Monday, March 30, 2009

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 2

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: SEO Guidance on the Webbiquity blog.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy

In It Came from Facebook! The Social Media Marketing Challenge that Can't be Ignored, I quoted a few interesting statistics—such as that Facebook is now used by one out of every three people who have Internet access, globally, and that 69% of B2B decision makers use social media for business purposes—to get across the point that companies of all sizes need to figure out how to incorporate social media in their marketing and PR plans. Here's some research on how to do that.

MarketingSherpa's 2009 Social Media & PR Benchmark Guide (PDF) provides a wealth of useful statistics and guidance. The publisher defines social media marketing and PR as "the practice of facilitating a dialogue and sharing content between companies, influencers, prospects and customers, using various online platforms including blogs, professional and social networks, video and photo sharing, wikis, forums and related Web 2.0 technologies." (If you parse that, it matches up pretty closely to the 4 C's model of social media marketing.)

Among the findings in MarketingSherpa's research:
  • 76% of marketing and PR professionals "agree" or "strongly agree" that social media marketing is changing the way their organizations communicate. There's little difference in the responses between large and small companies.

  • With marketing budgets battered by the economic slump, only two budget line items were projected to grow by larger shares of respondents than to be reduced: social media (social networks and blogs) and emailing to house lists. Paid search—one of the most cost-effective and measurable lead generation tactics—was actually in line for cuts by slightly more respondents than increases. Tactics slated for cuts by large majorities of respondents included events, radio/TV, email to rented lists, and print ads.

  • The two most significant barriers cited to social media adoption were "lack of knowledgeable staff" and "inability to measure ROI." The first challenge is, for now at least, being met by using outside consultants, while a new breed of social media metrics vendors like Techrigy and Radian6 are building tools to address the second.

  • Still, with regard to measurement, the report notes that advertising on blogs and social networks—the easiest tactic to measure—is the least effective, while the social media marketing and PR activities viewed as most effective—such as online news release distribution, company blogs, and blogger/online journalist relations—are the most difficult to measure. The report authors conclude that "Like any tactic that is more aligned with PR than direct marketing, results are difficult to measure quantitatively. What marketers can do is measure the value of the resulting conversations and relationships qualitatively, and not focus on moment-in-time transactions like traffic, hits, etc. Marketers obsessed with only tracking social media results quantitatively are missing the point and may find themselves employing much less effective social media tactics for the sake of measurability."

  • Significant majorities of respondents viewed social media as effective at building brand awareness and reputation, improving search engine rankings and increasing website traffic. Slimmer majorities found it even "somewhat effective" at generating leads or increasing sales. Why, in recessionary times when lead generation is so crucial, would companies be increasing the use of tactics primarily value for branding? Because those who invest in branding now, while competitors are defensively pulling in the reins on marketing, will be best positioned to thrive once the economy recovers.

  • Not surprisingly, agencies/consultants specializing in social media marketing and PR are viewed as more effective at planning and execution than either in-house staff or general purpose agencies.
So, per MarketingSherpa, blogging, blogger relations and online news release distribution (as well as creating social media releases using tools such as Pitchengine) are among the most effective social media marketing and PR tactics.

For another perspective, in Social Media and B2B Marketing - 6 Things You Can Do, Eloqua's Steven Woods outlines six areas of focus for social media marketing tactics centered around providing valuable content, being credible in all online conversations, and understanding and responding to your customers' natural buying process rather than trying to force a selling process on them. As he states it, "The prospect does not want to be 'sold' to. They do want assistance in understanding whether to buy, how to buy, and what is available to them."

Finally, Lorna Li offers her 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan, which starts with understanding what social media is as well as what it can (and can't) do, then finding discussions that are already happening, creating social media roadmap, and deploying tactics such as blogger outreach and social news marketing to respond. While the contention that "social media has no ROI"—only branding and relationship value—may be over the top, this post provides an excellent foundation and outline for developing a social media strategy.

The bottom line: do what makes sense for your organization, and creating your strategy starts with listening to what your customers and prospects are saying about your company, your competitors and your industry. But also base your plans on research, learning from the mistakes and successes of social media pioneers.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Best of 2008: Web & SEO Copywriting

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Web & SEO Copywriting on the Webbiquity blog.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Best of 2008: WordPress Tools and Tips

It may seem a little odd to see an article about the best WordPress-related posts on a Blogger blog, but for various reasons the WordPress platform inspires a sort of geeky passion that Google's blogging platform just doesn't. For example, I've never seen a post about "why your blog shouldn't be on WordPress"—though Dharmesh Shah vilified BlogSpot.com with such a piece.

So, to help educate WordPress newbies and more experienced hands alike, here are a sampling of the best articles and posts written about WordPress tactics and tools in the last year.

7 Tips When Using WordPress As CMS by Rubiqube

Blogger Adrian Diaconescu follows up on his earlier WordPress CMS tutorial with this list of helpful tips for SEO, navigation and design.


11 Top WordPress Plugins Every Blog Should Have by Yoast tweaking websites

Internet strategist Joost de Valk details some of his favorite plugins for functions like feed management (FeedBurner), rearranging pages (pageMash) and internal search (Search Excerpt). Unfortunately, Lighter Menus (a slick tool Joost recommends for creating drop-down menus) doesn't work with WP 2.7. Bummer.


Delicious Count WordPress Plugin … for Tracking and Improving Blog Post Quality! by Search Engine People

Jeff Quipp reviews the DeliciousCount WordPress Plugin, which tracks the number of Delicious saves of each of your blog posts to help you (theoretically) improve the quality of your posts over time.


9 WordPress Plugins You Need by Search Engine Journal

Yet another post on WP plugins, but Jonathan Dingman has compiled a short list of some of the best here, including SEO Slugs for optimizing post title tags; MobilePress for “mobile-izing” your site to work with the iPhone, Blackberry, or other mobile devices; and Subscribe to Comments for letting your readers do just what the name suggests.


10 Things You Need To Know About WordPress 2.7 by Technosailor

Noting that the WordPress 2.7 release is "a semantically, aesthetically and structurally different WordPress than you’ve ever known before. This is not your grandma’s WordPress!," Aaron Brazell details the most significant features of the new version, including navigation (vertical menus), the dashboard, and media and plugin management, among others.

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing
Best of 2008: Web Analytics
Best of 2008: Email Marketing Tips
Best of 2008: SEO Keyword Tips & Tools
Best of 2008: Sales & Marketing Copywriting
Best of 2008: SEO Link Building
Best of 2008: Website Design

*****


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Monday, March 16, 2009

It Came from Facebook! The Social Media Marketing Challenge that Can't be Ignored

Several recent studies have put the challenge that social media presents to marketers into stark relief: social media is huge. It's growing at an astounding rate. And most marketers still haven't figured out how to capitalize on it.

While there are some social media brand success stories, such as Blendtec and Starbucks on the B2C side, and Sun and IBM in B2B, most companies still struggle with optimizing their social media strategy and implementing tactics and measurement.



The model behind traditional, interruption-based advertising was that consumers were provided with entertaining or informative content for free, in exchange for viewing ads. In social media, where viewers are often creating the content, that bargain doesn't hold up. This forces brands to develop new approaches, such as producing entertaining content that is advertising (e.g. Blendtec, Mentos and Diet Coke); providing information that reflects a company's expertise without directly selling (most well-done corporate blogs); and/or participating in conversations in an authentic manner.

So how big is the opportunity? According to Global Faces and Networked Places, an eye-opening research report just released by Nielsen BuzzMetrics, "Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit a social network or blogging site and the sector now accounts for almost 10% of all internet time. ‘Member Communities’ has overtaken personal Email to become the world’s fourth most popular online sector after search, portals and PC software applications." Not only is this segment large, but use of member communities grew at twice the rate of email last year, and three times faster than the other top online activities. Among the report's other findings:
  • While the total amount of time spent online, globally, increased by 18% last year, the amount of time spent on member communities rose by 63%, and the time spent on one site—Facebook—rose an astounding 566%. Facebook is the ninth-most popular site on the web overall, and also among the "stickiest" with the highest average time per person spent on the site of the top 75 online brands.

  • The largest growth in Facebook traffic came from people in the 35-49 age bracket.

  • Traditional advertising plays poorly on social networks; the percentage of visitors who view advertising on social networks as an "intrusion" rose nearly a third last year to almost 40%, and the share saying they "didn't mind" seeing relevant ads also increased. As the Nielsen report puts it, "advertising should be about participating in a relevant conversation with consumers rather than simply pushing ads on them. After all, it is social media. Advertising shouldn’t be about interrupting or invading the social network experience, it should be part of this conversation...advertising should follow the same philosophy of adding value through interaction and consultation...and adding value – such as offers, sneak previews and co-creation of content."

  • Facebook is now used by one out of every three people online globally. It's used by 33% of the online population in the U.S., 38% in Australia, 44% in Italy, and almost half of all Internet users—47%—in the U.K.

  • Those in the U.K. are also the most likely to visit social networks through their mobile handsets, with 23% doing so compared to 19% in the U.S. The number of people accessing social networks through their cell phones and Blackberries jumped by 156% in the U.S. last year, and an amazing 249% in the U.K.

  • To succeed in marketing through social media, businesses of all types have to become publishers. Social media offers publishers "the opportunity to promote content to a wider audience across the web." A company's online presence is no longer limited to its website.
Another report, The Social Technographics® Of Business Buyers recently announced by Forrester, provides insights specifically into using social media for B2B PR and marketing. According to Forrester, 77% of business technology decision-makers use social media for business purposes—yet only about half feel that it plays an important role in the buying process. According to Forrester VP and principal analyst Laura Ramos, "B2B buying is fertile ground for emerging community sites, social networks, and user-contributed content. But most B2B marketers miss the nuances of their audience's preferences by jumping directly to deploying social technology without first profiling the social behavior of their customers. Knowing buyers' behavior lets marketers set the most effective social media strategy instead of blindly trying every new technology that comes along."

In B2B Buyers Dig Social Media, Jordan McCollum revealed a few more interesting stats from the Forrester report:
  • 91% of B2B decision-makers use social media in some context; 69% use it for business purposes.
  • 55% of B2B buyers have created profiles on social networks.
  • B2B buyers in IT roles are more likely than non-IT B2B buyers to use social media, but the gap is narrowing.
Finally, one easy way for B2B marketers to participate in social media—with no out-of-pocket investment and only a limited time commitment—is to use their expertise to answer relevant questions on sites like Yahoo Answers and Answers.com. These two sites plus About.com collectively received more than 169 million search click-throughs in December 2008, according to Matt McGee. Your prospects are online asking questions. Whoever provides the answers gains influence in their buying decisions.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

High Points on the Social Media Landscape

This content has been moved to Surveying the Social Media Landscape on the Webbiquity blog.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Best of 2008: Website Design

What are the current best practices in website design? What common design mistakes should you avoid? Where can you find creative new design ideas?

Many of last year's best articles and blog posts on the topic of website design were reviewed here in two posts on the best of website design so far in 2008, but to help answer the questions above, here are a few more.

25 Design Best Practices for Your Small Business Web Site by Search Engine Watch

Carrie Hill provides a helpful list of website design tips such as installing analytics software right away, using at least 250 words per page whenever possible, keeping contact forms simple, and using H1-6 tags, bold text and text links strategically for SEO. Though targeted at small businesses, the best practices outline in this post apply to websites of virtually any size.


7 deadly sins of site design by iMedia Connection

Seth Rosenblatt, VP of product marketing at CMS vendor Interwoven, uses the seven deadly sins of Dante's Divine Comedy as an outline for explaining common mistakes to avoid in website design, such as gluttony (excessive content), pride (being too self-focused in web copy) and sloth (slow load time, slow response to inquiries). Seth was no doubt inspired by the seven deadly sins of blogging.


freelance website designer - chicago

In need of some visual inspiration? This portfolio displays several examples of beautiful and creative website designs by Joe Edakkunnathu. A broad range of sites of sites are displayed here, from real estate and interior design to a comedy troupe, a personnel agency, a hotel, and a cool retro Sony microsite.


6 WordPress Themes From ThemeForest That Are Worth Every Penny by Rubiqube

Adrian Diaconescu explains why he likes these six elegant WordPress themes from ThemeForest, an online marketplace for buying and selling templates and themes for WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, Joomla, Flash, HTML and other environments.

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing
Best of 2008: Web Analytics
Best of 2008: Email Marketing Tips
Best of 2008: SEO Keyword Tips & Tools
Best of 2008: Sales & Marketing Copywriting
Best of 2008: SEO Link Building

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The 4 C's of Social Media

This content has been moved to The Four C's of Social Media Marketing on the Webbiquity blog.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Marketo Releases Marketo Lead Management 3.0

Marketing automation software vendor Marketo today announced the launch of its Marketo Lead Management 3.0 software suite. With more than 200 new features, the release is the most significant since the product's initial launch in early 2008.


Promising deeper support for a "conversational model of marketing," the new release provides 75 user interface enhancements as well as new features including:

  • More fine-grained control over segmentation, targeting, and triggering;
  • "Progressive profiling" on forms (i.e. additional profile is requested as a prospect moves through an interactive process);
  • Native integration with Salesforce.com;
  • Web visitor profiling; and
  • Automated duplicate lead removal.
Pricing starts at $1,500 per month and the company now has more than 150 midmarket and enterprise customers.

Marketo competes with products such as Eloqua, Silverpop Engage B2B (formerly Vtrenz), Marketbright and Manticore in the marketing automation / demand generation space. Less directly, the company competes functionally with website visitor profiling / post-click marketing vendors such as LeadLander, LEADSExplorer, DemandBase and VisitorTrack, and even with demand creation service providers like oppSource.

Companies seeking to improve the efficiency of their lead generation and lead management processes should first identify the gaps in their existing processes and most pressing needs before beginning a vendor evaluation process. But with an established platform and 200 enhancements in its new release, Marketo Lead Management 3.0 is definitely worth a look for midsize and larger enterprises who have focused internal lead management resources.

*****

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Best of 2008: SEO Link Building

Unless you are optimizing only for some extremely niche keywords, off-page optimization—building links from other websites to yours—is a critical and significant factor for SEO success. The blog posts cited here, some of the best of 2008 on the topic of link building, provide guidance on how and where to obtain valuable external links. They also offer advice on ineffective tactics and "bad neighborhoods" to avoid.

Local Search Ranking Presentation - SMX LoMo 2008 by Website Promotion Is Not Voodoo

Will Scott, president of Search Influence, shares his presentation from the San Francisco for SMX Local Mobile event. His deck actually covers the organic search marketinging basics—keywords, content and links. But his section on "where to get links" is particularly helpful for anyone seeking to optimize local search results.


8 Directory Submission Red Flags by Small Business Search Marketing

Matt McGee offers advice on what to avoid when obtaining links through directory listings, including directories that require a reciprocal link, display excessive advertising, or include a lot of links to low-quality sites.


Link Building: The Future Of Relationships by SEO Book

SEO writer and consultant Peter Da Vanzo writes that getting links to a static brochure-ware sight is really hard, so...don't even try. Instead, think of link building as relationship-building, and start by creating a site that others will want to link to. Instead of page and after page of marketing copy, provides news, advice, assets and opportunities for interaction. For situations where that is not a practical option, Peter provides several other ideas. But regardless of tactics chosen, do try to create an environment for interaction. As he notes in discussing the future of search, "Google will increasingly shift from measuring external popularity metrics, such as linking, to measuring the level of interaction, if they are not already doing so."

Another of Peter's SEO Book posts worth checking out is Small Business Link Building Ideas, which provides eight tactics that smaller firms can take advantage of to better compete on the web with larger, more established players. His tips include using news monitoring tools to react to new developments quickly; taking a stand on a controversial issue within your industry; and creating linkworthy content (glossaries, reviews, advice, tools, assets, news, etc.).


Link Building - 11 More High PR Do-Follow Social Sites by JR’s Internet Marketing Strategies

A follow-up to an earlier post here on Social Marketing - 65 + Social Bookmark and News Sites, this one offers additional valuable social sites for link building including Plime, Listible and Shoutwire, as well as guidance on how to maximize the link value of these sites.


30 Ways to Get Links Naturally & Stop Link Building by SEOptimize

Contending that directory submissions are of decreasing value, and that "Google does not even recommend high quality paid directories any more," this post provides 30 alternative link-building tactics such as developing a browser or blog platform plugin; contributing actively to an online community; offering a free ebook; or organizing an annual competition (or perhaps an annual "Best of" award, that recipients can link back to? That works sometimes.). The suggestions vary in their practicality and applicability (e.g. offering a helpful list of resources is generally easier than providing free music downloads).


Social Interaction & Advertising Are The Modern Day Search Engine Submission & Link Building by SEO Book

Like the author of the previous post, Aaron Wall argues that SEO has moved beyond link building, and that the keys to the next phase in the evolution of search optimization include branding, public relations and social interaction. He believes that while it's still critical to get the basics of SEO (like on-page optimization) right, with each passing day "you need a bit more (economic and/or social) capital to compete."


How To Actually Get Links From Your Linkbait by SEOmoz

This post offers three strategies for getting links from your content even when it doesn't make the first page of Digg. First off is submitting the link to niche social media sites, and to help the author provides links to lists of quality social media sites, social media sites with Pagerank, and niche sites. The next idea is...read the post!


High-Value Link Building is Hard Work by Search Engine Watch

Eric Enge, president of Stone Temple Consulting, details a four-step process for obtaining hard-to-get but high-value authoritative links, and just as importantly, explains how not to approach this process.


The Definitive List (75+) of Link Building Techniques in 2008 by Search Engine People

And the ultimate blog post on link building in 2008 came from (drumroll please...) Jeff Quipp. This outstanding list provides, actually, more than 80 tactics for building links, ranging from the common (online press releases, listings in quality directories) to creative (create profiles on Slideshare and Slideboom and upload your PPT presentations, then add your website link to your profiles) to exotic (create geocities, tripod and aol memberpages accounts so you can give yourself guestbook links).

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing
Best of 2008: Web Analytics
Best of 2008: Email Marketing Tips
Best of 2008: SEO Keyword Tips & Tools
Best of 2008: Sales & Marketing Copywriting

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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