Think Before You Launch

DON’T DO IT: Careless site redesign. Before you redesign your company site, work with your SEO firm to identify how the new design will affect search visibility. Many web designers are great at making sites look nice, but they are always not as well seasoned in SEO and conversion disciplines.  Everything from page layout, to content and keyword usage, navigation, links and redirects have a major impact on your SEO.  Launching a new, “prettier” site may be exciting, but if the site isn’t designed with SEO considerations in mind, you may actually get LESS from your website than you were getting before the redesign.

DON’T DO IT: Install a new CMS without a plan. A change in your content management system means a change in the templates that format Web pages, navigation, and often the URL structure of pages.  If your site is ready for a complete overhaul and every piece of it can comfortably be a thing of the past, by all means.  But, for example, if some of your current site pages are ranking very well with the search engines for competitive keywords, tweaking those URLs or the page copy could compromise the integrity that page has built up over time – that integrity that is causing it to rank. Don’t put yourself back at ground zero if you don’t need to.  Make sure you have an SEO migration plan in place, including an outreach program to your top sources of inbound link traffic.

DON’T DO IT: Allow inbound links to dwindle. Monitor fluctuations in inbound link counts and identify ways to minimize link loss through active content creation, promotion and social participation. Keep in mind, you will need to contact inbound link sources should your site pages not auto-redirect.  Don’t leave them sending interested visitors to a 404!

DON’T DO IT: Create duplicate content. Regarding press releases, RSS feeds or articles that are syndicated, always make sure the original is published on your site first. Then be sure to clearly link any duplicates back to the original.  Duplicate content is, to put it nicely, frowned upon by search engines, like Google.  Don’t use dupe content on pages throughout your website and don’t “buy” copy from companies that are willing to sell it to multiple others.  Content marketing doesn’t work if everyone else is saying the same thing.

DO IT: Cover all redesign bases. If you are redesigning your site, you are investing a lot of time, money and resources into its development.  So do it right.  Explore your existing site and figure out what needs to be migrated along with your domain name.  Seek out help from SEO and conversion experts to ensure your new site is designed and coded for success.  Equip your site with great, original and targeted content.  Be engaging and interactive.  Be fresh.  Obey proper usability and accessibility standards. Have a migration plan.  User test.  User test again.  Sleep on it.  And never be afraid to consult the experts.

Posted by Rob Reed August 6th, 2010 at 9:52 am to Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Website Design & Conversion

Sharing is Caring: Seven Ways to Get Shared on Facebook

Dan Zarella of Hubspot wants to help you get shared.

With middle-aged divorcees, college students, grandmas, insurance agents, coffee shops, doctor’s offices and dedicated social media marketers out there all posting content on Fcaebook, how can one be sure that what they “say” is seen, and perhaps even spread to a wider audience?  How does one ensure the mighty virality?  Well Dan conducted a pretty interesting study and has been kind to share his seven ways on how to promote sharing.

First Off, How He Did It

For several weeks, Dan compiled around 12,000 articles posted to Facebook, with many coming from highly esteemed sites such as Mashable and CNN. Next, he found the average number of times each was “shared”–meaning it was commented on, liked, or directed to a friend-.  He then analyzed the make-ups, including subject matter, type of content, date posted, among other factors – and then produced a list of the winners and losers.

Even Dan won’t say that his findings hold 100% water – but they may serve as a great hint – and help enlighten you on how to get shared.  But either way, do with them what you may.

1. Talk about Sex – Baby

Well maybe not all at once.  But perhaps a gutter mind is a good mind? Dan found that articles about sex were almost three times more likely to go viral than articles dealing with other subjects, such as work, sleeping habits, sports scores, etc. Posting about sex may not be appropriate or wise for some Facebookers, but regardless evidently the topic gets noticed, and shared.

2. Answer the Why’s and How’s

Aside from “Facebook,” the most Facebook-friendly word is “why”– followed closely by “how”–which suggests that people are more likely to share content that legitimately explains something.  Humans are curious and for the most part want to understand the world around them,  If Facebook can provide them answers, they are evidently likely to share them with their networks. Dan’s study also found that it helps to include superlatives such as “most” and “best” to modify lists.

3. Ex-nay on the Nerd Speak & Technology Battles

Humans do like controversy.  That won’t change.  But too much techno babble about “Facebook vs. Twitter” and the “Google phone vs. the iPhone” has never been impressive to the mainstream Facebook audience.These conversations and topics do however seem to be very accepted and as a result commonly retweeted on Facebook’s masked social media arch nemesis: Twitter.

4. Ditch the Adverbs and Adjectives

Leave the flowery language for your significant other.  Get to the point on this platform.  Facebookers do not want novels, or content overly seasoned with adverbs and adjectives.  Repeat after me.  NOUN VERB NOUN.  Or even better – VERB NOUN.

5. Need you Some Numbers

“People like data and specifics,” says Zarrella. Drop some digits and don’t be surprised if your content is shared.

6. Let’s Get Visual, Visual

Multimedia components are highly shareable. The Facebook platform lets users embed songs and videos which is one way it is differentiated from the text-only Twitter.  Think Bizcit the Sleep Walking Dog.  Now tell me you wouldn’t share it…

7. Don’t Just Facebook M-F, 9-5

Given that more than half of U.S. employers block Facebook at work, it makes sense that Facebook is busy on weekends and after hours. But also, because there’s generally less going on, “each individual story gets more attention,” Zarrella explains.

Posted by Rob Reed August 2nd, 2010 at 8:25 am to Marketing, Social Media Marketing

Life Before Google

You may find it hard to believe, but seventeen years ago (summer of 1993) – no search engines for the web existed yet.   Web content at that time was organized by specialized catalogs that were maintained entirely by hand.  And we whine and complain about content management today…

The web’s first primitive search engine, W3 Catalog, was released on September 2, 1993 by Oscar Nierstrasz [who could not have had any idea of the magnitude of his creation.]

Perhaps more well-known to us modern-day searchers is WebCrawler one of the first “full text,” public crawler-based search engines which came out in 1994.  For the first time, searchers could search for any word in any webpage, which has become the standard for all major search engines since. Lycos was also released in 1994 and was a Web Crawler competitor.  I was actually watching the movie “Fallen” (1998) starring Denzel Washington about a week ago – and noticed him researching information about satanic forces and lingering spirits through one of the search engines of the time: WebCrawler.  I recognized it immediately by the familiar spider on web logo mark.

For the next few years search engine releases were Magellan, Excite, InfoSeek, Inktomi, Northern Light, AltaVista and today’s Yahoo!.

Around 2000, Google was born of a virgin, in a stable, and quickly rose to prominence.  Its innovation called “PageRank” allowed Google to achieve better results for more searches than its predecessors.  Google’s claim to fame was its unique algorithm that ranked web pages based on the number and PageRank of other web sites and pages that link there, on the premise that good or desirable pages are linked to more than others. As well, Google kept a minimalist interface, with an obvious site call to action: SEARCH. In contrast, other search engines made their home pages more a portal experience, with the search box as prevalent as other site information like weather, celeb news, horoscopes, sports, etc.

Following Google’s birth, other search engines arose, and others rose and fell, others acquired others, mergers combined search technologies…Overture, AlltheWeb, Looksmart, MSN Search, Bing, Yahoo! Search, etc.

But none have been as successful and as popular as the market leader Google.  With over 70% of the search engine market share, Google continues to field more search queries than any other search engine, as well as rank as the most visited site on the web [with Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo! on its tails].

But regardless, there was life before Google.  It just may not have been as ALGORITHMICALLY EXTRAORDINARY.

Posted by Rob Reed July 29th, 2010 at 10:48 am to Marketing, Search Engine Optimization

How to “Like” Facebook Advertising

Facebook’s 400 million [and growing]  active users as a group spend more time on the platform than on any other website in the world, freely sharing information about themselves from their favorite music and activities, to photo albums of their recent vacation spots…their likes, dislikes, college affiliation, marriage status, etc.

With this treasure trove of consumer information just sitting out there on the Internet, it’s no surprise that marketers are putting their advertising dollars there in the form of highly targeted ads.  A recent survey of advertising executives by Myers Publishing LLC named Facebook the No. 1 website in providing “valuable targeted audiences” to advertisers, and marketers are expected to spend upward of $1 billion on Facebook advertising this year.

Despite the new opportunity and its attractiveness, Facebook advertising is still in its early stages compared to the paid-search market, [worth nearly $14.6 billion in 2009] – and is still rapidly growing.

Facebook advertising has a different modus operandi than the search engine marketing world.   On Facebook, advertisers can, and must target users based on their “likes” and “interests” as opposed to users’ search queries. However, when “likes” and “interests” are thought of more as the SEM-familiar “keywords” – advertising on Facebook begins to look less and less a stranger.

This is because Facebook and paid-search advertising have ad platforms that fundamentally rely on targeting specific user segments based on keywords.  As well, creative ad copy, and conversion quality of landing pages have an impact on both platforms, and must be considered and executed thoughtfully.

And so with an SEM minded expertise, one can advertise on Facebook and consider many common elements and practices: analyzing conversion rates and return on investment down to the creative level, building out multiple campaigns with similar targeting parameters, refining campaign targeting, testing ad-copy and landing-page effectiveness, bidding on audiences and managing campaign quality.

Everyone loves BEST PRACTICES.  Here you are.

Morph Keywords into “Likes” and “Interests”

Facebook targeting relies heavily on keywords to target users based on their Likes and Interests, and users have voluntarily identified millions of those things on Facebook, from South Park to Indian Food to Obama to hiking and beyond.

Your highest-performing paid-search keywords may give you some guidance in developing relevant keywords to use as Likes and Interests on Facebook.

When developing your initial keyword list, focus on terms that represent topics and themes rather than extremely narrow, product-specific keywords (unless, of course, your product is well known enough to be “liked” by a significant number of people on Facebook) – and just because you like it does not mean this is the case on a grander level.

For example, if you sell tents, consider Likes and Interests such as “backpacking,” “eagle scouts,” “s’mores,” “campfires,” and other related activities.

Meet Images

Paid-search marketers are of the mindset: TEXT, TEXT, TEXT and search ads are typically limited to a 25-character headline and a 75-character description, making testing and tweaking ad copy a breeze. On Facebook, there is another volatile player. Not only is there more copy to play with, but—more important—you need an image.

Think about your last visit to Facebook.  I am sure you recall a huge feed of enticing updates from your friends, family and colleagues, images screaming to be expanded, engagement announcements, viral video sharing, etc. The Facebook feed is a busy, exciting and ever-changing place.

And it is the place with which your ads must compete.  Now how do you get a busy, involved, Facebooker’s attention?  Welcome back to the age-old question.

The most successful ads include colorful, engaging images—and, needless to say, a relevant offer. Like the search engine marketing world, testing ads is crucial – and your results may surprise you.

Mix It Up

Users spend an average of more than seven hours a month on Facebook, so they will be exposed to your ads much more frequently than to paid-search ads. Because a Facebook ad can be served to the same user multiple times, it doesn’t take long for Facebook users to become “blind” to an advertisement.

And if your ad has low click-through rates, Facebook may serve it less frequently than newer ads that have no performance history.  As a result, continually updating ad images and copy is important to keep Facebook ads fresh and quality scores high.

Keep in mind, there is also an option for Facebook users to “x” out your ad – and when they do, they receive the following question:

So if you put out uninteresting, misleading, offensive or repetitive ads, don’t expect much success within this advertising platform. Like search engine advertising, Facebook ads take thought, work and not an ounce less of creative brainpower.

Posted by Rob Reed July 27th, 2010 at 10:35 am to Marketing, Pay Per Click Advertising, Social Media Marketing

Is Your Online Video Dressed for Success?

Online Video Should Be Dressed For SuccessImplementing video on your website is no longer a new idea – and I am sure you have noticed more and more video interaction on the sites you visit in your everyday web crawling.  But no matter how much time or money spent on your web video, or how proud of it you are; if people can’t find it, it won’t meet its business value potential.

To ensure your videos offer the utmost value online, follow these rules:

Maintain high quality: We have all seen those poorly produced videos and know how painful they can be to watch.  High quality video is essential, and with the HD technology of today – it has come to be expected.  Shaky camera handling and poor resolution will reflect poorly upon your organization, and people may laugh at you.

“To, to, today Junior!” – Keep video under 2 minutes: Encourage views, links and comments with short, sweet and compelling content and be mindful of your site visitors’ time.  If it can be said well in two minutes, film it – and if it can’, perhaps consider another way to convey the message. And be sure to use a high-resolution thumbnail image to represent your video in search results.  People do at times just books by their covers.

Place relevant keywords in a video’s title, description and tags: Search engines can’t read video content directly like they can text, or images equipped with alt tags.  It is for this reason, you need to tell spiders and site visitors what your video is about by describing the content in the YouTube fields.  Use full sentences when writing your description, and be sure to begin with your company’s URL so that it displays in YouTube’s search results.

Choose the most liberal YouTube settings: If you have ever added a video to YouTube, you know you have the option to make your video private and to disallow comments and video responses.  You can also prevent people from voting on comments, rating your video, and embedding it on their site.  But don’t do any of these things.  Rude feedback may sound terrifying and threatening – but it is simply a reality with the interactive landscape.  If you make a good video, people will acknowledge it.  So breathe, grow thicker skin, and equip your videos with less restrictive settings.  It will make for a much greater interactive rewards later.

Promote your video offline: Be sure your sales people, and marketing team are promoting your new video through all communication channels.  Blast out an email singing its praises, or push it out through social media outlets.  Videos are made to be watched.  Get eyes on them!

Posted by Rob Reed July 12th, 2010 at 1:33 pm to Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Uncategorized, Website Design & Conversion