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How to Influence Local Search Rankings

Chicago map closeupAchieving high local search engine rankings requires a delicate balancing act between giving Google what it wants, yet stopping before you over-saturate your site with SEO. Plus, this isn’t normal SEO – this is SEO for a specific geographic area only. The truth is that there is still a lot of mystery behind search engine results, but there are some well documented ways that you can boost your local web rankings.

Here is a game plan for how to best allocate your local marketing time and efforts to come out above your local competition.

On Page Keywords

Keyword placement is critical for any website, but their influence on local rankings is even more important. Start by ensuring that the site’s home page contains all of your main keywords, ideally ones that are also in your domain name. Place terms in the first paragraph and the top heading, but avoid using them too often, which can actually cause listings to fall. But most importantly, include some indicators of what area your business serves. This may mean by saying that you do XYZ service in XYZ location. It can also mean listing service areas (but don’t list too many – stick to the general metro areas!). This signals to a search engine both relevancy for a keyword phrase and for a location.

Local Listing Optimization

After optimizing pages for your primary keywords, ensure that you stake your claim on the local market by including your contact information, business name, city and state prominently on your site, and on local listings. This final step is the key to increasing your local exposure by letting search engines know you are a major player in the area. Not sure which directories you need to be in? These are the “musts”: Google+/Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, Yelp!, and any industry specific directories that are locally based. There are plenty of others, but these are where you should focus your attentions first.

Link Love

Inbound links to your website have been a major ranking indicator for years. These days, it’s not just the number of links you have, but also the quality of the links that determines how much they make or break your website’s credibility. Links from credible review sites (e.g. Yelp!), influential city establishments (e.g. Chambers of Commerce, business associations, universities, etc.), local media and bloggers will boost your listing, as they establish your site as an authoritative source of information. Start connecting with these types of sites and look for ways to secure exposure, establish partnerships, or build meaningful relationships with influencers – social media should be your first starting point.

Social Cues

Speaking of social media as a starting point, this is an essential part of local SEO success. While social media activity isn’t a leading ranking factor, it can still have quite an impact. Creating and maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social accounts can increase your web presence, create additional links to your site and serve as a major traffic driver, so invest the time in cultivating a strong social presence.

Rave Reviews

Speaking of reviews, websites offering products or services should strive to get good ones on popular review sites, such as Yelp!, Angie’s List, or others specific to your industry. Facebook reviews also hold quite a bit of weight. Even bad ones can be turned into a positive experience if you contact the poster and offer to rectify their issues and respond promptly. These review sites work to boost your site in two ways. First, they link to your site and create an inbound link. Secondly, they mention your website name, thus boosting your web presence.

What other ways do you try to create more opportunities for exposure for your locally-focused business?

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A Closer Look at Bounce Rate and How to Reduce It

bounce rate

When looking at a website, most people will land on the front page, click around a bit, and spend some time considering the content. Other times, a visitor will land on the site and leave instantly, not immediately finding what he or she was looking for. When this happens, and a person does not navigate further into your site, this is a bounce. Usually, this is a bad thing as it is hard to convert a visitor into a customer when they leave the site immediately. Plus, a high bounce rate can indicate that your site relevant for a keyword phrase, which can affect your SEO visibility. For these reasons, it’s important to concentrate on your site’s bounce rate; here are four steps to improve it drastically:

1) Great content: First and foremost, if you want to get people to stay on your site, you must give a pretty darn good reason. While graphics and other things can help with the look, you must still remember one mantra: content is king. When you keep this in mind, you can create the best pages for your visitors. When they read your content and find value, they are likely to continue reading and, in due time, spend money. Find a way to make your content different from others in your industry. You have no option but to be compelling.

2) Easy Links/Navigation: When a visitor comes to your website, they should find what they are looking for quickly, otherwise, they may grow frustrated and leave the site. To ensure your visitors stay, you should spend some time adjusting your UX  (user experience) to determine a smooth and easy-to-use navigation. Make sure your site is well organized, that your internal site search is easily accessible, and that you’re not overwhelming the user with too many choices. Remember: if they have to go beyond 3 clicks into a site to get to what they need, they are much more likely to bounce.

3) Call-to-action: All-too-often, a site owner will have a compelling site with a lot of information, but will still struggle to get people to convert. When you don’t give people a reason to take the next step, many visitors leave the site and never return. To fix this serious issue, you need to have a call-to-action on every page, in some way. When a reader browses the page, he or she must feel compelled to convert, whether it’s providing contact information, making a purchase, or clicking through to the next page. You have to drive action and consider every page on your site to be a landing page.

4) Tracking: If you have a website, utilizing Google Analytics is an absolute must. With GA, you can get to the bottom of your bounce rate issues by seeing which pages have the highest bounces and where that traffic is coming from. In some cases, you will see people leave some pages more than others, which may give you insight into the reasons why. Do you see a trend in these pages? A lack of content? No clear call to action? Without this data, you’re flying blind in determining ways to reduce bounce rate. With GA, you can hone in on specific pages that need your attention.

Fortunately, with some slight changes, you can fix your site and see it rise in the rankings, both against your competitors and organically. Not only that, but you’ll likely see a better return on conversions with a friendlier site.

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Using Hashtags for Marketing Success

hashtagsHashtags are one of the many tools available on most social networks for people to engage in and track conversations. They allow for content to be branded and categorized in a way that promotes sharing, brand recognition and branding of posts based on the content.

Hashtags have an advantage over the use of keywords as users tend to search for hashtags that are relevant to a post’s subject, rather than searching for individual keywords that may be common and unrelated. If you haven’t started using hashtags in your marketing strategy, now is the perfect time to start!

Let’s get a look at how you can incorporate the use of hashtags in your social media marketing strategy to promote your business.

Understanding the Use of Hashtags

There are three main categories that hashtags fall under. Each category works to describe how the content relates to an overarching idea in some way.

Hashtags describe:

  • Brands or campaigns (#AskObama)
  • Trending (“Happy International Waffle Day”)
  • Content (#Food)

The function of these hashtags allow for members of social networks to quickly find content while defining their own content.

Understanding Brand and Campaign Hashtags

Brand hashtags are self-explanatory tags that describe a brand. #Hyundai, #Toyota and #Ford are three quick examples of car manufacturers that often have some sort of brand hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. These tags work to foster discussion about a brand and a sense of community among members who use it, but only when used properly.

Campaign hashtags describe a campaign. #AskObama is a prominent example because it exemplifies a quick, to-the-point tag that not only looks catchy but succinctly describes the campaign it’s working to promote.

You can use both of these types of tags to promote your business or as a companion to promote one of your marketing campaigns through social media.

When using these types of hashtags, ensure that your hashtags are unique and won’t be used for another purpose.

Understanding Trending Tags

Social networks like Twitter keep track of the most popular tags on their network. The most popular tags become known as “trending” due to the amount of tags that have been used in recent content that has been posted on the network.

Trending tags foster talk about a certain subject that people are widely interested in. Current events, special days and important movements tend to rank highly as trending tags.

While it’s hard to launch a trending tag, you can usually utilize them in modest amounts when they closely relate to your business to garner some attention from potential followers.

To use trending tags on Twitter and Google+, remember that you should be quick to use trending tags as they develop. Don’t overuse them and shy away from using trending tags unrelated to your business’s field, as violating either of these recommendations can be seen as poor etiquette and will result in negative publicity.

Understanding Content Hashtags

Content hashtags are tags that fall more in line with meta keywords that you use on web pages to help search engines understand what your content is related to.

They may not be trending or even popular. They do make it easier for people searching for certain content to find it. They also work to improve the SEO of your content, which makes them perform better in search engines.

Content hashtags usually describe products, lifestyles, events, locations, ideas and concepts.

You should incorporate content hashtags into your social marketing strategy to ensure your social profile ranks highly in search engines and on the minds of people that may not be following you yet. These are tags that you should incorporate as often as they’re related to the content you’re posting.

Now that you have a rundown on what hashtags are and how to use them, start! Still have questions? Need guidance on hashtags? Leave a comment and we’d be happy to help!

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How Should My Organization Use Google+?

Google+Google+ provides a platform for people to get in touch, discuss, and share. Essentially, it’s like any other social network, but — Google+ can be so much more than another network!

Because Google+ is a Google product, it has a lot of SEO power. Google includes Google+ listings/postings in its rankings, since it wants to drive traffic to the network. This means that every business should have at least some sort of Google+ presence. So, for those of you who are new to Google+, here’s a few ways that you can use it within your organization, both internally and externally:

Internal: Increasing Productivity

Many businesses are increasingly using Google+ and other networking sites to increase productivity by facilitating collaboration between employees. Company employees in multiple locations can use Google+ to collaborate on various projects by using Google+ as a hub for discussion. Some companies also create Google+ Hangouts (live streaming video conferences) for their employees so that they can communicate and discuss common issues, brainstorm, or take on other tasks that benefit productivity in their jobs. Hangouts are quite possibly one of the best features of Google+ overall.

External: Targeted Messaging

Google+ provides a platform for companies to distribute information and engage with multiple audiences through Google+’s Circles feature. Many companies use Google+ for businesses to send targeted messages to users within a certain Circle or segment. If your brand works with a lot of different types of influencers or audiences, segmentation can make your Google+ much more effective. For example, if you’re an electronic retailer, you may want to create Circles for gamers, photographers, and early technology adopters. Using these segments, you can potentially create unique messaging and communities that are well-targeted and more engaging than they would be if they were mass-marketed. Outside of interests, you may also use users’ geographic locations, careers, and hobbies to segment – the options are all up to you! You’ll have to do a bit of research into your Circles to find out exactly where they fit, though.

External: Providing Information

Google+ can be a great source of information about a business for consumers. Many businesses are using this social networking platform to connect with potential consumers and provide information about their products and services through sharing photos, videos, links to content marketing pieces, and more. Companies can create Google+ Hangouts where they can interact with clients and clarify issues about their products and services, offer live Q&A with brand stakeholders, or give entertainment in relation to a branding effort. Google+ also has internal blogging tools that allow for you to share exclusive messaging or curate content for interested users.

External: Getting Opinions

Another way businesses can use Google+ is by allowing valuable feedback and exchange of opinions between themselves and the audiences they serve. Google+ Hangouts provide a platform for people to voice their opinions on various topics, and participate in focus groups that provide valuable information. Companies can also use this platform to respond to customer complaints and questions, and position themselves as experts and opinion leaders. Encouraging discussion on a Google+ way is a surefire way to drive traffic to this social network, especially if people recognize that this is the place to interact with your brand one-on-one.

Internal: Recruiting

Another benefit of Google+ for businesses is that it allows companies to recruit personnel. Companies can use Google+ to post messages about vacancies in their departments or network with job seekers to recruit talent for their businesses. Active Google+ users are likely to be an asset to your company because they are familiar with technology and tend to be early adopters. Plus, Google+ can be a platform for you to share video, photos, or other media that demonstrate your corporate culture.

External and Internal: Relationship Building

A significant benefit of Google+ is that it is helps to build relationships. A business with existing customers that it engages on Hangouts increases the chances of those customers being followers, and adding the company to their followers’ lists. Additionally, internal collaborators using Google+ tools may be able to improve communication across teams and create opportunities for more productive meetings.

How does your organization use Google+?

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Five Marketing Trends to Watch For in 2014

Content Marketing2014 is going to be an exciting year for web marketers. Already six months in, we’ve seen some spectacular wins and fails in social media, experienced cutting-edge new tactics, and have gotten a real sense of what the world of search will look like in the coming years.

Some of the old digital marketing and social media techniques are on their way out, thanks to a more experienced crop of web users who’ve become wise to cheap marketing techniques. With new trends like Instagram skyrocketing in popularity, it’s important that web marketers stay on top of what’s happening and develop strategies to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are five 2014 marketing trends that will take your business to the next level. Trust us – if you’re not working these into your strategy already, now is the perfect time to start – it’s never too late.

1) Content Marketing Isn’t Going Anywhere

Each and every year, some marketing guru will run a “the sky is falling”-type article telling marketers that the era of content marketing is over and that targeted blog posts, e-books, press releases, and the like are a thing of the past. No matter what hype you might hear, ignore this. Targeted blog posts and valuable web content is still an invaluable way to market your product. However, things have certainly changed in the past five years or so.

These days, it’s important that your content isn’t just a cheap grab for a higher search engine ranking, but that it provides real and interesting information for your readers to enjoy. Furthermore, it’s key that you create content that can easily be shared on social media and start worthwhile dialogue. When it comes to content, make sure it always meets these three criteria:

  • It’s valuable, educational, or entertaining.
  • It’s easily accessible and shareable.
  • It’s dynamic and aesthetically pleasing (i.e. multimedia, Pinterest-friendly images, and video is your friend!)

2) Instagram is the New Twitter

Twitter has become saturated. While Facebook can still be a useful marketing tool, Twitter has become the place where bad online marketing campaigns go to die (not always, but usually). However, Instagram is a powerful and effective tool that is sadly unused by so many web marketers. Upload photos and video clips that are extremely sharable and compelling. You’ll be shocked at the amount of shares you can get in a short amount of time, especially when compared to the paltry amount of shares you’d be lucky to get on Twitter.

3) Buying Ads is on the Rise

In the old days, web marketers scoffed at the concept of buying ad space, insisting that they could DIY their marketing campaigns with some good, old fashioned SEO. Unfortunately, in a saturated marketing arena, buying ads is actually becoming one of the easiest ways to stand out from the crowd. However, avoid banner or image ads. Instead, buy sponsored ad space on social media platforms or sponsor content that’s designed to reach a targeted and engaged audience. These ads are rising in clicks and conversion rates, whereas savvy web users are learning to ignore banner and text ads on websites. (P.S. – Did we mention all of the ad blocker apps available on browsers nowadays?)

4) Controversy Sells

We live in a world where viral videos are a dime a dozen and where any polarizing topic can yield thousands of blog posts in a web search. In 2014, you’re going to have to be a little shocking if you want to stand out. This doesn’t mean that you have to be offensive, but you need to stop shying away from a fear that you’ll put customers off by creating content that could potentially be a bit polarizing. Take a definitive stance and put your support and content behind it. Remember: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

5) The End of Black Hat SEO

In the old days, web users could easily be tricked, and unethical SEO could yield fast cash results. Those days are officially over. Maybe it was Google Panda, maybe it was the fact that even older web users have become savvy and wise to what’s an ad and what isn’t. Either way, those who attempt to make a quick buck using shady and unethical SEO practices can no longer expect to find any success in the web marketing world. For those who were trying to scam the system, that’s bad news. However, for those honest marketers who were sick of swimming in a sea of sharks, this is fantastic. 2014 will be the year where real, valuable marketing content and campaigns rise, deservedly, to the top.

What have you seen so far in 2014 in terms of marketing trends? What are your predictions for the next six months?

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Instagram Strategies That Work

instalogoInstagram is a very useful marketing tool, beyond what some might say. Instead of thinking that this visual social network is all about high fashion photos or snapshots of teenage antics, know that businesses use Instagram to promote their brands and they do so effectively. Still not convinced? A few case studies:

It’s clear that if a brand uses Instagram to display how a product is used behind-the-scenes, how something of interest can be shared across audiences, or how the people behind the brand bring it to life, you can bet that there’s an increase in brand awareness. But, it takes the right tactics and planning to bring it all together. If you’re thinking of getting started with Instagram, be sure to run through this checklist of proven strategies (backed by our culling of the best brands on Instagram and countless case studies):

Design A Calendar

Brands need to design an effective calendar or schedule for all content, and that include Instagram. Only a few photos should be posted each day, so avoid the common social media pitfall of “spraying and prayer” your network with hundreds of pictures in one day. Posting tons of photos can get annoying. It’s that simple. Three to four photos a day is enough for most brands.

When posting daily pictures, do not post them too close together during the day – i.e. space them out over the entire day. If many photos are posted at the same time, they will disappear quickly as other images posted will take up space in your followers’ feeds. The best time to post images is during a user’s daily downtime. Consider posting images at 8 A.M., 12 P.M., 5 P.M., and 9 P.M. During these times, people are just waking up, going to lunch, traveling home from work, or just sitting at home. Most individuals check their feeds often, so this is why Instagram is a great business tool if you plan out your content postings carefully. (Hint: Not sure which hours are the peaks for your Instagram users? Take a look at your Facebook Insights to see when people visit your page – these peak times are likely going to coincide with all of your social networks, including Instagram).

Using Different Techniques

Posting various images that have different effects/filters will keep the Instagram page fresh; variety is highly recommended. Users will not want to see the same kinds of shots over and over, so avoid the urge to post 10 photos in a row of the newest product you just got in. Instagram managers should take efficient photos of products/services in action, photos of how the business runs behind the scenes, photos of various business events, photos of customers while they are using a product, or photos that match the brand tone/feel/lifestyle you’d like to convey. When it comes to Instagram, the more creative and visually-appealing you strive for, the better.

Hashtags

Hashtags are very important on Instagram, and really, on all social media. Any brand that does not use them will likely run into problems getting traffic to their profiles. Hashtags will send non-followers to the images and can help your brand track its mentions as it reaches new audiences. The process of choosing hashtags must be done carefully, though. Using too many hashtags is not recommended because tons of hashtags will seem like spam. Each hashtag should be used in a phrase or as a call-to-action. Choose only the most relevant phrases that match the content you’re posting as well as your industry.

Benefits Of The Community

Instagram must be used effectively with the long-haul in mind because success will not happen overnight. This best way to gain followers is by commenting on other individuals’ photos, liking others photos, using hashtags correctly, and creating a sense of community around your Instagram profile. Community happens when you unify your audience around a common cause, make people feel included, and acknowledge their contributions. Do all of these things and you’ve mastered community management on Instagram. It may be easier said than done, but the effort is well worth it.

Question:

Do you use Instagram for your organization? How’s it working for you? Please include a link to your Instagram profile in the comments.

 

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Digital Marketing Trends That Put You In “The Know”

Development of new businessDigital marketing is evolving at a breakneck speed that’s leaving many marketers behind. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but with an understanding of the latest trends that are driving digital marketing, you can stay on top of how to engage target audiences online and convert them into loyal brand advocates.

We have just released a new research study entitled “5 Digital Trends that Could Make or Break Your Job.” We encourage you to download it for FREE today.

Our study is full of the latest statistics and numbers that will give you real insight into what consumers want and expect from organizations today. You’ll also get tips and ideas that will certainly help you as you navigate through the often murky, ever-changing landscape of digital marketing.

Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find when you download the study:

Changing Marketing Trends

The trends are clear. If your company is not yet involved in digital marketing, you’re already behind the competition. The question now is no longer “Will my company utilize digital marketing?” but “What will our digital marketing strategy be?” The trends in this industry change faster than any other thanks to modern advances in technology. It makes a good grasp of digital trends vital for anyone who works in this field.

What Determines Branding?

Take branding as an example. There was a time when a company name, logo, and product design were the primary influencing factors that determined a person’s view of a brand. With a good Super Bowl commercial and some positive PR in the newspaper, a company was on branding easy street. What do consumers expect now? They want high quality content on your website and social media pages, a place to connect with a community of your company’s fans, and a high quality app for their smartphone or tablet.

It used to take a lot to hurt a company’s reputation – some big scandal involving executive corruption or a serious product quality issue. Now, one of your employees can say something ignorant or unpopular on their personal Twitter account, and the public holds the whole corporation accountable.

Innovation has become the keyword in the digital marketing world. Everyone wants something new and they want to be fully engaged. You can’t just provide a video for consumers. They want an interactive video. Even when visiting a store, consumers want to be able to interact on their mobile devices to get more. Last Christmas, one popular store in downtown Manhattan, well known for their fabulous window displays, included a display that allowed passers-by to create their own unique digital snowflakes to add to the scene. Consumers expect to continue to be wowed in ways like this, but they have higher expectation every season, putting additional pressure on digital marketers to understand the current trends.

Market Research That Makes A Difference

We’ve prepared a research study to help you understand the current state of the digital marketing industry: “5 Digital Trends That Could Make or Break Your Job.” If you’re not following these trends within the next 6-8 months, you may start losing serious market share. That’s how quickly things change in this industry. So read up, and be prepared for the rest of the 2014 digital marketing season!

Download the Free CONNECTED CULTURE Research Study

And please share it with your friends!

 

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LinkedIn: An Overlooked B2B Marketing Opportunity?

Young woman selecting blue virtual friends isolated on white backgroundBy now, many companies have advanced their attitude toward social media from an “it might be another branding outlet,” to “it is an essential component of marketing,” and rightfully so. While you’re gauging your progress in “likes” and “retweets,” have you forgotten about the platform that was originally incepted for the B2B marketplace, LinkedIn? Sure, on first glance, it is certainly not as trendy or flashy as the others, but as a company, particularly those that compete in the B2B market, you’ll want to take a second look at the features you are likely not fully utilizing.

Company Page Design

This is a great branding opportunity to show this sector of the market just who you think you are. There are areas to highlight services or products and this can provide the visual elevator speech you need to attract the interests of your target audience.

Targeted Posts & Engagement

When your company has news, launches a promotion, or advances in some way, make sure this update is well-circulated among the pool. Have a new product that may benefit certain industries? Published a report that c-level execs will find interesting? Post it and target it to the right demographic.

Statistics

You can access statistics for any LinkedIn group, even those of which you are not participating. In marketing, data is king and you can cull priceless information about the businesses you want to reach. Use this information for further marketing, networking, or rebranding. Having a finger on the pulse of your target is the key to successful marketing.

And here is a useful statistic: LinkedIn generated the highest visitor to lead conversion rate at 2.74% which is approximately 3 times higher than Twitter and Facebook.

The moral of the story is this: If you’re in the B2B realm, don’t dismiss LinkedIn as the less attractive stepchild of social media. Stand out as the trailblazer among the companies who use this platform and get the targeted marketing and profitable results you want.

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Metrics: What’s Important and What’s a Waste of Time?

Close-up Of Business GraphMetrics are the framework around which your marketing campaign is built. Whether you’re pursuing email marketing, SEO, PPC, or direct response, metrics give insight into what works, what doesn’t, and whether or not you can continue to justify the effort and cost that goes into the campaign itself. When looking at metrics, there are countless ways one can measure success. In fact, so many exist that it’s overwhelming. Not to worry. We’re here to make it simple. Connected Culture has our recommendations for core metrics to show success, as well as the ones that you can over look for the time being. Remember – every site and campaign is different and has different goals. These recommendations are ideal for most sites, so take that into account when you’re reading through the liss and assessing whether or not they’re right for you.

Conversions: Never a Waste of Time

If there is one metric you can take back to your  CEO and effectively show what kind of success your campaign is having, its conversions. This really is the overall goal, so it needs to be effectively tracked and measured. A person is buying a product from your store, visiting a specific page, or signing up for an email list are all just a few examples of conversion. The first step to measuring conversion is to first figure out what actions you want users to take and then, put tools (e.g. Google Analytics) in place that can measure this accurately. From there, do your research to figure out industry standards and trends relating to conversion. Some actions and some industries will have variable conversion rates depending on action. Get a feel for what’s average, and then, start measuring and evaluating.

Tip: Keep in mind that an analytics program doesn’t always play nice with certain carts or features that can hinder revenue attribution. Work with your developer team on confirming correct installation of tracking codes and data reporting.

The Bounce Rate Matters More than You Think

Bounce rate, like conversion rate, is variable from industry to industry and page to page, but it’s still a valuable metric for measuring the effectiveness of your UX, copywriting, or other site features, not to mention, a measurement of relevancy for certain types of traffic. If a page’s content or design isn’t engaging to a reader or potential customer, you need to know that. Bounce rate can give insight into problem pages and from there, you can do deeper analysis and A/B testing to try to correct any issues. The key is to look at where the traffic is coming from on that particular page in order to provide context. You may discover new audience segments that are driving unexpected visits and conversions, or you may find that people are bouncing because you’re ranking well for an irrelevant keywords.

Tip: Testing a new marketing tactic? Put annotations in Google Analytics to indicate when certain actions were taken so you can compare results with previous time periods to measure effectiveness. Also, utilize tagging options  in your URLs to provide further insight.

CTR: How to Use it and why it’s Great

Click-through rate is valuable for all types of online marketing. According to Google, this number represents the amount of people that click on your ad or website in a search result, divided by the amount of times it has been shown. It’s a simple equation with powerful data behind it. CTR can give you indications on whether or not your ad copy is working, whether or not your site is being perceived as relevant when it appears in the SERPs, or whether or not your call to action is strong enough, among other things.

Tip: There are some metrics which are hard to quantify, things like engagement on social media or customer feedback on a particular page or site feature. Be sure to track these things as well as they can provide further insight into what’s working, but make sure that your stakeholders understand that these metrics are not quantifiable but still provide information of value. This is the biggest challenge for an online marketer, but it can be done.

Don’t Stress Over PageRank

This is one search engine marketing tool that isn’t as valuable as one might think.  This SEO-focused tool is often one of the most stressed when learning the basics of search engine marketing, however, it isn’t as useful as people make it out to be. This tool shows how trustworthy your website appears to Google, but it’s updated infrequently and often doesn’t register correctly with the true nature and context of a site. For example, a brand new site with a large and active community may have a page rank of 0 because it’s just new. It doesn’t necessarily mean the site has anything wrong with it – the tool just hasn’t been updated. The PageRank tool is important to some extent, but definitely not as accurate as some of the real-time metrics you can gauge success on. This is the risk with any proprietary metric – it may not always be 100% accurate – so take it with a grain of salt.

So What Really Does Matter?

A successful search engine marketing campaign needs results to be justified. However, bear in mind that every site is different and establishing a normal can take some time. Instead of looking at only day over day performance, try to look at longer spans of time to assess patterns and build models of user behavior, sales cycle, or other frameworks that can provide guidance and context. While analytics tools offer a multitude of measurements, start off with the core ones listed above and then begin to drill down to analyze. The key is to look at metrics that affect your bottom line most and then, start segmenting and going deeper into the data that’s collected to answer the biggest questions in any marketer’s mind: who, what, when, where, why, and how?

Question:

What metrics do you use to show the success of your online marketing strategy? What did you find effective in proving that the campaign had results?

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Pinterest for Small Business: The Basics

Development of new businessConsidering Pinterest as a worthy spend for your valuable marketing time takes a bit of a leap of faith and a fresh perspective on what this social platform was and what it now is. It is commonly held that Pinterest is a haven for DIY scrapbookers, crafty moms, and young women. This is no longer the case. There are a significant number of businesses making the case that a few minutes a day marketing to a visual audience via Pinterest is a worthy time-spend. Here’s what you can do and the logic behind it:

Add the Pin-It Button to Your Site: First, this encourages interaction with people who are already “pinners,” and thus greater exposure. On a more psychological note, just like adding a like button for Facebook, you’re showing that you are part of all the cool groups, regardless of how that actually looks in reality.

Create a Business Pinterest Account: Organize the items you promote or sell by the way your customers view them. For instance, a masonry company can make a board with patio designs, then a board for fireplaces, and so on. Those that are idea-gathering on Pinterest will have an actual visual on what you do, whether they’ve specially chosen to check out your page or happened upon it by accident.

Add a Logo to Pins: Tread carefully on this one. There is no need (or want) to watermark every image, but adding a small corner logo to your pinned images can go a long way in your branding efforts.

Engage: Pin other images, particularly inspirational quotes or related, but not competing, products. For instance if you’re promoting your fireplace masonry work, add a few pins for mantle decorating or quotes about home and hearth. Again, this will help with branding as well as show that you are an actual person that prospective customers can relate with.

Have you ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? This is the concept you should espouse when embarking on Pinterest to market your business. You can add words and link to the site, but let the focus be on the imagery and helping customers visualize having what you are offering.

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