Believing, acting, becoming

Today I was listening to a speaker who shared, as an aside, that the root origin of the word believe is related to “act as if.” Some small research says that the origins are “love,” or “to live according to.”

None of these has anything to do with thinking. They’re about either motion – or emotion.

We like to think that the things we believe are founded in logic and rationality. That we have proof to back them up. Yet neuroscience shows that people who can’t experience emotion can’t make decisions. Without emotion we can’t come to a conclusion, and there is no logic that can break through the way we feel about something.

Our belief is driven by what we feel, and demonstrated by what we do. And if we look at what we’re doing in any situation, it’s a pretty important clue about what we really believe.

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The 3 Latest Google Changes that Can Burn Your Business

600px US 3.svg  The 3 Latest Google Changes that Can Burn Your BusinessIn the digital age, most businesses rely on web traffic to support their business in some way. For some, a consistent stream of visitors means lots of leads or sales, and dollars directly into their pockets. Other businesses are looking for visibility among their competitors and to ensure brand credibility with a professional web presence.

As Google and other search engines continue to raise the bar for website quality, businesses need to know the factors that can make them rise to the top, or fall into oblivion.

Here are some of Google’s latest changes that can most affect your search engine success. (Keep reading for some tips on how to stay ahead of search engine updates.)

1. Panda

In February 2011, Google launched a shot across the bow with its Panda update. Panda sought to penalize “content farms” — websites that generate huge volumes of low-value or plagiarized content for the purposes of ranking for a topic. While many content farms fell out of the rankings, plenty of legitimate businesses also saw big negative impact on their rankings.

Your website may have suffered the Panda hit if your web traffic from search dropped significantly almost overnight in late February or early March 2011.

Your SEO Plan: The best way to reduce the impact of Panda on your web traffic is to eliminate any duplicate or low-value content on your website. For instance, if you use the same text to describe your business on multiple pages of your website, you may have an issue. If you have a hundred pages on the site with little to no valuable content, that may also spell trouble. Or, if you take a good chunk of your content from other websites, even if it’s completely legal as with articles from eZineArticles.com or similar article directories, you may also be penalized under Panda.

Look at your website page by page and ask yourself: “Is this content unique? Is it valuable to the user? Is it necessary?” If you don’t find yourself saying yes, consider changing or eliminating the page.

2. Venice

Are you loving the code names yet?

Venice launched sometime earlier this year and is targeted at improving localized search results. In other words, it’s designed to provide better results to people looking for products and services where they’re located.

Whether you’re a local business or national, you want to be relevant to people where they are. Showing up in local search results is a big part of that.

Your SEO Plan: If you’re a local business, you’re going to want to make mention of your city, or the closest major city center, on your site in multiple places. List your address prominently on your site. If you’re actively working to secure links to your site, try to get a good chunk of links from local sites, especially within your industry. Connect with local bloggers, engage in local discussion forums, etc.

3. Search + Your World

In January, Google rolled out “Search + Your World” (we wrote about it in depth here.) This update wasn’t to the actual rankings, but to how they were displayed. With Search + Your World, users started to see personal search results mixed in with their typical list of relevant links. This means that discussions their friends were having on Google+ about the topic would be just as likely to show up in rankings as established, authoritative websites. Personal results were also rolled into images, with relevant images from Google Contacts showing up first, followed by general results.

This update made it harder to get the attention of the general search user as the clutter of personal results took up valuable search real estate.

Your SEO Plan: Consider how social media can impact your search performance. Even if you don’t see the need to connect with people on Twitter for your business, it’s clear that social media activity is influencing search and driving web traffic. For Search + Your World, being connected on Google is most important. Make sure your brand has a Google+ page as a starting point. From there, make the most of the connections that you already have — customers/clients, vendors, employees and more — by inviting them to connect on social platforms and share your content.

The bottom line…

SEO is a complicated topic, but you don’t have to be an expert to improve your performance. Spend some time looking for ways to make your website an overall better, clearer and more valuable tool for your customers and you’ll benefit in the long run.

 

 

 

 

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12 critical strengths of the perfect online marketing team

hybrid 12 critical strengths of the perfect online marketing team

On the Convince and Convert blog, Paul Roetzer shared his perspective on what the future of online marketing looks like.

He presents the “hybrid marketer,” a multidisciplinary marketing strategist, as the key to marketing success online in the future. He says:

Forward-thinking organizations seek hybrid professionals who are highly proficient writers, analytical and tech savvy, with a strong grasp on business, IT and human behavior. These next-generation professionals excel in the emerging core-marketing disciplines of mobile, analytics, social, web, search and content. They envision on a strategic level, building fully integrated campaigns, and they have the capabilities to execute on the tactical level, conducting activities that drive real business results.

Why the hybrid marketer will add more value

Roetzer’s analysis of the skills needed in online marketing today is spot on. Online marketing presents huge opportunities, but online channels have their own set of challenges. Here are just a few of the factors that make the hybrid marketer increasingly valuable:

  • Speed: The best practices of last summer may not apply today. Online marketing pros have to be current with the latest trends and tools, but also need to be able to evaluate why the trends are important and how the tools can contribute to the bottom line. By the time a new platform is fully evaluated and documented, you’ve lost the opportunity to be a trailblazer.
  • Transparency: Online audiences demand humanity, responsiveness, authenticity and transparency from brands. To achieve this, business has to cultivate a voice and empower their online team to engage with people in real time, even dealing with difficult issues and negative feedback. Doing this well requires a deep understanding of the business, a sophisticated grasp of voice, and skills that range from customer care to PR.
  • Leverage: Many businesses struggle with how to get visible online everywhere. Success comes from aligning resources to get the biggest reach with the minimum investment. For instance, if you have research to share, there are opportunities for SEO, social media, lead generation, email marketing and more. Being able to identify, orchestrate and execute on these opportunities is the key to rapidly growing your presence.
  • Technology: And of course, online marketing is based on technology that changes daily. Understanding and embracing the importance of mobile optimization, browser compatibility, website architecture and more requires a devotion to the inner technophile.

These trends in combination make the hybrid marketer critical to the business of the future. Quite frankly, business won’t be able to keep up with the changing online landscape without this kind of talent. So, whether you outsource it or add staff in-house, you have to know what kind of skills you’re looking for.

12 strengths to build into your online marketing team

Whether you’re hiring in-house staff or working with an agency, you’ll get better bang for your marketing investment with the right team. So what does this strategy-plus-implementation-equals-results marketing team look like? Here are some of the traits that will pay off:

  1. Strategic mind: Marketing investment should be tied to business goals, strategic priorities, and market opportunities. One of the biggest gifts a strategist can bring to your team is the ability to scan for opportunities and make decisions about which are worth pursuing, how and when, to make the maximum impact.
  2. Business savvy: Great marketers have always understood how marketing connects with the bottom line. Now, they have to get how marketing connects with operations, sales, customer service, strategic partnerships, PR, and more. Marketing has to know the business inside and out, so they can speak for the business across platforms.
  3. Digital immersion: Online has its own language, and your team has to speak it fluently. It’s not enough to apply marketing principles online. Your best team members will eat, sleep and breathe the digital world. This immersion means valuable experience, but it also speaks to passion for online engagement. That passion will come through in the voice of your brand.
  4. Creativity: Online marketing allows for you to build digital assets from the ground up. A creative spirit will drive innovation in your methods and your message, which is what makes an online marketing campaign into something groundbreaking, engaging or shareable.
  5. Implementation: Once the creative is done, it’s time to release it into the real world. Great online marketing campaigns can unfold over months, or can make a big splash overnight. Either situation requires extensive planning and solid execution. Your team needs a focus on implementation to make your creative concepts work.
  6. Curiosity: Not every online marketer needs to be a code junkie (although that’s not a bad skill set to have.) But an understanding of the language of web development or the new changes to Google’s algorithm helps marketers work in greater alignment with more technical disciplines, which means better results all around. Curiosity about how things work sets the foundation for ongoing learning.
  7. Vision: The only way to achieve maximum potential is to be able to visualize it. A visionary team can see the potential in the company, the brand, the products and the marketing mix, and use that vision to aggressively exploit opportunities as they arise.
  8. Results focus: In order for your marketing investment to make sense, there have to be quantifiable results. But it’s not enough to set the standard from the outside and expect the team to meet it. The perfect team values results intrinsically, and therefore naturally builds measurement and ROI into everything they do.
  9. Skepticism: A team that questions assumptions, digs into the data and seeks proof before making a strategic decision holds your business to a higher standard and avoids wasting time and resources responding to someone’s gut instinct. Skepticism keeps sacred cows from interfering with smart strategy.
  10. Exceptional, prolific writing: Content marketing is the core of online marketing today. Blogging, social media, email marketing, web and more are based on presenting information, education, or entertainment in a way that engages readers. For a dynamic brand that drives sharing and engagement, no ordinary content will do. The content has to be focused, actionable, enjoyable, shareable and more.
  11. People-centered approach: Marketing is about connecting with the customer. Even with all the fancy technology and strategic planning, online marketing is about engagement, trust and relationships. Conversations around strategy should be connected with the audience. Each campaign should be considered in terms of how customers, prospects, clients, employees and other stakeholders will react and respond.
  12. Dedication to continuous improvement: An online marketer’s job is never done. You can set up an advertising campaign, but it still needs monitored and optimized. You can build a website but still need to watch traffic, clicks and conversions to see how the site is working and what might need tweaked. Consistent review and optimization of online marketing can mean stronger ROI and faster company growth, all while managing investment.

Bringing these strengths to your online marketing team

Whether you’re interviewing a new marketing manager or selecting an agency, the same skills deliver big value for your team. So how do you evaluate whether your new potential marketing resource is the right fit? The key is asking critical questions. Too often businesses focus on portfolios or client lists. Consider using completely new criteria to evaluate for the most critical strengths, and building questions to fit.

Here are five sample questions you can ask of either an employee or an agency to get a feel for fit:

  • How do you determine what tactics and platforms go into an online marketing plan? (Evaluates: Strategic mind, business savvy, results focus, skepticism)
  • Tell me about a campaign that got great results. What was unique about it? How did you connect with the audience? (Evaluates: Creativity, results focus, people-centered approach)
  • How have you used content marketing to support your marketing goals? (Evaluates: Exceptional writing, results focus)
  • How do you use technology to make your life better? (Evaluates: Digital immersion, curiosity)
  • When have you used data to identify opportunities to improve a campaign? (Evaluates: Results focus, skepticism, continuous improvement)

You may not find all of the traits in a single team member or even a single agency. Your company can still get great results by building a “portfolio” of resources–team members, agencies, processes, goals, tools, plans –that represent the various strengths. Over time, you’ll build a competitive advantage around truly remarkable talent that’s aligned with your business.

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Easily Track Your Website Traffic with Google Analytics’ Visitors Flow Tool

Have you ever wondered how people interact with your website? What pages are they most likely to go to and in what order? After seeing your portfolio, are visitors eager to contact you through your contact us page? Is there a page that causes visitors to leave?

Google Analytics has long been the go-to option for monitoring how people interact with your website. However, with Analytics’ new Visitors Flow tool, you can now get a completely new view on how your web visitors move through your website, page by page.

Visitors Flow (found under the “audience” section) offers a visually stimulating, easy-to-use interface. Let’s break down the features so you can make the most of the new tool.

Interface

The interface has a clean, straightforward design that allows you to visualize the flow of your website’s visitors. In the screen shot below you’ll notice a few different labels.

Nodes: First, the boxes represent “nodes”. These nodes represent a dimension of your traffic. For example, the first column of nodes each represent a different country/territory from which visitors originate.

Connections: The blue “connections” represent both the path each visitor takes as they explore the site and the volume of traffic along that path. The red “connections” indicate where visitors drop off and leave the site.

Default Easily Track Your Website Traffic with Google Analytics Visitors Flow Tool

Using the Tool

The interface design is great, but it is the interactivity and segmenting options that make this tool a game changer. In typical Google fashion, they have created the tool to allow you to define the analytics you are looking for as narrowly or broadly as you would like.

Nodes and Connections: It couldn’t be simpler to gain additional insight on nodes or connections; just hover over it with your cursor and a pop-up will display how many visitor’s fall into that flow and what their next move was.

Hover Easily Track Your Website Traffic with Google Analytics Visitors Flow Tool

Select a Segment: In the default view of visitor flow all of the available data is summarized with a very broad focus. You can easily narrow your search by selecting a segment in the top menu bar. Filter by new or returning visitors, paid or non paid search traffic, traffic source, mobile traffic and more.

Segment Easily Track Your Website Traffic with Google Analytics Visitors Flow Tool

Select a Dimension: You can further define the flow through using dimensions. Select a dimension with the green drop down menu (see below), either in conjunction with or separate from segments. There is a wide variety of preset dimensions you can select and if that isn’t enough for you, they include the ability to custom variables. The preset dimensions include:

  • Visitors: city, language, mobile, region, country/territory, and sub continent region.
  • Traffic sources: campaign, ad group, keyword, ad content, ad slot, source/medium, source, social source, medium and traffic type.
  • Content: event category, event action, and event label.
  • Systems: browser, browser version, operating system, operation system version, flash version, java support, screen colors, screen resolution, service provider, domain.

Dimensions Easily Track Your Website Traffic with Google Analytics Visitors Flow Tool

Highlighting a Segment: By right clicking on a node you have the ability to highlight the traffic that flows through that particular node. For example, in the picture below you can see that “United States” and all the traffic that originated in the country is highlighted throughout the flow chart. If you want to just view this information without the other nodes on the screen, simply right click on the node and select “view only this segment”.

Highlighted Easily Track Your Website Traffic with Google Analytics Visitors Flow Tool

Applications

All of the information available can be overwhelming, so what can it actually tell you? Let’s walk through a few of the questions/situations that can be answered with this information.

  • How much traffic is my Facebook page driving to my site and what pages are they going to?
  • Are there enough people visiting my site through their mobile phone to justify developing a mobile site?
  • What browser versions should I optimize my newly redesigned site for? Do I need to go back to IE7 or do the majority of my visitors use the latest version or a different browser?
  • Is the traffic generated from the Adwords campaign making it to the contact page?
  • Is the new call to action on your service page directing people to the contact page?

The options you have to analyze your web traffic through Google Analytics are limitless and now with the visitors flow, easier than ever to visualize. How are you utilizing the tool to track your website traffic objectives?

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Pinterest: Social Media’s New “It” Girl

Pinterest Logo Pinterest: Social Medias New It Girl

In case you have taken a hiatus from the Internet and social media over the past few months, there is a new girl in town. Her name is Pinterest and she provides women (and a growing number of men) a place to plan their future wedding, dress the kids they haven’t had yet, decorate the home they may or may not own, drool over tantalizing recipes, dream about a new and stylish wardrobe, and build the DIY confidence of Martha Stewart.

Pinterest not only provides users the ability to organize all of these ideas (and SO many more) in a visually stimulating context, it is giving entrepreneurs and business owners a new medium for marketing their services and products online. With Pinterest investors indicating the site’s user growth rate being similar to Facebook’s growth from five years ago, it’s time to give Pinterest a second look.

The appeal of Pinterest is its simplicity. Users simply “pin” images to a virtual pinboard. You can organize your pins by theme, and your Facebook friends can follow your boards to see what you pin next. While capturing and sharing cool things online is nothing new, Pinterest’s spin is its focus on imagery — each pin is an image, rather than an article or other URL. This means that sites that have invested in beautiful, informative or compelling imagery will have a whole new advantage

As you begin to strategize how Pinterest fits into your online marketing, your plans should be two-fold in approach: develop your Pinterest presence and make your website Pinterest-friendly.

Develop Your Pinterest Presence

Boards: If you already have a strong online presence through your blog or website, your visitors will likely pin their favorites from your website. But, there is no need to wait on them to get started; if you want your products or cool ideas on Pinterest, pin them. While you are surfing around Pinterest or your favorite blogs, pin those ideas, too. Develop your boards into a wealth of resources for your following and watch the re-pinning escalate.

Following: When it comes to following on Pinterest, it is much more like Twitter than any other network. The majority of pinners look for one main attribute before following someone: at least one similar taste and/or interest. After all, the more people they follow the more ideas they have access too. Because of this culture, don’t be shy to follow and connect with other people. Comment, repin, mention to your heart’s content without feeling you engaged in a social media faux pas.

Make Your Site Pinterest-Friendly

Include Pin-Ready Images. First, Pinterest has taken the necessity of including images on your website to a new level. It was a best practice before Pinterest made her debut, but now it is essential if you want to break into the pinning world. Next time you are about to forgo adding an image, remember — no pictures, no pins.

Second, make sure the images are Pinterest friendly. One of the biggest frustrations eager pinners have is wanting to pin an image from a blog or site but not being able to because the image is too big or it is hidden in an obscure part of your website’s code. As you are selecting pictures for your blogs make sure that your image does not exceed 554 pixels wide (the vertical size is not restricted).

If you use a content management system (such as WordPress or Blogger), you likely won’t run into issues with your images being hidden in the code. But, it is always a good idea to test the page to ensure that Pinterest is grabbing the right image. If it isn’t, contact your web developer to make sure that any additions/template revisions aren’t interfering with the image.

Choose pics for Pin-ability. Pinterest’s popularity is no-doubt influenced by consumers’ love for images. Follow these pointers to help you choose the best images:

  • If your image contains text, make sure it is clear and big enough to be read on a thumbnail size of the pin.
  • It is common to add a border to pictures for aesthetic appeal, but if you are planning to have a picture posted on Pinterest there is no need to include the border as Pinterest will do it for you.
  • The better the picture, the more likely people will be to re-pin it. Aim for creative, unique, beautiful, and relevant.

Consider a “Pin-It” Button. If you spend anytime on blogs, Google, or even the Internet in general you have probably seen a Facebook “Like” button, a Twitter “Follow” button, and a Google “+1” button along with several others – the “Pin-It” button is Pinterest’s equivalent. By adding this button to your site you are making sharing as easy as the click of a mouse for your visitors. To add a button go to Pinterest’s “Goodies” page, copy the code, and paste it on your site. Easy as pie!

I’d love to hear your stories of how Pinterest is affecting your business so please feel free to share in the comments section. In the mean time, happy pinning!

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3 Easy, Do-it-Yourself Steps to Better SEO

Google SEO Screenshot1 3 Easy, Do it Yourself Steps to Better SEO

Let’s start with a simple fact: search engine optimization is important. Rather than throw a bunch of statistics at you to show why it’s important, let me ask you a few questions:

  • When you need to find airline tickets and you want to compare prices, where do you look?
  • If you are traveling to a new city, how do you learn about restaurants?
  • What did you do when you read a vague tweet about Whitney Houston?

If your answer was Google (or the search engine of your preference) you aren’t alone. People use search engines so often that “googling” something was added to Webster’s dictionary.

So how do you make it so that all the rampant Googling turns up your website sometimes? Search engine optimization.

The concept of SEO is not convoluted as most think. Time, resources, and understanding of the best practices are important to achieve the best results, but there a few simple steps that you can do this week to start improving your rankings this week.

1. Search Engine Submission

If you want to rank in the search engines the first step is to get listed. They will eventually find you but it will take some time so manual submission is the quickest way to start your journey to #1.

2. Link Building

The concept of link building is rather simple, you want links to your website on other sites. To get started today, follow this rule: every time your name is mentioned on another site make sure there is a link accompanying it. For example, if you are listed in any directories your website address should be displayed alongside your address and phone number. Anytime you comment on a blog or news article include a link back to your site.

You can also gain valuable links by utilizing your relationships with clients, partners and vendors. Simply ask them if they are willing to put a link to your site on theirs. If they are hesitant you can try sweetening the deal by giving them a testimonial.

3. Page Content

The goal of search engines is to provide relevant websites for their visitors’ searches. To accomplish this feat they have developed complex algorithms that rank the website in several areas. One of the most important things being quality content. To rank well in this area focus on writing detailed content targeted to your audience, not search engines. On your website explain who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why you do it and you should fair well in search engine rankings.

By following these steps you are headed in the right direction to secure your spot at #1. What are you going to do this year to improve your search engine rankings?

Image Credit: MoneyBlogNewz

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The secret psychology behind authority branding

logos 1024x682 The secret psychology behind authority branding

Branding can be an exhilarating process.

For a new brand, the creative process allows you to create a pie-in-the-sky vision for what your company is and can be.

For an existing brand, a rebranding can be an opportunity to throw out the old in favor of the new.

The risk, however, is that in an attempt to capture “fresh,” “modern” or “revitalized,” a new brand concept might walk away from the trust that a brand has built over years or decades. 

Why authority is critical to brand

Philip Graves outlines four primary factors in the buying decision in his book Consumer.ology. The first factor — that buyers prefer not to think while buying — is mostly a logistical and communications issue. Offer prospective customers clear, simple options and a fast path to the shopping cart and you’re in good shape.

The other three factors are all inextricably linked to brand. To wit:

  • People hate losing something more than they hate a new purchase.
  • People are influenced by what they first encounter.
  • People like social proof, and will follow the crowd if given the opportunity.

If what you’re selling is a service, there’s no single greater tool in your brand arsenal than the perception of authority.

Authority branding reinforces the safe play

The roots of our fear of loss are likely deep down in the evolutionary psyche, where self-protection reigns. And while you likely don’t have to fear the theft of the spoils of your most recent hunt, you likely still suffer some stress about whether what you buy will perform as intended, or if you’ll be out some money.

This is why people spend more for Volvos when they’re concerned about safety. The brand’s reputation for being the leader in safety carries a lot of weight, even if as time passes it becomes more of a perception than fact. Volvo has positioned itself as an authority on automobile safety, which affords them a lot of leeway on the specifics. Volvo buyers likely don’t ask the nitty gritty engineering details of their favorite cars. They know that they’re safe. That’s enough.

The same can apply to any business. Customers want to know they’re safe. They want to be assured that their money is a good investment. In marketing services, being the authority can go a long way toward satisfying the customer’s fear of loss, and minimizing objections.

Critical questions: What are you known for? How does your brand make your customers feel safe?

Authority branding creates the right anchor

Anchoring in decision making is a bias towards reinforcing the first piece of information you receive.

So, if you visit a website for a company you’re considering doing business with, and their website looks amateurish, you’ll likely take every spelling error and misplaced comma as further proof of their incompetence. On the other hand, if you are impressed by the look and feel of the site, you’ll be more open to positive information that reinforces your first impression.

Building an authority brand sets the right kind of anchor for your image. People see your company as “leading,” “professional,” “valuable,” and other generous things. And once they’re anchored to that train of thought, things can only get better.

Critical questions: The first time someone interacts with your company, what do they learn about you? What anchors are you setting?

Authority branding presupposes social proof

One definition of authority is:

“An accepted source of expert information or advice”

Accepted means that some amorphous group of people have given the authority a thumbs up. That amorphous group — peers, experts, statisticians, whoever they are — is social proof reinforcing the authority’s value.

Social proof comes in a lot of varieties, from testimonials to Twitter followers. Which form of social proof has the biggest impact will vary with your audience. But social proof is critical to shepherding your prospects towards the sale.

Critical questions: How do new web visitors see social proof on your website? What kinds of social proof would they see as valid?

Build in authority to attract more customers

If doing business with you requires a decision larger than ordering a pizza, authority can make a powerful difference in your brand perception and your sales results. In what are you an authority? How do people know? How can you make that message clearer?

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5 visual tools for measuring online social influence

Marketers today often feel caught between the attraction of the Bright Shiny Object that is social media and the need to connect it to hard dollar returns in revenue.

While it’s uncertain whether we’ll ever be able to quantify the value of our human-to-human relationships — whether they’re built over coffee or over the web — almost everything we do online is trackable.

You can start to understand the power of online social influence by benchmarking some of the data around your online relationships with customers, prospects and the community at large. And there are new tools almost every day to help you do so. Here are five good ones to start with.

Klout

Perhaps the first and best-known metric for online social influence, Klout aggregates data about your social media activity and those you most often interact with to generate a single score, 1-100, for your online influence.

So what is a Klout score good for? The score itself provides a pretty good snapshot of where you sit at a space in time. It even tracks upward or downward movement over time. Checking out your data can also give you an idea of what you most often talk about online, and how that interacts with your audience.

Screen Shot 2012 02 07 at 9.41.23 PM1 5 visual tools for measuring online social influence
Klout plots your online social influence on an engagement matrix

 

Klout also rewards high-scoring users with Klout Perks, which provide opportunities to get product trials/discounts and other promotions targeted at users who have social influence that sponsors want to tap into.

HootSuite

HootSuite is first and foremost a social media management tool, allowing users to use a single dashboard to distribute content across multitudes of social media accounts, monitor custom searches, pre-schedule tweets and status updates and more.

 

Screen Shot 2012 02 07 at 11.51.23 PM 5 visual tools for measuring online social influence
A sample report from HootSuite's Analytics

 

Plus, HootSuite now offers analytics for the data it collects around your social media activities. Built-in “Quick Analytics” provide easy access to data from links clicked to Facebook engagement to web traffic. Their Custom Analytics panel allows you to build reports based on templates or from scratch, including your own custom branding and titles.

These custom reports can help you see exactly what’s working, and what’s not, over time.

Crowdbooster

Crowdbooster‘s data offers great benchmarks for follower growth, mentions, retweets, and more. You can see at a glance which of your postings got the most visibility, the most comments, and the most shares.

 

Screen Shot 2012 02 07 at 10.02.09 PM 5 visual tools for measuring online social influence
Crowdbooster shows your social reach at a glance

 

This “instant” feedback can be a fun mechanism for pushing the boundaries with your content. With instant access to what’s gone viral it’s easier to see trends that you can use when developing your next batch of tweets.

Crowdbooster will also tell you when you should be tweeting to get the most visibility from your followers, which can be very helpful with getting the most traction from your content.

TweetStats

TweetStats is a simple tool that has the great advantage of providing statistics on any user, not just the profiles that you own. Want to see how you stack up against your competition? Run a TweetStats report on them and get the dish.

 

Screen Shot 2012 02 07 at 10.09.03 PM 5 visual tools for measuring online social influence
TweetStats compiles tweets by day, hour, user and more

 

You can track how your Twitter activity breaks down by day, by hour and year-over-year. You can also see who you’re most likely to reply to or retweet.

Looking for suggestions on hashtags to follow? TweetStats also creates a HashCloud for a user so you can see exactly what they’re talking about.

 

Screen Shot 2012 02 07 at 10.12.20 PM 5 visual tools for measuring online social influence

 

MyWebCareer

Although MyWebCareer clearly targets job seekers, it provides a Klout-like overall score for grading your online connectedness and network. One big advantage here is the ability to add your LinkedIn profile to the mix to get a broader picture of your online activities (especially helpful for B2B types!)

 

Screen Shot 2012 02 07 at 10.19.32 PM 5 visual tools for measuring online social influence
MyWebCareer measures online social influence almost like a credit score

 

The MyAnalysis tab also makes suggestions about how to increase your score, including connecting with colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Ready, Set, Track!

“What gets measured gets done” is a mantra in the business world, and social media stats are no exception. Your success in building social influence online shouldn’t be solely evaluated through an arbitrary third-party score. Still, checking in monthly to see how your social media activity has positively, negatively or neutrally impacted your benchmarks is a useful practice.

What metrics are you tracking? What will you start tracking next?

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5 ways email marketing can shorten your sales cycle

email image 5 ways email marketing can shorten your sales cycle

Email marketing is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to deliver more sales for your organization. In fact, strategic email campaigns can greatly impact the effectiveness of your other marketing efforts, and your sales team.

Email marketing’s areas of influence

The goal of any marketing campaign is to bring in more dollars. Where do those dollars come from?

Dave Baney, a former senior executive who now uses his 30 years in business to help CEOs plan growth (and a client we love to work with!), boils down the three ways to make more money in your business:

Revenue growth comes from one of three places:

  1. More customers buying your products (taking them from the competition),
  2. Current customers buying more frequently, or
  3. All customers buying more products than they did before.

Luckily, email can influence all three of these areas. Email can be used to reach new customers, spur repeat sales, promote add-ons, accessories, and new offerings — and all in real time.

An email written now can be in front of hundreds or thousands of customers in an hour. That combination of speed and scalability means huge leverage for your sales team. All you need to do is figure out how best to use it for your business.

5 kinds of speedy-sales emails

If your goal is to decrease the time it takes to close a sale, email has some specific uses. Let’s look at a few.

Automate follow up

One way to keep in front of a customer without always picking up the phone is an email autoresponder.

An autoresponder sends pre-set email messages at specific times or in reaction to user behavior. For instance, your website might send a prospect a welcome email after they request information.

Autoresponders can systematize parts of the sales process — from a response to an initial inquiry, to a check-in 30 days after a sale to schedule a demonstration for additional services. Using an autoresponder for certain touch points guarantees timeliness and reinforces your image as a company that’s dedicated to supporting its customers.

Product education

Ongoing email education can speed the time to product adoption, especially for complex products and services.

A software company might send out weekly tips on system setup, or promote live client trainings. Or ask the reader to click to schedule an appointment with support to complete the process. All of these lift the responsibility from your sales team to ensure the customer gets what they need to make a buying decision.

Identify and overcome objections

An interior designer might design an email campaign with questions like:

  • “Do I really need an interior designer?”
  • “How do I evaluate an interior designer’s sense of style?”
  • “What questions should I ask when meeting with my designer?”

Readers who find themselves nodding along with the articles will be much more likely to say yes in a sales appointment.

You could even track what your prospects’ most common questions are by allowing them to pick from a list of 5 to get more information. This kind of interaction not only serves the client, but will help your sales team focus their efforts in face-to-face sales appointments.

Purchase reminders

If customers are repeat purchasers, you could send a reminder email quarterly or annually with an invitation to renew their order. The easier you make it for the customer to respond, the faster they’ll do so.
If you can get a new order placed in a few clicks that would normally take a few phone calls, you’ve saved your team time and gotten paid faster.

New product/service introduction

Do your auto body clients know that your shop now sells tires? How about the companies that used you to recruit their network administrator — might they also enjoy your new project management search specialty?

Email campaigns can ensure that your customers know what’s available before their curiosity brings them back to ask for more, driving inquiries straight to your sales staff. And with the ability to segment email lists, you can send a special promotion for the new vegetarian cookbook to only those customers who took your vegetarian cooking class. A relevant offer based on their interests is a great way to drive additional sales.

Getting started with email marketing

One of the best things about email marketing is that it doesn’t have to be expensive to get started. You’ll need an email marketing system, a list of customers, and a plan for exactly what will be sent to whom, when. And email also allows you to be endlessly flexible, testing and refining until you get your perfect email marketing campaign in place.

How might your business use email marketing to speed up the sales cycle and sell more this year?

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5 Ways Google’s Evolving Search Results Change SEO

Yesterday, reaction to Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” launch was fast and sometimes fierce. The new feature means that when you’re logged in to a Google product and use Google for search, your search results will reach far beyond what’s on the public web. Photos and comments on Google+ from your contacts are now integrated with your search results.

searchplus1 5 Ways Googles Evolving Search Results Change SEO
Red boxes indicate new, personalized search results.

In this case, I have a new line at the top linking me to “personal results.” And the images that come up first in image search come from people I’m connected to on Google+ (noted with names underneath them) rather than, arguably, images that are most relevant to the search. (The “People and Pages on Google+” box in the top corner is also new, but perhaps less personal as they’re based on prominence on the Google+ platform rather than who you are connected to.)

Below the fold, this is what I see:

searchplus2 5 Ways Googles Evolving Search Results Change SEO
Google+ posts from your contacts now appear in SERPs.

 

Recent Google+ posts mentioning social media from two of my other Google+ contacts, Chris Brogan and Phil Gerbyshak, now appear in my search results as well.

Google’s announcement of this new feature says that they’re “transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” It marks the latest in a series of shifts from Google as content curator to something resembling a life engine — a one-stop shop for all things digital, including information (Search), entertainment (YouTube), communication (Gmail), productivity (Google Apps), and relationships (Google+). And while the new Search Plus Your World is kicking the antitrust discussion into high gear, the fact is that Google still delivers the overwhelming majority of search visits for most websites. And so businesses need to learn how to adapt to the changing search landscape.

With that in mind, here are five ways that Google’s recent evolution change SEO and online marketing.

1. Google’s new SERPs mean it’s not about rankings anymore

7pack1 5 Ways Googles Evolving Search Results Change SEO
The Google Places 7-pack (in the red box) has pushed the #3 result below the fold.

Search Plus Your World isn’t the first change to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) layout, but it is a reminder that the time where success could be measured through rankings alone has passed us by. Today’s SERPs are increasingly dynamic.

Whereas ranking #3 for a term used to mean good visibility, on local searches a #3 result might appear below a Google Places 7-pack of results, which effectively means nine of your local competitors are outranking you. Add in the potential to be outranked by News, Video, and Images, and now Google+ results, a straight SERP ranking will be only one indicator of success.

2. SEO and social media strategy must merge, even if execution doesn’t

No longer is SEO broken down into “on page” and “off page” (read: link building). Businesses need to look beyond the basics to see other opportunities to expand visibility beyond their own site. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ all have distinct benefits for different target audiences. Video, news and images all have different ways to hit the SERPs. And building connections for your company online is now more important than ever.

A solid SEO strategy should look at all available opportunities across the media spectrum, not just promoting the web site. And no SEO strategy will be complete without a sit-down with whoever manages social media and other online marketing to look for ways to get the best from both worlds.

3. Compelling content wins the day

While tried-and-true SEO tactics like online directory submissions and article marketing will still help overall rankings (although arguably less these days), more businesses will find themselves outpaced by competitors with must-read newsletters, entertaining videos or a robust, interactive customer discussion forum.

When you consider that great content can also attract and convert new prospects, build trust and gain opportunities like media mentions, it’s clear that content is more valuable than ever.

In short, businesses that cultivate engagement will find that their content gets more visibility naturally through shares, likes and follows, which will now have a larger and more visible impact on the SERPs.

4. Online Reputation Management will become mandatory

Big brands are already engaging in reputation management online, using tools like Radian6  to monitor social media mentions and address customer complaints. But now with social content appearing directly in the SERPs, one unhappy customer’s rage-filled post about your business might pop up in front of hundreds of search users. Even small businesses are going to need to pay attention to what’s being said about them online, and get some basic education on how to handle online complaints.

5. SEO needs to be an ongoing, strategic part of any online marketing plan

What works today may not work tomorrow, so if search traffic contributes to your business at all it’s time to sit down and examine your SEO efforts. Identify everything you’re doing now that affects search visibility, from site architecture, to PR, to content creation, and identify what opportunities you might be missing to build a presence across the web. Search-boosting activities should have their own line-item in your marketing budget and should be a part of your strategic plan, in a continuous and consistent way.

How has the changing world of search impacted the way you think about your online marketing?

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