’s article Ten Ways to Use Pinterest, this week we’ll be looking at 5 do’s and 5 don’ts for this social networking site. Don’t feel overwhelmed though: Pinterest is one of the friendliest social networking sites out there, and users pride themselves on keeping the community positive! If you follow these quick tips, you’ll be sure to have a great time using the site.

Let’s start with the do’s:

  1. Link to the original source. Whether you’re pinning something yourself or re-pinning from someone else, make sure the link you include actually goes to the content you’re talking about. Don’t just link to a Google image instead of the blog, and if you’re linking to a picture of a recipe, make sure the link you use includes the recipe. This way you don’t send your users on a rabbit trail to find the actual content you’ve shared with them, and you’re giving credit to the content creator.
  2. Keep captions short. Unless you’re sharing detailed instructions for a project (as you would in a recipe pin), your captions should be brief and descriptive. Pinterest is very visual, so too much text can distract from the flow. If you look at the “Popular” page on the site, you’ll notice that very few, if any, of the captions get anywhere near the 500 character limit. In fact, most captions are well under a hundred characters.
  3. Find ways to interact. This can include offering a contest where people enter by repining, offering a special discount for your Twitter followers, or allowing people to pin to a themed group board, such as “Share Your Tips and Recipes for Healthy Work Lunches”. You can also interact by following people’s who’s posts you like.
  4. Add a pin button to your website. Just as you can add buttons for people to easily share your blogs and articles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, you can easily do the same with Pinterest. One of the key differences is that you must use an image in whatever you want people to pin, or people won’t be able to pin it.
  5. Pin regularly. Because of Pinterest’s set up, it’s pretty easy to get away without posting every single day. However, if you only pin a couple of times a month, people are going to forget you’re there. In general, it’s a good idea to post a few items throughout the day.

And now here are the don’ts:

  1. Don’t just advertise your own brand. I know I said this last week, but I think it’s important enough to stress again: interacting with others is key to creating a strong presence on Pinterest. Not only will only posting from your own site annoy the Pinterest community and keep you from getting a substantial following, but it prevents the community from getting to know other aspects of your personality. Don’t get me wrong: sharing your content is great! Just make sure you diversify some as well.
  2. Don’t pin what you think people want you to pin. The Pinterest community prides itself on authenticity, so people will see through this. Pinning things you aren’t interested in will also cause you to lose interest in the site quickly, since it won’t be a fun experience. Pin what you like, and the right people will find you.
  3. Don’t use boring stock images. Just like your captions, your images need to be engaging. On a site that’s visually focused, the image is the first thing people notice, and a boring or blurry stock image will not encourage people to click through to your site, follow you, or re-pin your content. You can use a stock image, but make sure it’s actually related to your content, and not just a random, smiling person.
  4. Don’t autofeed your pins to your other social media accounts. This is especially true if you post often. If you post several times a day, then your frequent posts will start to overwhelm your followers on other sites (while you don’t want to post a hundred times a day even on Pinterest, you can get away with posting more frequently that on other sites). If you’re posting a recipe or project instructions, then you’re caption will get cut off in a random spot.
  5. Don’t forget to follow other users. And I don’t mean go on a mass following spree of other users! Instead, search for the types of pins you’re interested in, and then follow people who have content you like. While you won’t gain a ton of followers overnight, many people will follow you back if you post similar content. After all: they’re looking for great new pins too!

Pinterest is a very welcoming and opening site, so it’s pretty hard to make a misstep as long as you follow the unspoken rules to be authentic and interact with others. Still have questions? Feel free to get in touch!

Ten Ways to Use Pinterest

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Pinterest is one of the most popular social networking sites in the world, but many companies are still stumped on how to use it. Which is understandable, since it doesn’t work for everyone. However, if Pinterest is a good fit for your business (i.e. any business with a “lifestyle” theme), there are countless ways to make it work for you and your business.

Here some ideas to get you feeling inspired:

1)   Recipes. Recipes are one of the most re-pinned items on this social networking site, making it the ideal way to engage with users! Most recipes tend to be either very healthy or very unhealthy (Nutella is a popular theme …), so if you’re focused on health and wellness, this is the perfect in for you to post all the healthy recipes you have.

2)   Exercise Tips. Exercise tips are another popular category on Pinterest. You can either posts these as short videos (keep in mind that 3:30 is the most recommended length for online videos), or as an image guide (see this yoga diagram from Women’s Health as an example).

3)   Inspirational quotes. Whether it’s a quote you love or a quote from your book, pinners are always looking for things that inspire them. For example, if you’re a life or business coach, posting your favorite success quotes is the perfect thing to share on Pinterest. Since Pinterest is a very visual site, you’ll want to add the text over an image, but that’s really easy to do in everything from Powerpoint to Photoshop (and the many free apps in between, like Quozio). Just make sure it’s a good quality image, or your post won’t get noticed!

4)   DIY tips. There’s an entire “DIY & Crafts” section on Pinterest, but this does not have to be limited to just crafty items! This can be anything you want to advise your followers on, such as “Ten Ways to Detox Your Home”, or tips on how to make healthy food fun for kids.

5)   Your products. While all products don’t work as a standalone pin, and you definitely don’t want to overdo this, adding your own merchandise to a board is absolutely okay. And if you sell something like workout accessories, I highly recommend it!

6)   Tips. If you have a short catchy tip that works over an image, by all means post it! Pinterest is an aspirational site, and its users love anything that makes them feel like they can make their lives better in simple steps. If you give them those simple tips and tricks, they’ll love you. So a financial planner can add a short and sweet “Four Steps to a Happy Retirement” gif to a blog on your site, and then pin the image with a link back to your blog.

7)   Real estate. If you’re a real estate agent, you can use Pinterest to showcase your listings. If a home has a gorgeous kitchen or an impeccable view, post the picture with a few details about the house and a link back to your website.

8)   Videos. Aside from the exercise videos mentioned above, there’s a lot you can do with videos on Pinterest! The key is to keep it short, light and useful, whether it’s a recipe tutorial, a home tour, a video guide to filling out a tax return correctly, or an aromatherapy how-to guide.

9)   Repins. You want to make sure you’re pinning from other users and not just repining your own content, or you won’t look like you’re trying to be a part of the community (which is a no-no anywhere, but especially on Pinterest). Engagement is extremely important, so make sure you repin posts that fit with your brand! If you handle tax accounting or tax law, and another user posts a quote or statistic you agree with, repin it, and add your own commentary. If you disagree, it’s okay to politely say why as well.

10)  Anything you want! No, really! One of the goals about being on social media is to help people get to know you better. So make Pinterest something  you actually want to use. Pin the recipes you want to make, post crafts if you like crafting, or post home décor if you’re working on some updates to your home. Being authentic and sharing what you care about is what will help you gain followers on Pinterest! You don’t have to stick solely to retirement if you’re a financial planner, or only with health-oriented pins because you’re a doctor. Let people get to see all aspects of your personality and interests.

Post what you like, and don’t forget to have fun! It’s what Pinterest is all about! And don’t forget to tune in next week when I’ll give you a guide to the biggest do’s and don’ts for Pinterest.

Is Instagram Video Right for Your Business?

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Last week, Facebook announced a major Vine competitor by adding video to Instagram. In general, they’re very similar in that both allows users to share extremely short videos online, but Instagram has a few key differences that may make it easier for businesses to embrace:

  • A longer format. While 15 seconds is still quite short, it’s still more than twice the length of Vine’s 6-second allowance. It’s also one of the lengths allowed for pre-roll ads, which could allow some businesses looking to advertise online to kill two birds with one stone.
  • Stabilization. Instagram has added a handy feature called “Cinema” that keeps your videos from looking shaky and amateurish. Since most small businesses aren’t secretly hiding a large-scale video production team in a back office, this is a great bet for making your videos look the best they can!
  • Filters. One other departure from Vine is the presence of Instagram’s signature filters, which can help enhance the appearance of your videos.

However, 15 seconds is still an incredibly short period of time, and that won’t work for everyone.  It’s not the place for complicated tutorials or explanations, but it is a great place to tell your business’s story. You can share quick videos of something funny that happened at the office, or clips of your office helping out at a local charity event. If your office has a great view, take a quick video and post it. These types of videos are not time-consuming and they help people connect more with you and your business.

On the other hand, there are still more practical ways that quick video can help your business. For example:

  • Get long-time clients to record a quick testimonial while they’re in your office and share it online.
  • Give a quick explanation of a new book you’ve launched, or show off your article in the Wall Street Journal.
  • Introduce your clients to new staff members.
  • Get your office team to wish a loyal client a happy birthday.
  • Give a quick tip of the week. If it can fit in a tweet, then you can probably get it in a 15 second Instagram video.
  • Show off the amazing entryway or view of the new home you’re working to sell.

You can’t currently share your Instagram videos on other sites, which is a pretty big limitation, but that should change soon. After all, Vine introduced the capability only a few short months after launch. And if you’re looking to post the video on sites that are hosted on Wordpress, then you’re in luck: plugins like Embedly can already help you work around the issue.

With that said, Instagram video could be a great way to help your clients get to know you better!

Making Hashtags Work for You

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Now that hashtags have been added to Facebook, they’re now an important part of all the major social networks. Unfortunately, not everyone is sure of how to use them, which leads to avoidance—and missed opportunities. Here are five ways to make hashtags work for you:

  • Major news stories: If a major news story breaks in your industry, there’s no better way to quickly get in on the action than the join the conversation on social media. However, if you just post your commentary without using the commonly associated hashtags, you’re posts will only be seen by your followers instead of a much broader audience. Using popular hashtags allows you to get your expert knowledge in front of a very important audience: people who are already looking for information on the topic.
  • Join a chat: many industries hold chats to talk to each other and answer questions from non-experts. These are always designated with a chat-specific hashtag. Joining these chats can help you dispense knowledge and grow your followers. You can find chats through announcements/participation from people you already follow, or by doing a quick search.
  • Tagging your name/business name: tagging your name or business name helps new followers or people who have stumbled across something you’ve written to find more information from you. Just make sure to delete the spaces between words when creating your tag when required. For example, your hashtag could be #firstname lastname on Tumblr, but would need to be #firstnamelastname on Twitter.
  • Tagging common industry terms: Adding common industry tags to your post on a site like Tumblr allows people searching for related information to find your advice and expertise. For instance, if you’re a financial planner, adding tags like #financialplanning and #retirement will make it much easier for those looking for retirement advice to find you.
  • Don’t over tag: While you can get away with more tags on some sites than on others, it’s never a good idea to add 30 tags to any one post. Not only does it make your posts very hard to read, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever find that many hashtags that really work for a single update. If they don’t make sense, then you’re just going to frustrate readers instead of engaging them.

Keep in mind that while using hashtags is valuable, even using them correctly won’t gain you an enormous amount of new followers overnight. That shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, incorporate them into what you’re already doing to help find and engage the people looking for your expertise. And as always, if you have questions, or want additional tips, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Five Apps to Help You With Your Social Media Presence

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Posting on the go is a great way to show your clients what your business is up to in day-to-day life. You can post pictures from social events for your clients, informational workshops and seminars, and pictures of you and your staff hard at work. And since inspiration doesn’t always come at the most convenient time (aka, when you’re at your computer), your smartphones allows you to post a great tip you’ve come up with or article you’ve found anytime, anywhere.

However, some people are concerned about how to get those pictures and text updates posted while out and about. Luckily, the main social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and the list goes on) all have free apps for both iPhone and Android devices. And to help you make those posts the best they can be, here are five apps you can use on the road to help you get content up on the go.

  1. Hootsuite: Hootsuite saves you time by allowing you so post to several of the major social networks at once. No longer do you need to log in to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn individually to post once status update. It also allows you to schedule posts to go out at a later date and/or time. Available for both iPhone and Android.
  2. ManageFlitter: This site will make managing an overflowing Twitter account so much easier. It helps you make sure you’re only following people you want updates from, see who’s unfollowed you, figure out the best time to post, and all around makes maintaining your Twitter account easier. Desktop only.
  3. Magisto: Did you take a great video at a company event, but there’s just that one moment that throws the video off? Try using Magisto which allows you to trim and make basic edits to videos right on your smartphone. Available for iPhone and Android.
  4. Fotor Photo Editor: This photo-editing app is currently the #2 app overall in Apple’s app store. It’s also available for Android. Not only can you take pictures straight from the app, but it contains great editing tools to help you quickly clean up a photo. Once you’re happy with how it looks, you can post it to social media accounts from within the app.
  5. Postling: This is a really great all-in-one monitoring system for your social media accounts. Not only can you post to your blog and social media accounts from the app, but it allows you to track mentions of your name or business so you can respond quickly. You also receive notifications when you get reviews on Yelp and CitySearch. The iPhone app is free with a $10/month paid online account. Android app is coming soon.

Still looking for more social media help? Don’t hesitate to contact me for all your social media needs!

Making the Most Out of Online Videos

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Many people are afraid to jump into the wide world of online videos, and it’s usually for one of these three reasons:

  • they think it will be time-consuming and expensive
  • they can’t imagine how their video will have any impact in the massive sea of online videos (YouTube alone is up to 72 hours of new video every minute, and counting)
  • they’re stumped for content ideas

I’m here to assure you that none of these things need to be a major (or even minor) concern. Here’s why:

Time and money. Your video does not need to be long in order to have an impact. In fact, in the age of Twitter, shorter is better! Multiple researchers, including some from Google, have put the ideal YouTube video length at between 3 and 3 ½ minutes. Does that mean you have to cut yourself off right at 3 minutes and 30 seconds? Of course not! Just keep the attention span of the average video viewer in mind, and you’re good to go.

You also don’t need to buy a bunch of really fancy, really expensive video equipment and editing software to make a great video. While you want your videos to be good quality, don’t worry about it looking as good as something that’s going to air on network television. Leave that for when you’re actually going to be on television! For a video you’re shooting for YouTube or Vimeo, you can get an HD video camera for a very reasonable price on Amazon or your local electronics store.

Making an impact. Unfortunately, too many people feel like the only path to video success is with a certified viral hit. Fortunately, this just isn’t true. And even better, it’s not what you want to aim for when you’re trying to present yourself as a CelebrtiyExpert®. After all, while videos of animals being cute and people making hilarious mistakes may be funny, they don’t exactly scream (or even whisper) “credibility”.

Instead, you want to focus on doing what you do best: helping people make sense of complicated issues. Make sure your name is in the description, and that you’ve tagged your video with all related topics (including your name!), and you’ll get your video in front of the people who need to see it. You’ll also improve your Google search rankings, which is extremely important to your brand!

Choosing a topic. The most important thing to do is share your knowledge! You’re the expert, so you have specialized knowledge that other people need.

In practical terms, the best thing you can do is post educational videos (and put them under that category). Here are some quick suggestions:

  • Explain the most common mistakes people make related to your field and how to avoid them.
  • Make video responses to breaking news stories (and tag them with commonly used keywords surrounding the story to get more views).
  • Record a video on the top five things people can do to stay ahead of the tax, retirement, etc. game.
  • Create a weekly tip video to break down a related topic in a way that’s quick and easy for people to understand.
  • Post testimonials from your customers.

So there you have it! Creating and maintaining YouTube and Vimeo channels does not need to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Instead, they allow you to show your expertise to those who need to see it most!

Ten Things to Share on Social Media

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

As I mentioned two weeks ago, diversity is very important to your social media presence. It keeps your audience from getting bored, and helps them learn about different aspects of your personality and your business. However, sometimes people stumble when it comes to how to actually vary their content. Here are ten ideas to get you started:

1. Your blogs and articles. This is usually the first idea people have, and for good reason! Your blogs and articles are where you share your expert knowledge on your website, and that expert knowledge also needs to be shared on your social media sites. After all, this brings the information to your clients instead of waiting for them to come to you, and it allows them to share your expertise with potential new clients.

2. Your events. If you’re holding a workshop, informational seminar, or social event for your clients, invite people via social media with a quick post. Don’t stop there though. Have someone take pictures at the event, and then post the pictures online afterwards!

3. Other articles related to your business. Did you read a great article in Forbes this morning that’s related to your industry? Share it with your followers! Not only does this help you diversify, but it also helps show your clients that you stay up-to-date on industry news. Just be sure to add your own commentary to further establish that you’re the expert.

4. Your charitable involvement. Does your organization sponsor a charitable fundraiser? Are you a drop off location for a toy drive? Do you volunteer at a food bank? Post about it. This lets your customers get to know what you care about, and it helps brings more awareness to your favorite causes.

5. Quotes. If you have a favorite quote that perfectly sums up your business and/or life philosophy, go ahead and share it with your followers. It will give your customers a greater insight into your business, and quotes are one of the most shareable types of content on social media, so you can you draw in new customers looking for an expert that thinks just like you.

6. Office life. Your clients want to see and get to know you and your employees. If you have a teambuilding day, share the pictures. If you have a holiday party, share the pictures. Even if it’s just a staff meeting, take a friendly picture of everyone in your office, and tweet it out. People like to be able to see who they’re working with.

7. A weekly tip series. Start a weekly series where you share one short tip each week. And I do mean short, since the character cap for tweets is only 140 characters. However, keeping it short allows you to send out a quick “food for thought” that your clients can immediately bring into practice.

8. Promote your media. If you appear in a TV show, are quoted in an article, or have a new book coming out, post about it! If you have a weekly radio show, invite your followers to tune in a little bit before it starts to air. And don’t forget to take behind-the-scenes photos and share those too!

9. Ask questions. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is a great way to get your customers to interact with you, and an amazing tool for learning about their needs. And you don’t have to limit it to asking them what they want to know; you can use this to create an intriguing lead-in to a recent blog or article you’ve posted on your website.

10. Offer promotions. If you’re giving out a free chapter from your latest book, promote it online. If you decide to reward loyal customers with a discount, share the discount code via social media. You can even do an exclusive discount solely for your social media followers to reward them for keeping up with you so closely.

So there you go! With these ideas, you should have no problem keeping your online presence engaging and varied. Of course, the sky’s really the limit when it comes to the types of posts you can do. If you can think it up, then you post about it!

What Google’s Changes Mean for You

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Last week Google introduced several new changes to its various product at Google I/O 2013. While some of these changes don’t apply to social media (or won’t apply to most people for a very long time, a lá Google Glass), there are changes to two key products that anyone trying to promote themselves online needs to take note of.

Google+

You may have noticed Google+ just received a major makeover. Not only does the revamp look a lot more like Pinterest, but Google made around 40 other changes. Here are the ones you need to know about:

  • Google just made Google+ a much more visually focused site, meaning that images and videos are now even more important (and even larger in size) for profiles on the site. While text posts are still okay, using only text posts will get very boring very quickly for your followers.
  • Google+ is now actively using hashtags. Not only will Google now suggest related hashtags for your posts, but your followers will be able to click on the hashtags to see related content.
  • Google has also added new photo-editing tools (one of which is actually called Auto Awesome) that will be extremely beneficial in helping you get great photos on your site.

For example, let’s say you decided to take some office photos to help clients get familiar with your staff. When reviewing the photos, though, you noticed that you don’t have a single one where everyone is smiling and has their eyes open. Google can now help you “stitch” together one great photo from all the other not-so-great ones, no special Photoshop skills required.

That’s only one of the many new tools Google+ has added to make sharing great photos easier than ever. The new tools also help you pick out the best images, remove red-eye, sharpen the photo, among a host of other things.

Google Maps

While some of the changes may appear cosmetic (such as the map now being full page instead of a partial page), many of the changes will require you to be more thorough in filling out your Google Places profile.

For instance, Maps will now display your company’s info card right below the search box on the maps page. Users will be able to see photos and reviews, get directions, and save your business info to come back to later.

What does this mean for you? It means you’ll want to make sure your business profile is completely verified and filled out with the address, website, and any other relevant info. It’s even a good idea to collect reviews from loyal customers to add to your profile so people see how much people respect your business at first glance. Having a complete profile makes your business look more credible to potential customers.

Maps will also start more clearly highlighting related places (a.k.a. your competitors), which makes it even more important that you have a complete profile.

If your profile is currently lacking, you can search for your business name, click the “Places” icon beside the name, then click “more info” to view your full profile. Once on your profile, you can scroll down to the “Manage this page” icon to make changes.

Those are the biggest social media-related changes from Google I/O 2013. Have questions or want more information on how you can improve your presence online? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Five Simple Ways To Improve Your Facebook Presence Using EdgeRank

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

While it’s not new, you may have heard a lot lately about Facebook ‘s EdgeRank and how it’s complicating things for businesses on Facebook.  EdgeRank is Facebook’s content-ranking algorithm that determines which content shows up in each user’s News Feed. Though it can seem overwhelming, EdgeRank does not need to make Facebook a frustrating platform for businesses. Here are five easy things you can do to make the most out of EdgeRank:

  1. Make posts visual! There’s a reason the saying “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” has been around for so long: it’s true.  And it’s even more true on Facebook , where the most highly ranked items are images and video. Does this mean you have to use an image or video with every single post? No. It just means it’s best to use them whenever you have a great photo or video that relates to what you want to post about.

    Just so you know, EdgeRank ranks posts containing links the next highest, followed by plain text posts.
  2. Keep it short! According to Facebook, posts between 100 and 250 characters get 60% more likes, comments and shares, all of which help your EdgeRank score.  This is especially important now that more than half of monthly active users are accessing the site via mobile devices where it’s less enjoyable to read long posts.
  3. Diversify! While photo and videos do receive a higher EdgeRank score, you don’t want to limit yourself to solely visual posts because it will quickly get boring for your fans. Instead, use your Facebook page to link to articles you’ve written, or articles that express your views that you’ve found elsewhere on the Web. You can even post quotes that express your views on life and business. Of course, incorporating visuals when it makes sense will only make them better.

    Another valuable type of post for any business owner is a simple question. Not only does this add variety to your page, but it can also allow you to gain valuable insight into what your customers are thinking. For instance, if you ask your fans “What’s your biggest fear about retirement?”, you can then create a blog or article to specifically addresses those concerns. This just positions you as even more of an expert to your clients.
  4. Post at least once a day! Once someone likes your page, there’s a 96% they’ll never visit your profile again. But before you start wondering why you’re bothering with Facebook to begin with, keep in mind that they’ll be looking for information from you in the same place they’ll be looking for information from their friends: in their News Feed.

    Therefore, the best way to keep your business fresh in the minds of your customers is to post relevant content every single day. While you don’t want to over-post (i.e. don’t post every hour or every thirty minutes), posting at least once a day gives your content a higher priority because EdgeRank gives fresher content a better score.
  5. Interact with your fans! As your business presence grows and people react more to your brand, they’re more likely to start adding comments and asking questions. While you don’t need to check for responses constantly, checking once or twice a day shows that you care about your customers and truly want to help them.

    For example, if you ask a question and then write a corresponding blog about the feedback, go ahead and post it as a new status, but then go back and post it in the previous status and tag those who initially responded. That way you make sure they know you’ve addressed their concerns.

    Need another reasons to interact with your clients? Engagement makes EdgeRank very, very happy. The more you engage with your clients, the higher your engagement goes, and the more likely your posts are to show up in the News Feed.

So there you go—despite recent commentary to the contrary, EdgeRank does not have to be a hindrance to your online presence. In fact, knowing how to use EdgeRank to your advantage can only help your business grow!

Celebrity Branding Online: Bring in New Business by Creating Content That Your Customers Love

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

You’ve heard me talk about “content marketing” before. In case you’re a bit rusty on your terminology, content marketing is the process of creating relevant content and using it to attract and engage your audience. So rather than saying “here is my website, here are my products, buy them”, content marketing creates content (such as blogs, articles, or videos) that is relevant and valuable to your audience, and uses it to engage them.

Ultimately, content marketing has the same goal of every other form of marketing—to generate new business. But rather than “pushing” your products or services, you’re sparking the interest of your audience, educating them, and encouraging them to purchase from you when they are ready to make a purchase.

While the concept of content marketing isn’t new, the emergence of the internet and social media have provided a perfect environment for it. Whether it’s writing blogs and articles or posting photos on Facebook, there are a variety of channels available that allow you to connect with your audience and send them content that offers them valuable information while simultaneously reinforcing your CelebrityExpert® status.

Today, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into this process, first talking about what type of content to create, and then exploring the various channels you can use to reach your audience. Let’s jump in!

Creating Content

Remember, the goal is to create content that has value to your audience. You want to give them a reason to keep reading (or watching, or listening)! There are many ways to do this—below are a few ideas:

Offer Tips. As a CelebrityExpert®, you’re in a unique position to provide helpful information to your audience. As an accountant, you could provide a “top five” list of tax preparation mistakes to avoid. If you’re a dentist, you could provide a tip each week for a brighter smile. The possibilities are endless—just remember to provide value to your audience!

Report Breaking News. Passing on breaking industry news that is relevant to your audience has two immediate benefits. First, it’s helpful information for your audience. And second, it reinforces your position as an industry expert. As a retirement advisor, for instance, your audience would certainly be interested in news relating to changing tax law.

Tell Stories. One of the best ways to engage your audience, educate them about your products or services, and demonstrate your expertise at the same time is by telling stories. Whether it’s a cautionary tale of an individual who didn’t follow your advice or a personal success story, stories are an effective means of getting your point across in an engaging way.

Using Pictures & Videos. You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words—and so is a video! Pictures or video of your team in action, your products, or yourself can be very effective when they’re done right.

Distributing Your Content

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to create engaging content, let’s talk about where you can use it. Below are several great starting points:

Facebook. Facebook is the king of social media networks, at least for the moment. It’s a great place to engage with your market, particularly if you sell to consumers. Post links to your blogs and articles, your website, photos and videos, and more. Facebook is also a great place to share weekly tips for your audience.

Twitter. While not quite as mainstream as Facebook, Twitter is still a tremendous platform to leverage. You can most much of the same content as you would on Facebook—but remember to make it short and sweet!

LinkedIn. While LinkedIn functions much like Facebook in many ways, the audience is different. It’s professional, which means that if you’re selling to other businesses, LinkedIn can be a goldmine. You’ll want to adopt a more formal tone than you’d use on Facebook and Twitter—but the content you share, such as your blogs and articles, doesn’t have to change.

YouTube. If you’re creating video, you’ll want to share it on YouTube. The platform also gives you the opportunity to create your own branded “channel”, allowing you to build your brand and drive traffic to your website. A quick word about video marketing—take the time to do it right. In today’s era of affordable video equipment, there’s no excuse for posting low-quality footage! You want everything that you create to build your CelebrityExpert® credibility, and that includes your videos.

Pinterest. Pinterest is MY favorite social networking site, as many of you know. (Shoes, home décor, fashion… what’s not to love J?) And while it’s not right for every business, if you sell products or services that have “lifestyle” appeal, Pinterest can be a great fit.

Blogs & Articles. Writing blogs and articles is an effective way to build your credibility and your visibility. There are many approaches you can take—everything from sharing stories to providing helpful tips to highlighting industry developments. And once you’ve created these blogs and articles, you can use your social media platforms to create further exposure.

Now that we’ve covered how to create engaging content and where to distribute it, I’d like to close with a couple of reminders.

First, remember that the key to engaging your audience is to provide value. If the content you’re creating isn’t interesting or helpful for your target market, they’re not going to read it and they’re definitely not going to share it with their friends and family.

Second, remember that everything you create and distribute impacts your brand. In order to maximize your CelebrtiyExpert® status, make sure to stay focused on your target market and the brand you’re working to build. It’s easy to lose your focus in the busy world of social media, so make a constant effort to stay on track.

And finally—have fun! Growing your business may be hard work, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the process. And when it comes to creating content, you’ll find that having fun and being yourself is the most effective way to engaging your audience.

As always, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help YOU establish your CelebrityExpert® brand!

Seven Ways to Create “Sharable” Content

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

On the internet, content is king. And it always will be.

Whether it’s pictures, text, video, tweets, status updates, or whatever… the content you create will in large part determine the success of your internet marketing efforts. That’s why I’m always telling you to work so hard at creating content that reflects your expertise and positions you as a CelebrityExpert® within your marketplace. That’s why writing a blog is so important. That’s why publishing articles is key. And that’s why great photos and videos are so valuable.

But… you’ve heard it asked that “If a tree falls in a forest, but there is no one around to hear it, did it really make a sound?”

I’d like to rephrase that. If you create a great piece of content, but nobody ever sees it, does it matter?

The answer is no, it doesn’t. So it’s not enough to create content—you must create content that gets noticed, gets read, gets watched, and gets shared. Social media means that content can travel all across the country or even the world in a matter of minutes… if it’s appealing enough. So today we’re going to look at seven tips for creating content that engages your audience– and that they want to share with others.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Yes, originality is a good thing. But when it comes to creating content for your internet presence, don’t out-think yourself. If you’ve been writing a blog or publishing articles for some time, you should have a decent idea of what works, and what doesn’t. (You can get this information using programs like Google Analytics which track traffic to your website and blog.) Take some time to analyze this data and figure out which types of content are most effective. Then, continue to create content that “fits the mold.” Once you know what your audience likes, just keep giving it to them!

Leverage emotion. Whether it’s fear, anger, hope, happiness, or something similar, studies have shown that content which arouses emotion is far more likely to be shared than content that does not inspire emotion. As a business owner, one of the best ways you can do this is to share stories about your industry and your customers. As a tax attorney, for instance, you could write a blog entry or film a video in which you describe a miserable situation that your client was facing—but that he was eventually able to overcome because of your assistance. Just keep in mind that you don’t want this type of content to be overly promotional, so keep it subtle.

Start with an engaging headline or title. For blog posts, articles, white papers, special reports, and similar content, coming up with the right headline or title is all-important. The headline needs to be provocative, descriptive, and engaging in order to arouse interest. But it also can’t be misleading, as it will leave your reader disappointed and highly unlikely to recommend the content to his or her network. Studies have shown that specific headlines, such as “Five Steps to Making More Money Online” are typically more effective than a general headline like “How to Create a Profitable Website”. Don’t let choosing a headline be an afterthought – it’s critical!

Remember that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Photos and videos are extremely powerful when it comes to online marketing. Sharp, high-quality pictures of your team in action give your viewers a chance to “get to know you” without ever meeting you. Take every opportunity you have to create strong multi-media content. But even when you are writing blogs or articles, look for the opportunity to insert graphs, photos, or other visual content.

Make your content easy to share. Online retail giants such as Amazon.com know that the easier they can make it for their customers to place an order, the more money they are going to make. The same is true when it comes to getting your content shared. If it’s easy for your readers to do so, they are going to share content at a higher rate. Make sure there are prominent “share” buttons on your website and on your blog. And encourage them to do so—sometimes a simple blurb like “Did you like this article? Share it with your friends!” is all that it takes to inspire action.

Make your content easy to read. You may have written the best, most-interesting blog entry in the history of the internet—but if it is laid out like a constitutional law textbook, good luck getting anyone to read it, let alone share it! It’s critical to create content that is visually appealing and inviting for your audience. You want reading your content to be an enjoyable experience.

Answer the questions that your readers are asking. What does your audience want to know? If you can identify the key questions that they are asking, you’re well on the way to success. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how visually appealing and well-written your content is… if it’s irrelevant to your audience, they’re not going to read it, let alone share it. Your job is to figure out the burning questions that consumers in your market are asking, and then to provide the answers. If you’re not sure where to begin, just ask! Call up a few of your loyal customers and let them know you’re thinking about starting a blog, publishing articles, or producing videos. Ask them what subject matter they would be interested in hearing about. Ask around until a consensus emerges… and then get busy!

Well-crafted content that positions you as a CelebrityExpert® within your market is valuable. But it doesn’t matter how great the content is, if nobody is reading it. So as you create blog entries, articles, videos, etc, keep in mind this important question: “Is it sharable?” These tips will help you make it easier for your audience to spread the word about your business, ultimately translating into more exposure, more traffic to your website, more leads generated, and more money in your pocket. And that is a worthwhile goal!

Six Common Internet Marketing Mistakes—and How to Fix Them

Monday, March 4th, 2013

The field of Internet Marketing is rapidly changing. So, like mine, I’m sure your to-do list is never ending! Thus, spending hours each week reading up on the latest trends is a task that probably doesn’t even make your top 20.

So let me help!

Here are some of the most common mistakes that I see small business owners make as they pursue Internet marketing. 

1) Un-authentic customer testimonials—or none at all.

If your website doesn’t feature customer testimonials, you’re missing out on sales you otherwise would have made. Testimonials are an essential element of any site,  but all testimonials WEREN’T created equal. If your testimonials are short and robotic, your customers will smell them from a mile away. They’ll assume that either you created the testimonial for yourself, or that you bribed someone else to write a glowing review. Your testimonials must be authentic and believable. If you can include contact information and a picture of the individual, do so! Effective testimonials will dramatically improve your conversion rate because they give the shopper a sense of confidence and security knowing that “other people love this product!”

So how do you get a great testimonial? You ask! I have never found a happy client that wasn’t willing to give a testimonial. Now, they may have a hard time finding the time to write it- so, another strategy is to write it for them and they can edit and approve.

2) A confusing value proposition.

As I have written before, you have a matter of seconds to capture the attention of a visitor to your website. If a visitor can’t tell what you do or what you are offering by quickly scanning your home page, they are not going to stick around. From the headline you choose to the graphics that make up your home page and other landing pages, it is important that every element of each page is designed to clearly convey your value proposition.

3) Poor stock photography

An effective website is made up of compelling content – which means more than just text. Content includes videos, podcasts, and of course, photos. In many cases, these photos aren’t of you, your employees, or your workplace—they’re stock photos. Now, in principle, stock photos can be effective… but nine times out of ten, they look “fake” and out of place. And that’s a very bad message to send to potential customers.

Your customers want to know that the people on your website work for your company. Invest in professional photography and replace the stock photos on your website with great pictures of yourself and your team. Your customers want to know that they are doing business with real people—so let them get to know you!

4) Bad copy

As a non-lawyer, how much fun is it for you to read the pages of legalese at the end of a contract? Have you ever taken the time to read the entire iTunes Terms & Conditions agreement, just for fun? Of course not, because nobody in their right mind enjoys reading a wall of text that seems written deliberately to confuse them.

Yet, that is exactly what many business owners do on their own website! Remember that your customers and prospects are not experts in your industry. They don’t have the faintest clue about the technical details of your operation—nor are they interested in finding out. When you write the copy for your website, write for your audience, not for yourself! Describe your products and services clearly, and in a way that reflects the benefits they provide. Give your website visitors a reason to purchase from you—don’t give them a headache.

5) An inconsistent social media presence.

I know, I know—you’ve heard me talking about the value of social media plenty by now. (And to your credit, many of you have listened to me!) But as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter explode in popularity and business owners begin to get involved, they make a critical mistake: they are inconsistent. They post infrequently, often only two or three times per month, and they make no effort to engage their audience. And unfortunately that approach just won’t work. Social media is a place to build relationships and broadcast your brand—but neither of those objectives can be met if you are inconsistent. Your audience needs to hear from you regularly, several times a week ideally.

Now, that may sound unrealistic to some of you, and that’s okay, you don’t personally have to spend time each day on Twitter—but if you can’t, you need to hire a professional or create a system which ensures that someone on your team is consistently interacting with your audience.

One final thought—social media can be fun! I’ve built and nurtured so many great relationships through social media, and been exposed to people I likely never would have met without it. Whether you’re a sports fan, an American Idol enthusiast, or a devoted shoe-shopper like me (BTW, for the women who are reading this… my wedding shoes with those beloved “red soles” DID come in and they are fabulous!), I can promise you that you’ll find an interesting community to participate in.

6) Email marketing without a strategy.

What’s your email marketing strategy? Or better yet, do you have one?

Sadly, that’s the case I see the majority of the time- businesses don’t have one. Their approach is basically to send out an email blast to their entire database whenever they feel like it. Not a very affective approach.

So how do you develop one? The first step is to determine your objective. What are you hoping to accomplish? For many businesses, email marketing is a way to strengthen relationships with current and former clients. For others the goal is to promote specific products and services with the direct objective of making sales. Defining your objective allows you to create a plan that will meet your needs.

The other major mistake I see with email marketing is creating content that isn’t interesting or valuable to the audience. If your audience isn’t interested in the emails you are sending, you may as well be a spammer. Work to create content that is useful and valuable, and you’ll be able to keep your audience engaged.

So there you have it! If you can cut out these six mistakes, you’ll be way ahead of the internet marketing curve. Of course, as always, feel free to contact me with any questions. In the meantime, remember to stay true to your brand and your message… and of course, have fun!

Social Media Marketing: 13 Social Media Myths Exposed

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Over the last 20 years, the internet has revolutionized just about everything when it comes to business—from communications to data storage to marketing. And over the last 5 years or so, social media is shaking everything up again.

As you know, social media provides a number of valuable channels for branding and marketing. But it’s also intimidating for many business owners. After all, let’s face it—you’re busy. You’ve got enough to do running your business, let alone staying up-to-date with an industry that is changing every day.

Unfortunately, the rapid pace of growth in the world of social media combined with the lack of information that many business owners have regarding social media has created a whole bunch of misinformation.

Today, we’re going to shine a light on some of these common myths regarding social media:

  1. I don’t have the time for social media. As I mentioned a moment ago, I understand that you’re busy! I run a number of businesses too, so I get it! But the truth is that social media doesn’t demand huge amounts of time in order to be effective. What’s more important is that you make engaging on social media a habit—even if it’s just for 60 seconds a day. After all, you have the time to brush your teeth and straighten your tie each morning, right? That’s all it takes!
  2. My customers don’t want to connect with me on social media. Recent studies have shown that virtually every demographic in the country is embracing social media—including seniors! And the numbers increase each and every day. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest… I can almost promise you that you can find your customers!
  3. I have a website, I am all set with my online presence. Building a website is an important first step, so congratulations! But what good is a website if nobody visits it? Social media is an effective way to drive targeted visitors to your site.
  4. The more followers or friends I have, the better my social media campaign. It’s not quantity, it’s quality. What’s important is not the sheer number of friends or follower you have, but who those people are. An audience of 50 people in your target market is better than 500 people who aren’t!
  5. I must have a presence on every single social media network. This myth is a major reason that business owners are afraid to begin leveraging social media to grow their business. It’s simply overwhelming. It’s also untrue—plenty of businesses have been successful by focusing on just one social network, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. It just depends where your customers are—and it’s always better to start small than not to start at all!
  6. LinkedIn is for business contacts and Facebook is for personal contacts. This may have been true originally, but increasingly professionals and business owners are using social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There’s no need to limit yourself to LinkedIn if you’re marketing to businesses!
  7. You can’t say anything meaningful in 140 characters. “I have a dream.” “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” “One small step for man… one giant leap for mankind.” Each of these iconic quotes is less than 140 characters. You don’t have to write a novel to capture the attention of your audience!
  8. If I do this right, I should see results fast. Like most other things in life, doing social media right requires an investment of time on your part. Social media is all about establishing relationships and building trust, and that simply doesn’t happen overnight. If you create a Facebook page and expect to start generating leads the very next day, you’re going to be disappointed. Understand at the get-go that it will take some time to see results… but that the time you are investing today will lead to great results tomorrow.
  9. There is just too much information. There is certainly a whirlwind of information flying around most social media networks. It can be overwhelming. But by creating a sound strategy and focusing on the core of your brand, you can cut through the “noise” and connect with your target market.
  10. It’s about creating content. Content (like blogs, articles, and videos) is important. But at the end of the day, social media boils down to relationships. I like to say that “people buy people”, and that’s what social media is all about—connecting with people!
  11. There must be constant contact. Many business owners think that they need to be monitoring Facebook and Twitter all day, every day. That’s simply not the case! Designate a time each day (or every other day) to check your social media presence.
  12. Social media will magically fix my business. Social media is not a magic solution—it’s a tool in your marketing toolbox. Social media can be very helpful when it comes to growing your business, but just like radio, TV, or print advertising, it’s just a part of the bigger picture. A very important part in today’s world, but still just a part!
  13. Social media is the new advertising. Social media isn’t replacing other forms of advertising. In fact, at its best, social media isn’t advertising in the same way that a TV commercial is. That’s because, like we’ve mentioned, social media is about relationships. It is about connecting with your audience, getting to know them, and letting them get to know you. It’s about trust and understanding—not advertising!

Social media is a fast-paced field, to be sure. But don’t let the “techno-speak” fool you—at the end of the day, social media is nothing new. It’s been around for hundreds of years, because we humans are social creatures. We’ve always found ways to talk, share gossip, and swap stories. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter present a valuable opportunity for businesses to grow—so don’t let any of these common myths discourage you!

Build Your Online Celebrity Status: Why Online Reviews Are Essential to Your Success

Monday, February 18th, 2013

In today’s high-tech business environment, credibility is more important than ever. There’s an expectation that a business, in almost any industry, will have an online presence. A business that doesn’t have such a presence is going to be written off by many consumers as “behind the times” or “unprofessional.”

But increasingly, we are finding that simply having a website isn’t enough. Many consumers want to see some sort of “social evidence” that your company is worth doing business with. One powerful way to accomplish this is by using testimonials on your website—especially video testimonials. But many consumers today want more. They want to see evidence from a source other than you and your website. They want to hear from other, unbiased consumers. And that is where online reviews come into play.

Sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Answers, and Mahalo offer platforms for consumers to read and write reviews of various local and national businesses. And because these sites are very search-engine friendly, it’s common to see reviews for a specific business display high on the search results when you search for that business.

Obviously, this presents both a threat and an opportunity. The threat is that poor reviews are likely to hurt your conversion rate—and there’s very little you can do to prevent a negative review from being posted if a customer is determined to do so. The opportunity is that, if you are able to secure positive reviews, they often serve as a final “stamp of approval” for prospects who are trying to decide whether or not to do business with you. In other words, these positive online reviews often serve as the “final step” in a successful sales funnel.

Now, five years ago, most businesses didn’t have many online reviews—positive or negative. Today it’s different… many consumers expect to see reviews of your business. And if they don’t, they get suspicious. They begin to question everything they saw on your website or via social media.

In fact, I just heard from a client who experienced exactly this. He writes “I just lost a transaction because my lender partner had no Internet footprint and no feedback. So the client judged both of us and felt uncomfortable.”

It wasn’t enough that my client had a great online presence, including positive online reviews. The fact that his partner didn’t have similar online credibility was enough to scuttle a potential deal. This is MUCH more common than any of us realize—because in most cases, when a customer decides that they aren’t satisfied with your credibility, you never know it. It’s not like they call you just to tell you that they’re not impressed with your lack of Yelp reviews—but you lose out on the sale just the same!

So here’s the bottom line. If you are serious about growing your business online, you need to secure positive online reviews on major sites.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few easy ways to accomplish this:

1) Identify “raving fans” and ask them to do you a personal favor by leaving a review. All of you can identify at least two or three customers who count as “raving fans” of your business. I can assure you that, in almost every case, if you ask them to leave you a review on sites like Yelp.com and Yahoo Answers, they’ll gladly do so. (One recommendation: make it as easy for them as you can. After they’ve agreed to help you out, send them an email with a link to the sites you’d like them to post a review on. You can also mention “key phrases” that you’d like them to include—like “provides great customer service” or “can’t beat their prices!”)

2) Prompt every single customer to leave reviews by including language in your packaging or elsewhere urging them to do so. Many customers are glad to leave a review and just need to be prompted to do so. If you sell physical products, include a little note asking them to visit specific sites and leave feedback. You can also include an item in your email signature… something like “If you love our service, please let the world know! Leave a review…” As long as you’re consistently asking, you’ll find that a percentage of your customers are more than happy to oblige.

3) Ask for reviews on your website and via social media. By including a prominent link on your website or using social media to encourage customers to leave reviews, you’ll get the attention of customers who might otherwise not have thought it. You don’t have to be over the top – just a friendly reminder that you would appreciate their help will get results!

If you don’t spend too much time on the internet, the whole concept of “online reviews” may seem unnecessary. Especially if you’ve been in business for a long time, your initial response may be “I don’t need something called ‘Yelp’ to establish my credibility!” Trust me, I completely understand where you’re coming from! But whether we like it or not, today’s consumers DO expect to see online reviews of your business. And if they don’t find what they are looking for, it is entirely possible that you will lose out on business that you should have won—so don’t put this off!

Again, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be hard. Most of you have at least a handful of customers that will be more than happy to help you out… all you have to do is ask!

If you’ve got questions, I can help! You may be wondering what types of things you should ask your customers to say, which sites are the best review sites for your industry, or what you can do about poor reviews that may have been posted about your business. I’d love to answer any of these questions that are specific to your business or your industry, so feel free to get in touch with me! You know how to reach me. J

Internet Marketing, Celebrity-Style: How to Overcome 7 Internet Marketing Obstacles

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The internet has changed the world of marketing forever. This isn’t news to any of you—every business owner is well aware of the power of the internet. It’s particularly valuable for smaller businesses that don’t have the resources of a Fortune 500 company, because the internet allows businesses to target their audience and communicate their message in a very cost-effective manner.

But the internet is a double-edged sword for business owners. Yes, it makes it easier and more affordable for you to reach your target market. But it does the same for your competition. As a result, the level of competition on the internet can be overwhelming. And that is why celebrity branding is so important—a powerful personal brand allows you to stand out from the crowd. In particular, a celebrity-style website gives you the ability to overcome many of the most challenging obstacles to effective internet marketing. Today we are going to take a look at several of these challenges—and how you can overcome them!

How to “get found”! The most immediate problem for most business owners is simply attracting potential customers to their site. It doesn’t matter how incredible your website is if nobody sees it, right? That’s why it’s important to work on your visibility throughout the internet. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (my favorite!), LinkedIn, and YouTube are very valuable in this regard. And that’s why blogging and article writing are important as well—it’s another way to draw potential customers to your site.

How to “hook” visitors. The typical website visitor makes the decision to stay on the site or leave in a matter of seconds. If your website doesn’t “hook” visitors with a great first impression, they are going to hit the ‘back’ button and look for help somewhere else. In addition to having an appealing, modern visual appearance, you need to give your visitors an instant reason to dig deeper into your site. If your website brands you as a celebrity, chances are your visitors are going to be intrigued and want to learn more.

How to establish credibility. There is no shortage of shifty, fly-by-night businesses on the internet. And unfortunately, these shady businesses and scammers make it more difficult for legitimate businesses to operate online, because they have ensured that every potential customer is on “high alert” while on the internet. As a result, in order to generate leads or make a sale, your website must establish a high level of credibility. There are many ways to accomplish this—blogging and writing articles helps, featuring testimonials is very effective, and highlighting media coverage that you have received is particularly beneficial. Take a moment and look at your website right now—does it give your visitors a reason to trust you? If not, chances are you are losing out on sales that you otherwise could have made!

How to communicate your message- quickly. As we discussed earlier, the typical website visitor does not stick around for much time at all unless they are “hooked”. That’s why it is critical that you communicate your message very quickly. Your website should broadcast a very clear and simple message—for instance, a CPA may choose to emphasize his experience, his affordability, and his commitment to customer service. To be effective, this message must get across very quickly. Video can be a great way to accomplish this, along with photos and carefully chosen headlines. The bottom line is that, in order to keep your visitors interested in your site, you need to quickly give them a reason to keep reading!

How to establish value. Another challenge for business owners marketing online is finding a way to establish their value. After all, many shoppers think that the internet is a place for “bargain shopping”, and they’re often in search of the lowest possible price they can find. So how can your website establish your position in the market as a high-end business, and establish value in order to justify your prices? This is another area where celebrity branding really is a game-changer. If your website is successful in positioning you as a CelebrityExpert® within your market, your customers are going to have an expectation that your prices are higher than your non-descript competitors. It’s important to highlight your knowledge and your expertise as well—another reason that writing blogs and articles is valuable. And of course, featuring your media appearances is helpful in establishing your value as well.

How to create a personal connection. You have heard me say that “people buy people.” In other words, consumers want to do business with others that they know and trust. That’s why a handshake and a smile can go so far in terms of closing a sale. But on the internet, you obviously don’t have this ability. In order to generate the type of trust that is necessary to generate a lead or a sale, it is critical to create a personal connection. Videos are one way to accomplish this, as they give your audience a chance to see your face, hear your voice, and hear your story in your own words. Similarly, photos of yourself also work to establish this personal connection. And once again, writing blog entries and articles gives visitors to your website the opportunity to get to know you even further.

How to generate leads. At the end of the day, your website needs to generate leads or sales. If it doesn’t, what’s the point? That’s why lead generation forms featuring a strong call-to-action are so important. In addition, offering free content like a special report or a white paper is a great way to generate leads.

The internet is incredibly competitive when it comes to business marketing—and it’s getting more competitive every day. The obstacles we’ve identified today MUST be overcome if you are going to be successful online, and if you’d like to learn more, please get in touch with me today!

Become an Online CelebrityExpert™: Do You Know Your Audience?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Do you know your audience (your target market)? “Of course,” I can hear you all saying.

But do you REALLY know your audience? Do you understand their hopes, their fears, what keeps them awake at night? Do you understand the frustrations that they deal with on a daily basis? Do you understand the opportunities they see, the threats they are faced with, and their options for navigating into the future?

In order to create a powerful personal brand, and to leverage that brand to grow your profits, you must understand your audience on a deep level.

Why? Because if you don’t truly understand them, you can’t appeal to them. And the bottom line is that each target market is different—the tactics that work with one audience may not work with another. To illustrate, consider a celebrity we’re all familiar with… Justin Bieber. Bieber has made himself into an international celebrity by appealing to a VERY specific audience, namely teen girls. He’s tailored everything to fit that audience—his music, his wardrobe, and even (especially!) his hairstyle. And the success with that audience he has achieved speaks for itself. It’s a result of his ability to understand and appeal to his audience… recognizing that the rest of the population may not appreciate his brand. Few consumers outside Bieber’s target audience will buy his albums or attend a concert—and that’s just fine with him!

Think about how this applies to your business. Do you understand your target market inside and out? Have you tailored your brand to appeal to them? In particular, does your online presence resonate with your audience?

Here are five specific questions to ask yourself:

1) Where does your audience spend their time online? If your audience is primarily consumers under the age of thirty, chances are that they spend a significant amount of time on Facebook and Twitter. If they are shopaholics like me, Pinterest is probably high on their list of most visited websites. If you’re marketing to a professional audience, LinkedIn may be the best place to find them. On the other hand, if your audience is retirees or the soon-to-be retired, they may spend more time on traditional websites or directories. You need to understand where your audience spends their time, so that you can most effectively reach them.

2) What are common challenges facing your audience, and how can you solve them? If you ask a doctor what his most pressing challenge is, you may well hear “finding enough time in the day to get everything done.” A lawyer may name “communicating exactly what it is that I do to potential clients” as a primary challenge. A restaurant owner may simply need to get more people through his door for dinner! As you get to know your audience, look for recurring themes—these are golden opportunities to grab attention and demonstrate your value. You can leverage this on your website, in blog entries, on social media… but it all starts with understanding what those challenges are!

3) What can you offer your audience that no one else can? As you become more familiar with your target customers, work to identify what makes you different than everyone else. What can YOU provide to your audience that nobody else can? It could be your years of experience, it could be your exclusive products or services, or it could be something else entirely. Give your audience a reason to choose you instead of the competition in your market, and make this reason a centerpiece of everything you do online!

4) What is the right “language” to use while communicating with your audience? If the average person attended a conference for lawyers, or for dentists, or for chiropractors… chances are they would be mystified. This is because different industries tend to develop their own phrases, acronyms, and terminologies. And if you’re going to be marketing to a specific audience, you had better be able to speak their language! There are plenty of ways to learn—such as subscribing to industry magazines, attending trade shows and conventions, and simply spending time getting to know your market. Learn the buzzwords and make sure you’re using them as you market yourself and your business online. It may seem like a minor detail, but using the “industry lingo” goes a long way towards establishing your credibility as someone who truly understands your audience.

5) How do you inspire trust? You’ve heard me say, many times over, that “people buy people.” Your customers want to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. How can you leverage your brand and your online presence to inspire these feelings? One of the most important things you can do is build the perception of yourself as an expert, by writing blogs, articles, and social media content that demonstrates your industry knowledge. We also help our clients to write and publish books and appear on TV affiliates across the nation—all of which can be further leveraged on your website and through social media. What can you do to inspire your audience to trust you? Whether or not you can come up with a great answer to that question will play a significant role in the success of your business!

So I’ll ask you again… do you REALLY know your audience? Do you know them as well as Justin Bieber knows his legions of adoring fans? Have you taken the time to understand their frustrations, their hopes, and the challenges they face on a daily basis?

If not, now you know where to begin!

On the other hand, if you HAVE already put in the time to answer these questions, the next question is… are you leveraging this information? Are you taking what you’ve learned about your audience and creating a powerful internet presence to go with your CelebrityExpert™ brand?

As always, if you’d like to learn more about this process, please feel free to get in touch with me today!

Become an Online Celebrity: Five Ways to Inject Some Life Into Your Internet Presence

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Five years ago, simply creating a Facebook page or a Twitter profile was enough to qualify your business as engaging, customer-centered, and forward-thinking. But let’s face it: today, everyone and their mother is on Facebook, and Twitter isn’t far behind.
Simply creating a social media profile isn’t worth much anymore—because everyone has one.

This is a blessing in disguise for business owners who understand marketing, however. Because while most businesses consider their job done once they’ve created a Facebook account, savvy business owners understand that marketing is all about building trust and establishing a relationship. It doesn’t matter what the platform is. Direct mail, face-to-face selling, social media… the principles are the same.

You’ve heard me say that “people buy people”, and more specifically, people buy people that they trust and consider credible. That’s why we spend so much time talking about the power of a brand-centered website and a dynamic social media presence.
But there’s more to it than “just” looking like an expert. You also need to appear real. If you want to build relationships with your audience (which is the entire point of social media), you need to give them more than an uptight, carefully scripted persona to interact with. Below are five ways to do this—as always, not every one of these is a good fit for every business, but use what you can:

1) Ask your customers for feedback. Most businesses view social media as a “one way street.” They are happy to broadcast content for their audience to see, but they aren’t interested in actual engagement. Why? In many cases, because they’re afraid of opening themselves up to criticism online. And yes, that is a risk—but if you’re offering products and services that you’re proud of, the vast majority of the feedback is going to be positive. And even negative feedback represents an opportunity to show the world how seriously you take your customer service. Don’t fear feedback… ask for it!

2) Acknowledge your competition. Whether it is sharing an insightful blog post written by a competitor or posting a news story acknowledging their commitment to the community, praising your competition can be a real eye opener for your audience. They’ll quickly realize that you value honesty and openness rather than cutthroat competition, and that gives everything else you say a major boost in credibility. It also sends the subtle message that “We’re not afraid of the competition. In fact, take a look at them. We’re not threatened!”

3) Go off topic. Don’t make your social media presence all business, all the time. Again, customers want to do business with people they know and trust—and “letting your guard down” a bit is a great way to establish a relationship. Talk about your favorite sports team. Post pictures of your latest shopping excursion (there’s nothing I love more than showing off my latest pair of shoes on Twitter or Instagram ☺.) Talk about the weather, or your hobbies, or your family life. Yes, it’s off topic… that’s the point! Real people don’t talk about business 24/7, and your social media presence shouldn’t either!

4) Take a controversial stand. Again, this isn’t right for every business. But taking a stand on a controversial issue can be a great way to inspire loyalty and build relationships. This can be political (like Chik-fil-A this summer) but it doesn’t have to be. Being vocal about your personal faith, expressing your support for controversial causes, or embracing figures that are outside the mainstream can all be very successful from a marketing standpoint. The key, obviously, is knowing your target market and understanding the brand that you want to project. If taking a stance on an issue is going to alienate a significant amount of your target market, you should probably avoid it. But if you can take a stand in a non-offensive way, you’ll stand out from the crowd of bland businesses—and that’s what we’re all working towards!

5) Be funny. Got a joke to tell? Do it! Some humorous insight into a recent celebrity mishap or news story? Share it! It’s been said that “the shortest distance between any two people is laughter”, and social media is no exception! If you can make your audience laugh every once in a while, I can promise you that they will pay far more attention to your content in the future. And beyond that, a sense of humor adds to the perception that you’re a real person, not just another faceless business owner.

Do you see what all of this is coming back to? One word: personality. As any salesperson can tell you, building a rapport with your prospect is essential to making a sale. And you simply can’t build rapport without being yourself. So whether it’s your website, your social media presence, or a blog entry—don’t be afraid to be yourself.

However, it’s important that you don’t take a “random” approach to this process—or you’ll end up saying or doing something that doesn’t mesh with the brand you want. The first step, which you should do right now, is to take some time to define the brand and the image that you want to create online. Do you want to be funny? If so, what’s appropriate and what isn’t? Are you going to be vocal about your faith or your political leanings? Are you willing to open yourself up to feedback from consumers? Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers. This document will serve as a “guide” to ensure that you don’t go too far off script and end up undermining the brand you are seeking to build.

And most importantly… have fun! Social media offers the opportunity to get to know your customers and let them get to know you in a relaxed, informal setting. It can be a lot of fun… and even more importantly, it can be highly profitable with the right approach. As always, you know how to reach me if you’d like to learn more!

Use Your Tool Chest: How the Right Social Media Channels Will Turn You Into a CelebrityExpert®

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Successfully branding yourself as a “celebrity” is a game-changer when it comes to growing your business. As I have written before, establishing yourself as a CelebrityExpert® enables you to easily attract new customers and clients—and gives you the ability to charge premium rates and still win the business. And while there are a variety of strategies and tactics that need to be leveraged in order to accomplish this goal, today we are going to focus on the internet—and more specifically, on social media.

First, let’s clear up a giant misconception that many supposed “experts” continue to spread: social media sites aren’t one-size-fits-all, interchangeable platforms. There are a variety of diverse options out there, and they must be used differently.
“Social media” is like a tool chest – full of different and uniquely valuable tools. You wouldn’t pick up a screwdriver and use it to drive a nail into the wall, would you? Well guess what… using Instagram to generate B2B leads is just as inefficient.
Today, we’re going to go through six of the most valuable “tools” in your social media tool chest—and talk about how you can use each of them to improve your online celebrity status.

Facebook. Facebook is the king of social media sites, at least for the moment. It is a versatile platform that offers many opportunities for marketing and branding. The most obvious, and often most effective, is simply using pictures to tell your story. Studies have confirmed that pictures are the most engaging form of content for Facebook users, by a significant margin. So take advantage and share pictures that tell your story. This might mean a shot of you and your team huddling with a client, it might be an image of a gorgeous new product line, or it might be a picture of yourself giving a speech to a big audience. I’m even known to use Facebook to fill the world in on my latest shopping trip, night out, or Gators football game! Keep in mind that business owners and executives tend to spend more time on “professional” networking sites like LinkedIn—so if your primary marketing strategy is B2B, Facebook may not be the best fit.

YouTube. When it comes to branding business owners as celebrities, few tools are as valuable as video. A well-produced video is incredibly powerful—whether it’s a short “introduction” to yourself and your business, a commercial, or even an in-depth documentary that serves to tell your story and the story of your business. And as you probably know, YouTube is the leading site for hosting and sharing these videos. But the platform allows you to do more than just display videos—you can create a customized profile, include information about you and your firm, and even interact with your viewers. If video is part of your marketing and branding strategy – and it should be – then YouTube is an essential element of your social media presence.

Twitter. Twitter has a very diverse user base, including healthy numbers of consumers, business owners, and professionals – not to mention musicians, politicians, and other celebrities. The format (“tweets” must be 140 characters or less) doesn’t lend itself to in-depth communications or impressive visuals, but it does offer the opportunity to post concise, relevant information for your target market to consume. Twitter is a great way to keep your audience up to date on your latest adventures, as well as to drive traffic to recent blog entries, articles, and to your website in general.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is far and away the most popular social networking platform for professionals, and currently has nearly 200 million members. In addition to strengthening current relationships and interacting with potential customers in your market, LinkedIn offers the opportunity to reach targeted professionals through paid ads. These ads can be targeted to specific industries, physical locations, and even job titles. Similar to Twitter, LinkedIn is also a great platform for sharing blogs and articles. It also offers topic-focused Groups that allow professionals to discuss specific topics.

Instagram. Instagram has burst onto the scene as a photo-sharing service. In this respect, it is similar to Facebook, but with much more limited functionality. However, if your business lends itself to great photo opportunities, Instagram is a perfect fit. You can approach it with a similar mindset as you do Facebook—look for pictures that tell your story. In fact, many businesses share their photos on Instagram, and then add them to Facebook as well.

Pinterest. Pinterest is a picture-oriented “lifestyle” site. It allows users to share and discover new interests, by “pinning” pictures to “pinboards.” It’s similar to posting content on a Facebook wall, except that each user has multiple boards and can organize them around a unifying theme. (For instance, “arts & crafts”, “for the home”, and “recipes” are all common.) On a personal level, you could probably guess that Pinterest is right up my alley. Check out my profile (http://pinterest.com/lindsaydicks/) and you’ll see the collection of recipes, clothes, and craft ideas that I’ve shared. But in addition to being a fun way to share interests with friends, Pinterest is a great place to share pictures and other visuals that relate to the “lifestyle” your business focuses on. For instance, as a real estate broker or a home stager, sharing great photos of your latest listings is a perfect fit.

One quick word of caution: before you jump head-first into social media, it’s important that you evaluate your website. Your site serves as the “hub” for your online presence, and if it doesn’t mesh well with your social media presence, you’ll be unable to create the CelebrityExpert® brand that you’re going for. So be sure to take care of “first things first!”

Social media is fun—but more than that, it represents a great opportunity to connect with your customers on a frequent basis. But like anything else in life, if you don’t take the time to learn the “rules of the game”, you can’t use it effectively. We’ve covered the basics here today… but as always, feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like to learn more!

Email Marketing… Celebrity Style

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Email marketing is a powerful tool. And these days, it’s accessible and affordable for businesses of all sizes. However, there is a big difference between doing email marketing and doing it well. Successful email marketing campaigns generate leads, improve customer loyalty, and contribute to a powerful personal brand. On the other hand, ineffective email marketing is a waste of your time and your resources.

How can you use email marketing effectively while continuing to build your personal brand and establish yourself as the leading celebrity-expert in your market? Read on…

1) Understand who you are writing to.

Who is your audience? You should be able to easily answer this question on a big-picture level—for instance, a retirement planner would likely have an audience consisting of retirees and those planning to retire soon.

But that’s not enough. One of the keys to an effective email marketing campaign is speaking directly to your audience, as personally as possible. Nobody wants to feel like just another name in a massive database—if they do feel that way, chances are that your email messages will be deleted without a second thought.

So learn more about your audience. Determine whether each contact is a business, or an individual. Identify gender. Identify age. Identify geographic location. Identify hobbies and other interests.

One great way to do this by asking these important questions on your sign-up forms. In other words, in addition to asking for their name and email address, ask your prospect to share additional information that is important for your campaign. Of course, the more information you require, the more likely a prospect is to say “forget it”—so you will want to experiment and track your results.

Bottom line: learn as much as you can about your audience, so that you can engage them personally.

2) Segment your audience for a more “personal” connection.

If you followed my advice in step one, you now have detailed information for each of the contacts in your email database.

Now it’s time to use it!

Forget sending massive “one size fits all” email blasts to your entire list. If it’s not personalized, it’s going to be far less successful.

The first step is segmenting your audience. Break your master list down into segments. What these segments will be is determined largely by the nature of your business. You could break your list down into geographic regions. You could segment your audience by age, gender, income level, level of education, and much more. I used a retirement planner in an earlier example—he or she would likely start by segmenting an email list into “retired” and “not yet retired”, as obviously these two audiences would be interested in different information.

Once your list is segmented, the next step is crafting content, information, and offers that appeal to each segment of your audience. Non-clients, for instance, could be targeted with special introductory offers designed to get them “in your door.” Current clients, on the other hand, could be offered a referral program which offers an incentive for them to connect you with new leads.

The options are endless—as long as you segment your audience. Your mailing list does not consist of thousands of identical individuals… so don’t treat them all the same!

3) Be a “real” person.

Nobody likes spam, and if your email blasts feel like junk mail, they will be ignored.

Here are a few easy steps you can take to address this problem:

-Use your name in the “sender” field.

-Send the email from a real address. (As opposed to something like do-not-reply@xyz.com)

-Greet your recipient by name. It’s easy to set up your email blasts to begin with a personalized salutation, i.e. “Dear Mike” or “Hi Joe.”

In addition, it’s important to let your personal brand shine through in the body of your email. For some of you, that means humor. For others, it may mean “action photos” of yourself or your team hard at work. I like to keep my readers up to date on a variety of topics—especially the results of my shopping adventures!

Whatever the specifics may be, the key is to seem like a person—not a robot. Be real, be interesting, be yourself… and your audience will be far more interested in what you have to say.

4) Always provide value.

At the end of the day, successful email marketing campaigns have at least one trait in common: their audience is interested in what they have to say. The audience has a reason to open the email—and to spend time reading it.

This boils down to one word: value.

How can you provide value for your audience?

Many businesses do it by providing coupons and other savings opportunities. If you receive emails from your favorite local restaurant, and you know that they often include great coupons, you’re going to open those emails every time… am I right?

But you can also provide value by offering helpful information to your audience. Going back to the example of our hypothetical retirement planner – he/she could share stock market forecasts, tips for saving money on taxes, and all sorts of additional information.

The best part about this approach is that it not only answers pressing questions for your audience, it also positions you as a leading authority in your market. It turns you into the celebrity-expert you are working to become, and it provides great value for your audience at the same time.

So take some time right now and ask yourself what type of information your audience is interested in. If you’re not sure, ask them! Call up three or four long-term clients and simply ask them what type of information they would be interested in.

Identifying the type of content that interests your readers is a vital step—once you’ve done so, it’s just a matter of communicating the information in a clear and engaging manner.

Done right, email marketing is an incredible tool for your business. Not only can it be used to engage your customers, increase loyalty, and generate new leads… but it can also position you as the leading Celebrity Expert™ in your market.

Eight Ways to Use Social Media to Boost Your Celebrity Status

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

When it comes to personal branding, you have probably heard it said that consistency is critical. Since the objective of your branding efforts is to shape the way you are perceived by your audience, it’s essential that you broadcast a consistent message. If your message lacks consistency, your audience doesn’t know what to think—and you end up with a personal brand that is weak or nonexistent.

Consistency goes beyond your logo’s colors. You must be consistent in your thoughts and beliefs as well as your promotions and the way you “act” online. It’s all a part of your brand and what you do reflects highly on your brand. If you were a Church you probably wouldn’t be promoting drinking and smoking for example.

And while the specifics of your personal brand may vary, you know by now that the key to achieving the business success you desire is branding yourself as a celebrity within your industry. You’re not just another “typical” business owner—you’re a respected expert. This position gives you the ability to lock out your competition—to charge higher prices than your competitors and still win the business. And because most consumers prefer to work with an expert, your personal brand will make it easier to attract new clients and retain your current customers. Therefore, it’s important that every element of your personal brand reflect the celebrity status you are working towards. From TV appearances to your social media presence, positioning yourself as a celebrity expert in your industry must be a primary goal.

In this article I wanted to give you specific ideas that you can focus on TODAY to start elevating your social media efforts– and specifically, how you can utilize your social media presence to establish yourself (and your brand) as the go-to guru within your market. Below are eight suggestions:

1) Tweet analysis of breaking news. Twitter is known as a great source for breaking news—and with good reason. While keeping your audience updated with regard to breaking news in your industry is helpful, I recommend taking it a step further—go ahead and post a link to a developing story, but take a moment to add your analysis. As a tax attorney, for instance, don’t just report that a new law is making its way through congress… take the time to tell your audience what the new law could mean for them.

2) Post pictures on Facebook and Twitter of yourself “in action”. If you take a look at my Facebook profile, you’ll see photos of myself and my partners working with clients in a variety of locations… at the Grammys, filming on location in Washington D.C., etc. Not only is it a fun way to keep people in the loop, but posting these pictures reminds my audience that I’m always hard at work helping my clients strengthen their celebrity status. Look for opportunities to do the same!

3) Post video tips on YouTube. Video tips are a great way to connect with your audience—as it’s easier to bond with someone “face to face” than it is by reading their status updates and Twitter posts. Take the time to produce these well—you’ll be amazed at how much mileage you can get out of a handful of well-produced video tips. In addition to the branding benefits, search engines are giving video sites like YouTube more weight than ever—so get involved!

4) Share your blog entries and articles across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Hopefully by now you have listened to me and are regularly publishing blog entries and articles! (If not, it’s time to get with the program!) In addition to sharing your content on your website, take the time to post them to your social media accounts. Doing so is a great way to drive traffic to your website, and it is a reminder to your audience that you’re an expert in your industry!

5) Answer questions your followers and connections may have. One of the best parts of modern day social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is the ability they provide to interact with your audience in real time. If you pay attention to the conversations that are taking place around you, you will often see individuals asking questions or looking for advice. When you see an opportunity to share your expertise, chime in! Not only will you be helping the person asking the question—you’ll also be subtly demonstrating your expertise to your audience. People will take note—and over time you’ll build a reputation as THE go-to person in your industry.

6) Get personal… but not TOO personal. Social media platforms represent a great opportunity to get to know your audience… and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be all business, all the time. Let your audience know what you’re up to—where you’re travelling, what restaurant you’re eating at… whatever you’re comfortable with. The best part of this is that you have the opportunity to have fun and be yourself… while at the same time building your brand. In my case, comments on a Gator game, a status update about a trip to Bloomys (Bloomingdales as you may call it J) a picture of my favorite bottle of wine, or my new favorite recipe I found on Pinterest… it’s all a way to strengthen my personal brand. It’s important not to frop your guard too much, as yes, we are mixing business with pleasure! But you do need a happy medium of both- I like to think of the social media world as a giant cocktail party. Have fun, relax, tell jokes… but keep it classy!

7) Share actionable tips for your customers and prospects. Sharing information with your audience is great… but providing them with actionable, easily digestible tips is even better. Whether you’re a real estate broker sharing tips for adding value to a home, or a landscaper sharing advice for dealing with garden pests, providing actionable tips demonstrates your industry knowledge convincingly.

8) Post valuable content from authoritative sources… and add your commentary. When it comes to sharing content, you don’t have to limit yourself to content you’ve created. Of course, you won’t want to promote your competitors, but posting content from other authoritative sources shows your audience that you are “in the loop” with regards to developments in your industry. Take it a step further and add your own analysis!

At the end of the day, your overarching social media goal should be to provide value to your audience. If you aren’t doing so, they are going to tune you out. What good does it do you to have 1,000 followers on Twitter if none of them are paying any attention?

Look for opportunities to make their lives easier—by sharing tips, by keeping them up to date in regards to developments in your industry, and by analyzing breaking news. This will keep your audience engaged… and when you incorporate these celebrity branding tips, you’ll be reinforcing your standing as an expert with each and every interaction.

Your Celebrity Expert Status Starts on the Web! Seven SEO Mistakes to Avoid!

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Like it or not, your Celebrity Status starts on the web. The first thing anybody does before doing business is goes to the web. If they’ve heard about you from somewhere, they will Google your name or company name to see if you really are an expert. If they have a problem and they need a solution, they’re Google the problem.

You have to be everywhere!

Unfortunately, the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is constantly changing. Google plays a substantial role in these fluctuations—every time the search giant tweaks its algorithms, SEO strategies must be tweaked to compensate. But in addition to Google-prompted change, there are new software programs, techniques, and strategies popping up regularly. It can be confusing, to say the least!

As a result, if you don’t spend time on a weekly basis monitoring SEO best practices, it’s easy to fall out of the loop. And unfortunately, sometimes being outside of the loop can lead to SEO practices that actually harm your website. So today, we are going to take a look at seven common SEO mistakes to avoid. Are you committing any of these?

1) Keyword stuffing. A popular early SEO strategy, the concept of keyword stuffing is simple—you use a huge volume of keywords over and over on a single page. The search engines picked up on those keywords and ranked the site accordingly. That strategy has been outdated for several years now, however, and keyword stuffing today will have a negative impact on your SEO results. You should feature your keywords in the content that you write—but only when they are relevant and natural. Don’t force-feed keywords into your content!

2) Poor keyword selection. One of the very first and most important steps when it comes to SEO is keyword selection. Unfortunately, many website owners rush through this step and wind up investing valuable time and resources into the wrong keywords. There are two fundamental mistakes to be made here—the first is choosing a keyword that is too competitive. Unless you have a tremendous amount of resources to expend, going after competitive phrases like “investments” or “financial advice” is going to leave you frustrated. On the other hand, choosing keywords that have a low search volume won’t help, either. The key is to select “long-tail” keywords that will deliver targeted traffic to your website, without being so popular that it’s impossible to make the first page. For instance, “investment advisor Orlando” or “Financial advice for Florida retirees” would be better choices than the original examples I shared. There are a number of tools that can make the process of keyword selection easier—contact me to learn more!

3) Focusing heavily on article directories. Until about a year ago, submitting content to article directories across the web was a great way to build backlinks. Recently, however, Google has dramatically reduced the weight it gives to article directories. Continuing to post on these directories won’t hurt your SEO results, but it won’t help, either. This could change in the future, but as of now, utilizing article directories as a link-building strategy is essentially a waste of time and resources.

4) Using hidden text. This is another strategy that was effective years ago, but will now actually harm your SEO efforts. Whether it is hiding SEO content at the bottom of pages or utilizing other methods to conceal it, hidden text is simply a losing strategy. Focus on creating valuable content on your website and blog—don’t utilize hidden text.

5) Ignoring video and social media. As strategies like keyword stuffing, hidden text, and article directory submission are phased out of Google’s search algorithm, something has to take their place, right? Lately, Google and other search engines have placed an additional emphasis on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and Flickr. This is actually great news for reputable businesses—as it changes the focus of SEO strategies away from content that is more or less invisible to consumers, towards platforms that facilitate market interaction. As a result, not only is developing a strong social media presence a great way to interact with your customers and prospects, but it will also pay SEO dividends. Video content is particularly important—so if you haven’t begun creating a presence on YouTube or other video sites, now is the time to get with the program. Contact me if you’d like help getting started!

6) Ignoring title tags and meta descriptions. Title tags (the text at the very top of your browser window) are very important from an SEO standpoint. Many websites fail to utilize them and end up with title tags like “Home” and “Contact” that don’t do anything for the search engines. Incorporate your keywords into your title tags—for instance, at CelebritySites.com, the title tag on our home page is “Orlando Social Media Agency | Orlando Online Marketing Agency”. Make sure that your title tags are different from page to page, as well—otherwise you’re basically telling Google that every page on your site is the same. Your meta description tags are critical as well—this is the text that often appears under your website on search engines. Don’t engage in keyword stuffing, as you’ll be penalized for it. Instead, summarize the content of each page accurately, while working in keywords naturally. Title tags and meta descriptions have a major impact on your SEO results, so don’t overlook them!

7) Failure to track results. At the end of the day, it’s impossible to know how well your SEO strategy is playing out if you aren’t tracking results. Without reviewing the data, you can’t know which initiatives are working and which aren’t. I recommend reviewing your SEO results on a monthly basis, if not more frequently. At a minimum, pay attention to your search engine rankings for your top keywords as well as traffic levels and sources to your website.

How does your SEO strategy measure up? Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, the good news is that now you know better! And even if you have been engaging in practices that harm your search rankings, the damage can be repaired—you simply need to stop what you’ve been doing and shift your resources to appropriate techniques. If you need help building your Celebrity Expert status online, feel free to get in touch with me today if you’d like to learn more about cutting edge SEO strategies that really work!

Seven Elements of an Effective Website

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Great websites come in different shapes and sizes, but when it comes to creating effective websites that really work (as measured by generating leads and sales), there are several elements that are absolutely essential. Below are seven of the most important—how does your site compare?

A great website:

1) Establishes personal credibility. Credibility is always an issue when it comes to closing a sale. Think about your daily life—when was the last time you made a significant purchase? If you think through the process, you’ll realize that at some point during your decision, you addressed the issue of credibility. This is often a simple question you ask yourself, as in “do I really trust that this product or service will work for me?” Keep in mind that this credibility check is even more important online—because consumers are naturally more skeptical. If your website feels “anonymous,” you aren’t going to sell effectively. It’s important that your personal brand is communicated—and that you are presented as a credible and authoritative. Remember that people buy people—so present yourself in the best possible light.

2) Features appealing visuals. Visuals are important for any website—but many designers go too far. Fancy animations may look great to you—but nobody is going to sit around and wait for sixty seconds while your website loads. Your design should be professional, organized, and appealing—but never overwhelming.

3) Offers easy navigation for your target visitors. It is important to ask yourself who your audience will be. If you don’t expect your visitors to be tech-savvy, make sure that your menu navigation system is straightforward and easy to understand. No matter who your visitors are, never make your menus more complicated than they need to be. The goal of your menu system should be to allow your visitors to easily find the information they need (and the information YOU want them to see). So don’t overthink it!

4) Features a strong call to action. This is an area where many web designers go off course. They come up with great content, stunning design, useful tools—everything you could ask for. But then, they forget to come up with a compelling call to action. This can be in the form of a contact box, a free special report that requires an email address, or simply a prominently placed phone number combined with a great reason (a benefit for THEM) for your visitors to contact you. It doesn’t do you much good to have strong traffic to your site if nobody is actually contacting you, right? Without a call to action, you simply aren’t going to maximize the leads you capture or the sales you generate—so make it a priority!

5) Has a prominent opportunity to sign up for free content. Obviously, your primary hope for every visitor is that they will contact you and become a customer. However, it is important to recognize that many of the visitors to your site aren’t ready to commit at the moment. They may be window shopping (Trust me… I do plenty of window shopping, online and at the mall!), they may be researching, or they may just be curious. In any case, they aren’t going to make a purchase immediately—but they likely will make a purchase in the future. If you can capture their contact information, you can begin marketing to them and establishing yourself as the premier provider of the good or service that they’re interested in. If you continue to market to them, you can bet that, when they are finally ready to make a purchase, you will be the first person they contact. You can capture this information a number of different ways—but my favorite is by offering FREE valuable content, as long as they are willing to give you their email address, of course. This can be in the form of a special report, a weekly newsletter, or even a “members only” blog. Remember that the content must be relevant to their interests and must provide value—otherwise, they’re not going to sign up.

6) Includes a great “About” page. A surprising number of businesses fail to include an “About page” on their websites. Not only is this page a great opportunity to provide more information about your business and build a stronger connection between yourself and your visitor, but it’s another great place to build your personal credibility. You can do this by referencing your credentials, highlighting accomplishments, and sharing your knowledge. If you publish a blog, make sure you provide a link. If you’ve written a book, provide a link to your Amazon bio page! Take advantage of your About page to establish your personal brand, build trust, and present yourself as an expert in your industry.

7) Features strong and appealing content. I highly recommend including a blog on your website for a number of reasons. Most obviously, regularly publishing blog entries relating to your market makes you appear knowledgeable and well connected. It sends the strong message to your visitors that you are an expert on the subject. Your blog is also a great way to draw visitors to your website—by posting links on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, you give potential customers a reason to visit your website. And, a regularly updated blog will give your search engine rankings a boost. Google and other search engines love fresh content, and your blog is a perfect place to deliver it. Remember to keep your blog entries focused on your industry and to use your top keywords regularly—particularly in the titles. Whether it is a blog, articles, or videos, take the time to produce great content for your visitors. It can make all the difference!

Of course, there is more to creating a great website than I can fit into a single article—but if your site stacks up well in these seven areas, chances are you are going to be happy with the results! On the other hand, if you know that your site needs some work, or if you aren’t sure where to begin, contact me today! I’d be glad to help you out.

Online Branding Tips: Give Your Audience What They Want

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Connecting with your audience is critical if you want to establish a strong brand.  It’s simple: if they aren’t paying attention to your blog, articles, and social media presence, your brand can’t possibly resonate with them.  Many business owners realize this, and go to great lengths to be sure that they are producing compelling content which keeps their audience engaged.  However, far too many people overlook the best way to guarantee that they are giving their audience engaging content—which is to simply ask them!  Of course, you aren’t literally going to shoot of an email to every blog subscriber or Twitter follower… but there are simple methods available to gauge the interests of your audience.  Below are ten great ways to be sure that you are producing engaging content for your online audience:

1) Pay attention to your retweets. Everyone on Twitter loves to be retweeted.   But that retweet is more than just an opportunity for additional exposure—it’s a sign that whoever retweeted your tweet found it interesting or informative.  If you pay attention, you will start to see a trend emerge, and you’ll be able to identify which types of tweets are most often retweeted.  And that tells you something valuable: it tells you which content your audience is most interested in.  So figure it out and keep it coming!

2) Monitor your “favorites.”  Twitter allows users to mark tweets as “favorites,” which allows the user to essentially bookmark a tweet to be found later.  Services such as Fav Star (http://favstar.fm/) allow you to track your tweets that have been marked as favorites.  Just as tracking retweets allows you to determine which content your audience finds interesting, monitoring your favorites allows you to identify the tweets that stick out to your followers! 

3) Keep an eye on your URL click-throughs. This tip applies to any social media site.  Using a service such as bit.ly (www.bit.ly) allows you to determine how many clicks a given link that you post receives.  This is an even more powerful tool than tracking favorites or retweets—because it allows you to gauge the actions you are prompting with each post.  Obviously, the more click-throughs a certain type of link receives, the more interested your audience is in that type of content.

4) Watch your Facebook Insights. If you have a facebook page for your business (which you should!), you have access to valuable statistics regarding activity on your page.  Pay attention to the posts that generate the post feedback, in the form of comments and ‘likes.’  Again, those are the types of posts that your audience appreciates—so keep them coming!

5) Poll your Facebook audience. Facebook offers a “question” functionality for their users.  Simply click on “Questions” while viewing your wall and ask away!  Something like “What would you guys like to hear about next: YouTube tips or a Facebook strategy?” would work well.  Not only does this technique give you an idea of what your audience is interested in, but it is also a great opportunity to interact with them and send the message that their feedback is valued.

6) Track your email marketing or e-newsletter statistics. Most services offer stats for each message that you send out—make sure to pay close attention to which messages are most widely read.  Look for trends, and continue to provide the content that seems to be most popular!  You can also experiment with various subject lines to see which elicit the greatest response.

7) Monitor click-throughs on your email marketing messages and e-newsletters. The more clicks a certain URL receives, the more valuable the information was to your audience.  Once you have figured out the type of material that most interests them, you can create campaigns that truly keep your audience engaged!

8) Keep an eye on your blog comments. For a blogger, seeing a post lead to a flurry of comments is incredibly rewarding.  In fact, the interactivity offered by blogs is one of the reasons for their exponential growth over the past decade.  But comments are more than just a reward for a great post—they provide crucial information about your audience.  Which types of blog posts inspire the most discussion?  What information does your audience most appreciate?  The number of comments you receive on a given post is often a great barometer of audience interest. 

9) Directly solicit feedback from readers. This strategy is applicable to your social media platforms as well as any other content you produce.  Simply asking your readers to let you know whether or not they found your content helpful is a great way to gauge interest.  You can do this by creating a survey to post on your blog, or you can simply send out a tweet asking for feedback.  Every interaction you have with your audience is a great chance to continue building your brand, and sending the message that you care about your audience is always a great thing to do!

10) Analyze your blog statistics. Most blogging platforms allow you to view statistics about your blog—which posts are the most read, how people are referred to your blog, etc.  Over time, you will notice that certain posts are more widely read and shared than others.  This is a great indicator of the type of content your audience appreciates, so do your best to produce more along those lines.

If a tree falls down in a forest, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  If a business owner writes a blog entry, but nobody reads it, does it really provide any value?  I’m no philosopher, but I can promise you that your online presence will be much more effective if you can keep your audience engaged.  The way to keep them engaged is to provide content they are truly interested in.  And the way to determine which type of content they are interested in is to keep an eye on the metrics I have covered above!  As always, if you have any questions, or if you would like further information, you know where to find me!

Google+: What Does it Mean for Your Business (And How to Get Started!)

Friday, August 19th, 2011

So I’m sure you have heard the recent buzz about Google+ (whether you have had a chance to get started or not)… but what does it mean to your business?  Is it all hype and no substance, or might we be witnessing a major shift in the world of social media?

The truth is that it is too soon to say for sure.  And personally, even though I got my invite a few weeks ago and I see the SEO implications, even I am slow to “catch on.” That being said, we do know that any time Google puts the full power of their brand behind something, it is a force to be reckoned with. Ok- so Google Buzz wasn’t all that great; however, with Google+ we now see the reason for both Google Buzz and Google’s +1 and while it is impossible to say how powerful Google+ will become, here is what we DO know:

1) Google has succeeded in generating a substantial “buzz” around Google+. If you spend much time on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you know what I mean.  Seemingly one out of every five conversations right now references Google+.  Their launch has been very well executed—by requiring an invitation in order to join, and by limiting the amount of available invites, Google has created an online frenzy.  It’s the internet version of a huge crowd camping outside Best Buy on Thanksgiving night in anticipation of massive sales the next morning.  Creating a buzz doesn’t guarantee success—but it does mean they are off to a good start.

2) Google+ can be used both personally and professionally. As you know, LinkedIn is a social network catering to professionals and business owners.  There is little room for casual interaction with friends and family.  Facebook, on the other hand, is primarily used for personal relationships.  Their business pages do allow professionals and business owners to connect with their audience and with other businesses, but not as effectively as LinkedIn.  Google+ appears to offer the best of both worlds—their “circles” feature allows users to easily sort contacts into different groups.  You could have a “friends” circle, a “clients” circle, a “family” circle—and more.  While it remains to be seen how this functionality will play out over time, Google+ at least offers the potential of being a great social network for both professional and personal use.

3) Google+ has the potential to revolutionize the online social universe. Why?  One word: integration.  Google+ has the potential to pull together the countless services offered by Google into one convenient social location.  YouTube, Google Places, Google Offers, Google Maps, Gmail… the list goes on and on.  While other social networks, Facebook in particular, have been very successful at integrating with a variety of services across the web, Google+ has a tremendous advantage simply by being part of the Google network of services.  It is not hard to imagine Google+ profiles given priority in search results, and it seems likely that Google will take every opportunity to link Google+ profiles with services like Google Places.  Again, it is too early to predict how it will play out, but it is clear that Google+ has the potential to become literally the center of the internet!

What does all of this mean for you and your business?  It means you need to get involved immediately!  Google recently announced that they will offer unique services for business owners, and have suggested that businesses wait to create their profiles. However, there is no question that business owners and professionals need to join the network, as individuals, as soon as possible.  Remember that only a couple of years ago we were debating the merits of Twitter for businesses and business owners.  And while many sat on the sideline, the early adapters got a head start and have benefitted tremendously.  So even though Google+ may not have the impact many experts expect it to, the upside makes investing the time to get started an easy decision.

Getting started on Google+

The first step is securing an invitation. As of now, Google+ has yet to open the doors to the general public.  You’ll need to find someone who already has access and ask them to invite you.  I’d be glad to invite you if you get in touch!

Once you have your invitation, log in and create your profile. Setting up your profile on Google+ is very similar to doing so on other social networks.  You’ll want to upload a photo of yourself (I recommend using the same picture that you use on other social networks—remember that consistency is the key to building a strong brand!).  Then, fill in the biographical information and personalize your profile.  Try not to leave any fields blank—the more complete your profile is, the more professional you look.

Now that your profile is complete, begin connecting with others. On your Google+ Home page, if you look to the right side of your screen, you’ll see a list titled “Suggestions.”  These are individuals that Google+ thinks you may want to connect with—click on “Show all” and you’ll see a list of potential contacts.  Click on their pictures to connect with them.  If you have run out of suggestions, you can also search for individuals by typing their name into the ‘Find People’ box at the top of your Home screen.

Organize your contacts into circles. Immediately to the left of the ‘Find People’ search box is a button showing two circles—click it and you’ll be taken to the ‘Circles’ page.  Simply drag your contacts into the appropriate circles—and if necessary, create a new circle to better reflect your needs.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll be off to great start on Google+.  It remains to be seen how the platform will evolve (especially with SEO and Google’s personal search results), but once you have created and optimized your profile, you will be in great shape to take advantage of the opportunities provided by this new social platform.  If you have any questions or would like further information, feel free to get in touch.  Otherwise I look forward to connecting with you on Google+!

Video-Marketing Quick-Start Guide: How to Set Up Your Video-Marketing System

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

A couple of months ago Google released its “Panda” update. The update effectively made article syndication worthless and with no SEO value. The many marketers who used article syndication as a part of their overall SEO strategy need to now figure out what to replace it with. With the release of Google’s Panda update the importance of video and social media has skyrocketed. Now, more than ever, video is a MUST in your online-marketing strategy.

Why You Must Start Video-Marketing Immediately!

There are five important reasons you must start using videos without delay:

1. Google. Enough said.

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, second only to Google (Google also owns YouTube). Instead of having to read solutions, videos provide face-to-face solutions and searchers now use various videos sites (no, not just YouTube) as search engines.

2. Creating short videos for the Internet is simple, quick, and inexpensive.

You can create and upload videos to YouTube without expensive equipment or technical expertise. All you need is a computer, a web camera and a good Internet connection. Most modern computers have a web camera and microphone built in that can be used to record your video. Free software is also available to edit your video before exporting to YouTube (Windows Movie Maker for PC users and iMovie for Mac users).

3. Leverage the massive popularity of YouTube for free.

YouTube gets more than two billion views a day. By uploading your videos to YouTube, you get access to more than two billion viewers worldwide every day. Best of all, you can create your own video channel to upload and share your videos on YouTube free of charge.

4. Develop better rapport and connection with your prospects.

Using online videos allows you to establish a personal relationship and generate a greater level of trust with your audience. You also gain greater credibility because video content is perceived to be more valuable than text or audio content.

5. Benefit from viral spread of your videos.

YouTube enables viewers to freely share their favorite videos and to embed them in their own websites and on Facebook. This can result in the rapid spread of your videos across the Internet because users are more likely to share videos rather than text or audio.

How to Set Up Your Video-Marketing System Using These Five Simple Steps

Creating your first video may seem scary, if you have never done it before. That’s natural whenever you do something for the first time. Think of it as a learning experience and create a short and simple video to upload to YouTube. Once you successfully create your first video, you will gain tons of confidence. In time, you may find it’s easier and more fun to produce video content than text content.

1. Create your first video for YouTube.

Thankfully, you no longer need a studio to produce high-quality videos for YouTube. To create your first online video, follow these simple steps:

  • Write a script for your video (or at least an outline for what you want to say).
  • Set up the elements of the shooting area of your video, which includes positioning the camera, subject, script, microphone and lights.
  • Record your video using the free software on your computer and save it as a computer file.
  • Edit your video using the same software and then export the file as a movie file that can be uploaded to YouTube.

2. Register for a free account and set up your YouTube video channel.

Before uploading your video, you need to register for am account at YouTube, which is free and painless. Follow these three steps:

  • Select the name of your YouTube video channel carefully.

Your YouTube channel name is the same as your username when you register for a YouTube account. Therefore, choose your username carefully before registering. Do some keyword research and choose a name that contains the main keyword phrase of your targeted niche. For example; if you’re in the dieting industry, instead of choosing a user/channel name like “johnsmith007,” use “loseweightnaturally.” Your YouTube channel address will then be youtube.com/user/loseweightnaturally, which is more likely to appeal to your target audience.

  • Enter relevant keywords in your YouTube video channel fields.

The right keywords in fields such as channel title, type and tags fields will increase the chance of new prospects visiting your site and also help to optimize your channel for search engines.

  • Set up a professional YouTube video channel background.

A professional background is a simple way to stand out from your competitors. To upload a new background to your channel, click on the “Show advanced options” link in the “Themes and Colors” tab of your channel page. Then click on the option to upload your new channel background. (Note: you will need a designer to design this image — if you’re looking for some help, contact me at Lindsay@CelebritySites.com)

3. Upload your first video on YouTube.

  • After signing in to your YouTube account, click the “Upload” link at the top of the YouTube page and then click the “Upload video” button.
  • Select the file you want to upload and click “Open.”
  • Enter information about your video including title, description, tags and category while your video is uploaded.
  • Click “Save changes” to save the updates you’ve made to the video file.

4. Optimize your video for your audience and search engines.

Title field: Choose a title for your YouTube video so that people can find it easily and it ranks for the right keywords inside the YouTube search engine. For example; if your video contains tips to lose weight naturally, name it “Natural Weight Loss Tips.”

Description field: Write a short article describing your video using relevant keywords.

Tags field: Add the most important and relevant keywords in the tags area.

5. Embed your YouTube video on your website.

Once you have successfully uploaded your video to YouTube, copy the code from the “Embed HTML” box, which you can find in your “Edit Video” page. This code can be sent to your webmaster to be added to your website. (If your website was created using Wordpress, simply click “Edit HTML” within the post editor of your post, paste the video’s code into the body of your post and click “Publish post.”)

Taking Video One Step Further

YouTube is currently the #1 video syndication site. However, THERE ARE OTHERS. And if you search the “video” results in Google you will see that. Sites like Metacafe.com and Dailymotion.com are also great websites to post your videos. The best FREE resource we have found is Tubemogul.com. Tubmogul allows you to post your video on numerous video sites at one time (yes, including YouTube, MetaCafe and DailyMotion).

Thousands of new websites and blogs are created every day. Whether you are already an online entrepreneur or you are planning to start, you have to use new marketing techniques to stand apart from the crowd. The quickest and most effective way to succeed online is to use videos to leverage their tremendous search-engine popularity.

Happy recording!

Stay Connected with LinkedIn

Monday, April 25th, 2011

You’ve heard me say it before… LinkedIn can sometimes be thought of as the “redheaded stepchild” of the social media sites. However, with the average household income per user is $109,000 MUCH higher than Twitter or even Facebook, LinkedIn is considered by many to be the most beneficial for business.

Launched in May 2003, it now has over 90 million users across a number of countries, accepting English and a number of other European languages. Among these, many are using it to full advantage for their business needs, once they are familiar with how it works.

Not sure about LinkedIn and how to best use it? Don’t worry- that’s what this article is for! J

Your Profile

Setting up your profile is the most important step in all of this. With Google’s recent algorithm changes social media is becoming more and more important for building your brand online. You want to make sure your profile is filled out completely and that it gives the best first impression it can.

And while customizing your profile on LinkedIn is different than Facebook or Twitter, it can be done… and it should be done! Be yourself… always. Show your personality and your expertise. Remember, people buy people.

Make Connections

LinkedIn is all about making and maintaining connections. It’s virtual networking. So how do you start making connections? Initially, you can only request a connection from someone you have formerly been in contact with, and it’s a great way to find people with whom you have previously had some kind of working relationship.

Being Proactive

As with most aspects of life, with LinkedIn you’re only likely to get something back if you put something in. Incorporate some time for LinkedIn into your daily routine and log in regularly.

Continue to build your network of connections. Once you have connections, you need to check theirs and see if you already know any of them, so you can add them. If you see people you’d like to be connected to, you can ask your friend for an introduction to them.

Read all your connections’ updates and look for ways to be helpful. Read questions and see if you can offer an answer. You can send private messages to your connections, or make your suggestions publicly. The more you give the more you will receive. And if you think highly of someone, give a recommendation.

Update your own status regularly. When something works well for you, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it so that others could benefit from it too. Post about upcoming events that might be interesting to your network as well as tips, articles and success stories. One of these easiest ways to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date is by connecting it with your Twitter account. This way you only have to update one place!

Groups and Discussions

The next step is to join some groups. It doesn’t matter what your business is, there is a group (kinda like “there is an app for that!” :) ) …and either way, you can always start your own! Participating in niche-related groups is one of the KEYS of LinkedIn. Starting your own group helps build your credibility and shows your expertise.

Other Ways to Benefit

You can find work and other business opportunities. You can add a company page to the site. You can post jobs openings. You can place advertisements on the site. You can link your profile to your blog, etc., etc., etc.

One of the BIGGEST tips I can give is that you create a CTA (call to action). You can’t create HTML buttons within LinkedIn, BUT what you can do- is in the section where you can place your website link don’t just call it “My Company.” LinkedIn allows you to create your own title. So “Click here to contact me” or “Click here for Social Media Help” or “Click here for my FREE Report” all are MUCH better titles than “My Company.”

Also, be sure and check out LinkedIn’s advanced applications that allow you to add calendars, video and other great ways to help customize and brand your profile.

As your connections list grows, be sure to check in on all your connections from time to time. You’ll be amazed at how many people you could reach out to in a very short time. If you make good use of LinkedIn, it could be the best investment of time that you ever make.

Tweeting for Small Businesses

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

This article is a little different than the typical article that I write. If you like, you can skip down to the part where I actually get into about “Tweeting for Small Businessess,” however, there is a reason that I’m starting this article the way that I am.

When I was a little, my father taught me about the cycles of life and the never-ending ebbs and flow.

Like the ocean tide, it goes out, but it will always come back in. A little too philosophical for a 5yr old that was more concerned with the “fishies” in the ocean verse the symbolism it had. But I have grown to understand and appreciate the comforting feeling that although the tide will for sure go out it will always come back in.

Knowing that, the challenge is to prepare for the changes in the tide…. On both ends; being prepared for it to go out; making sure there continuity and backups in place to carry you through as well as being prepared for the flood to come back in and making sure those same systems can handle the influx.

While some may say that I am young, and I am, I have experienced the ebbs and flows of life both in business and personally. Losing all the money you have, going through short sales of properties, divorce and many other things along the way… the tide was undoubtedly “going out.”

So I bring all that up for one reason… social media is no different. The phenomenal rise of social media coincides with one of the worst economic decades this country has ever seen and consumers want more from small businesses, whether it’s discounts, diversified information, tips, or resources.

Consumers are finding comfort in social media because they aren’t alone in their situation. At any given time you can go online to various forums, communities and social networks and find someone “like you.” You can find an answer to a question, solve a problem or even become “friends.”

Social Media is undoubtedly the “flow” of business right now.

I have said this before; social media is not a new concept. It’s human interaction, and that is what we are all after… human touches…. people buy people.

So why did “social media” take off the way that it did? In an economic time like we’ve been in, people looked more to their “friends” for bargains and general advice.

Consumers have become more skeptical traditional advertising and more dependent on the referral of others. Isn’t that what we do as a society when we get scared? Ask for advice? As scary as it may be, social media is that advice people seek.

When used right, the social network “mini-blogger” has the capability to hook a new customer and convert them from follower to loyal customer. There’s a myriad of articles flooding the Internet about how to use social media for your small business, but for the most part these guidelines and blog posts are missing actual examples small business owners can use…. And the one that people are still questioning is Twitter.

How can it actually generate business (and profits)?

Here’s a list of some of the most common types of small businesses and examples of effective ways Twitter can be used to distribute their messages.

Real Estate Agents –Real estate agents provide a service in exchange for a fee, so there’s no real product to Tweet about. However, agents can find success in growing their follower counts by becoming the “go-to” expert in their neighborhood area, Tweeting about news and local happenings, new home listings or information for first time home buyers (or luxury home buyers or any of the other niche industries within real estate). They can also build up a following of other agents and starting a referral community all based on Twitter.

Other service industry Tweets: Create a discount or loyalty system for your clients, and then Tweet about it. Maybe you offer 10% off for new customers or a discount if a customer uses your service on the weekend…. Or mentions that they saw your ad on Twitter.

Restaurateur- Restaurants of all types and varieties are seeing an uptick in sales this year over last thanks to heavy discounting and mass coupon websites like Restaurant.com. You’ll find that Tweeting about those coupons, directing your customers to specials, happy hour deals and more will not just grow your restaurant’s social following, but bring new faces to your tables too.

Other food industry Tweets: Tweet locations of moving vehicle vendors, invite customers to rate your food and interact with other customers on your Twitter feed, or hold a creative contest that somehow allows followers to win gift cards in exchange for interaction with your Tweets.

Retail – If your small business retails sports equipment, for example, Tweet about the products that are selling the best and use brand names. Describe the different strengths of that brand and what makes your product or shopping experience unique. Tweeting about your opinions on sports teams and pop culture can be appropriate, but don’t bad mouth other teams. If you sponsor a little league team, Tweet about it.

Other retail industry Tweets: Where suitable, Tweet the price advantages you have over your competitors. You can also Tweet links to pages and products on your e-commerce website.

For some professionals, finding relevant and interesting things to Tweet about can be much more challenging. Here’s some ideas to get you going if your find yourself itching to get social, but just don’t know where to start.

Lawyers – Lawyers do not typically have discounts or products they can Tweet about, however, their firms do have a brand and a reputation. Lawyers can tweet about their accomplishments and their personal approach to popular legislative initiatives. Becoming a specialized and expert voice and personality in a particularly narrow niche can help lawyers attract and retain Twitter followers.

Insurance Agents – Ironically, while insurance is a necessity for every adult in America, most of us disdain obtaining or maintaining the various policies we own. Find a unique way to make insurance-related news and information engaging. One way to keep your followers interested it to Tweet about local neighborhood resources and ways to save on insurance.

For example: Use dollar amounts and real testimonials. “John Doe saved $364 by switching to us from Generic Insurance Company” is much more attractive and effective than “Save money with us”.

Accountants – With every passing year, the U.S. tax law changes, creating a vortex of confusing code, rules, and exemptions most of us need a proverbial machete and weeks of frustration to hack through it all by April 14th. As an accountant, you can Tweet tips and insights that make these changes simple and understandable for your average client.

Tweeting effectively for small business doesn’t have to be complicated, a little imagination and out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way! Don’t feel discouraged if you’re in an industry or profession you don’t feel is interesting or suitable for Twitter. As long as your service, product, or offerings bring value to customers, then so too will your words and Tweets.

11 Myths About Social Media Marketing

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Social media has become a very important part of many people’s lives- both personally and in business. The downside of this rapid increase in sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and YouTube is that along with all the good information being shared there are also many myths about social media that are commonly believed as fact. Here are 11 myths to be weary of!

1. It’s a new concept. Social media is definitely NOT a new concept; the tools that we now use to “share” information have certainly changed as technology has changed. But social media has been around as long as gossiping has.

2. It is totally free or extremely cheap. Most of the tools and resources required to participate in social media are indeed free. However don’t discount your personal ROI. So there is a balance that you indeed have to look at. What is your hourly rate vs. what is the rate of a specialist who understands how to make a social media campaign work effectively for you and your business? You MUST look at this and decide which is best for you and what is the best use of your time… and keep in mind that as with many aspects of business the old saying you get what you pay for is very true in social media.

3. It is very simple. Using the basic tools and broadcasting information is not complicated. As the social media sphere grows it becomes more and more complex. More and more tools and applications are available every day and it requires time, knowledge and perception to decide which are effective business rules and which a waste of time.

4. It is a short-term fad that we needn’t bother with. The Internet is essentially a space for conversation and free flow of information between individuals and companies. The tools used and platform with the most impact may change over time but I can assure you that customers have become used to the concept of conversational marketing and it is here to stay. Any business that believes interest in social media will simply run its course and then fade is asking to be left out of one of the world’s potentially most lucrative markets.

5. Only teens and young adults are interested in social media. Yes, “Social media,” or rather these big social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube were initially adopted mostly by students, other young adults and teenagers. However, they have now evolved to become a dominant business social media tool.

Don’t believe me? Fun fact: It is estimated that almost half of Facebook profiles now belong to people aged 35 and up. And as you know, this age group is a HUGE target market due to their buying power coupled with greater awareness and familiarity with social media tools.

6. Marketing through social media is simply a matter of advertising on Facebook. Strange as is sounds, the way to start marketing via social media is not to start marketing at all. The online community is often suspicious of profiles set up for the sole purpose of blatant advertising. Social media channels are fundamentally all about communication. Listen first, contribute to conversations and start some conversations of your own. Once people trust you and value what you have to say, they will be more receptive to messages about your business. Even then though keep it subtle and low key.

7. Anyone can do it. Too many companies delegate the establishment and management of social media projects to a junior or inexperienced staffer. Mostly this is because they believe it to be very simple or because they don’t see its importance as an element of the overall marketing mix.

8. A successful social media campaign can be handled internally. This goes back to previously mentioned: Personal ROI. Effectively using social media in a business context requires knowledge of the tools, target market and what works and what doesn’t. It can also be very time consuming, especially for an inexperienced person. Generally companies that succeed in using their online presence to complement their offline marketing efforts do so because they make use of a specialist (or team of specialists in the case of larger businesses or projects) skilled in the use of social media. This specialist will work closely with internal people to gain insight into the company’s product or service offering and then mix this with their knowledge of the online landscape to manage the image of the business effectively and gain maximum online exposure.

9. The results of engaging customers via social media can’t be measured. Many aspects of social media engagement can indeed be measured. One of the keys is to have clearly defined outcomes that are desired. If there are no objectives then measurement will be difficult. For example goals like increasing website traffic or getting people to sign up for a newsletter or other communication can be set and accurately measured.

Here are some ways you can track:
• Call tracking number (check out Richard Seppala’s www.yourroiguy.com)
• Link tracking- see stats on the links you push out (check out http://bit.ly/)
• Web form codes- use FBML on Facebook and make sure you have a CTA (call to action) to have people sign up. This CTA can be the same as what is on your site BUT make sure that the form code is different so you can track that where it came from.

10. There are no rules. As social media platforms evolve and become more sophisticated, a distinct culture is growing around the technology. As in all cultures a system of etiquette applies. There are some basic rules, like not over-promoting yourself or your business and not attacking other people or groups, that are common to most platforms. The diverse and constantly changing nature of social media mean that the mostly unwritten rules are different from site to site and change with time and the technology. Generally, just keep in mind that it’s called “social” media for a reason… people buy people ? Keep that in mind and you should be good to go!

11. The amount of social media connections you have is an indication of your success. Simply having thousands of social media connections is no guarantee of success. You need to be connecting with people with whom you can form a clear communication channel. They also need to be interested in your product and in a position to support your brand. Recruiting random strangers as followers, friends or connections on social media sites is unlikely to increase business for you. Remember that quality counts more than quantity in the interactions you establish. This is also EVER more important as Google released in the beginning of December that the quality of followers and friends will have an impact on your rankings. So just because you have 4,205,937,423,497 (yes, that’s a technical number ;) ) followers doesn’t mean anything ?

6 Important Factors to Consider When Creating a Business Blog

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Gone are the days where companies are faceless… with the rise of social media consumers are getting smarter and smarter. Whether it’s the middle of July or now during the Holidays, the first thing anyone does is search for something online. It doesn’t matter if your company is service or product oriented if you’re not online… and online in multiple ways, you should be.

Social media is great; I’m a HUGE fan. It provides a platform for businesses to easily connect with their customers, and if you’re using it correctly can 100% increase your bottom line. I’ve recently gotten two different clients solely from Facebook. Now- did that happen over night… absolutely not, I’ve been on Facebook since it was first established… however, it has now become a vital part of my overall business strategy.

The problem with today’s “social media” (and I say “today’s” because if you think the concept is new, you’re wrong… it’s just a new platform) is that if Twitter YouTube, Linkedin, Facebook, etc all disappeared tomorrow and you haven’t moved your “friends,” “followers” and “fans” to a list that you can market to you’re is serious trouble.

This is why it is VITAL to have a blog on your website… and ideally not just a link from your company site to a blog page… but actually incorporated into your website (this is better for SEO).

Although the thought can be overwhelming, I promise you it is worth it. Here are some simple steps to helping you tackle this task. If you already have a blog, still read the rest of this as these guidelines can be used as a formula for organizing the various aspects involved in creating a successful business blog.

What You Will Need to Set Up a Simple Business Blog

1. Content
People visit a business blog for information. So it goes without saying that this is the most important aspect of any blog. Be prepared to provide useful, quality content that readers will appreciate. Try to include pictures, diagrams, screenshots, and video wherever possible as this helps to break up passages of text and makes the blog appear more vibrant and interesting. The biggest question I get asked is “How often” should I post… and my answer… is always… you have to test. And although it may sound like a “cop-out,” it’s not and it is very true. What works for one market might not work for another. The relationship you have with your list will also dictate how frequently they want to hear from you. Once great way to find out- ask ? You can do this very simply with a survey on your website. If you’re on wordpress, check out http://lesterchan.net/wordpress/readme/wp-polls.html it’s a great plugin that allows you to setup surveys quick and easy!

2. Who Writes?
This question really boils down to 1 thing… What is your highest and best use, or your personal ROI?
If the answer, take a sales call, speak an at event, meeting with a client, conference call or really anything other than sit down and write a blog, then my answer will be: outsource.

There are some FABULOUS ghostwriters out there. I have several that I snatched up to write for our clients. Here’s the key to making a ghostwriter work for you. They MUST know how to write with personality. This is VERY important. There are fabulous writers out there, but they can be dry. You need both a technical writer so there are no grammatical mistakes, but also one that can capture your voice.

3. Marketing and Promotion
Just because you build it, does not mean it will come! Unless you’re a celebrity or some major company like Apple, just because you throw up a blog doesn’t mean you’re going to see new profits overnight. This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there, and ultimately, this is what makes social media so powerful.

You must look at the blog as a business. You don’t just open your doors and all the sudden you’re a millionaire (and anybody that tells you that is lying). You open the doors and then you market your business, interact with your community. Same with a blog, you start your blog then use the power of social media to market your blog and interact with your customers. It’s a two-step process and if you’re missing either step it won’t work.

4. Monetization and Profit Generation
I’m not talking about your own products or services, but rather the affiliates you promote or other advertisements you allow on your blog. These “other” promotions need to be carefully planned and you need to make sure what you are promoting is in line with the type of business that you are in.

Here are a couple of ways you can make a little extra money with your blog: Charging other businesses for hosting their ads on your blog; Placing affiliate product ads on the blog; Using CPC textual ads (like Google Adsense) to increase blog revenue; Incorporating CPA adverts into the site.

There are many ways to increase the profit from a business blog. The main point to concentrate on is that advertisements can distract from your content so choose wisely. External ads should be topically related to your own content so that readers are likely to be interested and more liable to click on the ads and earn you money. The look of the ads is also important. They should blend in with your blog theme and should be attractive, not garish. Textual ads can appear tacky and distracting if overdone.

5. Overall Design and Brand Establishment
There are a couple ways to have a blog from a technical standpoint. If you already have a business website and you are unable to incorporate a blog that is actually a part of your domain (for example: www.YOURDOMAIN.com/blog) than you can set up a standalone wordpress blog and link to it from your website.

If you have the option, ALWAYS have the blog actually a part of your website (this means that your whole website will be put onto wordpress), this is the ideal way to go for search engine rankings. However, if you don’t have that option for what ever reason make sure that you design your blog so that it mimic the overall business (and business website). Also that you link often back to your main website, and have lead capture on your blog just incase your visitors never make it over to your main website.

6. Direction and Purpose
Think about why you are creating a business blog and what you want it to achieve. Do this before you start thinking about how it will look and what content it will contain. Is this a blog designed to increase customer interaction? Are you hoping to gain valuable free market research? Is this blog simply going to be another extension of your sales department? Are you looking to use the blog to promote a new product or boost a sales campaign?

The various aspect of a business blog can be altered to facilitate different functionalities. Pure sales blogs will differ from those hoping to work more on CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Of course, there is no reason why a business blog cannot incorporate numerous roles, but if this is to be the case then the specific aims should be established before the blog is designed. Knowing what you expect from a blog and the direction it should take increases the chances of achieving a positive end result with fewer design mishaps.

The Bigger the Effort, the Better the Result
A good business blog should be looked at an extension of your business and a part of your sales time. The easiest way to make sure it’s not overlooked is to set some editorial guidelines and stay on track for posting content. Blogs can perform a multitude of beneficial tasks and provide a business with an additional source of income, increased brand recognition, and enhanced customer interaction. Don’t think ‘why do I need a business blog?’ Think ‘why have I not got a business blog already?’

6 Tips To Improved Facebook Marketing

Friday, December 17th, 2010

When it comes to social networking there’s little doubt that Facebook is the largest and most influential of the social networks online. It has more than 500 million registered user and, at the time of writing this, the average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. For businesses this means that a Facebook page or other piece of Facebook real estate is a serious way to generate social and viral traffic but only if it is done well.

There are 900 million objects that people interact with which means, first and foremost, yours needs to stand out. It either needs to provide something that others don’t (unlikely given the amount of competition) or it needs to do what it does better than the competition. One of the most common mistakes by small businesses is believing that Facebook traffic is a quick hit; it can take months to build up a decent sized list of fans that avidly read your content but there are some steps you can take to help attract greater numbers.

The Facebook Platform

Fortunately, there is an extensive platform on which you can build unique Facebook pages and interact with existing and potential readers and your business needs to make the most of these in order to generate the best possible results.

1. Be Unique Not Generic

There is a lot of competition on Facebook, virtually regardless of the type and topic of content that you’re providing. Ensure your Facebook page really stands out by creating a unique design. You don’t have to have the standard Facebook page design and you can implement all sorts of features that help your visitors recognise you as a leader in your field.

You can also serve different landing pages to different visitors. For example, fans and first time visitors to your page do not need to see the same thing and Facebook offers the functionality to change these settings. Show a page that encourages non-followers to fan your page, and show the main content to those that have already done so. Offer incentive such as coupons for your products or services, or free resources like Ebooks and other giveaways, to members that have not yet clicked to follow your page.

2 . Use Giveaways

Giveaways have long been and continue to be one of the most effective branding and promotional techniques there is. Ebooks, gift items, and coupons are just some of the Facebook-specific items you can offer to those that are willing to sign up for your Facebook fan page. You can offer regular giveaways to members to ensure that people follow you over time and as an extra incentive for becoming what is essentially a subscribed member of your fan page.

3. Use Competitions

Competitions can generate even more buzz than a giveaway. If you place a financial value on each of your fans then you can calculate a decent prize to give away. It could be one of your own products or services or something relating to one of your partners. Make sure that it is related to the content you offer as well as the products or services that you promote. Competitions can go viral too, so encourage your readers to spread the word with their friends – you can even build this in to the competition by offering extra prize draw entries for each friend referred to your page.

4. Get Personal

Facebook is first and foremost a social network. The fact that it can also be used to help promote your business is an added benefit but users are predominantly on the site because it allows them to connect with others and hunt down content that they are interested in. It is, therefore, a personal experience and your readers will for the most part want to believe that they are dealing with real people. Add a large photo to your Facebook page.

If you organise events or can take photos of your visitors some other way then do so, and tag the people in those photos. It is possible to let readers upload their own photos and tag themselves (I would of course watch this carefully, but it can be a great way to get people involved).

5. Say Thanks

A little “thank you” can go a LONG way. As soon as somebody becomes a fan send them an unobtrusive message thanking them for becoming a fan and welcoming them to the fold. The message doesn’t need to be long and it can be automated, but remember, people buy people, so a little personal touch will go a long way!

6. Don’t Give Up

Don’t be surprised if your Mom and your Sister are your only fans after a few days of adding content and personalising your page. It does take effort to develop a high quality Facebook fan page. Keep posting, keep updating, keep testing, keep evolving, and keep trying – don’t’ give up!

Facebook Marketing

Facebook is the largest social network online having surpassed half a billion users. While competition is fierce, if you can master the art of creating a popular and beneficial Facebook page then you can also master the art of generating social traffic and your marketing message can go viral producing massive returns in the long run.

Happy status updates! ?

SEO Basics: 20 Tips for Building a Natural-Looking External Link Profile

Friday, October 1st, 2010

OK, so, we all know “External link building is essential for improving search engine rank.” But, the bigger question is HOW do you get these external links. Not to mention that there are so many scams out there by “SEO companies” that manipulate the process making it appear unnatural to the search engines, and quit frankly could result with a red-flag by the Almighty Google. If you’re looking to take FULL advantage of an external linking campaign- here are a few guidelines that you should pay attention to.

20 useful tips for ANY website looking to build up a credible external link profile.

1. Never buy links. Google has stated many times that it will penalize any site that is buying or selling links. The links that are sold are nearly always low-quality, non-relevant and likely to damage a website’s quality score. Note: there are some highly quality links out there that you can get. These can be VERY expensive, and using quite secretive. The links that I am referring to here are from the “link farms.”

2. Build a specific page for external links. Never name this page ‘Links’ as most people do. All this achieves is to inform search engines that a website is trying to obtain links in order to manipulate its search engine position. Search engines want websites that have something useful to offer. Name the page ‘Resources’ or ‘Useful Websites’ and suggest to search engines that the website is interested in offering its readers alternative avenues of relevant content.

3. Two thumbs up for receiving free links by providing quality content. Content is king on the Internet, and by posting quality content, readers are more likely to mention and link back to the source on other websites, providing free links for the original content provider.

4. With the explosion of social networking, word-of-mouth promotion is a powerful ally. Create social networking accounts and provide informative posts that people will share.

5. Upload a video to YouTube, or any of the other video sharing sites. Make a tutorial, create a promotional video, or think of something quirky that will capture the viewers’ interests and include a link in the video pointing back to the main website. ALWAYS INLCUDE A LINK BACK TO YOUR SITE! J

6. Post on forums that are related to the websites area of interest. Interact with other users and make informative posts. Signature links can be included after a set amount of posts. Once the forum user is regarded as an established member, direct links may be allowed in actual posts.

7. Keep resource (link) pages organized. Create separate categories for links and don’t overcrowd the pages. 50 links a page should be a maximum. If the page exceeds 50 links; build more pages.

8. Post on blogs that are topically relevant. Make useful posts or risk having any comments – and links – deleted. Look for blogs that are powered by Wordpress. Looking for a little help on where to comment? Check these tools out: http://commentsniper.com/

9. Use anchor text for links. Ensure that the website’s main keywords are used within the anchor text. Watch spamming and don’t overload your anchor links. Overloading them can send a red flag to the search engines that a website is manipulating links. Vary the keywords used in links.

10. Do not have all inbound links pointing to one page. The majority of links should point to a website’s homepage , but a decent amount should point to secondary pages. Don’t forget about lower category pages, it is all part of building a natural link profile. When in doubt, go with the “50-50 rule.” About 50% of the links should go directly to your homepage, the other 50% should be spread around the site (just make sure that these are still useful and converting pages for you!)

11. Search engines look for a natural link profile. Build links gradually and spread their location throughout a website. If 20 links are created every Monday and none are built any other day, a search engine may suspect that a website is manipulating links. Spread any link building over time and never create links in bulk batches. Search engines love links but they want them to be achieved naturally. Offer the appearance of a gradual link-building process that looks realistic.

12. The more relevant the link, the better. Not to say that if you are a Doctor and you have a link from a printing company that this link won’t count, but it would be better if you had one from a medical association, medical blog, medical forum, etc.

13. The more authoritative and reputable the site, the better the link. If the linking website is a favorite of the search engines, this link will hold more importance. Remember that links are really votes and the more esteemed the voter, the more influential the vote. Links from high PR sites can be good but do not get too distracted by PageRank – it can be misleading. If you want a good tool to help with deciding high authority pages check out the Firefox plugin “SEO Quake.”

14. Make a website a natural link magnet.  Encourage links from other websites by offering their readers a discount or free gift. Let other site owner know that their readers will have the chance of a reduction or preferential service. Website owners love their readers to think they will only get access to a particular offer on another site because their website is the referrer. Most websites will be happy to link to your site if you offer favorable treatment to their readers.

15. If you want a reciprocal link from a website that is slightly out of your league you will have to up the ante. Offer them a premium link. This could be an entire page that is dedicated to their website and their services. All you ask in return is to place a simple little textual link on their site. This may seem a bit one-sided but the link from the bigger site will hold valuable search engine influence and could be worth the extra effort.

16. Add your website to relevant business directories.

17. Article submissions to article directories are a good method for obtaining free links. Check out http://www.submityoutarticle.com.

18. Press Release submission is also a good strategy. We like PRLog.org (and it’s free!).

19. Be aware of NOFOLLOW and DOFOLLOW attributes. There is no such thing as a “DOFOLLOW” tag, it just means that it doesn’t have a “NOFOLLOW” tag and will pass “link-juice” (as we SEO geeks like to call it) to your website.

20. Don’t waste your time trying to arrange a link with a commercial site. These large sites hardly ever accept link exchanges. That does not mean that you cannot post on their blog, if they have one, and gain a backlink from an influential blog. Even better if the blog has a DOFOLLOW attribute. Remember that the blog should still relate to your own site’s content.

Links are crucial to achieving a good search engine rank, but be wary of how you obtain links and where you get them from. A successful link-building campaign requires planning, preparation and research. Focus on building a natural link profile. This may take longer to achieve but the end result will be worth the extra effort. A natural link profile will never result in damage to a website’s reputation – unlike many of the quick and easy link-building alternatives.

Producing Content that Keeps People Coming Back to Your Site

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

As a result of personalized search, anyone who maintains a website will now have to focus on content more than ever before. In order to remain competitive and ensure continued high ranking in the SERPs, your website will need to include current and informative content that is of real value to your visitors.

If you maintain a website or a blog, it is critical that your content is updated on a regular basis. Ideally, you should be adding content every day, especially if your site is new. People will begin to click on your site on a more regular basis in anticipation of what your next piece will be about. They may even bookmark your site. When this happens, Google will recognize it as a site the person likes and will list it higher in the search results when then perform a relevant search. When you are adding content sporadically, people will begin to lose interest in your site and not only will you lose hits but you will also slip further and further in the search results. If you are not able to add content on a daily basis then you should be updating your site at least three times a week.

As you can see, quantity is very important producing content. This does not mean that you can slack on quality. Not only will you need to update your content regularly, but it must be of high quality and provide useful and relevant information. Timeliness is essential. You have to be knowledgable of the current trends in order for your site to stay relevant. If you run a niche blog or website, stay on top of the newest developments in that niche so that you can relay that information to your visitors. If you are unsure of what to write about, subscribing to an RSS reader is a great way to quickly find out what the day’s “hot topics” are (Google alerts are also a great way to monitor trends and topics in your industry to comment on). This will usually give you an idea of what your visitors are interested in and you can tailor your content accordingly. Keep your posts brief (but it can be okay to occasionally compose longer more in-depth posts if they are focused and well-written) and pay attention to spelling and grammar.

After you have taken the time to develop this fantastic content, does this mean you can now sit back and passively wait for the hits to start rolling in? Nothing could be further from the truth. In many ways, your work is now just beginning, because you will now have to work to ensure that your content is indexed in the search engines. Simply relying on a search engine to eventually crawl to your site and index your content will result in costly delays. Some quick and easy ways to get indexed faster include updating the XML map for your website, posting links to your content on Twitter and subscribing to a service that automatically pings major online hubs and notifies them when you have updated new content.

By being consistent in producing content that is high quality, you will not only get a loyal following, but you will also enjoy high search engine rankings, higher rates of conversion and greater credibility in your niche.

Increasing Consumer Impatience: Why Businesses Need to Take Notice of Real-Time Updates

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

The Internet is now faster than ever. With the explosion of social media, and search engine leader Google rolling out its new interface, incorporating real-time updates, people now expect everything in an instant. This sudden shift towards immediate gratification is also likely to have ramifications for business operations and their product transactions.

The acceptable periods for digital downloads, customer service responses and even physical deliveries are rapidly diminishing. That old 7-10 business day time-frame is starting to seem like forever and is becoming unacceptable to many.

The promise of an email reply within 48 hours will just not cut it anymore. People are becoming increasingly impatient and have gotten used to the new real-time updates – where they receive everything in an instant – and they are transferring these expectations to the business world.

If a business wants to maintain customer satisfaction, it will need to prepare for this new fast-turnaround revolution. Failure to keep up could result in lost business, canceled orders and a drop in repeat sales. So what needs to be done to comply with the real-time crowd?

For businesses promoting and delivering digital products, the transformation is a relatively simple process. Most digital product dealers may already operate in real-time. Orders are made, processed and sent out within minutes – if the whole process is adequately automated. If a digital retailer is not automating the whole system, they need to upgrade and do so now. Sitting on a digital order and delivering the product 2 days later is not acceptable. Money is now transferred almost instantaneously and so should the products – if this is not done, expect a drop in return custom and a reduction in sales.

Customer service has always been notoriously slow to respond in many industries. But with the explosion of social networking there is now no excuse. Companies can use social media sites to keep customers up-to-date, in real-time, with any problems and the ongoing progression of an order.

People will not stand for 2-3 day delays for email replies anymore. What used to be a fast response is now an unacceptable waiting period. An initial automated response is still tiresome but acceptable, but the follow-up answer needs to arrive sooner rather than later – or complaints will follow. People are not willing to accept ‘sorry for the delay’ excuses anymore.

Companies that sell physical products cannot be expected to deliver immediately – but they are not exempt from the real-time environment. Customers need same day replies and they expect to be kept in the loop every step of the way, from order confirmation, to payment process, and then finally told that their package has been processed, shipped and when it will arrive at their door.

Process and packaging needs to be closely monitored and delivery times kept to a minimum. Customers will accept a 3 business day delivery estimate, as long as the company has processed the order efficiently and kept the customer constantly updated with the progress of their order.

The old saying ‘Time is Money’ describes the problems facing businesses that fail to respond and accommodate this new real-time perception. If they cannot make efficient use of their time and adapt to this new post-haste consumer expectation, they should anticipate a realistic reduction in their money from a sudden decline in business.

Building a website? HTML vs Wordpress

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

So you want to build a website. Should you go with simple HTML or use a platform like Wordpress. The ultimate answer lies in the question, “What do you want to do with your site?” Let’s look at some advantages held by each option.

1) Updates – How often do you plan to update the site, and who will be doing the updates? Wordpress has a supreme advantage over a straight HTML site when it comes to updates. Not only is it an open-source platform that allows you to use multiple programming languages, so you get all the bells and whistles (HTML, PHP, MySQL, ASP, etc), but it is also user friendly for those who don’t know programming code. In other words, if you are creating the site for someone other than an online marketing agency and you want them to be able them to be able to update the site themselves, Wordpress gives them the flexibility to do so. Of course, you still need to create anything major, but the user will be able to update the blog, add pages and make basic updates without bothering you.

One point to Wordpress.

2) Bandwidth – Because Wordpress offers so much, it’s a big platform. This means it takes up a lot of bandwidth. Simple HTML sites tend to take up less space. But ultimately, the extra bandwidth is no big deal if you are prepared for it – just make sure you are prepared for it!

Half a point to HTML – HTML is smaller and leaner, but it isn’t really much of an advantage if you are prepared.

3) Plug ins – One of the great advantages of Wordpress is that because so many people use this universal platform, new plug ins are created almost daily. Instead of reinventing the wheel, find a plug in that does what you are looking for and with a few clicks you’re in business. Plug ins can be used to add social media marketing, SEO tools, display images, improve security, add forms, embed videos, lock out spammers and more. Yes, you can do all of these things with HTML, but you have to write the code and hope you don’t make a mistake in your code throwing the whole code off.

One point to Wordpress.

4) Security – With hackers around every corner, this continues to be an issue for all websites, regardless of how they are built. However, the advantage goes to HTML on this one. It is much more difficult to hack a site that has been individually coded in HTML, though not impossible. If you go the Wordpress route, it is important to make sure that you keep you with the latest security plug ins.

One point to HTML.

5) SEO – If you are building a website, you probably want people to see it. Therefore, putting everything else aside, this is the most important aspect of your website. One of the great features of Wordpress is its ability to integrate SEO into your site. Yes, you can optimize your website with HTML, but you have to know all of the important SEO elements and spend time incorporating each one. Since Wordpress was built as a blogging platform, SEO is kind of built-in (plus there are tons of plug ins to make it even better). You still have to work on SEO, but since Google loves new content and Wordpress makes adding new content a breeze the SEO advantage goes to Wordpress.

One point to Wordpress.

If you have been keeping tally, then you know Wordpress came out on top. With its flexibility for design and ease to update plus its SEO capabilities and all of the plug ins available, Wordpress comes out on top. While it isn’t perfect (what is) as a social media agency, Wordpress is the platform we use for all of our clients. So, if you are building a website, check it out.

6 Steps for a Digital Spring Cleaning

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Spring has sprung and closets everywhere are getting a seasonal cleaning, but closets aren’t the only place to de-clutter. No, I am not pointing out the mess in your guest room. I am talking about the chaos on your website.

When you built your website, I am sure you had great intentions of staying on top of it. But unless you hired an online marketing agency to watch over your site, like your closet, over time your website probably took backseat to running your business. While it is understandable, it isn’t good. Your website is your digital connection to the world; you have to keep it in good working order. So, let’s shake out the cobwebs and clear out the clutter.

1) Check links. There is nothing more annoying then visiting a website and finding broken or misdirected links. It flat-out looks like you don’t care. Click on every link on your site and make sure it takes you where it should.

2) Check contact info. Is your contact info readily available on EVERY page? You never know when someone is going to decide they have seen enough and they are ready to contact you to sign up, don’t make them search for your contact info, put it everywhere. (And, of course, make sure the info is correct.)

3) Make sure your services are up-to-date. If you list services on your site make sure they are current. I can’t tell you how many times I have inquired about a service listed on a website only to find out that service is no longer offered. If you don’t offer it, remove it. Got new stuff, add it.

4) Check your prices. If you list the price of those services, make sure your rates are current. There is nothing worse then someone finding a cheaper price on your website only to be told they are looking at an old rate list.

5) Add your social media links. Do you Tweet? Do you have a Fan Page? Tell people about it. Include social media icons with links to encourage visitors to stay in touch with you. (Tip from a social media agency, if you still haven’t gotten into the social media scene, get there.)

6) Got news? How old is the “current” news on your site? More than six months? Surely something has happened in the past few months that’s worth sharing. (If there really is nothing newsworthy, maybe you need to do something! Not sure what to do, hire an online marketing agency to help.)

We know it’s hard to stay on top of everything you do for your business, so give your website a good spring cleaning and get it back to where it needs to be to make you money. After that, if you are still concerned that you aren’t able to keep up with it, consider consulting with a social media agency to help you stay on top of your digital presence. Don’t let you site go another year before you check to make sure everything is ship-shape.

How to Use Facebook as a Branding Strategy for Your Business

Monday, March 1st, 2010

If you aren’t already connected to the social media revolution, it is time to get your head out of the sand and harness the power of the digital network. If you want to get out ahead of your competition and make consumers excited about interacting with your brand, social media is the way to go. It isn’t an overnight marketing fix, it takes time to build a following, but if done correctly you can use social media to drive people to your website and ultimately to your front door. Are you ready?

After building your incredible website and blog, it is time to build a Facebook fan page. Before your run away at the thought of building your own page, let me assure you that it is easy to get started, and I am going to walk you through it. But, of course, if you get stuck or need additional help with the more complicated aspects, we’re always here to help. (But I promise; set up is easy.)

The first thing you need in order to create a Facebook fan page is a personal profile. What? You don’t have one yet? Time to get one! I am not going to waste time walking you through profile set up because the steps are pretty self explanatory. Just got to Facebook, fill out the information to get started and let the steps guide you. You can probably set up a basic profile in about 15 minutes. After setting up your personal profile, spend some time poking around Facebook and getting to know the site – have fun. Check out some of your favorite companies’ fan pages (Celebrity Branding Agency for one) and connect with friends.

Now to set up a fan page.

Once you are logged into Facebook, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Advertising,” and then click “Pages.” There is some great information here about fan pages, so take a moment to read through the information, when you are ready click “Create Page.” As you go through the set-up process, remember that in any branding and marketing it is important to categorize your company in the right area to help people find you. So choose carefully.

One of the great things about Facebook is the ease of set up navigation. From here, setting up a fan page is really about following the prompts. Rather than point out each step, let’s look at the important ones to get your personal branding going.

1) Photo – Before you do anything else, make sure you have the perfect photo for your page. Maybe your logo is the best photo for your page, but maybe not. Think about other branding materials you have, maybe something seasonal. Obviously, you want your fans to see your photo and recognize your brand – that’s the goal. But if you have a creative image that is also recognizable, it might help your fan page attract fans with an element of fun.

2) Write something about your company – See the little box under your picture that says “Write something about your company” this is very important because this is one of the items that is visible on every tab of your fan page. This is your elevator statement in 250 characters or less. Be sure to include a link to your website here, and in order to make your link clickable, don’t forget the http:// before the www. (Note – this statement can be changed at any time, so it is a great place to highlight a promotion or other important happening for your company.)

3) Wall Settings – Another important tool in the set up of your page are the wall settings. You have to decide if you want visitors to be able to post messages for everyone to see or if you only want your own messages shown. Unless you have a super controversial company, I recommend starting with allowing everything. It will help you build your wall faster because people like to post messages. If the posts become out of control or unflattering, you can always delete individual posts or turn off the setting all together later. (You will find “Wall settings” under “Edit page.”)

Once you fill in all of the basic information, you have successfully created a fan page. Don’t forget, it is easy to change if something changes, so don’t sweat it.

Now you are ready to take your page live, it is important for you to let people know about your page. This is where having an already active personal profile comes in handy because if you already have a lot of “friends” who are interested in your company, you can “suggest” your new page to them.

Alright you have a page, you have suggested to all of your friends, now what? Now you start the real work. Marketing and branding takes time and attentiveness. You can’t just set up this page and hope people find you. If there is nothing on your page that interests people, no one will become a fan. Social media is fun – your fan page should be too. Post interesting things about your company, but don’t be afraid to post something fun too. Try posting open-ended questions (to entice responses from your fans) such as “What is your favorite XYZ?” “What do you plan to do for the XYZ holiday?”

Posting links and/or photos are also a great way to get people interested, plus they are more visually appealing so people are more apt to pay attention. Posting links to your website has the added benefit of pushing people to your site to find out more. Try posting on your fan page every time you update your blog – “Check this out” and attach a link to your blog.

Remember, the most important reason you have a Facebook fan page is to use it as a branding strategy to promote your personal brand. So, if your company is very “green” conscious, share tidbits about being green. If your company is all about marketing and branding (like us), you might post pictures of events, links to blog posts and information about the companies you help brand.

Those are the basic features of a Facebook fan page, but once you get going you will realize that there are many more things you can add to your fan page such as customizable apps, connect the page to your Twitter feed, and much more. But you can’t do any of the fancy things until you get started with the basics, so for now create your page and start building your fans. Oh, and don’t forget to include a new link on your website to let people know they can become a fan on Facebook.

And that is how you can use Facebook as a branding strategy for your business.

7 Tips for Making Twitter Work for You and Your Business!

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Your ultimate goal when using Twitter should be to network, it’s like an online social hour (or social 140 characters). And like in every networking organization it’s all about who you know, and in Twitter’s case, who you ”follow” and who “follows” you. The key to making Twitter work for you and your business is to weave the social aspects of your life in with your business.

So how do you do that?

Below, you will find 7 steps that will help you develop not only a loyal Twitter fan base but also reveal some dos and don’ts to making Twitter work for you.

First, you’ve got to find people! So, how do you do that?

1. Search for people you may know who are already using twitter via the “find people” link up at the top of Twitter. Once you click that link you can type in their name and see if they’re currently on Twitter so you can connect with them.

2. Using the same “find people” link up at the top and then clicking on “find on other networks” you can match up your current contacts from your Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail and MSN accounts with your contact’s twitter accounts and then follow them from there.

3. Use the twitter search! You can either search right from your Twitter homepage or go to http://search.twitter.com/. Search using the keywords for your industry and find people tweeting about specific topics in your industry and within your niche. From there you can follow them, and also follow their followers!
Now that you’re on your way to having followers, here are a couple of tips to maximize your “Tweets.”

4. Mix in your “social tweets” with your “business tweets.” Remember, people buy people, and that goes for Twitter too! Build a loyal fan base by allowing them to get to know you, like you, trust you and respect you and weave in the “I’ve written blog about social media, check it out at www.celebritysites.com” (of course, you would actually link to the blog post, but since I haven’t written that yet… which now I will… I just put our homepage in there for demonstration).

5. You can also use http://search.twitter.com/ to find other current tweets about your industry that you can comment on. If you find a tweet that interests you, you can respond directly to that person by using “@TheirName” in your tweet so they get your reply, ultimately contributing to the Twitter community, gaining more content for your own twitter account and participating socially with other users.

And finally, here are some of my favorite Twitter tools to make your life easier!

6. TweetDeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/) allows you to manage your Twitter account in a much simpler way by separating your replies, direct messages as well as specified groups of people. TweetDeck also allows you to update your Facebook status automatically with your Tweets.

7. Tweet Later (http://www.tweetlater.com/) allows you to setup tweets to be sent out at a scheduled time, automatically follow anyone who follows you and send out auto-responders to anyone who follows you.

Remember, Twitter can be used for many different purposes including social networking, marketing a business, prospecting, research and new ideas, reconnecting with old friends, etc. Millions are tweeting every day including just about every TV show, radio personality, movie star, pop singer, rap artist, sportscaster and professional athlete. Although this concept may seem a little foreign to you, remember that email was once that way and now it’s second nature! Ultimately, what makes Twitter so popular is the ability to connect with not only friends, but likeminded people. Remember, people buy people!

How to Write Content that is Optimized for Search Engines

Friday, March 13th, 2009

To me, I always feel like Search Engine Optimization (or SEO as it is known in the industry) is the big elephant standing in the middle of the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s a whole lot of work. Right? Or so you’ve been told…

It’s true, Search Engines, mainly Google, like to make up complicated algorithms and schemes to try and make this very simple concept into the giant elephant that it is. When it boils down to it… write your copy so that it contains the keywords your potential clients are searching for. Having keywords throughout your copy increases the relevancy of your page for those keywords. Thus, when someone is searching for a particular product or service- you come up!
Here are 3 quick tips for placing keywords in your online copy:

1. Title Tags:

This is the most important place to include keywords. The title tag is the title of your web page- it runs along the very top of your browser and usually contains the name of your company and a brief description. That brief description is where you should include the keywords you are trying to maximize for each page of your web site. Be aware that computers (Search Engine spiders), like humans, read from left to right. They also give the most weight to the words on the far left versus those to the right. Also keep in mind that Google only displays 66 characters in the title tag, everything else will be cut off. So make sure to keep them short, simple and to the point… oh yeah and include those keywords!

2. Headings and Subheadings:

Another important place to put keywords is in heading (H1 tags) or subheadings (H2 tags). Search Engines give these tags more weight than they do keywords in the body of your site. So, it is a good idea if you can find a way to incorporate keywords in both the headings and subheadings of your pages- just don’t forget to make sure that they make sense to readers!

3. Synonyms

Here’s the thing… although you may think that you’ve got your keywords nailed down to a science… it’s a good idea to incorporate synonyms of these words into your copy. Using synonyms not only breaks up the monotony of just using a single word or phrase, but searchers may be using these synonyms or related words to find your products without you even knowing it. Overture is a great free source that will help you find synonyms and related keywords searchers may be using to find your products or services. To view this keyword tool visit http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/.

One last little tip. After you’ve got your keywords down and you know how and where you want to use them, don’t forget to make sure your copy is actually readable and it isn’t just loaded with keywords. Once you’ve got that down, the last thing to remember… make sure your copy is interesting!

Does Your Website Stand up to Design?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I received my copy of The Net Effect this month… by the way, if you do not receive this magazine — GET IT. It will change the way you view the web, SEO and online marketing. It is one of the only magazines I actually read cover to cover each month, but I digress! Interestingly, one of the very first articles I ever read in the magazine was entitled “It’s Your Eyes that Buy!” Funny, if you do not believe that to be true, ask your wife! When was the last time she truly needed that third pair of black heels? Retailers have been dominating this theory for years… online is no different.

Research shows that we have only seconds to make a positive impression upon our viewers. If they don’t like what they see — maybe it’s too busy, too complicated or what we commonly refer to as “analysis paralysis” — they will leave your site and, quite frankly, never come back.

The design of your site (or even your blog) can help with lead capture as well as lead conversion. Here are five things to keep in mind when designing your site… and if you’re not looking to design a site, ask yourself if your current website does this. If not, you may be looking to redesign your site shortly!

1. Give information to people in bite-sized pieces. Research shows that if you not only group like items together, but also group them into bite-sized pieces, our brains can process the information more easily.

2. Direct people where you want them to go with buttons, shapes and colors. That is why we use a specific format for all of our CTA (call to action) buttons.

3. Product pictures, CTAs and all other buttons should be consistently sized.

4. Use shading and other textures within the design to guide the visitor’s eyes. Texture can also make harsh colors softer on the eyes.

5. Keep colors and fonts consistent throughout the site.

Those first few seconds when your potential customer visits your site are all you get to make a good impression, so make it count! “Good visual information design makes smart use of Consistency, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity,” according to The Net Effect.

The Social Media Loop- Are You In It?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Social Media, as defined by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media), is primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends upon the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities as people share their stories and experiences.

Today, Search Engines are looking more and more to the bookmarking trends of these Social Media sites to determine the quality of websites. According to the Search Engine Journal (http://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-medias-direct-influence-on-search-engine-ranking/5576/), Social Media can help your sites in multiple ways, for example:

• Indexing Sites Faster: Humans bookmark sites launched by their friends or colleagues before a search engine ‘bot’ can find them.

• Deeper Indexing: Many pages bookmarked are deep into sites and sometimes not as easily linked to by others, found via bad or nonexistent site navigation or linked to from external pages.

• Defining Quality: If someone takes the time to bookmark a site, it usually has some quality to it.

• Measuring Quality: Essentially, if more users bookmark a page, the more quality and relevance that site has. A site with multiple bookmarks, across multiple bookmarking services, by multiple users is much more of an authority than a site with only multiple bookmarks by the same user.

• External Meta Data: Users who bookmark sites tag them with keywords and descriptions that add an honest and unbiased definition, which is created by the public and not the owner of the site.

• Co-Citation: Social bookmarking sites tend to categorize sites and pages based upon the tags used by humans to describe the site; therefore search algorithms can classify these sites with their peers.

So, to stay on top in the rankings and to make sure you’re a part of the “it” crowd, you should start implementing some of the different Social Media strategies. Here are some of my favorites that we use for clients… and better yet, they’re all FREE:

• Tubemogul (http://www.tubemogul.com/) allows you to deploy videos (seeded with keywords) to various video outlets like YouTube, Yahoo, MetaCafe, DailyMotion and many more! You will also be able to see how many times your videos have been watched from each of these sites.

• Digg (http://digg.com/) allows you to share content from the Internet that you find interesting. Once a link and story have been submitted, you can cast your vote for the story, also known as a digg. Although your story may get submitted to Digg, digg votes are what will get your story on the front page.

• Reddit (www.reddit.com), like Digg, is a social news website where you can post links to various websites. You then can vote on the sites (up or down), thus giving them more presence on Reddit.

• del.icio.us (http://delicious.com/) is a social bookmarking web service where users can share sites that they like with others.

• Twitter (http://twitter.com/) is a social networking site where you can send text-based updates to other users (otherwise known as “tweets”) to let them know what you are up to.

• Knol (http://knol.google.com/k) is closely compared to Wikipedia and is run by Google. This site is more of an article/blog syndication site where users can post articles/blogs, called knols, versus bookmarking the website page for other visitors to view (like dig, reddit and del.icio.us).

There are many different Social Media sites out there; these are just a couple of my personal favorites. One thing to note, however; don’t overdo it. Not every post should be put through every media outlet out there. Be sure to mix it up a bit with which Social Media site you are using. Whatever method you choose, get out there and start digging, tweeting and bookmarking your way to success

Is Your Website Deadly?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Websites are designed to sit there and look pretty, right? After all, everyone has a website today and don’t you feel obligated to throw some thing up there so that you too have a web address to put on our business card? Unfortunately, THAT is what is wrong with 99% of today’s websites… they do just that, sit there are don’t do anything for you, or your business. In fact, they are probably actually costing you money.

Why would they be costing you money? Consider this, you give your business card to someone you meet- and he/she, like all of us, goes and “checks you out” on the Internet. When they arrive they are greeted by analysis paralysis with too many choices on the navigation bar, long paragraphs on the homepage, buttons that may or may not work, articles and documents that haven’t been updated since 2006 (at best), music… and wait…. who are they actually dealing with- a large corporation? Who’s the contact person? So, they say to themselves, “this is too confusing” and leave your site. That person could have been one of your biggest clients; no matter how good your sales pitch was, you lost them through the chaos of your website.
Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, we hear this a lot from our clients. And yes, at one point I too fell victim to the “deadly website.”

What do we ALL want when looking to do business with someone? Be it a doctor, lawyer, clothing line, whatever- we look to connect with the person. We wear Nike to be like Tiger, buy dishes to cook more like Rachael Ray, buy Louis Vuitton well, because it’s Louis Vuitton! As a consumer, we want to know them, like them, trust them and ultimately do business with them. Your website should be no different. It should have YOUR personality to it and showcase YOU as the expert in your field. If you can do this, then why would anyone want to do business with someone else if YOU are the expert?

To be the expert you have to declare yourself as the expert. You do this through content. I recently received a call from an ABC producer that wanted to speak with one of our clients about being on Good Morning America (although, as the story would pan out she got bumped by our new President Barack Obama- but, that’s a different story….). How did this producer find her? Through a Google search looking for a foreclosure expert in the Orlando area. After visiting her site, which confirmed her expert status, he called to book her. Your website should be doing that too, so that be it a producer or a potential client it hat is searching on the Internet for the expert they find YOU, and your website confirms it!

3 Simple Tips to Make Your Website User-Friendly

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

The one assumption you need to make to follow along with me in this article is “People Buy People.” It can be a hard concept for many people to understand and agree with. However, millions of spent dollars have proven this premise to me, so I consider it more of a law than a theory. (If you’d like more information on this specific topic, check out Jack and Nick’s book, Celebrity Branding You™. You can find it at any bookstore or online at www.CelebrityBrandingYou.com)

If you understand the rule that people buy people, then your website MUST have a pleasant atmosphere that allows the visitor to connect with you, your company and your products.

By now, you’ve heard me talk about our Celebrity Branding™ philosophies, and the fact that you need your picture on your website goes without saying. But, there are some smaller, often overlooked, areas that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Here are three simple tip to make your website user-friendly:

1. Navigation

The navigation on your site is probably its most important element. If visitors find your site confusing or cannot successfully navigate through it, they will leave. Make your navigation bar as simple as possible. One of the worst mistakes is using an expanding navigation bar that makes the visitor scroll over it in order for the menu to reveal their options. Most often, this type of navigation bar has too many choices; your visitor doesn’t know where to go, so they get flustered and leave.

Navigation on your site is an art, and you should direct your visitors through a logical path to where YOU want them to go (not to where they think they want to go). One way to do this is through call to action buttons or CTAs. We use these buttons on all of our sites; a visitor will go to a main page, and then we can direct them to the parts of that site that we want them to be aware of. We use this method instead of an expanding menu, because we find that it is more logical for visitors. With this method, you can direct visitors to where you want them to go, allowing you to control the buying process.

Quick Tip: most “expanding menus” are created in Macromedia Flash. Search engines cannot read Flash, and therefore they will not pick up these links on your website. If the search engines do not pick up the links on the navigation bar and these links are nowhere else on your site, they cannot accurately crawl or index your site. This is search engine suicide, because without even knowing it, you are stopping search engines from understanding what your site has to offer and from driving traffic to you.

A good rule of thumb is that a visitor should be able to get to every page on your site with two clicks from your home page. Now, this is not realistic for very complex sites. If your website is complex, you can have a sitemap to help visitors navigate. Some sort of search function may also be a good idea for your site.

2. Page Load Speed

It’s hard to believe that some people are still stuck using dial up. Even if you have entered the world of high-speed Internet, no matter what you do, some websites will load slowly. (If you’re frustrated using high-speed Internet, imagine the frustration of those on good ‘ol dial up!)

Page load speed is VERY important. I know that when I am surfing the Internet and I stumble upon a site that loads slowly, I get annoyed, frustrated, and don’t browse the site for very long. If your website is loading slowly, you are probably losing out on valuable customers, no matter what business you are in.

In today’s web world, we are seeing more and more images, audio files and videos. These things are useful, but you have to be careful that they do not affect the inner workings of your site (in this case, the time it takes for a web page to load). You want to be careful about the size of the images on your website. Both large-sized images and using too many images can cause your website to take too long to load, resulting in visitors leaving. Another tip is to convert videos into a jpeg (image) that only loads and plays the video when a visitor clicks on it. Yes, you may be adding more images to your website, but these are usually small image files; in the hierarchy of the web, a video will slow down your website much more than a small image.

Another factor that can influence the load time of your website is the amount of excess code you have on your site (that is a topic for another day – but ask your webmaster, and they will know what I am talking about).

3. Information

The number one thing that visitors look for is information. They are coming to your site to be educated about your products and/or services and, most of all, how THEY can benefit. With this in mind, it is critical for the information on your website to be accurate, complete and up-to-date. Visitors will leave your site in a split second if the information you are providing is old news.

What’s that best way to provide up-to-date information on your website? The best way we suggest is through blogs and articles. (In case you missed my article last month on how to write a blog in any industry, you can read it on the resources page of http://www.celebritysites.com). By having a section on your website for blogs and articles, you can provide new, relevant and educational information to your visitors. Adding them is not only simple, but it is fast too!

So there are my three simple tips for the month on how to make your website user-friendly. Although this covered just the beginning of what your website should contain, don’t worry, I won’t leave you stranded– I’ll reveal even more tips in next month’s article!

How to write a “How To” Article

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

First to understand why these types of articles are great, you have to understand why people like them so much. So why do people like them? First of all, “how to” articles are easy to follow. Their step-by-step formula makes people think, “I can do that!” And right there, your battle as a writer has been won… you have involved your reader.
So here’s your “how to” for writing a “how to “ article:
Step 1
Figure out how many tips, steps, etc. you have for your information. Make an outline so you know where you are headed. If you are writing a book (or eBooks) each chapter should be a step. By outlining it this way, it makes your book, article, etc. fairly quick and easy to write.

Step 2
Remember it’s all about the benefits. Readers always want to know, “What’s in it for me?” So give it to them! In this case, your “How To” article will hopefully provide useful information that the reader is interested in. It should give them an inside look into the topic and “reveal” some sort of secret.
“How To” articles are great because as a culture we seek the “easy route.” We seek the tips, tricks and secrets to make the task easier. Always remember to focus on the better, faster and easier way. Don’t be afraid to reveal your secrets, trust me- nobody ever actually wants to do the work, they just want to say they know how to… they have enough to do already! (And once you prove you are the expert, they’ll just hire you anyway!)

Step 3
Come up with an undeniable headline. Your headline is about all the time you have to grab your reader’s attention and draw them in.
There are many practices for teaching how to write headlines, and truthfully it is an art that if mastered will bring you great success. Here are a couple of headline ideas.
First, double the benefit. Make the headline so incredible, so irresistibly good by doubling what they are going to get out of reading your article (again, what THEY will get out of it- selfish creatures we are!) For example, which is better: “Learn How to Make Your Clients Happier Than Ever” OR “Learn how to Triple Your Profits and Make Your Clients Happier Than Ever,” I think it’s pretty clear…
Another simple headline formula is to take a routine task and put it with a great reward. This formula is simple:
“How to” Routine Task That Brings Great Benefit.
For example:
“How to Buy a House That Saves You Money”

If you take one thing away from this article, remember to always keep your focus on your reader and what THEY will benefit from. If you can keep them in mind, and give them what they want, you will be very profitable.

Top Three Critical Components for a Search Engine-Optimized Website

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Everyone wants to know: How can I get my site on the top of the search engines? Although Google doesn’t publish their magical algorithm that will get you there, there are some well-known facts and strategies to keep in mind when designing or updating your website.

1. Accessibility

There are several different components that determine whether or not your site is accessible – and it’s not just about how easily your website can be found. Here are some things to look at:

• Broken Links- Check all links on your website regularly. Broken links can hurt you in two different ways. First, if a link leading viewers and search engine crawlers to another part of your website is broken, they cannot access the content. For viewers, this means receiving a very annoying error message. For search engines, this means the page may not get indexed. Second, some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) gurus out there have said that having broken links on your site can actually reflect negatively on your site rankings in search engines. So check those links!

• File Size- Typically, websites larger than 150K are not fully cached or indexed by search engines. If you want to make sure your entire website can be indexed, keep it under 150K.
File size also reflects how fast your website runs, which leads me to…

• Website Speed (Downtime)- Make sure you are aware how fast your site runs. Not only can a slowly running site be annoying to visitors, but it also bothers search engines. Therefore, your site’s performance can have a negative impact on your search engine rankings.

2. Search-Friendly Text

There are several styles of text that cannot be indexed. Making the visible text on a page search-friendly isn’t complicated, but it is an issue that many sites struggle with. Text styles that cannot be indexed by search engines include: text in an image format such as jpg, png, pdf, gif, etc., text embedded in a macromedia flash file, text embedded in a java application, and text only accessible from a form submission (no true link).

Don’t worry; even if you do not understand all of these styles, your Webmaster will!

3. Title Tags & Meta Tags

Title tags are located at the very top of the browser and tell a visitor what website they are on. More importantly, they tell the visitor how that particular website is going to suit their needs. Meta tags are not as visible, but are also very important. All of these tags help search engines read your site. It is very important for all of these tags to be relevant and contain your top keywords.

One last piece of advice: Make sure you have a working and up-to-date sitemap on your website. Sitemaps help search engines understand the flow of a website and how the internal pages link together. This sitemap will help search engines crawl your website and index internal pages.

Do Link Building Strategies Work?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

People always ask me how the syndication of press releases and book-marking your blog in many of the social book-marking sites can possibly generate traffic for your site.

The other day I submitted a press release to thousands of online sources for a client. As part of my regular routine, I then put the release up on their web site. Not 20 minutes later they had a new comment on that press release:

“I found your site on Technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.”
So do these strategies work? You bet they do!

Below are a few link-building strategies for you to use in your own business to help generate traffic for your site.

1. Social Book-Marking Sites

Social Media book-marking is the strategy used in the story above. It’s also usually the quickest way to get your content read. Use social book-marking sites like Digg, Delicious, Reddit and Technorati to bookmark your own
blogs. Make sure to write an attention grabbing headline and use appropriate keywords so that people searching for your particular topic and/ or product will be able to find you.

As the story above shows, this is a simple way to create a loyal fan base.

2. Comment on Other Blogs in Your Industry

Find relevant successful blogs in your particular niche that you can comment on. If you find a blog that already has a loyal fan base, become a part of their community and you can tap into that fan base. Start leaving comments on the blogs with a link back to your web site (or blog). Engaging with these relevant blogs is a great way to get noticed. It can also lead to valuable links back to your site.
Just like with any other conversation, join in and share your opinion; however, make sure you present both you and your company in the best light possible by leaving relevant comments that will actually help others in your niche.

3. Article Syndication Sites

Start writing relevant articles about your niche and syndicate them. There a ton of these article syndication sites out there, some that we use and suggest are http://www.ezinearticles.com, http://www.articlemarketer.com, http://submityourarticle.com, http://www.articlebase.com. Each of these sites allow you to have a byline at the bottom of your article so if someone reads your article and likes what they see they can visit your site for more information.

Submitting your article to these types of sites does several things. One benefit is that it allows you to get your information out there (through RSS feeds) on thousands of web sites and can lead to your content being referenced in other posts and articles. Also, make sure to always include your web address in your author byline because each time your article is picked up on a site, it provides a link back to your site, thus generating highly targeted traffic to your web site and also raising your search engine rankings through your increased number of link-backs.

Another simple hint: In your byline give the reader a reason to visit your web site. For example, “Want to find more insider secrets to successfully grow your business and increase profits? Check out www.yourwebsitehere.com for a free copy of Top 10 secrets to gaining ridiculous income in 6 months.” (Not to mention if they go and sign-up, then they’re on your mailing list!)

Conclusion:

Remember, if you don’t take the time to tell people about you and your business then no one will ever know what they’re missing!

13 Tips to Keep in Mind When Writing Your PPC Ads

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

1. Heading. This is the most important part of your Ad. The heading is what potential visitors see first when looking at various search results. The better the visitor can identify with your heading the more likely they are to click on your ad and visit your web site. Keep in mind that you headline MUST give them what they want. It must give them the answer they are searching for, if it doesn’t they won’t click. On the opposite side of that. The headline is a good place to qualify your prospects. You don’t just want "lookie loos" on your web site wasting your money by clicking on your ad and not signing up for your product.

2. Use keywords in your title. Use keywords that people are searching for in your ads. By using the keyword in the heading it captures the searcher and subconsciously they think that your as answers their search because you have the keyword in the title.

3. Benefit. The first line of the ad should describe the benefit of what you’re offering. Buyers want to know "what’s in it for them" so TELL THEM!

For Example: "’new affordable pool equipment".

In this example, the benefit is that your equipment is new and affordable.

4. Feature. The second line of your ad should depict a major feature for your particular product or feature.

For Example: "deal with experienced experts"

In this example, the feature is that your company is experienced and knowledgeable; "Been is business for over 20 years" is another good feature because people assume that if you’ve been in the business for a long time than you know what you’re doing (which may or may not be a good assumption on their part!)

5. Display URL vs Destination URL. Google give you two places to note your URL, one is seen on the ad (the display URL) and one is the actual web site a visitor is taken to when they click on your ad (the destination URL), both are very important.

Since the space you are given to get your message across is so small, the display URL is another place that viewers can subconsciously see your information. So, make it simple on them to read and consider using the keyword (of it fits) as a subdirectory of your URL.

For example: www.YourWebSiteHere.com/PoolEquipment

For the destination URL, make sure that the landing page (the page your visitor is taken to) gives them the answer to their search. If they were looking for pool equipment, DO NOT take them to the home page. Instead, direct them to a page that lists all the different pool equipment you have available. Simply by doing this one trick you will decrease your bounce rate (or the number of people that leave your site without visiting any other page on your site, more importantly the confirmation page that tracks your conversions!)

6. Capitalize EVERY word! Although these ads may say the same thing, but which stands out more to you?

For Example:
Pool equipment
New affordable pool equipment
deal with experienced experts
www.yourwebsitehere.com

For Example: Pool Equipment
New Affordable Pool Equipment
Deal With Experienced Experts.
www.YourWebSiteHere.com

So, which do you think is going to attract the eye of the potential buyer?

7. Keyword Methods. There are several methods for choosing keywords

1.[Exact Match]- The search has to match exactly to your keyword with no additional keyword.

For example: if [pool equipment] was searched, your ad would only be displayed someone searched for pool equipment and not new pool equipment.

2. "Phrase Match"- Your ad appears when that exact phrase is searched. Your ad will come up even if additional words are used, but you search has to be shown in the exact order.

For Example: if "pool equipment" was searched, your ad would come up new pool equipment, pool equipment store, but not for equipment for your pool.

3. Broad Match- If you do not put your keyword(s) in brackets or quotes, then Google will come up with results for all possible matches of your keyword(s).

For example: if some searched for pool equipment, your ad would show up for new pool equipment, pool equipment for your home, pool equipment store, etc.

Unfortunately, there is no one "best way" to match your keywords. You must take a look at your business and decide what works for your product or service. One more tip- if you decide to use broad match make sure you use negative keywords, such as free. This was your ad would not come up when someone search free pool equipment (unless you really had free equipment to give out- and if that’s the case, let me know and we’ll talk).

It is quite easy to note the negative keywords. For example, if you didn’t want free you would write ‘ free in your list of keywords. So you may have a list that looks like this:

[pool equipment]
pool equipment
– free

And yes, you can most certainly list exact, phrase and broad match keywords.

8. Don’t forget the "www." Make sure that your use the "www" is your display URL. No, it is not necessary and the visitor will still reach your site without it; however, today, our brains are so systematic that by including the "www" it not only draws attention to the web site (and the ad) but it allows our brain to process that we are looking at a URL and thus we should remember what we are looking at.

9. Short and to the Point. You are VERY limited in the amount of characters you get for your ads. Therefore, keep your ads as concise as possible: GET TO THE POINT!

10. Price. We all know price drives a person. Even in real estate if your home isn’t selling than what’s wrong with it? The price. If you have competitively priced your product or service to be the lowest in your market, consider putting the price in your ad title. If a potential buyer sees your low price they’ll probably click on your ad to see what you’re all about.

11. Free. I like free- don’t you? People inherently like ‘free’ things. So, if you are truly giving something away for free (like a free consultation, free bonus, free trial) than consider putting free in your title. Again, it will grab the attention of your potential buyer and encourage them to visit your web site.

12. Two things to look at: CTR (Click Through Rate) and Conversion Rate. Both of these elements are key when you are analyzing the success of your keywords and ads. You must find a "happy medium" between the two elements, because without it, your ads will fail.

For Example: If you adjust your ad focusing solely on your conversion rate, although you may be converting more people and thus probably spending more money

If you had 1,000 impressions and 4 visitors your CTR would be .04%. Of these 4 clicks, you had 1 conversion for a conversion rate of 25%. Not a bad conversion rate and you’re spending less money to get it. Good right? Well, kind of. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on the way you look at it) Google places rank of CTR and those ads with a higher CTR will be shown more often (keep in mind this is not the only factor but is one of many). So, although you may think you’re doing better because you’re spending less money and getting more leads/conversions you may sacrifice you position with Google.

13. Test, Test and Test AGAIN! Unfortunately, even after spending all the time in the world to make sure you have the best possible ad for your product or service you cannot just “set the ad and go.” You must keep testing the ad to see what works. Yes, at times, this re-testing can be a daunting task, but if you don’t continually test your market, ads and keywords you will loose the game because I guarantee you, your competition is still testing.

7 Fatal Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Your Writing

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

1. Your or You’re?

First of all, possessive or contraction?

"You’re" is a contraction of "you" and "are" saying that "you are’" something. You’re happy.
You’re going shopping.
You’re a good basketball player.

"Your" is a possessive pronoun, for example "your house," "your dog" or "your car."

2. It’s or Its? Here we go with possessive vs. contraction again -

"It’s" is a contract of "it" and "is" (or "it" and "has"). For example, "it is cold outside" or "it’s cold outside."

"Its" is a possessive pronoun as in "the dog is eating its food."

3. There, Their or They’re? "There" is an adverb describing a location. For example, "Bob set his suitcase there."

"Their" is a possessive pronoun as in ”their dog ran away.”

"They’re"’ is a contraction of "they" and "are." For example, "they are going to the game"

or "they’re going to the game." When it boils down to it’ is it possessive or is it a contraction?

4. Affect vs. Effect I still find myself getting caught up with this one, and I always have to stop and think about it. Affect is generally a verb (using it as a noun is usually avoided), it means to influence.

" The Florida State loss will affect their standings in the polls." Effect as a verb means to cause " His look of disapproval effected my shirt change."

Effect as a verb means the result – The effect the hurricane had on the house was devastating.

5. Where to put that damn punctuation For some reason people always try to make punctuation tougher than it is and for some reason when using quotes really confuses people.

Here is your rule of thumb:

When using quotes ALWAYS put the ending punctuation INSIDE the QUOTES- ALWAYS!

" It’s sunny outside," said Mary.

NOT

" It’s sunny outside"’, said Mary.

6. Me or I? For what ever reason, this one took me a while too, but once I got it- it was so simple!

The easiest way to tell which to use (me or I) is to take the other person out of the sentence and see if it still makes sense.

For example:
"Mom and me went shopping last weekend."
"Mon and I went shopping last weekend."

Which sounds better?

"Me went shopping last weekend", "I went shopping last weekend". When you put it that way, it’s pretty obvious. Isn’t it? 7. Then or Than? Simple put: than is a comparison; then is a description of time.

For example:

"I want to go to the grocery story then go home."
"The male dog was more aggressive than the female dog."

CNBC Contacted me because of Celebrity Sites®! I just wanted to take a moment to say WOW! My last website took many years and many versions to never quite get what I wanted. In less than 30 days you guys designed and built a brand new website that I love and now, not even 60 days since it’s been live, I’m starting to get calls from television producers! Just last week I got a call from CNBC because they were searching for financial experts to feature on a new show they are launching and they found me thanks to my new website. This is incredible, thanks so much for the great experience. Anyone who isn’t taking advantage of your unique expertise of Celebrity Branding business people online is missing the boat in many ways! - Brian Fricke, Owner, President
 
Like any vehicle, it will run smoothly if and only if 1) the right fuel is used, 2) you make it a priority to maintain it, 3) and you have a great mechanic! As a business owner, having your team in place is critical to success. I was happy with my original website; giving birth to it was a process. But after a while, as it grows so do your needs. You change or your brand changes. It was not a coincidence that I met Lindsay Dicks from Celebrity Sites; it was time…call it synchronicity at work. I had been rethinking my website and needed to delegate more of what I was choosing not to do regarding social media and web maintenance. I have never been so impressed by their professionalism, dedication or follow-through. They are there at a moments notice to work through my questions, my ideas or concerns. I give them straight A pluses. They have me for LIFE. - Sallie Felton, Life Coach/Transition Specialist, International Talk Radio Host #1 Best Selling Author, IF I’M SO SMART, WHY CAN’T I GET RID OF THIS CLUTTER?
 
Like any vehicle, it will run smoothly if and only if 1) the right fuel is used, 2) you make it a priority to maintain it, 3) and you have a great mechanic! As a business owner, having your team in place is critical to success. I was happy with my original website; giving birth to it was a process. But after a while, as it grows so do your needs. You change or your brand changes. It was not a coincidence that I met Lindsay Dicks from Celebrity Sites; it was time…call it synchronicity at work. I had been rethinking my website and needed to delegate more of what I was choosing not to do regarding social media and web maintenance. I have never been so impressed by their professionalism, dedication or follow-through. They are there at a moments notice to work through my questions, my ideas or concerns. I give them straight A pluses. They have me for LIFE. - Sallie Felton, Life Coach/Transition Specialist, International Talk Radio Host #1 Best Selling Author, IF I’M SO SMART, WHY CAN’T I GET RID OF THIS CLUTTER?
 
Just wanted to take a minute to thank Celebrity Sites. Making that first impression of what our business is about is very important. Celebrity Sites has done more in just a couple of months than we did in the last 6 years which was nothing because we tried different things but were just were not on track. You knew where to start and how to get there in lighting speed. You guys not only listened to our ideas but gave some great ideas. Whenever we needed to talk to you, you were right there, by email or phone – you name it, you responded. We are so excited every day to see Larry’s Big Idea take shape. The website is second to none thanks to Lindsay and is improving weekly. The ideas that Jack and Nick come up with at each meeting are awesome. If anyone out there is considering launching their business to just the next level forget it. Get in the elevator with Celebrity Sites and they will take you to the top floor (Penthouse). Stay tuned for more! Kimberlee Frank
 
“How many of you Tweet and Twitter? If you’re just trying it out or doing your best to market yourself, check out Lindsay Dicks. She’s the bomb.com when it comes to self promotion.” -Heidi Hatch, Fox 35 News Reporter
 
Celebrity Sites® is awesome! They are on top of things all the time and keep you out in front of your competition. Thanks again and again! - Larry Frank (aka Mr. Prepared)
 
 
Thanks Celebrity Sites®! With your help we just got picked up on a worldwide site for our music buffet option. They even put it on the front page of their site as a “breakthrough”! Our site, art and design looks fantastic. Well done! We couldn’t do it without you!” - Yeosh and Jon Push Button Productions
 
Wow, you really know what you are doing & I am impressed! CelebritySites took my dead website & literally brought it to life! I never realized what I was missing until my site was completely revamped! Thank you, thank you, thank you! - Traci Bild
 
“Thanks for everything! We’re crushing last year’s numbers, already. Thanks for helping us spread the word!” -Neill Foshee, Senior Equity Advisor, Hidden Wealth System
 
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