How (and Why) to Map Your Company’s Digital Landscape

With more than 90% of companies now using social media to find employees and 82% having a Facebook page, there’s no question that business use of social media has become commonplace. But “use” and “success” are two different things. Many organizations, having now realized that the “build it and they will come” model doesn’t work in social media and that it isn’t just another channel for promoting news releases and marketing brochures, are stepping back and retooling their social media strategies.

Evaluating Your Digital LandscapeIf you’re developing a new social media program, revamping one that’s failed to achieve hoped-for results, or just trying to make an existing strategy more successful, one key component to start with is an analysis of your social media or digital landscape. This analysis will help you understand:

  • • Where your prospective buyers are congregating in social media, and what they are talking about.
  • • What your competitors are doing in social media.
  • • Which voices are most influential in your market space.

Here’s a four step plan for creating a digital landscape analysis for your organization, to help build or rebuild a successful social media marketing strategy.

1. Evaluate how your competitors are using social media. For both strategic and benchmarking purposes, create a spreadsheet listing your top competitors and, for each, showing:

  • • Social features on their website (e.g. do they have a blog, how prominently is it featured, social bookmarking links, social media account links, etc.).
  • • Twitter metrics (followers, following, frequency of tweets, general level of interactivity).
  • • Facebook / LinkedIn / Google Plus metrics (i.e. followers/fans/circles, how complete is their profile, level of activity).
  • • YouTube metrics (total videos uploaded, subscribers, video views, recency of last update).
  • • Other social activity and presence (Flickr, SlideShare, Wikipedia, etc.).

Collecting this information is Phase I. This will give you a rough benchmark for your own social media activity (if you already have an active program) and will help you identify any positive outliers—competitors who are far more successful than average in social media—to take a closer look at.

When creating your strategy, you’ll revisit this data and take a closer look at exactly what these competitors are doing (particularly the more successful ones). The point is not to copy anyone else’s strategy as your company’s approach should be designed to capitalize on your own unique strengths, but rather just to see what you can learn from competitors’ success and make sure you aren’t overlooking any obvious tactics or techniques.

2. Identify the key influencers in your market. The next step is to identify the influential voices in your community that you’ll want to reach out to, connect with, and begin building relationships with. These are the journalists, bloggers, analysts (industry or financial) and others who can help amplify your content, spread your story, and lend credibility to your messages.

If you’ve got the budget, the quickest and easiest way to build a list is by using a PR and social media monitoring tool such as Cision, Vocus or MyMediaInfo.  If not, or to supplement the results from those paid tools, do some manual research using free tools like AllTop, Technorati and Google Blog Search.

These tools will tell you who is talking about a particular topic, but not necessarily how influential or important any individual source is. In an ideal world, there would be a standardized measure of some sort. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, use influencer rating tools like Klout and Kred in conjunction with checking which blogs are featured most often on blog rolls of target bloggers (an informative though imprecise measure of influence) and the Pagerank of each blog. Combing these measures provides at least a rough guide to the relative influence of various sources.

3. Find relevant groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. This is as simple as searching within “groups” on each social networking site for your primary keywords and recording the results. Note how many groups you find, how large the groups are, and how active they appear to be. Business-related topics will generally have more, larger groups on LinkedIn than Facebook, while the opposite is typically true for consumer topics.

Once you’re in the execution phase, you’ll of course want to monitor, contribute to and interact within the most important and active groups on your list. But in the digital landscape analysis, it’s enough to flag these groups for further investigation.

4. Look for other places where people are talking about your industry. Your prospective buyers are likely having conversations in places well beyond the big five social networking sites. If you’re using a professional (fee-based) social media monitoring tool, start there to identify these message boards, forums and other sites where people in your market are asking and answering questions.

An excellent free tool for conducting this research is Google Discussion Search (run a search on Google, click “More” in the left sidebar then click “Discussions”). It takes a bit of manual effort, but you can build a fairly comprehensive list of discussion forums and message boards by running multiple searches on Google Discussion Search, capturing the results to Excel using SEOquake, then sorting the list by frequency.

With these four steps completed, you’ll have a comprehensive picture of your company’s digital landscape in place to serve as a basis for developing a new or revised social media strategy and tactical plan.

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Best Website, UX and Mobile Design Guides and Tips of 2011

Inspired web designers continue to push the envelope on what’s possible in online presentation, utilizing HTML5 and design elements and techniques like parallax scrolling effects, imaginative icons and unusual typography to stand out from the ordinary and grab visitors’ attention. Any website element can be creatively designed and optimized, from navigation menus and forms to landing pages and 404 error pages.

Web design isn’t only about creating a visually striking site of course; designers also need to keep in mind factors like site load speed, user experience and search optimization. And with the rapid increase in use of mobile device browsing, sites have to be readily adaptable to different screen sizes.

So how does a web designer create a site that’s visually stunning and fast and user-friendly and effective at driving conversions and search-optimized and mobile-friendly? It’s a lot to keep with, but these 33 remarkable web design guides should help.

Creative and Inspiring Graphic Design

35 Inspiring Examples of Websites Using HTML5 by Web Design Ledger

Foundation Six HTML5 WebsiteGisele Muller presents “35 new examples of websites that are also using some new tricks from HTML5,” including Wantlist, Vision18, Visua Design and Andrew Shanley.

40 Beautiful and Inspiring Examples of Slideshows in Web Design by Tripwire Magazine

Noting that “There are many reasons to use a slideshow or image slider in your web designs as the key to smart strategic Web design is finding a smartest and interactive way to display your information to your visitors,” Dustin Betonio showcases a collection of “highly creative, beautiful and inspirational slideshows for your inspiration,” like winestore, Crush + Lovely and Fox Classics.

35 must see examples of websites using HTML5 by Web and Designers

HTML5 Lab Web DesignA collection of nearly three dozen examples of remarkable website design using HTML5, including sites like Chico web design, Dribbble, John Kavanagh and Griottes.

8 ground-breaking websites by iMedia Connection

Jennifer Marlo shares eight critiques of brand websites from industry thought-leaders who share what they find unusual or effective about each site as well as what they’d change. For example, Thomas Mueller of Siegel+Gale writes of the Nike Better World site, “Beautiful fades and elegant transitions transform what could have otherwise been a straightforward linear experience into a layered visual exploration that links to Nike’s comprehensive digital footprint.”

30 Awesome Social Icon Packs by Webdesignersblog

Social Media Icon CansA big collection of creative icon packs, from teacups, cupcakes and peeling stickers to clover, cartoons and cans. Icons don’t have to be boring!

Your Website is Killing Me by Social Media Explorer

In this wonderfully revealing rant, Heather Rast explicates why many business websites fail, and what they could do to improve, e.g., “Your web team consists of the super sophisticated, MacBook-toting college-age kid of one of the vice presidents. (as if a Dreamweaver course covered usability standards)…Your site uses internal language and writes from internal hot buttons to communicate with external audiences.  Think mission statements, vision statements, core values…Awards and certifications abound. From 2008.”

Hot Web Design Trends: Parallax Scrolling Effects in 100 Examples by Splashnology

What’s this post about? “Parallax scrolling in web design is the technique that features layered images that move around the website in different speeds/perspectives creating a nice and interesting 3D illusion. Initially it was used for creating an illusion of depth in a 2D video games and adding to the immersion, but now, with the help of well defined imagery, JQuery and CSS3, it can be useful in making your site look more vivid and creative. To your attention we’ve complied a great collection of 100 example of parallax scrolling effect.” These are cool.

20 Mind-Boggling Parallax Website Design And How To Make One by 1st Web Designer

Jamal Jackson defines parallax design as “the apparent displacement or the difference in apparent direction of an object as seen from two different points not on a straight line with the object. In web design use, parallax refers to the scrolling technique used to create the illusion of depth on websites,” then highlights examples of sites like Living Word, Dezignus and Art of Flight (which is truly extraordinary–take a look).

Art of Flight - Parallax Web Design Example


Navigation Menu Design

25 Beautiful & Inspiring Navigation Menus by Web Design Ledger

Gisele Muller (again) rounds up “25 examples of beautiful and inspiring navigation menus” featuring likes like Unfold, Shout, Sellected Studio and Don’t Throw Batteries.

28 Stylish Examples of Drop-Down Navigation Menus in Web Design by DesignModo

Drop-Down Navigation Menu ExampleElegant and creative drop-down menus incorporating transparency, icons, shading, highlighting, color, shapes and other effects to stand out from the ordinary.

20 Inspiring Navigation Menus by Web Design Ledger

20 more examples of creative navigation menu design, using typography, color, transparency, parallax scrolling and other effects, including sites like Timberland, Citroen and divups.

Typography in Web Design

Beyond Times and Arial – The New Web Safe Fonts by Google Webmaster Central Blog

David Wurtz explains how Google Web Fonts work, provides some examples, and notes that “The adoption of the web font technology has been rapid. Google Web Fonts now serves roughly 50 million daily requests[1], across roughly 800,000 unique websites[2], and is growing at about 30% each month.”

50 Excellent Free Handwritten Fonts by Designer Terminal

Covered by Your Grace - Web TypefaceTaimur Asghar presents 50 (mostly) free handwriting-type fonts for designers. The “slide over” ads on this page get a tad annoying, but the fonts are beautiful and worth checking just for the lyrical names, like Niakania, CrimsonVermillion, Throw My Hands Up in the Air and Annie Use Your Telescope.

Imaginative 404 Error Pages

33 More Entertaining 404 Error Pages by Mashable

Erica Swallow features more creative, funny, odd and quirky 404 error pages from sites like Audiko, Blizzard Entertainment (blames the user–but very creatively) and iContact, which turns things upside down—literally.

35 Creative 404 Error Pages by Web Design Ledger

Heinz 404 Error PageGisele Muller (yet again) shares examples of unusual but nice 404 error pages that show consideration for users, including pages from Carol Rivello, duoh and Frye / Wiles.

Optimizing Error Pages: Creating Opportunities Out Of Mistakes by Smashing Magazine

Daniel Waisberg reviews “techniques that will help Web designers and UI professionals improve their error pages in order to engage visitors and improve the experience,” including smart things to include on a 404 error page (company name/logo, explanation of why this page is appearing, easy navigation back to popular pages on the site), how to monitor 404 page visits and navigation, and tips for minimizing 404 errors.

Landing Page Design

Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit by UX Movement

Excellent advice, concisely presented: “A ‘Submit’ button describes what the system does well, but it doesn’t describe what the user does at all…The action button should affirm what that task is, so that users know exactly what happens when they click that button (e.g., ‘Create Account,” “Subscribe Now’)…The more focused your form is, the more likely you’ll get users to complete your form.”

5 Ideas For Boosting Your Landing Page Conversion Rates by Business2Community

Kristina Allen offers a handful of helpful suggestions for improving landing page performance, such as trying a unique design format, building trust, and testing early and often.

25 Excellent Examples of Forms in Web Design by Web Design Ledger

Vincent Mazza Form ExampleOnline forms don’t have to be boring, as shown in these remarkable examples from Foundation Six, Vincent Mazza and Justalab among others. A creatively designed form may increase your conversion rates—or at least get your form mentioned in a blog post on web design.

5 Common Landing Page Mistakes by HubSpot Blog

Andrew Pitre offers tips for improving landing page performance, such as #2, “Use Your Headline to Explain the Value of Your Offer – What’s in it for Me?…The best way to achieve this is to have a clear title. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure your title contains:

  • • A clear action (e.g. “Download our Guide”)
  • • A clear description of your offer (e.g. “Download our Guide to Effective Landing Pages”)
  • • An explanation of the value of your offer (e.g. “Download our Guide to Effective Landing Pages and Learn How to Increase Conversions by over 10%”)”

22 Creative Landing Page Designs – A Showcase, Critique, and Optimization Discussion by Unbounce

Mammoth Lakes Landing Page ExampleIn this richly-illustrated and incredibly detailed post, Oli Gardner examines almost two dozen landing pages from small to midsize businesses and critiques each one detailing what he likes about it (e.g., “Testimonials: Testimonials and association with famous people/shows are included for instant credibility”) and what he’d change or test.

50 Effective and Creative Call to Action Buttons by Noupe

Aquil Akhter showcases sites that go way beyond boring gray “submit” buttons to get visitors to click, utilizing unusual shapes, colors, size, placement, effects, arrows, icons and descriptive calls to action.

The 10 most common Landing Page Optimization mistakes by Web SEO Analytics

Vasilis Vryniotis details ten common landing page mistakes, from having an unclear call to action or too much text to requesting too much information and not testing different landing page variations.

6 Essential PPC Landing Page Optimizations by The Daily SEO Blog

A half-dozen tips for increasing landing page conversions, from pre-positioning the cursor in the first field to be filled out and using eye-tracking data to integrating testimonials and driving to a single call to action.

User Experience and Technical Design

30 Ways to Optimise Your Site for Speed by SEOptimise

Noting that, in addition to the fact that slow-loading websites are annoying for user, “in 2010 Google decided to take site speed into account as a direct ranking factor”—thus making it all that much more critical—Tad Chef offers 30 tips for speeding up your site, from using smaller images and external scripts to switching to a faster web hosting service and limiting the use of third-party widgets on your blog or website.

5 Little-Known Web Files That Can Enhance Your Website by Six Revisions

Alexander Dawson details five files that can improve your website UX, including Geo.kml (and Geo.rdf) for geolocation information, Humans.txt for attribution, and vCard.vcf, a digital business card (another effective option here is a portable Workface profile.

How To Fix The Top Tech Issues I Regularly See In SEO by MediaPost Search Insider

The prolific Janet Driscoll Miller offers tips on several common technical design issues that can impact SEO and how to correct them, for example: “avoid using Javascript on key areas of your website, such as the navigation. Links contained within Javascript are also not indexable, providing a roadblock of sorts for the bots to index your site. If you’re looking for impressive menus, instead focus on using cascading style sheets (CSS) to achieve a similar effect.” She also provides tips for speeding the load time of WordPress sites.

8 reasons why someone leave your website – An infographic by The Web Citizen

What makes someone leave a website? (Infographic)Ilias Chelidonis shares an infographic detailing the top reasons visitors bounce from, or at least don’t stick around long, on websites including bad navigation, obtrusive ads or video, boring content/design, and poor readability.

25 Must-Haves for a Remarkable Website by HubSpot Blog

Jessica Meher presents 25 “key elements for driving more traffic, leads, and sales,” like optimizing page content and title tags for search, using relevant imagery, writing copy that is clear rather than clever, and using calls-to-action that stand out.

Mobile Website Design

How to design and develop for mobile sites by iMedia Connection

Mark Simpson supplies five tips for effective mobile site design, such as asking questions to determine what site content you have that is really relevant in the mobile environment: “Sites like Foursquare and Mashable have done a good job of making their sites accessible in the mobile world. What patterns do you notice? What website components have smart marketers left off their mobile sites? What features make the apps and sites more user-friendly?”

How Does Your Website Look on Different Mobile Phones? by Digital Inspiration
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Acknowledging that it is much more challenging to test a website on every permutation of mobile device than on the far more limited number of popular desktop browsers, Amit Agarwal reviews Opera Mobile Emulator and Mobilizer, two tools that enable to designers to see how their sites will look on a wide range of mobile devices.

24 Excellent Examples of Responsive Web Design by Web Design Ledger

Two dozen examples of sites that use dynamic web design–web architecture that enables a single design to automatically adapt to a wide range of devices and screen sizes–such as Fork, Atlason and food sense.

What Elements Should You Eliminate When Building a Mobile Website? by The Daily Egg

Six design experts offer their advice on the difficult question of what website elements to eliminate in mobile design, such as this from Andrew Pautler: “I think the better question than ‘what should we cut’ to think about is ‘what should we keep.’ The answer to that question should almost always be the content. People come to your site for the content, so that’s what you should give them. The excessive navigation, oversized banner ads, 15 Facebook links on a single page, etc. are usually the things worth cutting when reducing your site to 320px..That said, mobile doesn’t and shouldn’t mean ‘watered down’…Creating a ‘mobile’ version of your site with limited content is not what the user wants. You can re-prioritize the content, but you shouldn’t hide or remove important content from the mobile version.”

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Best Web Presence Optimization Guides and Tips of 2011

One of the most interesting aspects of web presence optimization (WPO) is how frequently bloggers and journalists write about the concept without actually using the term. They use terms like “search and social,” “inbound marketing,” “social media optimization,” “online reputation management,” “internet marketing” and others, with general agreement that the art and science of getting found on the web today require much more than just SEO–but no consensus on what to call it.

Rand Fishkin recently devoted 1,700 words to the topic of conversations about the industry’s nomenclature and inspired nearly 170 comments, all with no mention of WPO. Krista LaRiviere (see below), a co-founder of gShift Labs, is one of the few bloggers who have embraced the term.

Oh well, whatever you call the discipline of maximizing a company’s online visibility in a world where search is much more than Google-Yahoo-Bing and where web presence is much more than a corporate website, here are 18 of the best blog posts and articles from the past year on how to do it well.

Web Presence Optimization (WPO) Guides and Insights

The New Breed of B2B Buyer by Chaotic Flow

Joel YorkJoel York argues that “A new breed of B2B buyer has arisen, a species that is more connected, more impatient, more elusive, more impulsive, and more informed than its pre-millennium ancestors,” and that marketers need to understand how the B2B buying cycle has changed and adapt to the “new B2B buyer rules of engagement” across several traits including impatience (by making content easy to find in a self-service manner).

Inbound Marketing: Unlock the content from your emails and social marketing by MarketingSherpa Blog

Adam T. SuttonObserving that email marketing efforts often produce “a mountain of content, but little of it gets used for marketing,” Adam T. Sutton shares tips from Chris Baggott on turning email content into optimizable content, such as publishing customer service answer emails as blog posts: “Sales and service teams write thousands of emails to answer customers’ questions…The answers to these questions are extremely specific to each customer’s situation. If published, they’re potentially valuable for long-tail (low volume, highly qualified) search traffic. What is the best parka for sub-zero temperatures? That sounds like a Google search to me.”

We’re Looking In The Wrong Place For Our Attribution Models by MediaPost Search Insider

Gord HotchkissGord Hotchkiss explores John Yi’s concept of Pinball Marketing: “The new game of marketing is much more like pinball. The intersections between a buyer’s decision path and a product’s marketing presence are many, and each can send the buyer off in a different direction. Some of those intersection points are within the marketer’s control — and some aren’t.” WPO is about increasing the number of those intersection points and having as many of them as possible within the marketer’s influence, if not actual control.

Likelihood to Click by The Daily Numbers

David EricksonDavid Erickson reports on recent research showing that “48% (of searchers) are likely to click if a brand shows up multiple times within a set of search results.” That figure seems low, but even if accurate, it makes a strong case for WPO activities designed to get a brand to show up multiple times, high in the search results, for core key phrases.

What Wins In Google Universal Search? Videos, Images & Google! by Search Engine Land

Barry SchwatrzBarry Schwartz reveals that in Google Universal Search results, “videos are by far the most found results in Google, with image content a distant second,” while maps, blogs and news also rank highly—another reason companies need to utilize a diverse set of tactics in order to maximize their exposure near the top of search results.

Get Found: Stop Doing SEO, Start Doing WPO by iMedia Connection
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Krista LaRiviereKrista LaRiviere of web presence optimization software firm gShift Labs quotes a client who told her that “once his marketing team started focusing on the company’s entire web presence (not just the website), organic search traffic increased, leads increased and business increased. His team noticed a significant difference within a three-month time period,” then provides a helpful six-step process for getting started with WPO.

6 SEO Jedi Tactics to Try Before Turning to the Dark Side by Search Engine Watch

Angie SchottmullerThe brilliant and always entertaining Angie Schottmuller uses a Star Wars analogy to argue for the benefits of white hat over black hat SEO, but several of her six “SEO Jedi” tactics apply to WPO, including universal search optimization (“Leverage the diversity of Google universal search results mixed with videos, images, shopping, books, maps (local), and news…video and image formats dominate Google mixed results, yet few sites actually apply SEO to these assets…Surround on-page images or videos with relevant textual content to help search engines better understand the asset and in-turn boost the relevance of the page as well”), clever link bait, and social media optimization.

How to cure your SEO blindness by iMedia Connection

Alan BushAlan Bush writes that “The SEO process is multi-faceted and detailed, requiring coordination between client and agency, as well as among many departments such as marketing, IT, and more”—which is true, although the model he presents here is closer to WPO than pure SEO, incorporating as it does (in addition to traditional aspects of SEO like keyword research, competitor analysis and link building) social marketing, blogging, news releases and online articles.

SEO, Social Media and WPO

7 ways to make SMO work in the post-Google age by iMedia Connection

Ben ElowitzContending that “The days of search engine optimization (SEO) as a critical audience-driving strategy for digital publishers are numbered. Forward-looking marketers need to educate themselves about a far more meaningful and effective way of bringing audiences to media destinations—social media optimization (SMO),” Ben Elowitz makes some excellent points (content is again becoming more important than technology) and provides some helpful guidance for driving more traffic through sites like Facebook and Twitter. But the truth of course is that SEO and SMO are both important and need to be practiced as part of a WPO strategy.

From SEO To Social Media, Getting All Channels To Drive Traffic by MediaPost Search Insider

Derek GordonDerek Gordon notes that “From newsletters to advertising, PR to social media, it’s no secret that a good marketing strategy leverages every available channel to drive traffic to Web sites…And all it really takes is (an) old mantra: work together,” and supplies some excellent tips for what is, effectively, WPO.

The Fabulous Collision of Search and Social by Social Media Today

Rohn Jay MillerRohn Jay Miller offers keen insights into what he terms the “collision between social networks and search engines,” writing that social networks are remixing search in three key ways: through social content evaluation (“If a lot of people on Twitter like Bill Bob Thornton’s grilled chicken marinade, the link to his Website will move up in the SERPs”), social content results (browsing social updates or viewing user-generated content served up in Google results) and social network search (searching within Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter instead of using a traditional web search engine).

5 reasons why social media is good for SEO by Success Works

Stacey AceveroThe delightful Stacey Acevero contends that “what most (marketing and PR professionals) don’t realize is that social media is in fact great for SEO and can help boost your search engine rankings,” then explains how this connection works, e.g., “Social media encourages the sharing of multimedia, and multimedia is shown to increase time on page. PRWeb did a study which concluded that including multimedia in news releases increases time on page by an average of about 30 seconds. Imagine what that could do for your blog and social media posts.”

Optimizing Social For SEO: A Three-Step Beginner’s Guide by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet Driscoll MillerFrequent best-of honoree Janet Driscoll Miller lays out a three-stage process for making social and SEO work together, starting with claiming your company profile on the major social networks (at least Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare and YouTube) and then connecting those accounts through a Google profile.

Social Content Seeding for SEO by Search Engine Watch

Guillaume BouchardPointing out that as the major search engines have incorporated social signals into their rankings, “now you need more than just backlinks to rank. You also need tweets, likes, and other ‘votes’ from social users to let search engines know that your brand is relevant,” Guillaume Bouchard explains how to produce content that is “shareable” (e.g., because it is unique, inspirational or entertaining) and encourage sharing on networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Online Reputation Management and WPO

6 Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation by Content Marketing Institute

C.B. WhittemoreCB Whittemore points out that “Using digital and social tools leads to more links to your website, better quality visits  and more indexing,” and offers half a dozen helpful tips for online reputation management, such as “Your goal is to ‘own’ as many first page search results as possible (yep, that’s pretty much the definition of web presence optimization) for your name and/or your company’s name with content you’ve created or positively influenced…Complete and robust social profiles allow you to own more of those page one results. Claim your profiles (on sites like LinkedIn, Google+, SlideShare, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter) and make sure they consistently describe you and your company.”

Online Sentiment and Link Building by Search Engine Journal

Julie JoyceJulie Joyce identifies six social networks where every business should at least have a profile (note though that these are oriented towards local, consumer businesses; Google+ and YouTube are more important for B2B firms than are Google Places, Bing Local or Foursquare) and outlines a process for tracking and responding social content and product reviews to avoid making a negative first impression in search.

Me, Myself and I: Helping to manage your identity on the web by Google Public Policy Blog

Andreas Tuerk explains how Google has attempted to “make it easier to monitor your identity on the web and to provide easy access to resources describing ways to control what information is on the web,” since your “online identity” is shaped not only by your postings but also by tagging and what others write about you.

HOW TO: Manage Your Online Reputation Using SEO by Mashable

Sarah KesslerReporting that “Of the almost 80% of U.S. hiring managers who had searched for candidates online, 70% of them said they had rejected a candidate based on what they found in his or her search results,” Sarah Kessler provides a four-step process for improving the results of those searches, such as posting positive content: “Profiles on social networks are powerful tools for this purpose, as results from large sites like Facebook and Twitter often carry more SEO power than a single post on something like a personal blog.”

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Best LinkedIn Guides, Tips and Tactics of 2011

While B2C marketers focus on Facebook, LinkedIn is consistently cited as the top social network for B2B marketing. Part of the reasoning is that while Facebook is good for sharing coupons, promoting events, and showcasing corporate culture to potential employees, LinkedIn is powerful at generating web traffic and leads. LinkedIn now has more than 100 million 150 million members including executives from every one of the Fortune 500 companies; 80% of them influence their companies’ purchasing decisions, and those professionals have a significantly higher level of trust in the business-related information they see on LinkedIn than on other popular social networks.

And while LinkedIn’s features remain focused primarily on activity at the individual professional level, the network has added several features for enterprises over the past year, including most recently the Follow Company button for business websites.

So how can companies most successfully use LinkedIn to generate more leads and sales? What’s the best way to start and grow a LinkedIn group? How can you maximize the visibility and impact of your LinkedIn company page? How can you optimize results from LinkedIn advertising?

Find the answers to these questions and more here in 22 of the best LinkedIn guides of the past year.

LinkedIn Tips, Tactics and Best Practices

5 Tips to Get More Sales from Linkedin by Better Closer

Bill RiceIn this concise but useful post, Bill Rice presents five tips for sales (and marketing) pros to take advantage of the capabilities of LinkedIn, from creating a clear profile (“More than boasting about the benefits of any particular company, a LinkedIn profile should make it clear what service it provides to its clients or customers. It should go on to explain what results you can provide for your clients, and how things will improve for them if they work with you”) to asking, politely, for recommendations.

LinkedIn Adds Job Title, Company Names To Text Ad Targeting by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Mark Walsh reports on the expanded options for audience targeting introduced in LinkedIn ads early last year, how LinkedIn ads work, how the enhanced options help marketers, and how they are likely to be received by LinkedIn users.

How LinkedIn Apps Can Promote Your Business by Social Media Examiner

Lewis HowesLewis Howes reveals, in his words, “the top apps you can leverage to get more leads, traffic, product sales, brand awareness, ticket sales, investors, sponsors, consulting engagements and more” including the WordPress app (which enables you to add a blog to LinkedIn), video autoplay, syncing with Twitter, and featuring events on LinkedIn.

How To Maximize LinkedIn For Your Small Business by Sanera People Development Company

Jason SeidenJason Seiden, the guy who trained the LinkedIn sales team on how to use LinkedIn (how’s that for a nice line to have on your resume?) details the process of using LinkedIn for business development by small business owners/managers, from setting clear goals and developing a simple plan to reaching out and never spamming.

10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking by Online Social Networking

Larry BraunerLarry Brauner shares 10 tips for maximizing LinkedIn social networking success, among them: put significant time and thought into your profile, utilize keywords, “join every relevant LinkedIn group,” comment when you have something valuable to add, and most importantly (for any social network)–keep at it.

How to Grow Your LinkedIn Group Numbers by Flyte Blog

Rich BrooksRich Brooks supplies several tips for growing the membership in a LinkedIn group, from sending out invitations (even to contacts who aren’t yet on LinkedIn) to promoting the group through your newsletter or blog, along with ideas to increase group member engagement.

10 Things You Never Knew You Could Do On LinkedIn by Business Insider

Steve KovachWriting that “LinkedIn has been adding more and more social features that make sharing news and links with professionals in a specific industry easier than ever,” Steve Kovach walks through LinkedIn’s social sharing features, like the “LinkedIn Today” daily news digest, searching for updates on your favorite topics, and search-optimizing your company page and personal profile.

Advanced LinkedIn strategies for marketers by iMedia Connection

Kent LewisKent Lewis examines “advanced strategies for optimizing your personal and company profiles” such as optimizing all of the elements of your profile, incorporating the Recommend API on your company bio page, using LinkedIn’s resume builder, creating a personalized LinkedIn home page, and using LinkedIn Q&A to conduct polls.

How Are People Really Using LinkedIn? [INFOGRAPHIC] by Mashable

Charlie WhiteCharlie White shares an infographic loaded with facts and statistics about LinkedIn use, for example: 61% of survey respondents said that LinkedIn was their primary social networking site used for professional networking (versus 22% who said Facebook and 4% Twitter). 81% of LinkedIn members belong to at least one group. And 37% of users say they update their profile picture frequently—while 12% have had the same picture since they joined.

7 Quick Ways to Turn Your LinkedIn Profile into a Social Media Marketing Workhorse by Copyblogger

Noting that LinkedIn users don’t use the site to browse through photos of friends, share 140-character status updates or watch videos of talking dogs, Lewis Howes (again) explains how to use LinkedIn for business: from optimizing your personal headline (it doesn’t have to be merely your current job title) to utilizing social proof to providing a compelling call to action (what do you want someone to do after viewing your profile?).

Will LinkedIn Replace Your Resume? by Market My Career

Interesting question, particularly considering that as this post reports, “LinkedIn (has) announced a product  called Talent Pipeline which will allow hiring managers and recruiters to track all passive and active candidates directly via LinkedIn. So whether a recruiter finds your profile on LinkedIn or someone passes along your resume, it will be stored, managed and share via LinkedIn.”

Tips for LinkedIn Company Pages

8 New LinkedIn Features Worth Exploration by Social Media Examiner

Linda ColesLinda Coles steps through some of the key changes made by LinkedIn early last year, such as support for company pages (and if you jumped on this right away, note that this area has been more recently enhanced, particularly in the product listing area), banner images, video support and blog post feeds.

How to Make the Most from LinkedIn Company Pages by Gloria Rand’s Blog

Gloria RandGloria Rand offers an overview of LinkedIn company pages and how they differ from Facebook pages, with banner images, integrated YouTube videos, and most importantly, customer recommendations: “the real power of Company Pages is the fact that LinkedIn members who recommend a product or service on a company profile, will have those recommendations surface on their own personal profiles as well.”

11 Sales Attributes of a Company LinkedIn Page by Find and Convert

Bernie BorgesContending that “If you are a B2B company, your LinkedIn company page could be as valuable (at least as requisite) as your website,” Bernie Borges serves up tips on optimizing each element of LinkedIn company pages, from the company overview and product/service descriptions through promotions, videos and your company blog RSS feed.

Recommendations: LinkedIn’s Customer Reference Program for B2B Brands by iMedia Connection

Ryan DerousseauRyan Derousseau believes that LinkedIn can function as a consumer/buyer recommendation platform for B2B enterprises much the way Facebook does for B2C brands, and provides several suggestions for capitalizing on this. One of the more interesting recommendations: “Add the recommendation button to your company’s product page on the company website. This allows people to click on the recommendation button, and share with their network that they suggest purchasing this good or service. This plugin will live on the site for other customers to see.”

How To Use LinkedIn To Improve Organic Visibility by Search Engine Land

George AsplandGeorge Aspland explains how to set up and search-optimize a company profile page. Great stuff, but be careful with recommendations that rely on employee involvement (e.g., asking employees to optimize their public profiles with your keywords and share company updates). This is an area where training and having a social media policy in place can be valuable.

Benefits of LinkedIn Company Pages by

Leah BaadeLeah Baade reviews what LinkedIn company pages are, how they work, why they are beneficial, how to set up a company page, how to interpret LinkedIn’s analytics, and most importantly, what to watch out for, such as “The Latest News works a lot like Google Alerts – in that it’s not always accurate. Unless your company has a very unique name, or it’s frequently making top headlines, this may not be the best feature to enable. Try monitoring the company name or keywords for a day or two and see what comes up.”

5 Tips for Using the New LinkedIn Company Pages by Social Media Examiner

Stephanie SammonsStephanie Sammons reviews updates that LinkedIn made to company pages late last year, then offers five tips for optimizing use of company pages, such as posting “a ‘call to action’ to follow your page within relevant LinkedIn groups” to build up followers for your LinkedIn page and providing “interesting and value-added company page updates”—not just company news and job openings.

LinkedIn “Company” Pages: An (Undervalued) Gem for Organizations of All Types by Social Media in Organizations
***** 5 STARS

Courtney Shelton HuntCourtney Shelton Hunt explains why “organizations of all types and sizes should establish and manage their Company Pages (organizational profiles) on LinkedIn,” outlines a three-phase approach to creating company pages, lists several examples of well-crafted company profiles, and presents survey results showing that LinkedIn is overwhelmingly the preferred social network people use when they want to engage with a company professionally.

Best Practices for LinkedIn Advertising

5 Steps to Successful LinkedIn Advertising by Social Media Examiner

Janet AronicaPointing out that “LinkedIn lets marketers target ads to users by important B2B demographics such as job title or industry or even focusing on members of particular LinkedIn groups. This is different—and arguably better-suited for B2B—than Facebook ads, which typically target users by lifestyle interests…(and) marketers can create an ad on LinkedIn in just minutes with a minimum spend of $10/day,” Janet Aronica covers the basics of LinkedIn advertising along with five steps to LinkedIn advertising success (such as split-testing different ad variations).

Relevancy Is Key to Reaching Professionals With LinkedIn PPC Ads by ClickZ
**** 5 STARS

Lisa RaehslerLisa Raehsler compiles a few LinkedIn advertising best practices and tips here, in terms of targeting (“Job function enables you to loosen the targeting criteria a bit and select users within a specific job function such as ‘accounting,’ ‘creative,’ or ‘marketing'”), ads (“It’s common for the CTR of your ad to decline if you continue to display the same ad week after week. A best practice is to refresh your ads at least once per month with new ad text or images”), bidding and budgeting.

A Starter Guide for Advertising on LinkedIn by PPC Hero

Jessica CatesJessica Cates outlines the process of setting up a business account (so you can keep LinkedIn advertising access separate from your personal account) and an advertising campaign on LinkedIn, from rotation and targeting through bidding and tracking conversion data.

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54 Pearls of Marketing Wisdom from HubSpot

The inbound marketing experts at HubSpot along with Jeff Ente of Who’s Blogging What have just published an outstanding collection of social media insights, 54 Pearls of Marketing Wisdom by “26 of the world’s best marketing experts.” The assembled pundits weighed in on one or more questions regarding social media strategy, mobile marketing, online content, guidance on allocating resources between social networks and more.

HubSpot Pearls of Marketing Wisdom ReportAmong the experts are Seth Godin (author, most recently, of We Are All Weird), Jeff Bullas, Sarah Worsham, Ian Lurie, Sharlyn Lauby, Valeria Maltoni, Heidi Cohen, Maddie Grant and Joe Pulizzi. Quite a lineup.

A few highlights of the 66-page report include:

Seth Godin: “I think the relentlessly ebbing of perceived privacy is happening faster than most people thought it would. This is leading to both small pockets of frustrated, trapped people who are afraid of what’s known about them, and a larger portion of the population that’s redefining what they think is normal.”

Linda Bustos (on Google+): “I notice that retweets of my blog’s articles are down since it’s launch, understandably, especially since Google Reader removed other sharing options in favor of the Plus button…I’m also surprised that there’s room for another social network. This and new sites like Pinterest show us there’s still room for new social networks, provided they offer something Twitter and Facebook don’t.”

Sharlyn Lauby: “After what seems like countless failed attempts at social by Google (Buzz, Wave, Orkut, etc), Google+ is already enough of a hit to force marketers to leverage, if only for its search implications.”

Heidi Cohen: “With increasing smartphone penetration, the following mobile marketing elements are the cost of entry: mobile website (fast loading, streamlined to main mobile function and easy to use), mobile search, and email marketing (the top mobile device activity). optimize to be read on-the-go with mobile call-to-action and phone number. ”

Dave Chafey: With mobile I always start with the current level of mobile usage for a company through analytics – to make sure decisions aren’t swept away by the ‘mobile web access to replace desktop access by 2014’ hype. Sure, for some brands in fashion and publishing mobile access is more than 20% in 2011. But for many others it’s in the single digits. Most mobile usage will be around search and the social networks, so make sure these work locally.”

Maddie Grant: “Marketers should stop marketing and start connecting. Start solving problems. Start building relationships.”

Joe Pulizzi: “Every piece of your content should be excellent enough that customers are compelled to share it. With Panda and four (maybe five) major social networks, the best content will rise to the top. That means, velocity will not be as important as truly impactful content.”

Michael Lazerow: “Content needs to be not only interesting, but also engaging and shareable. Content is constantly evolving, so brands need to stay ahead of the curve as best they can. Before you publish anything, think to yourself: is this something I would share with my social network? Is this something that my audience would identify with?”

Cameron Chapman: “The way that content is distributed now is both fantastic for those who are publishing content, and disastrous for the general public. On a daily basis I come across content littered with errors, either intentionally or accidentally, that is being passed around as gospel. Content creators need to take it upon themselves to verify everything they’re putting out there.  In many cases, it goes unnoticed, but when it is noticed, it destroys your credibility. I hate to see an infographic or any content that obviously involved a lot of time made useless because someone didn’t fact check.”

And there’s much more, including my thoughts on social network resource allocation on page 39. It’s a hefty document, but the wisdom is handed out in easily digestible bite-size chunks. Want to be ready for what’s coming in social media tomorrow? Download 54 Pearls of Marketing Wisdom today.

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