Archive for November, 2011

Best Social Media and Digital Marketing Research and Statistics of 2011, Part 1

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Sure, teenagers spend a lot of time on YouTube, but did you know that three-quarters of business executives watch work-related online videos weekly? Or that 73% of U.S. companies now use social media for marketing (though the figure varies widely based on size of company)? Or which four cities rank ahead of Seattle and San Francisco as the “most networked?” Or that49% of B2B journalists write blogs, and 84% are on Twiter? Or that a third (or more, depending on which study you believe) of all clicks go to the top result on a search engine query?

Best of 2011 - Social Media Statistics and ResearchGet the details behind these stats and many, many more here in more than 40 of the best articles and blog posts about social media, search, budgeting and digital marketing research, facts and statistics of 2011 so far.

Social Media Stats, Facts and Research

Does Facebook Need To Build A Search Engine? by MediaPost SearchBlog

Laurie SullivanSocial media sites now drive more traffic to many popular sites—including Comedy Central, NFL.com and Netflix—than Google does. Citing these and other statistics, Laurie Sullivan ponders the meaning of the term “search engine.” She quotes Wedbush Equity Analyst Lou Kerner, who has called Facebook “‘the second Internet,’ with time spent on Facebook and page views surpassing Google search.” Facebook has become the (far more successful) second coming of what AOL was back in the early 90s. As Mark Twain allegedly quipped, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Executives & Online Video [CHARTS] by eStrategy After Hours

David EricksonDavid Erickson shares eMarketer findings about the popularity of online video among business executives. Among the findings: “Three-quarters of all executives said they watched work-related videos on business websites at least once a week, and more than half did the same on YouTube.” Nearly a quarter prefer video content to text. And nearly two out of three executives have visited a vendor’s website after viewing an online video elsewhere.

Content Sharing Trends in 2010 [Infographic] by Pamorama

Pam DyerPam Dyer reports on data from AddThis showing the top methods for sharing information from more than 300 options. Not too surprisingly, Facebook is the #1 method for passing along content, followed by email and then Twitter. Gmail and StumbleUpon are the fastest growing methods, however.

B2B marketers: give us inbound, social, e-mail, marketing automation and content by Conversion Marketing Forum

J-P DeClerckAfter pondering some of the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, J-P De Clerck shares data from MarketingSherpa showing that lead generation is (by far) the top priority for B2B marketers (with 78% saying that generating high-quality leads is their top priority) while budget increases are going overwhelmingly to inbound marketing tactics (with 60%+ spending more on content, social media and SEO).

Pew: Republicans, Democrats Use Social Media Equally by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Mark Walsh summarizes research findings from a Pew survey revealing that “22% (of) online adults used Twitter or other social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace in the months leading up to the November 2010 elections…Among social network users, 40% of Republican voters and 38% of Democratic voters used these sites to become involved politically.” At least something is bipartisan.

Social Media 2010, The Fastest Growth Ever by MyCorporateMedia

Randy SchrumRandy Schrum supplies some interesting social media statistics, such as: Twitter users post more than 65 million tweets per day. Over 2 billion videos are viewed every day on YouTube. And 73% of U.S. companies now use social media for marketing.

16 social media statistics that might surprise you by Communications Conversations

Arik HansonArik Hanson lists social media stats from various sources showing that 75% of brand ‘Likes’ on Facebook come from advertisements. 22% of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing blog that has at least one post in the past 12 months. Fridays at 4 p.m. eastern time (U.S.) are the most retweetable day/time of the week, per Dan Zarella of HubSpot. (I don’t buy that one, as in my experience, Twitter pretty much dies between noon on Friday and early Saturday morning.) 48% of Twitter users say they rarely or never check Twitter. (That I believe.)

Report: CMOs Eager To Integrate Social Tools by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Gavin O’Malley reports that chief marketing officers have embraced social media: “From Facebook to Twitter, a full 90% of chief marketing officers now participate in an average of three or more social media activities.” And 93% planned to use some form of user-generated content in their marketing efforts this year, including customer stories, product suggestions or ideas, and customer reviews.

65 Terrific Social Media Infographics by Pamorama

Writing that “These snapshots communicate essential information to help marketers make sense of the social networking space and how people are using it in their everyday lives to communicate and share information and ideas,” Pam Dyer shares a huge collection of infographics on everything from the history of social networking to how marketers are using social media to the meteoric rise of Twitter to how people are using social media on mobile devices.

Is a Blog Still Important in 2011? by Edelman Digital

Jonny BentwoodNoting that “a blog is a focal point and acts as a base of operations for communications,” Jonny Bentwood details the benefits of business blogging as well as the growth stats: 39% of U.S. companies are currently using blogs for marketing purposes, up from 29% in 2009 and just 16% in 2007.

Minneapolis is 4th-Most Socially Networked City by Twin Cities Business

Congrats to my fellow Minneapolitans! According to the TCB article,”If you live or work in Minneapolis, chances are good that you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and/or a LinkedIn page. The city ranked fourth on Men’s Health magazine’s just-released list of the ‘most socially networked cities.’ Minnesota’s most populous city earned an A+ grade and ranked just behind Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; and Denver, Colorado.” Minneapolis ranked ahead of Seattle (#5), San Francisco (#6) and Boston (#9). Oh yeah.

Social Ads Spur Big Engagement Opportunities by iMedia Connection

According to research from social media advertising firm appssavvy, social activity ads (e.g., “an item in a social game or appear after a social network user fills out an online poll”) significantly outperform rich media ads, performing roughly twice as well. Paid search ads, however, still outperform both.

Social Media Statistics by The B2B Guide to Social Media
***** 5 Stars

This is one of the most amazing and comprehensive sources of social media statistics anywhere (other than the Webbiquity blog marketing research section, of course). Among the multitude of stats you can find here about blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, video, social gaming and more:

  • • 49% of B2B journalists have blogs. 14% of all blogs are about technology and internet marketing.
  • • Only 20% of blogs attract 10,000 or more unique visitors per month; 48% draw less than 1,000 readers each month.
  • • 70% of marketers planned to increase their social media budgets by 10% or more in 2011.
  • • 85% of B2B journalists are on Facebook. Almost one-third of all Facebook posts are created from mobile devices.
  • • The number of monthly active users on Twitter increased 82% from January to September 2011.
  • • 84% of journalists are on Twitter.
  • • 58% of people said “they unfollowed someone because their tweets appeared automated” while 34% said the same because the offenders tweeted about themselves too much.
  • • 66% unfollowed someone due to excessive tweeting (35 tweets per day is considered, on average, the upper limited of acceptable tweeting).
  • • And much more.

The Winners & Losers of Social Networking [INFOGRAPHIC] by Mashable Social Media

Jolie O'DellObserving that “social networking as a whole might be leveling off,” Jolie O’Dell explains which networks are still on the rise (e.g., Tumblr, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn) and which are declining (MySpace – there’s a shock, Friendster, Ning and Hi5) as well as sharing details about the demographics of several top social networks (e.g. Habbo users are the youngest, Plaxo’s the oldest, and LinkedIn’s the wealthiest).

Under 1 Percent of Web Visits Comes from Social Media by Marketing Pilgrim

Cynthia BorisCynthia Boris shares research findings from ForeSee Results indicating that, across a cross-section of websites, less than 1% of visits come directly from a social media URL, though an additional 17% of visits are “influenced” by social media. That sounded low to me, so I checked some of the B2B technology client sites I manage. Their social media traffic ranged from 4% to 9% of total traffic. And nearly 15% of visits to this blog come from social media sources (including other blogs). So, check your own stats; your mileage may vary.

Study: 93% of B2B Marketers Use Social Media Marketing by Social Media B2B

Adam Holden-BacheThe always insightful Adam Holden-Bache reports that according to research from BtoB Magazine, “B2B marketers overwhelmingly favor ‘the big 3′ social media channels, with LinkedIn being the most-used channel (72%). Facebook (71%) and Twitter (67%) are close behind…Other channels used by B2B marketers include YouTube (48%), blogging (44%) and online communities (22%).” Although B2B marketers are increasingly using social media channels in their marketing and PR efforts, however, Adam notes that “75% of B2B marketers who conduct social marketing say they do not measure the ROI of their social marketing programs.”

Report: Where Marketers are Focusing in Social Media by Social Marketing Forum

Jim DucharmeJim Ducharme demonstrates the increasing importance of social media for marketers based on the amount of time spent on such efforts. 58% of marketers devote six hours or more each week to social media, while 15% spend more than half their time with it. The amount of time spent tends to increase with experience. Preferences also shift: while Facebook is the top network of choice for those with one to three years of social media marketing experience, Twitter is the favorite tool of those who are more seasoned.

Report: Future Plans for Focus in Social Marketing by Social Marketing Forum

In a follow-up piece to the post above, Jim Ducharme discusses social media marketers’ future plans. The largest percentage (77% overall, 82% in large enterprises) plan to invest more in YouTube and online video in the coming year. 75% intend to increase efforts on Facebook and blogging, 73% on Twitter, and 71% on LinkedIn. Just 19% plan to increase efforts with GroupOn.

Social Media 2011 Just The Stats by Reciprocate

Karen EmanuelsonKaren Emanuelson shares research from HubSpot showing that there are 10.3 billion searches on Google each month; one-third of U.S. consumers spend at least three hours per day online; 9 out of 10 internet users visited a social networking monthly last year; more than half of all internet users read blogs at least monthly; and many more fascinating and useful statistics.

Marketers: Content Sharing Fuels Social-Media Boom by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Gavin O’Malley delves into the differing social media habits of men and women. “While women outnumber men online — 53% vs. 47% — males are more likely to share digital media content — 51% vs. 49%.” Men are more likely to share information that they feel is important and helpful to others (such as how-to tutorials) while women are slightly more likely to share information about “common interests like politics, art and parenting.” One other interesting finding: “60% of content shared on social platforms includes a link to an external site.”

Study: Marketers Reporting Social Media ROI of 100, 200, Even 1,000 Percent by Forbes

Lisa ArthurLisa Arthur nets out research from MarketingSherpa showing that “the overall average social media ROI reported by CMOs who are measuring it is a whopping 95 percent. What’s more, nearly one-third (30 percent) of those in the survey reported a ROI of at least 150 percent!” Still, 54% of survey respondents identified “achieving or increasing measurable ROI from social marketing programs” as a top challenge, while 55% said the same for developing an effective social media strategy and 45% converting social media followers into paying customers. Most importantly, Lisa shares the study’s conclusion that “marketers who are new to social media tend to focus on “fast and easy” tactics…rather than on those that show a much higher level of effectiveness (blogger relations, SEO, e.g.). More advanced social media marketers work from a strategic plan and know that often the most difficult and time-consuming tactics are worth the extra effort because they are the most effective.”

What Marketers Can Learn from Consumers’ Sharing Habits by eMarketer

According to an AOL/Neilsen report, “93% of internet users turn to email to share content, while 89% use social networks and 82% use blogs.” Sharing habits differ based on the group being shared with, however, as “Social networks are the top method for sharing content with friends (92%)…In sharing online content with the general public, consumers prefer to use message boards (51%) or blogs (41%).” 60% of shared information contains links to published content (online publications, blogs, etc.); just 4% contains links to non-blog corporate website content.

Infographic: What the Largest Social Media Companies Are Worth by The Atlantic

Derek ThompsonIs there another tech bubble forming? Hard to say, but draw your own conclusion after taking a look at these possibly “over the top” valuations from Derek Thompson. Facebook was valued at $15 billion in 2007, but is expected to go public next year at a valuation of close to $100 billion. Valuation timelines and stats are also shown for Skype, delicious, Groupon, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Large Enterprise Social Media Research, Facts and Statistics

Inc. 500 Social Media Success by e-StratgyBlog.com

Stats guru David Erickson compiles figures for the popularity and year-over-year change of several social media marketing tactics among Inc. 500 companies. 93% now consider online message boards successful, while 86% say the same for blogging and 81% for Twitter; all figures similar to the previous year. Online video and Facebook increased in popularity while podcasting fell somewhat.

Fortune Global 100 Social-Media Savvy, Getting Savvier by MarketingProfs

According to research from Burson-Marsteller, 77% of Fortune Global 100 companies now have Twitter accounts (up from 65% in 2010), 61% are on Facebook (up from 54%), 57% have YouTube channels and 36% maintain blogs. Geographically, 83% of large companies in Europe are on Twitter, versus 72% in the U.S. and 67% in the Asia-Pacific region. However, Asic-Pac companies tend to be more engaged than their large firm counterparts elsewhere, as measured by average number of Twitter followers, Twitter @ mentions and Facebook page “likes.”

Most Fortune 50 Brands Still Hiding Their Social Media by AdAge Digital

BL OchmanThe delightful B.L. Ochman breaks the news that “Only 44% of the Fortune 50 have any social media icons on their home pages, and 60% hide their Twitter streams. Call Inspector Clouseau if you want to find the rest. Kind of amazing considering the prevalence of social buttons of all types all over the web.” Just 30% include a Facebook icon on their home pages, and only 4% provide a blog link there. Most of these companies do include their social media links somewhere on their websites, but these are often buried on “about,” “contact” or investor pages.

10 Reasons Brands Need a Social Media AOR by iMedia Connection

Avi SavarAsking, “now that social has crossed the chasm, do brands need a dedicated social media agency?,” Avi Savar answers “yes” and explains why. What’s most interesting here though are the statistics showing the disconnect between why companies think consumers follow them in social media and why consumers actually interact with brands through social networks. The biggest disconnect: consumers say that discounts and purchases are their top reasons, while businesses place these at the bottom of the pecking order. 64% of businesses believe consumers follow them to “feel connected” to the brand, and 61% say it is to be part of a community. Just 33% and 22%, respectively, of consumers say they follow brands for those reasons.

Small Business Search and Social Media Statistics, Facts and Research

Small Business Owners Still Don’t Get Search Marketing by MediaPost SearchBlog

Despite findings that show “56% of small businesses that plan to allocate marketing budgets toward search or social media advertising in 2011 admit they need help with some part of their campaigns,” nearly three-quarters try to manage their search campaigns internally, and more than one in five “have a staff member handling SEM in addition to other responsibilities,” (e.g. a non-specialist) reports Laurie Sullivan. In short, while small business owners increasingly understand the importance of digital marketing, most aren’t taking advantage of tools and outside expertise that could improve their results.

Social-Media Study Teasers Unveiled by InformationWeek SMB

Michele WarrenMichele Warren reveals that “the most widely used social media channel for small and midsize businesses are company pages on Facebook (and) SMBs are ditching e-mail marketing in favor of social media advertising.” According to research from the SMB Group, 32% of small businesses have Facebook pages though just 18% use free tools like TweetDeck and only 3% are utilizing fee-based social media tools.

Small Businesses Online Marketing [CHART] by eStrategy After Hours

The prolific David Erickson passes along stats from eMarketer showing that “More than a third (35%) of US small businesses reported using online social networking for marketing, up from 15% in fall 2009. In addition, 12% of respondents were using blogs as a social tactic, nearly double the figure from fall 2009.” Somewhat surprisingly, just 36% of small businesses said they are doing SEO on their websites, and only 17% are using paid search advertising. Over half (56%) say they don’t use social media.

Search and SEO Facts, Statistics and Research

20+ stats you might not know about user search behaviour by Econsultancy

Jake HirdJake Hird shares some interesting findings about web searchers, such as: 37% of people don’t know the difference between paid and organic search results (including 20% of 20-somethings). 20% of people say they click on paid search results “always” or “frequently;” 37% said “rarely” or “never.” 6% said they rarely or never click on organic search results (so why are they searching?!). 48% said that they click on a company or brand if it appears multiple times in the SERPs (which is why web presence optimization is so important) while 28% are more likely to click on results that include a video.” And contrary to results you may have seen elsewhere, “79% will go through multiple pages of results, if their query isn’t answered in the first page.”

The Value Of SEO [CHART] by eStrategy After Hours

How important is a (very) high ranking in the search results? Rounding these numbers from David Erickson, roughly one-third of clicks go to the top result in search; another third go to results two through five; and most of the remaining third click on results six through 20.

Google Click Distribution – How Important is Number One? by Internet Marketing Blog

A study from Cornell University found results different from David’s in the post above. According to this study, more than half of all clicks go to the top link on Google, and almost 90% go to the first five spots. Interestingly, being at #8 or #10 generates slightly more clicks than showing up at #7 or #9.

Search Behavior Shines Spotlight on Organic Results by eMarketer

eMarketer reports several interesting statistics from recent eye-tracking and click studies on Google and Bing. First, paid ads are 3-4 times as likely to be seen if they appear at the top of the organic results as opposed to the right side. Second, 81% of searches on Bing result in a click, versus just 66% on Google (Bing results are more relevant?). And third, “internet users were 22 percentage points less likely in 2010 to rely on search engines to find websites than they were in 2004,” due to both increasing sophistication of internet users as well as greater reliance on social media.

SERPs: The Benefits of Being No. 1 by MarketingProfs

Yet another study on clicks-by-search-rank, this one from Optify, concludes that the top spot in search generates 36% of all clicks, and the top three places combined account for 60%; but appearing at the top of page 2 is actually slightly more productive than being at the bottom of page 1. What’s most notable in these results, however, is the difference in performance of multi-word long-tail terms versus shorter head terms: for long-tail terms, being in the top spot in much less important, as click-throughs are higher in the lower spots on page 1. And in SEM, relatively low-cost long-tail terms (being more specific than head terms) generate significantly higher CTRs than expensive head terms.

SEMPO: Social PPC is Giving Google Adwords a Run for Its Money by MediaPost Search Insider

Rob GarnerRob Garner reports that “Facebook has rapidly become a top PPC advertising vehicle,” and that advertising on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube–while still small compared with search advertising–is growing rapidly. In addition, “Three-quarters (74%) of North American agencies say their clients run PPC campaigns on Facebook.  Three-fourths of companies (75%) use Twitter for brand promotion, and more than a quarter (27%) of companies now use LinkedIn specifically for PPC campaigns.” Note that these results are skewed toward larger enterprises and B2C advertisers. Social media advertising is still a relatively rare tactic among B2B vendors and in the SMB space.

Marketing Budget Trends, Statistics and Figures

Online gets bulk of increased marketing budgets by BtoB Magazine

Kate MaddoxKate Maddox reports that after two years of budget cutting, 52% of marketers planned increased spending for this year. Customer acquisition is the top goal (69%) followed distantly by increasing brand awareness (18%). 79% of marketers planned increased spending on online marketing this year, far more than for any other tactical area. Breaking that out, 71% planned higher spending on their websites, followed by 68% on email, 63% on social media, 57% on search and 51% on web video. 69% of b2b companies now say they are using social media for marketing.

Social Media Marketing Budgets by e-StrategyBlog.com

“In 2010, 53% of social media marketing budgets were spent on Facebook,” according to statistics compiled by David Erickson, while 8% was spent on games and apps and just 3% on Twitter. However, among the Global Fortune 100 firms, 65% use Twitter compared to 54% maintaining Facebook fan pages, 50% having YouTube channels and 33% writing blogs.

B2B Inbound Marketing: Top tactics for social media, SEO, PPC and optimization by MarketingSherpa Blog
***** 5 Stars

Adam T. SuttonAdam T. Sutton summarizes MarketingSherpa survey results showing that website design and optimization is the top budget priority this year, cited by 69% of respondents as an area of increasing investment. Social media is a very close second, followed by virtual events / webinars, SEO, email marketing and paid search. The post also identifies the most effective tactic in each area: for example, the top tactic in SEO is on-page content optimization, while blogging is the most effective social media tactic.

‘Advanced’ Companies’ Spend On Social Media, Nets by MediaPost Online Media Daily

What separates the cutting-edge companies in social media use from other businesses? According to Mark Walsh, reporting on research from Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group, “they have formalized programs, dedicated teams, line-item budgets, and have been at it for more than two-and-a-half years,” among other characteristics. Budgets are a major factor: advanced companies spend nearly twice as much as their more average counterparts on social media generally, and almost 70% more on social-marketing teams specifically.

Other Marketing Research and Statistics

Who Do You Trust? Industry Analysts Reign Supreme by IT Marketing World

Tom PiselloTom Pisello shares findings from SiriusDecisions research showing that industry analysts are viewed as the most trusted source of information by buyers during the B2B IT buying cycle, followed closely by peers. Vendors are viewed as the least credible source (ouch!). However, the “most-trusted sources” vary by stage of the buying cycle. In addition, the study found that “The most favored sources of content during the early stages of IT decision-making are white papers (64.4%), peer referrals (51.1%), webinars (48.9%), trials or demos (42.2%) and analyst reports (37.8%).”

12 Mind-Blowing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know by HubSpot

Marta KaganMarta Kagan shares a dozen interesting marketing stats, among them: “78% of Internet users conduct product research online,” (seems low). A similar number check email on their mobile devices. Blogging is really important–57% of businesses have acquired a customer through their company blog, and businesses with blogs generate 55% higher web traffic. And my favorite: “200 Million Americans have registered on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list. That’s 2/3 of the country’s citizens. The other 1/3, I’m guessing, probably don’t have a home phone anymore.”

Is Working From Home Becoming the Norm? [SURVEY] by Mashable Business

Jolie O’Dell brings to light some interesting findings on the state of working from home today, such as: 62% of businesses now allow at least part-time remote work (this varies by business size, with 77% of the largest organizations permitting this). The ability to work from home is rated by employees as the third-most important determinant of job satisfaction. And 56% of decision makers believe that remote workers are more productive.

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Eight Factors to Consider When (Re)Launching a Business Blog

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Over the last decade, business blogs have gone from being a novelty to a leading-edge practice to an essential element for any company seeking to optimize its presence on the web. According to Small Business Trends and HubSpot, the percentage of businesses with blogs has increased from less than half in 2009 to nearly two out of three in 2011.

Considerations When Launching a BlogWhy are so many companies now embracing blogging? In addition to the traditional benefits of business blogging, recent changes in the way search engines rank content have made blogging crucial for obtaining and maintaining high search engine visibility.

Three ranking factors that have recently taken on increased importance from Google (and will therefore likely soon become important to other search engines as well) are content quality and authority, social media links and content freshness. A blog helps on all three fronts much more than a standard corporate website. Google is also placing increased weight on link quality and diversity; thoughtful, helpful blog posts are more likely to attract such links than typical vendor product and service content.

What’s more, blogs are a central component of web presence optimization, and the core of a productive social media strategy.

Once your organization makes the decision to start a blog—or to re-launch one that’s been neglected or has underperformed—here are eight key factors to consider.

1. Location. Will the blog be part of your corporate site or have its own unique URL? The more common practice today is to treat the blog as a section of the website, often with a URL like company.com/blog. The primary advantage of this approach is that all of the SEO value of external links accrues to the corporate site, giving it more authority in the eyes of the search engines.

An alternative approach is to treat the blog as a separate entity with a meaningful URL. For example, if Acme Widgets wants to rank for the very competitive phrase “widget management software,” and their corporate site is at acmewidgets.com, they may want to use the URL widgetmanagementsoftware.com for the blog. This option is worth considering in product categories that are highly competitive in search. It also provides the opportunity to give the blog a distinct and less “corporate” personality of its own, as well as potentially providing the company with an extra spot on the first page of search results.

2. Author(s). The internet is littered with a hundred million abandoned blogs, for two primary reasons: first, it’s a fair amount of work to research and write quality content on a regular basis. And second, there is no instant gratification—it takes time to build an audience and authority with the search engines. Assigning multiple writers (i.e., creating a group blog) can help spread the load and allow for more frequent posting, a variety of styles, and broader topic coverage. Just make sure all of the authors have what it takes to be successful business bloggers: writing skills (of course), but also originality, subject matter expertise, a point of view, and most importantly—persistence.

3. Tone. Sassy? Intellectual? Helpful? Informative? Sophisticated? Technical? While a blog is likely to contain a mix of attributes (particularly a multi-author blog), think about the overall tone and personality your blog should have. Unlike website copy (which tends to be feature/benefit, marketing oriented), a blog can project a distinct and less directly sales-y side of your organization.

4. Design. Some corporate blogs (particularly those integrated into the company website) simply match the look and feel of the corporate website as closely as possible. But while a company blog should carry over certain key branding elements (e.g., colors, logo), it can also have some distinctiveness to its look, reflecting the tone (above) and setting it apart from the “commercial” content of the corporate site.

5. Platform. Just kidding, this really isn’t a tough decision: use WordPress. Sure, there are alternatives, ranging from other free or low-cost platforms (e.g., Blogger, TypePad) to fee-based systems (e.g., Compendium, HubSpot) to tools built into web content management system (CMS) platforms, but it’s tough to find an alternative that can compete with the flexibility, affordability, capability and search engine-friendliness of WordPress.

6. Structure (topics). Though these will likely evolve over time, it’s best to think about at least the obvious subjects for your company and industry up front. First, doing so will help keep subsequent posts organized into logical groups, without “category proliferation” (an excessive number of categories) or multiple overlapping topic areas.

Second, properly naming the categories is critical both for human navigation and for search engine optimization; a mis-named category (e.g., one that uses internal company jargon rather than the language of your prospects and customers) won’t attract as many readers as a better-named category would, and won’t help your blog rank as well for popular industry search terms.

Determining a set of baseline categories up front also helps in developing an editorial calendar. While this may be too formal for a single-contributor or small company blog, it can be very helpful for assuring topic diversity and a steady stream of content.

7. Post frequency. As Heidi Cohen points out, there is no hard and fast rule as to how often a blog needs fresh content, but the best strategy is to “blog as often as you can create quality content.” In terms of a blog’s impact on customer acquisition, posting once per week is nearly 50% more effective than posting only once per month, and more than twice as effective as posting even less frequently. But posting 2-3 times per week yields only a small incremental gain, and posting daily provides an even smaller incremental improvement.

Again, having multiple authors (see factor #2 above) can help increase post frequency without placing an excessive burden on any one contributor. Five authors, each writing two posts per month, would result in 2-3 posts per week—a highly effective frequency for customer acquisition. Spreading the burden should also (at least theoretically) improve the depth and quality of each post as well.

8. Features. Any blogging platform should provide the capability to add common features to your blog like a subscribe-by-email option, buttons/links to your social media accounts, and social sharing buttons to make it easy for your readers to share your posts on social networks and social bookmarking sites (though few platforms offer as many options for “pimping out” a blog as WordPress—see factor #5 above).

WordPress plugins let you add a wide variety of more advanced functions to your blog such as incorporating feeds from social media sites, enable your readers to rate posts, build customized contact forms, automatically display contextually related posts, add an online directory to your blog, display your most popular posts, insert a customized greeting based on the site that referred the reader to your blog (e.g., Digg, Facebook, LinkedIn), even create an e-commerce store.

By addressing each of these factors in your blog planning and setup, you’ll be ready to launch (or re-launch) a business blog built for success.

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12 Ways to Avoid Being a Dork on Twitter

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Note: a version of this original post appeared previously on the B2B Twitterer of the Year (B2BTOTY) blog.

If you regularly read blogs like this, you’re probably already a Twitter pro. This post will be review for you. But, you also almost certainly come across new followers and others who haven’t attained your level of expertise. You know the type. You may want to pass this along as needed.

  1. How to Avoid Being a Dork on TwitterComplete your Twitter bio. You’ve got 160 characters to tell the world who you are, what you do, who you do it for, what you’re passionate about. Plus a link. Use it. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people leave their profiles blank. Or type in something short and lame like “Always learning!” or “Master of the Universe.” Whether trying to be mysterious, or just lazy, it looks bad.
  1. Use your real picture. Find one that reflects you in your best light. If tweeting for a company, using a logo is okay, but accounts with a real person behind them tend to get more followers. Again, seems like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people use photos that look like Nick Nolte’s mug shot, or worse – the default Twitter egg.
  1. Avoid stop words in your bio. Most people have figured out that “MLM,” “network marketer,” “work from home” and “Internet marketer” are synonyms for “spammer.” Don’t be that person.
  1. Avoid obnoxious words in your bio. Unless you are actually a Hindu mystic, have recorded an album that’s gone platinum, or are extremely skilled in the martial arts, avoid the terms “guru,” “rock star” or “ninja” in your bio. They are over-used and just kind of silly.
  1. Watch your following/follower ratio. The numbers will never be identical, but you don’t want to let them get too far out of whack. The worst case is when someone is following 2,001 people but has only like 300 followers and is on four lists. That smacks of desperation. Or like someone who’s ignored tips #3 and #4 above.
  1. Neber twet when yur drunk. It wont com out good an u will end up regrething it.
  1. Never tweet when you’re angry. If you’re tempted to do so, go get drunk. Then see tip #6.
  1. Retweet others! It shows you’re paying attention, helps build your network, and will make others more likely to follow you and share your content.
  1. Say “please” and “thank you.” It’s common courtesy, something people learn from grandma, but not always common on Twitter. Again, thanking someone for a retweet or an answer to a question makes it more likely they’ll do for you again in the future, and it shows followers you have manners.
  1. Know when to DM. A little bit of banter back-and-forth with another Tweeter shows you are social. Too much makes your Tweet stream look worthless. If the interaction goes beyond three tweets, it’s probably time to take it offline and use direct messages.
  1. Be careful with repetition. If you’ve come across something, or written something yourself, that is truly brilliant and deserves to be shared far and wide, it’s okay to tweet it more than once. Just be sure to 1) space your tweets at least an hour apart (preferably longer), and 2) tweet other content in between. Nothing turns off current and potential followers like a Tweet stream with the same message repeated over and over and over and…
  1. Don’t use automated welcome DMs. One would think that Twitterers would understand by now that automated DMs are pointless and annoying—but like some of the more regrettable music from the 1970s, they refuse to go away.

Bonus tip: be very careful with automation, not just on Twitter but any social media site. While it’s okay to automate certain tasks like using an app to pre-schedule tweets for off-hours, social media is fundamentally about engagement. In other words, unless you really are a broadcaster (i.e., it’s your job to tweet on behalf of CNN or Fox News)—don’t be just a broadcaster.

Following these tips will make you look classy and sophisticated to others on Twitter. Or at least not like a dork. As noted above, feel free to pass this along to anyone who demonstrates the need for it. In the meantime, got any tips you’d like to add? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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40 (of the) Best SEO Guides, Tips and Insights of 2011 (So Far)

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key component in designing and developing an effective website, as well as the core of web presence optimization (WPO). And with continual algorithm changes by the search engines and the emerging importance of social signals and content, SEO ranking signals, responsibilities and best practices continue to evolve.

How to keep up? Here’s a good place to start: 40 of the best SEO guides to strategy, tactics, considerations, common mistakes to avoid and more from some of the best SEO bloggers and writers around.

SEO Guidance and Tactics

Dropping In To See What Condition Your Condition Is In – Part I by Search Engine Guide

Stoney deGuyterStoney deGeyter details five guidelines for establishing credibility for a site with search engines, such as making it “easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site” (for example,through citations and references) and making it easy to contact you (i.e., by providing a phone number, physical address and email address).

Rules for beating Google at SEO by iMedia Connection
***** 5 STARS

Brandt Dainow lists 173 positive and negative ranking factors compiled from members of the Search Engine Land group on LinkedIn and believed to influence Google rankings. This is one outstanding checklist.

4 Reasons Why SEO is Underfunded by Search Engine Watch

John LynchNoting that “Google has confirmed that CPC costs are trending above inflation year over year. This combination of factors makes SEO risk mitigation, diversification, and an investment in ensuring affordable long-term traffic,” John Lynch presents four common challenges to properly funding SEO efforts and how to successfully address each.

Without CRO & On-Site Optimization, It’s Tempting to Abandon SEO by The Daily SEO Blog

In an excellent complement to the post above, this piece demonstrates, through charts and narrative, how conversion rate opimization (CRO) is arguably more important than SEO–but ideally, both practices will be incorporated in a coordinated fashion to drive business results.

Why SEOs Shouldn’t Fixate on Keyword Rankings by Search Engine Watch

Rob ChantRob Chant contends that “focusing on position, especially for a small group of keywords—and especially to the detriment of other factors—is a terrible idea. It’s usually isn’t best investment in a campaign or a good indicator of the overall health of a campaign,” then explains why this strategy is difficult, and what to do instead.

Why Rank Checking is Still Useful by SEO Book

Eric CovinoArguing against “the school of thought which postulates that ranking reports or ranking data is either essentially dead, useless, or pointless” (perhaps Rob’s post above?), Eric Covino makes a compelling case for the continuing value of ranking reports, along with interesting stats on the typical percentage of clicks for each search position.

20 SEO Tips You Either Forgot or Didn’t Know! by SEO Design Solutions

Many of these tips are commonly known, but some will be helpful reminders for experts and new information for others, such as “Primary pages should have 750 words or more (preferably with unique content free of excessive stop words)” and “If you cannot create enough unique content for a page to (a) rank on its own or (b) act as a stable supporting page, then consider using the robots meta tag to add a noindex, follow command (don’t index the page, but follow the links).”

The Responsibilities of SEO Have Been Upgraded by The Daily SEO Blog

Rand FishkinRand Fishkin how the role of an SEO consultant/expert has evolved over time from primarily tactics duties (e.g. basic keyword research, HTML sitemaps, on-page keyword targeting) to significantly more strategic priorities (reputation tracking, social media promotion, content strategy).

SEO Tactics Chart: Creating content is the most-effective tactic — here’s how to get started by MarketingSherpa Blog

Adam T. SuttonAdam T. Sutton reports on research showing that content creation is viewed as most effective tactic for increasing search traffic–but is also viewed as the second-most difficult (behind link building). Then,noting that “Even though creating content is the most effective SEO tactic, it comes in sixth in terms of popularity with 60% of marketers using it. This disconnection could be due to the difficulty of creating content,” he presents some quick case study-based guidance on how to plan and execute a productive content development strategy.

Content Optimization Tutorial: How to SEO your Content for Rankings by Search Engine Guide

Acknowledging that “Copywriters are resistant to having to use particular words to get their point across and, rightfully, don’t want their content cluttered with dumb sounding ‘keyword’ phrases,” Stoney deGeyter outlines the “correct” way to optimize content for SEO using core terms, supporting phrases, related words, page headings, internal hyperlinks and meta tags.

Our Online Reputation Management Playbook by The Daily SEO Blog

Brian PattersonBrian Patterson supplies a case study and example of an aggressive plan to assist a client whose name was appearing alongside “scam” in Google Suggest. The techniques outlined are helpful for promoting any type of content, but crucial in a crisis reputation management situation.

Search and Social Media

What Social Signals Might Search Engines Use by Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Michael Gray (aka GrayWolf)Michael Gray speculates on how Google may incorporate social media signals into search results, and provides guidance on how to capitalize on these signals for optimization such as “Strive to build up as much trust, authority, and reach as possible with your accounts.”

Social PR: 6 New (+ Old) Ways to Win Friends and Influence Search by Search Engine Watch

Lisa BuyerNoting that “both Google and Bing continue to use social signals to help rank regular search results (and) studies show friends are more likely to follow friends in search results,” Lisa Buyer supplies a half-dozen tips and techniques for increasing both your social influence and search rankings.

Social Media & SEO at Search Congress Barcelona by TopRank Online Marketing Blog

Lee OddenObserving that “Search is increasingly social with the incorporation content from social sources (video, blogs, images) into standard search results..(and) all major search engines take data feeds from Twitter and Facebook,” Lee Odden provides two tactical approaches (nicely illustrated with diagrams) for incorporating social media efforts into SEO processes.

How Google+ Affected Social Shares and +1 Adoption Rates by The Daily SEO Blog

John DohertyJohn Doherty demonstrates in rich detail how Google’s release of +1 has impacted social signals and Facebook content sharing, and concludes by recommending that webmasters–particularly in technology (my realm), opinion and celebrity gossip–should implement a +1 button on their sites.

YouTube Video Optimization from A to Z by Search Engine Journal

Harrison Jones explores why online video has become so popular, then steps through how to optimize a YouTube channel and individual videos, and how to promote videos through social networks, social bookmarking sites and blogs.

SEO Ranking Factors

The Next Generation of Ranking Signals by The Daily SEO Blog

Rand Fishkin illustrates how key SEO ranking signals for the search engines have evolved and become more complex over time, then offers details about and strategies for optimizing on “the next generation of ranking signals (that) will rely on three relatively new groups of metrics.”

Introducing: The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors by Search Engine Land
Danny Sullivan***** 5 STARS

Danny Sullivan presents a must-have infographic for SEO pros that graphically shows the key on-page and off-page SEO ranking factors and techniques, along with black-hat tactics to avoid. This is a great illustration to print and keep handy.

2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors by SEOmoz

Rand Fishkin (again) uses a series of graphics to illustrate the key SEO ranking factors based on research, as well as another graphic on the future of search which attempts to predict which ranking factors are likely to become more or less important in the coming year.

30 (New) Google Ranking Factors You May Over- or Underestimate by SEOptimise

Tad ChefTad Chef supplies his updated list of “new or current ranking factors that get underestimated by webmasters and neglected,” including site speed, outbound links, branding, search CTR (write compelling meta description tags!), page age and link decay (broken outbound links).

SEO Post-Google Panda

4 Profound Google Changes and What They Mean for Industrial Marketers by The Industrial Marketer

This post briefly reviews the four major updates to Google’s search algorithm since April 2010 (Places, Mayday, Caffiene, and Farmer/Panda) along with “opportunities” for dealing with each change.

5 New Tactics For SEO Post-Panda by Search Engine Land

Adam AudetteAdam Audette reviews recent Google algorithm updates and how each one affected search, then provides five tips for success in the post-Panda world, including link building via social media efforts and building internal links, along with some more technical recommendations.

More Guidance on Building High Quality Sites by Google Webmaster Central Blog

Amit SinghalWho better to ask than Google about to improve rankings after the Panda debacle? Amit Singhal lists 23 questions webmasters can ask themselves to determine if they have high quality content (as Google defines it). such as “Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?,” “For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?” and “Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?”

Lessons from brands that were spanked by Google by iMedia Connection

Observing that “it’s best to learn from the mistakes of other marketers than to learn these lessons on our own, let’s take a look at what we can glean from past black-hat scandals,” Ramsay Crooks details the best-to-avoid-less-than-white-hat techniques that have gotten some big-name websites into hot water with Google, including link farming (J.C. Penney), low-quality content (WiseGeek.com) and cloaking (BMW).

How Google’s Panda Update Changed SEO Best Practices Forever – Whiteboard Friday by The Daily SEO Blog

Aaron WheelerAaron Wheeler and Rand Fishkin review some of the history behind Google’s Panda update, how Google’s algorithm attempts to evaluate the “quality” of a site, and which ranking factors are most important in the post-Panda world. Along the way, Rand notes that “It is almost like the job of SEO has been upgraded from SEO to web strategist. Virtually everything you do on the Internet with your website can impact SEO today.”

Avoiding Common SEO Mistakes

7 tragic SEO oversights by iMedia Connection

Ramsay Crooks explores seven common SEO errors and their solutions, among them excessive use of dynamic content, failing to consider SEO during the new website design phase, and not leveraging internal site search data for keyword research.

Common URL Related SEO Mistakes by The YOUmoz Blog

Paul MartinPaul Martin outlines 11 mistakes commonly made in URL structure (who knew there were that many?) including lack of keywords, improper directory structure, use of session IDs and “the trailing slash conundrum,” and provides fixes for each (several of which involve 301 redirects).

The 10 most common website SEO mistakes by iMedia Connection

Rebecca LiebThe brilliant Rebecca Lieb recounts an experience reviewing a website that was “attractive and functional, but also a textbook example of the 10 most common errors seen among non-SEO friendly website builds.” Among these ten mistakes: no keyword research, duplicate (and un-optimized) meta page title tags, and vague copy.

Common SEO assumptions that are actually incorrect by iMedia Connection (yes, again)

Erez BarakErez Barak reports results from an Optify study which contradicted several commonly held beliefs, such as “it’s always best to be on page 1 of the search results.” Optify found that, actually, “The CTR of result 11 (top of page two) is actually greater than result 10 (bottom of page one).” Terms with a lower cost per click in paid search generally got higher CTRs than keywords with a high CPC value. And more.

SEO and Competitive Research

Enterprise Level Competitive Keyword Research by SEO Himanshu

This post provides a detailed six-step process for researching competitors’ keywords that can work for even very large websites in under 60 minutes.

SEO Competitive Analysis: Your Roadmap to Ranking #1 On Google by Search Engine Journal
***** 5 STARS

Zeke CamusioZeke Camusio outlines a dozen key factors in competitive SEO analysis (e.g., number of incoming links, quality of inbound links, number of indexed pages) and tactics for success in a succinct “Why It Matters,” “How to Check” and “What to Do About This” format.

Defining Your True Competitors by The Daily SEO Blog

Benjamin EstesExplaining that “competitive research can show you which of your potential strategies is most likely to provide your site unique value, value that your competitors will probably have a harder time getting or which they seem to have neglected so far,” Benjamin Estes details a process for competitive SEO assessment and strategy development. The post gets a bit technical, delving into statistical analysis and Excel pivot tables, but may be helpful for those working on enterprise SEO projects.

Mobile Search and Local SEO

What’s the Future of Mobile Search and SEO? by The Daily SEO Blog

Pointing out that “search – the process, the intent, the results –  just isn’t that different on mobile devices vs. laptops and desktops,” Rand Fishkin (yet again) explains what SEO pros need to do—and more importantly, don’t need to do—in order to optimize sites for search on mobile devices.

How To Optimize Your Website for Local Search by Entrepreneur Magazine
Jon Rognerud***** 5 STARS

Noting that “Local search is essential to small businesses. In 2010, Google revealed that the proportion of Google result pages that show a map is one in 13,” Jon Rognerud provides a five-step process for local search optimization, along with helpful lists of local directories and niche marketplaces as well as links to local SEO resources.

SEO and Google Webmaster Tools

Top Seven Reasons Search Marketers Should Use Google Webmaster Tools by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet DriscollMillerJanet Driscoll Miller details her top seven reasons why webmasters (and SEO practitioners) should use Google Webmaster Tools, including identifying top search queries, impacting sitelinks, and analyzing inbound links.

Google Webmaster Tools – 6 Key Pieces of Information by StayOnSearch

Kristi HinesKristi Hines explains how to set up Google Webmaster tools, walks through some of the key features, and provides guidance on analyzing the results reported.

Technical SEO

What Makes A SEO Friendly Web Design And Why You Need It by Link-Assistant.com

Alan Rosinski concisely explains three key elements of SEO-friendly website design (such as using Divs in place of tables) and why each element is important.

The Canonical Tag Can Save You from the Duplicate Content Monster by Search Engine Watch

Ray Catfish ComstockRay “Catfish” Comstock explains why duplicate content is a problem in search, then details the circumstances in which the canonical tag is a better option than a 301 redirect for correcting duplicate content issues.

301 Redirects: Formatting Bulk Redirects In Four Quick Steps by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet Driscoll Miller outlines what she terms “an easy way to quickly format your 301 redirect mapping for non-dynamic pages to match .htaccess formatting.” As oxymoronic as that sentence is, this process is just about as simple and straightforward as this complex task can be.

Rich Snippets Update: Introducing Schema.org by MediaPost Search Insider

One final post from Janet Driscoll Miller. In this one, she writes that “Google, Bing and Yahoo have teamed up to develop a standardized microdata format that the three engines will use to better understand the content contained on Web pages” and explains what this means for promoting specific types of content (e.g., reviews, products, events, TV listings) and how to use rich snippets in accordance with Google’s guidelines.

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PR Monitoring and Management Tools: Which is Best? Vocus vs. Cision

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Vocus and Cision are both powerful and popular PR monitoring and management systems. Both provide PR and social media professionals with extensive capabilities for tracking and growing media coverage of their organizations or clients. Among their features:

  • • An extensive database of professional journalists and social media influencers, with biographical information.
  • • Ability to monitor media coverage and brand mentions across a very wide range of sources.
  • • Capability to set up monitoring profiles for multiple keywords, topics, companies and products.
  • • Competitive and share-of-voice analysis and reporting.
  • • Optional social media monitoring and management.
  • • Online news release distribution.

Vocus vs. Cision for PR Monitoring and ManagementSo which is best? Well, “best” is obviously a subjective term, a matter of opinion. And people can reasonably hold different opinions. The fact is, both tools can do the job pretty well (hence their popularity). But there are clear differences between them. If your company or agency is weighing a decision on selecting a PR and social media monitoring and management tool (or perhaps making a change), here are five areas of comparison you may find helpful.

Media Database

Cision: A
Vocus: B+

Both tools offer extensive databases of publications, media professionals and bloggers. In the judgment of the PR professionals I work with, Cision’s database is just a bit more comprehensive.

Vocus vs. Cision User InterfaceUser Interface

Cision: C-
Vocus: D

User experience, unfortunately, isn’t a strength of either system. Both tools have complex, cumbersome user interfaces and are unnecessarily difficult to use. Both could benefit from a major UX/UI upgrade. The Cision interface is slightly better, but it’s like saying the Windows 95 interface is better than Windows 3.1. True, but neither meet modern standards for clarity and usability.

Customer Service

Vocus: B+
Cision: D

Overall, the Vocus team was outstanding to work with during our trial. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and training was customized to our needs and around our schedules. The company doesn’t quite merit an “A” only because there were some inconsistencies between individuals. But overall, Vocus customer service was excellent. Cision’s service on the other hand was dreadful. Training was regimented, and waiting 48 hours for a non-helpful response to an email is unimpressive. The company could clearly use some improvement in this area.

Online News Release Distribution

Vocus: A-
Cision: D

Vocus owns and utilizes PRWeb for its online distribution; Cision uses GlobeNewswire. According to an analysis from Comscore and Experian, as well as evaluations from other sources, PRWeb ranks among the best services for both media reach and SEO. GlobeNewswire takes up the rear.

Social Media Monitoring

Cision: B+
Vocus: B+

This is a tough criteria to grade because while both tools offer this option and perform social media monitoring and management quite well, the two vendors take completely different approaches. Vocus built its own tool, which is fully integrated into its PR monitoring system; Cision white-labels the Radian6 social media monitoring tool.

The advantages to the Vocus approach are that integration means one database, one system, and unified results and reporting. Also, since they own the tool, Vocus has the flexibility to negotiate on price with prospective buyers, who may thus get a better deal. Integration means there is only one user interface to learn. The downside: it’s the Vocus interface.

The benefit of Cision’s best-of-breed approach, on the other hand, is that the system combines the extensive Cision media database with the power of the highly-regard Radian6 tool for social media monitoring. The disadvantages are in pricing and the need to learn two separate systems. Also, the freshness and elegance of the Radian6 UI makes the clunkiness of the Cision interface even more obvious. It’s like parking a Ferrari next to an old Buick station wagon.

Other areas on which the decision is pretty much a wash include the amount of historical data available (both are limited to a few months, and could use improvement in this area) and search speed: Google can return a search on its index of the entire web in milliseconds, while it takes both of these tools several seconds to provide results from a much smaller database. Cision may be just slightly faster, but it’s not a big difference.

In the end, it’s a tough decision. Either tool will provide robust PR and social media monitoring management capabilities; it’s a matter of which strengths you need and which disadvantages you can live with.

So, you may ask, what decision did the b2b technology marketing and PR agency I work with make? A mix. We went with Cision for PR monitoring and management (a consensus decision, though not a unanimous one), but use PRWeb for online news release distribution. We use a mix of tools for social media monitoring, not having settled on one tool that can “do it all” tool yet.

Got an opinion on which tool is best? Leave a comment.

FTC Disclosure: I have no financial interest in either product—no dog in this fight. Both vendors provided free trials of their software systems for evaluation purposes. Other than those trials, there was no compensation offered or provided for this review.

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