Marketing – What’s Your Definition?

March 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing

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marketing

Marketing? View from beach house on Sunset Beach, Oahu where I didn't think a lot about marketing.

I’m blogging on a plane coming back from a week in paradise. That’s part of my process for returning to the “real world”.  As a marketer I cannot help but think what’s behind the communications and actions of companies I engage with as a consumer. My time on Oahu talking with local residents and surfers in Haleiwa was a notable contrast to the techie social media marketing world I live in day to day.

In today’s digital age, things move fast. New models of communication establish themselves quickly and new categories of brand and consumer engagement continuously emerge. Defining the means for communicating with and engaging with customers is by no means static whether you’re trying to reach cosmopolitan buyers in London or tourists of a sleepy village on a tropical island.

Marketing evolves with consumer preferences, technologies and society. A specific definition of marketing is no more static than marketing itself.

Recently Heidi Cohen pinged me for a super-size roudup post on definitions of marketing. Here’s mine:

The practice of creating value for the mutual benefit of meeting consumer needs and business objectives. In action, that means knowing and meeting target audience/community information discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors with relevant and timely communications throughout the customer lifecycle. Engagment influence consumer behavior to drive revenue outcomes and strengthen relationships.

That’s just one definition and Heidi’s post came up with 72. That’s right, 72! If we ask that many people what marketing is and get such a variety of definitions, it’s no wonder marketing advice is such a crapshoot for so many companies. Asking a company marketer what they do should essentially define what marketing is for that company.

But I’m guessing it doesn’t.   A lot of companies are simply executing tactics without a broader vision of customer engagement trends. They’re in a perpetual state of experimentation to see what sticks and to see what works.  Does that work? Does it adapt? Does it focus on what’s important?

As our own online marketing agency evaluates it’s own marketing efforts, I also challenge our readers to reflect on what you’re really doing to communicate with and engage customers,  Are you executing tactics with uncertain outcomes simply because you’ve always done it that way? Are you continuing to experiment with things that have no clear connection to measurable results? Are you really engaging customers and developing relationships?

What’s your definition of marketing?

 


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SES New York 2011 Roundup

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The SES New York 2011 conference wrapped up last week on the heels of one of the biggest Google updates in recent years.

And although there was enough Panda talk to make a passerby think we might all be zookeepers, there were other themes running through the conference as well including content, paid strategies and tools, tools, tools.

Here’s a quick recap:

Panda: The Aftermath, as it was called essentially recapped what TopRank and other content advocates have been saying along.

Create unique, quality content that is written first for the target audience and second for the search engines. It’s those who have been living dangerously – or maybe just naively – creating what’s now referred to as shallow content who likely got hit the worst.

Here are a couple items to check if your site is seeing less results than it was pre-panda:
1. Check your content and outline a content plan to create more.
Also, remember that the navigations, call-outs etc that live on each page are considered part of the content. If you don’t have enough unique content on each page to ‘out-weigh’ the navigation, you might run into trouble.
2. Google is now paying more attention to spelling and grammar. If your site is lacking in basic writing skills, fix it up.
3.  Check your internal link structure. If you have links pointing to each page on the site, Google will have trouble determining which pages are truly important.

Next, the paid strategy called retargeting also seemed to have people buzzing. Retargeting is the process of delivering ads to people on the web who have either entered a shopping cart and abandoned, or visited your site – but not entered the shopping cart process.

To get started with retargeting, think about the user action and your next action.
For example, if a visitor abandoned the home page you likely will want them to see a promotional offer featuring the brand.

If a visitor abandoned the shopping cart, you can send them a reminder to complete the purchase or a reminder with a coupon. Think through when and how often you offer the coupon, however, because it doesn’t take long to train a visitor to abandon the shopping cart because they know a coupon is coming. :)

Overall, if your site is experiencing a high number of exits in the shopping cart process, then retargeting might be a good option for you.

As always lists and tools are popular at a marketing conference and came together as a list of tools! Check out some of the recommended tools:

1. Crazy Egg – helps determine where people are clicking on your web pages, visually
2. Clicktale – use this tool for user session info, advanced link and form analytics
3. Cross Browser Testing – allows you to test different OS, browser, application settings
4. MockFlow – an online wireframe tool for helping when developing a website
5. AttentionWizard.com – a tool for predicting where visual attention exits on a site
6. Clicktale – use for form analytics
7. 4Q, Kample – survey tool to illicit from web visitors why they are on their website and if they are completing their intended tasks
8.  Mongoose Metrics, ifbyphone – for call tracking
9. WebsiteOptimization.com – if your site is known to load slow, this is a tool to help you check the speed
10.  Smush.it, Dynamicdrive – a tool for smushing images

If you attended SES New York 2011, feel free to comment below adding what you thought people were buzzing about this year.


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SES New York: 3 Content Marketing Principles

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Content, Content, Content.3 Tips to Content Marketing

After attending search conferences for a few years now, it seems only right that content is getting some time in the spotlight. This week at Search Engine Strategies (SES) New York, I had the great pleasure of presenting on the topic of content marketing.

For so long talk has been about how to optimize and then how to promote – but we’re circling back around to meat and potatoes of online marketing which is the content.

Without it, what are we optimizing and promoting? Oh no, please don’t say it’s your static product pages… Well, if it is (and we’ve all been there), it is most definitely time to look at content marketing and what it can do to take your brand to new levels of customer engagement and acquisition.

The 3 principles to content marketing to keep in mind are:

1. Know Your Audience
Creating content without understanding your target audience is like trying to paddle a boat with a spoon. Not effective and certainly not efficient.

The simplest way to start understanding what type of content your audience is most compelled by is looking at what content receives the most visits, shares, tweets, etc.

This can give you a baseline for both what archetypes (i.e. tips posts) and topics (i.e. content marketing) are most successful.

If you are already creating content and paying attention to what plays and what doesn’t, you might be ready for  the creation of audience profiles or personas.

A next great step in creating content, the creation of profiles will help you further segment your content strategy (see tip 2) in such a way that you appeal to different preferences.

For example, you may find that you have 3 personas to which you need to create content. Let’s call them Bob, Dan and Sherri.

Bob – Younger and engaged; he uses Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, writes a blog, writes reviews and shares photos.

Dan – Slightly older, engaged but less so; he uses Google, LinkedIn (not Facebook) reads blogs (doesn’t write one), but also writes reviews.

Sherri – Younger and engaged; uses Bing as her search engine of preference, uses Facebook (not LinkedIn), writes a blog, shares photos and videos.

Imagine with the clarity of the above 3 personas how you can augment your content strategy to better reach each one and deliver content that they are most likely to engage and share.

2. Create a Content Strategy
Once you understand your audience, you are in a much more informed position to create a content strategy.

Most content strategies start with already existing content, which is OK. But in any competitive market new content will need to be created as well.

Start outlining your content plan by understanding your objectives. i.e. inform an audience, help them with a purchase decision

Then brainstorm the topics that you can create content for and tie them into topical categories and assign each post a keyword group.

Review the content you have planned to ensure you are covering all key topics and accounting for various content archetypes.

3. Analyze & Refine
Like with any marketing, content marketing should have a measurement piece to identify successful content and inform future content creation.

Be sure to look at the basics such as what content received the most visits, shares, tweets, etc.

Then take a deeper dive to look for the unknown. For example, do a search in analytics for the inclusion of a ‘?’ in the referring search phrase to understand what types of questions people are looking to answer. Then, create content that speaks to the topic and ultimately will help drive more traffic.

Tell us below what you have found to be crucial to content marketing success!


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Essential Q & A on Facebook Marketing for Small Business

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Facebook Marketing Small BusinessFacebook Marketing is on the mind of just about every company with an online presence, small and large, BtoB and BtoC. The fast pace of the social web right along with changes in consumer behaviors and technology can make it a challenge to nail down specific and enduring best practices.


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Recently I participated in a webinar on social media ROI that took a holistic view of the value created by social engagement, beyond direct customer acquisition. Many of the questions from that webinar reflect the growing curiosity about specific social media applications and websites. We couldn’t get to all the questions so I’ve compiled them into similar topics starting with Facebook.

Some of the questions are fairly common and others are unique. Hopefully you’ll get value from these answers and feel free to ask your own in the comments.

How do we know if a Facebook presence makes sense for our company?

As with any online marketing investment, including social media and networks, determining which social communities a brand should engage with in order to reach a particular business outcome starts with knowing a few key things:

  1. What characterizes the customer or conversation that you’re after?
  2. What’s your hypothesis about how Facebook will help you reach a business goal?
  3. What approach to the social web makes the most sense for engaging identified customer personas and communities for the desired business outcome?

To the extent that Facebook appears as an answer to these questions, it will become clear whether Facebook makes sense as part of an online marketing and social media strategy. These questions are essential for just about any kind of online marketing, not just social media and not just for Facebook.

What is the demographic for Facebook?

Recently Ken Burbary shared a compendium of Facebook demographic information on Facebook: Facebook Demographics Revisited – 2011 Statistics that pretty much answers this question.

You can also get some of the information you need in the process of setting up a Facebook advertisement. The query you perform to identify audience can return useful demographic information.

Does Facebook really get you new customers or just keep you in touch with people who already know who you are?

At TopRank Online Marketing, our key focus on internet marketing and social media strategy is on customer interaction with content. With that bias, I would say the answer to this question about acquiring and engaging customers through Facebook is revealed by understanding your customer preferences for content discovery, consumption and sharing.

These behaviors are certainly present on Facebook pages through the Wall, News Feed, internal and external linking to content and Liking of content. There are myriad ways for new and existing customers to engage on Facebook including interactions initiated due to advertising.

Being able to attract new customers directly through Facebook vs. indirectly or through other social media participation has to do with how your brand conducts itself on Facebook. In many cases, Facebook is part of a multi step sales cycle that attracts interest and then presents offers and information on the company blog, website or other digital experiences that educate.

Recently a client of ours asked whether an ecommerce effort on Facebook made sense for their online store. They have a fairly active Fan page.

My advice was that while we could research the propensity for customers to buy via Facebook, we could also see the low price point of a Facebook store as an opportunity to lead their category with a new feature. Facebook shopping in the short term might not get them a significant increase in direct sales, but it will help show existing customers they’re finding new ways to be innovativel. It’s also newsworthy and could attract new customers via publicity.

One must be careful investing in technology for publicity vs. functionality. Look no further than the obscene amounts of money spent on Second Life for examples of that tactic going awry. But if social features are practical AND newsworthy with a reasonable price point, it’s the kind of investment that can win new customers and reinforce your brand with current customers.

Is it important to add to your Facebook page a certain number of times a week?

Participation on Facebook can start with some guidelines inspired by success with similar efforts, but should be fine tuned to the needs of your own community. We’ve seen some clients daily posting work well while others might post a few times per week.

Facebook Insights provide specific information on how your Fans engage with the page, so start out by posting a few times per week. Keep it focused on being useful and shareable. Increase or decrease post frequency and topics accordingly. Don’t over promote your own information, but follow the themes established in your social content strategy. Ask questions, promote your wall posts and be patient. Give positive feedback to the behaviors you’re looking for and make moderation efforts swift.

How important is it to provide customer service on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Do customers expect it?

If customer service on Facebook is part of your Social Media Strategy and hypothesis, then it makes a lot of sense, My personal observations of consumer expectations is that social features are becoming a more familiar part of the online and brand experience. Customers expect to find and interact with search results. They expect blogs with commenting functionality. They look for Twitter and Facebook sharing options when they read brand content. When favorite brands market themselves on social channels it’s not a surprise anymore, its expected. Customer service is no different.

Deciding to embark on offering customer service via social networks like Facebook should be a thoughtful consideration. It’s not something to be started and then killed. Social media monitoring and first hand participation should reveal demand and companies can plan and forecast resources accordingly.

What are some of the best ways to measure conversions on Facebook?

First, we should define what a “conversion” is, in the context of your goals for Facebook participation. Is it attracting “Fans”, signing customers up for a free sample, getting visitors to redeem a Facebook coupon, or making direct product or service inquiries?

According to your goals, the right measurement scheme will provide the best ways to measure conversions on Facebook. There are a number of Facebook analytics approaches and tools worth checking out. Stores within Facebook can measure sales, sites that focus on recruiting staff might count how many applications they get. Other Facebook pages might simply count and qualify the comments, wall posts and community generated content as measures of engagement. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

What goals do you have for your own Facebook Fan pages? How are you measuring success with Facebook Marketing?


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Essential Q & A on Facebook Marketing for Small Business | http://www.toprankblog.com

Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media

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Social Media SEOThe intersection of SEO and social media marketing continues to gain traction amongst online marketers everywhere you look in the industry. As an example, the enthusiastic interest in our recent compendium of blog posts, Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media. I think most experienced marketers “get” that SEO and Social Media functions are less effective as distinct channels within a marketing program and work better as a coordinated effort.

Integration of Social and SEO makes sense for a variety of reasons when considering evolving consumer information discovery behaviors. Even so, I think a lot of companies are looking for direction and what’s next. This week Brandon Prebynski and I chatted on his Webtrends.TV show about the mix of search and social media and one area we discussed that I think is worth sharing here is about future direction.

There are two areas of focus (out of many) I think are worth considering with future of search and social media for marketers. First, is the technology that powers the search and social media experience for consumers. The second is the logistics of implementing integrated search and social media campaigns within a company.

On the technology side, you have search becoming increasingly influenced by social signals. For example, Google and Bing are getting feed data from Twitter and Facebook. If you’re logged in to Google, your search results can be annotated by things your friends have shared on Quora or Flickr. Erik Sherma recently covered the award to Facebook of a patent for curated search that combines any type of search engine results with the popularity of each result among members of a user’s social network which shows another direction social sites are taking to make search more social.

True social search is something the engines have been trying at for a long time, but now the momentum Facebook has with 600 million users gives them a lot of data and an audience with which to experiment. From a technology standpoint I think we’ll see an increasing level of influence and integration of social based signals on traditional search activity. The race for true social search is between search engines like Google adding social signals and features vs. social giants like Facebook adding more significant search functionality to their platforms. Who will win is up to consumers.

Logistically within companies we’ll see less silos between search marketing and social media functions. While it’s been up for debate a while, many companies’ social media is managed by Public Relations and SEO is managed by Marketing.

There’s an growing convergence of responsibilities between PR and Marketing. The value of relationships and influence are increasingly appreciated by online marketers. Alternatively, PR and communications professionals are beginning to value search based discovery as they look for ways to communicate more value for their efforts.

PR departments are already creating content, why not make it easy for their target audience (journalists, analysts, bloggers and direct consumers) to find via search? Google sites alone handle 88 billion queries per month – that’s an overwhelming quantity of behavior and too significant to ignore.

As part of the effort to improve the connection between searchers and content, people in the social media content creation business would do well to consider things like a keyword glossary when creating their content marketing strategy and editorial plans.

Search marketers have traditionally used social media as distribution channels for promoting content to drive a flood of traffic. Many of those SEOs are beginning to appreciate the equity in relationships (community) that they can build through social channels so they don’t have to work so hard creating new connections every time they have a new link bait campaign.

Mastering the convergence of SEO and Social Media with Content Marketing starts with an appreciation of how consumers prefer to discover, consume and share information online.

Google’s Panda update is yet another reminder to focus on content that engages. Marketers that make great content easy to find via social channels and links will be rewarded with even more relevant traffic through search engines like Google and Bing.

What can companies do to become more effective search and social media marketers? The simple answer is to develop an approach to online marketing that focuses on customer centric content that’s keyword and social media optimized. Follow how content is consumed and shared – make it easy to do those things while monitoring and engaging to develop networks and relationships. Continue to keep business outcomes in mind and be thoughtful about how success will be measured short and long term.

As many companies deal with figuring out how search and social media will work together, I am curious what your experiences have been?

  • How important is the integration of search and social in your company’s current marketing mix?
  • Are you incorporating SEO and social media efforts more or less since last year?
  • What positive outcomes have you seen as a result of incorporating SEO & Social Media Marketing?

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Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media | http://www.toprankblog.com

Minnesota Social Media Consulting and Twitter’s Potential for Businesses

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Link Building

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Lately, we have been busy at the Optimize Guyz traveling throughout the state to work with Minnesota-based business on their social media campaigns.
From custom tabs on fan pages, to full 12-month status strategies, we have been providing an actual tangible strategy, realistic goals, and guidelines for keeping internal employees safe-guards in place.
It is so critical [...]

Recipe for Successful Blog Marketing & SEO at TECHmunch Austin 2011

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogging, Online Marketing, SEO

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Concurrent with SXSWi in Austin, Texas this weekend was the TECHmunch event for food bloggers run by Babette Pepaj of Bakespace. Babette rounded up a stellar cast of characters to present on a variety of topics including numerous food journalists from the likes of CNN and the LA Times plus PR pros like Erik Deutch, Sarah Evans and Eric Schwartzman. Of course, no event during the week of SXSW would be complete without appearances from well known digerati like Brian Solis and Robert Scoble.

My task was to talk about SEO with a dash of Social Media and Content for blogs. Knowing just a few things about blogging, I shared the following info with abundant food metaphors to about 150 food bloggers and journalists.

Audience – Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Many bloggers start out writing about their passion and decide topics based on what’s top of mind or as a reaction to others from the community they’re involved with.  That is as it should be. But if a blogger expects traffic from search and social channels to be competitive, then it’s important to empathize with the information needs of the people you’re trying to connect with.

Bloggers that say one should never consider keywords or SEO and just write good content are on to something: It’s called pure ego.  They are blogging only for themselves and that’s fine. But those bloggers seeking to grow an audience and monetize increasing traffic will see the value in creating content that serves personal interests AND the information discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors of readers.

If you’re planning a dinner at your house and you decide to have your favorite beef pot roast but invite several vegetarians, those guests are unlikely to return.  That’s what ego-centric blogging is.

Alternatively, if you make an effort to understand the needs of your intended audience in terms of what they’re interested in, the keywords they use to search and the topics they’re discussing on other blogs and social media sites, you can craft a “menu” of content, aka editorial plan that shows that you have something interesting and important to say as well as empathy for readers’ needs.  Listen and give people what they want, even better than the competition, and those “guests” are likely not only to return again, but to say great things to others about you.

Keywords – What Do They Like to Eat?

There’s a lot of competition in the blog space and online content in general.  Consumer discovery via search is still the dominant way to find information online.  Bloggers can gain essential insight into the words that best represent interest in topics they plan to write about by using keyword research tools to create a keyword glossary.   A list of keywords can serve as a guide or reference to word use in content on and off the blog to better represent the interests of the readers you’re trying to reach.

Back to the dinner metaphor: If you say you’re going to have “flesh melon” for an appetizer and your guests only know it as Honeydew melon, they may not be interested. Knowing the keywords readers use to search for information can guide copywriting so that it better informs and also improves search visibility for phrases that are more in demand. Being easy to find via search for more popular and relevant phrases will increase blog traffic and user experience.

Content SEO – Which Ingredients?

Applying the insights gained from keyword research for improved user experience and search visibility comes through incorporating keywords into content planning, categories, copy, links and tags.  The most important places for keyword use are the title tag, body copy and links.

The bloggers that have the biggest issue with SEO will often say keyword use compromises their writing style and creativity. WordPress blogs can use the Headspace or AllinOneSEO plugins to enable a literal and keyword-rich title tag for search engines and another more creative title that might be a pun, ironic, inferred meaning or sarcasm, which people understand in context, but search engines usually do not.

Great SEO copywriting is transparent to the reader and should actually improve user experience.  It’s as simple as using words in links to give the reader an idea of what to expect when they click vs. just “click here”.  Or avoiding the overuse of pronouns and instead using descriptive words (that also happen to be relevant keywords).

Optimizing content is more than text – it means any digital asset that can be published online: audio, video, images and other document types like PDFs and MS Office docs.

As for our dinner metaphor, this means using words we know our guests are interested in, with the communications used to invite them, in our conversations about the dinner and how we present the food during the dinner.

SEO copywriting is like making a promise to the reader.  Keywords in copy and links help your blog content show well in search results. Visibility on keyword phrases sets an expectation for the searcher that when they click the link, they’ll find the information and experience you’re promoting. If not, they’ll just go somewhere else.

Links & Social – How Will We Invite Our Guests and Help Them Spread the Word?

Great content is dead unless someone shares it. Blogs include RSS feeds so there is some automatic promotion of content but in a competitive category, it’s important to create, optimize and promote content that attracts readers and inbound links from other relevant websites. People that publish online can link to your content, but only if they know about it a like it. Search engines can see those links, whether they’re present in blog posts or Tweets. Search engines use links as a way to discover new content and as a signal in the search result sorting or ranking process.

Essentially, the more relevant links to your content, the better your content will do in search results.  There are many other factors, hundreds, but behaviorally, the thing to focus on is making it easy for both search engines and people to discover and share your content.  Assuming you are keeping the promise made through keywords in the form of high quality and relevant content, readers are more than happy to share and link to it.  Just make it easy and compelling from them to do so.

That might mean creating content that is unique and cleverly packages to attract social promotion and links. It might mean recognizing collections of influential people and/or blogs in a clever way to attract links. Including social sharing buttons in blog posts also helps extend awareness of your content to new readers and those inclined to link to things they find interesting.

Most dinner parties do not have the objective of attracting as many other people as possible, but if you wanted to reach more of a certain kind of guest, you could make sure the promise of the dinner and the experience are congruent and exceed expectations. You could also do things like give guests recipes of the dishes served to extend the experience or take photos during the party and print them so guests can have them as a momento.  A thank you card after the dinner also reinforces the experience and combined, the thoughtfulness, relevance and ease of sharing will inspire word of mouth.

Tools – Which Cookware and Dinnerware to Use?

There are a variety of social media SEO tools available for free or low cost to bloggers. Most of the keyword research a blogger may need to do can be accomplished with tools like Google’s Keyword Tool, Google Trends, SEMRush and of course paid tools like Wordtracker.

Social search tools like socialmention.com are handy for social keyword checking and PostRank is useful for measuring on and off-blog social engagement.   Alexa Site Audit and Blekko toolbar (not available for Chrome??) offer intersting SEO related information about websites that can help identify duplicate content issues and the need to focus on certain keywords. Google Analytics is an excellent web analytics tool for blogs to measure performance.

For our dinner party, do we need to use professional grade cookware and our best china? It depends on the outcomes you’re after.  Most tools are only as effective as the talent of the people using them.  There are abundant choices but it comes down to your ability to use those tools to help automate redundancies or create better quality outcomes more efficiently.

Do you have blog content, optimization or link building tips to share? If you’ve experimented with different ways to attract links, what worked? What didn’t?


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Recipe for Successful Blog Marketing & SEO at TECHmunch Austin 2011 | http://www.toprankblog.com

Blog Comments: Are You A Person Or A Thing?

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogging, Online Marketing

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Blog Comments Real ThingAfter 7+ years, I’ve seen it all in blog comments. Genuine people responding, asking and sharing in ways that inspire streams of comment responses and even blog posts elsewhere on the web.

I’ve also seen far too many bots that automatically find blog posts that are of a certain age, written on a certain keyword topic and that have follow vs. nofollow links. Once found (automatically using software) they scrape parts of previous comments to create a new one with embedded links to their Viagra SEO New Delhi Insurance Leads spam site. Bleh.

Then there are the benign “good job [insert blogger name here] comments or those that have been translated into another language and back into English. Here’s another good one: comments from reputable people from reputable companies that insist on leaving their full email signature in the comment. One link isn’t enough, they must have two or three or more. Greedy.

It’s truly amazing how some people choose to add value (and when doing so it defintely gets on my radar) but that so many choose to be spammy.  When people add value, I notice. When they spam, I am quick to blacklist.

What should you write in a comment? Opinion, reaction, questions, resources and most of all, something relevant. There are no bad comments when they come from a real person with real substance related to the blog post.

I understand people blog for a variety of reasons. TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog exists as an information source that gives our community a peek into the expertise and point of view within our marketing consulting agency. It demonstrates thought leadership and serves as a hub for our social media participation. TopRank Marketing’s presence on the social web is to engage with prospective customers, peers, potential employees, marketing partners, vendors and the media.

We do have a comment policy. It’s linked right above the comment box. It serves to provide readers a simple DO’s and DONT’S for commenting that creates value and that supports our purpose for having a blog.  Each time I see a new comment without a person’s name or handle in the name field, I have to ask: “Is this a person or a thing?”

We’re here to engage with people, not bots and certainly not comment spammers or greedy link-types. Many, many conversations have been inspired by the thousands of posts authored here over the past 7 years. We welcome them all. Agree, disagree, it doesn’t matter.

Hopefully if you have your own blog, you’ve created your own blog comment policy. It won’t stop the bots or the 5 cents per post offshore outsourced comment spam, but it will provide human readers some guidelines.

Mainstream blogging has been around for about 10 years or so, but there are many people who are new to reading blogs or are not familiar with what’s appropriate. Help them by providing guidelines. The benefits will be improved quality in the comments, which motivates others to join in and revisit the blog.

Some of the best content on a blog is in the comments, not the blog posts. When a comment thread takes off, that’s the magic in blogging (to me). The exchange between an Author and readers is a highly valued outcome. Inspiring exchange and discussion between our readers, between real people with opinions, is priceless.

If you’re a blogger or read blogs fairly frequently, what do you consider comment spam? What kind of comments do you find most useful, interesting and worth responding to?


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Blog Comments: Are You A Person Or A Thing? | http://www.toprankblog.com

5 Ways to Fail at Content Marketing & Tips to Succeed

March 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO

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Content Marketing FailThe value of content marketing has been well established here and in many other places on the web.  It’s nothing new for many marketers, especially those in B2B Content Marketing. As companies seek competitive advantages and to adjust their ability to reach and engage markets, the creation of content as a vehicle for key messages and influence has grown substantially.

I hate to say it, but some online marketers are pretty lazy. They take shortcuts in order to find the least amount of effort for the highest impact. That’s a workable short term strategy if you have a disposable brand. Long term, it can cause problems if content does not add significant value.  The recent Google Panda update has drawn a lot of attention to the consequences of such short term thinking with low quality content being dropping from Google search visibility.

The temptation is understandable with pressures for increased marketing performance, competition and the need to create advantage. But there are risks to short term thinking with content marketing too. Here are a few ways that many companies #fail in the content marketing space:

Targeting From the Gut vs. to Personas

How much marketing budget do you think is allocated based mostly on intuition? Way too much and it’s no different with content marketing. Marketers often make decisions about content marketing strategy and tactical mix based on what’s popular or guesswork.  Blogs, ebooks, reports, webinars and email newsletters are pretty popular as are social content like Video, Social Networks and things like Twitter. But based on what?

In the way that best practices SEO doesn’t make ASSumptions about keywords, content marketers would do well not to assume what kind of content or publishing platform is best for reaching their customers without research. Developing personas that exemplify desirable customer groups gives useful direction towards content marketing strategy, messaging and topics. Without the research into how target customers discover, consume and share information, content marketing is akin to “throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks” and that’s hardly efficient or effective.

Building the Army on Day 1 of the War

“Great content is dead until someone shares it”.  Promotion is an essential component to content marketing and developing communities and distribution channels are key for expanding reach and engagement. The mistake many marketers make is to craft a compelling piece of content and the start blasting Twitter, blogs, social news and bookmarking sites with links.  More savvy marketers will decide to start building networks on those channels at the same time they’re promoting.  It’s an item on their checklist to fan, friend and follow relevant contacts to build a network.

The problem is, for effective content marketing those networks need to be in place BEFORE you start promotions.  Otherwise, it’s like declaring war and starting to build your army of fans the same day. You need that army in place and ready to activate long before the time comes to ask them to help promote. That means participation NOW, not later.  Once you’ve identified relevant communities, blogs and platforms, start creating signals of value and credibility through interaction – a small amount of time, consistently.  When the time comes to execute a particular promotion, there should be a network in place with clarity of purpose for the relationship.

Campaign vs. Ongoing

Much like SEO, content marketing is a commitment and ongoing. When companies ask us about the viability of SEO for their online marketing, I recommend to “get in it to win it” for the long term or don’t get in at all. The same is true with content marketing. It’s not an individual campaign that you start and stop. That said, a content marketing strategy may call for a string of integrated campaign efforts across different channels and communities with distinct objectives and tactics in mind. But it’s an ongoing effort, not a single “content marketing campaign”.

Not Repurposing Content

Creating original content takes talent and doing so over the long term takes a lot of hard work.  To be an efficient and effective content marketer, it’s essential to plan the repurposing of the content you create. There are many ways to do this to add value to online marketing efforts. One example I often use involves taking screen shots of videos and transcribing the audio to text (transcript) for use as a separate blog post.

Another approach is to use modular content that has common key messages but can be customized for specific vertical markets or audiences. For example, a “How to Buy Product XYZ” article could be focused on different publications according to the varied reasons customers would want to buy the product – ie customized according to personas.  Yet another way to repurpose content is to take parts of numerous articles and compile them into one aggregated list.  We’ve done this with interviews where 2-3 of 10 questions for each of 20 plus interviews are very similar and designed to evoke tips as responses. The answers to those tactical questions are compiled into a new blog post or ebook as a list of tips from numerous industry experts.

The key thing about repurposing content is that it must still be accountable to a target audience, not just republish the same thing on multiple websites.

No Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

While awareness of the notion of SEO has grown quite a bit amongst the content marketing community, defining what SEO is can be varied. Many content professionals focus on keyword use as the defining characteristic of improving their content’s visibility on search engines.  Some content pros don’t use keyword research because they feel it might compromise their writing quality.  Bad keyword optimization implementation does degrade content quality.  However, great SEO is transparent and actually improves readability and user experience. If you think badly optimized copy represents all SEO, then you are mistaken.

A SEO professional would include many more points of impact on how search engines decide what’s on top and what’s not.  Keywords are important, but alone do not constitute Search Engine Optimization. Content Marketing that does not leverage the full impact of SEO to help search engines crawl, index and rank content means lost search traffic.  Website code, site architecture, keyword use within content, internal links between pages of the site, social signals, links from other websites to pages and other characteristics all contribute to the performance of content in search. Here’s a post listing 10 Steps to Better Content Marketing & SEO performance that illustrates how.

Hopefully, being aware of some of the short term approaches to content marketing with help you focus on creating real, sustainable value for your target audience.  If you’ve been developing a content marketing strategy and tested tactics, what have you found to be most successful? What mistakes have you seen form others?


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
5 Ways to Fail at Content Marketing & Tips to Succeed | http://www.toprankblog.com

Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media

There’s a recent surge in the business press about incorporating social media and search or basically a more holistic approach to natural search optimization. While many popular biz pubs are catching on, bloggers and consultants like the team at TopRank Marketing have been covering the topic for a while.  To help marketers better understand the notion of holistic SEO outside of PageRank, meta tags and link building, here are several of our most popular posts and articles on making online marketing programs both search and social media friendly:

social media search

How Does Social Media Affect Search Marketing? – This post answers key questions about social media and search engine marketing: Are they two peas in a pod, complementary or two very distinct channels? The answer lies in understanding searcher behaviors and how expectations have changed as part of the search and social networking experience.

social media optimization

16 Rules For Social Media Optimization Revisited - As social media has become a ubiquitous part of the online experience, it represents a new set of behaviors for consumers and marketers. The initial “rules” set forth in 2006 were revisited by Adam Singer to test their continued validity and you may be surprised at what he found.

Social SEO

4 Steps to Social Media SEO Success – “Simple and effective” sums up this post on incorporating SEO and Social Media: Listening, Content, Socialize and Measure. Too many companies make social media and certainly SEO more complex than it needs to be, bottlenecking progress. This 4 step approach makes social media SEO manageable, realistic and achievable.

social seo content marketing

B2B Online Marketing Trifecta: Content, Social Media & SEO – Long sales cycles and the influence of social recommendations reinforced by search visibility make a perfect integrated mix for B2B internet marketing. This post outlines how Optimized Content and Social Media participation work together to amplify online marketing results for B2B companies.

social media friendly

Is Your Website SEO and Social Media Friendly? – This guest post on Mashable brought to light the notion of social media features that can be added to websites to increase their attractiveness for engagement and sharing. Examples include: Fresh Content, Social Content, Interaction, Easy to Share and Syndication.  Shareable websites make it easy to attract attention to great content, which results in traffic and links. More relevant links mean better visibility in search engines which means even more traffic.

reinvigorate

5 Social Media SEO & Analytics Tools Worth Checking Out – What good is undertaking a social media and SEO effort if you can’t measure results? Here’s a selection of tools that help visualize or package social media SEO data for insight. They include: reinvigorate which offers real-time web analytics with heat maps; TwentyFeet dashboard which aggregates social stats from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and bit.ly; SocialFlow which posts messages during your audience’s most receptive time periods, measures CTR, retweets and followers; Ontolo which is an advanced link building tool; InfluenceFinder which is another link building tool that coordinates with Majestic SEO.

11 Free Tools for Social Media Optimization - Social media sharing and interaction creates content that can be crawled by search engines. That means it can be optimized for better visibility within search, attracting new members to your social networks and blog. Here are 11 free tools that come in pretty handy for testing the waters and measuring optimized social media content.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media | http://www.toprankblog.com

SES New York in 2011 – 5 Great Reasons to Get Search Smart in the Big Apple

March 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Search Engine Strategies

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Times Square New YorkSince 2005 or so, I’ve been pretty active speaking at conferences all over the world. Some of the cities I’ve been to for speaking engagements include: San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Detroit, Hong Kong, Auckland, Sydney, London, Barcelona, Toronto, Minneapolis and Park City, Utah. But to this day, my favorite city for a conference is New York.

All of the cities I’ve listed above have many great things going for them, but there’s something about New York that stands the test of time to me as the best city for a search and online marketing conference. This is a timely observation of course, since SES New York is coming up fast, March 21-25.

As a long time attendee, speaker and member of the SES Board of Advisors, I have some insight into how focused the Incisive Media team are at creating a great experience for attendees, sponsors and the media.  Based on that experience, here are 5 reasons why I think SES in New York might be one of the best marketing conference venues worth attending this year:

David Meerman Scott

1. Higher Quality Presentations – The gross number of speakers has been pared down considerably. Rather than panels with 5 or six speakers competing for 10 minutes of presentation time each and just a few minutes of Q & A, there are far more panels with 2 speakers and a moderator. Plus there are many more solo presentations from insanely smart people like Bryan Eisenberg, Bill Hunt and Mike Grehan.

The great thing about fewer speakers is that it gives them more time to drill down into the details. More in-depth presentations means attendees get an opportunity to understand the high level concepts as well as the practical details to act upon once back in the office. It’s virtually impossible to do that in 10 minutes. With more time to present, there’s more time to learn the things you need to know in order to make positive changes in your online marketing.

Of course the topical mix is worth noting as well, covering the gamut of Search, Social Media, Analytics and  specialized tracks from IAB, Reaching the Latino market and in depth training opportunities.

SES New York Marketers

2. Buyers Galore - In my experience, there’s something about SES New York that brings out a lot of company marketers that are not only looking to educate themselves but to source consultants and services. Maybe it’s an East Coast thing or maybe it’s a “Let’s get down to business” attitude that comes with NYC. All I know is, when I come back from SES New York, I always have a great list of new contacts. It’s not enough that there are buyers present though, there must be opportunities to meet and engage. New York provides numerous opportunities to do just that.

SES New York

3. Agencies Abound - Madison Avenue and the numerous East Coast agencies from nearby cities come out in force for SES New York. Actually, agencies from all over the world attend SES New York including my own, TopRank Online Marketing (yeah, that was a plug).

This is great for a few reasons: You’re looking for an agency to hire, looking to be employed by an agency, seeking new marketing partners with expertise that your agency does not have, conducting competitive intelligence or maybe recruiting. It’s always interesting to see how other agencies package their information.

Exhibit Hall

4. Full Exhibit Hall - Another great place to meet prospects, media, vendors, partners and potential new hires is the exhibit hall. Besides the exhibits themselves, there are usually sponsored happy hours or other events in the hall. SES is very good at selling out their booth space so you can count on a lot of different companies to learn about and connect with. In fact, there will be over 100 exhibitors at this year’s SES New York conference.

For companies attending SES looking for services, especially technology solutions, seeing the CEO or a subject matter expert speak about a case study using their software or online tool and then visiting the booth in the exhibit hall to get details and a demo can be a great combination.

Yahoo Sign Times Square

5. It’s New York City, Fuhgeddaboudit – For many, being in New York is enough by itself, but of course the knowledge gain and networking plays a part too. It’s often said that much of the “good stuff” in terms of highly prized secrets of SEO, or other disciplines are traded over food and libations after the event. What better place to network and talk shop informally than at one of the plentitude of diverse restaurants in New York?

If you’ve attended a conference in New York, what’s your favorite thing about having an event there? What were your most memorable experiences?

Check out SES New York’s information page for a full schedule of sessions and training. Also be sure to check out the Content Marketing Optimization panel with TopRank’s Jolina Pettice on Thursday March 24 at 3:15.


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SES New York in 2011 – 5 Great Reasons to Get Search Smart in the Big Apple | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social Media & SEO at Search Congress Barcelona

March 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media, social SEO

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search congress barcelona 2011Yesterday I spoke at Search Congress in Barcelona Spain on the topic of improving online marketing (and PR) with Social Media and SEO. My co-panelist was Aaron Kahlow of Online Marketing Connect and the moderator was the famous Massimo Burgio.

Just before the event, Massimo suggested we break out our Spanglish in the presentations plus I ran into Bryan Eisenberg who did a keynote – unexpectedly in Spanish because the translator didn’t show. “Gracias” and “si” are about all I know, so you can imagine the situation.

Speaking and presenting all in English wouldn’t be very considerate to the audience, so I decided to use Google translator (suggested by Mike Grehan) and translate most of my slides from English to Catalan. The presentation went over fairly well I think:

Search Congress Barcelona @leeodden

Here’s a summary of what I presented:

Search is increasingly social with the incorporation content from social sources (video, blogs, images) into standard search results ala Universal search in 2007 followed by potential toolbar data and information captured while logged in.

All major search engines take data feeds from Twitter and Facebook. In fact, if you compare the search volume numbers shared in this Search Engine Land article, Twitter is the second most popular search engine (Google 88bn, Twitter 18bn, Yahoo 9.4bn, Bin 4.1bn queries per month).

It’s an understatement to say social media usage has exploded in the past year. LinkedIn is over 100 million users, Twitter has over 200 million accounts and Facebook is around 600 million users.

The way consumer and B2B buyers discover, consume and share information has been influenced significantly by search and social technologies.

For example, I might ask my friends on Facebook if anyone can recommend good restaurants for Tapas here in Barcelona. I’ll get a few recommendations and search Google for the restaurant names. On the restaurant site I might see that Fodor’s or Lonely Planet has reviewed the restaurant and after reading that, looking at the menu, comments and Flickr photos I may decide that’s the place to make a reservation. At the restaurant I might check-in on Foursquare, take a few photos and Tweet what great (or horrible) food and service there is. Afterwards I might even leave a review on Google hotpot.

It can be argued that I’m somewhat of an early adopter, since a lot of people I know would probably only ask their friends via email for recommendations. Then they might Google the options and update their Facebook status if they had a particularly good or bad experience. But that’s still a reflection of changed discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors over a few years ago.

As marketers we have an opportunity to stay in tune with customer behaviors and adjust our marketing accordingly. To do that, here are two tactical approaches to consider:

Cycle of Social Media & SEO

Cycle of Social & SEO:

  • Create, Optimize & Promote: The cycle starts with optimized content creation and promotion.
  • Spark an Interest: Content is noticed, shared & voted on. Grows awareness.
  • Grow the Network: Increased exposure attracts more subscribers, fans, friends, followers & links.
  • Attract a New Audience: Increased links & social exposure grow search & referral traffic.
  • Extract Insights from Data: Traffic & community help research, develop & further grow social networks for content & SEO.
  • Learn, Modify, Repeat:  With the information gained from community data, editorial optimization plans can be refined for more effective content creation, optimization and promotion.

SEO Strategy Content Marketing

Hub and Spoke Model for Social, SEO & Content Marketing:

  • Create a social hub: blog, Facebook Fan Page, YouTube channel, Forum, Niche social network, whatever you want to drive social traffic to
  • Develop distribution channels and communities off the hub
  • Spend time creating, optimizing, promoting great content on the hub and growing networks in the spokes.
  • The exposure of content to communities empowered to publish creates editorial visibility and links back to your hub.
  • Links send traffic and increase search visibility.

Three things to do now:

  1. Establish a Listening Program:  Audience analysis, brand monitoring, social keyword research.
  2. Create a Social Media SEO Strategy:  Create, optimize & promote social content, develop networks.
  3. Make it Easy to Promote & Be Promoted:  Build a distribution network for content promotion & network with influencers.

Thanks to Ouali and the team at Search Congress for the opportunity to speak as well as Matt McGowan & Mike Grehan from Incisive for inviting me and Aaron Kahlow from OMS for being a co-panelist. I hope to visit Barcelona again in the future.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Social Media & SEO at Search Congress Barcelona | http://www.toprankblog.com

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