Why I Embrace the Morphing Medium of Internet Marketing & Benefit from Major New SEO Trends

I’m increasingly enjoying my role as an Internet marketing strategist. Yes, of course, I delight in making a difference by helping businesses sort out how to produce the best results for their particular brand of enterprise. But, it’s also fun to dance with such a lively partner. 😉 Marketing Strategy signYes, Internet marketing is a lively medium. And, what makes it especially lively is (now and for the foreseeable future) it is a constantly moving target, a morphing medium, and a communications environment where change is not only constant. It must be embraced to be enjoyed.

I’m “all in” because it’s my sincere pleasure to stay out in front of the latest changes. For that reason and in order to try to be helpful, I think it’s time to update you on a couple of major developments in the world of online marketing and search engines in particular.

Next Generation SEO Social Signals

As I wrote several months ago (see “This Ain’t Your Mama’s SEO“), search engines are placing increasing importance on “social signals,” indications such as links, likes and +1’s via posts in social media that indicate real appreciation for your content.

I have also long encouraged participation in Google’s social network, Google+ (and if you want more information about how your business can benefit, visit their business pitch page). I even spelled out why I think Google+ is important in my book, “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts Every Business MUST Know.”

Now, especially when it comes to the all-important Google search results, one social signal has risen above the rest. The latest leading edge social signal is getting Google+ posts with links to your content (blog posts or whatever) to receive +1’s (Google+’s equivalent of a Facebook “like”). In two recent research posts that included reputable analysis of what helps your content rise to the top of search results (something that every marketer wants or should want), the Google +1 has become arguably the most valuable and important search ranking factor, rising even above unique IP in-bound links!

In the Moz.com post, 2013 Search Ranking Factors, the +1 is second only to “Page Authority” to which +1’s are a contributor and which, in any case, is not a specific strategy but more an indicator of success for your page’s online visibility. In the Search Metrics2013 SEO Ranking Factors study, +1’s came in well ahead of another social signal, Facebook Shares. This social signal came in as the #2 ranking factor, but it’s worth noting, I think, that a +1 is just a click and thus easier to get than a share which requires more effort and usually a comment.

In any case, there can now be little doubt that one of the most important things you can do to gain search engine visibility for your web pages is to get people to +1 them on Google+. Of course, this speaks once again to the requirement that you create high quality content that people will actually WANT to share (more on that below). And, if your business is not actively posting (and promoting) its content on Google+, what are you waiting for?!?

SEO Beyond Keywords: Think Pages that Build Topical Authority

Beyond the rabid conversations about “branding” is the more fundamental, at least in SEO terms (pun intended), of building an authentic topical authority—that is an authority that is focused on a specific, relevant topic. This kind of content can be highly regarded by search engines based on its quality, especially when that includes your marketplace’s support via social signals (i.e. Google+ +1’s, Facebook shares, and the like. 😉

In the old days of search engine optimization (SEO), it used to be all about keywords and links; and don’t be fooled, these things are still very important. But another important development in the world of SEO is that Google has recently made clear that it is no longer sharing the data that it used to share regarding which keywords are bringing traffic to your website. This report found inside Google Analytics, for example, is now showing “(not provided)” and has become a major buzz in the Internet marketing world. Among many other posts, for example, here’s Search Engine Watch’s post, “What ‘(Not Provided)’ & Google Hummingbird Mean for Small Business SEO.”

Recommended Reading & Here’s Why

My best practice recommendations are reinforced by the more Big Picture approach taken in the excellent Moz.com post by Ruth Burr, “What is SEO Now That Everything is (not provided)?” I offer this link as a personal suggestion for “recommended reading.”

I like it because she moves the strategic conversation beyond the more common attempts to rank pages for specific keywords. Rather, Ruth focuses on the more meaningful objective of building authority around specific topics. Again, of course, this includes relevant keyword phrases, but it takes a broader and longer term perspective in order to deliver a more more valuable approach. It does this through a foundation of sustainable building blocks like links from credible sources and social signals that may or may not be keyword specific. Ultimately, it’s the relevance of the source not the link text that makes the biggest difference.

As she says:

The real killer of the keyword-driven approach isn’t (not provided), though. It’s Google’s increasing devotion to semantic relationships between topics and entities on the web. Author Rank, personalization, and the Knowledge Graph have added new elements to consider: Now, in addition to what your content says and who links to it, Google also cares about who created it, what else they’ve done, and who’s shared it. (my bolds)

From an Internet marketing strategy perspective, this means, as Burr says, “we need to shift our focus from getting traffic from keywords to getting traffic to pages.”

There is just no getting around the requirement for well-focused, high-quality content that is relevant and valuable for your market niche.

And so it goes. Change is constant, and I see no alternative to embracing the adventure.

I’m happy to help, and I look forward to your comments and feedback as well as to any opportunity to be of service to you and your company.

“It’s a Wonderful Web” 2013!

cb-ipadThe first edition of our “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter for 2013 is out. It includes the following articles:

  • 2013: The Year of Anything is Possible
  • Special Offers!
  • Free 1-Hour Audio: Web Radio Interview
  • Luscious Links

If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to read it online.

Modern Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Advantages and Techniques

This Guest Post is by Tara Hornor of Creative Content Experts

There was a time when word of mouth marketing could only move at the speed of human speech. Business owners handed out stacks of business cards to customers for their referral program. Neighbors leaned over fences to discuss the finer points of various products and services. Life was about keeping up with the Joneses. Oh, how times have changed.

Radio and television sped up this marketing technique significantly. Word of mouth marketing grew exponentially as use of the Internet became more popular. Now word of mouth marketing moves at the speed of social media, which sometimes seems faster than the speed of light.

Consumers are more likely to make a purchase or use a service if the product or service has positive reviews from family members, friends, acquaintances, even fellow consumers who are otherwise strangers. While word-of-mouth marketing sometimes just happens, there are a few techniques you can employ to help encourage and speed up the process.

Here are a few of the advantages of Web and social media powered word-of-mouth marketing follow by some useful tips to help you get the most out of your efforts.

Can’t Avoid Word of Mouth Marketing

Studies confirm that word of mouth marketing drives 20-50 percent of purchase decisions. First time purchases are especially affected. Purchases that offer a higher risk benefit the most from word of mouth exposure because consumers have much more at stake. For example, if your company is new, try to get some reviews of your products. This acts as a word of mouth reference for peers.

Consumers trust friends more than ad campaigns. Of course, circles of trust now include virtual friends as well as real friends. Word of mouth marketing offers businesses a host of tangible benefits, including:

Stand Out in the Crowd

Consumers are faced with abundant choices. Everyone is competing to be heard. Word of mouth marketing silences the competitors more easily by using trusted recommendations. This is where reviews, Twitter tweets, and Facebook posts about your products and services are priceless.

Leverage Authorities

Savvy business owners who cultivate and nurture relationships with influential bloggers and commenters can leverage their authority. With the right tools and incentives, businesses can turn influencers into brand advocates. Having an influencer who authentically puts their weight behind your products and services can easily be the difference between a sale and a click away from your site.

Speed Up Sales

Word of mouth marketing enables consumers to decide faster. Input from trusted sources allows consumers to put aside any reservations and take a chance on a new product or service. Instead of “thinking about it” and maybe coming back to your site, with some word of mouth support an immediate sale is far more likely.

Modern Word of Mouth Advertising 101

The Internet offers an almost infinite number of hubs for virtual meetings to occur. Today’s version of the “fence out back” encompasses the entire world. Businesses can create virtual storefronts and communities for visitors to socialize in. The corner store has now housed itself in social media. Businesses can easily build brands by following a few simple word of mouth marketing techniques:

  • Put audience interests in the forefront by engaging them with interesting posts and updates.
  • Use photos and videos to show audiences, instead of telling.
  • Design all content around the interests of the target market, focus on their agenda, nor yours.
  • Show people using products, not just product still life images.
  • Integrate reviews, likes, shares, and tweets from various social media resources.
  • Encourage customers to write reviews on your site as well as via review sites such as Yelp.
  • Provide incentives for reviews, both negative and positive, such as a discount or free gift.
  • Make sure to include negative reviews with the positive, as this validates reviews.

Bonus resource: If you want more info on how to engage “influential talkers,” here’s a useful educational video via WordofMouth.org -> Ant’s Eye View’s Jake McKee on how to work with influential talkers

The typical social media user has an average audience of 100 or more. For the average person, that’s 4 times the immediate influence than in days gone by. Word travels much faster than it used to. Therefore, get customers excited about and involved in your company by engaging them on social media sites, your website, and blogs with interesting and helpful information.

Social media tools provide an excellent vehicle for businesses to connect with more consumers more efficiently. The modern water cooler conversation now takes place on social media sites and through product reviews. So get involved with your customers on these sites and be a part of the conversation. As the buzz around your business grows, keep an eye out for an increase in sales to increase alongside of your success with word of mouth marketing.


Tara Hornor has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design. She writes for PrintPlace.com, a company that offers online full color printing for business cards, catalogs, posters, brochures, and promotional postcards. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

Your Social Media Future: It’s Time to Say YES.

I continue to be amazed by how many professional people still resist social media marketing. In fact, this seems to be one of the main reasons that participants find so much value in my workshop, “Mastering the Social Media Marketing Mix.”

The US “premiere” of this workshop will be in San Francisco, next Wednesday, October 12th. The producer, Linda Kosut just sent out an email announcement to her list with the headline, “Social Media IS Our Future” including a commentary about how she personally resisted this idea for a long time.

social media marketing workshop in Auckland, NZ

"Social Media Marketing Mix" workshop in NZ

When I was in New Zealand, Mark Lowndes of the law firm Lowndes Associates described his experience this way:

“A year ago I was certain social media had no relevance to our commercial law firm.  Today I am convinced I was wrong. Social media will be an increasingly important part of our interaction with our clients and the business community at large. As with many businesses, I now believe there is no option but to learn how to engage effectively using social media.”
— Mark Lowndes, Lowndes Associates

When I speak about how important I think it is for companies and professionals of every variety to engage in social media marketing, I compare it to the ’80’s when I used to tell business audiences that email was as important as their toll free phone line. (Yes, amazing but true, not everyone recognized email at that point as an important customer service and/or sales communications channel.) I told these business people that they have to respond to their customers, and your customers have the right to communicate via any communication “channel” they want to use.

Now, your customers are “calling” you via social media. Of course, I think you should be pro-active in this new arena. But, for openers, if your toll free phone line was ringing, or you were getting email from a prospective customer, you would answer, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Well, if you’re not engaged in social media marketing yet, please consider this your social media marketing “call.”

And, here’s a real invitation: If you are in the SF Bay Area, please do not miss the chance to experience the whole 3-hour presentation of “Mastering the Social Media Marketing Mix” at Ft. Mason, Wednesday, October 12th, 6:30 to 9:30pm. Frankly, the $99 registration fee is a remarkable value. My four-week online version of this workshop which will be announced shortly is expected to cost $397.

So this San Francisco live presentation, to a small interactive group offers great value. It will also deliver great inspiration that will motivate real productivity. And there will be tons of great information. I promise all of this, and I hope to see you there. Please click here to register and/or for more information. Thanks!

Social Media Makes the Old New Again: “If You Don’t Have Something Good to Say…”

A recent viewing of a Yahoo! video of Seth Godin reminded me that the social media “sea change” is much more than an incremental shift. It is literally a game changer. (FYI, this was also the subject of my latest TheTVNews.tv video commentary.)

It’s no wonder that so many people are either being diverted by “get rich quick” scam artists or trying to stuff social media strategies into some kind of  “same-ole-media box.”

In order to make sure that your social media marketing time is well spent, here are some provocative questions inspired by some respectable authorities that I hope will help you approach your social media marketing in a meaningful, satisfying and successful manner. After all, A Billion Dollars Isn’t Cool. You Know What’s Cool? Basic Human Decency :

  1. What’s the Difference between the Engagement Game and Actually Being Engaging?
    The Difference Between Engaged and Engaging” — a blog post by Danny Brown
  2. Why are Facebook “Fans” and YouTube Video Views a Meaningless Statistic?
    AdAge: “Sorry, but Counting Facebook ‘Fans’ or Video Views Won’t Help Your Brand
  3. What’s Wrong with Us? Are We Lazy or What?
    Social Media Fatique” — a blog post by Chris Brogan

Creating meaningful social media means moving beyond this “Social Media Fatigue.” And, it’s not going to happen unless we, as Brogan says, take the opportunity “to make something interesting and worthwhile, to be helpful, to empower others, to encourage and inspire others.” (In an earlier blog post, I called this “Leading with Value.”)

As our grandmothers used to say, “If you don’t have something GOOD to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Bottom line, real relationship building—which is what social media marketing is (or should be) all about—comes down to communicating your “basic human decency.” Now that’s “really cool.”

Luscious Links – Catching Up with the Goodness

I come across so much useful information in any given week that I’ve taken to these “Luscious Links” blog posts to try to share with you some of the best of the best that I find. Does this format work for you? Please let me know.

Google’s Focus on Quality and the PostRank Acquisition
This is an excellent & useful post from SitePoint clarifies the changing state of SEO & social media marketing. My take aways: 1. quality content rules 2. social media really does matter. 3. It’s the conversations, connections & relationships that matter most. Are you listening?

Why is Authenticity a Crucial Component of Internet Marketing?
As I’m re-grouping for the “next generation” re-invention of NewMarU.com, I was discussing with a friend, this ten-minute edited video conversation (linked above) with Robert Rabbin that came out of NewMarU’s first “guest” webinar. I LOVE what we said here and would really like more people to hear it. I sincerely believe that this is important information/perspective re marketing in the age of social media.

3 Smart Strategies for Book Promotion
Here are just a few smart ways that authors can promote their books with social media and PR. Practical steps any author can use for book marketing via SlideShare.

The “Talk Radio” Approach to Effective Email Marketing
I like the way that this CopyBlogger article underscores my core value that “it’s got to be fun.” Yes! In content marketing et al, FUN makes all the difference. Don’t you agree?

12 Awesome Facebook Stats, Charts & Graphs
Are you taking Facebook seriously as a marketing channel? If not, maybe you should check out these 12 stats via a nifty little Hubspot SlideShare presentation…

Learn How Your Website Can Be The Center Of Social Network Attention
My recent video comments on TheTVNews re social media marketing and a new solution that lets more active brands aggregate various social media conversations onto their website so it’s more of a “home base.”

How to Combine SEO and Social Media for Maximum Impact with Lee Odden
This is a good overview video interview that covers something I’ve been talking about a lot lately. It’s very important to understand the relationship between social media, SEO and content creation in order to produce effective marketing in today’s online environment. This is a valuable 5 minutes, IMHO.

Your feedback is encouraged. I’d love to hear any comments you may have.

New Video: On the Paramount Importance of Authenticity in Online Marketing

As I discussed in the Tuesday, February 15th edition of TheTVNews.tv, authenticity has become not only the theme of our initial webinars on NewMarU.com, but it has captured my focus as a marketer because I believe now more than ever, that authenticity is the heart of the matter when it comes to Internet marketing and social media marketing in particular.

Robert Rabbin on NewMarU.com webinar

While we work on other products (future digital video and audio downloads and a possible ebook), I want to make my conversation with Robert Rabbin, the author of Authenticity Accelerator: How to Live an Authentic Life in Ten Words, as widely available as possible. At this point, there is a one-hour webinar which is only available to Founding Members of NewMarU.com (sign up here); but I’ve edited ten-minutes of highlight excerpts and posted that video below (via our new NewMarketingU YouTube channel) and I hope you find it as valuable as I do.

Bottom line, authenticity is essential because it helps to build relationships; and real relationships with your customers, audiences or other constituencies is crucial. It’s truly of paramount importance. Nothing matters more than your relationship with your circles of influence. Only with authenticity can your communications cut through the noise and the clutter of today’s media marketing environment.

In the ten minute video below, Robert and I talk about why this is true, including how authenticity builds:

  • Engagement
  • Trust
  • And, is an extension of your essential “I want”

In the one hour version, we also discuss how authenticity can lead to a real kind of magic and “miracles.” It’s exciting stuff. I hope this video gives you a taste and inspires you. I look forward to your comments and feedback. If you like this video, please share it and “Like” it etc. Thanks!

Another Authentic Link

Also of interest on the subject of authenticity and mentioned in the TheTVNews.tv video clip linked in the first paragraph is TheNextWeb’s article, Humanizing Brands with Social Media: An Interview with Benjamin Palmer. Palmer is “head of one of the hippest digital creative agencies in New York City” and very insightful on ways that marketing has dramatically changed as well as how businesses of all sizes can be successful by humanizing and making their marketing more authentic.

Online Video Growth Spurt Marked By New Programs & Distribution Opportunities

As discussed in my New Media / New Marketing segment on the Tuesday, August 10th edition of the TheTVNews.tv (see VIDEO embedded below), the convergence of TV and Internet forms of online video are jelling into a significant reality extremely quickly after years of promises.

Evidence of this growth spurt include rapid growth trends such as the year-over-year doubling of streaming movies and TV via NetFlix, a new “digital locker” platform from major entertainment players designed to combat the iTunes dominance, and the increasing viability of “branded entertainment” including an Ikea-sponsored Web-only video series that is garnering 1.5 million views month after month.

I will post or embed my video commentary as soon as it’s available, but meanwhile here are links to what I think is some worthwhile reading. These three links include additional insights and details on the “milestones” mentioned above and more:

  • Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem Unveils UltraViolet™ Brand (press release)
    Major players from Best Buy to Sony to Comcast to Intel and quite a few others are aligning on a new kind of “digital locker” to help you watch whatever you want, whenever you want, on whatever kind of device you want… as long as you’ve paid for it! While this press release is just an announcement, I think this is both a needed kind of technology and an attempt to answer Apple’s dominance in digital media distribution. Expect to hear more, much more from the UltraViolet, UVVU brand.

As always, your thoughts, perspectives and comments are extremely welcome. Thanks.

Hits of the Week: Early July 2010

Welcome to a new feature of this blog. “Hits of the Week” (which we hope to offer weekly) will provide “linky goodness” i.e. valuable links posted to our ComBridges company Facebook page and Twitter feed. Here, we gather, in one place for your convenience, bunches of links to free PDF’s, articles and other resources. Please let us know if you find this service to be valuable. Thanks!

A Professional Research Perspective of Brand Engagement via Social Media
Highly recommended, Engagementdb is a very interesting resource, even for smaller companies who are interested in social media brand engagement. I especially recommend their excellent FREE PDF Report. It’s nice to see “engagement” made measureable at the highest level. Clearly, relationship/engagement is at least as important (and probably more important) than simply the gross number of “eyeballs”/visitors. The focus on these kinds of results is shifting appropriately from volume or quantity of “hits” to quality of engagement (at minimum, some kind of “conversion”). Are you tuned in to your organization’s quality of engagement? Click here to check it out.

Fast-paced Video Illuminating ROI for Social Media
Despite the annoying music, this video offers useful content if you still doubt the business-savvy economic value–in the vernacular, ROI (return on investment)–available from investing your time INTELLIGENTLY in social media.

A Peak Behind the Curtain of a Major Brand’s Social Media Command Center (VIDEO)
More mainstream social media… pretty cool music VIDEO too promoting Gatorade’s social media team, er, I mean “COMMAND CENTER”! Can your sports drink do this? Visit Gatorade’s Command Center to see more.

“It’s about the PEOPLE, silly.”
Via Seth Godin. As a business owner, I know that there is nothing more important than the highly capable, talented members of my team. Read valuable insights & perspective.

“Every company is now a media company.”
A great reminder, via Adam Ostrow & John Battelle

Great Graphics, Visual View of Social Media Today
You gotta love good Infographics. Especially when they tell a story. In this case, big companies are adopting social media. More are using Facebook and Twitter than blogs, but it’s a big majority who are involved. See what these charts tell you.

Influence vs Fame
I’d call it “Influence vs Eyeballs” but being clear about what it means to develop influence in today’s social media world makes this short ProBlogger piece well worth reading, IMHO. And in a related short blog post, Seth Godin reminds us that “If all you are doing is increasing number of digital spectators, you are unlikely to earn the conversion that you deserve.” Read more about “Fans, Participants and Spectators.”

Stay tuned and please comment and send feedback. Thanks!

Online marketing & advertising illuminated via a visit to ad:tech SF

As discussed in this Tuesday’s New Media New Marketing report on TheTVNews.tv (video immediately below), I took advantage of a press pass last week to spend a day at the very alive and vibrant ad:tech SF online advertising conference. It was very stimulating as well as a bit overwhelming, as most good conferences are. (Note: Examples and references are linked below.)

Bottom line, the conference was healthy and online advertising in general appears to be growing at a robust rate. This was evidenced in an announcement unrelated to the conference, as I was getting ready to go, I learned that global package goods giant Reckitt Benckiser was doubling their annual online advertising budget to $40 million.

In addition, [added 4/30] eMarker’s CEO says Online Video Advertising to Increase 35 Precent in 2010 (video interview via Beet.tv).

One educational note was revealed as I first entered the press room. Their sign read, “Press, Bloggers & Twerps.” I commented that I had not seen twerps get press credentials previously. At this point, I was told apologetically that the sign was an error. It should have said, “Tweeps.” We are all learning. And, apparently there were only three tweeps deemed influential enough to get a press pass, but this was a “first” none the less.

Loic Le Meur

(cc) Kenneth Yeung - http://www.thelettertwo.com

A highlight for me was the keynote by French entrepreneur, Loic Le Meur, founder of Seesmic.com, who now lives in San Francisco. Loic accurately positioned social media as the third major wave of internet marketing. The first major wave, as he described it, was just having a website. The second wave was being savvy enough to be found on Google (search engine optimization or SEO). And, the third is now the ability to “earn” interactions via social media. He emphasized that social media is not about “campaigns.” It’s for listening and engaging.

Along these lines, I also appreciated comments by Larry Weintraub of word-of-mouth marketing agency, Fanscape, who explained that engaging in social media marketing has many more benefits than old world marketing. All with enormous value. Without embellishment, the four solid reasons to go social are:

  1. Marketing (another speaker said that “advertising” is now morphing into “marketing”)
  2. Market Research
  3. Customer Service
  4. Public Relations

In my opinion, none of these benefits should be under-rated.

You can watch Loic’s keynote via this link. The Hitler video which Loic included (amongst the dozens of other Hitler parodies based on the Constantin Films movie that I mention in the video above) can be viewed here, if it’s still up. It’s very funny if you are geeky enough to imagine Hitler expressing Steve Jobs displeasure over the loss of that famous iPhone G4 prototype.

Here are other examples of advertisers’ money moving to online video, as well as other links mentioned in my video report above:

BONUS #1: TWITTER ADVERTISING
Amongst the MANY smaller businesses exhibiting at ad:tech SF, I was interested to learn that Twitter is now not only being used for social media engagement; but beyond Twitter’s own advertising expansion (the potential of which Andrew Goodman calls “huge”), there is also now a Twitter-specific “contextual, targeted” independently-run Twitter advertising platform called 140 Proof.

BONUS #2: BRANDS AS PUBLISHERS a.k.a. Content Marketing
Here’s a link to a great set of links that further illuminate the “brand-led online video” trend which is also called “Brands as Publishers” by this page’s author, thought-leader, publisher, John Battelle, and “Content Marketing” by others. Checkout It’s All About Publishing, a.k.a. it’s all about content. 😉

And, as I’m sure you know, there’s “more to come.” Including an inside track on branded YouTube channels that I’ll be covering in a new blog post and video report soon. I met with Google/YouTube at ad:tech and an announcement regarding this development is expected in, roughly, mid-May.

(Request: If you watch the video above on YouTube or Facebook, please comment etc. And while you’re here, I would appreciate any comments and/or feedback that you may have. I’d love to hear from you.)

Thanks for reading!