Archive for December, 2010
To keep up with changes on the SEO landscape and make sure I’m consistently utilizing the most effective techniques on behalf of clients, I read a lot of articles and blog posts about SEO. Most still focus on the same basic areas:
- • Keyword research
- • On-page optimization (content, headings, meta tags)
- • Links (external and internal)
And to be fair, even with all of the changes in search over the past year, those basics remain vitally important to search success. But here are three areas where many companies aren’t realizing the synergistic benefits of coordination with their SEO efforts:
Blogging: given that less than half of companies—both small businesses and the Fortune 500—actively maintain industry blogs, this is an underutilized area for SEO benefit. While there are several benefits of business blogging beyond SEO, the ability of a blog to enhance an organization’s presence in search is substantial. Blogs are a source of fresh content, which search engines love. It’s easier to incorporate new keyword groups, naturally, in a blog post or series of posts than it is to rewrite sections of a corporate website. And blog content is more likely to attract natural links from other sites than is standard marketing copy, as it’s inherently more interesting.
Public Relations (PR): trying to manually build links from high-quality sites is difficult, tedious and time-consuming. But a well-written and optimized press release can generate dozens or even hundreds of links from quality news sites and blogs overnight. First, make sure the press release itself it well-optimized (e.g. keywords used in the title and early in the body copy). Then include text links back to specific pages on your website, e.g. linking a term like records management software back to an informational page devoted to that topic. Finally, use online press release distribution sites to spread your news far and wide.
Social Media: while social media adoption is rapidly increasing, these efforts aren’t always coordinated with SEO or appreciated in terms of search benefits. If a company has a quality Twitter following, its Twitter account is likely to appear in the top five results in branded searches. Links from social bookmarking sites can improve the rank of content-rich pages buried in your site’s navigational structure. The major search engines are increasing incorporating social signals into their search results. And it’s important to recognize that not all search happens on search engines any more; it’s also important to optimize for search within social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.
By getting different teams working together and integrating these efforts with SEO, enterprises can maximize both the direct effects of strong PR and social media activities as well as increasing their visibility to buyers through search.
Rudolph in red-hosed rain gear.
Merry Christmas from Webbiquity!
Though business use of social media is rapidly increasing, many executives remain skeptical of its value. From a pure lead generation / ROI standpoint, this skepticism isn’t entirely unjustified; research from earlier this year showed that branding metrics (increased brand exposure, webs traffic, email subscribers partnerships)—not strict revenue or ROI measures—topped the list of benefits that b2b marketers realized from social media activities. A more recent study reported by Forbes stated that while “60% (of small businesses surveyed) credit social media with positively impacting their businesses…(only) 36% have attracted new business as a result of their social media efforts.”
The bottom line is that while social media marketing definitely provides benefits (such as a higher conversion rate for organic search traffic), it’s not generally effective as a direct promotion tool. In fact, trying to use social media primarily as an advertising and direct response medium is viewed as boorish social media behavior and likely to backfire, doing a brand more harm than good.
Rather than trying to force the proverbial square peg into a round hole by using social media in ways it’s not effective, take a broader view of the business benefits it offers. Here are seven valuable ways to use social media for business beyond direct selling or lead generation.
1. Share content (your own and others’). Producing and sharing content with your market both attracts prospective buyers and educates them, potentially shortening sales cycles. Content marketing doesn’t always produce immediate or direct results, but it does increase brand recognition, credibility, online visibility and yes—sales—over time. In the research cited above, 74% of marketers who have been using social media for at least two years report that it has helped them close new sales. Social media marketing requires a commitment over time; it’s the not an approach where you can dip your toes in the water and expect immediate success. But for those marketers willing to produce and promote their own content (building credibility) and valuable content produced by others (expanding their influence network), social media pays off.
2. Get ideas for product development. Ultimately, no one knows the challenges that your prospects face better than your prospects themselves. And no one knows the benefits and shortcomings of your current products better than your customers. There’s no better source of information than your prospects and existing customers to help generate new product ideas. Marketers no longer have to rely on expensive, contrived focus groups; social media provides a vastly larger, richer, more real-world source of information.
3. Provide customer support. Customers are increasingly seeking support through social media channels, as well as complaining via social media about poor product and service experiences. Smart companies are providing social media support options and actively monitoring social media networks for brand and product name mentions. (For example, DirecTV is good at this; JustHost is not.) Using social media channels for customer support can both improve a company’s image—by demonstrating, publicly, responsiveness to customer issues—and reduce customer support costs.
4. Perform competitive and market research. The prospective buyers in your market have been talking about their challenges, and the relative merits and shortcomings of alternative solutions and vendors, for as long as your market has existed. Social media brings these discussions into the open. Marketers no longer have to rely on expensive research methods or proprietary data sources to get this information. Tracking mentions of competitors and industry terms using social media monitoring software provides a vast trove of inexpensive, real-time competitive and market intelligence.
5. Answer prospect questions. It’s no longer the biggest ad budget that wins. People want to buy from companies that are smart, helpful and responsive. Social media provides the mechanism to demonstrate those qualities. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, community sites (e.g. Toolbox.com, Focus, Ulitzer) and specialized discussion forums all provide opportunities to respond to questions and demonstrate industry expertise. You probably can’t be everywhere, but again social media monitoring tools can help set priorities and provide notification of situations to address.
6. Develop relationships with influencers. Third-party validation has always been more valuable than advertising or other types of self-promotion. Traditionally, customer case studies, PR and analyst relations have filled this role. Social media provides a more direct path to identifying and building relationships with a variety of voices in your market: analysts, journalists, customers, bloggers and other key influencers. If you build and nurture this network, these people will help amplify and validate your message.
7. Facilitate offline connections (e.g., promote events, meet up at trade shows). As valuable as social media is for building and engaging online networks, there is still tremendous benefit to meeting with people IRL and deepening relationships through offline conversations. The social media “big four”–Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs–as well as specialized social event tools like Lanyrd, Meetup.com, Eventbrite and Amiando can all help with arranging and promoting offline opportunities to meet in-person with your online social acquaintances.
In the end, social media activities have to produce a financial return, and they do for companies willing to commit to social media as a new way of doing business, not simply another marketing channel. Just don’t limit your thinking to one specific use for social media tools, and particularly not to one like hard-sell direct response promotion, which is more likely to produce a backlash than success in the social sphere.
Stumped for that last-minute Christmas idea? Books make great gifts, and there’s still time to order for pre-Christmas delivery.
Since you don’t want to take the chance of buying a sleeper however, or a book that’s inappropriate for the recipient, here are nine ideas—books reviewed on the Webbiquity blog this year.
Defy Gravity by Rebel Brown
In Defy Gravity: Propel Your Business to High-Velocity Growth, Rebel Brown shows business owners and executives how to shed the weight of legacy baggage, filter out the noise and focus on those opportunities which provide the best potential for profitable growth…
Social Media Marketing by Liana “Li” Evans
With Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media, the inimitable Liana “Li” Evans has provided the definitive handbook for social media marketers. From her no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point opening chapter on the basics of social media (“It’s Not Easy, Quick or Cheap”) through the final chapter on “Putting It All Together,” Evans tells anyone brave or foolhardy enough to venture into social media marketing what they need to know…
SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath
Don’t you love it when you pick up a book and realize in just the first few pages that the author really gets it? Even better, they don’t just get “it,” but offer a fresh and compelling approach to dealing with the specific problem, situation, condition of modern life, etc.? Well, SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers by Jill Konrath is that kind of book…
Social Media Marketing – An Hour a Day by Dave Evans
Despite its airy title, Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans is anything but a lightweight treatment of this topic. At roughly 340 pages of text plus another 42 pages of worksheets, this is a meaty book, but the end result of following Dave’s hour-a-day guide is a solidly justified, strategic social media marketing plan…
Maverick Marketing by Tom Hayes
In Maverick Marketing: Trailride into the Wild West of New Marketing, Tom Hayes invites readers on a gallop through the new west of innovative marketing campaigns, to help generate new ideas to stand out from the herd…
The Truth About Search Engine Optimization by Rebecca Lieb
Despite being a quick, almost breezy read (how often do you read that said about a book on SEO?), The Truth About Search Engine Optimization packs a tremendous amount of valuable knowledge into a compact barely-200-page space…
eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale by Ardath Albee
Without a solid content strategy to support movement through the marketing and sales cycle, marketing automation software is just a nice email system. The brilliant Ardath Albee provides the missing piece, a reliable recipe marketing automation, demand generation and content marketing success in her new book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale…
The Perfection of Marketing by James Connor
Despite it’s ambitious title, The Perfection of Marketing is a surprisingly accessible and fast-paced read. The book is written in case study fashion, taking the reader through a realistic scenario of a midsized company struggling to build on its past success and take sales to the next level…
Author Andrew King, president of Internet marketing firm Web Site Opimization, LLC has really done it. In Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets, he gives away all the secrets of creating a website and search marketing program that effectively sells products and services…
Need more ideas? Check out the Webbiquity bookstore.
One of the first precepts aspiring writers learn is to “write for your readers.” A technical audience is different from a business one. C-level executives respond to different messages than do mid-level management. Every industry and profession has its own “language.”
The challenge in social media is to be able to consider the needs of multiple audiences at once, because even though you may be aiming a tweet, blog post or Facebook update at a particular group, everyone can see it. Here are five audiences to keep in mind when posting any content or engaging in social media interactions.
Prospective Customers: the most obvious audience. What kind of content will attract them? Think “smart and helpful.” Listen for their problems. Develop content that shows (in a not-too-self-promotional manner) you know how to solve them. Interact and engage with them in their preferred social media venue.
Current Customers: it’s not just customer service. Customer want to know about new developments at your firm, new uses for your products, and successes other customers have achieved. Even more important in the social media realm, however, they want the opportunity to have input. Give them ways to share their ideas, ask questions and express their opinions. Engage them. Your current customers aren’t always interested in what you have to say to prospects, but the reverse is certainly true: prospects will investigate what your customers are saying about you, and watch you interact through social media with them. Make it good.
The Media: more than 75% of journalists say they use social media to research stories. Media and public relations activities are no longer separate from social media marketing. Journalists will look at your content when seeking industry experts to quote. More importantly, they’ll be looking at what your customers are saying about you—and how you respond—when writing about industry trends and developments. If you’re telling journalists about the wonderful benefits your new product delivers, your customers had better be backing up that story.
Other Industry Influencers: bloggers and other social media influencers don’t have the same motivations as journalists and shouldn’t be approached the same way (a point that an awful lot of PR firms have yet to figure out, judging by most of the pitches I see). They will share and amplify your content, if it is interesting and useful. Press releases very rarely meet that standard. Instead, provide shareable resources: how-to blog posts, online tools, infographics, industry-specific glossaries, useful lists, video—any content that has value and is creative.
Prospective Partners: social media is great for connecting with collaborators. Make your value clear, be open to partnering, and then (assuming you’ve followed the “smart and helpful” mantra), others looking for what you to offer in order to supplement their own value will find you.