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SEO and Small Business – How Small Tactics Can Help Your Business

Members of True’s analytics team got the opportunity to speak to small business owners at LaunchHouse, a local co-working space and community for business owners, about paid and organic search to help their business goals. The presentation was about the basics of organic and paid search and how to execute properly. Until we create or talk through one of these presentations, we often forget that when done correctly, small (but not always simple) tactics can make a big impact for small and local business owners. So, what are some of these tactics?

Get Your Website in Order

It’s important that your website showcases what you do and the answer to what problem you solve for your audience (more on that later…) is easily available. Be sure that keyword use is consistent and strategic on all site pages including: title tag, header tag, body text, link text, alt tags and file names. Also, continuing to create fresh content that talks about your services is important for showing up in organic searches.

Pinpoint Your Audience

When done strategically, paid and organic search can drive traffic to your website, increasing business and exposure. But before you begin sending your key messages out through paid search, the first step is to realize who your audience is. Sure, we would all love to think the entire world is our audience – but it’s not. To get the best leads and results, figure out who the right audience or client is that your business needs to target.

Ask yourself “who is my client?” Then, start to narrow it down by demographics: How old are they? What gender? Where are they located? Write down all the qualifiers you know about them and their interests. These questions are all vital to finding the right target audience to bring in the correct qualified people.

Solving a Problem

After figuring out your key demographic, get into more qualitative questions. This can be as easy or difficult as asking, “what problem is my client trying to solve?” Once you find out what problem they are trying to solve, think through how your audience would search to solve the problem. From there, you can position your product or service as the solution to that problem or issue. It’s also important to understand where they are in the process and what words they will be using to search.

Know Your Customer’s Habits

Pay attention to your audience’s purchasing behavior. Do they do a lot of research prior to buying? Are they impulse buyers? Are they one-time buyers or will they make another purchase? When will they do their purchasing? Will they purchase online, or is a phone call or meeting needed? Your target is the group that is ready to buy RIGHT now. Have a leaky pipe? They need a plumber now. Not in a month. They want this and need that, and they don’t want to wait.

Create an Ultimate Strategy

After determining the answers to all those questions, your business can begin to develop a strategy to reach your target audience or client through paid and organic search. A/B testing headlines and copy on ads is important, as well as adjusting your artwork. Using a strong strategy and call to action can create a successful paid ad campaign.

If you get all your ducks in a row and continue understanding how your audience is evolving, it will help you get the help you need from Google!

 

 

 

 

Tips for Becoming Google Analytics and Adwords Certified: Part 2

In the last blog post, I gave you the run down and tips for taking the Google Analytics certification exam. This post will give you an overview of the Google Adwords exams and my tips for studying and passing them.

As I said in the previous post, before you can take the exams, you are required to sign up for Google Partners. Google Partners is Google’s free program for agencies and other digital professionals designed to give you access to special events, Adwords and Analytics updates and free certification exams. Once you have registered, you will have access to a copious amount of study materials for both the Adwords and Analytics.

The Google Adwords Certification

Overview:

  • Must pass 2 out of 6 exams
  • Exam times span between 90 and 120 minutes
  • Exam questions range from 63 to 100
  • Must have 80% passing score
  • Valid for 12 months

Between the Analytics and Adwords certifications, the Adwords certification is more challenging and time consuming to obtain, but extremely beneficial if you manage PPC accounts. In order to become certified, you have to pass two of the six exams offered. You are required to take the Adwords Fundamentals exam and then you get to choose the other. The other exams include advanced search, display, video, shopping and mobile.

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Since I manage shopping accounts at True, I chose to get Google Shopping certified as my second exam. Like the Analytics exam, once you start, you cannot pause or skip questions so allow yourself enough time for completion.

Each exam includes a study guide with various lessons and videos to prepare. There are many online resources at your disposal, but Google’s study guides proved most effective. What sets apart the Adwords study guides from the Analytics study guides is there are no practice questions associated with the Adwords study material. Going into the Adwords exams, I felt a little less prepared not knowing what the questions were going to be like. However, Google provides so much information for you to read and study so passing is still very achievable. Once I completed the exam, it instantly told me I passed, but Google says it can take up to 48 hours for exam results to appear.

Tips

The Adwords Fundamentals exam is 100 questions in 120 minutes. You will not have enough time to look up every question in the study material as the exam goes on, so I definitely suggest studying as you would in college for an important exam. However, you do have enough time to think about the hard questions, when easier questions become faster to answer.

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The questions span the contents of every lesson, but I would focus on the overall concepts instead of intricate facts and details. Many questions in the exam take a concept you learned and asks you to apply it to a potential client situation

The Google Shopping exam is 63 questions in 90 minutes. Of the two exams that I took to become Adwords certified, this one was definitely the easier of the two. Google provides plenty of information in their study guides for you to adequately prepare for the exam.

The questions primarily focus on the “do’s and don’ts” of the Google Shopping platform. Since there are a lot of requirements and rules to be qualified for Google Shopping, the exam places heavy emphasis on the fundamentals and building high-quality data feeds.

Are You Ready?

Go through all of the reading supplements and videos Google provides for each exam and you should have no problem passing. Remember, the majority of the Fundamentals exam questions are on high-level concepts based on the structure, targeting, bids and budget parameters of Google Adwords. Once you pass your exams, you will have the opportunity to print your certifications and display them loud and proud. Good luck!

 

Social Media Tips in Time for the Holidays

With the holiday season well underway, social media becomes the vehicle for displaying holiday spirit. In a perfect world, there would be enough social content to avoid cross posting on social networks, however, more often than not my content cache leaves a lot to be desired. Posting the same image across social networks doesn’t always have to result in criticism and unfollows, if you tailor your post to the platform accordingly.

Like many dog moms during the holidays, I took Guinness to get his picture taken with Santa and wanted to share the experience with my friends and family online. Even though engagement metrics only serve as bragging rights on most personal social accounts, I still wanted to practice what I preach as a digital marketer, while posting the same image to three different mediums. To maximize your online efforts, it’s important to adapt your post to the medium. While similar in some respects, each social medium utilizes different features that enhance the platform appropriately.

The biggest criticism of cross posting between networks is the lazy impression it gives to your audience. It’s important to tailor your message to the appropriate channel to not only demonstrate you’re making the effort, but also to prevent using inappropriate jargon on the wrong medium. You wouldn’t tweet a full-length PR story 140 characters at a time or use “favorite” and “retweet” jargon on Facebook, so do not share your content to inapplicable mediums. Instead, speak to the network’s inherent purpose and adapt your content to the proper medium.

So how do you adapt one image to three social platforms?

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Facebook: At first Guinness was clearly a little apprehensive about meeting a big, bearded man in a red suit (can’t image why), but he eventually warmed up to the holiday spirit. Merry Christmas, family and friends!

Twitter: Meeting Santa for the first time: the genuine photo vs. the Christmas card. #HappyHolidays #Christmas2015

Instagram: #MRW meeting a complete stranger in a big, red suit…until that stranger bribes me with dog treats and squeaky toys. #Christmas2015 #DogsofInstagram

As you can see, the same message was executed three different ways, based on the platform the image was posted to. Posting your image on different social channels increases the reach of your post and adapting the execution of the image to the channel, increases the likelihood of better post engagement. As much as I love my dog, I’m aware that no one wants to see the same image of Guinness with the same post copy three different times. Switch it up and get creative!

Happy holiday posting everyone!

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for Facebook’s New “Dislike” Button?

If a group of friends get together for drinks and laughs and never post a picture of themselves on Facebook, did it actually ever happen? In its relatively short existence Facebook has redefined social norms, privacy and even the term “friend.”

Facebook is at it again. Or at least Mark Zuckerberg is. He confirmed that Facebook is finally working on a “dislike” button. While marketers and brands are assessing the treasure trove of analytics and insights this will produce, as a society, I don’t believe we are ready for it. While Facebook is a wonderful channel for connecting with old and new friends, I’m not sure we’re ready for the responsibility a “dislike” button will bring.

When I was a young boy, I remember my father telling me not to ask others about religion, money, politics or even sex because, “That was too personal.” That advice has always stuck with me but what was once private and not discussed openly among friends is now common posts on Facebook and other social networks.

There used to be topics that were off limits for discussion, but not anymore.

And what started as a Facebook friend purge during election years because of hate speech and political rhetoric, now happens weekly for me. I no longer can keep quiet as friends draw their social and political battle lines.

So what happens now as Facebook introduces an actual button to “dislike” something? I pray they don’t actually call it that. By giving us a tool to publically tell someone we don’t like a comment, picture, news story or other post, are we prepared to talk about our differences in a civil manner? I doubt it.

Furthermore, at True Digital Communication we counsel brands and companies on how to engage and connect via social media. Add a “dislike” button and it will add another dimension to online customer service. I’m not sure most brands are ready for this.

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Google Trends: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

 

I’m often asked by other communications friends what digital marketing tools I’d recommend for them. It’s a fair question. I do work for a very good digital marketing firm. Shameless plug I know. And we do use some really cool tools every day. Some are free and others are very expensive. I do pay the bills here. There are so many wonderful tools that make us smarter, faster and more insightful. The key here is finding ones that are simple to use and easy to engage with throughout a busy workday.

One of my favorites is Google Trends. It’s tools like this one that make me sound really smart in client meetings. Who am I kidding? And cocktail parties too. Google Trends is a searchable tool that allows you to determine how much interest there is in a topic by showing past and current search behavior. You may remember that Google first tested its Trends tool by predicting the severity of the flu in the U.S. a few years ago by tracking searches regarding flu-related topics. I don’t even like to search for the flu on Google. Since then, Google Trends gave the flu its own site. So hypochondriacs all over the world can decide if they want to ever leave their homes again?

While the data science isn’t exact, it does provide interesting and useable data that can be filtered by time, geography and by Google search features like news, images, shopping, YouTube and other key categories.

Is Google Trends perfect? Far from it. Is anything perfect other than a sunrise or the sound of a baby’s laugh? Our search engine marketing and analytics team refers to Google Trends as Google Adwords Keyword Planner for Dummies. I’m never sure if they’re serious or just making fun of me?

Give Google Trends a try. It’s easy to use and provides a quick report on the relevance of a specific or related topics. We’ve used it when developing key messages for clients and when determining marketing angles. And at cocktail parties when people ask me if I’m on Facebook all day.

 

Tips for Working Remotely

IMG_7404One of the biggest advantages of working in marketing can also be one of the biggest disadvantages. With today’s technological capabilities, we marketers can pretty much work wherever the Wi-Fi takes us. The capability of working remotely has its obvious advantages, which is very convenient for a person like me who now works from home most days of the week, however there are some definite hurdles that can be hard to overcome. The disadvantages of this luxury come into play when you’re working from home and that productive energy cultivated in the office environment is missing or your mid-day errand runs longer than it probably should have. Over the course of my young professional career, I’ve developed some helpful tips to stay motivated and on-task in a remote-location environment.

  1. Set a strict, reasonable to-do list of tasks you want to get done before the end of the day and don’t let yourself finish working until you’ve checked everything off your to-do list.
  2. Create a designated workspace at home to help separate your work life from your personal life.
  3. If you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, get up and walk around your house. Take 15 minutes to jumpstart your brain with physical exercise and then get back to it.
  4. If or when cabin fever sets in working from home, take that opportunity to work from a local coffee shop or food spot with free Wi-Fi. If noise is an issue, local libraries work as well.
  5. Leave personal, non-urgent calls and visits for after-work hours. It’s easy for family and friends to assume you’re available if you’re home, so set a designated work and social time for them.
  6. Make an effort to stay up-to-date on local current events. It’s effortless to live in a bubble at your home-office, but staying up-to-date on current events will keep you in the loop with your coworkers.
  7. Continue to push yourself, grow and learn. Referring back to the home-office bubble from #6, don’t let the comfort of your remote location make you complacent in your career goals.

So, there you have it! My helpful tips to keep you motivated while working remotely. And appropriately, I wrote this post from my local Starbucks. Happy Home-Working!

SEO, SEM or Both?

At SMX Advanced last week there was a lot of discussion about SEO and SEM best practices. The two topics were divided into separate session tracks; casual conversations with other attendees showed most agencies and in-house departments handled one discipline or the other, but not both. One attendee commented that they always concentrate on SEM rather than SEO because it gives their clients a “quick win.”

While organic optimization efforts take time and often show results over a period of weeks or even months, SEM can boost a site’s visibility immediately. But we believe there’s merit to approaching paid and organic search as complementing rather than competing strategies.

SEO research can establish what keywords already rank and convert well, providing valuable insight into where paid search budgets should be concentrated to fill in the gaps or further capitalize on high-value terms.

Likewise, a site audit for organic search can identify which pages contribute to visitor conversion and uncover areas that need to be adjusted for better performance. Optimizing a site for organic search ensures the content and code are well-focused and eliminates barriers to navigation and conversion. Those same activities ensure paid search visitors as well as organic search visitors move easily through the site. A better landing page experience contributes to better quality scores from Google, which in turn lowers overall costs for Adwords.

And while paid search’s impact ends as soon as campaigns are turned off, insights gained from those campaigns can feed back into a long-term SEO strategy that will deliver results for months or even years to come.

 

Metrics that Matter: How to Affect the Bottom Line


 

Remember the days when we judged marketing campaigns based on impressions, circulation and audience viewership numbers? Yes, I’m that old, and wow, we really have come a long way. Now because of Google Analytics and other performance tracking dashboards, we have real numbers to judge the success of our advertising, public relations, email and social media programs. But are you using the correct analytics data points to judge the health of your program?

Too often we find brands and other marketers are only concerned about new website visitors, bounce rates, time-on-site and page views. While these are important metrics to gauge the success of offsite awareness, they really don’t tell you if you were successful.

From our experience, the performance metrics that really matter are acquisition rate and cost per acquisition. Some very simple math will give you real numbers to see how your work is producing revenue or not. Here’s how it works:

A media website includes your product in a story with a link back to your website. Your analytics software shows that 100 visitors came from the story to your website. Ten of those website visitors purchased your product. The product sells for $100 so you made $1,000.

Your acquisition rate is the number of customers who purchased a product divided by the number of visitors who came from the channel. In this example, the answer is 10/100 or 10 percent. So for every 100 people who saw the story and came to your company’s website, 10 people or 10 percent purchased your product. This is an acquisition rate of 10 percent.

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The cost per acquisition is a little different. We know we had 10 customers. Let’s say your company spent $500 in time to discuss the product with the media and/or to send a product for testing. Other factors may include shipping, literature, etc. The cost per acquisition is determined by taking the money spent (ad spend, email distribution charges, time for PR, media relations) and dividing it by the number of customers. In this example, 500/10 for a cost per acquisition of $50 per customer.

By determining the production cost of the goods sold, the number of customers and the number of website visitors, you will begin to understand exactly how much a lead is really worth and how to gauge marketing investments. You can also gauge the success of individual marketing campaigns like advertising, PR, social media, etc.


 

How Are Those New Year’s Resolutions Coming Along?

newyearIf your New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, you’re in good company. Every year, 45% of Americans make resolutions and 92% of those fail to keep them. If personal improvement seems like too lofty a goal for 2015, why not apply a few of the most common resolutions to your blog instead?

Resolution #1: Lose Weight/Get Fit
Getting rid of the extra weight on your blog will help your pages load faster and create a better user experience. High resolution images and WordPress plugins are two of the most common causes of slow page load. Trim the fat by reducing image size and resolution before you upload, rather than relying on HTML scaling to display images at the proper side. Take a look at your list of plugins and remove any that aren’t absolutely necessary, and look for plugins that can do double duty.

Resolution #2: Get Organized
If you’ve been adding categories and tags to your blog posts without any real strategy, chances are you’ve created quite a bit of content clutter in the process. Take some time to clean house. Decide on a manageable set of categories that encompass the types of content you typically write and consolidate posts into those categories. Clean up tags, too. If you have multiple versions of the same tag with capital letters, no capital letters, plural versions and singular versions, decide on a tag strategy and weed out all the stragglers.

Resolution #3: Reduce Stress
Developing a content calendar is the number one way to avoid spending 20 minutes staring at a blank screen because it’s 4 p.m., you need to write something and you’re fresh out of ideas. Plan ahead. Use that list of categories you cleaned up in resolution #2 and brainstorm post ideas for each one. Set up a tentative schedule for at least a month’s worth of content and try to build up a cache of finished posts, whether that means working a week or two ahead on your calendar or creating a handful of “evergreen” posts that you can rely on for blogging emergencies.

The year is still young. Take the rest of January to make a plan and implement a few changes, and you can join that smug 8% of resolution-makers who actually succeed!

: ) Is Modern Communications Personal?

acronyms 2We live in a world of instant communication and information. While the power of this technology is awesome, we forget that it does come with great responsibilities too. How many times are we texting or talking on our mobile phones when we shouldn’t or are checking Facebook while we should be paying attention in a meeting.

Earlier this week Pope Francis asked Catholics to “get off the Internet and do something productive.” I guess even the Pope knows what a time-suck social media can be.

Long before there was an Internet and the idea of digital marketing was non- existent, when we needed to communicate, we spoke to each other. We picked up the phone and called, set up a meeting or talked at lunch. Instant messaging was however long it took the U.S. Mail to deliver a letter and e-mail was a typed letter, not handwritten. I remember seeing my first fax machine in 1992 and being amazed. What technology would be next? Turned out to be the pager which was a big pain in the butt.

As communications became faster and more powerful, it also became less personal. I remember my first conference call. I quickly realized that I liked to see faces when I spoke so I could gauge body language during conversations. I hated conference calls. Then email came out. Quick, fast communications but totally devoid of the tones we hear in voices that give us cues on emotion. THIS BECAME SHOUTING.

Today it’s texting which has its own language (LOL, OMW, IDK) and signs to show our emotion such as : ) Thank God I work with a team of 20-somethings otherwise I would still think that “LOL” means Lots of Love and “WTF,” Why that Face? I’ve learned the hard way that neither is an appropriate response when texting a friend who is going through tough times.

Communications and technology is a powerful and profitable business. Worldwide it has launched revolutions. Locally, it makes sure me and my team receive  a paycheck every two weeks. However, never forget the power of a phone call or better yet, getting up from your desk and talking to one another instead of sending an email or another text. Learn the power of reading faces and listen for emotion and tone.

Communication is personal, regardless of the technology that connects us.