Making Your Site Search Engine Friendly (Spiderability)

by John Buchanan

One of the keys to obtaining top rankings, or ANY rankings for that matter is making sure that the search engines can properly spider and index your site. This means doing whatever you can to make sure the search engines are able to reach each page of your site as easily as possible.

When I talk to my clients about spiderability, I’m generally referring to two things…

  1. Are all the links in the site true hyperlinks that can be picked up properly by the search engines.
  2. Are all the pages within the site reachable within 2-3 clicks from the homepage.

So let’s go over the above two areas of concern.

Hyperlinks

This may seem almost silly, but you would be amazed at the number of sites I run into when doing consultations and website analyses that have non-standard hyperlinks. By “non-standard”, I’m referring to JavaScript generated hyperlinks or hyperlinks embedded within flash files.

There is nothing inherently wrong with JavaScript or flash when used properly, but the simple fact is that JavaScript and flash are NOT search engine friendly. Google is pretty much the only engine that is able to pick up links within JavaScript or Flash code. At this time, I have seen no evidence that either Yahoo or MSN have this ability.

While Google may be able to pick up links, it is unclear as to whether or not Google places any VALUE on the links it finds in this manner. Remember, much of a page’s ranking in Google is determined by links, so you want to be absolutely sure that each and every link is valued.

So, be absolutely sure that your links are true hyperlinks (by “true” hyperlinks, I’m talking about hyperlinks coded with the normal href tags) if you want to make sure they are found, followed, and counted by all the engines.

Distance from Homepage

Ideally, you want your visitors and the search engines to be able to reach any page within your site within a maximum of three (3) clicks and preferably two clicks. The more clicks it takes to reach a page, the less chance there is that the search engines will index that page.

It is for this reason, that site maps have become so popular. By utilizing a sitemap, you are able to link from your homepage to a page that lists all or most of the links to the various pages of your site. The search engines (and visitors) are then able to get to virtually any page of your site within just a couple of clicks.

You’ll notice I’ve mentioned not only the search engines but the visitors as well in the above paragraphs. By reducing the number of clicks it takes to get from your homepage to any page on your site, you will find that you also increase the overall usability of your site.

While site maps can definitely help to increase the spiderability of a site, it is important to remember that they are not a total fix for bad navigational structure within a site. As mentioned, all of the search engines utilize page link popularity in one way or another in their algorithms.

In general, the homepage of a site will have the highest link popularity of any page within the site. This is because most inbound links to a site are pointing to the homepage. It’s from the homepage that all the internal pages derive their link popularity from a sort of “trickle down” affect.

A site map will only derive a certain amount of link popularity that it can pass on to the pages it links to. To understand this best, think of the homepage as a large river with each link on the homepage a smaller river branching off from the main river. Each river will be fed a similar amount of water by the main river. Alone one branch of the river will never be able to deliver as much water to the various areas as all the branches of the river can combined.

The site map is one branch of your sites link popularity river and it has value, but it will never have the same impact as a well thought out and implemented links structure that makes use of all the rivers of link popularity within your site.

To make the most use of the link popularity of your site, you should try and setup your sites navigational structure so that even without a site map, the search engines and visitors are STILL able to reach any page on your site within 2-3 clicks.

So…to make a long story short…always be sure to utilize true, standard hyperlinks throughout your site and be sure that your sites navigational structure allows any page of your site to be reached within no more than 3 clicks.

See you at the top!


John Buchanan is a veteran search engine optimization specialist with over 9 years experience. For more information, visit his site at http://www.sesecrets.com or his newest site http://www.seovideoanalysis.com where he will provide you with a professional SEO video website analysis of your site.

Branding Basics for Businesses: How to Find Your Voice & Stick To It

branding basics for businesses

The December 2014 Webs Small Business Digital Trends Survey revealed that 63 percent of small businesses use digital tools to market to customers. When marketing online, businesses must present a coherent look and feel to successfully connect with the target audience. Below are creative ways to showcase your company’s voice, an important, yet often overlooked, part of developing a strong brand.

Understanding Voice

Voice refers to more than just the tone you use to communicate with your audience; it’s the personality of your brand, as Buffer notes. All of the elements that show who you are — colors, logo, brand aesthetics and overall style — combine to become your voice. If your brand appeals to youths, you might have an informal or casual voice; or if you’re a B2B business, a formal voice would be more appropriate.

These elements have to match. A business that has adopted the formal voice and B2B target audience should stay away from select bright colors like hot pink or electric yellow for the logo, but a business that targets adolescent girls, would likely find those colors effective.

Once you come up with the basic elements of voice, you must apply them consistently and routinely across all of your social channels to build brand trust and connection. If you experiment with different voices, you could potentially lose interest from the people you’d already won over.

Using Your Voice to Engage and Inform

When you can demonstrate a clear voice, and use that voice to engage and inform your target audience, you nurture the type of trust that leads to sales. Moreover, your fans will be talking about you and will mention your product or service as the solution, organically growing your brand’s reach.

To engage and inform without shilling, focus on creating and content that is true to your voice and helpful to your target audience. Gather Content has examples of how to engage users using different voices. Using these tips, think through how sample customer responses, Facebook posts or article headlines would be perceived coming from you. Once you’ve developed some prototypes, create and share content in your voice across your channels.

Businesses Doing it Right

It’s always helpful to have example of business that are creating and sharing engaging content in clear voices.

One company doing this well is Internet security and identity theft protection company Lifelock. On its Facebook page, Lifelock posts notifications of data breaches and scam warnings to help its fans stay safe by being informed. Sure, the company occasionally reminds fans of the service it provides. However, these posts are far outweighed by the other content produced and shared.

Another classic example is Apple. A marketing classic, their Think Different campaign showed iconic geniuses and historic figures from Albert Einstein to Cesar Chavez with the words “Think Different.” There were no references to Apple computers (again, no selling). But the ads suggested that Apple created different products to meet the needs of gifted people.


Lindsey is a regular blog contributor, social networking maven and research professional who makes a living freelancing and running a small business. She holds advanced degrees in creative writing and information science and recently worked as the digital repository coordinator at Framingham State University.

More Tips on SEM and SEO

Here is a down and dirty checklist I compiled a while back. Feel free to use it when you audit your own websites. Enjoy!

Matt

HTML Coding/Development

  • Add brief descriptions to the alt attribute of image tags. The attribute should describe the image, not be a summary of the article.
  • Use H1, H2, and H3 for titles and headings. Ensure the main body content is immediately after the H1, with no breadcrumbs or navigation in between.
  • Create a relevant HTML title for every page. Using the actual article title that appears in the page is a good idea.
  • Use style sheets as much as possible to keep the page size low.
  • Use brief and relevant meta tags (keywords and descriptions) to provide a backup for the description that appears in search engine listings.
  • Don’t fill the meta tags with words that don’t appear in the content of the page. The exception to this is to put common misspellings in the meta tags.
  • Don’t repeat meta tag content on every page. The content should be specific to the page.
  • Create separate sites rather than making a site a sub-site of a larger one.
  • Do not make every visit to a URL unique by appending a session ID or something similar.
  • Create a site map. This is as much for users as for search engines as it can serve as a gateway to deep content.
  • Don’t link to redirects. Better to link directly to the destination page.

Images, Flash, Video

  • Avoid creating images that contain only text (i.e. if an image contains just text, consider using HTML instead.)
  • Ensure all images are named appropriately, have alt tags and are placed near text that is relevant to the image.
  • Don’t put content in Flash movies. Better to have the content outside of the Flash and in the HTML.
  • Provide transcripts for video or audio interviews.

Copy and Content

  • Create a title that uses words that describe the main theme of the article.
  • Use headings and sub-headings that describe the main theme of the copy that follows.
  • Don’t automatically swap out repeated words and phrases in favor of less common words and phrases.
  • Post all content on the web site including newsletters.
  • Keep all special content such as Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving specials on-line.
  • Don’t use pop-up windows for content. If pop-ups are necessary, provide an alternative link to the same page that isn’t a pop-up.
  • Don’t remove content from a web site.
  • Ensure all content—in particular old content—has a link pointing to it. Use a sitemap or archive list page if necessary.
  • Allow search engines to view forum discussions. This is free content.
  • Update content as often as possible. Search engines like frequently updated sites and will visit more frequently.
  • Don’t worry about writing articles that are too long. The longer the better when it comes to SEO.

Links

  • Use link text that is relevant to the destination page. Avoid creating links that read “click here” or “read more”.
  • Don’t create links out of entire sentences.
  • Don’t fill the page footer with links to other sites. Better to keep the list short.
  • Cross-link between pages in the web site.
  • Link to external sites.
  • Encourage external sites to link to specific content. Many sites are open to sharing links.

More SEM and SEO Tips

  • Decide what search phrases you want to target. Use a tool such as the Google keywords suggestion tool to see what search phrases are popular, and optimize your site for these. You can optimize for any number of phrases; a bigger site can target a greater range of phrases.
  • Clean up URLs. No capital letters, no spaces, no special characters. Separate each word with a “-” dash. Make sure each URL accurately describes the page.
  • Remove query strings from URLs. No question marks in your URLs.
  • Redirect the non-www version of your site. When you enter domain.com into the browser, it should redirect you to www.domain.com using a SEO friendly 301 redirection.
  • Make sure you don’t link to “index.htm” or “index.php”. Instead, link to “/”.
  • Remove frames from your site.
  • Ensure the title is different on every page of the site.
  • If your main navigation is flash or image based, ask yourself if it can be done using CSS. If it can, do it.
  • If using CSS styled text for navigation is unthinkable, then add text based footer navigation on every page.
  • Add a Google XML sitemap, even if it’s just a simple list of all the URLs on your site. Submit this to Google through the Google Sitemaps program or Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Is your website tables-based? Consider a cleaner CSS-based layout for your site.
  • Have you got a website statistics program installed? Do you know how to access it, and do you check it regularly? If not, discover Google Analytics.
  • Do you know where your website currently sits for your main phrases? If not, check Google, the localized version of Google (e.g. google.co.nz,) Yahoo and MSN. Remember: few visitors will search past page three.
  • Check the optimization of each page. Pick one search phrase that is relevant to the content on the page. Ensure the page contains the phrase in the title, H1 heading, twice in the meta description, twice in the opening paragraph, and also in the URL if possible.
  • Have good content? SEO will be much harder if you don’t have plenty of original text content, so engage in more time writing good content.
  • Check the source order of your page. Good source code will have the page content as close to the top of the HTML document as possible, and the least important elements such as sidebars and footers last. If you can get the content above the main navigation, great.
  • Action all recommendations that it makes, such as fixing broken links. Look carefully at the list of URLs, and make sure they are clean (no spaces, capitals, etc.)
  • Check the search engines to see how well indexed your site is. If the search engines have indexed pages that have since been moved or deleted, setup a 301 redirect to redirect all traffic that these pages generate (or lose it).
  • If you are a local “bricks and mortar” business, make sure you use your town / city / country on every page, in the title if possible, and in close proximity to your chosen search phrase.

Contact Matt to optimize your website and help you with your search engine marketing.

When Do Cookies Expire?

Cookies will either time out on their own, OR your browser will clear them out (manually or automatically). Take Firefox, for example. In your menu bar, go to Tools> Options…> Privacy and look at the cookies area in this panel. You can clear your private data (including all cookies) by hand or set things to clear every time you close your browser. You can also view the cookies that have loaded onto your machine from here and you will see expiration information for each.

So—while companies may like to set their cookies on users’ machines for their own time periods—they are ultimately at the mercy of the user’s sophistication, preferences and paranoia. This means the data collected from cookies will NEVER show the whole picture, though they may offer a decent snapshot at times.

Contact Matt to optimize your website and help you with your search engine marketing.

The Importance of Consistently

by Lori Saitz

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of the adverb “consistently” is “in a systematic or consistent (reliable, steady) manner.” No matter what you’re doing, doing it consistently is the key to success. Now that I just wrote that, let me add the caveat that whatever you’re doing also needs to be in harmony with the universal concepts of good. I’m thinking someone who consistently robs banks will eventually get caught and therefore not be successful. But I digress.

Recall all the times you’ve started an exercise program. After several weeks of working out consistently, you start to see results. It’s not as important that you work out really hard or for a long time each session as it is that you do it consistently. Maybe the results are not coming as quickly as you would like; that’s okay. Trust that changes are happening. If you continue to work out consistently, after a few more weeks, you’ll see definite and positive improvement in your physical and mental conditioning.

If you want to talk about things moving at a glacial pace, we can look at, well, glaciers. They move incredibly slowly, right? But they are moving consistently and eventually you (okay, maybe not you, but a scientist) will notice that they’re in a different place than they were.

We can apply the same principle of consistency to your business and the good news is it won’t take millions of years to see the changes. Research has discovered that communicating with your clients at least 25 times a year is optimal. WHOA! That’s the initial reaction I get from people when I say that. “Twenty-five times a year is way too much for my business!” No, it’s not. Here’s how you “touch” clients 25 times without being a pest.

Personal contact

You probably talk or meet with each of your clients at least once or twice a year just in the normal course of doing business. Personal contact is very important to keeping the relationship going. If you can’t manage to make a phone call or have lunch with a client once in an entire year, he’s probably not that good of a client. And for sure he won’t be a client for very long.

So that’s two times of contact.

Send birthday acknowledgement

A card, a little gift, something to let him know you remembered his special day. When is the last time one of your vendors or business partners acknowledged your birthday? Has it ever happened? Generally your birthday is a day that is yours alone; it’s not like a national holiday that everyone is celebrating, so it’s your special day. If you have a good relationship with your client, sending a birthday acknowledgement is not a hollow gesture and will be much appreciated.

That’s one more time, so we’re up to three.

Share industry information or tips

You can do this through an e-zine like this one, regular e-mail, a printed newsletter, copies of articles from a magazine, whatever works for you. I recommend sending this kind of information at least once a month. You may argue that you don’t have time to compile stuff that often and that once a quarter is good enough. I’ll give you that quarterly is better than not at all, but higher frequency, more consistently (just like working out) yields better results. If you are providing useful information, recipients will not mind receiving it.

Do it 12 times a year, added to the previous three and we’re at 15.

Mail postcards or greeting cards

Promote a special occasion, upcoming workshop or unusual event. Everyone sends cards and gifts for the holidays at the end of the year. Now more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon to send stuff at Thanksgiving, thinking that will set them apart from all the December exchanges. Who is reaching out at Groundhog Day (February 2), International Customer Loyalty Month (April) or Flag Day (June 14)? Pick a few times throughout the year and use them to express your personality, say thanks for your business or ask for a referral in an unusual way. Your clients will remember you better and more often.

Every other month is six times, plus the 15, and we’ve got 21.

Recognize clients’ accomplishments

When you see an article in the newspaper or hear through the grapevine about a client’s good fortune, send a handwritten note, (or at least an e-mail), to say “Congratulations!” Who doesn’t like recognition for a job well done? And your client will feel good about you for having taken the time/interest to let her know you’re aware of it.

Let’s say you do this once a year and now we’re closer to the target with 22.

Write a column for the local newspaper, industry publication, association newsletter, etc.

Share your expertise with an audience that includes your clients, as well as potential clients. You position yourself as an expert and you reach a lot of people at one time with minimal effort. If there are 1,200 readers, it certainly beats making 1,200 phone calls, doesn’t it?If you get published three times, we’re all the way up to 25! Wow, that wasn’t so difficult.

In addition to these suggestions, you may have some other ideas on what you can do to keep in touch with your clients. Take some time today to come up with a plan for consistently communicating and improving rapport with your clients.

You’ll soon see that whatever you choose to do, doing it consistently yields fantastic results.


Lori Saitz is an appreciation marketing expert and the founder and president of Zen Rabbit Baking Company. She created the Zen Rabbit Gratitude Program for business professionals who believe expressing appreciation – for their clients, referral sources and anyone else who supports their success – is important.

Educate Your Customers, Grow Your Revenues

by Ken David

What is marketing? First, it’s about understanding deeply the needs and wants of your customers and providing them with greater value. You must clearly identify the demand in the marketplace. At a minimum, most businesses can improve significantly in this area.

However, the real power and leverage of marketing comes from the next level of influence, communicating convincingly your unique and superior value proposition.

Marketing is about communicating with and educating your customers, prospects, and referral sources why it’s in their best interest to do business with your company. It is about educating the right target audience on the unique and superior advantages, benefits, value, and results you can provide and sharing the credible evidence/reasons that support and back-up such promises.

In short, marketing is about educating your target market on the advantages of doing business with you and the reasons why they should trust you to deliver on your promises.

Instead of impacting one prospect at a time (i.e. direct selling), marketing allows you to communicate with, educate, and influence many buyers at once. In a sense, marketing is a one-to-many selling system. Marketing allows you to target and influence large groups of customers, prospects, alliances, referral sources, reporters, etc. in a single action.

Unfortunately, most business owners mistakenly try to tackle most goals (i.e. growing sales) with a one-to-one, single weapon, combat mentality. For example, instead of considering the leverage of marketing (i.e. strategic alliances, referral systems, direct mail, telemarketing, etc.) to grow sales, many owners remain in the same comfort zone and deadly rut of using a single weapon like direct selling. They miss the chance to use air support (marketing) to vastly aid their ground war (selling).

They fail to consider and try new options, new approaches, and new strategies.

While all businesses have a selling process (converting leads to customers), most do not have a legitimate marketing process (generating qualified leads). As such, they miss out on tremendous leverage and revenue opportunities.

Your goal should be to add an ongoing marketing process to your business. Again, marketing is nothing more than understanding the needs of your customers and then communicating to them the superior advantages/benefits they can derive by doing business with you.

Think of marketing as ongoing education. You are educating customers, prospects, and referral sources why it’s in their best interest to do business with your company.

There are only 5 ways to grow your business:

  1. Keep the customers you have,
  2. Bring in more customers,
  3. Increase the average transaction size (unit sale),
  4. Increase the frequency of purchases, and
  5. Say “no” to bad customers/prospects.

In short, keep what you have, bring in more customers, sell larger amounts to them, and sell to them more often. Do one of these well and your business grows. Do two or more of these well, and your business can grow by quantum leaps and bounds, geometric growth instead of mere linear growth.

For this article, we will focus on strategy #1, keeping the customers you have. Don’t underestimate the need to satisfy and retain customers. Most businesses put too much money, time, and effort into chasing new customers/prospects and far too little resources trying to keep their current ones.

However, we all know that you can’t fill up a bucket if you don’t plug the leaks in the bucket. Real profits and stable revenue streams come from long-term relationships and repeat business with your current loyal, profitable customers. Some experts declare that 80% of a company’s future growth comes from existing clients, if served and cultivated properly. As such, customer satisfaction and retention should be your #1 marketing priority.

The primary purpose of a business is to attract and retain customers. You can’t grow and remain in business without keeping the customers you currently have. First, you must measure your current attrition rate (loss of customers) and set a goal for dramatically reducing this rate.

For example, let’s say, on average, that you lose 20% of your customers every year. A realistic goal would be to reduce this attrition rate to 10% per year.

Bottom line, it is easier and nearly eight times cheaper to serve and retain current clients/customers than to pursue new ones.

Once you have plugged the holes in your attrition bucket, you want to serve better and get closer to these profitable and worthy customers. You want to better understand their needs and then fulfill as many of these needs as possible with additional products and services. Continually communicate with your customers. Educate them. Give them value. Give them solutions. Focus on them and their needs, not on your products/services.

Communicate with them in person, in letters, in faxes, in emails, via your website, brief newsletters, etc. Don’t worry; you can’t over-communicate with your customers. Like employees, keep them informed, involved, and inspired to continue doing business with you. Also, repeatedly ask your customers the following questions:

  • “How are we doing?”
  • “What other needs do you have?” and
  • “How could we improve our value to you?”

Your objective is to provide them with more value more frequently and as a result, you will benefit with more profits. Never sell a customer only once. Real profits come from repeat business. As such, set goals to increase the frequency and size of repeat business. You want ongoing relationships and ongoing sales. Also remember, marketing is about educating your customers.


Ken David is the president of The Growth Coach® in Haslett, MI, a business coaching firm dedicated to helping business owners get more out of their businesses and personal lives.

Developing Your Introduction

by Amanda Chocko

How do you answer the question, “What do you do?” When answering this question you need to have a clear understanding of what you do, why, and for whom. You should be able to articulate what makes you special or different from others in the same field. And believe it or not, there are certain guidelines in developing your elevator pitch or business commercial.

First, do not try to encompass everything you or your company does in your introduction. It should be no more than 10 to 20 seconds in length. Your goal is to peak interest and encourage conversation, not give a monologue. If it sounds too rehearsed or like a sales pitch, you are sure to lose them at “hello.”

Come up with a unique title and identify the main benefits (not features) your company offers. Envision every person you meet with the letters (WIIFM-what’s in it for me?) written across their forehead. For example, when people used to ask me the question, “Amanda, what do you do,” I would respond this way:

“I own a company called Ready Set Network!” (Ho hum.) “I organize and facilitate networking events and workshops for professionals and job seekers.” (That’s nice.)

This response sounds okay, but I have come up with a better one. Now when someone asks me this question, I say “I am a Professional People Connector” (notice the catchy title?) This immediately invokes curiosity in the person I am speaking with and is usually followed by, “Really, how does that work?” or, “Tell me more.” Then, I explain the benefits of my business: “I help professionals become more confident and effective networkers. I do this by facilitating speed networking events and presenting networking workshops.” More often than not, the other person wants more information.

Your elevator pitch should also be simple to understand. Try not to use industry jargon, technical terms or acronyms that people won’t understand. First of all, most people will not ask you what you are talking about because they may feel inferior for not knowing, and you want to make it easy for people to refer you to their network. If they do not understand what you do, they will not be able to tell other people, and that is what networking is all about.

So, before you go to your next networking event or social gathering, practice your own unique introduction that sets you apart from the competition and gets people saying, “Tell me more.”


 

Amanda Chocko is the founder of Ready Set Network! offering “speed networking” events and networking workshops that will give you tools necessary to become a more confident and successful networker! She may be reached at (616) 450-2321.

6 reasons why a website is critical to your business

by Jamie Kiley

Since I’m a web designer, I have a tendency to think everyone understands that having a website is important. Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that some people just haven’t heard yet!

We’re going to go back to the very beginning and explain. Here are 6 reasons why having a website is such a big deal:

1. A website increases your credibility

Your website has a powerful impact on a potential customer’s confidence in you. A professional design, well-written copy, helpful product information, and good contact info can tremendously increase trust in your company. It lets people know you’re knowledgeable and up-to-date. If you take the time to develop a good-quality site with helpful information, visitors will have no choice but to be impressed.

2. A website makes your company visible anytime, anywhere

As of April 2002, there are roughly 165.8 million people online in the US alone. Some of them are looking for your products and services. With a website, you open yourself up to a world of opportunity in reaching people who might not otherwise find you. With the click of a mouse, anyone can get to your company’s website 24/7.

3. A website makes it easy for people to refer new customers to you

For many businesses, referrals are a crucial source of new customers. Having a website makes it easy to encourage referrals, because customers can simply send friends and business contacts to your site. Website addresses are easier to remember than phone numbers. Plus, giving people multiple ways of contacting you makes it more likely that they will do so.

4. A website is a powerful sales tool

Selling your products through an online store is often a killer way to expand your business. You have a perpetual, easily-accessed storefront—one that costs a fraction of a brick and mortar store and can reach many more people. Effective sales copy can do an incredible job of hooking visitors on your products and compelling them to click that “buy” button.

Even if you can’t sell your services directly over the internet, a website is still a powerful asset. It’s a primer that you use to convince visitors of why they need your services. You get them salivating to buy, then invite them to contact you through your site.

5. A website increases the value of your advertising

Adding your website address to all your advertisements, business cards, and company literature is a great way to draw potential customers to your company. Providing a website gives people a way to act on your message whenever they hear about you or see an ad for your company. Going to a website is easier than writing, visiting a store, or even making a phone call. Customers get the information at their convenience and don’t have to wait for a salesperson to help them. Also, it’s often more comfortable to visit a website, because there is no obligation. Visitors don’t feel pressured.

6. A website helps you stay in contact with potential customers

There are frequently people who are interested in what you have to offer, but they might not be ready to buy right now. You need to stay in contact with them so that you immediately come to mind when they ARE ready. A website is a great way to facilitate this. You can use your website to collect email addresses from visitors. Then you can periodically send out promotional emails or a newsletter. Staying in contact keeps your company fresh in visitors’ minds.

Well, there you have it–6 ways a website benefits your company and helps you sell more. Do you want to leave this opportunity to your competitors? Surely not! Each day you wait, you’re letting them establish themselves online as the resource in your field. Stop giving them that advantage!


Jamie Kiley is a web designer in Atlanta, GA.

Benefits of Link Building for Your Business Website

by Dane O’Leary

Having a strong web presence is an asset to any business. With technology and the internet being integrated into our daily lives to such a thorough degree, web presence could be considered the most important component of advertising, marketing, and customer acquisition for a business.

There are many ways to improve web presence and make a business’s site more prominent across the web and, in fact, sustaining a site’s findability requires ongoing maintenance. However, one of the most effective ways to ensure that a business’s website is easy to find is to list the site externally on other niche sites and web directories, which is frequently referred to as link building. Here are some of the benefits of making your business’s website available on other sites and directories.

backlink building

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Targeted Traffic

You can find niche websites on just about anything these days. Hobbies of all sorts, science, and a plethora of industries are just a small range of the topical sites that span the worldwide wide. When an individual needs information on a subject, they perform a search using popular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, which compile a list of sites based on the search terms or keywords that were used; according to estimates, the strategic use of keywords is one of the key components to getting web traffic and can increase a site’s views by 200 percent or more.

The websites that are listed in these specific searches are niche sites that get targeted traffic, which is a steady stream of visitors seeking the information that the niche sites offer. Contractors, for example, can benefit from this targeted traffic generated via search engines queries by listing their businesses’ websites on the niche websites recommended by the search engines. Users who browse niche websites were able to find those websites because they already had interest in the content and links the sites offer. In short, a niche site’s traffic becomes a targeted audience who are likely to click suggested links to sites that offer services they were already looking for.

Increased Visibility

Niche websites and directories offer businesses a way to significantly increase their visibility on the web. Making a website available in numerous places throughout the web increases visibility in several key ways. However, understanding link building requires a basic understanding of the way search engines work.

A search engine’s responsibility is to provide users credible, relevant, high-quality information in the form of a list of links to sites offering products, services, and information that corresponds to what the users are searching for. Search engines like Google determine a website credibility by observing how often it’s referenced on other sites, the site’s organization and user-friendliness, whether it consistently posts information of value, and as well as many other determinants. Search engines then rank sites with the most authoritative, reliable ones at the top of lists of search results. As such, sites that search engines consider credible and high-quality will be significantly more visible because search engines put them at the top of search results. Consider it like the difference between Wikipedia and a blog; Wikipedia always tops lists of search results while private blogs are typically buried in the list unless the blogger has taken steps to improve their blog’s visibility.

When the California Implant Institute increased the number of quality links to their website on authoritative sites around the web, the amount of traffic to the institute website increased by 79 percent, which has contributed to increased business in the long-term. It takes time to improve search engine rankings; however, link building on niche websites and in directories considered credible and authoritative by search engines will have a huge effect on a site’s visibility. By improving search engine rankings, a business’s website becomes more visible while the numerous links across the web provide more opportunities for users to discover and access the site.

Networking and Partnerships

Another benefit to link building is the potential for networking. Not only does this increased visibility make a business more visible to prospective customers and clients, but it also increases the chances of being discovered by a potential partner and developing lucrative professional relationships.

Web partnerships can be a great source of traffic, especially when the two businesses offer related services; for example, a business that offers carpet installation could advertise for and link to the site of a carpet cleaning business. Such a partnership would be mutually beneficial because customers needing the services of one business might need the services of the other, but each business’s services would be sufficiently different that there wouldn’t be competition.


Dane O’Leary is a full-time freelance writer and design blogger for Modernize.com. He has degrees in psychology and anthropology with additional study in journalism, graphic design, and public relations. Dane is currently working on his debut novel.

10 Steps to Creating an Atmosphere of ROI Accountability

Are You Failing Your Employer by Resisting Measurement?
by Merry Elrick, CBC

A recent Wall Street Journal Europe article claims, “Many marketing managers are failing their employers.” (“Ambidextrous Marketing” by John A. Quelch, October 12, 2005) The reason? According to the author, right-brained marketers lack quantitative skills, show little interest in the bottom line, and resist being held accountable.

This is not the kind of article you want your CEO to read.

Yet many marketers are stretched too thin to develop the type of quantitative rigor that belies these accusations. Creating an atmosphere of accountability requires time and budget many marketers don’t have, yet that is what they are charged with today. And they’d better include ROI metrics, because that’s really the only measure CEOs care about.

So how’s a marketer to foster ROI accountability? Here are ten basic steps:

1. Align marketing’s goals with your organization’s goals

I know this one may seem painfully obvious, but ask yourself if every marketing decision you make supports your organization’s business goals. These goals are almost always related in some way to bringing in revenue, increasing short-term cash flows, maximizing profitability or building long-term value.

Maintaining an alignment with business goals requires constant vigilance. If adding a flash intro to your Web site will not contribute to short-term cash flows or long-term value, then why are you doing it? When you’re disciplined to think of programs in light of the return they generate, you’re more likely to have greater returns.

2. Separate business-building marketing communications from brand-building

Yes, yes, brand building does result in new business, ultimately. At some point. And business-building marketing does build the brand too. But try to distinguish between the two for measurement purposes.

The easiest way to do it is by objective: If a marketing program is designed to generate leads to increase short-term cash flows, then you can categorize it as business-building. If it’s designed to create long-term value, it’s brand-building. When you make this distinction, you can begin to track business-building results. (More about brand-building results later.)

3. Create business-building programs that are designed to generate leads

That means encouraging customer and prospect interaction. Actively seek feedback online and off. Induce responses through good old-fashioned offers like free white papers, guarantees or coupons. In other words, begin a relationship with prospective customers.

Of course this is easier said than done, but if you want to create business-building marketing, it’s important to provoke responses. And then capture and maintain that response information.

4. Follow your marketing communications investment

Begin by building response mechanisms into every tactic in your marketing communications mix. And each one should be coded with a unique 800 number, e-mail or URL. Work with your IT department to track online communications. Save room in your budget for training your call center personnel to ask how the inquiry originated. Everything designed to build business must be trackable.

And it’s critical to know every detail of every response generated by your marketing efforts. Make capturing and recording lead data systemic to your organization.

5. Make the VP of Sales your new best friend

S/he already is, of course, because you’ve been working with him/her to create marketing communications that will generate leads for the sales force. Right? But become even better buddies so you can follow-up on those leads.

You have to tie your marketing tactic to the resulting lead and then follow it through to the sale in order to calculate ROI. So you’ll need feedback from your new best friend to let you know when a sale is made. If you absolutely can’t play nicely together, you’ll have to get sales figures elsewhere, like from accounting.

6. Establish a lead qualification program

Another reason to be pals with sales is to find out how they define a qualified lead. What are the parameters of a hot lead versus a warm lead? How do you nurture the leads that are not quite ripe?

If you are investing in marketing that is designed to generate leads, you must know the quality of those leads. And sales can help you develop criteria for what constitutes a quality lead. When you pass along only the best leads and manage the rest, you make the process more efficient.

7. Develop a relevant database

Your company may have any of a number of systems that include lead-tracking modules. Chances are they won’t link your marketing efforts to the leads generated and then to the resulting sales. If not, work with your IT department to develop a database that is relevant to your needs.

You’ll want to know what part of your marketing mix is pulling the greatest amount of leads, how many leads convert to sales, and how much revenue they bring in. You’ll want to know details about respondents and their companies. You’ll want to compare campaigns, and tactics and media for their efficacy. And keep track of your budget versus costs-to-date. And so much more.

If your current system can’t deliver the metrics you need to determine ROI, then work with your IT department, or outsource to someone who can do it for you.

8. Measure ROI, not “click-throughs”

ROI is a financial term. Period. It is not an increase in awareness, market share, click-throughs on your Web site, or even the revenue generated from marketing communications. It is the profits generated over and above the initial investment and expressed as a percent on the investment.

That said, every company seems to have its own standards for defining terms and making the actual ROI calculation. Find out what your company’s standards are. Make the CFO your other new best friend. It will be one less person you’ll need to convince of the credibility of your metrics.

9. Manage your budget as the investment it really is

Once you know the ROI of all the components in your marketing mix, then you can compare to see which programs yield the greatest ROI. You can see what creative is most effective, and which publications deserve to remain on your media list. You can save money by eliminating what isn’t working, and invest more in what is.

Ultimately, you’ll increase your ROMI-return on marketing investment. That’s how powerful tracking your marketing efforts in a database can be.

10. Recognize that not every marketing program lends itself to ROI measurement

Now we get to brand-building marketing, which is more difficult for B2B marketers to measure than business-building. Measuring components of brand equity-brand awareness, customer loyalty, perceived quality-can certainly be accomplished. But if you want to demonstrate ROI of your brand-building marketing, then you have a more difficult task.

Emerging technologies and complex modeling offer some hope. Econometrics, which uses statistical analysis to measure the relationship between different sets of events, is beginning to take hold in the B2C world. But these complex solutions are likely to cost more than an entire B2B budget.

Does this mean we should abandon brand-building marketing? Perish the thought! It just means we may have to convince CEOs of the power of brand in other ways-increased awareness, for example.

We should show ROI when we can. When it isn’t feasible, we must make whatever meaningful measures we can-and embrace the idea of being held accountable.


Merry Elrick is president of DataDriven MarCom, Inc., which provides B2B marketers with full-service ROI metric management.

Marketing Idea #31: Know Your Neighbors

know your neighbors

Especially in a retail environment, it is important that retailers work together to synchronize and support each other’s activities. Likewise, the same can be true of strategic partners, where physical location isn’t as important as reciprocal efforts. If you haven’t taken the time to meet your neighbors (e.g., the businesses on your block, in your complex, in your part of town), you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Building relationships with these folks will lead to the ability to refer business to them, as well as the opportunity to receive referred business from them.

Boost your credibility as a leader

marketing ideas leadership

by Jack Pyle, Fellow PRSA

No leadership skill is more important than the ability to be persuasive; to speak with confidence and competence. The same statement could be made for all professionals, but it is especially true for managers. You must be able to be persuasive and credible if you are to convince others to use your ideas.

Managers can increase their credibility with staff, senior executives, clients and the public by strengthening their speaking and leadership communication skills. Fortunately, everyone can learn to be more dynamic and persuasive.

Simply by using the power of body language, you quickly increase your credibility and improve your ability to influence others with your ideas.

First impressions are crucial to credibility. In his excellent book, You are the Message, Roger Ailes points out that you must make a good impression within just a few seconds. In a job interview, Joyce Brothers says you have about 30 seconds to make a good impression.

Nonverbal communication (body language) is a key ingredient in first impressions. Your appearance and style make a big difference in how others see and respond to you. President George Bush, Senior certainly learned this well when he overcame the “wimp image” the media tagged him with before the first debate of his initial presidential campaign. Roger Ailes coached Bush on how to use nonverbal communications techniques effectively.

Everyone is familiar with the phrase: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Even though we know this bit of folk wisdom is true, few people heed it. Where do most of us spend our time when getting ready to guide employees, present a proposal to management or staff, or respond to a crisis? We work on the words, the content. How many actually rehearse the presentation of the ideas and critique it? Is it any wonder we don’t do a better job of presenting our ideas?

Words are important. On the other hand, nonverbal communication carries most of meaning when you talk to another. Inflection (how the voice is used) also carries a significant portion of the meaning. You not only need to know what to say, it is very important to work on how you say it.

Some of the ways nonverbal messages are conveyed

  1. Tone of voice: Varying both volume and speed is important to make your voice interesting to others. Voices with a lower pitch have more authority than high pitched voices.
  2. Facial expressions: Smiling, good eye contact, and listening have a strong positive effect on others.
  3. Physical appearance and manner: Posture, handshake, gestures, energy level and use of humor affect your message delivery.
  4. Dress: Neatness counts. Darker colors command more respect. Make sure shoes are shined. Conservative classic styles work best to get a good response from others.

That’s a lot to think about, but here’s an easy way to remember what you need to do to increase your credibility. No matter how nervous you feel inside, using the following five tips will help you appear confident when you speak to others.

When you speak, remember S.P.E.A.K.

S is for smile. It’s one of your best communication tools. It always helps you make a good first impression, and it helps make others want to listen to you. Most managers need to smile more.

P is for posture. How you stand or sit makes a big difference. Your physical stance tells others how you feel about yourself. Confident people stand tall and sit straight.

E is for eye contact. A person who is believable and honest “looks you right in the eye.” Don’t stare, but look at a person’s face for at least three seconds before moving on to look at another person. If you are talking to a group, give your message to one person at a time. (This is important in the U.S. culture, but eye contact may have a very different meaning in another culture. If you are traveling abroad or meeting managers from other countries, learn the cultural differences.)

A is for animation. Show you are interested in your subject with your energy and animation. Be enthusiastic. Animate your voice by speeding up and slowing down, talking louder and softer at times. Make your face animated. A is also for attitude. Make sure you feel good about yourself and what you are doing.

K is for kinetics or motion. Use your hands and arms to make gestures that support your words. Use two-handed, symmetrical gestures, and hold your hands high when gesturing at about the chest level.

Remember S.P.E.A.K. and you will boost your credibility in conversations and presentations. You will be much more persuasive, and people will respond more favorably to you and your ideas.


Jack Pyle, president and janitor of Face-to-Face Matters, Lansing, Michigan, USA, is a communication consultant and provides leadership communication training to corporate, government and nonprofit managers. He speaks frequently at state, national and international conferences.

The Basic Argument for Advertising in a Recession

advertising in recession

from The Wall Street Journal
(publication information unknown)
View the original article

When times turn bad, they’re made worse by hesitation, halfway measures, and panicky decisions. Such as the decision to reduce or eliminate advertising. The fact is, companies that maintain or increase their advertising spending during recessions get ahead. A less crowded field allows messages to be seen more clearly, and that increased visibility results in higher sales both during and after a recession.

Recessionary Advertising Works

Studies by the American Business Press examined the relationship between advertising and sales in 143 companies during the severe 1974/75 downturn. They found that companies that did not cut advertising either year had the highest growth in sales and the net income during the two study years and the following two years. The studies also proved that companies that cut advertising during both years had the lowest sales and net-income increases during the two study years and the following two years.

And not surprisingly, companies that cut advertising during only one of the recession years had sales and net-income increases that fell in between.

Long-Term Benefits

A study by McGraw-Hill of both the 1974/75 and 1981/82 recessions confirmed the long-range advantage of keeping a strong advertising presence. It found that companies that cut advertising in 1981/82 increased sales by only 19% between 1980 and 1985, while companies that continued to advertise in 1981/82 enjoyed a 275% sales increase.

An industry-specific study published by the Harvard Business Review found that airlines that increased their advertising expenditure during 1974/75 increased sales and market share in both years, while airlines that cut advertising in both years lost sales and share both years.

The results of all three studies are consistent, clear and unequivocal: Those companies that advertise during a recession have better sales than those companies that don’t.

The way to minimize a downturn and take maximum advantage of the upturn is to maintain a strong communications link with your buying public.


Recession? Don’t Run Scared

by Marcia Yudkin

During a recession, scared businesses tend to cut back on marketing expenses. This appears to be the smart bet. After all, most customers have become more cautious about spending. So why not conserve your resources, wait out the downturn and have funds to spend when the economy picks up?

In fact, smart businesses expand during a recession because they know there will be a shakeout caused by the scared businesses shrinking.

During any recession, there are always more than enough clients out there to keep you busy if you continue to market, and market smartly. Capitalize on your strengths. Make the most of your business relationships. Create or revive programs that enable customers to move ahead. (I just filled a seminar teaching a highly marketable specialized skill.) Above all, stay upbeat, putting the dynamics of self-fulfilling prophecies in your favor.

If you behave like the scared businesses, or target them, you will contract. If you market to the smart businesses during a recession, you will continue to prosper.

It’s up to you.


Get ideas for marketing moves during a recession from articles I’ve written, including “Clone Your Best Customers,” “Getting New Business Fast” and “Creating a Reputation.” Inspiration costs nothing! Marketing strategy articles: http://www.yudkin.com/marketingmoves.htm


The Sky Is Falling

By Robin Sieger

Speaking to people in business at the moment, there appears to be a storm on the horizon. The newspapers and media are having a field day discussing the rate of inflation, the spiraling cost of oil, the increased number of redundancies, the drop in house prices, the difficulty encountered when borrowing money from the banks, and the all-time favorite the cost of living.

If you’ve spent time living in Great Britain, or know British people, you will know that our favorite topic of conversation is the weather, which is not as surprising as it may sound as we still are the only nation on earth where you can have all four seasons on the same day.

But the favorite topic of conversation now has moved on to the economy (so things must really be serious). The economic downturn has affected everybody, even successful business friends of mine have quite seriously told me they think they’re going to go broke. No amount of positive attitude in the world and well intentioned clichés are going to change their thinking. They have borrowed heavily from the banks to build a business and now the rate of interest is increasing and the value of the businesses is decreasing. Bad times!

I can’t remember the magazine, but it was about nine years ago that I read a fascinating article in which four billionaires were interviewed. The one thing they had in common was they were all over 80 years of age. The interviewer basically asked them about the 20th century from a business point of view. The four interviewees said they had lived through a number of recessions, and one estimated in the 20th century there had been eight periods of recession. They all saw them as occupational hazards.

One of them gave an analogy based on a love of sailing. He said when the wind blows in, you get the sails up and travel fast and far. When the storm approaches, you take in the sails, make the ship safe and hang on. He added when you sense the worst of the storm has passed, you get your sails back up as fast as you can and get going. The biggest indicator of hope is that after the storm comes a period of calm and opportunity that you must never lose sight of.

For many of you, there is stormy weather ahead—how severe and how long it will last I don’t know. I only know that I will keep my eye keenly on the horizon and the moment I sense the storm is breaking start, I’ll put up all the sails I can. In business, recessions come and go just as opportunities come and go, but you must never lose sight of the opportunities that the storms often wash up on the shore.

In the meantime, I’m going to wait until people start talking tentatively about the weather again, which will be a good sign.


Robin Sieger, from Scotland, now divides his time between between Europe and America. He is a successful businessman, best selling author, and broadcaster with offices in the UK and Charlotte, NC. He is a leading success strategist and has a world-class reputation as a conference speaker who passionately delivers high-impact presentations that are informative, inspiring, and entertaining. Robin’s humor and ability to emotionally connect with audiences has seen him become the first choice speaker at major conferences around the world. For more information visit www.siegerinternational.com or email robin@siegerinternational.com.

Infographic: Digital Coupons

The growth of digital coupons has revolutionized how people interact with coupons. There is no longer a need to print your coupon and bring it to the store as digital coupons are becoming commonplace. In 2012, 92.2 million adults redeemed online coupons and this figure is expected to grow to 124.4 million by 2016.

infographic digital coupons

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It is vital that businesses have measures in place to fully utilize this growing market. There are seven key ways in which businesses can incorporate effective digital coupon marketing. These include integrating the offers with email, using text messaging, and most importantly measuring results to determine how effective each campaign is. This allows you to tweak your technique depending on the most effective methods.

This infographic from Colourfast outlines the growth of digital coupons and provides an effective seven-step plan to maximize the effectiveness of digital coupons for your business.

Have you ever used coupons or promo codes with your offers? Any success? Share below!

How to Make Money Blogging

marketing ideas make money blogging

Ah, to make money blogging. It’s one of the holy grails of the Internet community. We write, therefore we are–but we would rather our loquacious posts pay the bills too. Really, is that too much to ask?

Want your words working for you? Here are a few ways to help your articles make money online.

How to Structure Your Blog

Write. A Lot.

The more gravity your website has, the more value (presumably) it will have, providing you have valuable insight to offer on the topic at the center of your soapbox. The search engines don’t look at only pages; they look at the composition of the whole site, as well as the sites linking into it, the links leading away from it, etc. So the more targeted content you have, the more gravity your site will have on that topic and the higher you will rise through the results.

Keyword Research

Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool) to help you ascertain how people are searching for the content you want to offer.

  1. On the left navigation bar, set the search to [Exact].
  2. Enter your first attempt at keywords.
  3. Sift through the proposed keywords, looking for keywords and phrases with thousands of local visits, but which also have low competition. (This is Adwords ads competition, but we’re using it as an indicator of global competitive targeting.)

how to make money blogging

Sprinkle Keywords Throughout

Now that you’ve selected some keyphrases, it’s time to work them into your post. They should appear in your title and–if you’re using WordPress like you should be–in your page URL for the post or page you’re creating. Your keywords should also appear occasionally within your content and within a link or two.

Don’t go crazy here, as it all still needs to be readable by a human, but your blog post also needs to be found relevant by a search engine.

Title Your Images

Also, don’t forget to title your blog’s images. You will want to include the keyword in the alt tag for the image, as well as the actual file name for the image. For instance, the image above is titled “make-money-blogging.jpg” and its alt tag matches the title of this post; “how to make money blogging”. The alt tag is something you can set easily in the WordPress blog software.

While taking a second job might seem like the way to go there are only so many hours in the day, and the stress of the extra workload can lead to other problems. The key to generating a secondary income stream is to find something you enjoy, something you already do or could do, and get paid for it.

Leveraging Your Blog

Affiliate Marketing

One of the major methods people use to bring in extra money with their blog (or replace their main income in some instances) is affiliate marketing. One common approach here is to become a digital advisor and for every sale you make, you earn a commission. So say you write a blog reviewing books. In every blog post, you might place an affiliate link to the book you’re reviewing. Every time someone clicks that link and buys that book, you make X percent of that sale. If no one buys the product, you get nothing, but putting up a single, popular review has the potential to lead to many sales over time, creating an income stream once you build up a steady flow of traffic.

With affiliate marketing, you don’t have to be the magic or produce the magic. You get paid to offer information about whatever product, service, dream or dread the audience is seeking.

Per-Per-Click Marketing

Per-per-click marketing is used by services such as Google AdSense and InfoLinks. With this marketing strategy your goal is not to sell a product, but rather to get your readers to check out ads related to your content. Again let’s use the example of a blog. Say your blog is about aftermarket car upgrades and how-to articles for car enthusiasts. If you allow Google to place a link or banner onto your blog, your audience will now be exposed to the ad. If they click on that ad, you get paid. The more traffic your site gets, and the more ads those people click, the more money you make. Ideally it’s possible to build up a popular enough base of traffic that you can just sit back and let the money roll in.

Selling Your Crafts

Lots of people enjoy making things, but they would never imagine there was a market for the things they make. Whether it’s weaving chainmail or making necklaces, all you have to do is set up an Internet storefront. Websites like Etsy.com or Ebay.com allow you to put up items for sale (or re-sale if you want to try and get a good price for things you bought cheap like designer clothes at a thrift store). You simply create a profile and pay a small fee to list your items. When those items sell you mail them to the buyer, and you get paid. This is more like running a traditional store, but with less of the traditional overhead that comes with a bricks and mortar operation.

Warning: Blog Owner Beware

The Internet is a great way to make extra money, but you need to be cautious when you decide to try out something you found online. Research any site or system before you decide to invest your time and effort into it, and if a “business opportunity” requires you to buy a starting kit make very sure that you look for reviews from other people. Chances are good that the only person making money is the one promising that you’ll be able to quit your day job within the year.

Afterglow

Well, while this isn’t all the tricks you can do, these ideas will get you a long way toward making money online with your blog. After all, I didn’t even discuss sponsorships, mailing list subscriptions, squeeze pages or any of the other fun monetizing techniques. There are many ways to make money blogging, but the cornerstone to running a successful blog begins with these core steps. As traffic to your site increases due to the increased value you’ve built, these money-making techniques will work better and better.
In support of your efforts,

Matt

(Updated April 1, 2015. Original posted October 30, 2012.)