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Advertising is one-directional: it’s typically a message delivered outward by a business at a certain cost and to a specific audience that falls flat. The ad itself isn’t likely to be valued for its own sake, and this form of marketing is easily recognizable by today’s consumers for its overtly commercial nature.
Good content, however, gives something back to the user. It gets them thinking about a topic that’s meaningful to them, leading them to realize how your product or services fits into their (or their business’) life or goals. Unsurprisingly, this is the only way to market brands, products, and services successfully on the internet in 2013, and especially for SEO. High quality content naturally gathers a great number of inbound links to a website as we’ve noted before, therefor driving up perceived value, referral traffic, and search engine rankings.
So instead of thinking about simply advertising your small business and making a small business internet marketing mistake, here are some tips on how to start sharing it and taking advantage of the new social web instead. Given a few hours of work each week, this form of marketing is often cheaper and more rewarding than traditional, flat advertising methods.
Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to us for individual strategy and more.
Tip 1: Network and build social capital through social media
People trust recommendations, and they trust them even more from individuals with high levels of social network influence. There are many glittering stars out there in the social media constellations, and when you produce content that they’re excited to share, they’ll drive a geometrically expanded number of users to your business. We generally call this process community building when one or more social networks are used.
These influential people aren’t necessarily looking for discounts as a reward; what motivates them is insider-status and getting to a great product or company “first.” While networking with these types of individuals and organizations may seem tricky at first, remain confident in the fact that if your business, products, or services are of the highest value, then your content will certainly follow through in demonstrating this to taste makers and social movers on the internet. Maintain reach outs by actively tagging your content, and using productivity tools to keep your finger on the pulse of their current conversations.
While these types of digital connections may be more obvious in some industries rather than others–for example a small local bakery vs. a mid-sized financial wealth firm–we’re happy to help you guide you and your business to the exact strategy you need to reach them. The results will not only affect your inbound traffic levels, but SEO as well.
When we say “internet marketing” to most small businesses owners, we most often hear “search engine results.” So it’s no wonder that not only do most individuals consider SEO to be the holy grail of pursuit for small businesses and internet marketing, but that they pay good money to anyone who promises stellar and sometimes dubious results.
All too often our team receives forwarded emails from our clients from SEO “snake oil salesmen” offering guarantees to appear in the top three positions for a search term for an unreasonably strange sum. They’ll try to convince website owners that their websites aren’t properly optimized, and that the only way to succeed is by working with their company.
Not only are these statements almost always untrue, but these types of scammers only help to further muddle the truth about what makes “great” SEO, a complex process that we’ve discussed at length here on our blog. Here are four ways to avoid falling prey to the SEO trap as a small business owner or manager.
1. Realize the SEO frontier is just like the old wild west
Unfortunately, the world of online marketing is still in a formative, wild west era where anyone who throws up a banner can present themselves as an SEO expert. Without any sort of accreditation or accountability, unskilled and unscrupulous SEO “professionals” throng the marketplace–much like the miracle cures and soothing syrups used to stake out street corners in early American frontier towns.
While major players in the world of SEO have been actively trying to pursue a set of industry standards, best practices, and accountability, these individuals continue to take advantage of those who aren’t consistently vigilante and constantly in tune with the latest developments in the industry.
2. Recognize mediocre SEO practices immediately
In many cases, small businesses pay out tens of thousands of dollars for search engine optimization, with little comparative impact against what the organic results by the business by their own content marketing would have been anyways. SEO knowledge goes out of date rapidly, and a mediocre SEO practitioner may use obsolete gimmicks such as keyword metatags which no longer bear any weight in SEO, and repetitive content, a practice that actually can do harm to your search engine standing.
3. Understand the danger of unscrupulous SEO “experts” who think they can outwit Google
Even worse than the vaguely incompetent are the would-be wizards. Combining self-importance with the quest for quick money, they boast their unique insider’s ability to outwit the search algorithms. With no frame of reference, a small business may fall for this type of sales pitch, only to suffer drastic consequences a few weeks after the SEO “expert” has cashed their check and headed for the hills.
What kind of consequences? Google is continuously improving its ability to detect manipulative SEO practices (such as stuffing keywords into invisible parts of the website and “cloaking,” producing different page results for search engines and human visitors). Once these bad practices are recognized, Google will quietly impose penalties on a business, and suddenly the company’s website may find that it has dropped to the 50th page of search eresults. If the violations are bad enough, Google may even remove the site’s listing altogether.
4. Recognize good SEO and run with it
In the absence of any kind of external accreditation, businesses have to learn what to listen for when they seek help with optimizing their site. If you start to hear your SEO consultant talking about “fooling” Google, you know that you’ve got the wrong person. Look instead for someone who talks about fresh, original content and who has an interest in learning about the needs of your customers to produce excellent content marketing and link building, the only way to SEO in 2013. While there are some structural “best practices,” having mostly to do with clean code and unique tags, the main way to rise in page rankings is with honest quality. No shortcuts, no tricks, no secrets.
Do you think BWD might make the cut? Let us start working some strategy with you and your business immediately. There’s no cost for a consultation.
The rules of ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) have changed. It’s no longer possible to easily buy your way to a top spot in Google’s organic search engine results pages, and the only way to excel in the modern world of internet marketing and SEO is through great content marketing and shareability.
The most recent updates to Google’s ranking algorithms, Penguin and Panda, have been the basis for a great deal of speculation and discussion about these types of changes to SEO in the last 12 months. However, all high level marketers now agree that great content marketing through blogging or another means is at the heart of SEO success.
If you’re on the fence, here are four reasons your company should’ve started blogging yesterday, and ways to think of content creation as much more than just a few blog posts per year:
1. Blogging & content marketing are not necessarily what you think they are
It’s time to put your business first and rid yourself of any preconceived notions about the frivolous nature and poor quality of blogging from the early days of the web. Today, content marketing actually involves producing a variety of formats based on desired effects and prospective audiences. For example, events like Felix Baumgartner’s daredevil free fall from the edge of space–released on YouTube for the launch of Red Bull’s Stratos line of energy drinks–are a modern example of very expensive content marketing. The video of his fall simultaneously broke many only viewing records, including 8 million live concurrent viewers from around the world at once, while also producing an amazing amount of buzz and marketing for Red Bull.
While most businesses don’t have the budget for this kind of stunt, you can be rest assured that developing content strategy and ideas for your business’ blog or other publications has the potential to be much simpler. Past academic thesis can work perfectly in serialized formats. Or consider the 100 case studies sitting somewhere on your company’s intranet for only a few potential clients to see each month! This type of high end content can bring new life, better search rankings, and more revenue to your business.
2. The only way to gather inbound links and excel on Google is through great content
Unless you’ve literally invented the greatest product since sliced bread, the number one factor in sending visitors to your website thanks to SEO or referral traffic is through inbound links. And what’s the best way to gather inbound links? Through fascinating, high quality content production and distribution on a blog or similar piece of technology. (Check out our Introduction to Link Building post for a quick primer.) Google’s latest updates indicate that its web crawlers will be more interested in conversations that are constantly evolving and adding value to the web, rather than online “brochures” thanks to a constant flow of content. It’s clear by now that static websites will and have become the “billboards” of the web that fade into the background, even with the best design and animation.
While these facts has proved to be true for many years in SEO, the Google Penguin and Panda updates of the last 12 months have truly sealed the deadly fate of these brochure-style sites.
3. Content marketing is the best way to build authority and gather new opportunities and customers
Great content marketing has less to do with an occasional blog post, and more to do with how marketers formulate strategy distribution. It involves finding where your target audience is already residing on the web, and involving them in industry conversations with fascinating, high quality information that sets your business as a clear leader in your industry.
All too often managers and owners of small businesses tend to believe that “blogging” is not for them. This has proved to be especially true in the law, industrial, medical science, and the financial industries. While social media and blogs may be considered too “soft and fuzzy” in these spheres, professionals in these fields really should really frame their potential marketing work in terms of producing and distributing valuable white papers, industry reports, studies and much more instead, and whether they’re in a million dollar business or not.
4. Facebook search will factor in content and recommendations
Conversations and content will also be the basis of high rankings in social search, such as the upcoming Facebook graph search. The web has become the 21st century equivalent of the medieval market or the Middle Eastern bazaar. Blogs and social media networks have become more than a place to buy things and be entertained, as they’re now a place to confide, gather advice, and discover new things. This buzz will be essential to listings in the new Facebook search, because just like Google’s, Facebook’s algorithms will factor in conversations, content, and more. One of the easiest ways to fuel positive feedback for your listing is by taking an active role to ask customers to join in the conversation, either through blogging or social media outreach and community management. Excellent content marketing is just what your Facebook followers need to seal the deal and leave a positive review.
One of the best examples of a company that went from a small neighborhood shop to an international craze through content strategy–thanks to the hit American shows Sex in the City and SNL–is Magnolia Bakery, who kicked off the cupcake craze of the late 1990s and now maintains an active blog and social community continually fostering their popularity.
Great content marketing strategy’s next big challenge will be to reinvigorate the spheres of law, finance, industrial services, professional services, and medicine. The content is there, just waiting to come to life. All that’s needed is some great strategy and a beautiful platform.
Need some help to boost your content marketing strategy? Give us a shout and our experts will begin their work asap.
3 Keys to Beginner’s Conversion Optimization for Small Business Websites (& the Money You’re Losing Without Them!)
Tuesday, January 1, 2013by The BWD Team in Marketing
While the art of the sale is ages old, digital tools have done quite a bit to innovate the entire process from start to finish. One of the most fundamental updates for marketing through these tools has been website conversion optimization and the resulting metric called “conversion rate“ used to denote those individuals who actually following through with a goal achievement–such as a sale–over the number of total browsers, or those just looking around.
As you can imagine, there are many many people simply “looking around” on any given website, and what a company like ours specializes in is getting those looky-loos to follow through with a positive outcome or goal achievement. All of the SEO, external advertising, or link-building in the world can send tons of traffic to a page, but how can you best ensure a sale once they arrive? This is the art of conversion optimization.
Prefer to outsource this to the experts? Send us an email and we’ll get started on your project right away.
Defining “conversion optimization” for small businesses
As you might expect, a “conversion” can involve a lot of different things for many different businesses. The one consistent factor is a goal achievement or positive outcome, small or large, for every successful conversion. While large goal achievements like a newly closed sale or a purchase of any kind online or off are best, smaller conversions such as a new email subscriber or social follower can be highly valuable as well. Sometimes these smaller conversions can lead to larger conversions later on, all acting as part of a “conversion funnel” throughout the digital sales process. At a minimum, it’s essential that your website enables some form of initial connection between the visitor and your brand.
While there are many robust solutions that control and segment the entire customer relationship after first contact known as CRM or customer relationship management systems for salesmen to continue following up with clients (our favorites are our favorites Infusionsoft or Streak), what we’re discussing today is more specific to the initial exposure a visitor has with your brand through your digital properties and the immediate outcome. What we want to do with great conversion optimization is not only get your visitors in the front door, but to the metaphorical cash register line–such as a contact form submission or e-commerce sale–as well.
Key #1: The importance of solid analytics in conversion optimization
What makes conversion optimization both fun and fascinating is the fact that statistics and analytics play such a major role throughout the entire process. While Google Analytics is–somewhat–free, we feel there are a host of other, higher quality systems out there at great value as well. While every business’ needs are different, we really love KISSMetrics right now starting at $49/month for our clients. It offers the most user friendly setup and customization we’ve seen yet, plus their API lets engineers (like ours!) create tracking for almost any kind of digital event–such as a click on a button, or a view on a contact form or shopping page–very easily.
This week we were ecstatic (yes we really do love our jobs that much!) to find out that Pinterest has finally embraced small business by launching their new Pinterest for Business tool set.
Since its launch in March 2010, Pinterest has been the premier service for “scrap booking” online. Turning out to be so much more than a compilation of visual montages–or as Pinterest calls them: boards–Pinterest has allowed brands of all types to embrace a culture of social, visual sharing, thereby propelling business accounts’ revenue to levels previously unimagined.
With the new, soon-to-be-expanded tools for businesses, brands can now verify their domains so that pins are tracked consistently to the right account and web address. This feature ensures that content is easily discovered and tracked, not only creating a high quality experience for regular users but creating stellar returns for businesses as well.
All that’s needed to convert an existing account into a business account are a few clicks of their ever-colorful red buttons, acceptance of the new business terms of service, and the easy domain verification mentioned above. While all or most of our clients are already covered in the Pinterest-button-sharing department, feel free to let us know if you’d like some help placing your own Pinterest buttons.
Case Studies & Examples for Your Small Business
Our favorite part of this latest launch are the fascinating case studies Pinterest has released. For our content, publishing, and lifestyle driven clients, the Allrecipes case study perfectly details what these types of brands should be doing to draw mounds of high quality traffic to their domains from Pinterest:
Community building: Allrecipes was able to make recipe contributors feel like a highly valued part of the “show” by featuring favorite recipes from the site directly on their Pinterest account, ensuring users’ creations are shared over and over.
- Easy discovery: Allrecipe’s boards easily lay out a variety of different cuisines, styles, and niches to quickly provide high quality content for all types of readers.
- Simple, direct functionality: Allrecipe’s Pinterest buttons are easy to spot, and the “pinning” process is advertised very well throughout the domain.
Allrecipes saw dramatic results. Within three months, more than 50,000 recipes were pinned resulting in 139 million Pinterest impressions, and clicks on Allrecipes’ Pinterest content increased more than 900%.
The Organized Interiors case study offered some great insight for our local and more brick-and-mortar small business clients. As an interior design company, their Pinterest campaign not only provided an amazing platform to create mood boards and design ideas with clients keeping costs low, but helped to build their authority among colleagues and future clients in the industry by showcasing their latest work as well. Even better, the great visual connectivity of Pinterest allowed the owner of Organized Interiors to discover a slew of new products, vendors, and business growth resources as well. Again, the results were more than significant. From Organized Interiors owner:
Pinterest has helped to push my business into the higher end market. I have more followers and several have requested me for projects. I signed on a new client to do a $40K bathroom remodel project from posting a board about a prior engagement. He pointed to one of my pins and said, ‘I want that bathroom, right now.’
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