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7 Easy SEO Strategies You May Not Be Using (Part One)

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the art of getting high rankings on Google and other search engines. Some strategies are very complicated and labor intensive, but some are relatively easy to implement.

Why bother with SEO? Quite simply if you have a business or nonprofit website, it will do you no good at all if no one visits your site.

But that is not enough. These visitors need to be people who are likely to do business with you. You want people who want and need what you have to offer.

In other words, you need more than just web traffic, you need targeted web traffic.

Fortunately, these people self-identify themselves by the searches they make on Google, Bing and other search engines. If your site appears on the first page of the results they receive, you will get a high number of visitors who want and need what you sell.

This is the first of seven SEO strategies you can use to get higher rankings.

The first strategy is called "Slave Sites." It is based on the principle that the domain name your site has can be one of the most important ways to get high search engine rankings.

For example: If someone is searching for a Samsung PN50C450 50-Inch 720p Plasma HDTV television, the search engines will most likely rank a site named SamsungPN50C45050Inch720pPlasmaHDTV.com, higher than a site named, joeselectronics.com.

The reason is that the domain name itself contains the keyword or search term the person typed into the search engine as a query.

Here's another example: Let’s say your company already has a website but you want to target a keyword for a particular product. For example, your company rents equipment and the name of your company is "Acme Equipment Rental." The URL for your website, of course, is, www.acmeequipmentrental.com.

Your most popular products are forklifts and you want to get higher search engine rankings when people search for "forklifts." But your URL (domain name) is not optimized for forklifts, it is only optimized for "equipment rentials."

Here’s a solution: Buy a domain name like www.forkliftrentalscleveland.com (assuming your business is in Cleveland). Now when someone searches for “forklift rentals in Cleveland, Ohio,” they are much more likely to find your new website.

You could also create slave sites called www.electicgeneratorscleveland.com to target electric generators, or www.scaffoldingrentalcleveland.com to target scaffolding.

Using slave sites, you can target every keyword you need.

But how do you get people from this new site over to your main site?

Make your new site a one-page mini site with some content about renting forklifts, but cut the information off mid paragraph with a link that says “See More.” The link of course will take visitors to the appropriate section of your main site so people can continue reading.

You can create these one-page slave sites for every type of keyword you wish to target, just be sure to link them to the sections of your main site that deals with the topic of these keywords.

You can also create slave sites for specific products, including the model numbers, as I did in the example above about the HD TV. Believe me, when someone searches for a product by its model number, they already have their credit card out and are ready to buy.

These are people who have already done their homework and are in the final stages of their buying cycle.

Using slave sites enables you to funnel traffic from a large variety of specific keywords, product categories and even individual products to your main site, no matter what domain name your site now has.

The next strategy will also be an easy to implement way to get better search engine rankings to get more, targeted, traffic to your website.

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COPYRIGHT © 2010, Charles Brown

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Homeless Man Benefits From a World Wide Rave

You've probably already hear the story of Ted Williams, the homeless man from Columbus, Ohio who has a terrific announcer's voice. If not, check out this amazing video:

As moving as this story is, it gets better. An article by Brenna Ehrlich in Mashable/Video about Mr. Williams and the video gives us a great case study of the power of social media.

The video really took off on Reddit, a social bookmarking site, which spread the news about Mr. Williams and spurred it to over 5 million views on YouTube.

Within a short time, according to Ehrlich, he had received 70 to 80 job offers and had appeared on CBS'The Early Show. Among the job offers he has received is one from the Cleveland Cavaliers and their sister organization, Quicken Loans.

This story is much more than just a heart warming story of a man getting a second chance. It is also about the power of social media.

It doesn't take a viral video getting 5 million viewers to make a social media campaign effective. But it does take noteworthy content that is fueled by an enthusiastic community.

Social media is more than just word of mouth. Word of mouth in the "real" world typically dies out quickly unless there is a compelling story behind it. For example, if the story is about a company that delivered truly horrible service, as was the case with United Breaks Guitars, it gives hearers something tangible to pass along.

On the other hand, the story can be about something exceptional as well. People love to hear and retell good stories. If there is a link or a video they can pass along, it makes this process even easier.

What do you think? What makes this story about Ted Williams so compelling? Do you have another story that was so compelling it created its own buzz?

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What Does it Mean to "Engage" Anyway?

The word, "engage" is rapidly becoming a hackneyed and overused cliche lately in social media circles. People use engage to mean you can't just talk AT people on social media and you can't treat Twitter and Facebook like used car lot commercials on TV.

All well and good. Social media is a very different animal from traditional media. Marketers simply can't engage in one-way broadcasting of their messages like they have in the past.

"Engage" means to cultivate multiple conversations between a brand and its customers.

The first conversation is of course from the Brand to the customer. It will always be important to inform your customer base and send out messages. Broadcasting is not wrong, it is just not enough by itself anymore.

But that first one-way conversation is not engaging. It doesn't elicit a response from the people who hear it. It rarely gets them talking or excited about your brand. But the second conversation is engaging, it is a conversation from the customer back to the brand.

This is why listening is vital in social media. It was indicative of this one-way mentality to look at how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton used social media during the 2008 presidential campaign. On the same day, just before the Democratic convention, Obama was following 46,252 people on Twitter, but Clinton was following exactly zero other Twitter users.

Note: That isn't the number of people that followed them, it was the number of people they were following.

If that statistic doesn't indicate the difference between a one-way broadcast mentality and a two-way conversation approach, I'm not sure what would. By not following a single person, Clinton was conveying the impression, if not the actual fact, that she wasn't listening.

Here's another example: This past summer I did a study of Showbiz Pizza, a nationally recognized chain headquartered here in the Dallas - Fort Worth area that includes the Chuck E. Cheese brand of pizza stores. I found that the brand name "Chuck E. Cheese" was mentioned approximately 6,000 times on Twitter in a 30 day period overlapping June and July, 2010.

But the company made not one single response to these Twitter users who mentioned their brand. This is the equivalent of someone handing you a six-figure check and not taking it to your bank until after it expired.

My friend Scott Stratton, who goes by the Twitter name @unmarketing, says that he tries to make 75% of his tweets replies to other people's tweets. That means that only 25% of his Twitter communications are broadcasts. And on the first month he started hitting that 75% mark, his number of followers grew by 10,000.

The fact is that people talk about brands, products, services and companies on social media. They discuss their good experiences and their bad. They mention plans to spend money on these brands. or they sometimes try to talk others out of spending money because of a bad experience they had with a brand.

If you are not responding to these mentions, if you are not acknowledging the people who are talking about you, you are acting like Hillary Clinton and you most certainly do not get social media.

A company that is not playing in the social media playground can never know what is being said about them. But a company that is listening can respond, clarify misinformation, can make a bad experience right and turn it around, and it can reward or recognize the brand's fans.

Yes I said fans. If have a very good product and deliver good service you will probably have fans. But if you make a practice of responding to comments and mentions of your brand, your fan base will grow exponentially.

Reward these people. Not with money, but by talking to them as real people, individuals, not "market segments." And act like a real person when you talk to them. People like to buy from people. Part of "engaging" is to have person to person conversations.

An additional reward you can gain from this second conversation is the most current and useful market data you could ever obtain. Social media is real time information. If you listen, and listen carefully, you can learn more than you could ever learn from a focus group or market survey.

Finally, the third conversation is customer to customer. If you tweet or post about quality content on social media, you will find some people telling their friends. The will "re-tweet" your messages to their friends and followers.

I just heard Paul Slack, a principal at Splashmedia speak this week, and he said several times that real success on social media comes when people start sharing your content (your videos, your blog posts, etc) to other people.

This is an excellent point. Social media is all about viral marketing, which is simply word of mouth on steroids. But the hard truth for many marketers is that word of mouth will never happen if they just engage in one-way conversations.

What experiences have you had with these multiple conversations? Can you share any stories you have about the impact of social media word of mouth?

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Case Study: How Facebook Users Halted a $100 Million Project

I was once told by a marketing manager that her company's senior executive adamently refused to permit them to establish a blog or Facebook page. His reason? He feared people would start saying bad things about their organization if they got on social media.

He seemed totally unaware that people were already talking about his company and others on social media. People use these platforms to comment about their experiences with the products they buy and the services they receive.

He did not realize that having an online presence on Facebook or a blog merely gives a business the opportunity find out about and then respond to any negative comments people make.

Reputation management is one of the most important reasons businesses need to be using social media. Regardless of what business you are in, chances are someone has an opinion about your company, your brand, your product or your service. And most likely they are expressing these opinions on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or some other social media platform.

If your organization is not listening on social media, you have no opportunity to respond to the opinions expressed by others. And if you don't respond immediately and on same communication media, your brand can suffer significant harm.

For example, United Airlines' response respond to Dave Carroll's video "United Breaks Guitars" was woefully slow. And when they did respond, it was couched with insincere-sounding words like "regrettable incident" to describe how their employees damaged a $3500 guitar.

Had the flower delivery service FTD been listening on Twitter, they would have learned that Lena West was venting about her frustrations over the fact that FTD had not delivered the arrangement she had paid for and were stonewalling her efforts to get the matter corrected on her blog and Twitter.

By not playing in the social media sandbox, these companies were blindsided by people who were expressing very negative opinions about their brands. They lost the opportunity to manage their reputations.

Which leads me to another example of how a business' failure to engage with social media cost them big. In this case, $100 million.

Developers and business leaders in Huntington, NY on Long Island foresaw no hurdles to an affordable housing development. But opponents objected to it because they felt it would bring in low-income residents and balloon school enrollment.

At first the opponents tried to mobilize protesters with traditional methods like posting street signs and protesting at zoning meetings, but got no traction until they went online and created a Facebook page that took a stand against the development.

The Facebook campaign quietly built opposition leading up to a town board meeting on the plan.

Meanwhile, the developers were not listening on Facebook, and had no idea their project was in trouble. When the meeting took place, they were taken completely by surprise to find that the board had been swayed against their project.

As one of the opponents put it:
We were a bunch of moms," said Jennifer LaVertu, an opposition leader. "I didn't even have to be home to do it. We could access Facebook by phone, dropping a message to everyone that we needed them at town hall that night for a protest. It helped us organize much more quickly.

Too many business executives are still sitting on the social media sidelines, filled with skeptisism and confusion. Understandably they are not pleased by the changes social media can make to their old ways of doing business, but that is hardly an excuse to stick their heads in the ground. On Long Island, that mentality cost developers $100 million.

Here's what businesses can do to manage their reputations effectively with social media:
  • Track all mentions of your brand, company name or products on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
  • Just listen to conversations already taking place. Don't be in a hurry to express your point of view or cram information down people's throats.
  • Be authentic and honest. Don't mislead people about who you are and what company you represent. Believe me, others have tried to be deceptive and have been found out. And it is never pretty.
  • Make friends. Treat the people who are tweeting and commenting about your topic as real people. Be helpful.
  • When someone presents misinformation, remember there is a tactful and friendly way to offer rebuttal information. Tread gently.

Perhaps listening on social media won't save your company $100 million, but it could help you protect your brand's reputation when a crisis occurs.

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Creating Compelling Content for Today's Changing Customers

Wisdom from "Social Media Marketing Superstars" - Part One

Even though internet marketing is barely more than a decade and a half old, the game is changing for online marketers. Gradually the importance of search engine optimization is giving ground to social media optimization.

In other words, playing in Google's sandbox is not as important as playing in Facebook's playground.

But one thing that has not changed is the importance of creating and posting quality content on the web. Good content is just as important to social media as it is to search engines. With each year that goes by, the world will more and more belong to those who put a lot of (valuable) content on the web.

People frequently ask me how Twitter, for example, can make much of an impact since you are limited to 140 characters. The answer is not much unless your tweets include links to your blog, your website, your videos, your photos, your slide shows, your podcasts or other content you may create and upload to the web.

Content is still king, even as the "game" shifts away from search engines to social media.
  • Content can solve problems for your ideal clients,
  • Good content establishes trust and credibility with them,
  • Good content entertains them, educate them,
  • or it can help them become better, more-informed, consumers of whatever it is that you sell (which is no small achievement, since it helps them distinguish between your products and your competitors' products on factors other than mere price differences).

Additionally - since search engine optimization is still important to any online marketing campaign - content can be optimized with the appropriate keywords to help people find you and all your wonderful solutions online.

Which leads me to a brilliant piece written by my friend Anne Handley of Marketing Profs. I found this in a book called, Success Secrets of Social Media Marketing Superstars.

This book is a collective effort compiled by Mitch Meyerson. It includes chapters written by Anne, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Clark, Shama Kabani, Julie Perry, Mike Stelzner and many others. In other words, the superstars.

Anne's chapter is called, "Creating Content People Care About: The Cornerstone of Social Media."

Now let me start by saying that Anne Handley is a genius. She really "gets" the how, why and what about creating marketing content for the web.

Anne, points out that today's customers have changed. They are no longer easily swayed by bombarding them with advertising. Instead they seek out information before making a buying decision. They Google various brands and they ask their friends on Facebook what their experiences with various brands have been.

Think of how you behave when you take off your marketing hat and put on your customer hat.

No doubt you are far more proactive when you are shopping for a new car or even looking for medical care. Possibly you also read reviews and ratings by actual customers of these products on Amazon, Angies List, Yelp or Foursquare. Why then, do you expect your own customers to behave differently when they are buying your products?

So how do you create content that can attract these changing customers? Anne gives us a list of 11 Rules of Compelling Content, with several examples and short case studies. I won't re-list them all here, but I will higlight a few of her insights for you:

  • "Compelling content is vendor-agnostic." In other words, your content is not about you, your company, your products or your brands. It puts the spotlight on what the customer wants to learn and becomes a publisher of information that meets these needs.

    Nothing will turn off your customers/readers faster than lot of self-serving commentary. Keep your brand mentions to a minimum. This is a medium from which people value objectivity, not salesmanship.

  • Build trust by become a resource. Nothing builds trust faster and more reliably than educating customers. Anne uses Rubbermaid as an example. Their blog "does not focus on injected molded plastics but on space-saving and organizing, as well as on the consumers interested in, and the industry build up around these issues. Consider these recent posts: 'How to Sell Clothing at a Yard Sale,' and 'Save Money Packing Your Lunch.'"

  • Compelling content allows for interaction or dialog. Create content that serves a specific community and allow them a voice.

  • Great content does not create barriers. Anne gives an example of a General Mills "community" site Psst General Mills. Instead of finding a community, she found barriers in the form of pages of qualifying questions designed to compile their database.

  • Compelling content starts a conversation.
    Build in ways for readers to share you information with their friends (or fans, followers or blog readers). Don't force them to sign in order to link to your content, but encourage them to share with easy to use widgets.

What kinds of content appeal to you as a customer or potential customer? How have your decisions been impacted by commercial information that educated you and offered solutions to specific problems? And how did you feel toward the brand that took the time and effort to educate you more without an over-powering sales message?

You definitely want to check out the book, Success Secrets of Social Media Marketing Superstars. It is full of a lot of useful ideas from some of the best minds in the field of social media marketing.

For those of you who have already read this book, what were your favorite insights? I plan to write an occasional series of articles based on the chapters and lessons in Social Media Marketing Superstars, so I will greatly appreciate your feedback.

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Using Twitter to Promote Big Brands

This is a Google Sidewiki I wrote about a great article called: Using Twitter for Brands or Corporate Identities by Dawn Foster. I encourage you to read the entire article, as it offers a number of excellent ideas to businesses wanting to incorporate Twitter with their marketing.

The lessons in this article are: Listen and respond to mentions of your brand, don't blast out links to your own content, don't be too promotional, have a personality and follow back people who follow you.

in reference to:

"It is OK to link to informational blog posts, but I always put some text around it so that people can decide whether or not to click through. You should also be linking to posts from other blogs that are relevant to your company or industry as a whole. These should be a fairly small portion of your overall Twitter posts"
- Using Twitter for Brands or Corporate Identities « Fast Wonder: Online Community Management (view on Google Sidewiki)

Can a Blog Launch Your Career or Business?

I just read a post by Darren Rouse of ProBlogger.com that may be the best article I've read in months.

It is called, "Temporary Blogs: Blogs as Stepping Stones," and Darren discusses how several bloggers he really enjoyed in the past, have discontinued their blogs.

At first, he regarded these examples as failures, but then learned these bloggers achieved exactly the goals they set out for themselves.

One blogger dropped her blog after getting a job, which was her purpose for blogging in the first place. She used her blog to showcase her expertise, raise her profile within her field and create lots of content that could demonstrate her knowledge.

Her blog also provided her with a platform to network within her field and meet people she might not have met otherwise.

Once she landed the job she wanted, the need (she felt) for her blog was over. As she explained to Darren:
I wanted to land a job, I was out of work, and the blog was never really going to be anything beyond an online résumé, a place for me to build my profile and build some credibility, and potentially meet some employers.

Another blogger Darren enjoyed reading stopped after he got his fledgling software company off the ground. He told Darren:
He reflected back to me that again, his blog was a means to another end—he was never going to be a professional blogger, that wasn’t his model; his model was to launch a software company, and he used his blog to do that.

This confirms what I've been thinking for some time. I firmly believe that for some fields, resumes will become obsolete and be replaced by blogs, video channels, podcasts or other forms of online portfolios.

Few job applicants fit neatly into a "job description." Few entrepreneurs begin with the credibility they need to attract clients and investors.

But a blog (or podcast, video channel, etc.) is much more than a portfolio of your work. It is also an excellent vehicle to enable you to network with others (especially people you may not be able to contact directly in the offline world). When people comment on your posts, subscribe to your RSS or tweet about your content, you are gathering a following.

And this kind of following is based on your knowledge and insights, not just on the cut of your suit or whether you golf at an influential country club. In fact, just the fact that you have a blog makes YOU influential within your field.

This is the kind of credibility no resume can give you.

But there is one point on which I would disagree with Darren's two friends. Even after you land your dream job or get your company launched, it is misguided to kill your blog.

Two reasons:
  1. Your dream job may not last forever. The company may fail or downsize employees. Or your goals may change. At that point, you will need not only the platform your blog once gave you, but also the contacts and readers (and fans) you gathered as a result of your blogging efforts.

    What should you do then? Start blogging again? Possibly, but you will most likely have lost a lot of your network that came to you through your blog.

  2. Your blog will most likely make you more valuable to your employer or help you attract more new clients for your company. The same knowledge and expertise that made you valuable to an employer or investor, will make you valuable to potential clients.

    Your blog can easily be refocused so that you will be a rainmaker within your field. It will position you (and by extension, your company) as a solver of problems within your niche.

Therefore my advice is to dance with the one that brung you, so to speak. If your blog was what opened the door of opportunity for you in the first place, you will probably want more opportunities to come through that same door.

Your blog is the ultimate personal branding vehicle. It is personal branding not based on flash and style, but on substance, knowledge and solutions to the problems clients need to have solved.

What are your thoughts? Have you achieved success or accomplished a goal as a result of blogging or creating content? Have you landed a job or attracted clients as a result? Let me know.
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