Archive for April, 2010

Best WordPress Tips and Tools of 2009

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Which tactics and plugins provide the most powerful SEO boost for a WordPress blog? Which tools are best for Twitter integration? How can you make WordPress easier to use for non-technical content contributors? What plugins and techniques should you use to truly personalize your blog?

Best WordPress Tips and Tool of 2009Find the answers to these questions and more here in the best posts and articles about WordPress from last year.

Must See SEO Guide for All WordPress Bloggers by wpbeginner

Noting that “SEO for a WordPress blog is different than SEO for static websites, mainly because of the social nature of blogging technology,” this post provides 16 excellent tips for optimizing a blog for search.

20 of the Best SEO Plugins for WordPress by Mashable

Who knew there were so many SEO-specific plugins for WordPress? A great list, though some promote use of the insidious nofollow tag. In contrast, the Dofollow Plugin won’t hurt your SEO (as long as you’re filtering out spam comments) and it’s much friendlier to your valued commenters than nofollowing their links.

3 Plug-ins That Every Blog Needs for SEO by Clicktelligence

A quick review of three complementary plugins for improving blog SEO.

Platinum SEO plugin – The ultimate wordpress SEO solution by Techblissonline Dot Com

Though I personally use and like the All in One SEO plugin, this is an alternative worth checking out if you want more granular control.

Photo Dropper

One of the fastest, easiest tools for adding photos to blog posts.

How to build a successful blog from conception to delivery by Steve Newman Digital Marketing Blog

A bit rambling, but includes some valuable insights and a nice list of key plugins.

7 Tools To Integrate Twitter With Your WordPress Blog by makeuseof.com

Milind Alvares reviews seven helpful Twitter tools for WordPress, including TweetSuite by Dan Zarrella, which he rates as the most complete Twitter plugin he’s come across.

Using Forms in WordPress by siam communications

A helpful and positive review of the cforms II plug-in for WordPress by Delicious Days.

8 ways to make WordPress easier to use for your clients by Designer Daily

***** 5 stars
An outstanding list of tips and plugins to make the use of WordPress as a CMS easier for non-technical clients or content contributors.

Custom WordPress blog design checklist and walkthrough by The Design Cubicle

Brian Hoff provides a helpful checklist for custom blog designs listing all of the various elements to design and consider when working with a standard WordPress template.

10 Ways to Customize and Personalize your WordPress Blog by Pro Blog Design

Angie Bowen supplies a detailed tutorial, complete with examples, on customizing various elements of a blog’s design including creating a personalized About page, customizing the 404 error page and incorporating social media.

Lazy Blogger’s guide to Super Charge WordPress with 100+ Plugins by Ruhani Rabin

If Angie’s instructions (above) seem like too much work, try jazzing up your blog with a selection of these plugins. But as Ruhani notes, “Do not install all of the
plugins, it (sic) will simply overload your WordPress configuration.”

Top 105 Tips, Hacks, Templates, and Plugins for WordPress by WordPress

As the title promises, links to more than 100 WordPress resources for tasks like SEO, creating a unique design, adding dynamic Javascript search bars and much more.

300+ Resources to Help You Become a WordPress Expert by Web Designer Depot

A treasure trove of theme sources, tutorials, plugins and other valuable resources.

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How Marketers are Using Social Media for Business: New Report

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Whatever questions you may have about social media marketing, you’ll probably find the answers in the 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from white paper guru Michael Stelzner.  This excellent study provides a wide array of answers, statistics and insights. If there was any doubt that social media has become a mainstream marketing channel, 91% of respondents said they are using social media for marketing. Given the nature of the respondents, that figure is very likely higher than the overall business population, but there’s no doubt that social media is now being used in a sizable majority of organizations. Here are a few more of the key findings and my own observations.

2010 Social Media Marketing ReportThe Biggest Question

A year ago, the top questions most marketers had about social media related to tactics, with ROI second. This year, questions about ROI top the list. The report notes that “the question of whether social media works has dropped off the charts completely.” One in three marketers said that measuring results and identifying best practices are their top questions about social media marketing.

Expertise Without Experience?

While 65% of marketers have been involved with social media marketing for a few months, only 14% of businesses are outsourcing any aspect of their social media marketing. This is eerily reminiscent of research findings reported by MarketingSherpa a year ago on the large percentage of marketers who felt they could be social media experts without having social media experience. Diving into social media without guidance from an outside expert risks ineffectiveness at the least, and possibly much worse. You could learn to drive a car without an instructor too, but it’s certainly not recommended. This new report does point out that the use of social media outsourcing does vary by company size, but still only 25 of medium to large enterprises are taking advantage of outside expertise.

Social Media Takes Time

How much time? More than half (56%) of respondents said they spend six hours or more per week on social media marketing, with 30% spending 11 hours or more and 12% spending more than half of their time with social media. Furthermore, the time commitment required grows with experience; those getting started in social media spent on average just an hour per week on it. But for marketers who have been using social media for a few months or longer, the median time jumped to 10 hours per week. That makes perfect sense–as marketers develop more social media connections, it takes longer to manage those relationships. And as social media marketing marketing begins to pay dividends, marketers are motivated to spend more time on it. The one question missing here was what gets included in social media time. Content development is one of the most time-consuming aspects of social media marketing, but other than blogging, it isn’t clear if writing is included in these figures.

Exposure vs. ROI

Interestingly, while guidance on measuring ROI topped the list of questions, “increased exposure for my business” was cited as the top benefit of social media marketing, with 85% of respondents achieving this. The next three most common benefits noted–increased traffic and email subscribers, new business partnerships and help with SEO–are also more measures of exposure than tangible financial return. Metrics related to ROI, such as leads generated and direct sales, were mentioned by only about half of the survey respondents as key benefits of social media marketing.

The report notes that last year, only about a third of marketers said that social media helped reduce their marketing expenses, while nearly half made that claim this year. This seems somewhat surprising; while social definitely reduces media/advertising expenses, it increases labor costs. It would seem logical that for many companies, marketing costs would be shifted, but not necessarily reduced, by the use of social media. Again, it isn’t clear what all gets lumped into this category. If content generation is included, overall costs aren’t likely to change much.

Social Media Means (Business-to) Business…

Nearly 74% of marketers who have been using social media for at least two years report that it has helped them close new sales. B2B marketers were slightly more likely to report increased sales than than their B2C counterparts. And small businesses with anywhere from 2-100 employees were most likely to see this benefit.

Social media is also valuable for establishing new business partnerships. More than half of marketers using social media said it had helped them forge new partnerships. Again, this benefit was more prevalent among b2b companies (61%) than b2b firms (49%).

…But Facebook Means Consumer Marketing

The top social media tools used across all respondents are:

Twitter – 88%

Facebook – 87%

LinkedIn – 78%

Blogging – 70%

Among experienced social media users, those who have been at it for at least two years, an astounding 96% use Twitter. Digging further in the details, b2b marketers are considerably more likely to find value with LinkedIn, and slightly more likely to utilize blogs, than their b2c peers. However, b2c marketers are much more likely to use Facebook; in fact, it is the top social media tool in the b2c space, used by 90% of b2c marketing pros.

What the Future Holds for Social Media Marketing

When asked to look forward, two-thirds of marketers said they plan to increase their use of blogs, Facebook, video, Twitter and LinkedIn. Blogs are the top area in which marketers plan to increase efforts, and small businesses are more enthusiastic about blogging than their larger counterparts.

Only 4% of marketers overall said they have no plans to use Facebook, though again it is favored more highly by consumer than business marketers. 80% of b2c companies, and 85% of large companies, plan to increase efforts here.

93% of all marketers are already using Twitter, and 71% plan to increase this effort.

Consumer marketers are slightly more likely to utilize online video and YouTube than their b2b counterparts (76% vs. 71%), but video is the top area of increased investment for the most experienced social marketers across the two segments.

B2b marketers are significantly more likely (72% vs. 59%) to increase their use of LinkedIn than those on the b2c side.

Finally, mobile marketing is growing in importance, but is a much higher priority for large bc2 companies than for smaller firms or b2b marketing teams.

There’s much more in the 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report as well. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in the current state and future of social media marketing.

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Best Marketing Strategy Insights of 2009

Monday, April 26th, 2010

What strategies and tactics should you employ to maximize business results online? What are the leading marketing thought leaders saying about marketing strategies in 2010? How effective is demand generation software? How do you select the right market research to support your goals? Why is content marketing becoming critical? What key trends on the horizon do you need to be aware of? Can you fire your sales force?

Best Marketing Strategy Insights of 2009Get the answers to these questions and more here in the best blog posts and articles of the past year on marketing strategy.

12 Marketing Minds, One Free eBook by Search Engine Guide

Jennifer Laycock previews a free eBook from Valeria Maltoni featuring thoughts on marketing strategy and tactics from 12 online pros including Beth Harte, Christina Kerley and Matt Dickman.

Don’t Forget the Brand in SEO, PPC and Social Media by Search Engine Journal

Garrett Pierson advises marketers to capitalize on their brands in all areas of online marketing, such as by search-optimizing for all common variants of company and product names, and presenting consistent brand images and messages across all areas of the firm’s social media presence.

Peter Guber’s magic formula for marketing success by iMedia Connection

Jodi Harris summarizes highlights from Mandalay Entertainment Founder and CEO Peter Guber’s keynote speech at the 2009 Entertainment Marketing Summit advising marketers to overcome resistance to change, create memorable stories and great content in order to motivate prospects.

101 Tips from 50 Small Business Bloggers by Open Forum

Glen Stansberry supplies a wealth of strategic guidance packed into short nuggets from a wide range of business thought leaders like Seth Godin, Anita Campbell, Mark Cuban, Jared Reitzin and Matt McGee.

The Marketing Automation & Lead Nurturing Myth by Nurture

A brief but insightful post contending that there is no such thing as “demand creation,” only demand identification and lead nurturing–and counseling marketers to undertake the right kinds of programs, then have patience.

Web Strategy in 2010 by baekdal.com

Thomas Baekdal offers a 22-point checklist for maximizing the way the web works today, from content generation and social media to calls to action.

A CMO’s guide to picking the right market research by iMedia Connection

Michael Estrin advises companies on how to find the most meaningful data for their tactics and brand, including using aggregators help you figure out which data are best for your needs.

What made the Digital Marketing World-Go-Round? 10 Takeaways from the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing World Virtual Conference by Modern B2B Marketing

Maria Pergolino wraps up the key takeaways from this virtual conference, covering areas from social media integration and landing page optimization to relationship-building and sales-marketing alignment.

Content Marketing / Custom Publishing Research – Marketers Telling the Story by Junta42

Joe Pulizzi reviews research from King Fish Media on the state of content marketing and provides some interesting statistics on the scope and ROI of custom content creation. His conclusion: “We are all publishers now.”

7 Free or Cheap Ways to Effectively Promote Your Business Online by Dumb Little Man

Actually, this post presents eight strategies for online promotion ranging from social networking and video to PR and local portal sites. It also includes links to additional resources to dig deeper into each area.

5 marketing megatrends you can’t ignore by iMedia Connection

The brilliant Adam Kleinberg expounds on five megatrends–including mass collaboration, constant connectivity and globalization–and details their impacts on marketing strategies.

Why Content Strategy is So Important by Acsellerant

Bob Leonard argues that marketers must become publishers, then details the seven components of a successful content strategy.

In Social Media, It’s Not Just Business, It’s Business-To-Business by Brian Solis

***** 5 Stars
Social media thought leader Brian Solis disects shifts in b2b marketing spending, making extensive use of data from eMarketer on metrics such as changing budget allocations, objectives of using social networks and other social media sites, ROI measurements and more.

Preparing for a world without salespeople by iMedia Connection

Reid Carr muses about how the rapid increase of online information and spread of social media are changing the sales process, particularly for younger consumers. Making the case that “companies need to adapt to the changing environment, in which the next generation of consumers doesn’t want to talk to your salespeople,” Reid provides guidance on how different types of firms can adapt to this shift.

5 Social Media Myths by Digital Tonto

A thought-provoking post on the true impact (smaller than you may think?) social media will have on other, more traditional form of media and information distribution. Well worth a read.

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Best Email Marketing Strategies and Tactics of 2009

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

While social media marketing gets the headlines, email marketing remains an effective and increasingly used tool in marketer’s toolboxes. After nearly 20 years, it may not seem as sexy as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but used properly, it’s a proven medium that generates cost-effective results. How has email marketing changed in the last few years? What tactics should email marketers be using today to grow subscriber lists, maximize deliverability and generate click-throughs and conversions? How can email and social media marketing be combined to increase the effectiveness of both?

Best Email Marketing Tips of 2009Get the answers to these questions and more here in the best blog posts and articles on email marketing from the past year.

Email’s new role in digital marketing by iMedia Connection

Simms Jenkins outlines five shifts in email marketing fundamentals and how these developments should influence new campaigns.

7 Tips For Responsible Direct Email Marketing by 7th Dimension Sites

Scott T. Smith prsents a helpful list of tactics for using email marketing the one “right way.”

3 steps to stellar welcome emails by iMedia Connection

Chris Marriott offers guidance on capitalizing on new email subscribers based on common plotlines of 1980s teen coming-of-age movies.

Make Email and Social Media Work Together: Interview with Sergio Balegno by MarketingSherpa

Sean Donahue interviews senior analyst Sergio Balegno about tips for combining social media with email marketing to help “one message exponentially, virally grow to reach a very large audience.”

Email, Social Media Merged To Create Marketing Channel by MediaPost Online Media Daily

On the same theme as the post above, the brilliant Laurie Sullivan demonstrates how to combine email marketing services with tools like Facebook, Bebo and Digg to extend the reach of email messages through social channels.

10 Ways to Get More Clicks in Your Email Campaigns by VerticalResponse

Janine Popick offers helpful tips for increasing email click-throughs including image liks, headline links, free gifts, expiration dates and personalization.

Best practices for recruiting email subscribers by iMedia Connection

Spencer Kollas supplies advice on boosting email subscriptions by using other common processes to attract subscribers and offering customers clear incentives for signing up.

How to Get Your Mail Past the Inbox Bouncers by ClickZ

Noting that “getting your e-mail opened and read by your recipients is like trying to get into the most exclusive club in town,” Stefan Pollard explains how to use authentication and better branding “to move (your) e-mail past all the wannabe guests and into the club.”

11 email design best practices by iMedia Connection

Ryan Buchanan details design tips and tricks for organizing your key messages, crafting compelling subject lines, and capitalizing on common reading patterns and use of preview panes.

MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Email Awards Gallery: Get Inspired by These Exceptional Campaigns by MarketingSherpa

Get inspired by MarketingSherpa’s annual gallery of winning email designs that reflect both creativity and effectiveness in delivering exceptional results.

Closing the Click: Eight Tips for Creating Landing Pages that Sell by iMedia Connection

Robert Boman advises using a set of basic techniques for capitalizing on email clicks to convert readers, such as carrying through with consistent imagery, repeating the call to action that drew in the reader, keeping your message relevant and not making readers hunt for the next step to take.

Why do email marketing? by Email Marketing Reports

Mark Brownlow answers objections to email marketing based on concerns about spam and social media using compellig statistics such as “email marketing generated an ROI of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009″ and “a November 2009 survey of B2B marketers found that email marketing was likely to see more spending increase than any other form of online marketing bar website development.”

7 fixes for terrible subject lines by iMedia Connection

Wendy Roth recommends clear language and calls to action, personalization, time-sensitive offers and other techniques for maximizing the impact of this critical element in email campaigns.

Forrester Wave Report Cites Email Marketing Service Provider Leaders by Demand Gen Report

Noting that “Forrester’s March 2009 US Interactive Marketing Forecast Online Survey found that 92% of respondents are currently using email marketing and spending is expected to balloon to $2 billion dollars by 2014,” Forrester ranks the best providers based on their research; ExactTarget, Yesmail and Experian’s CheetahMail are among the top picks.  (Keep in mind however that Forrester’s primary audience is large enterprises; for small to midsize firms, ESPs like Constant Contact and VerticalResponse should definitely be in the consideration set.)

How to protect your email reputation by iMedia Connection

David Fowler shares tips for increasing deliverability using double opt-in, careful list selection and working with email service providers on feedback loops.

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Five Big Shifts in Social Media Marketing

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Social media reflects a larger trend toward buyer empowerment that has changed not only the practice but the underlying philosophies of marketing over the past several years. Power has gradually shifted over the past couple of decades from manufacturers (e.g. HP, P&G) to the channel (e.g. TigerDirect, Wal Mart) to consumers and b2b buyers. Prospective customers are now using technologies like iPods, TiVo and ad blockers to avoid advertising messages. Interruption marketing isn’t quite dead, but it is no longer nearly as effective as it used to be. Marketers now have to work harder and smarter to earn the attention of potential customers, not just buy it.

Shifts in Social Media MarketingWhile many if not most marketers have adjusted to the new practices required, one still sees corporate Facebook pages with few fans and no clear purpose, Twitter streams filled with nothing but obnoxious “Hey! Buy my stuff now!” messages, repackaged marketing brochures masquerading as thought leadership content and the like. B2c and b2b buyers alike are tuning out such messages; they increasingly listen to each other, to key influencers, and to marketers willing to add real value beyond just schlepping their own products and services when making their purchase decisions.

Just as social media has changed the sales practice, here are five shifts that savvy marketers recognize and capitalizing on to increase sales in an age of consumer empowerment generally and the rise of social media specifically.

Buyer control vs. vendor control: in traditional interruptive marketing, vendors produced messages (advertisements, direct mail, email blasts) and prospective buyers consumed these messages. Production was active, consumption was passive. That equation is now reversed. Buyers control which messages they want to see. Prospects seek out the information they want, and respond to messages that are entertaining, compelling and/or informative. They will help spread great content virally, while ignoring or mercilessly parodying what they don’t like.

Desired content vs. marketing messages: responding to the first trend, marketers are now challenged to produce helpful or interesting content rather than just brochures and marketing collateral. To be sure, marketing content still has its place, but that place is now when the prospect wants it, not at the front end of the consideration cycle. To earn a buyer’s attention up-front, marketers must produce attractive content, whether through entertainment or games in the b2c space, or problem-solving, research-oriented materials in b2b marketing.

Dialog vs. broadcast: in perhaps the biggest shift produced by the rise of social media, prospects now seek two-way communication with vendors rather than passively consuming marketing messages. In the early days of the internet, traditional forms of media (magazines, newspapers, marketing brochures) were simply moved from print to online; communication was still primarily one-way. Forums and blogs began to change that, empowering prospective purchasers to ask questions of vendors, and of each other. Now, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media tools have exploded this capability. Conversations are less expensive than broadcasting from a media standpoint, but much more costly in terms of time. Budgets consequently must shift from buying one-way media to adding personnel or supplementing staff with outside experts who can successfully engage potential buyers in product conversations.

Ongoing vs. campaigns: Traditional marketing often revolved around campaigns, such as a defined run period for a specific advertisement or series of ads, that had a clear beginning and endpoint. Social media marketing, in contrast, is ongoing. Try using a blog specifically for a campaign and you’ll end up with an abandoned blog and disillusioned readers. Traditional campaigns were about producing sales in the short term; social media is about developing relationships that lead to (increased and ongoing) sales over the long term. Well-crafted campaigns led to one-time buyers, who may or may not have returned. The successful use of social media produces long-term customers and brand advocates. This shift has also altered best practices for successful product launches.

Indirect vs. direct measures: Traditional advertising and marketing campaigns often lent themselves to convenient, direct measures of success (or failure), e.g.: 100 people saw our ad, 10 responded, and two purchased. ROI was a simple calculation. Social media can be measured, certainly, but the metrics are frequently less direct and ROI challenging to measure with any precision. While research shows that social media engagement increases revenue, direct tactical measurement is difficult. For example, while it’s generally better to have more Twitter followers than fewer, quality matters more; better to have fewer but more engaged followers than a bunch of spammy followers who inflate follower count without adding any value. Retweets are valuable, but exactly how much are they worth? What’s the value of engaging an influential blogger who may indirectly drive buyers your direction, even though he or she will never actually be your customer? What’s the value of answering a question or engaging in a discussion on LinkedIn? Certainly, marketers should measure what they can, such as website traffic driven by various social media sites and the quality (conversions, time spent on site, etc.) associated with that traffic, but beware the temptation of excessive “last click attribution”—just because a visitor who came from Twitter ended up buying your product or service doesn’t mean the microblogging service should get all of the ROI credit. They may very well have seen your messages and interactions in a dozen other social media and more traditional forums first.

The genie of consumer empowerment is unlikely to be stuffed back into the magic lamp soon, if ever. While the specific tools for engagement and social media interaction will no doubt continue to evolve over time, marketers who understand and adapt to the shifts produced will be well positioned for ongoing success, and unaffected by the continuing decline in the power of interruption marketing.

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