Category Archives for "Blog"

Nov 16

Don’t Hire an SEO! (Unless You Do This Other Stuff Too)

By Rob Woods | SEO

seo hiring

While it may seem like it’s not in my best interest to convince people not to hire an SEO—or to at least to wait to hire one—I too often find potential clients who believe that hiring an SEO is the cure for all of their businesses woes. The truth is that while a good SEO can certainly help your business, SEO alone, no matter how good, can no longer take an unsuccessful business and make it successful.

It’s true that back in the day, those SEOs who knew all the tricks and loopholes, where to “acquire” links that worked to make a site rank, and all the on-page manipulations could usually make a site rank with SEO alone (especially given enough budget and resources). Those days are over. Even if you had a site that successfully used those relatively easy tactics to be successful, it’s very likely that in recent years, you’ve seen a sharp decline in traffic unless you have something else going for you.

The owners and managers of sites that are either just starting out, or have seen their traffic decline, too often believe that simply fixing the SEO or “doing” SEO is going to save their business. With the changes Google has made over the past few years, this simply is not the case anymore. Google has actually become much much better (though not perfect, certainly) at ranking sites that actually “deserve” to rank because of things they’ve done beyond SEO. Now don’t get me wrong—except in rare cases, you still need good SEO to rank well. It’s just no longer all you need to rank well.

I look for a few certain things in my potential client’s sites, and ask them certain question to see whether SEO is right for them, and whether working with them is going to be successful for both of us.

Be Remarkable (and Be Able To Communicate Why You Are)

This is first and foremost the most important thing you need to do before becoming successful at SEO. The search engines, and Google in particular, have become much better in recent years at ranking those sites which truly “deserve” to rank. These are sites that usually have something remarkable about them. This could be a new service no one else has offered before, great user engagement and entertaining content, or something else that makes them special.

This doesn’t mean these sites have to be the absolute best at something—and neither does yours—in order to drive organic traffic. But you need something that makes you special. One of the hardest things to do is to take a very hard, impartial look at your site and your business as though you were an outsider, and ask yourself, “What makes us special? What makes us stand out from the crowd? Are we truly better at something than all or most of our competitors?”

If you can’t resoundingly answer “yes,” then an SEO isn’t going to be able to do the things necessary to get you to rank well. If you can’t answer “yes,” then you need to change your business so that you cananswer yes before you worry about getting more traffic to your site.

One of the most difficult conversations I’ve had to have with clients or potential clients is one where I have to ask these questions and point out to them that from an outsider’s perspective, I see nothing that shows me they truly deserve to outrank all of their competition. How would you answer the questions, “What makes your site special?” or, “Why do you truly deserve to rank #1?”

Pricing

The Internet offers myriad ways to compare prices. If you don’t have an exclusive product and you aren’t the least expensive for what you sell, you had better have something else that adds a lot of value for the consumer. Before you start looking for ways to drive more traffic to your site, have you done a thorough price comparison of your products versus the competition?

And yes, your competition includes Amazon if they sell the same products. If they can offer it cheaper and faster, you had sure better have something that gives you an advantage over them like customer service or fantastic product information.

Product Selection and Merchandising

As with pricing, you need to make sure you have the right products, the right product mix, the right merchandising, etc. Again, the biggest part of SEO is getting people to recognize that your site is uniquely valuable and useful.

If people come to your site and don’t fall in love with the products, can’t buy what they really need, or can’t find the right products with the right product information, they aren’t going to see you as a valuable enough resource to link to or share with their friends.

If you don’t have the resources internally to do an audit of your product mix and merchandising there are lots of good resources out there. If you’re not an expert at online merchandising (and you really should be if you’re running an e-commerce store), hire a great merchandising consultant or get yourself some training.

High Quality, Engaging Content

This may seem like a no-brainer. Now, if providing content is the primary focus of your business, this is really the publisher version of having the right product and price for an e-commerce store. Do you offer information available nowhere else? Is it truly of higher quality, more in-depth, more entertaining, more actionable, more controversial, more something than your competition? Do you truly believe an outsider would think it’s remarkable? Again, if you can’t answer “yes,” you’d better fix that first.

On a related note, I also far too often see “content strategy” being used as a crutch for otherwise unremarkable businesses. Yes, you need to get links and social shares and attention for pages on your site. Far too often, I see sites dumping a ton of cash into creating content and content strategies without fixing all the other issues. If your site, or business, or business model isn’t remarkable in some other way, just creating great content isn’t going to save you.

Of course, if your raison d’être is to create content, then content is your product, and this doesn’t apply. Now, I’m not saying don’t create great content. Creating content that is useful, entertaining, or otherwise valuable for your potential customers or users is still massively important. But as with SEO, it’s not going to save an otherwise-mediocre company. Create great content; just don’t rely on great content alone to fix your SEO issues.

UI/Design

Is your baby ugly? Does the design of your site support your brand identity? Can people find what they’re looking for? Does the design and user interface indicate that you are trustworthy? Again, one could write volumes on user interface, design, etc.

If your site looks like it was built in 2001, or just built by your nephew after reading HTML for Dummies, that’s also something that needs to be fixed before you embark on trying to drive a ton of new people to your site, or trying to get people to link to you after viewing your site.

If you’re brand-new to thinking about UI and design, a great place to start is with the book Don’t Make Me Think.

Conversion Optimization

Do you track your conversions? Have you done conversion optimization testing? Do you know whatconversion rates are? Do you know the average conversion rates for your industry?

If you can’t answer these questions, you’d better figure this stuff out before you invest a ton in a strategy like long-term SEO. It’s frequently a lot easier to get a 50% bump in sales by optimizing your site to convert than it is to try and drive 50% more traffic. Some of my favorite conversion optimization resources are:

Wider Funnel

SiteTuners

Unbounce

The Definitive How-To Guide For Conversion Rate Optimization

Know Who Your Customers Are and What They Want

This is just as important as being able to communicate why you believe your company is remarkable. To be successful at SEO, you need detailed, in-depth knowledge of who your customers truly are, what’s important to them, and what they want from your site. Without this knowledge, an SEO doesn’t know what keywords to help you target with your site, what content to help you create, or where you should be promoting and publicizing your site in order to build relationships with the right people who are going to drive links and social shares to your site.

When I ask this question of a potential client and they can’t answer, it makes me wonder how much they truly know about their business and how invested they are. Again, there are lots of resources that can teach you how to find out more about your customers. There are some great simple solutions for surveying customers like:

Survey Monkey

4Q

Google Consumer Surveys

If you have the resources, I would also encourage you to go through the process of building personas for your customers. Some good resources for learning about personas are:

http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/personas.html

http://yoyoSEO.com/SEO/10-commandments-personas/

https://www.iacquire.com/blog/the-persona-driven-keyword-research-process

http://www.stcsig.org/usability/topics/personas.html

http://boxesandarrows.com/making-personas-more-powerful-details-to-drive-strategic-and-tactical-design/

http://uxmag.com/articles/personas-the-foundation-of-a-great-user-experience

http://www.amazon.com/The-User-Always-Right-Practical/dp/0321434536/

Patience

This can be another tough one. Frequently, when someone goes looking for SEO help, it’s because they are suffering some crisis in sales and revenue on their site. If you’ve been hit by a sudden drop in traffic such as that caused by a penalty or algorithm update, then yes, acute SEO intervention may help you in the short term.

However if you’re turning to SEO to fix a long, slow decline in revenue, or to try to make your brand-new company or site skyrocket in sales, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. SEOs who promise you results overnight with very little effort are usually akin to just about every other offer that promises you overnight success.

SEO is usually a process that takes a long-term commitment to:

  • get the technical aspects of your site just right.
  • help you build content and information on your site that makes you an expert or authority.
  • slowly build the visibility and relationships with the trusted, knowledgeable people in your field who might promote your site or link to you, provided you’ve shown them that you deserve it.

The entire process can take weeks or months, or even longer. If you’re hoping for an SEO to swoop in and save the day, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. Which kind of leads me into my next and final recommendation…

Have Other Sources of Revenue

Do not rely on organic search traffic alone for the success of your business. Ever. Google has shown too often that they can make a simple tweak to their algorithm, which can drop sites that haven’t done everything exactly right (and sometimes even then) out of the search engine results.

Even as someone who makes their living doing SEO, I would tell any client they are absolutely foolish to put all or even most of their eggs in the organic traffic basket. This means you need to cultivate all your other possible revenue streams whether they be PPC advertising, email, social, offline advertising, or word of mouth, as well as making sure you’re doing everything right for SEO.

I frequently recommend to potential customers who need a sales and revenue bump in the very near term that they engage a really good PPC consultant or firm, spend their money on that for a while, then come back and talk to me later. Not only does PPC advertising generally show much faster return, I also know that if a good PPC company can’t make a positive ROI for a site, that site generally has a lot of other problems that just SEO isn’t going to fix.

While a part of SEO is making sure your site is built correctly. by far the biggest part is getting attention for your site. This attention can come in the form of links, traffic, press mentions, and/or social shares.

Quite honestly, given a really good technical SEO audit and enough development resources, the SEO done on your site is really the easiest part. Creating a site or product that is truly special, and then promoting that to the people who are going to share that information and talk about you are the hard parts. A good SEO or online marketing company should be able to help you do the promotion part, but first you have to create something that is truly valuable and worth talking about.

Unless you’ve been hit with a Google penalty or algorithm update (which you might be able to be recover from quickly), SEO is a long and sometimes expensive process. An SEO who tells you differently is probably just trying to make a quick buck off you.

The key to SEO success in 2014 and beyond is to create something truly remarkable and valuable, make sure your site is built right, and then make sure enough of the right people know about how remarkable and valuable you are. If you can’t honestly look yourself in the mirror and know without a shadow of a doubt that your company is one of those remarkable companies, you need to fix that first or you won’t be able to build truly sustainable SEO success.

Reprinted by permission from http://www.isoosi.com/blog/dont-hire-an-seo-unless-you-do-other-stuff-too.html

Nov 12

How To Get The Most Out of Linkedin

By Rob Woods | Social

Today, LinkedIn serves over 259 million members, earning it a spot as one of the most popular social media networks worldwide. If your small businesses has yet to join the site, you could be missing out on business opportunities. With an account, you can:

  • Create business connections
  • Recruit employees
  • Join professional conversations
  • Advertise
  • Build your credibility

If you’re ready to join millions of other members on this professional platform, continue reading to learn how to reap all these benefits.

Setting Up Your Profile

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Image via LinkedIn.com

Before you can set up your company page for your small business, you must create a personal page. Start at LinkedIn.com and follow the instructions on the home page for registering.

Next, make sure that you’ve met the requirements for adding a company page. You’ll need to have a company email address that’s confirmed on your LinkedIn account and show that you’re a current employee by adding the experience to your profile.

Once you’ve met these requirements, find “Interests” at the top of the page, and then click on “Companies” in the drop-down menu.

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Image via LinkedIn.com

At the top right-hand corner, click “Add a Company,” and then follow the instructions for creating your company page.

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Image via LinkedIn.com

Tips For Creating a Killer Profile

  1. Write a compelling summary of your business.
  2. List your products on the Products and Services tab with the most important first.
  3. Include a captivating cover photo.
  4. Invite customers to recommend your business and encourage employees to connect with your business’s page.
  5. Add a careers page if you’re looking to recruit employees.
  6. Publish important updates to keep your profile interesting.

Creating Connections

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Image via LinkedIn.com

Creating connections is easy. One way to create a connection is to directly connect to people on their page by clicking “Connect” on their profile. Once they approve this connection, you can share links, endorse each other, and more. If people want to connect with you, simply accept their invite in your messages.

You can also connect with other companies professionally by following their pages. To do this, simply use the search bar at the top to find their page, and then click “Follow” to start receiving their updates.

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Image via LinkedIn.com

Perhaps one of the best ways to network on LinkedIn is to join or create groups. However, only LinkedIn members can join groups, and a company page is not considered a member page. If you still want to create connections by joining groups or discussions, this is a great opportunity for PR personnel to join conversations with people in your business’s niche, where they can help point people to your company page and your services.

Tips for Creating Connections

  1. Encourage your customers to follow your page.
  2. Ask employees to connect with your page on their personal profiles.
  3. Make connections that count by focusing on your niche.

Building Engagement

Image via Flickr by pursuethepassion

After you make connections, it’s important to engage with these people and businesses to make your connections valuable. There’s no one way to build engagement, but you might consider using the following tips in your strategy.

  1. Create a presence. Setting up an account and connecting with people isn’t going to do anything for your engagement. Show people you’re there by sharing updates, joining in group conversations, and monitoring your activity.
  2. Market yourself. Don’t be afraid to share your blog posts, ebooks, and other content on your updates to get people interacting with you.
  3. Get your employees involved. Ask them to join in conversations, share news, and actively grow their network.
  4. Ask for customer recommendations. You already know that customers can do a lot for you on LinkedIn, but their recommendations can also help keep conversations going, encourage others to consider your product, and influence community engagement.
  5. Advertise. With LinkedIn ads, you can easily target the proper audience to help foster connections and improve brand awareness.

Advertising on LinkedIn

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Image via LinkedIn.com

Advertising on LinkedIn is a wonderful option for businesses looking to target other professionals. For example, if you sell products or services that benefit other business owners, LinkedIn is the place to advertise to reach your target audience. Plus, visitors on partner sites can also see your ads.

But how exactly do you advertise on LinkedIn? Before you set up your ads, you’ll want to plan them out by considering a few things. First, keep in mind the different aspects of a LinkedIn ad:

  1. Headline
  2. Ad Copy
  3. Destination URL
  4. Photo

Before you design your LinkedIn ad, decide what landing pages you want to advertise and who your target audience is. You’ll also want to set a budget for your campaign at this time.

Next, brainstorm ideas on how you’ll present your destination URL. What headline will capture your audience’s attention? What do you have to say and how will you say it in just a 75-character ad copy? What kind of picture can you use to both represent your idea and capture your audience’s attention? Keep in mind you can use 15 different ad variations for each campaign, so you can always test out different ideas. If you need more ideas, research other LinkedIn ads.

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Image via LinkedIn.com

To design your ads, start here and follow the instructions. Once your campaign goes live, you can track your success on your LinkedIn ads analytics page.

Tips for Advertising

  1. Keep your headline, ad copy, and photo relevant to the destination URL.
  2. Begin with three ad variations for testing instead of the full 15 to really help measure the most successful option.
  3. Narrow your target audience to make your ads more useful.

Additional Tips

  1. Remember to use keywords in your profile, products page, and advertisements.
  2. Make your profile more interesting by adding videos, slide shows, and other graphics or documents.
  3. Don’t settle with LinkedIn’s automatic messages when making a connection, but make your connection more personal by customizing the text.
  4. Remember to proofread your profile, advertisements, and updates before they go live to maintain a professional appearance.
  5. Set a custom profile URL by going to Edit Profile > Manage Public Profile Settings > Customize Your Public Profile URL.

LinkedIn is a spectacular platform for making business connections and getting your name out, so consider joining the 259 million other members to discover these benefits.

 

Mar 16

A Facebook Guide for Small Business

By Rob Woods | Social

Facebook has come a long way from being just an ordinary social site to stay connected with friends and family. It is the most popular social media network on the Internet and is a great tool for connecting your business with the outside world. With a few general guidelines and practices, you can use Facebook regularly to grow your business.

Create Your Page

facebook

The first step to using Facebook is to create your page. This will be the link on Facebook where your customers go to see all of the posts you share about your business. To get started, log on to Facebook’s Create a Page site and choose the option that’s best for you. You’ll most likely want to use Local Business Place or CompanyOrganization, or Institution. Once you’ve selected your primary category, you can select a secondary category. Check the “I agree to Facebook Pages Terms,” and click “Get Started.” Now you have a custom Facebook page for your business.

Set up Your Page

facebook

Image via Flickr by Phil SextonDecide what information you want on your page. Include your company name, location, web address, and a description into the “about” section. Add a Cover, the large picture at the top of your page, and a Profile Picture, the smaller picture that will be used to represent your page wherever you post on Facebook. These images can be updated whenever you like simply by hovering over the Cover and Image boxes and selecting “Change Cover” or “Edit Profile Picture.”

What to Post

facebook

Image via Flickr by cambodia4kidsorgPost updates about your business, ongoing and upcoming sales, and contests and sweepstakes you are running. Include posts that will keep your customers excited to visit your page, and engaged while there. Don’t just share content that you create; also share content created by other people that you think would be of value to users. Use the EdgeRank algorithm to track the importance of your posts to your visitors. This will show you what posts are reaching your visitors so you know what type of posts draws more in. Once you’ve created your content and posted it, you can promote your post on Facebook to bring in new customers. Be careful not to post anything that devaluates the post, and is clearly asking for a like or share.

Sharing Content

facebook

Image via Flickr by search-engine-landNow that you have content on your page let your customers know that you’ve posted something new. Invite them to interact via a link on your website or blog. Ask them to “like” and “share” the posts with others. You’ll find the “like” and “share” buttons on every piece of content you post on your page. You can use this to share the post on other Facebook pages. When viewers “like” and “share” your page with their own followers, it increases visibility and your Edgerank. Be careful of how often you’re sharing posts to avoid being locked out of Facebook. Make sure you understand Facebook’s sharing policies.

What type of content you share and how you share it also matters. Pictures and video tend to get better visibility than when you share a URL, and sharing the URL gets better visibility than simply sharing a text update. It’s also advisable for you to share directly on Facebook, when possible, as updates that are shared through third-party sharing apps tend to get a lower base edge rank.

Facebook recently modified their algorithm for posts to somewhat downgrade the visibility of meme type posts and of posts which very overtly ask for a like or a share in the copy around the post. You can still use these posts to some degree but you shouldn’t overuse them and you should expect somewhat less engagement and visibility for these posts then you would’ve seen a few months ago.

How Often to Update

facebook

Posting three times a day is a good ratio. For example, in the morning, announce any events you have going on that day, specials and/or sales, and special announcements. In the afternoon, you could post something engaging for your followers, such as a survey, to help them feel they are an integral part of your daily business. You could also post contests and sweepstakes to enter, coupons they can use to order your products online, and new products you’re offering that they may be interested in. At the end of the day, wrap everything up by announcing any contest winners and promotions coming up the next few days.

How to Respond to Others’ Posts

facebook

In addition to posting, you also need to continuously check your page for comments or posts by visitors, and respond. Throughout the day, log on to your page and look for new comments and posts by visitors. Respond to them and keep them engaged. If someone is asking a question about your business, be sure to answer it in full, and point them in the right direction for anything they need. You can respond to your customers privately in a message if you don’t want to share something publicly on your page.

Understand Your Numbers

facebook

Now that you have a Facebook page that you are updating regularly, how can you determine if it’s working for your business? Your page has a section on top that shows how many visitors you’ve had, how many comments you’ve received, and how many people liked your posts. This Admin panel will help you keep track of your Facebook page.

Grow Your Fan Base

facebook

So, you’re posting regularly, engaging your visitor’s with surveys and offers, and responding to their posts and comments. These are all great for increasing your Facebook fans. Some other ways you can increase visitors is by using ads. Facebook ads can be targeted at specific audiences to drive more traffic to your page. You can create multiple ads to bring more followers to your page. The Facebook ads create tool is an easy-to-use system that will help you set up your ad and determine the best pages to place it, based on your objectives.

Ads are, of course, an added expense but can be very effective at gaining new followers. Facebook ads are also very targetable so you can make sure your spend is reasonably effective. I’d recommend you either test ads on a limited basis, as the spend can get a little bit out of hand if you don’t watch it carefully, or I’d recommend engaging someone who is experienced in marketing through Facebook ads.

Create an Event

facebook

In addition to ads, setting up Facebook events is another way to draw in more visitors. You can set up an Event Page on Facebook to introduce yourself to new visitors and then advertise the event on your page. Invite your followers, and let them know they can invite their followers. Create an event that will draw in a crowd, keep them engaged, and entice them to continue to visit your page. You can create an event to introduce a new product, celebrate a success in your business, or even set up a simple meet-and-greet.

These tips will help you get your Facebook page off the ground, and start working towards growing your business. Keep it up to date and your business will reap the rewards. Be patient with growing your social media following. Growth can tend to start out slow and you may not see much improvement in the first little while, but as you start to increase engagement and gain more followers you should reach a tipping point in which the growth and engagement continues as long as you are diligent about sharing good content and interacting with your users on a regular basis.

Sample Action Plan

Month 1:

  • Make sure your profile is optimized with all your contact info and good profile images
  • Find at least two good brands or influential people follow per week
  • Like or re-share at least three posts that you see on your wall per day
  • Find at least two interesting articles or images from outside of Facebook to share with your followers per day
  • Check your page at least twice daily for any comments or messages that need to be responded to

 Month 2:

  • Ensure that your Facebook page is linked to from your website
  • Ensure you have Facebook sharing on all of your important content pages
  • Find at least two good brands or influential people to follow per week
  • Like or re-share at least three posts that you see on your wall per day
  • Find at least two interesting articles or images from outside of Facebook to share with your followers per day
  • Check your page at least twice daily for any comments or messages that need to be responded to
  • Start sharing your own content that you think will be of interest to your followers

Month 3:

  • Check your Facebook insights to see how much growth in followers and engagement you’ve achieved so far
  • Consider a small test of Facebook ads to gain more followers if you haven’t seen much organic growth to this point
  • Continue sharing and liking content you find on your wall
  • Continue sharing interesting content from outside of Facebook
  • Continue sharing your content as long as you think of the compelling to your followers

I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Reprinted by permission from http://www.isoosi.com/blog/a-facebook-guide-for-small-business.html

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