web analytics

Blogging is Doing

Search engines are used by billions of people every day, helping them find products to buy, stores to buy them from, information on anything imaginable or the directions to their grandmother’s house. Because search engines are such a huge part of consumers’ lives, they have become a huge part of how companies do business. Users are often unaware of the existence of businesses because they don’t show up on the first page of search results, creating the need for business to employ search engine optimization (SEO) in order to gain a wider audience and generate profitable conversions.

Having an official blog is an effective method of gaining rank in various search engines, particularly since Google’s Panda update was rolled out, favoring pages with high quality content over weak, shallow pages. As part of both a social media marketing campaign and a service being provided to customers, a well-maintained, attractive blog featuring informative, useful content can provide tremendous support for a business.

By emphasizing valuable content and displaying the knowledge of the company’s employees in their field, a corporate blog can build relationships with customers while gaining the positive attention of Google and Bing. Integrating the blog into social networking initiatives and making it part of a cohesive brand will increase the likelihood of being ranked highly in search results and of increasing customer retention and brand awareness.

Content is King

Google’s Panda update made it clear that the search engine values quality content over anything else, particularly the overuse of keywords. While websites could formerly get away with having long pages of machine-generated, mostly incoherent text that included repetitive uses of the same keywords, the method for gaining ground in the post-Panda world revolves around well-written pieces that match the context of the site. By writing content with customers and potential customers in mind, businesses can satisfy both their intended audience and search engine bots.

Show What You Know

In addition to providing well-written, pertinent information on their blogs, companies should provide useful information for consumers. Blogs should not be used to advertise a company’s products (though a short post announcing a new product is okay) but should instead educate customers on frequently misunderstood aspects of their business or field. For example, a heating and air conditioning repair company could feature blog posts concerning tips for homeowners to keep their HVAC systems running efficiently or posts describing the various heating and cooling options available to homeowners, along with their strengths and weaknesses. By providing valuable information to consumers, businesses have an easier time maintaining brand awareness with potential customers and being seen as leaders in their field.

Get the Word Out

Every blog post should be accompanied by social buttons that will allow readers to share the post with their friends and colleagues on the most popular social networks, such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Integrating the company blog with other social platforms can increase the visibility of each post–and the blog as a whole–to both consumers and search engines. By keeping the user experience integrated and as seamless as possible among the various social platforms and the company’s website, users will be able to recognize the company and its brand more readily and search engines will notice the uniformity and rank the site more highly.

SEO Killer! Google is the Primary Suspect

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the primary way to drive traffic to your website. It is what facilitates you coming up in search results and therefore facilitates people going to your website. But Google might be trying to kill your SEO.

SEO primarily operates from the use of keywords. These words are used strategically in your site to help the search engines find your site and match it with appropriate search terms. The better your SEO the better you will turn up in the search results. Really good SEO can result in you being one of the first few websites found in a relevant search.

Google is jumping on the privacy train, but not in a way that users will actually know. They are making it so if you do a search, and you are signed into Google, your search will be encrypted. What does this mean? Good question! This means that the information about your search, keywords and the link you clicked to get to the website will not be shared with the website.

What this means to websites:

When someone comes to your website from a search engine, they use a search term to find your site. That gives them a link to a page on your site. They click the link and go to your site. As obvious as this is, this information is important to your SEO strategy. You want to know the words people are using to find your site. You want to know the links that are bringing people into your site.

The data you will not be receiving due to the new encryption is:

  • Referral Data – This is the link they clicked to get to your site.
  • Key Words- These are the search terms the used to find your site.

This information will not be withheld on ads or sponsored listings, so if you pay for your listing you will still know how the user found you.

Whats the upside?

This is only affective when people are signed into their Google accounts, which is roughly only 10% of the users. So 90% of your organic traffic will deliver data to your analytics. The other 10% will show you that the user came, but not the how’s, what’s or where-from’s.

Why are they killing my SEO?

Good question. The primary argument is this is a step towards increased privacy. Google has often been criticized for being too invasive. They gather and share information about their users. This is giving users the option of increased privacy in their searches. Of course, Google still has this information and that information is still feeding into their ads, sponsored links, stories, etc. So you will not likely notice the increase in privacy.

From the users point of view nothing has changed. From the websites point of view, they are being denied some valuable data.

Branding the Sales Funnel

What does your brand say about you? Or does anyone even know your brand?

Something that you hear a lot of in social media is the idea of branding.  We also hear about branding in exclusion to sales. But is branding just a marketers excuse for not delivering the sale? What part of the sales funnel incorporates branding?

Branding

When a marketer isn’t deliver the sale you will often hear them say:

“We are building your brand recognition”

“Creating a strong brand”

“Getting your brand out there”

What does that mean? What is the value of branding? It might sound like a bucket of horse apples, but there might be more to it than you think.

A brand is a name you know, like and trust. So branding is the art of becoming knowable, likeable and trustworth.  Not sure you are fully seeing the value?  Lets look at some of the ultimate branding successes:

Kleenex – Your nose is runny to you ask for a facial tissue or a kleenex?

Coke- Have you ever said you wanted a coke and then were asked what kind?

Xerox- how often do you make photo-stats or do you make a xerox

Even Google has become one- “Let me google that” instead of “let me search for that”

These are words that have become a part of our vocabulary and encompass everyone in their category. Of course most people won’t achieve this level of brand recognition, but it doesn’t mean that branding doesn’t play a valuable roll in your business marketing.

Brand recognition is what separates you from the pack. Your name becomes synonymous with your reputation. If that reputation is good then your name carries its own capital value. If your reputation is good and your name is synonymous with your reputation, then you will breed trust with your brand. That trust then also becomes a part of the brand reputation.

Does branding get you the sale?

Not in the short run. But it will in the long run. When you are building your brand you need to focus on establishing your reputation. People don’t yet know you so they don’t yet trust you. If they don’t trust you why are they going to click your link and buy from you?  However, once you have brand recognition they will buy from you because they do trust you. Not only will they buy from you but you will have better loyalty and be able to command a higher price than your unbranded competition. People are willing to pay for reputation.

In some cases your reputation becomes a status symbol, like Bently or Rolex. There are plenty of other diamond encrusted watches that are good. But you know Rolex is good and that they stand behind their product. So you are willing to pay a premium for what you know to be a quality product with good customer service and a high retained equity value. That is another place where branding comes into play. The value of your brand also extends to its long term equity. If you are known for excellence in your products, that can generate a higher resale value, which intern makes buying your product an investment.

Social Branding

Branding is not the end all be all of marketing. You still need to go out and farm the lead and work the sale. Though it will great help you in the long run, you still have to get the sale in the short run.  This is why social media is so effective to accomplish both. With a good strategy you can generate leads while you simultaneously work your branding. As your branding improves, so will your sales.

Using the social networks to get in front of your audience and participate in topic relevant conversations are a great way to get your brand in front of your potential customers. By thoughtfully participating you can begin to boost your reputation by establishing yourself as educated and informed. This is the first step to being trustworthy.

Brand your Sales Funnel

You do not have to have a million dollar marketing budget to work on branding. You need to get the sales.  But your branding should not be separate from your sales, it should be integrated.  While you are finding your leads and closing your sales, keep in mind that your brand will be helping you along the way. So help it back. Hop onto your networks and jump into the conversations. Offer your knowledge and contribute.  You will be surprised at how many leads you can generate by simply participating.

 

Got Style?: Blogger Makeover

I read a lot of blogs. I am sure this does not surprise you.  In reading blogs I often pay attention to the writing style of the particular post. Some people are very analytical, some are casual, some write like they are in the middle of a conversation with you. When I come across good writing style, I appreciate it. I like that witty play on words or a nice turn of phrase. I appreciate cleaver alliteration and enjoy the feeling when I understand an obscure reference.  But there is more to style than writing.

Writing style is more than the words that flow out of your fingers.  The visual impact of words are also important. Maybe it is my background is graphic design. Maybe it is my obscure interest in typography. Maybe it is that I just read a lot of blogs and want them to be easy to consume.

One of the more common style issues in a post is literally the paragraph format. Some people write blogs where nearly every sentence is its own paragraph.

Sometimes they will even have more than one line of space separating the individual sections.

 

Some people do this because they feel that it makes their post look more substantive. They think that blocks of dense text is hard to read and unwelcoming. In a way they are right. If a paragraph is nearly the length of your screen it can feel a bit daunting.

 

If the words are too dense then we are disinclined to read it. However if they are too far apart we feel the same way.

 

It is not a matter of creating white space to make your post feel longer and easier to read. It is matter of writing in a way that makes your post easy to consume.

 

This means that you need to make it easy on your reader to read. Don’t you remember in school that a traditional paragraph is 4 sentences long? Now 4 sentences is not to much to take in. In fact, you can write more than for sentences. Lets make it 4 lines.  Four lines is a nice block of text. It is not so dense that it is overwhelming. But it is not so spread apart that you are having to scroll down every two lines just to keep reading.

Being easy to read is more than just the words that you use. It is also the way in which they are presented. It is like TYPING IN ALL CAPS. WHEN YOU DO THIS PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM. If you want to make your point, do it in the words you use not the capitalization. Too much white space is a pet peeve of mine because it makes reading the post difficult. I don’t want to have to scroll down every couple of lines to continue reading, it makes the post feel disjointed in my mind. Often times I have to reread to to make sure I absorbed all of it, and if that’s the case then I am not likely to do it.

So keep in mind that traditional writing styles have prevailed for a reason and make sure your blogs are both good to read and easy to read.

 

Do you Understand your Klout?

Klout has been the leading source for ranking your social media, and specifically Twitter, influence. Essentially is calculates your influence by how often you tweet, retweet, mention people and how often people retweet and mention you. It takes into consideration the level of influence of the people you interact with when calculating your influence. But many people have argued that Klout is not a great gauge for actual influence. They argue that it does not accurately gauge who is influential for you, the quality of your engagement or the quality of your retweets. It is basing your influence off of the numbers. The problem with this is that you can make an argument that your score is then based on the influence of popularity.

Those that argue that Klout is arbitrary are not wrong. But it is hard to gauge your influence, and the Klout measuring system is the best empirical analysis that we have. Some of the great measures of Klout are amplification and true reach. This tells you how many people you are actually reaching and through viral marketing, how many people are seeing your tweets. The viral marketing element being your tweet gets retweeted which gets retweeted and so on.

Much of this data has seemed obscure or in a bubble. They were numbers that were not tied to anything. You could see who your influential followers were, but the feedback was purely numbers without interpretation. Klout is changing this. They are now offering a level of interpretation to their analytics.

Now if you have a jump in your amplification it will tell you which influencer is responsible. They are trying to create a higher standard for measuring influence to create a more accurate representation of what influence means. Their new algorithm is not just taking into account your tweets to mentions to retweet to follower ratios. They are now taking those numbers and analyzing them in context of your Twitter behavior. For instance, say you have a lot of followers. Many of those people are influential, but you do not interact with them very much. When you chose to retweet someones content, that will have a bigger impact than the person who blindly retweets everything.

Though the arbitrary argument can still be made, the changes to give more clout to Klout.

 

Jobs Loss for Social Media

The recent death of Steve Jobs reminds us that, while he didn’t have a direct impact on current social media, Jobs did help create the environment for social media to flourish. With products like iTunes and the rise of podcasts in the early 2000’s, Apple put an emphasis on sharing and creating original content before social media sites became popular. And with the iPhone and the iPad, Apple made mobile computing easy and encouraged users to share more of their lives through social media.

Apple—and the world of technology at large—finds itself at a crossroads. Will the loss of Apple’s leader impede their ability to offer more and better products? And, if there is a slowdown in innovation at Apple, will this have a similar affect in how people use social media?

The Medium is the Message

Apple has yet to create a social media platform of their own, but that’s because they don’t have to. Their hardware and other products were built to inspire creativity in the individual and to allow users to take control of their computer experience. Apple’s focus on their products has meant that their message—thinking differently—is carried to every Apple user.

For areas like education, this means that iPods, Macbooks and iPads used in the classroom can inspire new techniques and resources for teaching and learning. From podcasting to interactive iPad apps, Apple gives both teachers and students a chance to explore collaborative learning, online school programs, and interactive educational technology. Social media is becoming a larger influence in education right now—and Apple helped facilitate that new relationship.

The Next Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs influenced more than just Apple: with Pixar, he helped create a new genre of animation, and with the short-lived NeXT, Jobs and his company produced the first web servers. It’shard to imagine that there will be another innovator with talents as diverse as Jobs’.

Still, if something has to carry on Jobs’ legacy of innovation, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook come close: with more than 800 million users, Facebook is by far the world’s largest social media network. What Jobs did with hardware, Zuckerberg is doing with the Internet: giving millions of users a chance to connect to each other, to share activities and to exchange ideas. Facebook’s latest developments include the integration of apps that allow users to do everything from help each other with homework to find and share new recipes. By creating an open online environment that pushes people to share more, Facebook is changing the nature of the Internet. And with just five years online, the potential for Facebook is boundless.

The death of Steve Jobs has already had an impact on the tech world, but the innovation of other minds—both at the helm of companies and everyday end users—will continue to find new and original ways to advance technology. Jobs’ legacy is that he helped give each person with a computer the power to make a mark on the world. With Apple’s products and the inspiration of its users, that power will continue to grow.

Nay-Sayers to Yay-Sayers: How to Convert the Anti-Social Media

Dead Twitter BirdDespite the high usage of social media by a huge portion of the population there are still people out there who are not on board the social wagon. So how do you convert the social nay-sayers into yay-sayers? How do you get the anti-social networkers on the social networks?

Lets look at the types of nay-sayers

1. Too Techy- There are many people who think that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are just too technical for them. They get on and get lost. No on likes the feeling of being confused. No one likes feeling overwhelmed. Telling them that it is simple once they get the hang of it will only make them feel even less capable and push them farther away.

2. Its just a fad – There are people who still think that social media is going to fall to the wayside. That it is a big fad that can’t last much longer. They have been burned by previous networks (Friendster, MySpace) and don’t want to put the energy into yet another network that will just fail in a year.

3. No Time – It simply takes too much time. They barely have time to answer their email, how can they possibly make time for Facebook much less Twitter?

4. Uninterested – The uninterested are the people who will give you all of the above reasons and any other that will come to mind. They are the ones who latch on to every negative about social media. But ultimately they are simply uninterested.

Convert the Nay-Sayers

The Too-Techy are the easiest to convert, though time consuming. They fact that they are overwhelmed by it says they are interested but that they don’t know how to use it. Often when we get overwhelmed, we can’t even see how to start. So instead of taking the first step and starting the learning process, they often shun the whole thing. To lead them out of confusion you will need to do a lot of the leg work. Help them set up a profile, show them how to use it. Walk them through step by step and teach them. You will often have to keep coming back to show them more, or go over what you have already shown them. But if you take the time to really teach them, you can help move them beyond overwhelmed and get them online and social.

The Fad people are a little harder. Many of these are people who were involved early on. They were creating profiles on Friendster and MySpace. They were some of the early users. After creating profiles on network after network, only to have them get shut down by the next greatest thing, they have hung up their social network hat. It is like being in a series of bad relationships, at some point you don’t want to try again.  Ultimately time is the biggest cure. They see that the big 3 (Facebook, Twitter and Linked) are here for the long haul, and many of them trepidatiously create a profile. Though you might not be able to get them to create a profile, if you engage with them when they do, they will get right back into the swing of it.

No-Time is another word for uninterested, though with less conviction. Many are interested but legitimately feel they do not have the time to do it right so why bother doing it at all. Well, from a business point of view they are not wrong. However, if they are doing it for personal there is not time commitment. Though yes, some people spend hours on Facebook and Twitter, there are plenty who only spend minutes. You do not have to have 500 friends. You do not have to talk to everyone. You do not have to play games. In short, you do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. If you help show them the value, like show them their friends who are on the networks. Show them the great things their friends are posting and show them how quickly it can be done, they will be more inclined to hop on for a couple minutes a day.

The Uninterested are the worst. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about these ones. You can tell them all the interesting things going on, explain the business value, show them how the networks are here for the long haul. They can have every family and friend every to enter their life be online waiting for them to join. The ultimate problem is that the networks seemingly offer them no value. They want to keep up with their friends? They call them. They want to use it for business? It is hired out. If you can find a way to show them how it is valuable to them, you might be able to generate interest. But otherwise, they are likely to stay out of the social pool.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

There will always be people who will not join the networks. There will always be people who do not see value in them. However, these people are not your audience. This is why marketing needs to be spread out over a few different channels. Your audience will never reside in only one house. So the people who remain nay-sayers, you can let them be. They will find their reasons and you will always have your own to argue with them. But ultimately you are trying to reach the people who are the yay-sayers. So don’t sweat the people who say no and reach out to those who say yes.

 

Hotzone Gets Social!

Lauren MacEwen Social Media Strategist at the HotZone EPA conferenceThis weekend I will be giving a presentation on social media and emergency management at the EPA’s Hotzone conference in Houston, TX. The conference is for emergency responders to train them on how to respond in emergency situations. Last April I gave a talk at the the local emergency management conference in Albuquerque. This time the presentation will be much more in depth.

Social media and emergency management is a hot topic. It is a powerful tool for more than just communication. Social media can be used to verify events, find people, give real time reports, calm panic, answer questions and give the community an opportunity to participate in managing the emergency.

Since Michael Jackson died, Twitter has been breaking news faster and more consistently than any other news source. If something is happening, there is likely someone talking about it. Look at the Osama Bin Ladin raid and the tweeter who unwittingly reported it as it was happening.

Now there are channels, hashtags, twitter accounts and entire pathways devoted to reporting emergency situations. There are everyday people who monitor the hashtags using #wx in order to keep an eye, and help spread the word, on any weather watch activity.

Social medias integration into emergency management is saving lives and improving and facilitating communication. I am excited to give this presentation for the EPA.

Why do I have to wait for Facebooks new features?

This is an excellent question. Many people are getting the releases of the Facebook updates well in advance of the general public. So what makes us so special? Well not much really. If you want to be the first to get the new updates, use the new features, play with the new timeline profile, then you need to be a developer.

This sounds much more complicated that it is. All you have to do is create an app.  Now that sounds much more complicated than it is. I found a great guide that will walk you through the steps of creating an app. This does not mean you have to put something out there for the world to use. You can just create something simple that no one ever sees. The simple act of creating it makes you a developer.

So if you want to get these updates early with all of us tech geeks, the go create an app and get your developer street cred.

5 Rules You Should Break When Blogging for Business

Blog with stars shooting off the word BlogA common question entrepreneurs ask is, “Should I blog?” If you have a business, it’s worth your while to do so.  Why? Consider this: “Companies that blog generate 55 percent more visitor traffic.” So say the authors of From Prospect to Evangelist – Optimizing Relationships with Social Media, a free e-book by HubSpot (a company that creates software and gives out marketing information for businesses).  Producing great content, drawing attention through relevant keywords and attracting a community of followers through important topics are all ways to generate traffic. And this traffic can then be diverted to your website and your business.

You may be just starting out, or a veteran blogger, but if you’re overwhelmed and confused by all the “shoulds” out there, here are 5 rules you should be breaking when it comes to blogging for your business:

1. Blog only what you know. They say the same thing about writing. But there’s a big flaw in this. You’re not just limiting what you can write, but your potential for learning as well. Sure, write about what you know, but also leave space for topics you are not familiar with. Do the research and you will eventually increase your expertise in other areas of your professional life. You don’t need years of experience in a subject to write about it. You need passion, good research skills and interest in the topic.

2. Pretend everything is okay. It’s all too tempting to create a perfect persona online. But perfection can create boredom in blogging and an inauthentic representation of your work. Say, for example, you made a mistake in a blog post. You may have quoted the wrong person, added the wrong link, misspelled a word. If your readers and potential customers are commenting about it and you don’t acknowledge your mistake, that’s an elephant in the virtual room. It puts distance between you and your future customers. To be successful in business you need to create trust. Be honest and show them you’re not perfect. Present yourself as human and you will establish better relationships with your prospects and customers.

3. All your posts must be planned. It’s great to have a row of posts lined up when you go on vacation or in case you get sick. Consistency is key to getting an established set of readers to your blog. But to be successful you don’t always have to have your posts planned. Say you’ve got a great new product you want to share with your customers or a marketing strategy you’ve just learned. Spontaneous posts keep your readers on their toes. They’ll never know when something new or exciting may show up on your blog and they will keep coming back for more.

4. Your posts should not be too short, nor too long. I think breaking up your blog with short and long posts makes for an interesting read. There is no specific word count that will make your blog more popular than others. It is the content, not the length that will draw readers. Remember that the next time you want to post a 300-word post and feel the need to double it before it’s published. For more information, read Problogger’s take on post length

5. To have a successful blog, you must continuously plug your business. We all know you’re blogging to grow your business. But writing your latest press release or touting your product in every post will scare away your readers and potential customers faster than the plague. The most important thing you can do when blogging for your business is to create a community of readers. This means welcoming and answering comments, visiting other blogs, commenting on their posts, creating an email signature with your website and putting your blog on your business card. You want to do everything to garner potential readers to your site and create interesting, engaging posts to keep them there.

These are just a handful of rule-breaking tips. Do you have your own? Share them in the comments below.


Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a professional freelance writer. Not only does she write for other people, but she writes for herself as well.  She maintains two blogs. One is for writers and taking your writing to the next level. The other is a blog that is designed to inspire.  Her background in English and Psychology give Brandi a great voice, inspiring others to write, and giving insight into the world of writers.

Read her self-titled blog: Brandi Ann Uyemura: Guide from a conscious writer

Read: The Inspiring Bee

Follow her on Twitter @2inspired