Archive for January, 2012

12 (of the) Best WordPress Guides and Plugin Reviews of 2011

Monday, January 30th, 2012

WordPress is not only the most popular blogging platform, but is increasingly becoming a leading website content management system (CMS) as well.

Cost and ease of use are certainly factors, but one of the important reasons is its extensibility through plugins. These add-ons make it easy to add an incredible variety of functionality to the platform, from contact forms and photo galleries to social sharing and ecommerce capabilities.

How did WordPress emerge as the leading blog platform? What are some techniques, beyond the obvious, for search-optimizing WordPress content? Which plugins are the most popular / useful / vital? Get the answers to those questions and more here in a dozen of the best posts and articles about WordPress from the past year.

WordPress Guides and Commentary

How did WordPress win? by majordojo
***** 5 STARS

Byrne ReeseByrne Reese—former Product Manager of Movable Type and TypePad and employee at Six Apart, now a Partner at Endevver, a Movable Type and Melody consulting company—dissects the strategy used by WordPress to become the dominant blogging platform, in order to “see what lessons can be learned from WordPress so that others seeking to build a successful product can learn from it.” This brilliant article delves into the technological, economic, cultural and environmental factors behind the success of WordPress, and inspired more than 70 comments.

Web Traffic Tracking Alternatives to Google Analytics by uber.la

John McElhenneyJohn McElhenney provides helpful reviews of three simple and free alternatives to Google Analytics for tracking WordPress site metrics: JetPack Site Stats, Wassup Plug-in and Widget (which provides real-time stats including how many visitors are on your site or blog at any given moment) and Gaug.es (another real-time tool, which works on any website).

WordPress SEO – 10 Essential Actions by WP Blog Talk

Rob CubbonRob Cubbon details 10 best practices for optimizing WordPress content, from ideal use of keywords and plugins to sitemaps, redirects and image optimization.

WordPress Plugin Compilations and Reviews

90+ WordPress CMS Themes and Plugins by Tripwire Magazine

Dustin BetonioContending that “It’s actually pretty easy to turn WordPress into a CMS if you are using the right WordPress CMS Themes,” Dustin Betonio showcases a huge collection of “the best plugins and (premium WordPress) themes to turn WordPress into a CMS and build a professional website fast.”

Top 50 WordPress Plugins for 2011 to Zoom SEO, SMO & Audience Engagement by Zoom Factor

Pam MoorePam Moore reviews 50 of her favorite WordPress plugins, divided into categories for social sharing & engagement, design and image enhancements, search engine optimization, and development (e.g., the Flexi-Pages widget for adding sub-menu navigation and Mass Edit Pages for WordPress for making small changes to a large number of pages at once).

14 WordPress Plugins Worth Considering by JT Pedersen

JT PedersenJT Pedersen provides a short list of his favorite plugins for personal and corporate (non-ecommerce) blogs, including both popular favorites (the AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget, BackUpWordPress) and some interesting but lesser-known add-ons (Twitter Mentions as Comments, and WP Smush.it to improve load times).

11 WordPress Plugins You’ve Gotta Have by Social Media Today

Writing that he gets the opportunity to work with a lot of different plugins, and that “Every once in a while I’ll come across a new one that is just amazing and I wonder how I ever blogged without it,” Zubin Kutar shares his favorites including Google XML Sitemaps (also on my list of must-haves) and Contact Form 7 (“Probably the easiest to use contact form available” according to Zubin).

8 Excellent WordPress SEO Plugins by Six Revisions

Matt KrautstrunkMatt Krautstrunk offers list of “top-notch WordPress plugins for SEO to improve your WordPress site’s search engine rankings,” among them SEO Rank Reporter, All in One SEO Pack (another of my personal favorites), SEO Friendly Image (automatically updates images with alt and title attributes) and SEO Smart Links.

33 WordPress Plugins To Power Up Your Comment Section by 1stwebdesigner

Dainis GraverisDainis Graveris presents 33 plugins to “power up and evolve comment form possibilities and security,” including Disqus, WP Ajax Edit Comments, Comment Rating and Twitter Avatars in Comments. The English is a little rough but the list is fantastic.

20 Great WordPress Plugins by Online Income Teacher
***** 5 STARS

Once you get past the spammy blog title and the annoying pop-up, Matt Smith has put together an outstanding list of plugins to perform a wide variety of tasks, from the Ackuna Language Translation Plugin (which, as the name implies, allows readers to translate your posts into many different languages) to Google Analytics Dashboard (which lets you quickly check on your GA stats without logging into GA) to Sharebar, a plugin that keeps social sharing buttons visible while visitors scroll down through your content.

15 Essential WordPress Plugins (Presentation) by Mykl Roventine

Mykl RoventineIn the presentation from the Minnesota Blogger Conference, Mykl Roventine (one of the smartest WordPress gurus I know personally) presents 15 of the best WordPress plugins that meet his strict criteria: he’s used it (or someone he trusts has0: it solves a specific problem; it doesn’t hog resources and degrade performance; it’s supported; easy to use and configure; and free (in most cases).

Blog Technology: Most Downloaded WordPress Plugins by Marketing Technology with @iamreff

John ReffordJohn Refford lists the top 15 WordPress plugins in order of popularity. Not too surprisingly, All in One SEO Pack, Akismet and Google XML Sitemaps top the list.

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39 More (of the) Best Social Media Guides, Tips and Insights of 2011

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The notion of using social media for business has gone from cutting edge to commonplace in an amazingly short time. And for those laggard firms still resisting social media, recent changes by Google now make it all but imperative.

Of course, there’s no single cookie-cutter approach to social media marketing that works for every enterprise. And many companies that jumped in early experienced failures and disappointments, pulled back, and then re-approached social media from a more strategic angle.

Best Social Media Guides of 2011While certain aspects of social media have stabilized (e.g., Facebook is the largest social network and is unlikely to fall to any “Facebook killer” application anytime soon; Google is going to keep trying to build its own social network until it manages to create one that attracts more users than lawsuits), many practices are still evolving. What’s the most effective way to grow a company’s social influence? How widely within an organization should social media tasks be distributed? How can an brand establish trust online? What are the best practices for sharing content on each major social network? What common mistakes and pitfalls should be avoided? Is it really possible to measure social media ROI—and if so, how?

Find the answers to these questions and more here in more than three dozen of the best social media guides, insights, rants and reports of the past year.

Social Media Marketing Tips and Tactics

Social Media, What Matters Most for Marketers by iMedia Connection

Noting that the “trend in digital information sharing (on social networks) is still a huge challenge for many companies,” Rick van Boekel advises marketers to develop a strategy, stay involved (or stay away), and integrate efforts among other guidance for marketing success in social media.

Practical Reasons Why Businesses Need Social Media by Social Media Today

Austen Mayor articulates both qualitative and quantitative justifications for social media investments. Among the hard numbers he lists: according to a social media industry study, 72% of companies active in social media report higher website traffic, 62% say it has improved search engine rankings, and 48% say it has increased sales.

Why Aren’t You Promoting Your Social Profiles? 10 Ways to Make it Happen by The Social Media Chef

Chris TomkinsChris Tompkins supplies 10 methods to help “promote your social media profiles OUTSIDE of logging in to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter,” such as adding your social media profiles to company email signatures, business cards, advertising and all marketing collateral.

Stop shoving social media down my throat by {grow}

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer explains why be believes it is NOT a good idea to force “social media down the throats of employees at every level of the company,” contrary to advice given elsewhere. People bring different skills to the job. As Mark concludes, “Being adept at social media is NOT EASY for everybody. And we should be able to live with that human diversity.”

50 Social Media Marketing Tips and Tactics by Jeff Bullas

Jeff BullasJeff Bullas lists “50 synergistic social media marketing tips and tactics to market your content and ideas and help them to spread to a global audience,” divided into six platform categories: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Slideshare.

Forrester: 5 Stages Of Social Media Growth by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Gavin O’Malley reviews research from Forrester on the five stages of social media maturity that corporations typically pass through, starting with the dormant stage (“one in five companies still don’t use any social media. These companies tend to be highly conservative, heavily regulated, or just not interested, according to Forrester”) then progressing through “distributed chaos” and additional steps before reaching the optimization stage.

A quick guide to 5 social media platforms by iMedia Connection

Linda IrelandLinda Ireland offers helpful tips to marketers on going beyond the basics to take advantage of the unique strengths of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and LinkedIn (e.g., “If you’re a B2B company, LinkedIn is a great way to identify, connect with, and build stronger relationships with potential customers by interacting with them through LinkedIn Groups and providing responses to the questions they post on LinkedIn Answers”).

Social Trust Factor: 10 Tips to Establish Credibility by The Marketing Nut

Pam MooreFrequent best-of honoree Pam Moore explains the importance of the trust factor in encouraging brand engagement and offers 10 tips for increasing your social trust factor, such as developing a consistent online brand persona, hanging out with the “right” people in your business social networks, and taking the time to cultivate relationships.

Social Media Marketing – 10 Inspiring Infographics by Jeff Bullas

Jeff Bullas shares some interesting social media statistics (e.g., Tumblr is now attracting over 90 million unique visitors every month; StumbleUpon drives over 50% of all social network traffic) as well as helpful how-to’s (e.g., How to Twitter and LinkedIn Boot Camp) in this intriguing collection of infographics.

How to be a rock star on 8 social media platforms by iMedia Connection
***** 5 STARS

Kent LewisKent Lewis packs an incredible amount of useful information into this concise post, which outlines tactics for marketing success, illustrated with real-world examples, for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, SlideShare, Quora and Foursquare.

Don’t Let Legal Keep You Out of Social by Social Media Marketing Magazine

Glen GilmoreGlen Gilmore reviews some high-profile examples of social media legal cases, which, he writes, “have largely been related to cases of egregious misconduct.” He then explains the basic legal and regulatory risks associated with social media, and presents a plan to minimize such risks in business social media use.

Busting Social Media Myths and Avoiding Common Mistakes

Five Social Media Myths You Need to Know by frogloop

Allyson KapinCommenting on Facebook’s dominance and huge market reach that, “while it maybe true that your organization needs a better Facebook strategy, it’s also important that you dig a little deeper into social media stats,” Allyson Kapin debunks five social media myths. Though her focus is on fundraising and social media use by non-profit organizations, much of the material here applies more broadly.

Beware Best Practices, They Can Kill Productivity, Innovation and Growth – Adopt Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter by Forbes

Adam HartungFor those executives who still block or limit access for their employees to social media sites and mobile devices, Adam Hartung reminds readers that personal computers were once looked at as productivity destroyers (PCs were viewed as toys that lacked the robustness of mainframe applications by some CIOs back in the 80s) and warns that “best practices” (e.g., “We need to control employee access to information” and “We need to keep employees focused on their job, without distractions”) are a dangerous myth.

Four Common Social Media Mishaps by iMedia Connection

Erik DeckersErik Deckers advises against, among other social media faux paus, socialcasting, relying on a single network, or, interestingly, “Putting a B2B company on Facebook or a B2C company on LinkedIn…People go to Facebook to chat with family and friends, not to buy industrial adhesives. People go to LinkedIn to connect with people who can help them do their jobs better, not share their love of your white chocolate macadamia nut brownies.”

Ten Myths About Social Networking For Business by Forbes

Neal RodriguezNeal Rodriguez provides “a comprehensive guide to social networking misconceptions—each accompanied by a tangible action plan that you can take right now,” such as “Myth 4: You have to spend hours a day on Twitter” (he recommends using Tweetchats—not a bad idea, but not right for everyone).

B2B Social Media Guides

Top social media platforms for businesses by iMedia Connection

Kent Lewis outlines the benefits of social media for B2B businesses, the challenges such vendors face in social media, the essential elements of a B2B social media program, and the best platforms to utilize (blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter are obvious; Facebook and Quora somewhat more questionable).

Turn B2B Buying Into a Social Experience by iMedia Connection

Tony ZambitoTony Zambito outlines the changes social media has brought to the B2B buying process and identifies four areas where buyer expectations have changed that B2B marketers need to be aware of and address. Another outstanding post from Tony is The New Social Buyer Ecosystem, which delves into the concept of social Buyer Circles and their implications for marketers in engaging social buyers in the B2B realm.

YouTube Tips and Tactics

YouTube etiquette for 2011 by iMedia Connection

Daisy WhitneyDaisy Whitney provides excellent tips for making the most of YouTube, such as paying special attention to the crucial first 15 seconds of every video you produce; entering your keywords in rank order; and uploading a custom thumbnail image for each video rather than relying on the YouTube default selection.

6 Best Practices For Small Business YouTube Marketing by OPEN Forum

Todd WassermanTodd Wasserman shares advice from entrepreneurs who’ve been successful with YouTube marketing on best practices for the platform, including buying ads, finding your niche, using technology such as Hot Spots to test the effectiveness of your videos, and tracking ROI.

YouTube It; You Rank for It – Improve Your YouTube Rankings by iMedia Connection

Chris Adams of gShift LabsChris Adams of gShift Labs explains how to optimize video rankings in YouTube, the factors that affect ranking (beyond the obvious) and the importance of analyzing and acting upon YouTube metrics regularly.

Search and Social

When search meets social by Econsultancy

Nick JonesDue to the growing importance of social signals in search results, Nick Jones writes that “2011 marks the year when social media has shifted from being nice to essential…Social elements play a huge part in the traffic generated, but also…citations and “votes” in the form of Tweets and Likes go a long way to indicating to search engines that this content has value and deserves to rank for relevant keywords.”

How Social Media Affects Content Relevance in Search by Mashable

Shane Snow explains why and how Google and Bing are incorporating social signals into the search algorithms, how these changes may help newer businesses, and which previously helpful SEO tactics are now much less important. The key to success in this new world is creating highly sharable content and building a network of influencers who will share it.

Social Media Monitoring and ROI Measurement

10 Measures of Social Media ROI for Your Brand by SocialTimes

Neil GlassmanNeil Glassman presents his “ten measures of social media marketing ROI,” though ROI purists may quibble with some of his entries, e.g., raising the quality and quantity of job applicants by creating a “social culture.” But it’s an intriguing list nonetheless.

Forget Social Media ROI by ClickZ

Heidi CohenThe brilliant Heidi Cohen contends that only a third of companies are attempting to track social media ROI; outlines three reasons why such calculations are difficult (e.g., “Social media interaction tends to happen outside of the purchase process, either before or after”); and presents as alternatives five social media metrics she believes really do matter.

Social Media ROI for Me-Too-ers versus Innovators by SocialSteve’s Blog
***** 5 STARS

Steve GoldnerSteve Goldner uses a graphical social media activity scale to explain the differences in tactics and related ROI measurements between “Me-Too’ers” (focused on basic activities like setting up social profiles and adding sharing buttons to their websites) and “Innovators” (integrated social media efforts, formalized social media relationships).

Things We Should Ask The ROI Question About Before Social Media by UnMarketing

Scott StrattenScott Stratten makes a concise yet blistering argument against obsessing over social media ROI, noting that social media is held “to a higher level of judgment than most things in business,” then questioning the ROI of things like meetings, logo-emblazoned coffee mugs and employee commute time.

5 Ways to Measure Social Media by ClickZ

Ron JonesFrequent best-of contributor Ron Jones recommends measuring a number of different metrics within categories like Awareness/Exposure (the most basic level), Influence, and Engagement (e.g., number of shares, mentions, comments and retweets).

The ROI of Social Media ROI by iMedia Connection

Scot WheelerScot Wheeler presents a helpful diagram for evaluating social media while also noting that “ROI is not always the best way to evaluate the value of social media engagement to an organization…Often, when management asks for the ROI on social media, what they are really asking for is the value of social media engagement to the business.” He then describes the usefulness of awareness, buzz, reach and sentiment as measures of social media value. Also worth checking out is Scot’s follow-up to this post, The Four Principles of Social ROI Measurement, in which he contends that “the accumulation of ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ and the generation of engagement are not ends in themselves.  These are tactics which are meant to prime a growing and engaged users for eventual transactions, but which are no more directly measurable in terms of revenues generated than is PR, print, TV or radio advertising.”

Explaining “social media ROI” AGAIN. And again. And… again. by The Brand Builder Blog

Olivier BlanchardOlivier Blanchard serves up an entertaining and informative rant about the continued inability or refusal of many social media professionals to explain the ROI of social media, writing “As annoying and curious as it was, back in 2009, when so many so-called ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’ couldn’t figure out how to explain, much less determine the ROI of anything relating to social media, it is inexcusable today.” He explains the basics of social media ROI measurement, though conceding in the end that “Not all social media activity needs to drive ROI.”

14 Top Tracking Tools For Your Social Media Stats by Abnormal Marketing

Fiona McEachranFiona McEachran takes a look at 14 social media monitoring tools, ranging in price from free to “don’t ask,” including Trackur, Webfluenz and BackType.

Social Media Facts, Stats and Research

INFOGRAPHIC: How Much Does Social Media Really Cost? by Scribbal
***** 5 STARS

Mariel Loveland presents an outstanding infographic detailing the internal and external costs of social media marketing along with the expected savings or return in various business areas, drawing on both statistical and anecdotal data.

The Business Impact of Social Media [Infographic] by ReadWriteWeb

Klint FinleyKlint Finley reports on research regarding social media use in Forture 500 companies covering priorities, success measures, rationale, and brief profiles of successful social media use in big companies (Coca Cola, jetBlue, Dell, Red Bull and others).

Facebook, Twitter Shares Outpace Other Social Buttons by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Laurie SullivanLaurie Sullivan highlights research from BrightEdge showing that “Web site pages displaying the Twitter share button get seven times the social media mentions compared with those that do not…(yet) nearly half of the largest 10,000 sites on the Web still don’t display any kind of social sharing links or buttons.”

10 Intriguing Insights on the State of Social Media and Blogging by Jeff Bullas

Jeff Bullas (again) summarizes 10 key insights from Nielsen research on social media, among them: Facebook dominates the “time spent online” metric—Facebook users collectively spend three times as many minutes with Facebook as they do with Yahoo, and four times as many as with Google. Nearly a quarter of total online time is spent with social networks and blogs. And women outnumber men on eight of the top 10 social networks—but guys are in the majority on LinkedIn.

Social Media Bigger And More Influential Than Ever, Reveals Q3 Nielsen Report [INFOGRAPHIC] by All Twitter

Shea BennettShea Bennett shares more takeaways from Neilsen research, such as that “40% of social media users access content from their mobile handsets,” with users over the age of 55 driving much of this growth. Social networks and blogs are visited by more than three-quarters of Internet users. And Tumblr is among the fastest-growing networks, tripling its user base in 2011.

Social Media Report: Q3 2011 by Nielsen Research

Want to draw your own conclusions from the research cited by Jeff and Shea above? Here’s the source.

9 Social Media Infographics You Must See by DreamGrow

Mart ProomMart Prööm presents a fascinating collection of infographics, with stats and findings ranging from the percentage of U.S. adults who use social media every day (65%) and the top buyers of social media monitoring tools (43% are social media managers, 19% are agency professionals) to the leading social networks for small business (78% are on Twitter, 75% on Facebook) and a simple process for creating a social media strategy.

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Web Presence Optimization Software Review: gShift Labs

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

gShift Labs is the first (at least that I’m aware of ) integrated software package for managing web presence optimization (WPO). Given that WPO is the fusion of SEO, social media, interactive PR, and online reputation management, that’s a tall order. But based on a good look at the product, gShift has a great headstart on meeting the challenges of this discipline.

gShift Labs - Web Presence Optimization SoftwareUnlike pure SEO management tools (e.g., Web CEO, SEO Powersuite), social media monitoring tools (e.g., Radian6, Alterian SM2), or inbound marketing suites (e.g., HubSpot), gShift isn’t a point solution, but a single integrated tool to manage all aspects of WPO.

What sets this software apart is its approach as much as its functionality; the people behind gShift understand that SEO, online PR, social media, PPC advertising and other tactics are each pieces of the larger web presence puzzle. They aren’t silos, but tactics that need to be used in a coordinated manner to maximize and optimize an organization’s online presence. gShift is the first software built from the ground up with that approach in mind.

Features

gShift enables marketers or agencies to track unlimited websites, web pages, social media accounts, external pages (e.g. media mentions), competitors and countries. The only limit is on keywords tracked, which is the basis of gShift’s pricing (see “Limitations and Concerns” below).

The software doesn’t provide a way to automatically segregate branded from unbranded search keywords (which would be nice), but this can be set up manually using “Campaigns.” Campaigns are gShift’s method for creating different keyword groups to track (e.g., by product line, country, competitor, etc.). The ability to show country-based rankings (e.g., U.S. results for a company.com site, Canadian results for a company.ca site) is helpful.

gShift Labs Web Presence DashboardgShift automatically tracks organic vs. paid vs. mobile (an increasingly important segment) traffic and goal conversions for each. Yes, you could do this from Google Analytics (GA) as well (in fact, gShift pulls a fair amount of its reporting data from GA) but gShift presents it all in one spot, attractively graphed out.

Backlinks remain a key component of SEO. gShift displays backlinks by site, backlinks by page (very helpful), backlinks by competitor, and even provides a list of “recommended backlink” sources. For your website, gShift will display your top backlinks by authority and referral visits, along with changes in backlinks over time.

For your competitors, the software identifies their target terms (anchor text in backlinks), top backlinks and ranking. From a pure competitive research standpoint, gShift isn’t quite as robust as a tool like SEMRush (which provides AdWords keywords and click costs in addition to complete target organic keywords), but it does offer significant integrated functionality nonetheless.

The ability to track external pages is another nice feature. gShift enables you to set up external pages to track in different categories: Press Releases, Blogs, social media accounts, videos, and shortened URLs (e.g. bit.ly URL links). It also finds and shows you “other pages in your pool,” referring pages you may not know to track. The software displays traffic, conversions, bounce rate, social shares and search rank on assigned keywords for all of these pages. Again, most of this data (other than search rank) could be pulled from GA, but gShift makes it much easier and faster to track these metrics.

SEO is a core element of WPO, and gShift covers this pretty well. It provides daily rank checking (but charges weekly—see “Pricing” below), with comparison to the prior day’s, week’s or month’s rank highlighted in green (improvement), yellow (no change) or red (decline). The tool offers page-level auditing (specific page+keyword combination), showing what’s done and supplying recommendations for optimization improvement across a wide range of attributes (meta tags, keyword density, alt tags, headings, code fixes, etc.). Helpfully, gShift also rates the relative difficulty of each recommended task.

For any given keyword, gShift will show the top ranking page on your site by search engine (though it won’t identify the page with the highest internal gShift score for that keyword, which would be another nice feature). gShift has partnered with WordStream for its integrated keyword research functionality.

In addition to the keywords you are tracking, gShift will display recommended keywords from GA as well as all keywords that have produced at least one goal conversion. What’s more, gShift recently announced capability that gives search marketers a pretty good idea of what’s behind the “not provided” keyword data in GA, by showing you which pages are being accessed along with the top keywords driving traffic to those pages.

gShift features extensive social media tracking capabilities as well, pulling analytics from Twitter (e.g. number of mentions and retweets), LinkedIn and YouTube all into one spot. For your videos on YouTube, gShift displays rankings for those videos on specified keywords with YouTube’s search function as well as Google rankings for those videos by keyword phrase.

Again, most of these social media metrics are freely available, but gShift saves the time and effort of tracking them all down from their native sources. gShift currently provides about 75% of the data available natively from the top social networks, with more metrics on the product roadmap (e.g. expanded LinkedIn metrics are anticipated to be added within the next 30-60 days).

The power of gShift lies in its efficiency for reporting (GA-type site data, social media metrics, and ranking plus performance of external assets like guest posts or news releases all in one tool), its SEO improvement functionality, and its actionable on-site and off-site metrics. Reporting is flexible; gShift enables administrators to add explanatory or analytical text comments to virtually any metric within a report.

Few (if any) other SEO and/or social media management tools provide the type of detailed data about a blog post, web page, external article or news release that gShift does because other tools don’t “ask the right questions.” Competitive tools tend to be more siloed, while gShift takes a web presence optimization-centered approach.

Background

Chris AdamsKrista LaRivieregShift Labs co-founders Krista LaRiviere and Chris Adams come from a digital marketing and software development background. In the early 2000s, they developed the Hot Banana web CMS product, which was acquired by email service provider Lyris in 2006.

Future Plans

gShift aggressively updates the product with new features. Among plans for coming releases are “engagement signals,” which will display, for example, how many people have commented anywhere (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) about a specified blog post or other piece of content.

Competition

gShift’s closest competitor is possibly SEOmoz, a powerful SEO suite which just recently added social monitoring. From a straight SEO standpoint, it’s hard to beat the deep functionality of SEOmoz. However, what gShift may lack in depth in this area, it makes up for in ease of use and overall user experience. Put another way, gShift is arguably a better tool for marketers looking for reporting on site and external asset performance, and optimizing those assets for improvement. SEOmoz provides more raw technical data for hands-on webmasters.

Limitations and Concerns

Backlink checking is limited to the “top” 500 backlinks for any site, page or competitor. For internal site pages, that’s generally more than sufficient, but home pages on even moderately popular websites can have far more than 500 backlinks. There’s no way to know what’s missing (other than using a separate backlink checker tool).

The internal keyword tool shows monthly volume, but doesn’t indicate ranking difficulty—a key oversight. It does little good to know how popular a keyword phrase is without also knowing if it’s feasible to try to rank for that phrase. This should be high on gShift’s list of features to add, but for now, users will have to utilize a separate tool or technique for this function.

Pricing

In my opinion, gShift’s pricing is a tad high (for the SMB market) and the model is unnecessarily convoluted. The software is priced on the basis of “keyword rankings” (KRs). A KR is one keyword, on one website, in one country. And each keyword rank is automatically checked on a weekly basis, so a single keyword consumes four KRs in a month (or five in some months, one would suppose).

gShift’s baseline Small Business package (500 keyword rankings at $99 per month) sounds pretty reasonable, until you realize how quickly that can add up. 100 keywords, checked against one website in one country consumes 400 KRs per month. Add all of those keywords to one other country and that’s another 400 KRs. Check 20 of those keywords against three top competitors and that’s another (20 x 3 x 4 =) 240 KRs. In order to really make inroads into the SMB market where this product fits best, the pricing should ideally be somewhat lower and a whole lot simpler.

Bottom Line

While gShift Labs doesn’t necessarily provide the single best tool specifically for SEO management, or backlink checking, or keyword research, or social media monitoring—it is the only software currently available that combines pretty darn good functionality in all of these areas in a single platform.

gShift Labs is the first software vendor to approach SEO, online PR and social media as parts of the integrated whole of web presence optimization. Small to midsized businesses in the B2B space who want to maximize their online footprints and opportunities to be “found” when prospects are searching for what they offer should definitely evaluate gShift Labs.

FTC Disclosure: gShift Labs provided no compensation in any form for this review.

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24 (of the) Best Business Blogging Guides, Tips and Tools of 2011

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Despite any recent recent rants you may have seen about how blogging is dead or blogs are passé, the fact of the matter is that business blogging is now more important than ever. With Google’s most recent Panda algorithm updates, attributes like content freshness and social signals (strengths of blogs, not corporate websites) will gain increased importance in search ranking.

But as the blogosphere continues to expand (as noted by Diana Adams below), it becomes more difficult to stand out and be heard above the noise.  How can a company launch (or relaunch) a new blog properly? Write great blog post headlines? Promote new content most effectively? Optimize blog content for search? Emulate the best corporate blogs? Take advantage of free or low-cost blog tools and resources?

Get the answers to those questions and more here in two dozen of the best blogging guides of the past year.

Guidance for New Bloggers

20 Common Mistakes Made By New Bloggers by Ink Rebels

Diana AdamsNoting that will well over 100 million blogs on the web now it can be challenging to stand out, the effervescent Diana Adams shares a list of common mistakes to avoid such as making your RSS button hard to find, posting inconsistently, and failing to respond to reader comments.

12 things every business blogger should know how to do by Ragan’s PR Daily

Susan YoungContending that “blogging isn’t that difficult until educated, professional, bright grownups begin to overanalyze things,” Susan Young provides a dozen pieces of commonsense advice for business blogging success, such as sticking to what you know and enjoy, and writing “to express, not to impress.”

The Entrepreneur’s Advisor | Why and How to do a Blog Right by The Entrepreneur’s Advisor

Stuart W. Smith provides some blogging basics and helpful tips for those relatively new to blogging. After making the basic case for a blog, he delves into keywords, developing quality content, links, calls to action and more.

6 Tips for Blogging for SEO in WordPress by Business Insider

Sue ReynoldsSue Reynolds offers a half-dozen tips for SEO on WordPress blogs, helpful particularly for those just getting started.

Business Blogging Tips, Tactics and Best Practices

8 Ways to Get Your Blog Ready for the Big Time by Blog Engage

Kristi HinesFrequent best-of honoree Kristi Hines offers eight tips to get your blog ready for a surge of traffic if you happen to get mentioned or retweeted by a highly influential source. Among the tips: optimize your site for speed, delay your opt-in popup form (or better yet – lose it, they’re obnoxious) and make sure your key pages (About, Contact, Guest Post Guidelines, etc.) are easy to find.

How to Be an Awesome Blog Commenter by HubSpot Blog

Kipp BodnarKipp Bodnar offers half-dozen tips for “how to be a thoughtful and engaged commenter” that apply to social networking sites as well as to blogs. Much of it comes down to appropriate social etiquette, and always striving to add value to the conversation.

How to Turn a Lousy Blog Headline into a Great One by The Backlight

Tristan HigbeeTristan Higbee steps through the creative process of turning a boring blog headline into a better one and then, eventually, into one that is both search-friendly and compelling to potential readers.

26 Ways to Enhance Your Blog Content by Social Media Examiner

Debbie HemleyAnother delightful A to Z post from Debbie Hemley, this one alphabetizing the business blogging process from attributing source material through links and blogging as a hub of social media efforts through YouTube and “Zigzags and Leaps” (“mental moves that might open up things a bit, allow a little more in, including, we hope…discovery”).

7 Key Elements to a Successful Business Blog by TopRank Online Marketing

Lee OddenLee Odden defines the key characteristics to consider in terms of “branding, community, SEO, PR, recruiting and taking midshare away from your competition” with your blog including the URL, name, design and navigation. (For more on this topic, see also Eight Factors to Consider When Launching a Business Blog previously published here.)

12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post by Content Marketing Institute

Brody DorlandNoting that “even great content can go unnoticed,” Brody Dorland recommends 12 steps for promoting your blog content, from the obvious (utilize keywords for SEO, use syndication) to the creative (using a post to answer a question on Twitter, promoting posts via your email signature).

21 Ways Bloggers Engage by Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen details 21 ways bloggers can engage with readers beyond just responding to comments, among them: inviting others to contribute guest posts, providing social sharing buttons, enabling readers to subscribe by email, and participating in Twitter chats.

The Blueprint for the Perfect Blog Post (Infographic) by Business 2 Community

Brian RiceBrian Rice graphically illustrates nine components of the “perfect” blog post, beginning with a compelling post title. in this nicely-done infgraphic. He also shares six blogging lessons learned, including the importance of user experience and letting your audience drive your the conversation.

Displaying Social Proof – What the Marketing Experts Use by KISSmetrics

Kristi Hines studies the AdAge Power 150 blogs to see how leading bloggers are displaying their social clout. Tools and methods used include displaying FeedBurner reader count, a Facebook Like box, LinkeddIn share button, or multi-purpose tools from AddtoAny, Share This, or AddThis.

Blog SEO

SEO success for your blog in 10 easy steps by {grow}

Eric PratumGuest blogger Eric Pratum outlines a “10-step prioritized plan to improve the SEO for your blog without spending a lot of time or money,” from keyword strategy to sitemaps.

How to Optimize Your Blog for Google by Social Media Examiner

Dino DoganIn this extensive and detailed post, Dino Dogan walks through the process of search optimizing a blog, from audience targeting considerations and keyword research to SEO plugin settings (presuming you are using WordPress).

Where to Use Keywords in Corporate Blog Posts by TopRank Online Marketing Blog

Lee Odden lays out a non-technical five-step process for getting a corporate blog to rank well in search. His item #4 (“Use Descriptive References vs. Pronouns”) in particular should be required reading for ANYONE writing online content.

Top 10 Blog Directories 2011 by SEO Wizardry

Peter HollierWriting that “Blog Directories add an important element to your web site traffic generation and search engine optimization programs,” Peter Hollier lists and links the top 10 blog directories along with their Alexa ranks.

8 Steps to Optimize Your Blog Post by Search Engine Watch

Erez BarakErez Barak recommends a heavy focus on keyword research, selection and tracking among his eight steps for getting a blog post to rank well in search.

Examples of Exceptional Corporate Blogs

The 10 Best Corporate Blogs in the World by {grow}

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer shares a few observations on the state of corporate blogging (e.g. the tech sector produces most of the best corporate blogs, the Fortune 500 lags the rest of the world in this area) as well as his picks for the top ten corporate blogs based on quality. Most of the companies are large, but the variety of industries represented is intriguing.

Outstanding brand blogs you should check out by iMedia Connection

Sarah KotlovaSarah Kotlova showcases four well-done corporate blogs (or in the case of Cisco, a collection of company-related blogs written by internal subject-matter experts) from both the B2B and B2C worlds.

Blogging Tools and Resources

Huge List of Useful Tools for Bloggers by ShoutMeLoud

Exactly what it says–a big list of tools to make your blogging more productive. This post lists and links to tools for SEO, writing, blog marketing and more.

Stock.XCHNG

Need an interesting photo for your latest blog post but don’t want to shell out big bucks, go through some convoluted licensing process, or risk violating a photographer’s copyright? This may be the site for you. Owned by Getty Images, Stock.XCHNG bills itself as “the world’s best free (image) stock site.”

veezzle

A free stock photo exchange where you can search, use, share and create collections of images for online use.

fotoglif

If the free sources above don’t have quite what you need, fotoglif offers reasonably-priced photographic images, in a range of categories including news, politics, business, technology and lifestyle.

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How to Get the “Best of” Social Media Posts All Year Long

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

TradePub has just launched its first report in a series for 2012, the Social Media Wrap Up report. Each report will highlight a selection of the best social media posts from leading authors published the preceding month.

Best Social Media Posts of January 2012The inaugural report includes posts from authors such as marketing agency veteran Drew McLellan; Marc Meyer, digital and social media strategist at DRMG; and author, speaker and SVP of Social Strategies at Social 5150 Neal Schaffer.

The topics covered range from social media strategies and hiring a social media agency to guidance on Tweetchats, blogging and measuring social media ROI.

Again, a new summary of some of the best social media blog posts will be published each month in 2012. You can grab the first free report here.

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