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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • Will social media listening replace market research?

    by Mike Moran

    Advertising Age had an interesting story that was brought to my attention by a colleague, where a Procter & Gamble exec speculates that social media is already changing the world of market research. It's an interesting story, mostly because of who is quoted. When a company with the marketing chops of P&G says something, you've got news. But the news is actually much bigger than what you are reading in Ad Age.

    So, yes, the world is changing, but in an even bigger way than we think. Social media is not able to replace all uses for market research today, and won't for many years, in my opinion. But I work with clients every day who use social media for market research. [Full disclosure: I serve as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leader in social media listening platforms.] In fact, one of the largest companies I know has worked on social media for several years, led by its market intelligence team.

    Not only is social media listening replacing some traditional market research already, but P&G (as quoted in Ad Age) says that it's changing the willingness of consumers to even be part of panels because there are so many other different ways that they can tell a company what they are thinking. The allure of being part of a panel went far beyond the gift the participant received--it extended to the ability for a consumer to tell a big company what to do. But now they can do that every day through social media.

    But that client (and a number of other smart clients) has always known that social media is only one part of market research. Market research has always depended on the statistical sample that is representative, something that social media cannot easily deliver today. But traditional research also suffered from the dilemma that you can't get the answers to questions that you don't ask. And that you can't control how the act of surveying changes people's answers. So smart clients have used social media listening to find things they didn't find with traditional research, using surveys and focus groups to confirm social findings when needed. So social is only a part of market research.

    But while social media is only a part of market research, it is much larger than market research, too. Yes, customers have many ways of giving feedback to companies besides being chosen for a focus group. But you can't just look at that for how it affects market research. You must recognize that social media has implications across many functions in the modern corporation. If market researchers recognize how these changes affect themselves, they ought to take a minute to tell their colleagues how it affects them.

    The same tweet that complains about the poor battery life in your newest electronics product might need to be seen by many areas of the company:

    Market research. Well, sure. We want to collect the voice of the customer through all means necessary, including social media.

    Customer service. Wouldn't you want to reach out to that customer and help?

    Marketing. If power users are running out of battery life, might it make sense to target your marketing toward people who are lighter users?

    Public relations. Is this meme taking off? Will this become a viral story that you need to respond to?

    Product development. Shouldn't they be thinking about how to fix this in the next version?

    The list can go on and on. As each group (market research in this case) discovers how social media has an impact on them, they are reminiscent of the blind men examining the elephant. If they hadn't shared their opinions with each other, they would have learned only a small part of the story. Don't be seduced into thinking that social media will neatly affect your specialty without blurring it into five others. Those neat functional lines that we draw on our org charts won't hold up as the new transparency comes crashing in.

    The smartest clients I know are breaking out of these traditional roles and taking an enterprise approach to social media. You would be wise to follow.

    Originally posted on Biznology.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Go the Blogging Distance: Planning for the Long Haul

    by Stoney deGeyter

    Blogging isn't a one-and-done item on your web marketing checklist. It's a long-term endeavor. In fact, until blogs go the way of web directories, once you start blogging you really cannot stop. Not if you want to maintain the value of all the time and energy you've invested thus far.

    There are certain components to blogging that will hold their value over time. Great, evergreen content you've published will be universally valuable. However, if you don't keep producing blog content on an active basis, even great ranked evergreen content will lose it's value and appeal, both to search engines and readers alike.

    Go The Blogging Distance: Planning for the Long Haul
    To create a valuable blog you have to plan to be in it for the long term. There are no shortcuts to creating a great and valuable blog. On the flip side, there are tons of shortcuts to creating a lame blog. But perhaps that's a post for another day... "Blogging Shortcuts That Will Get Your Readers Excited To Leave". Has a nice ring to it.

    Know Who You Are

    Know Who You Are

    To blog effectively, you really have to understand who you are. There is more to that than just understanding what you do as a business or even understanding who your target audience is. It's more about understanding what your audience wants from you. Don't think of yourself as a business trying to attract customers, but instead, be a relational entity that seeks to inform, educate and even maybe entertain a bit.

    Ask yourself the question, how does your business make a difference in people's lives? Now tell that story. Let your readers know what you're passionate about and why. But don't stop there, use your skills, experience and knowledge to help you readers attain information they wouldn't know otherwise. Use your "you" to help them be "them".

    Many businesses try to be something they are not. It's tempting to see someone else's success and think, I want to be them. The problem is, you're not them. There are probably a hundred reasons why someone else's blogging and social media efforts are effective and you may only be able to duplicate a few of them. The good news is that there can be a hundred different reasons why you can be effective and they wouldn't be able to duplicate being you either!

    No Copy Errors

    One of the companies we once worked with told us they wanted to be the Chief David Oliver of the copier world. For those who don't know, David Oliver is the chief of a small-town police department located in Brimfield, Ohio. There is nothing remarkable about Brimfield, but there is something remarkable about Chief Oliver. Brimfield PD's facebook page has over 100K likes. Why? Because Chief Oliver regularly posts his wit, humor and old-fashioned common sense when it comes to policing and crime in his city. It's fun, it's engaging and it makes a lot of people laugh. He even wrote a book, "No Mopes allowed."

    Large business copiers don't exactly have the attraction of stupid things criminals do. There isn't much room for a copier company to be the Chief Oliver of copiers, but that's not to say that they can't write fun, engaging and interesting blog posts. Yet a book titled "No Copy Errors Allowed" isn't exactly going to be a runaway best seller. Scratch that... that's probably a great title for a book! But this client would be more likely to write "No Copy Jams Allowed". Snooze.

    Set Your Goals

    Set Your Goals

    Growing up I remember being told, "if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." That can be paraphrased as, "if you have no goals, you'll never score." In business, setting goals is the only way we have to measure our success. If you are not setting goals, you are often left wandering aimlessly, blown around by whatever comes along.

    The same is true with your blog. You can write for the sake of writing, or you can write with a purpose. While most businesses may think that getting new customers is the number one goal of their blog, be careful about falling into that trap. Blogs are rarely about customer acquisition and more about branding, engagement and authority building.

    Most people who read your blog will never be customers. However, when you use your blog to showcase your knowledge and provide valuable help to your audience, you're building up authority that will help convince many others that you are the company they should be doing business with.

    Determine Your Focus

    Determine Your Focus

    A blog doesn't have to have to be hyper focused, producing content with singular appeal. Mix things up a bit by producing content that targets your audience but will appeal to different people differently. You can do this by including customer testimonials, stories, and even self-promotional posts about your products or services.

    However, it's a good idea to have at least one primary focus that will help you keep zeroed in on your goals. A good mix of post types, including short vs. long posts, video content, how-to and self-promotion makes for a more interesting blog. One type of content that tends to bring readers back more than anything else is helpful content. Everybody likes being helped!

    Determine what type of content your visitors are most interested in and make that your primary focus. But don't be afraid to stir the pot with varying approaches.

    Stick With It

    Stick With It

    If your blog doesn't rocket to the top of the "most widely read blogs" list, don't fret. A good blog takes time to grow. And the more you stick with it the more you'll start to see your leads increase. According to HubSpot, you need to get close to 50 blog posts published before your blog will begin to be a lead generator for your business. That can be a 4-12 month wait depending on how often you're blogging! But the more you post quality content, the more effective you're blog will be over the long haul.

    Good blogging takes a significant investment of time and you have to be prepared to commit to making it work. Too many blogs fail or get abandoned because the bloggers simply did not understand what it would take to succeed. But now you know! Is blogging something you can commit too? Are you able to zero in on who you are, what you want to be and what your goals are? Start there and you've got the first steps covered in blogging successfully.

    Editor's note: This post is a portion of a larger slide presentation. See full slide deck here.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • 5 WordPress Plugins to Ensure Your Pages are SEO-Optimized

    by Jayson DeMers

    A variety of factors impact how well a page ranks in search engines, including quality of content, page meta descriptions, and the URL name. But for a busy professional, keeping up with algorithms and making sure every page on a business website is optimized can be complicated. In light of the results of recent Google search ranking correlation studies conducted by Moz and SearchMetrics, businesses realize certain factors are more important than others when creating content with the intention of ranking well.

    Since many businesses use WordPress for their websites and blogs, several plugins can be a big help. In minutes, a professional can have the WordPress installed on a WordPress site, creating a form that walks content creators through the process of adding optimized information like tags, descriptions, and search engine-friendly URLs. Here are some of my favorite WordPress plugins to assist with SEO meta elements.


    Developed by Yoast, a firm that specializes in creating plugins that use "the art and science of website operation," WordPress SEO makes it easy to create optimized content. Simply type in the focus keyword for a piece of content and the plugin will count the number of times it appears in the headline, page title, page URL, content, and meta description. Users can also type in a meta description that replaces the default description captured by Google, allowing for a more concise description of the content to attract readers to the page.


    Abbreviated WPSSO, WordPress Social Sharing Optimization gives you greater control over the descriptions your page is given when it's shared on social media. It's one thing to add buttons to a page to encourage visitors to tweet, like, share, pin, or +1 an item, but if a sharer's post is merely a link, users are less likely to click it. WPSSO creates the code necessary to ensure that a site is optimized to take care of all of the latest sharing features of each supported social network. The plugin allows the user to check off all desired options, as well as create descriptions to be used when the item is shared on each social network.


    With the All in One SEO Pack, WordPress users enjoy automatic meta-tag generation, XML sitemap generation and management, title and description editing, and more. A performance feature reviews a site and makes recommendations as to how it can be improved to better rank with search engines, as well as provide a better experience for those visiting the site. A free version of All in One SEO Pack has limited features. The pro version with advanced features is available for $39.99 plus $10 per month.


    While it isn't free, SEOPressor5 conducts LSI keyword analysis on your content as you create it. You simply type in the keywords you want to optimize a page for, and the analysis tool monitors how well you're using it. If you want to change one of the keywords, you can change it throughout the content by only changing it within the plugin. Best of all, if you've overused a keyword, SEOPressor5 gives an over-optimization warning. In addition to ensuring your page content and descriptions are SEO optimized, SEOPressor5 helps with your link-building strategy by automatically linking relevant cross-linking content.


    With more than 20 modules available for free, SEO Ultimate has a dedicated meta description editor, designed to help create description tags for posts, pages, attachments, categories, tags, post format archives, and homepages. The tool also searches an entire page's content for anchor texts specified by the user, automatically linking the ones it finds to the destination the user chooses. Businesses can avoid penalties for over-optimization with SEO Ultimate's autolink control feature, which limits the number of times a post or page can link to the same destination.

    Conclusion

    Learning the different techniques to keep a business on track with its SEO marketing strategies can be time-consuming and frustrating, since algorithms change from year to year. These WordPress solutions equip businesses with the tools they need to create successful marketing campaigns through their WordPress sites quickly and easily. Because they're so affordable, even free in some cases, these plugins are the perfect addition to any business's WordPress CMS. Take a look at the infographic below to see how on-page elements correlate with organic search rankings, and you'll have a clearer idea of how and why SEO Wordpress plugins give websites an advantage when it comes to search visibility.


    Via: AudienceBloom.com

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Do online shoppers still care about brands?

    by Mike Moran

    Conventional wisdom says that shoppers do not care about brands anymore. Retailers lament that brand loyalty is dead--that customers just search for products now instead of coming to their websites. Where once shoppers cared about Sears, Macy's, or dozens of other names, now they don't care where they buy from. To some extent they are right, but they are drawing the wrong conclusion. It isn't that brands don't matter anymore. It's that what people are looking for from their brands have changed.

    Retailers need to think about what built their brands. In large measure, it was reliability and convenience. Consumers could rely on products sold in those big retail chains. Their buyers knew quality and they stood behind those products with money-back guarantees. Having so much selection in one place was very convenient.

    Those big retail stores made it easy to get what you want. Those retailers provided a very helpful service. In doing so, they built the power of their brand names. Consumers counted on those brand names to solve their problems with products reliably and conveniently.

    And that worked very well, right up to when the Internet became just as reliable and more convenient. At first, people wondered whether the selection was as well-thought-out as the traditional retailers', but they soon realize that everything is there. It was up to them to decide what was quality and what wasn't, and there were plenty of ratings and reviews to do so.

    The convenience was never in doubt. Some products still need to be seen and touched and tried on (at least for some buyers), but the Internet is more convenient for almost anything that can be shipped. The Internet brands that win are the ones that make things more convenient. Google's easy search. Amazon's one-click purchase. eBay's ability to find almost anything.

    It's not that brands don't mean anything anymore. It's that what makes a brand reliable and convenient has changed. As you think about how your business can adapt to digital marketing, think about whether you truly provide an experience that will make customers come back again and again. If you do, that's brand loyalty.

    Originally posted on Biznology.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Planning a New Website? Don't Launch It Until You Do This

    by Mike Fleming

    Can you imagine how happy your website users would be if they were always able to complete the tasks they came for easily and efficiently? Can you imagine how your bottom line would be affected?

    A major problem with the way a website is planned and built is that it typically starts with decision makers and web developers/designers looking around at industry & competitor's websites - reacting favorably or unfavorably, creating their own version, suggesting changes and repeating until all decision makers are happy. Then comes site launch. This seems reasonable and normal.

    So where lies the problem? No one ever finds out if what is built actually works for the users, which is kind of important, don't you think?! I mean, what if the competitors' websites you took some of your favorite ideas from don't actually work that well? You have no idea that's the case because you don't have their data. After all, just because you like how something looks doesn't mean it works.

    See Through Your Users' Eyes

    As humans, we tend to find it hard to accept that people don't see the world (and our website) the way we see it. We use certain language because that's what we know. We label things a certain way because that's how we identify them. Let's face it, we have trouble listening and adjusting to serve others based upon how THEY see the world.

    Just the other day I was reviewing a client's new site concepts and noticed they used two call-to-action labels that illustrate this perfectly. The two labels were "Place a PO" and "Submit RFQ." Now, I'm not sure what percentage of their users would know exactly what these labels mean, but I'm quite sure it's not as close to 100% as they think it is (or as it could be).The meaning of both of these labels are common knowledge to those involved in the design of the site because they've been working with POs and RFQs for years. But, I can guarantee you that many of their users will experience a level of mental frustration if these were present on their site. Even if they're able to figure it out eventually by using the context of the labels, every bit of frustration you add to the user experience increases the chances of a user not converting and not coming back.

    So, how do we get around this obstacle and find out what works and doesn't work for users on your website before you launch it? To use a technical term - usability testing.  Usability testing in simplified, non-technical terms is the cyclical process of observing users using your site, identifying a problem and fixing it!  Then, you repeat as necessary until it's all fixed (you have to watch the video to get the reference and have a good laugh).

    You Don't Need Much

    One of the misconceptions that people can have when they first come across the concept of usability testing for their website is that it's a long, drawn out process that requires tons of resources to accomplish. The truth is...it doesn't need to be. If you have the resources, by all means do the best usability testing you can afford. But if your resources are limited, you can do it with just these few things...

    • A desk, computer and two chairs

    • Screen recording software

    • 3 or 4 participants

    • And, a few hundred bucks to pay the participants for their time

    But no matter what, just do it. It will help your bottom line.

    Tips for Testing

    Anytime you get started with something new, it helps to have some tips that will save you from learning lessons the hard way and help you get the most out of your efforts.Here are 8 things to keep in mind as you start with testing...

    Participants

    • Use just a few per round. Especially at the beginning, you're looking for major problems. The chances are, you'll find enough of them within just a few participants to have plenty of notes and changes to implement. The thought here is to do many of rounds with a few participants per round. This way, you find big things quickly and have momentum on your side.

    • Don't worry about how perfectly participants match your target audience. Although the closer you can get the better. This shouldn't limit the timing or ability to test quickly. So, if you find it difficult to get participants that have the characteristics of your target audience, just get people that have used the web a decent amount (unless you have special exceptions). After all, your target audience would never be upset about things being too clear and easy. Heck, you could even recruit your friends and neighbors.

    Observers

    • Use a "people person" to facilitate.These types of people are typically good listeners that are naturally inquisitive. They tend to be better with asking questions that will help draw out good feedback from participants and are better listeners for taking good notes. Select observers who are most likely to be "left-brain" thinkers to ensure insightful and analytical questions will be asked.

    • Attract as many spectators as possible.There's a very good chance that minds will be blown, and you want as many blown minds (especially among decision makers!) as you can get. The more you get key people around you to be exposed to the wonderful world of insights that come from usability testing, the more buy-in you'll get.This leads to more resources, better performance and (best of all) bigger paychecks!

    What to Test

    • Big picture stuff. These are things that should be known by a user just by looking (and not doing anything). They should be able to tell you whose site it is, what is being offered, what sets the site apart from other competitive sites, what the site wants them to do, etc.

    • Tasks. Every time a user comes to a website, they are coming to complete a task. It may be to research, get support, download something, purchase, consume content or many other things. The holy grail of website performance metrics is "Task Completion Rate by Primary Purpose." This tells you if a user was able to complete their task and why or why not. Back to my opening question again - can you imagine how your bottom line would be affected if every user that came to your website was able to complete their task easily and efficiently? Like I said, the holy grail.

    • Competitors' sites. Yes, those sites that you're pulling your ideas from. Why not do some usability testing on them before you start building your new site so you know what types of things work and don't work? Use the things that work and neglect the things that don't work. Brilliance!

    • Your concepts. Before rolling a site out, test it at every stage and make adjustments until all of the big picture stuff is clear and people are easily able to complete major tasks that would be performed on the site.

    Of course, usability testing can get more involved than this, but this will give you a start. Doing simple usability testing like this is waaaay better than doing none at all.

    After testing these four things, I'll bet you the minds of those involved will be popping with insights about the site and ideas for avoiding problems. Now, instead of arguing around a table about what works and doesn't work, you can actually test and adjust until you know what works. Then, all that hard-earned money you're spending on marketing won't be pouring water into a leaky bucket!

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



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