Month: June 2013

5 Best Practices for Effective Organic Link Building

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SEO inbound linksIn an earlier blog post (“How To Improve Organic Search with Link Building”), we discussed how Google assigns value (PageRank) to your online material and what Google views as natural or artificial link building. In this post, we examine some best practices for building those links in an organic and Google-friendly manner.

When you are developing links, there are some finer points you need to know.

1. The anchor text for inbound links should not be the same.

Google regards identical anchor text as mechanical link building, which means these links will be discounted. Have several target pages with interesting content. As always when creating any sort of outbound communications, keep SEO principles in mind and come up with phrases you would like to appear on a search engine and that best describe their target pages.

Press releases are the exception to this rule. Google has figured out that press releases are distributed widely, all with the same anchor text in key links. They also know that press releases often are picked up and used as-is, so the identical linking verbiage will appear everywhere the press release appears. Google does not discount these links if they derive from a press release.

2. The best place to get valuable links going is social media.

However, Google’s scheme for valuing these links is not straightforward. Social media links are transient in nature, easily drowned out by other conversations. To effectively take advantage of social media as a link-building mechanism, you must hold a continued conversation around your product or service while still offering value in other aspects of the discussion.

3. Don't waste time generating links by leaving blog comments.

Leaving comments on blogs does nothing for your PageRank because so many people have abused this means of creating links in the past. The primary link, the link you put out in your blog post is generally coded as a “nofollow,” link. A “nofollow” link tells Google and the other search engines not to follow the link or to include it in the Google database.  As such, these links are not assigned any value. However, when someone re-Tweets the link or shares it via a blog post (not a comment) Google will notice these secondary and tertiary links and begin to assign value to them.

4. Leverage SEO tools to identify the value of sites you want to get links from.

Use link-building tools like Moz.com’s Open Site Explorer or MajesticSEO.com to identify and assess the value of new sites and authors from whom you are hoping to get a link.  Both of these tools will help you to analyze your site’s current in-bound link profile, compare it to your top competitors, and identify sites and authors that you can target to build new links. Approach building a list of targets in a step-by-step process:

  • Run a report on your domain and on the top pages within your domain to which you want to drive traffic and links.
  • Run the same report on your top competitors in the search results.
  • Compare the reports for overlap and look for areas that do not currently link to your site.
  • Look at the different metrics that the tools supply (“Citation Flow” and “Trust Flow” on MajesticSEO (see Figure 1) and “Page Authority” and “Domain Authority” on Open Site Explorer (see Figure 2).
  • Look at the total number of backlinks to each of the domains you are researching and look at the total number of referring domains as well. The combination of these two metrics combined with the “Flow/Authority” metrics above will allow you to understand which sites are viewed by Google and the other engines as having quality and authority. The higher the authority a site has, the more value a link from it is.
  • Create a unique approach to each site that you are targeting. Come up with a compelling reason that a link to your site will benefit the users of your target site.  Give them a business reason to take the time and effort to create a link.
  • Try to identify individuals at the sites that you are targeting and address them directly.
  • Dedicate enough time to the process to get results. It takes a fair number of touches to get a new link and it does not generally happen overnight. Three to six months of consistent work on link building is generally required to be successful.
  • Use existing outreach to build links in the meantime. If your site is publishing valuable information on a regular basis, make sure to include a link back to the relevant page on your site in every outbound communication.

Figure 1: Link Analytics Tools To Help Assess Value of Links—MajesticSEO.com

Majestic SEO Dashboard

Figure 2: Link Analytics Tools To Help Assess Value of Links—Moz.com’s Open Link Explorer

MOZ Site Explorer Dashboard

One thing to keep in mind is that Google and the other search engines look at some of the more technical details when assessing the value of a new inbound link. Remember to take a look at the IP addresses of the inbound link targets for your site. Google looks at the “C-Block” in IP addresses to try and catch poor-quality link networks that try to trick the engines. The C-block is the third set of numbers in an IP address, i.e., 234.123.888.334.  If a large number of your new links are coming from the same C-block, Google looks on this as an attempt to game the system, and will devalue your site. In the above example, too many links coming from the “888” C-block will be viewed as spam.  But if they are coming from both the “888” and the “887” C-blocks, Google views this as more natural. There are exceptions to this rule; if the links are coming from a highly rated and trusted site such as The Wall Street Journal, Google will give them the green light.

5. Review inbound links to your site.

Finally, scrutinize the links to your site from other parties. Are they overly promotional? Are they offering something that seems too good to be true? Get rid of them. Some fairly large companies have gotten into difficulties with Google for allowing poor-quality inbound links.  Google has a link disavow tool in the Webmaster’s Tools that it offers to site owners.  Use this tool VERY judiciously. It is a permanent and radical solution that can have unintended consequences if you are not sure that the link is hurting your site.

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5 Ways to Use Pinterest for Content Marketing

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PinterestWhen most people think of Pinterest, they think social media marketing, not content marketing. But the truth is Pinterest can be an extremely useful tool for enhancing your content and providing direction for your overall content marketing strategy.

RELATED CLASS: How Pinterest Can Help Your Brand

With over 27 million unique visitors and 220 million page views a day, Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social media sites out there, so it’s all the more important to leverage it in all aspects of your online marketing efforts. Here are 5 ways to use Pinterest as part of your content marketing process.

1. Use Popular Pinterest Pins for Inspiration

Finding the most popular pins on Pinterest can serve as a springboard for your content brainstorming sessions. On any given day you can find popular pins by browsing different categories and seeing which pins are being repeated, which can help you if your website and content is in a particular niche.

There are also sites like Repinly which display the most popular pins currently on Pinterest, as well as boards, individual pinners, etc., which can help you see what’s trending and where you should direct your efforts.

2. Use Pinterest Analytics to Track What People Like and Are Repining

One the best features of Pinterest is that it offers free analytics. Once you verify your business account, you can have access to their analytics data.  Additionally, there are free and paid tools that you can use for Pinterest Analytics.

One of the best analytics tools I’ve found is Pinleague, which evaluates not only the popularity of your pins, but allows you to track the images from your site.

pinleague pinterest analytics

With PinLeague you can see which images on your account have been pinned, how many times, and by whom. It offers an impressive range of metrics that can help you evaluate what content is most successful.

You can correlate this information with a more all-inclusive benchmarking dashboard like Cyfe, which allows you to track data and traffic any website or social media account. This way you can monitor the progress of how well your content does on multiple levels.

Maybe articles on certain topics get shared on Facebook while others see more activity on Pinterest. Therefore the content that see the most activity on Pinterest should be more visually-oriented, or accompanied by strong graphics. 

Pinterest Analytics Cyfe

In the same vein, if you were to create a series of infographics on social media marketing, but while the graphics on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin gain 30 unique pins each, the Pinterest marketing infographic garners 100 pins and 300 repins, you can safely say that creating a series of articles about PInterest would be of great interest to your audience.

You can create an entire board dedicated to Pinterest marketing, which would enable you to track the success of that content in varying forms—pins, repins, board followers, general followers. No spike in traffic, no matter how small, should ever be overlooked!

3. Use Pinterest As A Bookmark For Popular Stories

The best thing about this tip is that by pinning stories that people are already talking about, it ensures that your content will be relevant and buzzworthy. Pinning articles on timely stories, such as anything focused on the fallout from the latest Penguin update, would be a great way to get a quick boom of traffic to your page.

These articles can then be shared or curated for your website. You could also repurpose the pin as content by writing an opinion article based off the original pin, providing either a rebuttal or supporting argument in order to keep up interest in the topic and encourage engagement in your content. 

4. Create Blog Content Based On Infographics Found On Pinterest

In much the same vein as bookmarking articles, infographics make for great repurposed content, and it helps that Pinterest is full of them. In fact, Pinterest’s whole platform is just a reflection of just how popular and important quality images and visually-driven content like infographics have become over the past few years, thus making it one of the best places to find infographics.

Find an infographic that strikes your interest and consider it an outline for a future article. As you write the article it might branch off from the infographics statistics, or you might do your own research and find a different side to the argument that you want to discuss.

Ultimately the content will be unique, delivered in your own words and in your own voice; the infographic simply serves as inspiration.

5. Pin Your Own Content

This is one of the most crucial elements of using Pinterest for content marketing. Of course once you produce content you’re going to share it with as many outlets as possible, and with Pinterest you can use keywords to help optimize your pins.

This is important because the Pinterest community is driven by repins rather than unique pins—nearly 80% of all pins are repins, compared to Twitter in which retweets constitute less than 2 percent of all tweets. In short, your pins are much more likely to be shared on Pinterest than any other social site, so you need to be pinning on a regular basis.

You should also create boards for you content in order to drive traffic to your site. This doesn’t mean that the boards should be entirely made up of your own content—you can seed popular boards for pins that are likely to get you followers and repins, and then put your own content in among them, increasing the likelihood of your pins being (and thus, your website) being seen, liked, or followed.

The potential for exposure for your content is huge, and if you consistently pin valuable images and articles, you will most definitely see a boost in your traffic. You’ll be able to glean inspiration and ideas from Pinterest, which can a valuable asset in developing original content. By taking all this and evaluating your results from Pinterest Analytics, you can gain valuable insight into your audience and find yourself on the path to content marketing success.

Learn how to use Pinterest to drive referral traffic and boost brand awareness.

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5 Awesome Landing Page Strategies for Higher Conversions

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Online advertising budget? Check.

Compelling, clickable ads? Check.

Seductive post-click marketing? Hmmm...what?

The click through from your online advertising to its destination is post-click marketing...and it may be your first moment of truth in digital marketing. People judge the quality of their post-click experience within 1/20th of a second. Whether you are driving those clicks to your home page or a highly targeted landing experience, a first impression is made.

According to Google, the zero moment of truth is "that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service (or potential boyfriend) you’re thinking about trying or buying."

So why is ZMOT important?

  • 70% of Americans read product reviews prior to making a purchase
  • 79% of consumers use a smart phone to help with shopping
  • 83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them

These numbers may not be so surprising any more. But they shouldn't be taken for granted.

A great first impression will lift the perception of your brand for everything that follows. Every online experience should communicate your brand in a relevant and highly impactful way. However, compelling design for landing experiences is often underutilized. Landing pages are mechanically cranked out with same plain, boring “recipes” — headline, subhead, bulleted list, call-to-action. But, alas, creating high performance pages is not formulaic. You can stand out by having your landing experiences reach through the screen and grab your audience’s attention and mindshare. Post-click marketing presents a tremendous opportunity for you to gain a competitive advantage.

Disclaimer: there is no guarantee that any of the below strategies will increase conversions for you. However, I have worked with dozens of customers who have increased their ROI with seductive post-click marketing.

RELATED TUTORIAL: B2B Landing Page Best Practices for Success

Below are 5 ways to drive awesome response rates with great post-click marketing experiences.

1. The Segmented Experience

Unlike traditional landing page optimization, which usually focuses on testing and optimizing page elements, segment optimization focuses on identifying who your audience is, then optimizes unique visitor experiences. Instead of stretching one page to try to please everyone, which is quite hard to do – segment optimization breaks out several specialized landing pages. Iron Mountain knows that all clicks are not created equal. Keyword searches for "shredding services" can be an enterprise looking for an ongoing shredding service. Or, it could be an individual looking for safe way to dispose of a box of confidential documents. The landing page below asks the visitor to identify their need immediately. Residential visitors are directed to Iron Mountain's partner locator. Businesses are provided with targeted pages of content, outlining the process for one-time, pick-up and drop-off services. By identifying individuals up front, Iron Mountain was quickly "weed out" unqualified leads and get them to a trusted local partner.

Great B2B Landing Page

2. The All-Mighty Microsite

A landing page or website must be all things to all visitors. But a microsite can deliver a highly differentiated subset of information to a highly targeted audience. You can create multi-page, navigable user experiences to deliver rich, topic or campaign-specific content. Microsites are also the perfect venue for complex products or solutions and can be highly effective at converting "upper funnel" keywords. In this example, testing a lead-gen focused microsite against the Long Term Care product page within Genworth.com, leads increased 700% over the benchmark! The ion platform allowed Genworth the flexibility to created a dedicated lead capture microsite experience, without requesting changes to the corporate website.

Genworth Landing Page Example

3. Social Login

According to the 2011 Blue Research report, “Consumer Perceptions of Online Registration and Social Login,” 77% of consumers believe social login should be offered — this is up from 66% in 2010. Additionally, nearly 8 in 10 consumers would prefer to login to sites using a social identity, versus traditional account creation. Offering the option of signing in with a social login (e.g. Facebook or Twitter) as an alternative to filling out a form has several benefits:

  • Improved user experience
  • Reduced form fields, reduced friction
  • Improved accuracy of data collected

We too have seen the addition of social login (or sign on) increase lead conversions when offered alongside a standard sign up form. I can't share specific results of our testing with iContact, but introducing a social account creation option has resulted in an increase in free trial sign ups. Testing of placement, design and network offering has provided meaningful learning at an ad group level.

B2B landing page example iContact

I also love this experience because it includes a progressive form experience within the traditional account creation form.

4. Progressive Conversion

So what the heck is progressive conversion anyway? Well, progressive conversion recognizes that sometimes people need multiple interactions with you, either in a single session or across multiple visits, before they are ready to convert. One of my all-time favorite progressive experience is one I found while curating examples for our R.E.A.D.Y conversion best practices series. SimpleSite.com does a fantastic job of gently guiding the user through several steps before asking for lead information. The visitor is guided through the site "creation" process in a logical, step-by-step fashion to establish trust, build commitment and earn the end-goal conversion action.

Multi-Step Great Landing Page Example

With multi-step experiences, you “pay off” the previous click and encourage visitors to continue moving through the conversion funnel. Once login is created, users get an immediate pay off…the site is “ready”!

great landing page example

Additionally, according to a survey from Pit Stop Media 52% of online retails use some sort of progress bar during their checkout process, and among those, 80% use some sort of sense of action or “moving forward” indicator through arrows or next page links. In this example (a Which Test Won Gold Award-Winner) adding step indicators to Dell’s 2-step form improved lead conversions by 8%.

This test may seem like a no-brainer, and honestly, it is — very little resource investment is needed to create two form images to help drive conversions. But, the smartest part is hidden in the form. Dell asks an easy entry question “how can we help you?” followed by a required email address. Even if the user drops off on the second form, Dell has still captured email address for nurture and re-marketing. Smart!

5. Device Optimization

Generally speaking, there are two ways to implement device optimized landing pages:

  • Use responsive design -> pages adapt to the appropriate device
  • Create native mobile pages -> pages are explicitly designed for that purpose

With responsive design, you can create one version of your pages that look good across all devices. At ion, we have an awesome responsive SEO pages that looks great on my iPad, iPhone and iMac (oh and on a PC too). However, for our pay-per-click landing experiences we create native mobile landing pages.

Mobile Landing Page Example

These are intentionally designed for conversion. We decide what content, imagery, form fields and interactive elements are included. Longer forms are substituted with shorter, finger-friendly forms. Content rotators are replaced with static images. Navigation is removed. I love responsive web design. I love native mobile landing pages. I encourage you to find a software that allows you to create, test and optimize both types of device optimized pages. The choice should be yours!

The fact that excellent design is not formulaic is a good thing, as it enables marketers to differentiate from the competition.
Have you tried one of more of the five strategies above? I'd love to hear your testing stories and other innovative ways you are taking advantage of your customer's "moment of truth." Comment below, or tweet me at @jsscacollier!

Learn how to drive more conversions with better landing pages.

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Why Direct Mail Still Yields the Lowest Cost-Per-Lead and Highest Conversion Rate

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Direct MailThese days, marketing is all about digital. We are emailing, blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking our little marketeer hearts out.  So direct mail (the kind that the postal delivery person puts in your mailbox, remember?) must be dead in the water. Right?

Wrong. According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA) Factbook for 2013, 65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of direct mail.

According to Direct Mail News, in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% for both business-to-business and business to consumer mailings—considerably higher than industry expectations, and surging past electronic mail’s response rate of just 0.12%.

All this indicates that direct mail is alive and working well, thank you.

Many of our clients, including those in high tech, are recognizing this and direct mail is going through a renaissance. They may have maximized their online spend and need to find another channel, or they may enjoy such a high response to direct mail that it’s added to the mix from the start. Either way, the results are highly satisfactory and direct mail is becoming a staple in their marketing plans.

Cost Per Lead about the Same as Email

“Well, OK,” you might argue. “But it still costs more to mail something printed than to send out email. What about ROI?”

Good question, you! However, the raw cost of a campaign isn’t the true test of success. Cost per lead is. The DMA reports that the cost per lead of direct mail is in line with print and pay-per-click, and significantly less than telemarketing (See Table 1). Direct mail production costs are somewhat more than email, but not enough to make email the holy grail of direct marketing. RELATED CLASS: Why Your Email Content Isn't Driving More Conversions, and How to Fix It

Table 1: Cost Per Lead Comparison

Direct Mail Cost-Per-Lead

Source: DMA, 2012 Response Rate Report

With a higher conversion rate than any other medium, the Print on Demand Institute (PODI) found that direct mail out-pulled all other channels tested in terms of conversion rates, both for lead-generating “free” offers and one-step “buy now” offers. Direct mail’s edge becomes even more dramatic when it is optimized with personalization and other factors, and combined with personalized landing pages.

Try adding your existing landing page URL to direct mail. Some buyers really prefer to respond online, and this may bring in more business at zero additional cost. This becomes even more effective when you use a personalized vanity URL that is easy to remember and to type—www.ABCcorp.com/John.Smith makes it simple for customers to use even though they can’t cut and paste.

Direct mail also enjoys longer “shelf life” than email, so it might be profitable to evaluate your existing landing pages and offers to see what can be repurposed to offer through direct mail. If you do, remember that people may access it weeks after the mailing, so make sure that the pages and offers are still good—or put a firm deadline on response time.

Try Postcards

Direct mail doesn’t have to be large and expensive to be effective. The U.S. Postal Service found that postcards are the mail format most likely to be read or scanned.

It may be that postcards don’t take much time to read. This means that to be effective, the prospect needs to understand your offer within seconds of glancing at it. Some of the same rules apply to postcards as to emails in terms of how much information can be effectively communicated.

Test postcard performance by using your best-performing promotional email as the starting point. Put the image and header on one side and the body copy on the other. Oversized postcards tend to get more attention, so try a large-format card size. Then see how your postcard test performs against email.

Remember, postcards are a great deal less expensive to print and mail than most forms of direct mail.

Direct Mail Lists Are Better Quality

Direct mail list vendors have been working on their databases for decades. Email lists are improving, but they are still not at the same level of quality. This means that your direct mail list from a good vendor will be more tightly targeted on your desired customer. Don’t forget to use your house list as well; house lists tend to outperform rented lists by orders of magnitude.

If you haven’t started a house list, now is the time. Include customers who have responded or bought previously as well as former customers (you might be able to woo them back with the right offer). Your time and attention to this mundane but critical task will be repaid many times over.

Break Out of the Mailbox

If you are using envelopes, you already know that the only purpose of the “outer” is to make sure the envelope gets opened and the contents read. Take the time to test the messaging on the outers. Tweak the wording or rephrase altogether to see if one version pulls better than another. And test “blind” outers as well; they often pull better than teasers because they don’t notify recipients that they are opening direct mail.

Use the Right Direct Mail Format

How well does your direct mail format correlate with what you are selling? Fun, glitzy pieces that work well for cosmetics or fashion will not fly if you are selling financial services; a somber No. 10 envelope would be more credible because that’s what people expect from financial services. Start collecting direct mail pieces as a reference library. Focus on direct mail aimed at your audience and analyze what the senders’ intentions were, the calls to action, graphics, etc.

Get Personal

Personalized communications continue to out-do generic pitches in all categories.

But using a person’s name is just the beginning—the content needs to be personalized as well. For example, if you are marketing high tech products that run on different platforms, users will have different hot buttons. A generic message that focuses on only one platform will not be relevant to other customers. Wording that tries to cover issues for all platforms will be cumbersome and uninteresting to most recipients. It’s worth the extra time and small expense to assure that your piece says the right thing to the right people.

Timing Is Everything

Direct mail campaigns used to take weeks to execute because of the time it took to develop concepts, print, etc. That can still be true of large and elaborate campaigns, but now marketers can take advantage of digital print-on-demand.

This allows you to be far more flexible in how you use direct mail. For example, American Signature Furniture once conducted a test, sending a self-mailer to people who visited a showroom but did not buy. The mailer included the customers’ names and the name and contact information for the sales rep who served them, as well as the date and time of the visit. Photos displayed the styles they considered during their visit to the store.

Results were impressive. People who receive the mailer and return to purchase spend about 40% more than those who did not receive the mailer. The reminder also boosted return visits to the store by 10%.

Use direct mail as an adjunct to other sales and promotion efforts. Salespeople who complete a sales call can drop a postcard in the mail on the same day, thanking the customer and perhaps offering a special discount. Direct mail can support an email campaign as well.

Of course, seasonality is important. If your swimming pool-supply business peaks during the warm months, be sure to send direct mail in March reminding pool owners of the delights of the summer to come—and the importance of having a clean, sparkling pool to enjoy.

Go Dimensional

3-D or dimensional mailings, whether they take the form of a box with a teaser on the outside or a tube, outperform standard formats by 250%, according to the DMA, but increase the cost per lead by only 50%.

Use dimensional mailers with high-value prospects, and make an even higher impact by following up with a telemarketing call.  I’ve seen a combination of email, direct mail, and telemarking consistently yield a 13% to 15% response, and once you have them engaged on the phone you can qualify them for lead quality and pass the “A” leads immediately onto the sales department.

Test Everything

Amid a plethora of promotional techniques that are extremely hard to quantify (such as social media marketing), direct mail remains refreshingly measurable. Every lead or order can be traced back using source codes or other techniques. This allows you to experiment with different approaches to determine which ones are the most successful. It also allows you to quantify your ROI and justify costs.

Learn how to drive better email response rates.

Watch Laurie Beasley's class on Email Marketing Best Practices now. From creative and offer to list building and timing, this class covers what you need to know to take your email marketing to the next level. Access it now with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.

 


10 Compelling Statistics on Mobile Marketing

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Mobile MarketingI’m sure you’ve been hearing this on an almost constant loop now for years now: mobile is big. It’s HUGE! Everyone is on mobile--are YOU on mobile? You need to be on mobile!

Maybe you’ve been dismissing these claims, thinking “My customers don’t look for me on mobile devices,” or “I don’t have the resources to create a mobile presence.”  You may have even thought that all that talk about mobile being the next big thing was just crazy talk, that mobile was just a trend.

Think again.

Consider the following 10 mobile marketing statistics:

  1. Close to a billion smartphones are forecasted to sell in 2013.
  2. 53% of American consumers use their smartphones to access search engines at least once a day.
  3. 4 out of 5 consumers use smartphones to shop.
  4. Tablets are set to outsell PCs and laptops in 2013.
  5. 66% of Americans ages 24-35 own a smartphone.
  6. Mobile search queries have grown 5 times in the past two years.
  7. Mobile is predicted to be bigger than internet in 5 years.
  8. Over 75% of mobile device users respond to mobile-optimized sites when making purchases.
  9. 64% of smartphone owners are now using their mobile devices to shop online
  10. 75% of Americans bring their phones to the bathroom.

Are you convinced yet? If so, the next step to take is to begin the process of optimizing your brand for mobile.

Learn how to integrate your social campaigns into the mobile world.

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How To Improve SEO with Link Building and Social Media

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When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), it all comes down to the 800-pound gorilla: Google. Google is the main arbiter of value in the universe of Internet websites. Google changes how it weighs and assigns value on a regular basis, which means that what you were doing last year may hurt you next year, depending on Google’s latest efforts to assure that it has fairly assessed the true value of each site.  This is not capricious on Google’s part, just good business. The trust that a Google user places in the quality of the search results brings them back to Google time and again.  This allows Google to continue to expose users to paid advertising on the Google site, which is the largest part of Google’s overall income stream.

Early on in the history of Google, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, created a method of determining how sites relate to other sites in the web as a whole called PageRank. Google’s notion was that links should stand as a vote of support for the value of a page because someone took the time and trouble to create the link and point it at your site. To be counted as valid, the link had to come from another site with some relationship to your site in terms of type of business, field, area of expertise, etc. The higher the PageRank of the referring site, the greater the value assigned to the link

The original calculation of PageRank value drove the idea in the SEO world that more links were always better, no matter where they came from. As a result, a lot of people approached link building in a mechanical manner. People sent out thousands of emails (all worded the same) to thousands of websites, inviting them to link to your site in exchange for your link to theirs. The idea was that more links equal higher value, thus propelling your heavily linked site to the top of the heap.

Google viewed this practice with disapproval, and for good reason. Having a chaotic collection of retail stores, auto supply companies and dating services linking to your insurance site was a meaningless guide to the value of your site to users. Google is constantly tweaking the PageRank algorithm, which means you have to pay attention to stay current.

Link Building and Social Media

If you were under the impression that building links on social media would be quick, automated and easy, now is the time to shed the illusion. This is a time-consuming, painstaking process. We all expected that computers would make our jobs easier and faster through automation. Now the time we saved must be spent on relationship building. It does pay off in the end.

Successful link building requires a clear understanding of Google’s criteria for a high PageRank. Sites are rewarded for good, original content and what Google views as “natural” link development.

Good content leads the way to successful link development. If you are offering value to your intended audience and offering it in an attractive and accessible manner, people will naturally want to link to your site. Having the greatest content in the world, however, won’t help if people don’t know about it.

RELATED TUTORIAL: How to Implement and Operate an Effective Content Marketing Program

Here is where link building begins to overlap with social media. Google looks at social media as one of the ways to assign value to your site. How many people are talking about it? Are they talking positively or negatively? More importantly, who is talking about it—are the people considered experts or gurus in your field? Are these comments one-offs, or do conversations continue over time? All these are taken into consideration.

Social media tools don’t help with developing content, and content is the source of value. Make sure you are contributing original, interesting and valuable content to the social media sphere (and this includes your blog). It’s also fine to be a content “curator”: that is, to cast a wide net to discover content that your audience will find interesting and direct them to it via links.

Step 1: Identify the gurus and thought leaders in your space.

You can use keyword searches to identify the people in your field whose content and ideas are considered valuable. This can be determined in some cases by number of followers or friends or connections associated with their social media feeds.

RELATED TUTORIAL: How to Find and Engage Brand Influencers

Step 2. Reach out.

Reach out to the thought leaders and gurus. Try to get a conversation going. Initially, this will be at the cocktail-party level—but don’t start tooting your own horn too early. If your “conversation” is all about me, me, me, expect them to lose interest quickly.

Step 3: Take advantage of Google+.

Google+ is not the most active or fastest-growing social media channel, but it is steadily growing in popularity. It is in a separate category from other popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn because Google places more weight on Google+ than it does on the others. Link your blog to your Google+ page just as you would to Facebook or Twitter.

RELATED TUTORIAL: Why You Need Google+ and How to Use It

Rules To Link By

Here are some guidelines to remember while you are building links:

  1. Stay current with Google’s algorithm changes. Check sites such as Search Engine Land and Webmaster World from time to time to check on the latest changes.
  2. Have a dedicated team working on social media. There are many reasons a company may want to use social media in addition to link building. It is a time-consuming, detailed, hands-on process that requires both strategic skills and dogged persistence. Don’t imagine you will achieve outstanding results by skimping on resources.
  3. There are no shortcuts. Link building is not a mass media effort and automation does not assist with link building (though it may assist with other aspects of social media).
  4. Remember that links must be built in an organic manner. Seek out thought leaders and opinion makers in your field and build relationships with them (and key followers).
  5. Invest in developing original content that will be valued by your target audience. Good content is the foundation for building links and building PageRank.

Learn how to optimize your social media content for better visibility in the search engines.

Watch the tutorial—How to Optimize Social Media for Search—and discover how to optimize Facebook, Twitter and more for search visibility and website traffic. Access it FREE with a 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now. Activate trial now.

 

 


How to Launch a Facebook Ad Campaign Today

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You’re ready to use the power of social media, but building a targeted audience takes a long time.

Have you felt like that?

I call this Facebook Frustration. You know there’s value, but so far its been a slow road...not to mention Facebook algorithms are constantly changing and they are confusing us with all of the new features.

I have simple advice that’s tried and true for businesses who need and want to build a loyal following quickly and on a tight budget. I‘m a believer in Facebook Ads.

RELATED TUTORIAL: 7 Elements of Highly Effective Facebook Marketing

Facebook Ads put your business in front of your target in a place where they are already spending their time, you can craft your ads to reach your ideal audience based on their interest and grow a fan base of ideal customers/clients.

Step 1: Create a post on your page’s timeline.

The key elements of the post should be: include a clear image that represents what you are offering, the text should be 125 characters or less, include a call to action like “click here” or “sign up now” and a link to where you want your target to go; this might be a page where they can “buy now” or it might be a page where they can sign up for your email list.

Step 2: Create an ad.

Then, go to www.facebook.com/advertsing and click “Create an Ad.”

Create a Facebook Ad

When creating an add always use the promote a post option instead of their “get more likes” option.  It’s confusing...I know. When you use “promote a post” you are able to use a much larger image instead of the 100x72 image.  The more real estate your image takes up, the more likely it is people will see your ad.  The other benefit of using “promote a post” is that prospects will see when their fans interact with the post.  Meaning, if their friend likes, comments or shares your post then the friend who you are targeting will also see that.  This will give you more credibility and it will make it more likely that your prospect will engage with the post.

The “promote a post” option will direct you to a drop down menu with all of your latest posts listed. Select the one you just created for this campaign.

Under the Sponsored Stories box put a check mark in all three boxes.  This will allow your target to see when other people have liked, commented or shared your post.  I love this because it makes social media even more social!

Step 3: Select the basic demographics of your ideal target person: age, gender, geographic location.

The more specific you are with your targeting, the better your results will be.

Here’s my favorite part of Facebook Ads....the precise targeting.

Precise Targeting give you the ability to laser target your ads.  Yes, there are 900 million people on Facebook, but the truth is not all of them are you target audience and if you are paying for ads, you only want to pay when your ideal target audience clicks on that ad....not when anyone in the world sees your ad.

I’ll give you an example of Precise Targeting.

Say I am selling baby clothing.  I’m likely selling to moms with young children.  So here’s what I do.  Brainstorm a list of all of the things moms with young children may have “liked” on their Facebook Profile: Parenting Magazine, Parents Magazine, American Baby Magazine, Baby Center, Prenatal Yoga, What to Expect When Expecting, Childwise Baby Books, Graco, Pottery Barn Kids, Babies R Us, Babee Talk....the list goes on....put as many as you can think of.  This will make it so the moms you are targeting have to like one of the above things in order for them to see you ad.

Let’s try a different example.  Say you are a graphic designer and your target is branding agencies and pr firms who could outsource work to you.  You’ll target things like this: PRSA, American Marketing Association, Colorado American Marketing Association, AdAge, Marketing Power, Seth Godin, Mashable, Social Media Today...etc.

The key is to figure out what magazines your target reads, where they go for coffee, what tv shows they watch, what books they read, what celebrities they follow and what brands they love.

Once you have precise targeting complete go to Campaign, Pricing and Schedule.  Give your campaign a title.  Then, set your budget.  We would all dream to have ad budgets like Coca Cola, but we don’t.  The good news about Facebook Advertising is that you can set you Lifetime Budget for each campaign.  If you set your Lifetime Budget for $200 then Facebook will stop the campaign at $200 so you don’t go over.  Next, select your date range.  Always choose a short timeframe of about 3 days.  Ads that run longer lose their fresh appeal and do not perform well.

Step 4: Select 'Advance Pricing' as your pricing structure.

Last, click the link that says Switch to Advance Pricing. Then click Optimize for clicks and manually set your bid.  If you are targeting women an average bid is about 50 cents and if you are targeting men an average bid is a little lower (about 40 cents).

Facebook Ad Pricing

Click place order.

In a few hours, usually less, Facebook will email you to let you know if your ad is approved. Most ads will be approved, but if it isn’t Facebook will give you the reason and you can go in, make that change and re-submit your order.

Do you want to grow your Facebook audience?

Watch the OMI tutorial, Tips and Tricks for Successful Facebook Growth, and learn how to effectively engage your Facebook fans and grow your fan base while doing so. See what works, what doesn't work, and get insider tips to implement immediately. This tutorial is available with a FREE, 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.

 


7 Expert Tips for a Killer B2B Google Display Network Strategy

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Think the Google Display Network only makes sense for B2C campaigns? Think again.

In his popular OMI tutorial, How to Create a B2B Strategy for the Google Display Network,  Joe Kerschbaum, PPC wizard and Senior Client Strategist at PPC Associates, demonstrates how B2B marketers can effectively integrate the Google Display Network with their paid search strategy in order to generate leads and drive awareness.

Before you dive into launching your Display Network campaigns, read on. In this short interview, Joe shares why B2B marketers should advertise on the display network, the benefits of leveraging it, tips for getting started, and more.

1. Does the Google Display Network make sense for B2B marketers? Why?

Yes! The Google Display Network (GDN) makes very good sense for B2B marketers.

Here are a few statistics from a recent Demand Gen report, “2012 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey:” 67% of B2B buyers are using a wider variety of resources to research vendors & products; 55% say they spend more time researching purchases; 60% of buyers state that white papers and other authoritative content are extremely influential in the purchase process.

The data from this report is important, especially for the GDN, for a few reasons:

In general, B2B buyers are spending more time researching purchases online. This means that the GDN is a perfect match for this mindset. On the GDN advertisers can place ads alongside content that is relevant and timely for their products. Also, the purchase intent of B2B buys is a great match for the GDN. When many B2B buyers are conducting research, they aren’t in the mode to purchase yet. They are still in the research mode. We have found that softer conversion actions such as whitepapers, case studies, free trials and free demos work great on the GDN. So, the mindset of a B2B buyer is focused on research and hunting great content – and the by placing ads through the GDN, advertisers can get in front of the right people at the right time with the right conversion action.

2. What kind of results have your B2B clients achieved on the Google Display network?

We’ve seen very positive results for our B2B clients on the GDN. We have worked with clients in various verticals who offer a wide array of products and services that appeal to disparate audiences. But we’re usually able to find the best niche for each client and service. On average, admittedly, conversion rates on the GDN tend to be lower than the Search Network. This only makes sense because when someone is searching for specifically for a product/service you offer, they are more likely to convert. On the GDN, the user intention is very different.  A visitor on the GDN may be thinking of your product/service by conducting research and reading content related to your offering – but they aren’t in, “action mode.” However, on the flip side, the cost-per-click (CPC) on the GDN tends to be lower than Search. So the cost-per-acquisition should balance out and the ROI should be positive.

3. Is the Google Display Network better for driving leads, awareness, or both?

We’ve done very well with lead-based conversion actions on the GDN too. As I mentioned in the previous question; information-based conversion actions do well on the GDN. Also, we have had success with eCommerce in the B2B space via the GDN. Ecommerce can be a bit more challenging due to the user intention on the GDN but it’s not impossible.

For businesses with longer sales cycles, the GDN can be a very powerful tool for generating and maintaining awareness. You can utilize Remarketing in order to deliver supporting content to prospects as they wade through a longer purchase process. Usually we utilize the GDN a direct response channel (generating leads) but we do use this channel for B2B clients that have extended sales cycles.

4. If a B2B marketer is just starting out with a paid search campaign, should they add the Display Network, or just focus on advertising on the Google search results page? What do you suggest?

If an advertiser is new to paid search, I suggest they focus on the Search Network first. They should establish a solid campaign structure that is generating a positive ROI and then they can focus on the GDN. This will allow advertisers to focus on just one channel at a time. Both Search and GDN channels are extremely complex and they require varying optimization skill sets. Sure, you can run both channels through Google AdWords and they may look the same within that interface, but in reality they are extremely different. Advertisers shouldn’t launch GDN campaigns until they are knowledgeable how each targeting option works, the best reports to run, and the optimization techniques that help achieve an acceptable ROI as quickly as possible.

5. What are some common mistakes you see B2B marketers make when advertising on the Google Display Network?

There is great potential to gain awesome results on the GDN; but there is also the potential to generate a lot of traffic without a positive ROI. There are two main culprits for poor results on the GDN: unfocused campaign structure and inefficient optimization. Here is a quick list of mistakes I commonly see on the GDN:

  • Not segmenting targeting options
  • Not separating mobile devices
  • Not adjusting for time-of-day
  • Not excluding under-performing elements
  • Not adhering to text/image best practices
  • Not rotating ads frequently
  • Not utilizing impression cap
  • Not testing auto-optimization tools

6. Are there any Google Display Network targeting options that you recommend for B2B marketers?

I suggest trying them all! However, if someone is new to the GDN, they should get their feet wet with Remarketing. That tends to have the best traffic quality and the best conversion rates. From there, new advertisers should experiment with keyword (contextual targeting) and some placement targeting.

7. Should Google Display Network campaigns always be run in conjunction with regular paid search?

Yes! The two channels should complement each other.

Learn how to generate leads and drive awareness the Google Display network.

Watch How to Create a B2B Strategy for the Google Display Networkand get step-by-step instructions on launching and optimizing your B2B Google Display Network Strategy. Learn how to write ads for the Google Display Network that will attract clicks and leads how to structure your listening program, how to utilize the various targeting functions within Google AdWords for optimal Display Network distribution, how to generate demand for a little-known or freshly-launched B2B product or service, and more. Activate trial now.