Authenticity Rant Video #2: Why “Live Your Own Life” Makes Marketing Matter

Who among us has never done something because someone else told them they should, even when all along their own gut intuition was telling them to do something different (which, of course, would have been “the right thing”)?

Live Your Own LifeHow many of us do the same kind of “giving ourselves away” with Internet marketing, for example, by thinking that social media marketing, blogging, content marketing or video is something we really “should” be doing, despite that fact that we really don’t have any passion for it?

Unfortunately, we’ve all done some version of this; and this kind of behavior, usually both personally as well as professionally.

That’s the subject of my new Authenticity Rant video (#2) that I recorded this morning via Google Hangouts On-Air with my colleague, Peter Klein. We used Peter’s incantation, “Live Your Own Life,” as our theme; and I connect the dots between that and the best kinds of “sparks” I know that can light the “fire” (that I think is necessary) for the success of your Internet and social media marketing.

Yes, there’s more to successful marketing than formulas or even strategy. And, “living your own life” with regard to your marketing communications is not necessarily easy; but in my experience, it’s worth every ounce of effort that you put into it.

I’d love to hear your thought on this video and these ideas. Thanks!

Why You Can’t Ignore Google+ for Local SEO and Social Media Marketing

google+ logoGoogle+ now claims more than 300 million active users every month, boasting more than 58 percent growth over the past few months, according to USA Today. Although Google+ has a long way to go to match Facebook’s 1.19 billion monthly users, its rapid adoption rate and sprawling community makes it clear that Google+ is not merely another social network nipping at the heels of Facebook and Twitter. Google’s social centerpiece has become a powerful social tool for marketers and businesses looking to increase their brand values and expand their visibility.

Personally, I find Google+ to be less noisy with a higher quality of professional level engagement and features like Google Hangouts On-Air and its photo sharing features that make it more attractive than other social networks.

But, even more importantly, the Google+ social network has several features that deliver significant SEO value beyond what other competing networks can provide:

Google+ Authorship Creates Social Authority

Google authorship is a search ranking concept that aims to stratify content and web pages according to the credibility and authority of their authors. With Google Authorship, content creators use small bits of code to attach a page to its author. But in order to do this, you need to have a Google+ account.

For this reason, a Google+ account can bolster your credibility online—not just within the Google+ network, but in search rankings as well. Thanks to Google Authorship, as your credibility grows, as measured by your clicks, followers and other variables, content can become more prominent online by having your name attached to it.

The ‘Like’ Button That Boosts SEO

Facebook has its “Like” button, Twitter has favorites, Pinterest has re-pins. But none of these directly affects the SEO of your content. This is where Google’s +1 feature is so valuable. The +1 button can be easily integrated into any web page or piece of content, and Google’s search algorithm uses it to assess the quality and popularity of content. Each time you receive a +1 from another Google+ user, your SEO ranking improves. As a result, users are rewarded for creating content that is valuable to their followers and the benefits go beyond what any other social network can provide. We call this earning authority the old fashioned way, and Google agrees. Because it’s fueled by authentic value, this kind of quality content that people want to share is the only sustainable social media marketing strategy.

Generate Feedback Through Community

For all its value in affecting SEO rankings, Google+ is still an effective platform for engaging consumers and generating feedback to improve your overall product positioning and awareness. For example, you can set up Google+ Communities to create spaces where you and your customers meet and exchange ideas, information and other comments. Similarly, you can join communities on the network and make new connections with other professionals, gathering new ideas and possibly some valuable business connections. This opportunity is somewhat analogous to LinkedIn Groups, but the added SEO benefits and a more rapid growth rate would seem to give Google Communities an edge.

This kind of community-based engagement can take more traditional text-based forms, or in multi-platform media. Google+ facilitates video-based engagement, which is where it differs from most other major social networks. Of course, this increases the demands placed on your Internet connection. Managing your social media efforts requires a fast Internet connection, and it’s particularly important with Google+, where media-rich content is widely used. If you plan on streaming video to run Google+ Hangouts, you’ll need a fast connection to make sure your video doesn’t skip.

Google Product Integration

As most people know by now, Google offers a wide array of products and services for businesses and consumers (from Gmail, AdWords and YouTube to Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Local and more). Most of these are available for free. What they do require, in many cases, is a Google+ account—at least to access all of the features of these products. The good news is, Google does not require a Gmail address. Your Google+ information can follow you wherever you go (including via Authorship as discussed above), simplifying processes and helping various Google products deliver better services.

With Google Maps, for example, your Google+ profile can establish your default location, recall your search history and display saved map routes. In a similar way, your Google+ account can and should also be integrated with your YouTube channel (you have one, right?) YouTube integration and connectivity is yet another benefit of Google+ participation; and one that can be expected to expand over time. 

Likewise, every local business (businesses with an actual physical location), in my opinion, MUST have a Google Local listing. Not to do so is leaving money and web traffic “on the table.” 😉

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FYI, ComBridges is currently adding capabilities to enhance local SEO listings and social media integration across 50+ local web directories including Yelp. Please use the form below if you would like more information:

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Also, thanks to Sidney Peters for his writing assistance in crafting this post. Sid is a UK transplant who develops apps for social networking sites. He is also training for a marathon.

 

“It’s a Wonderful Web” ENewsletter Highlights Internet Marketing Tips, Social Media, and Overall Strategy

holidayThe December 2013 edition of our “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter is out. It includes:

  • New Blog Post: 3 Surprisingly Useful Internet Marketing Tips from Top Experts
  • Client Spotlight: Michelle Schmitt – Her Music & Heart Benefit Us All
  • Luscious Links
    • 7 Critical Mistakes You’re Probably Making On Social Media
    • The Top Social Media Mistakes of 2013
  • Please Help Me to “Triple Down on the Things I’m Best At”

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

3 Surprisingly Useful Marketing Strategies to Make a Real Difference, Insights from Top Experts

Amidst all of the on-going changes, there’s always a need to learn more. Social media is not necessarily easy, nor is it just one thing. However, as almost everyone has realized by now, it is a serious, mission critical component of every company and organization’s marketing communications strategy.

social media is much more than one thing

As I continue to learn and follow the rapid changes in social media marketing strategy, I have recently come across three very valuable insights from which almost anyone can benefit. They come from Internet marketing leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk, Clay Collins and the Content Crafter for the social media sharing app, Buffer.
 
I’m sharing these strategies because I think I’ve got three very useful ones here. All you have to do is put them into practice. 😉 The first tip will boost your visibility. The second will enhance your lead capture/list building initiatives. The third will fuel your effectiveness with passion. I hope you can put these to use and I would love to hear what you think and how they work for you.

1. BufferApp: Share Your Blog Posts More Than Once

It may sound spammy; but it not only works, it makes good sense. Belle Beth Cooper, the Content Crafter for the blog of my favorite social media sharing app, Buffer, put together a thoughtful, analytical post to explain why the likes of Guy Kawasaki swear by the strategy of sharing your blog posts more than once. “One and done” just doesn’t cut it. Hey, we all put some serious time and effort into making our blog posts as valuable as possible (don’t we all?). For this reason, it makes enormous sense to make them even more available. After all, various people are in various time zones and no one sees everything you post only once on social media anyway. There are lots of good reasons to make this a regular practice. Read Belle Beth’s case for reposting content, including recommended best practice strategies. You will thank me.

2. Clay Collins: Offer More Than One Opt-In Opportunity

Clay Collins is an Internet marketing success story in his own right having built LeadPages into what he says is now “a multiple seven figure” online software business. I’m a customer and plan to expand my use of his platform. I recently did a webinar with Clay (who seems to be a tireless creator of valuable content) and I found myself sharing one of his insights in particular with a number of my associates and clients.

During this particular webinar, Clay shared his quest for a goal of doubling his company’s revenue through online marketing (of course). Briefly, his first thought was increasing traffic. Too tough. Then, he took a shot at doubling conversion rates which was a very tough way to meet his ambitious requirement. Finally, he realized, tried, and succeeded by dramatically increasing the number of opt-in opportunities that he was offering his visitors. Stated simply you could call this creating many more points of interactivity.

I am now adding this error-of-ommission to my list of common mistakes that I see most businesses making. To tell you the truth, this is something that I am currently doing, but will be changing soon. The single and only real opt-in form on my site and on most websites is some kind of offer in exchange for subscribing to an email newsletter. I now realize that this is no way to do Internet marketing.

List building is crucial. (More in another post about how to use your lists effectively.) And, just making one offer is an extremely weak strategy. Clay recommended having an opt-in offer of some kind at the end of every blog post and building out multiple (as in “as many as possible”) landing pages with opt-in offers. Webinar offers. Resource guide offers. And so on. It makes sense. Make specific offers in exchange for opt-ins that are as relevant to your content and as valuable possible. Why do so many of us stop at only one offer?

No one said that social media marketing was easy, and it does take time and effort. But when you do it well, it works. Clay’s success is proof of that.

3. Gary Vaynerchuk: Triple Down on What You Do Best

I’ve started reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.” In case you don’t know, Gary is the real deal as far as “social media gurus” go. I’m a fan. So, it was to my delight when I suddenly discovered last Tuesday that he was speaking live at the Book Passage, our local independent book seller. The last time I heard Gary live was at InfusionCon where he keynoted to about 2,000 people. This was going to be much smaller crowd and in my back yard; so of course I went.

I even got to ask Gary for specifics about how he has grown his new company, VaynerMedia, from 30 to 300 employees in only 2 years. This is a fascinating business story on its own. But the bottom line that Gary underscored was the fuel for his fire is the way that he “triples down” on what he does best. While this may not sound like a profound insight to some of you, to me it’s something that very few of us do well. And, personally, I think it’s something that I need to do better.

I’ll say it for myself (knowing that I’m not alone here), the thing I love to do most is Internet marketing strategy. It’s what I think I do best and where I offer the most value to my clients. Yet, I spend a lot of my time on operations and implementation, not to mention website development. I’m going to take this guidance to heart and I hope you will too. Triple down (or spend far more time and resources) on what you do best and everyone will benefit. You will find yourself with more energy as well as effectiveness.

 And, if you want to learn more about my services as an Internet Marketing Strategist, please click here 😉

FYI, the picture of Gary Vaynerchuk and friends below is via Instagram and @annaontheweb. It was taken at the Book Passage event discussed above.

Take Advantage: Social Media & Mobile Marketing Lead the Way for Black Friday, Cyber Monday Offers & Deals

Are you taking advantage of the major trends in online e-commerce by connecting with your customers where and when they want to do business?

Social media and mobile lead this seasons's online shopping

The year-over-year growth in the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals illustrates why your mobile and social marketing strategies are more important than ever!

As the venture capitalist, Fred Wilson recently said in a blog post (with chart) showing how “Mobile is Eating the World“:

“The jump from 2012 to 2013 should be terrifying to anyone who has a business based anywhere but mobile.”

As we enter this year’s holiday season, there’s no doubt that online shopping will play a bigger role. Last year, the big Cyber Monday sales climbed 30 percent higher (2012 compared to 2011). In fact, in 2012, Cyber Monday ranked as the best day of the year for online shopping, besting any day in December. This is largely due to people using their smartphones to shop. Approximately 12 percent more users bought items from a smartphone in 2012 than 2011, while 18 percent of total Cyber Monday sales came from smart phones, as reported by the 2012 IBM Software Report.

Mobile Friendly Marketing

People are discovering and ultimately buying products and services from what they see on the smartphone. They may text a friend just after visiting a marketer’s Facebook page and/or after viewing a new online store. And social media platforms are becoming synonymous with phone usage. In actuality, 78 percent of Facebook users are accessing the social media platform from a mobile device, and Facebook earns 40 percent of its revenue from mobile users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told TechCrunch. This confirms the importance of merging Cyber Monday promotions with the popularity and widespread use of social media. How is your business doing in this regard?

And, perhaps even more importantly, social media is built on sharing. Some 2.5 billion pieces of content are shared each and every day on Facebook. Only through effective, authentic social media marketing can marketers hope to get a small piece of this lucrative pie.

Directly Targeted Social Media

Popular, successful online specialty retailers set the pace by directly engaging with Cyber Monday via guerilla style marketing campaigns. For example, Tanga showcases a line-up of half-off products, and its direct social media efforts, including a staff of members posting about the savings, is just one method employed in the company’s completely online effort.

Integrating the power of “bricks and clicks,” the popular retailer Macy’s is taking full advantage of social media. Its popular ‘buy one, see another donated’ campaign is bringing increased attention to its social media feeds. Thousands are sharing the donation campaign to their respective followers on Facebook.

Twitter Hashags Push the Envelope

Facebook is not getting all the attention. Here’s an actionable tip for you: Cyber Monday marketers are also using the #blackfriday Twitter hashtag for added exposure. Going a step further, Shopping Blog has even implemented a distinct Black Friday Twitter account to fully realize the potential of its Cyber Monday and Black Friday promotions.

Strategic Marketing Plans Benefit All

Many companies have taken their long term social media strategies to a new level by thinking strategically about holiday shoppers. As we advocate and do when help companies with their marketing strategies, many online marketers have outlined detailed plans. For example, ReadWrite details how brands create a social media playbook that gives explicit ‘why’ answers and builds a goal plan hierarchy for continued success. Because social media has so many facets, companies need to outline exact strategies for harnessing its potential. Otherwise, the old axiom comes true:

“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

Cyber Monday, in particular, only accounts for a small component of the much larger Internet marketing, social media and mobile game plans. But it’s a great place to start. Please let us know if we can help.

Wishing you every success as well as a peaceful, nurturing and satisfying holiday season.

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.