Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Engaging Your Social Media Audience

Most of my posts are based on social media marketing, its trends and best practice methods.  As more businesses continue to start using social media proactively as a marketing tool, there are a few bad habits that I continuously see with the use of social media and business marketing.  For a lack of better knowledge, business owners who try the "do-it-yourself" method for social media marketing are vastly under-utilizing the constantly changing features of social media while at the same time practicing methods of social media marketing that have proven to be unsuccessful.

In my last post, Social Media Blogging: Putting Your Entire Organization to Work , I talked about a couple of different types of social media marketing posts: direct response marketing and informational content.  Direct response marketing in social media is designed so that the user is enticed to click a link with the end result being the sale of a product or service.  An example of a direct response marketing post for a steakhouse restaurant would be, "Click here to get a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees."

In contrast, there is another type of post where informational content is the bait to get users to click on your link.  An example of this type of post for the same steakhouse restaurant would be, "New research shows that eating red meat is good for your heart. Click here for the full article."  Not only is this informational but it also relates to the type of food that the restaurant serves and could possibly lead to more business just by users clicking to read the article and realizing that maybe they should go have a steak dinner at your restaurant.     

Both of these types of posts are designed to draw interest in your business but to social media users, the direct response marketing tactic is seen as a bit more aggressive and may put off a vibe that the business is only interested in getting your money rather than giving you a little bit of valuable information in return.  This is where I see most of the bad habits: posting only one or the other.  The key to running successful social media marketing campaigns is to have a balance of direct response and information posts.  It's OK to ask for business or a referral but if a salesman was going to walk into your office every day asking for you to buy something every time, you might get a bit irritated and blow them off all together.  If you come to their office sometimes and give them information that's important to their own operations, then you might be more welcomed each time you walk through their door.

The business owners who practice the "do-it-yourself" method are not doing anything wrong.  In their minds, they know what they know and what they have experienced.  As my Grandfather used to say, "He don't know and he don't know that he don't know."  In this example, if the business owner doesn't have much success on their own with social media marketing, they might think it is worthless and not worth spending any marketing dollars on it.  But used the right way, social media marketing is less expensive than other forms of traditional marketing and the return on investment is much greater as well.

These marketing methods can also be useful when running sponsored advertisements on social media but you will have to wait until my next post to learn exactly how.  In the meantime, you can contact me directly by visiting our website at Web Crawl Consulting.     

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Social Media Blogging: Putting Your Entire Organization to Work

With the ever growing world of social media, more and more companies are investing in social media marketing either in-house or through a 3rd party management firm.  A recent study revealed that 90% of companies are using social media as a means to promote their services and engage users.  A common issue that we see is the misuse of social media marketing strategies.

There are many different marketing strategies to use on your social media pages.  There is direct response marketing where the goal is to have the user click on the link in the ad that takes them to a sale.  This is the type of social media marketing that most people misuse because they use it too much.  If you are always coming across as trying to push your product on the social media audience, you are likely to be unsuccessful with your social media marketing campaign.  Social media users do not like to feel like they are constantly being sold something.

Another marketing strategy for social media is to engage users by offering free information about your area of expertise.  A marketer can leverage this as a way to gain the user's interest of product-related subjects and get them thinking about your product without directly saying that they need to buy your product.  There are different ways to accomplish this but I would like to focus on big business strategy.  Most of my topics cover solutions for small and medium sized businesses, but large businesses can use their size to their advantage when it comes to creating mass amounts of usable, original content that will help not only with search engine optimization but also engage users through social media.

Open Forum Company Blog

The concept is simple: Your company has many employees.  Your employees should be industry experts in their field and might be a great source of information related to the company, services offered, solutions, etc.  They don't have to be the top executives of the firm.  These can be employees with great ideas throughout the entire firm.  A large company can create a blog for employees to access.  They can submit articles for review and possible placement on the company blog.  This is a great way to create all new original content.  Use free plagiarism scanners that are available online to check for original content.  Explain the rules for submitting content to the blog and have someone review all entries before they are posted live to the website.  Encourage your employees to participate by offering some kind of incentive. 

Not only does this create a massive amount of content but the company can showcase this information through their social media outlets.  Post Blog articles that are most related to the company's services and that are useful to a typical customer.  This is the kind of content that can indirectly turn into a sale.  It is also engaging content and tends to not turn the user off to your future posts that may be geared more toward direct response marketing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Second-Hand Marketing using Facebook

It has been a while but in previous Blog posts I have talked about using Social Media to promote your business and the impact that this has on your website's search engine optimization.  To quickly recap: social media markers such as the number of "Likes" that you have on your business Facebook page positively impact the overall optimization and ranking of your business website to which it is linked.  As the popularity of social media websites grows, search engines such as Google and Bing continue to more heavily weight these markers as it pertains to the ranking of the website.  One of the most difficult tasks in social media marketing is engaging the user to the point that they will "follow" or "like" your page.  This user interaction is what will ultimately lead to a sale, not necessarily from that particular user, but perhaps from someone who follows THEM on social media.  I'm going to coin this as "second-hand marketing" not to be confused with the marketing of second-hand goods.  You could consider this what is generally known as "referral marketing" but social media platforms have taken this to a new level so I'm going to humbly give it a new name. 

The questions now becomes: how do we accomplish successful second-hand marketing using social media?    Software and application developers are getting more creative when it comes to more interactivity and promoting users to take action to claim deals and offers, specifically with Facebook.  There are many third-party developers designing custom applications with specific attributes to encourage second-hand marketing.  One that has been recommended to me and I currently use for my page and my client's pages is Tabsite.  Tabsite has a great platform that offers a WYSIWYG tab designer complete with multiple widgets as well as Engagement Apps that do exactly that: engage the user.  Incorporating these engagement apps on your page can help drive second-hand marketing.

Some of the Tabsite features include the ability to run a Sweepstakes and Contests for users to enter for a chance to win a prize.  This is a way to entice users to give you their contact information for future marketing campaigns.  You also have the option to add a "Buy Now" button to sell products from your Facebook page.  As for second-hand marketing, Tabsite offers a Coupon App, Group Deal App, Share Deal App, and Friend Share App.  The Coupon App allows page admins to design a coupon that users can print and redeem at a retail location. You can adjust the permissions to require users to "Like" your page before gaining access to the coupon.  Once the user "Likes" your page and accesses a coupon, a message will appear on their Facebook timeline informing all of their friends that they have "Liked" your page and that they have claimed a coupon.  The Group Deal App requires a specific number of users to redeem the coupon before the a deal is activated, similar to other group deal providers.  Something to note is that Tabsite does not take a percentage of the Group Deal sales as do other providers.  This app also promotes second-hand marketing in that once the user redeems the group deal, a message will appear on their Facebook timeline for all of their friends to see.  The Share Deal App and the Friend Share App are similar whereas the Share Deal requires the user to share the deal on their Wall in order to access the deal and the Friend Share lets the user choose someone from their friend list and share the deal on their friend's wall.  Additionally, Tabsite allows for full graphic design freedom allowing admins to upload image graphics to the program and use them along with the Engagements Apps and Tab Designer.

The use of Tabsite for Facebook is particularly inexpensive and they offer multiple pricing plans.  To gain access to the most engaging promotions to maximize your page's second-hand marketing, I would recommend the Platinum Plan.  It does take some time to create these promotions and monitor their success so you might consider hiring a social media marketing firm for management of your page. 

Remember: Facebook does have rules for providing promotions and contests.  These are available through Facebook's policies.  If you have any questions, please contact me via our website at Web Crawl Consulting.  To learn more, please read more at Social Media Marketing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

'Dark Google' and Your Privacy

It's been a pretty slow couple of weeks with changes to search algorithms but I did come across some information on what has been coined, "Dark Google."  It relates to Google searches, analytical data available through Google and your privacy.

About a year ago (October 2011), Google announced that in an effort to shield search information and other private information linked to your Google user account, they would block your information from the domain data when you performed a search and clicked on an organic link.  An organic link is created naturally and differ from traffic from referral sources and paid links such as the sponsored ads you see on search engine results pages.  For example, right now I am logged into my Google account in order to write this blog posting.  If I were to conduct a search without logging out, this search data would be blocked and would appear as "not provided" to the Google Analytical Data for whatever website I visited as a result of that search.  Right?  Wrong!

The Real Deal
Google decided to make this information available if a user clicked on paid or sponsored ads.  This is how Google collects billions of dollars in revenue: through paid ads.  It makes business sense to allow advertisers paying for ad space access to this type of search data so they can better target their ads towards a specific audience.  But is it ethical to provide this search data for a fee?

Other companies have been forced by shareholders to increase their revenue through paid advertising.  Facebook released a Promotions feature a few years back and offered this as a free tool for business page owners.  Now, this services costs a fee and is now available to regular users as well.  Globally, online advertising revenue hit $17 billion in the first half of 2012.  Some project yearly revenue to reach $143 billion by 2017.  

The SEO Data
Website publishers have been noticing a very large increase in "not provided" search data in their Analytics since this initiative took effect.  Most publishers, about 35%, are reporting between 30-50% of their search terms "not provided."  My business website, Web Crawl Consulting, has 41% of its search terms "not provided."  In the SEO reporting world, this poses a threat to 'business as usual' methods.  SEO firms must utilize multiple reporting tools to gather all pertinent data for their clients.  But SEO isn't all just keywords and phrases.  The big picture is how to drive traffic to your website.       
In Reality

From a business standpoint, I get it.  As a publicly traded company, there is much pressure to raise as much revenue as possible to make shareholders happy.  There are over 1 billion users on Facebook and 500 million Google + accounts.  It's free to sign up and use most of the services they provide but at the end of the day, companies have to turn a profit.  They have to get creative in order to meet multiple goals and some of these goals become intertwined.  I think people should be aware of how their information is being shared online.  Don't become like South Park's Kyle in "The Human Centipad" episode.      

Friday, October 26, 2012

Building Links to your Site: The Future Trend

There are many large internet marketing firms out there that promise to link their customers' websites to other webpages throughout their network and list them in their directory as well.  This is a form of SEO practice called "link building" which is very important when it comes to search page ranking.  Link buyers beware: this certain form of link building is being targeted by Google through their algorithm changes made this year.

These web directories have been taking ranking hits this year as Google has rolled out the changes.  It appears as if Google is trying to drive better link building strategies, in effect, saying that it is better to earn quality links than to pay for an inclusion in a directory or network.  So what does this mean and how do we earn more valuable links?

Here's the logic behind link building:  you have a business website that you are trying to rank higher on the web.  By building links across the internet, you can generate more relevant traffic to your site by gaining links on highly trusted websites which essentially acts as a point or vote for your site.  The key phrase is "highly trusted websites."  You want to make sure that whoever is creating links to your site across the internet is doing so on trusted sites, otherwise, that link won't count as much or at all towards your site's ranking. 

One way to build high trusted links that will most likely also drive traffic to your site is through social media.  It's free to sign up and since so many people use social media sites, they are highly trusted on the internet.  Web Crawl Consulting offers full social media marketing management for businesses looking for help in this area. 

Another way, although not as strong, is through blog content writing and blog comments.  By getting published on other sites, you are often allowed to include a link back to your website.  Keep in mind that your blog and comments should be related to your website's industry.

To see a more on this subject, please see the video at The Death of Link Building.

Author: Michael Palmer

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Use Social Media to Increase Web Traffic

I recently met with the manager of a business who was asking me how they can increase awareness of some changes to their location in order to drive more customers through the doors.  We did a quick local search for them online using a few different keywords and based on those searches, their website wasn't even appearing on the first or second page.  One thing to keep in mind is that they have had an active website for about 10 years now but their on-page SEO was non-existent and they are also not using social media to promote their business.

Next, we did a quick competitive analysis of a few related businesses who were appearing on page 1 of the search engine results.  At first glance, the competition's websites weren't all that impressive in comparison.  Then we took a look at the competition's social media activity... AND IT WAS BOOMING.  One had over 1600 "likes" on Facebook and have been open for less than 2 years. 

Social media is becoming ever more of an important factor in how a website is ranked by search engines.  It's a great way to promote business by posting about daily events, promotions or even just to get the name out their and keep it on customer's minds.  It's free advertisement but someone has to put in the work to gain those connections and keep the updates flowing on a regular basis.  It is also a great way to gain referral web traffic to your main website.  When you post something new on your social media page, include a link to your website.  People are more likely to click on it to see if there is anything else new going on at your business.  Of course, it also helps to keep your website updated on a continuous basis so that when the user does click on the website link, they are presented with new information that may drive them to your business.

I recently read an article from a popular Blogger who was talking about the new age of link building.  Link building is the practice of obtaining links on other websites that refer viewers of that site back to your website.  This is a very important practice in SEO.  It's a way for one website to say, "Hey, I trust this other website to provide good and relevant information and I would recommend that you visit them."  Search engines continue to change the way that they rank relevant links.  The trend is slowly going towards social media linking whether it be through Facebook, Twitter or local places reviews such as Yelp! or Google Places.  In the mind of the search engines, this new trend of link building provides more credible linking because it is a more social way gaining traffic to your site rather than paying to have your site listed in a large directory.  It's also a way for other users to socially recommend your business and as many people know, the best customers are the ones that refer others to your business.   

Author: Michael Palmer

Friday, October 12, 2012

Google Makes Another Search Algorithm Change

After making a few major updates to their algorithm in the past couple of weeks, Google announced again that they have made another update.  This update is being referred to as "Top Heavy 2" and pertains to web page layout criteria.  This update is expected to only impact a minimal amount of sites, but the reason for the update is to assign a lower rank to sites that are heavy with paid advertisements along the top tier of the each page.  To rationalize, Google says that users want to see content related directly to their search as soon as they enter a website.  This algorithm change will negatively impact those sites with a cluster of advertisements along the top portion of the site.  The question now becomes: how much is too much?

The original update was ran back in January of 2012.  Many webmasters, however, are reporting that they have been seeing more ranking changes related to this update between now and then which leads some people to think that there have been other updates since.  Another issue is that with all of the recent changes that Google has made in recent weeks, some SEOs are complaining that they are all happening too close together (almost on top of each other) making it more difficult to keep websites current to algorithm guidelines.

As I see it, the only reason to place an enormous amount of ads on your page is to maximize potential revenue.  It DOES mean that the user will have to scroll in order to find the relevant content within that particular site so I applaud Google on this change if it heightens the user's search experience.

Please visit our website and follow our blog for more changes that affect the ranking of your company's website.  www.webcrawlconsulting.com
Author: Michael Palmer