Buying SEO and Social Marketing Services

So you’re buying SEO and Social Media Services?

 

social media sites for small businessesIf you’re reading this, then I must believe that either you’re ready to buy, are thinking of buying, have bought and are unhappy, have bought and are happy or possibly you sell these services and are curious.

Of course the reason you are reading this may be something completely unrelated to those I list above but one thing is certain, for whatever reason, you’ve decided there’s something in this article for you. Else why would you read it?

For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume that you have a business (or possibly are in the process of setting one up) and have decided that you need to do some online marketing. So you are the people I’m talking to, the rest of you may listen in as long as you remember who I’m actually talking to.

First of all here’s my definition of SEO and Social Marketing

 

Doing something artificially that SE’s and especially Google want to happen naturally.

 

The two opposing ideas there are artificial and natural, think of almost anything and you’ll find that we generally think ‘natural’ is best. Want a new face cream? You might very well buy ‘scientifically formulated’ where you wouldn’t buy ‘artificial’ but if you could find a ‘scientifically proven natural’ product, chances are that’s the one you’d go for.

So now we know what I’m taking about when I say SEO or Social Marketing let’s look at why Google and the other SE’s want ‘natural’ linking and promotion. In a word spam, you know, the unsolicited emails you get and the sites that come up in the SERP’s (search engine results pages) that have no relation to the search term you put in.

Search engines don’t make money from your searches and if they ever tried to charge you to search the chances are the internet would go up in flames! They make their money from the adverts they display while you search. If an advertiser has chosen to pay for impressions (the number of times their ad is shown) rather than pay when someone clicks on the ad and goes to a webpage of some description, then the SE makes money just for showing the ad. You don’t have to interact with it in any way.

Your problem (and the SE’s) is that there are so many pages out there that it’s easy to get drowned out by the competition. Which is where SEO and social marketing come in. Links will be and always have been incredibly important in the world of on line marketing. If you could get enough links you would get to the top of page one. Then of course ‘link farms’ sprang up everywhere, sites that just contained 1000’s of links and which you could buy. For a while this worked well, until of course Google decided to make changes to their ranking algorithm and then all that wonderful rank dissolved like dirty ice in the Sahara.

Always the problem remains that you as a business need to do things artificially if you are to compete online. Yet if you’re caught by Google, you may lose out and it can destroy your business in the process of destroying your online rank and the visibility that gives you.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who’ve been online for years and, over those years have built up an impressive amount of useful content, then adopted social media and got ahead of the wave, then you are in a very lucky and unique position. Your job is easier because you just continue doing what you’ve always done, paying attention to the advice from Google, Bing and Yahoo.

If on the other hand you’re not then you have a difficult road to travel because in many ways your only option is to buy SEO and social marketing services from an expert. Then you have a completely different set of problems, how do you ensure you get an ‘expert’ and what in all honesty can they do?

SEO has a very bad name now, thousands of companies out there making promises they can’t possibly keep. Some of them just taking the money and doing nothing, usually at the very cheap end of the market.

Because of the nature of search these days results vary due to ‘personalization’ of results. The SE’s give more weight to sites your friends already like or recommend as well as removing or downplaying results that you’ve never clicked on, or have clicked on and bounced straight back to the search results.

Remember search engines continually strive to offer you relevant results, why would they continue to show you a site that you’ve never shown any interest in?

First rule in buying SEO and Social Marketing then is anyone who guarantees rank is lying and if you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Sure they may be able to show you a result that looks as if you have a number one (two or three) place on page one for a given keyword but it’s not a ‘true’ rank in the way it used to be. The reason for that (I heard you ask) is because position will depend on who’s searching unlike before personalization when anyone searching would get the same results.

Second rule in buying SEO and Social Marketing is you get what you pay for, that doesn’t mean that the most expensive service is the best. It does mean though that if you go with the cheapest you’re likely to be very disappointed. Artificially doing something so it looks natural takes time and effort, yes there are services that offer you ‘insane amounts of backlinks’ or ‘5000 directory submissions to boost your rank’. The problem is, that suddenly getting insane amounts of backlinks without new content that also stands the test of time will only harm your site. Why? Because it’s not natural.

Sure we’ve all heard about content going ‘viral’ and getting huge amounts of traffic and generating large even insane amounts of backlinks but it’s very rare and, doesn’t always increase rank. Only when that piece of content continues to generate likes, links, comments and interactions will it possibly affect rank.

Third rule in buying SEO and Social Marketing is do you measure up as a client? If you don’t know what your total marketing budget is, can’t say how much it costs you to get a new client, don’t know who your target market is or don’t know what the lifetime and first time value of a customer is, you have no business trying to saddle an SEO/Marketing provider with the job of increasing your business.

Forth rule in buying SEO and Social Marketing is that online marketing is about bringing in more business NOT rank or Facebook likes. Part of the formula for generating more business is the customer experience you provide for your customers. If you don’t provide an excellent customer experience, my advice to any company thinking about providing marketing services to you is …. DON’T.

The consumer is offered both on line and off, so much choice that your marketing efforts MUST start with the experience you provide for them. If you’re not prepared to ensure that experience, get out of the business of being in business. Go get a job where you don’t have to worry about this sort of thing. Of course when you do get a job, unless it’s with a company that provides excellent customer AND staff experience, either the company won’t last or, you’ll leave and go elsewhere.

The only businesses today that can afford to ignore the experience of their customers is government departments, and even there it’s becoming more difficult.

Remember to do SEO and Social Marketing means

  Doing something artificially that SE’s and especially Google want to happen naturally.

 

Then before you decide you will do it yourself, think about this, things change overnight, sometimes between the morning and afternoon. To be successful you need to keep up, keeping up is almost a full time job. That’s before you actually start doing anything.

That’s one of the biggest benefits to employing a company to do it all for you, they have the resources to keep up while actually doing what needs to be done.

When picking a company, remember the four rules and then pick someone you can talk to because they are going to be your partner rather than employee.

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Posted in Marketing On Line

Business at the speed of digital.

OK, so you’re in business, either just starting or well established and, you’re thinking about dipping your toe into the digital market place. Here’s the question, how long have you been thinking about it? A week? A month? 6 months? Are you waiting to make sure you’ve assessed and re-assessed the pro’s and con’s? Are you waiting for your partners to agree? Are you wondering who should actually ‘do it’ whatever ‘it’ is?

local economies need digital marketingWell I have news for you, you’re already too late because one of your competitors has just gone out and ‘done it’. Not only that, while they were learning, they got into conversation with people and asked questions, then they discovered a very profitable niche that they started to serve with truly excellent service. That led them to customers of yours who decided to switch because while they liked what you offered, they LOVE what your competitor now offers.

These digital shoppers weren’t buying actual ‘stuff’ online, they were looking for a local supplier just like you. they wanted to know what others thought of you (and your competition) they compared prices and service, they looked to see if others were satisfied with the product/service and, they wanted to know how you handled mistakes and complaints. All this regardless if the were buying a cheap throw away pen or a brand spanking new car, including everything in between.

Once they found your competitor, you know, the one who jumped into the digital pool while you were still ‘thinking about it’ they started to tell their friends and family, who in turn became happy customers and started to tell their friends and family. In fact, while you were still ‘thinking about it’ your competition not only stole some of your regular customers, they did they same to other businesses in your local market/industry and are now opening another branch. They’ve now head hunted some of your best staff (why would they take the ones who weren’t that good?) so your service just got worse and your costs have gone up and, your profits are slowly declining.

The moral is, don’t keep ‘thinking about it’ get in there and ‘do it’ because if you don’t, before you know it, you’ll be gathering dust in the annals of those who could but didn’t because they were too busy ‘thinking about it’!

 

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Posted in Marketing On Line

Facebook privacy row rumbles on

So now Facebook are going to remove the photo tagging feature for Europe. This is a feature that’s been a part of Facebook forever, or so it seems! Personally I like that my family and friends can tag me in a photo, it let’s me know when a new one has been uploaded and, let’s me know they were thinking of me.

Why I wonder can’t it just be added to privacy settings at a personal level, as a default so that to turn it on means you have to elect to do something rather than the other way round. The continual rumblings about Facebook and privacy make no sense. If someone doesn’t want the world to know what they’re up to, don’t join Facebook.

What about Wikipedia? Contributors can create Bio pages about people, give all sorts of personal information and post a photo or two. The same can be said about free blogging platforms, you can post information including photo’s about anyone, as long as it’s not offensive.

Small businesses are becoming more aware of the way information can be released about them and their business by seemingly unrelated people, on review sites like Yelp and Qype. On local directories like Google Local + and Bing Maps.

One has to wonder how all this can be monitored, or is it a conspiracy against Facebook because despite all the grumblings and complaints it’s grown so huge?

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Posted in Social Media

Visual Marketing

Did you know that 24 hours worth of video footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute? I mean think about that for a moment, it would take 1 person 400 years just to watch it all, if that is no more were uploaded. So why is that do you think? Well do you have a smart phone? If you don’t as a business owner I can promise you that the majority of your customers do.

Now think about this, is it easier to watch a 30 second video or read 4 paragraphs of text on that small screen? The majority of people will answer ‘video’ if asked that question. The instantaneous delivery of information via the internet has made us impatient, we want what we want and we want it now, especially when we want access to website content.

Having a video to watch on the go, feeds that desire, so if you don’t use video and images to visually market your site, you’re going to be losing out on business. Video and images are emotional, remember the old saying? ‘A picture’s worth a thousand words.’ Well how many words do you think a video is worth?

You may take a look at your competitors and feel safe that none of them is using video, don’t feel safe, take the lead! Use video and images to get your marketing message out in front of people and establish yourself as the market leader.

Sing your message, dance your message, mime your message, get it on video and get it on line. Get your happy customers to do the same and get them on line too. There’s nothing quite like happy smiling real faces to send a powerful message. Don’t wait, it’ll be too late!

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Motivation

how do you motivate staffHow do you motivate others? There are many books written on how to overcome procrastination in ourselves but how do we over come lethargy, disinterest and procrastination in others?

After all, if we’re talking about staff the mood they’re in, whether positive and motivated or negative and disinterested can and does have an effect on our bottom line profits. After all, how many times have you been in a place of business and been upset with the attitude of the person dealing with you?

Turn this around and imagine one of your staff was treating your customers in the same manner. How pleased would you be that your customers were leaving your business with that negativity for St in their mind? What sort of report are they likely to give others about your business and, is that report in any way going to help build your business brand in a positive way?

Remember that every one involved in your business is also involved in selling your business, even where their job description does not include the word ‘sales’. How? Because they are the face of your business every time they interact with a customer, prospective customer or even just mention who they work for.

Think about it, in a casual setting we discuss who we work for, where we work, the people we work with and the customers we deal with. Positively motivated staff will speak in a positive manner, on the other hand, those whose ‘take on their employer and workmates is negative will do the opposite.

Motivation then is key in maintaining a good atmosphere for customers and workers but in keeping staff turnover low, where dedicated sales staff are concerned it’s important to keep motivation high or that will translate into lower sales and lost revenue.

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Posted in Sales and Selling

Building links with blog comments

Commenting on blog posts is a time honored way of building links. It’s not difficult, just time consuming if done properly. As an example I’ve had around ten comments on one of my recent posts. None of which are genuine, all of which are spam. So guess what, I have not approved one, so all those comments were wasted.

Basically what these people have done is post a generic comment that often not only adds nothing to the conversation but often does not make sense. How can this be? Because they use automated software that just creates gibberish or, they copy and paste keyword text and links into the comment box.

how not to make blog comments

Makes you wonder why they bother doesn’t it? They can hit 1000’s of blogs with this sort of software and some of those comments will stick. Get enough and it will have a slight effect but not a lot.

If you want to make blog commenting work, you need to start with blogs that are relevant or complimentary to your niche market. For example, one of the comments I deleted included a query about where to buy a wedding dress! Second you actually need to read the post and make a thoughtful comment, something that adds to the conversation.

You can disagree (politely) offer a slightly different point of view, you can even agree with some of the content, but it has to go further than ‘nice blog,
I agree with you’.  Get into conversation with the blog owner and give value, that way your link is less likely to get trashed.

Besides ten good quality blog comment links from valued sites will do more for your ranking than 100 poor quality ones that only exist because the blog owner doesn’t care.

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Marketing in a digital world

In today’s digitally connected world, how many of you take advantage of both the old and new to create a seamlessly integrated marketing plan? Do you for example take full advantage of press releases to both build good back links to your site and, stimulate interest in whatever you’re doing?

Most small businesses don’t. If I tell a client that they need to send out a press release at least twice a month, they find it difficult. They don’t think outside the box when it comes to subject matter. For example, if you have a ‘special offer’ why not send out a press release detailing what it is and donating a portion of the proceeds to a local charity?

This is newsworthy and it promotes the business as one that cares about and gives back to the local community. That is worth at least two press releases, one to announce the offer and one to give the results.

Every month at least, there must be a news item about your industry or local market, that’s the time you send out a Press release giving your opinion and any action you may or may not take in relation to the news.

On a more personal note, what’s happening in the lives of you or your workforce? Is someone reaching a milestone birthday, winning a race, taking part in an event, lost weight, had a baby, recovered from an illness, won a competition, leaving, being promoted, being arrested, come on guys, something must be happening!

Any and all of these can be approached as an opportunity to send out a press release. People need to see your business name around 7-8 times before they begin to recognize it and have some trust, seeing your name on news sites or being able to read those news stories on your site adds trust.

It goes without saying, or at least it should that whatever you’re doing offline should be promoted online and vise versa. Use your social media to announce offline events and items of interest. Ask people to comment on your events, ask for their help in promoting it and get them involved. Then send out a press release and or do a short advertising campaign to let everyone know that not only are you doing the event you’re involving your online community too.

Take photos and post them on your site, social media profiles, turn them into slide shows and post this on line, turn them into videos and either narrate them or have music in the background or both, post this online, on you site, social media, send out a press release. Just get the word out!

Take advantage of digital connectedness to connect with more people, you’ll build your brand and your profits.

When it comes to promoting you online presence offline, the best way and one of the most useful to you is to have cards printed with the places people can leave a review. The card should contain your website, business email and phone number, along with the most popular review site profiles you have.

What’s that you say – you don’t have any profiles set up on Google Local Plus, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Foursquare or Facebook? Then stop reading this and get out there and do it! Then send out a press release telling everyone where they can post and read reviews.

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The Customer Experience as a Marketing Tool

Customer Experience – A Marketing Tool

So many businesses, large and small fail to take advantage of using the customers own experience with their product or service as a marketing tool. What does this mean? So many companies emphasise their commitment to ‘customer service’ but customer service usually only happens when things go wrong for some reason, including where the customer just bought the wrong thing for their needs or just changed their mind. At this point customer service is indeed extremely important, without it, you can find yourself on the receiving end of bad reviews or complaints, all of which can be time consuming and damaging.

The experience the customer has with your product or service starts when they first contact you, whether that contact is an anonymous visit to your website, a phone call or first visit to your bricks and mortar place of business. This is where the ‘tone’ of their experience is set, make it positive and you’re more likely to not only get the sale but find a customer who will return time and time again.

However, if the opposite is what happens, then not only do you make it more difficult to get the initial sale, but you also make it more likely that even should they buy, next time, they’ll still be looking elsewhere.

The customer experience involves every sensory input as well as subjective judgements made by the customer. As a case in point’ I’m sat in a restaurant having brunch as I write this, the waitress has been excellent, the duty manager though… Well she’s done nothing actually wrong, it’s just she came over and asked us if everything was OK. We said yes, then my husband asked for a refill for his drink. At this point I should mention the only staff on duty are the waitress and the duty manager. At the point where my husband ordered a refill, the waitress was serving another table, so what did the duty manager do?

on line marketing for off line businessShe called out to the waitress to bring us a refill, what’s so bad you ask, nothing really but as she was doing nothing herself, why make us wait until the other table had been served? Had she like other managers in this same restaurant just got it herself, it would have added to our experience rather than diminish it.

The next thing is that we have (we come here a lot) the same meal, it rarely changes, yet sometimes the bill comes out at twice the normal rate. This is because each duty manager interprets the pricing (we change a standard menu item for another) when the overall manager is on duty we get charged the standard rate, this duty manager charges all items as ‘sides. This has the effect of doubling the price.

Now we’re regulars, but even we get fed up and if this happens too often, we just don’t come for a few weeks, we go elsewhere. If this happened in our first couple of visits we probably wouldn’t have become regulars. So relaxing or resting on your laurels with regular customers is not a good idea either.

There is so much competition around, no matter what business you’re in that providing an above average customer experience every time is mandatory if you want to stay in business.

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Why do we concentrate so much of our marketing energy on Google?

It may seem a strange question when Google is unquestionably the king, even emperor of search. However, bear with me, because what you really need is to have an eggs in many small baskets, not all your eggs in one large one. Obviously if you can rank well in Google then you can expect to get business. Yet at any time, Google can change the way it ranks sites and all your business can instantly disappear.

That’s the inherent weakness in having all your eggs in that one large basket.

Let’s look at what happens if you have all your eggs spread around in little baskets. Well for a start, it doesn’t matter what Google does because you don’t depend on that basket. If you get some traffic from Google all well and good. But if the mighty Google does flip out, you don’t lose all your traffic. That means you have time to re-think what you do so you can get back into the good graces of the mighty god Google.

So where are these other baskets?

They are social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, local directories like Brown Book, review sites like Yelp and Angie’s list. Then there are industry blogs where you can post thoughtful comments articles to write and post, press releases to be written and posted. Each one of these includes a link or signpost back to your site. So the more you have spread across the internet, the more people will find them, and the more people will find your site.

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Posted in Marketing On Line

Video or not?

Is Video Really The Marketing Cure All?

So many ‘experts’ are telling small, medium and of course large businesses that they should be using video in their marketing mix. Some go so far as to say you ‘must’ have videos or you’ll ‘fail’. The link below will take you to an article that details how the growth of video is set to keep expanding.

http://techcrunch.com/2009/06/09/cisco-by-2013-video-will-be-90-percent-of-all-consumer-ip-traffic-and-64-percent-of-mobile/

I don’t think anyone would argue with that, but does it follow that without video you will somehow fail? I personally don’t think so, I mean consider this, with all those videos out there and, more being added every second, it’s pretty much in the lap of the internet god (or is that Google) as to whether your particular video gets found. If it does get found is it worth watching? There is the crux of the matter, videos are only really ‘marketing miracles’ if they in some way catch the attention of people and make them laugh, cry, get angry, feel great or in some other way engage their interest enough for them to pass it on.

Sure, a video posted on line gives a link back to your site then that is and of itself useful, if you have that one video posted on ten video sites, then you get ten links. Where video comes in is if you can create one hundred videos and post each of those on ten video sites…………. Well you do the math.

Will those videos go viral? It depends, what are you selling and what have you come up with as the content of your video. Take blenders for example. Blendtec thought outside the box when trying to promote their blenders and so, decided to film the blender trying to blend and ……..iPhone and many other strange and wonderful things. http://www.youtube.com/user/blendtec?feature=results_main

Can you think outside the box? If you can and you can create videos that astound, entertain, engage and create an urge to share then yes, videos can be and are, amazing marketing tools. But you have to think outside the box or you’ll sink into the sea of mediocrity that is video land.

Here is a list for you of the top video sites along with their page rank, all free to sign up, so get your camera out and then ……

Lights! Camera! Action!

Blip.tv (STRICTLY NO ADS) PR8
BoFunk.com PR 4
Dailymotion.com PR 6
dekhona.com PR 4
eCorpTv.com PR 3
en.vidivodo.com PR 4
fark.com PR 7
gawkk.com PR 4
iviewtube.com PR 5
Myspace.com PR 9
Photobucket.com PR 9
Veoh.com PR 6
snotr.com PR 4
vodpod.com PR 8
YouTube.com PR 9
yourdailymedia.com PR 4
Hictu.com PR 4
Videobash.com PR 6
Vimeo.com PR 9

If you decide to create accounts and post videos, don’t forget that to make the most of them, you’ll need to promote each and every account.

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Re-Generating Local Economies

Small businesses today need to be marketing their local business on-line, on social media sites as well as with internet marketing. Unless they do, more and more will suffer.
If you have an idea you'd like to share that may help local economies survive and thrive, please feel free to post.