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Are you a professional? An expert in your field? An authority in your niche? Then, if you’re not on LinkedIn, stop reading, and go sign up! You must be there. With 238 million users – serious users who don’t deal in fluff and memes but in professional discussions and networking – you have the opportunity to reach out, influence, expand your career, and enhance your business/website. So how do you leverage it?

Get Linked In

Some helpful tips to get you started:

  • Complete your company profile.  This is your chance to tell visitors and searchers about yoru company – products, services, opportunities, etc. To add a Company Page, you need to own a personal profile with your real name. Add a description, video, and other content that describes your business, your offerings, and your people. LinkedIn offers some useful instructions to help you set up your page.
  • Be a groupie. Joining groups helps you connect with like-minded people in your industry or related industries. It’s also a method by which you can establish your authority. Participate in a community by offering valuable information, advice, or questions –and go one step further: start your own group. Own a group, and lead people. Encourage them, and at the same time, use this platform to grow.
  • Publish. LinkedIn offers its Influencer program to help users publish content and build their brands. It is essentially a blogging program. Once only open by invitation, now anyone can be an Influencer. Try it for increased traffic, more visibility on your profile, and even a higher conversion rate. And remember to publish fresh content regularly and frequently. Your readers and Google will love it.
  • Ask for recommendations. It can be difficult, but if you have a successful customer experience or a positive relationship with a colleague, request that they recommend you for a specific skill. Loyal customers are a great source of recommendations, so do ask. When do you not ask? When it might turnoff new or potential customers.

LinkedIn is a must for professionals and for brands today. Get in the game!

ClickWhether you want your audience to sign up for a newsletter, download a whitepaper, subscribe to your blog, or complete another call to action, you need compelling, attention-grabbing copy. How do you persuade your visitors to take the next step?

Many people treat opt-in copy as an afterthought: “Oh, while you’re here, sign up for our newsletter.” In fact, this can be a big opportunity to persuade your audience to complete a desired call to action. Some tips that will help you create a message that resonates with your visitors:

  • Identify who you want to target. What is your market? This helps you determine what type of content works best for them – and how best to promote it.
  • Spend most of your time on your headline. This is, by far, the most important element of your opt-in copy. Studies show that the vast majority of visitors only read the headline – if you don’t grab them then, forget about it. Be sure to tell them what they are going to get out of the deal. In other words, why should they sign up for the newsletter/RSS feed/whitepaper? Does it have tips, advice, or guidance? Will it entertain them? Is it relevant?
  • Solve a problem or scratch an itch with your copy. What are the “pain points” of your audience? What are their concerns? What can you help them resolve? Identify the challenges your audience is likely facing, and then propose a solution. Show them what is in it for them.
  • Tell them you have the answer. Why should they believe? Are you an expert in your industry? Do you have proven systems or processes? Give your audience a reason to believe that completing that CTA will help them conquer their problem, overcome their challenge, or better position themselves for success.
  • Offer a clear CTA. Do your visitors know what you want them to do – and what they will get out of it? An ambiguous CTA, such as, “Act Now!” does not give them the information they need to make a good decision. Most will bounce right there. Instead, make sure it is simple and direct: “Sign up for our newsletter,” or “Download you free copy.” A clear CTA will increase the amount of people who opt-in.
  • Provide a short opt-in form. A good rule to remember is that the shorter your opt-in form (i.e., the less information you ask your visitors to provide) the better. You will get more people to opt-in when your forms are simple and quick.

Opt-in copy can help you turn visitors into repeat visitors, customers, and fans. While a CTA to sign up for your newsletter or an email list may sound trivial, it is one of the most important locations on your site. The best tip is to take time to craft a meaningful message that will impact visitors.

 

 

Thumbs UpIt is estimated that there are over 2 billion pages of indexed web content in the world. And somewhere in that 2 billion is you. SEO can help guide searchers to your website, but what keeps them there? What encourages them to share your content or to recommend your site/products/services to friends, family, coworkers? A big piece of that puzzle is credibility and establishing your position as an expert in your niche. Reviews are an integral step towards this end. How does Google’s new Review Extensions work – and how can you make them work for you?

Review Extensions

Google allows Adwords account holders to submit third-party reviews for approval. Once approved, the review appears in the search results. Here is an example from Google:

You may use an exact quote, as this example does, or a paraphrase. To submit a review for approval, log into your Adwords account and, under the Ad extensions tab, you’ll find a space for “new reviews.” Simply choose your format (exact or paraphrased), the text you want to include, the source, and the source URL. You can also schedule start and end dates.

Keep in mind:

  • The review has to be attributed to the published source and accompanied by a link.
  • As mentioned, the reviews must be approved by Google. It can take a few days for them to appear in the SERPs.
  • You can move reviews that already appear within your ad text and add a Review Extension. This gives more power to the review and promotes your site and business. Do not duplicate the text, however. Make sure Review Extensions and ad text are different.
  • As of now, this feature is available globally – but only in English. Look for other languages to be added soon.
  • Google recommends you use one Review Extension at the campaign level, rather than at ad group levels. A campaign might include several ad groups: Google prioritises campaign level extensions and reviews them more quickly. Essentially, it gives you more bang for your CPC buck (though the reviews are free, you do, of course, pay your cost-per-click for the ads).
  • Familiarise yourself with Google’s Review Extension policies. If your submission doesn’t meet the guidelines, the search engine will not approve it.
  • Be aware that reviews do not show up in the SERPs all the time. If yours does not appear, take a look at the guidelines and make sure your Review Extension conforms. If it does, know that there are other factors at play, such as space on the page, your bid, and ad relevance.

Positive third-party reviews can boost your CTR and your credibility as an online resource and authority. If you’ve receive a glowing report, a rave review, or two thumbs up from a reputable source, leverage its power to help you reach and connect with your audience.

 

 

SEOFoot traffic and paper directories just don’t cut it anymore.  A confluence of events – from the meteoric rise of mobile to the emphasis in many communities on supporting local establishments – means that local businesses need to create a lively, optimised online presence to engage their customers. Over 46 per cent of shoppers use their mobile devices to research local products and services. Will they find you? Here are a few targeted tips for being on top of the local game.

  • Set up your Google Places space. Run, don’t walk. You can control the information you provide to Google, and to your audience. Use this opportunity to disseminate the essentials: hours, contact information, images, and a keyword-optimised description. After you fill this out, all you have to do is verify your account via phone or mail. Bing and Yahoo also have “Local” services for businesses, so if you want to target these engines as well, follow their specific procedures to get your account set up.
  • Get social with Google+ Local. Here, you can connect with your customers and others related to your specific industry using Google+ circles. You can control the information and the “story” your business tells.
  • Use a real address and phone number. People who search for local products and services want a “real” address, not a virtual one. Not only does it tell them where to go if they want to visit the brick-and-mortar location, but it lends your business greater credibility. Same goes with the telephone number. Adding a map is another nice touch that will help visitors feel more comfortable visiting either in person or onine.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings. These are terrific for boosting your online authority and profile. Make it easy and convenient for them. Try printing a link to a review site on a receipt or adding one to an email communication to solicit feedback. If you should get some negative comments, address them immediately! Stay respectful, positive, and helpful – remember, these things can go viral.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-ready. While people do search for local businesses from home, it’s a mobile world. Is your site optimised for smartphones and tablets? If not, work on creating a responsive website or creating a separate mobile experience.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Keywords, site speed, metadata – all critical in local search campaigns.

Customers are out there, searching for quality local businesses. Make sure they find you by implementing these SEO strategies.

Measurement

Content marketing moves away from a hard sell and focuses on the story. Instead of badgering customers to buy, the goal is to provide them information, to address their concerns, to answer their questions, to position yourself as the trusted, credible authority. (And then, sell them some stuff. Well, business is business!.) Establishing a relationship is critical: Are you connecting with the audience? Are they connecting with you? Paying attention to engagement metrics is one of the most important steps in effective content marketing.

Some key metrics to look at:

  • Start with the usual suspects. How many retweets, likes,+1s, pins, etc.? What type of comments are people leaving? Reviews, ratings? Start here, but don’t end here!
  • Unique visitors. How many distinct visitors came to your site? Give it parameters so you can track and compare more easily. For instance, how many unique visitors did you get this week vs. last week? This month vs. last month? This quarter and year vs. last quarter and year? Now, remember, someone could visit your site 1000 times in a day, but he or she is just one unique visitor. So this metric tells you a part of the story.
  • Page views. This tells you another part. If a visitor clicks through to different pages, each page loaded is a page view. This is an important number to look at, particularly if you do paid ads. Again, put parameters around it to track and compare, and use this to determine which pages are getting the click-throughs.
  • Average stay. How long are people camping out on your site? Are they bouncing from the landing page, or are they taking the time to get to know you? This is where good content marketing shines: the goal is to get people interested and to encourage them to dig deeper into your content and website. This also makes the common problem of developing enough solid content more pressing! You’ve got to give them something to dig into! (But that’s a story for another day!)
  • Bounce rate. High=bad. Low=good.
  • Return visits. High=good!
  • Conversions. Use a CRM to track visitors and their progress through the sales funnel. Some good options include SugarCRM, Salesforce, or InfusionSoft.

Connect with your audience with great content, and then make looking at these reports a regular part of your strategy.

Count On Us

Who are the key visitors to your website? Who are you trying to attract, the crucial – and buying – audience that you want to engage with winning content? Most businesses have a general idea: i.e. we sell football shoes, so we ‘re targeting young athletes or older enthusiasts who star in weekend leagues. But they don’t go much beyond that. Creating user personas gives us an in-depth look at potential audiences, their needs, and potential strategies for converting them into customers.

A Quick Look at User Personas

A persona is a fictional representation of your very nonfictional audience. For instance, we might have Sue, the weekend football star. Your research tells you that this is a demographic you want to hit. Sue is a professional with limited free time. She has children, who also participate in sports, and she wants to be more active and healthy. She is value-conscious, but she also wants great quality. This persona:

  • Describes this type of visitor to your shoe site: mother, busy, professional.
  • Targets her motivation: health, wellness, activity.
  • Hits on her need: budget, value, quality.
  • Implies potential objections: cost of top shoes, time. For instance, time is an issue – so are returns easy and convenient? Is shipping fast?

With this information (and much more – you can flesh these personas out so they actually have an accompanying photo and dossier!), you can develop content and design your website in such a way that her needs are met. What’s more, because you have different demographics within your customer base, you can create a variety of realistic personas.

Creating User Persona

It all starts with research. Who are your users? Why are they visiting your site? What expectations and needs do they bring with them? Can you categorize users? With social media and the ease of UGC, you can collect this data from your customers directly with online surveys, through comments and reviews, emails, and feedback forms. Questions you want to answer:

  • Where do they live? What types of jobs do they have, and at what level? Primary gender? Level of education? Average income? Marital and family status?
  • What types of beliefs and values do they hold?
  • What are their interests, passions, and hobbies?  What are their motivations?
  • What are their most pressing worries or concerns? What are their goals?
  • What’s important to them in life? What is meaningful to them?
  • What behaviors do they want to encourage or change in themselves?
  • How do they view themselves?
  • What value can you give them?

Using this information, develop 4-5 personas, and put as much detail into them as possible. Make them real people. You are trying to sell your product or service to a live audience, not a figment of your imagination! Address their needs and concerns, while offering solutions.

By understanding your customer base, you can build content that meets their needs (not every piece will be directed at Sue, for instance, but you’ll cater to each persona in different ways), and you can begin to optimise content to make it easy and convenient for them to take the next steps.

Do you use user personas to help you make content and design decisions?

 

Colorful Tacks

Pinterest has achieved phenomenal growth in the last few years, but many businesses persist in believing it to be just a place for foodies to get new gluten-free recipes, thrifty parents to get ideas for budget-friendly birthday parties, or for crafty folks to get their newest idea. It’s great, they think, for individuals but not for our businesses. But consider this, Pinterest refers more people to websites than Yahoo. Admittedly, Yahoo is no Google, but this is a powerful reminder that there is an opportunity to be had. If you’re not pinning, maybe you should be.

Pinterest is the fourth largest traffic source in the world. It often referrs more people than Google+, Bing, and LinkedIn. Most of its users are women (some put the number as high as 80 percent) and most are between ages 24 and 34. Half have children. If these hit your target demographics, it might be smart to build a Pinterest presence for yours business. Here are some other statistics:

  • Pins with price tags get 36 percent more likes than those without.
  • 69 percent of users have found at least one item they have purchased or wanted to purchase.
  • Average users spend 1 hour and 17 minutes on the site.

That last stat is particularly remarkable. Over one hour – most sites are lucky if users stay for a few minutes. What the duration of the stay tells us is that users are engaged. They are being pulled in by great content, and they don’t have to “bounce” because they are finding information, comparisons, prices, and products that meet their needs.

If you think that Pinterest is of importance and value to your target audience, create an account. Here are some tips to help create a presence:

  • Set up a business account for a more professional, credible appearance. This will help boost consumer confidence in your brand.
  • Use Pinterest Analytics. In keeping with its status as a major traffic source, Pinterest offers Analytics. Track how many people are viewing and pinning from your website. You can also see the most popular “repinned” items to help you optimise your efforts and create better pins.
  • Think about hosting a contest. These are popular and can help highlight your content and your website. Make sure to read Pinterest’s Terms of Service before you start.
  • Be visual. Use images (that you create or that you have secured rights to) and infographics to appeal to Pinterest’s visual nature.
  • Know your audience. Pin only what you think they’ll be interested in. Doing some research is a great way to start. Not only should you get a sense of your “user personas,” you should look at what your competition is doing as well.
  • Take advantage of tools. There are now a variety of helpful tools to build and maintain a positive Pinterest presence. These include: Shopinterest (to set up shop in minutes); Repinly (info on top pins and boards); Pinstamatic (appealing boards); Pinpuff (measure influence); and Piqora (analytics and pin scheduling).
  • Spend an hour or so yourself pinning, repinning, and gathering information on what works, what doesn’t , what your business can do, and how you can reach your audience.

Does Pinterest make sense for your business? Are you already there?

 

Download Onscreen ButtonSEO, and search engine visibility, is just the first step. Conversion rate optimisation is focused on keeping visitors on your site and ensuring they complete the desired call to action, whether that is purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or answering questions on a survey. Are your CTAs effective?

Calls to action tend to be relegated to afterthoughts on most websites. A small scale study of businesses presented by Small Business Trends found that 70 percent do not optimise CTAs on their home pages. More – 72 percent – do not have CTAs on their interior pages, and still more – 82 percent – do not mention their social media profiles. Most do not include vital information, such as phone numbers or email addresses; and if they do, they are not featured prominently.

A compelling call to action is essential but how do you go beyond “Contact us”?

  • Learn from the mistakes of these small businesses. Place CTAs in prominent locations and in interior pages. Make them noticeable: contrasting colors for your banners and buttons work. There is some conjecture that different colors – such as yellow and orange– are more eye-catching and apt to convert. You can get into A/B testing to determine that, but in the meantime, make sure they are highly visible.
  • Pair your CTA with your content. “Buy now” is often your ultimate goal, but does that make sense on an information or educational page? A more effective call to action would center around learning more, contacting you for further information, or downloading an ebook or whitepaper.
  • “Learn more” can be ambiguous. Make sure that your CTA tells the visitor exactly what action you would encourage them to take (which will be to their benefit, of course!). Make that value proposition clear. JetSetter does this: they may have a tidbit about an Italian vacation with a CTA button that reads, “Plan a trip like this.” The visitor knows what will happen when he clicks through, making it more likely that he will do so.
  • Inject some urgency. You need to do this now! Is the message, but how to word it? Spotify does a great job with this one: “Music is for every moment.” Then, under,  “Get Spotify for free.” It is inspirational – we have moments! We want music for them! Our very own soundtracks! – and it’s free. That never hurts.
  • Be very clear in your wording. “Buy now” is not earth shattering, but if visitors are on a product page, it only makes sense. When the tried and true works, use it.

Businesses tack on CTAs after carefully working through content strategies. This is a mistake. Spend time crafting your CTAs wording, design, and placement – and then track your analytics to see the difference it makes.

You spend time carefully crafting blog posts, researching and writing whitepapers, creating awe-inspiring infographics, and then you send them out into the big internet world to fend for themselves. We’re missing something here: nurturing that content and helping it work for you. Some experts recommend that, for every hour you spend creating content, you spend an hour promoting it. What is the best way to do that?

  • Hit the usual suspects. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Delicious, Digg, and LinkedIn are great first stops. Presenting your content to a targeted audience – such as your LinkedIn group for professionals in your industry – helps your content hit the mark and demonstrate its relevance.
  • Use hashtags when you do share socially. This categorises your content, making it easier for people to find.
  • Make it easy for people. Instead of them coming to you, go to them. Create an automated email newsletter featuring your best/most recent articles or posts. Services like Nourish and Paper.li allow you to turn your RSS feed into a powerful tool.
  • Create a subscriber Circle. You can then invite people to become part of your Circle and be notified automatically when you have new content to share.
  • Take the time to thank people who share, like, or otherwise engage with your content. This can turn a one-time commenter into a repeat visitor. Content is all about connecting; you are reaching out, so when someone returns the favor, capitalise on it.
  • Promote your content offline. If you’re in a client meeting, for instance, and the individual has a lot of questions about a specific technical aspect of what you do, you can say, “I’ll email you a link to an article I’ve written about that.” You can also do the same when following up with clients or associates.

Don’t abandon content that you’ve worked so hard to create. Work to seed it and nurture an audience for it. It does take time, but that is time that will help you build stronger visibility and better relationships within your specific area of expertise.

 

different is greatA new study by Ascend has discovered that half of companies struggling with search engine optimisation have not taken steps to fully integrate SEO and social media. SEO cannot be a siloed approach; it has to encompass CRO, content marketing, branding, social, mobile…SEO is a pixel in the overall picture. The bottom line is that businesses that integrate SEO with social media are more successful than those that do not.

Quickly, here are some major findings from the survey:

  • 38% of those who identified themselves as “successful” with SEO were heavily integrating their tactics with social media techniques.
  • 50% who identified themselves as “unsuccessful” with SEO were not integrating social media at all.
  • 60% of companies said they had “limited integration.”
  • 24% responded that they did not integrate at all.
  • 16% said they had “extensive integration” of social and SEO.
  • Nearly half said that creating original content was the most effective SEO tactic.

So, this of course begs the question: how do we integrate SEO and social media? This is important because some experts believe that in the very near future, SMI – search marketing integration – will be a must for first page rankings.

  • Get social – within reason. Sometimes Twitter does not make sense for your business. Sometimes it’s not wise to have a Facebook page. What you need to determine is if these platforms will help you advance your objectives and reach your specific audience. If you are not already there, LinkedIn is an almost universal must for business, as is Google+. YouTube is another one that is tremendously flexible for professionals. In addition to valuable backlinks, Google counts +1s, likes, and retweets in its ranking algorithms. Social indicators are like beacons to Google, so you have to be somewhere.
  • Link from these platforms to your website.
  • Make it easy for people to share your content with social sharing buttons.
  • When you do establish a social platform, be choosy as to who you follow. It’s not a contest: the business with the most friends, fans, or followers doesn’t win. As Google refines its algorithms, the quality of those you follow will be more important. Target influencers.
  • Quality content can be leveraged via social platforms. With LinkedIn, for instance, you can be active in groups and establish a position as a thought leader in your niche. You can use your other media profiles, such as Google+ or Twitter to refer readers to your LinkedIn group content or to your website. You can create an entire encyclopedia of you that is interlinked and connected. Fans and friends can easily navigate to new information, and new prospects can more easily find you.
  • To that end, use Google authorship! It is a crime that more businesses and individuals are not leveraging this tool. It is too easy to neglect – and it’s free! You can instantly gain credibility and visibility.
  • Don’t forget to track your efforts. Using Google Analytics, determine which keywords are the big traffic-getters and those that are the biggest converters. Create content that targets those keywords organically. Remember, SEO rules apply! Don’t over-optimise or write for Google. Write for your audience, but include a few targeted keywords to help them find you.
  • Likewise, use different analytics, such as Facebook Insights, to determine which types of posts are most popular and which drive visitors to your website. Capitalise on that knowledge with posts that engage visitors.

The good news is that there are several things you can do right now (like sign up for LinkedIn and get your Google authorship tags set up!) that can help you integrate SEO and social media. Doing so will help you compete in the increasingly social world.

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