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Increase Your Facebook EdgeRank, Reach and Engagement

What determines how many fans see your posts and which posts they see?  It may seem random or arbitrary, but there is actually a very specific algorithm called EdgeRank that determines where every post shows up.  Much like the Google algorithm determines keyword rank for specific searches, EdgeRank determines where every post is displayed.   For those that want to know how EdgeRank works we explain the details at the end of this blog post, and for those that just want to know how to get your Page posts ranking higher we explain that below.   Optimize Your Facebook Posts to Increase Your EdgeRank  Like the infamous Panda and Penguin updates by Google, EdgeRank is intended to improve the user experience by delivering more relevant content and reducing spam.  As with Panda and Penguin, there are steps you can take to optimize your Facebook Page and posts; likewise poor practices can make your EdgeRank plummet.  SEO is used to improve search rankings of websites, SMO is the social media equivalent to improve the performance social networks.   Manual Posts:  Facebook can detect which posts are automated and which have been posted manually.  Automated posts are devalued because many of these posts are automated news feeds and some are outright spam.  Many websites use plugins or apps to automatically post blogs to Facebook and while this is convenient and saves time; we no longer recommend doing this due to the inherent reduction in rank.  We know recommend that Facebook posts be done manually with a comment tailored to the post (more on this later).  Content:  posts with comments generally have a get higher EdgeRank than posts with just a link to an article, picture or blog.  These posts tend to get more Likes from Fans which also increases your rank.  It is equally important that the content immediately grabs the interest of your Fans (see tips for content below).  Post Frequency:  while this is not part of the rank equation it indirectly affects your rank as a result of Fan interaction and comments.  If you post very infrequently Fans have little reason to follow your Page and no opportunity to interact with you which will reduce your overall ranking.  If you post too frequently Fans will either un-Like your page or simply ignore your posts.  It is important post regularly and at a frequency that will engage your Fans, but not annoy them.  For most B2B and b2C clients we recommend no more than once a day, and for some 2 to 3 times a week may be optimum depending on your content.  For entertainment and news related pages we recommend once a day with the option to post more frequently when major events are happening.   Interacting with Fans:  this is perhaps the most important action you can take.  Interaction with Fans drives more comments and shares which in turn increases your rank thereby increasing your Reach further.  Facebook is very personal, even for brands and the converstation with your Fans is very important to a successful Page.  Tips for Content that will Increase EdgeRank and Engagement Content is the key to engagement, which results in Likes, Shares, comments, and more visits to your Facebook Page.  All of these will increase your EdgeRank, which in turn results in your posts showing up on more Fan’s feeds, thus propelling your engagement even higher.   A Great Picture:  in monitoring data from our client Facebook Pages and Facebook ads we found that just changing a picture and double, even more than triple click throughs.  We have found that images that are fun, cute, and immediately engaging are the most successful.   A Captivating Title:  again from studying client Facebook data we found that the first few words can also significantly increase click throughs.  Users glance at the picture and first few words and decide if they are going to Like or Share a post.   Topic and Content:  with a great image and title you have their attention, there’s one final ingredient, great content.  In general Facebook users are looking for posts that are light, fun, and interesting.  Write your content in a light and personal style.  Do not overtly sell or talk about your products as this falls flat.  We have tracked both light and fun posts vs posts written in a highly “professional” style and found without fail that the light-fun posts do exceptionally well, while the corporate posts always fall flat.  Make it fun, light and interesting, boring and Advertorials don’t work on Facebook.  Why is it called EdgeRank?   “Frictionless sharing” is part of the Facebook Open Graph social sharing platform.  Frictionless sharing is a concept where social interactions on a variety of networks including Foursquare, Pandora, Spotify, and games are shared in the timeline (hence frictionless).  This is obviously too much information to feed onto a users timeline and it could over saturate users with a bunch of posts they really don’t care about.   Every object shared, posted, Liked, or Commented on, including objects in other social networks has what Facebook calls an Edge.  The EdgeRank of each interaction determines where it will show up in timelines.   Three Factors Determine EdgeRank Simply put EdgeRank is the product of Affinity, Ue, Weight, We, and Decay, De (these three terms multiplied together).  Facebook published the formula, what is not known is exactly how each of these factors are calculated.    Affinity: this is a measure of the relationship between a particular fan and your page.  Fans that have visited your frequently and posted comments will have a high affinity score while fans that liked your page months ago and have not returned will have a very low affinity score.   Weight: perhaps a better description for this is value or relevance.  The goal of this factor is to measure how important the post is.   While you have little control over Affinity and Decay, you have a great deal of control over Weight.  While no one has specifics on how Weight is calculated we do have an idea of how it works based on empirical evidence.  We know that manual posts are given more weight than auto posts, shares more than likes, and comments more than likes.  A post with text and a picture has more weight that just a picture.  In general the more interaction and effort involved the higher the weight assigned is.   Decay: this is perhaps the easiest factor to understand, a fresh post or share is more relevant and of interest to users than one from say a month ago or a year ago.  As time passes the importance of a post decays and has less value.   More on EdgeRank – Some Great Resources Facebook EdgeRank: What marketers need to know; econsultantcy.com – great blog with lots of details for those that want to know more.  Facebook EdgeRank: The Truth About Page Feed Reach and Promoted Posts ; searchenginejournal.com – another excellent blog explaining how it works with suggestions to improve performance.  Facebook EdgeRank Changes; Make Sure Your Content Comes Out on Top; socialmediatoay.com – suggestions on how to improve posts and using promoted posts. 

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Measuring SEO Results, Time to Ditch SERPs, Focus on Results

The most familiar, in fact dominant,  metric for SEO has been keyword ranking; and SERP (Search Engine Rank Position) reports have been a favorite tool for tracking and reporting an SEO campaign results.  SERP results have been a favorite metric because they are easy to understand.  SERP reports show exactly where your website ranks for specific keywords that are being tracked and provide what seems to be a metric you can count on to measure SEO campaign results.  If you rank #1 or even#5 for a keyword you know exactly what that means and there is a since of comfort and satisfaction that you are #1 and your competitor is on page two or maybe at the bottom of the page below you.   Intuitively this makes sense, we all like a simple scorecard to show how we are doing.  But people have changed how they use search engines and Google and Bing have dramatically changed how search works.   In 2012 Google rolled out their Knowledge Graph which is leading the way for a change from simple keyword based search to semantic search which uses an enormous range of data to anticipate what you are likely looking for.  The goal is to provide more intelligent search results that are more relevant to what you are actually looking for.  In addition, most users seldom type in a single or even two keyword phrase anymore when they are search for something because there are too many search results.  Most users have figured out that if they type in a very specific query they get much better results.  The SEO term for these longer phrase type search queries is “long tail search” which is actually a statistical term referring to the results outside the middle of the curve or on the tail of it.   What does this all mean?   Search has changed, the way people use it and the way it works.  Doing SEO for a obvious two word keyword phrases is no longer a tactic that will deliver good results and tracking your SEO results this way is no longer a good measure of how your are doing.  In fact, SERPs can be gamed with an uninformed client.  Firstly, the results could be false, and secondly, real SERP results could be presented for words that have little if any search demand.  For more information on how SEO results can be rigged see our blog on SEO Scams.  So while SERP reports were the be all and end all measure of SEO success, they no longer tell the entire story and can be outright misleading.   So what do I measure for SEO results?  The most reliable source of data is Google Analytics, but there is a lot of data in there and it’s easy to get lost in it.  By focusing on a few simple metrics you can easily track the progress of your SEO campaign.  We suggest that you track the following as baseline data for your SEO metrics.  And by the way, if you don’t have Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools installed on your website you are flying blind and getting both installed is step1 and priority one!  Website Unique Visits: compare your current traffic to traffic from a previous period or the previous year.  If your campaign is working well your traffic should be increasing, but don’t jump to conclusions if it is flat or even down there is a problem.  In some cases traffic can go down BUT the inquiries are more specific and better leads.  So don’t stop here.  Search Engine Traffic: in Google Analytics click on Traffic Sources, Overview and look at the percentage of visits from Search (pie chart).  If your SEO is working you should be getting search traffic from it.  If traffic from search queries is less than 50% you should take a hard look at what is going on, or more accurately, what is not going on.   Keyword Traffic: again in your Google Analytics click on Traffic Sources, Search, Organic and look at your top 25 or 50 keywords.  Are they relevant and the right kind of traffic?  If you have good SEO the keyword visits to your site will make sense.  If you have poor SEO it will be random words and it will be obvious that you have a problem.  Likewise look at how many visits from search you are getting.  Good SEO = lots of good visits.  Bad SEO, well you figure it out.   Referrals: no this is referral from friends and business contacts, well maybe in a way it is.  Referrals are traffic that is sent from related sites like your Facebook Page, Twitter, and sometimes industry websites that link directly to your site.  Analytics shows your referrals on the Overview pie chart and you can look directly at the referral details if you like.  Referrals from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and other social media sites can run from 5% to as high as 25% of you traffic each.  At Esotech we include social media as part of our SEO strategy and this traffic is often a significant part of the traffic to our client websites.   Conversions: this is not someting you can measure on Google Analytics without doing a little bit of setup work.  Google Analytics has what they call Funnels and Goals (I hate the funnels name).  Goals are obvious, when a user clicks on a specified url that is counted as completing a “Goal”.  This could be completing a submission form or perhaps a purchase transaction.  The Funnels track users entering your sales or lead funnel and allows you to track their path.  With Goals and Funnels you can track actual conversions on your website, but it requires setup on your part and it can be a bit confusing to get it right. Examples  Here’s a  some of examples actual Google Analytics graphs from one of our SEO campaigns.  These are great examples of what you should be looking for and measuring.  We wish we could share the Keyword visit data details, but unfortunately that is confidential and sensitive to the client so this is all we can show.   You can click on the images to see the full size graph.   Google Analytics Traffic Overview Graph The graph below is a great example of excellent SEO (yes that’s our handy work).  Note that 64% of the traffic is from search results and while we can’t show you the keywords, they are very targeted and very specific to this clients market and products.  Also note that 11% of the traffic is Referral traffic, this is nearly all from social media.     Google Analytics Traffic Year to Year Comparison This is another great example of where SEO is working and is delivering more traffic than the previous year.  So in this case it is easy to see that yes, the SEO campaign is clearly working.  Note that overall visits increased 84%, unique visits up 70% and engagement metrics improved too!  Bounce rate down 23% and visit duration up 35%.    Google Analytics Traffic Year to Year Comparison – Second example This is a more modest example of improved traffic.  At a quick glance it doesn’t look like traffic improved that much, but look at the figures.  Visits increased by 27% and 70% where new visitors.    

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You’ve Got 6 Seconds… Vine video sharing

In January 2013 Twitter rolled out Vine  a very cool new mobile video app that is brings a new dimension to social media video.  When YouTube launched in 2005 it provided a way to easily share short videos online. Since then it has exploded to over 800 million unique users visits each month and over 4 billion hours of YouTube video are watched each month.  With all of YouTube’s popularity just 25% of views are via mobile devices, this is where Vine comes in.   Vine is specifically developed for mobile and social media, but wait, there’s more (or actually less), the videos are only 6 seconds long and run in a continuous loop like animated GIFs.  6 seconds, really, what can you show in 6 seconds?  It turns out a lot can be conveyed in a 6 second clip.  Vine video clips are perfect for sharing short clips from your phone, much like a tweet, and remember, no one believed anything meaningful could be said in 140 characters or less and look where that went! Vine’s introductory blog post explains their vision along with an example of a Vine post.  Vine is still embryonic and right now only available on iOS devices, iPhones and iPads, and sharing is limited to Twitter and Facebook.  Obviously this will change and Twitter has indicated that work is underway to make Vine available on other mobile devices as well as other social networks.    How Businesses are Using Vine Vine is brand new and new to brands, but a few have already started experimenting with it.  Hubspot wrote a great blog about Vine with 15 examples of how businesses are using Vine and a story by Mashable illustrates how Vine was used at London Fashion Week to post video right from the show, capturing the event live and unedited.  The Hubspot examples range from Gumby style animation clips to video collages and straightforward product promotions.  What is interesting is the variety of styles used and how much really can be conveyed in a 6 second clip with no audio.   Ideas for Using Vine The nature of this platform is very social and the short format lends itself to sharing.  A social network for sharing videos (sound familiar) can be a great marketing media channel, but, as with YouTube, not every video is going to go viral and in fact very few will.  I think the 6 second limit will actually be a benefit.  As with the 140 character limit on Tweets, the 6 second limit forces the clips to hit the ground running, be succinct, and most importantly entertaining and interesting, all in 6 seconds!     Here’s some ideas for using Vine Video collage style clips of customers using products or services – but it better be fun and interesting Animation style clips of new products product demo in 6 seconds funny clips or outtakes from your office trade show and event clips News releases and PR; while this is an obvious choice and temptation, traditional news releases and PR will likely flop here.  For more information check Vine FAQs  

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SEO Scams: Promising Page One Results and Fake Page One Results

A common SEO scam sales pitch is “we will get you on Page One of Google!”.  I used to say that any firm “promising” page one results was clearly a scam or at best a charlatan, but recently I ran across some instances where they were telling the truth, well sort of.  I have seen several large SEO companies promising and delivering what I consider fake, or at best useless, Google page one results to naive clients.  Here’s how they do it… Figures Don’t Lie but Liars Can Figure! During the sales pitch they promise X keywords on page one of Google within an amazing time frame, maybe 30 to 60 days, even 24 hours!  Impressed by their confidence and “promise” you sign up, I mean hey, page one of Google, who would say no to that!  30 days goes by, you get your report, and behold, you have X keywords on Google!  Did you get what you paid for and are these results of any value?  In short, NO. Here’s the trick… The keywords they delivered, at least every instance I have seen, always include your company name (will duh, that was an easy mark) and other words that are very specific to your business.  One might think well that’s great, but wait a minute, does anyone search for these words?  The answer is generally no.  These keywords have pretty much zero competition and zero search volume.  Frankly you probably would have ranked for these words without any off-site SEO (in fact I wonder if they even do any real SEO).  Here’s the SEO Snake Oil; while it is technically true that you do rank on page one for those keywords, nobody ever searches for them! Many clients don’t catch on to this and proudly look at their report showing their page one results, but then several months later they get irritated that they aren’t getting any inquiries.  So they fire that SEO company and hire another one that is promising page one results and the process starts over again.  Eventually they become disillusioned with SEO and convinced that all SEO is a scam.  Sadly firms like this are poisoning the well and giving the entire industry a terrible reputation resulting in a common opinion that no SEO company can be trusted. How to Spot an SEO Scam and SEO Snake Oil Here’s a short list of how to spot a SEO scam: Promises of “Google Page One Results”: in every instance I have seen this is either an outright lie or at best the page one results are useless.  If this is the opening pitch stop right there. Fast Results:  It takes time to rank for any keywords that are meaningful and have any significant search volume and competition.  If they promise results in 30 to 60 days, or may favorite 24 or 48 hours! this is snake oil.  Again the results will either be useless or fake. Lame Keywords: if the targeted keywords are yourbrandname and city or yourbrandname and location or the specific products you make or other words that are unique to you this is a redflag.  Of course it is important to do SEO for your brand and products, but this should not be the full extent of the campaign and ranking on page one for your company name certainly is not a big deal or a claim of SEO success.  You can check keyword search volume and see suggested keywords with the Google Keyword Tool.  It is easy to use, free, and a great way to verify if the targeted keywords are of any value or significance. Results on a Spreadsheet or Word Doc:  If your monthly report from the SEO firm is on a spreadsheet clearly created manually this is an immediate and huge red flag.  You should only trust results from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and a reliable SERP (Search Engine Rank Position) program. Really Cheap SEO: as the old adage says, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t”, or the other one, “good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good”.  SEO firms promising “page one results” for a few hundred dollars are clearly charlatans selling SEO snake oil. Silver Bullets:  if they offer a couple of quick fixes for your website like your title is too long or your title is not right, your  H1 headers need to be fixed, or your meta keywords need work and go on to say that this will fix everything this is Snake Oil.  There are no silver bullets that will fix all of your SEO problems with a single shot or two.  SEO is doing a lot of little things right and it is a lot of work to do it right.   SEO Spam emails: I love these because they are such obvious SPAM and BS, but wait… someone must be buying this because they still send them and I get them all the time!  The email will start with I reviewed your site and it only has 68 backlinks… I reviewed your website and it has very low traffic actually any claim in the email that they have “reviewed” your website, even with some fake metrics/stats – they use the same figures for every email. the email has a gmail or yahoo address – enough said… No SEO company website or name shown in the email and finally one of my favorites, the email is from Steve, or Kate, or whoever, and you call the US phone number, the person that answers the phone is clearly not from or even in the US and they either claim they are Steve or say that Steve isn’t here right now and they can help you.  Go ahead, call, press them for details about the review of your website, it is hilarious, I’ve done it a couple of times! We’ve cracked the Google Algorithm or we have an inside man at Google… – enough said, this is an obvious scam. Search Engine Submissions: We will submit your website to hundreds or thousands of search engines!  Today there is really only Google and Bing and while each has country specific search engines they use the same  algorithm.  Long ago it was a practice with marginal benefits to “submit” websites  to search engines, today it is a waste of time and unnecessary as the search engines continuously crawl the entire web and will crawl your site in time.  In fact, most of these charlatans use automated software to submit your website and guess what, Google and Bing and can spot this (yes they are fairly smart) and will ignore spam submissions.   You can speed up the crawl rate through Google Webmaster tools which is the proper way to do it. X Directory Submissions or hundreds of Directory Submissions:  a few years ago this was an acceptable practice with marginal benefits and it did no harm.  Post Google Panda and Penguin updates directories have very little benefit and many have been delisted by Google which means they have zero benefit.  Some in the SEO community even believe that poor directory listings could have a negative impact. What to Look for in an SEO Company OK, so the above was how to spot a scam, here’s what to look for in a quality SEO company you might also consider SMO (social media optimization).  At Esotech we now include both SEO and SMO in our Search Engine Optimization programs as we consider the two inseparable and equally important. What will they do?: ask for a scope of work and make sure they will be addressing both On-Site SEO (work on your website) and Off-Site SEO (link building). SEO Analysis: An SEO analysis or keyword analysis should be done before they start and this should be reviewed with you. Content and blogging: don’t lead them on this, but see if they talk about the importance of quality content and blogging (on your site).  If it is not part of their plan and recommendations enough said. Sample Reports: ask for a copy of a sample Sample Client SEO Report or website metrics report that you will receive.  Make sure that data is from Google Analytics and if it is search rankings it is from a verifiable SERP program – and then check some sample results to make sure it is real.  Case Studies: ask for a copy of SEO Case studies and when you review them look for actual data.  Many case studies have a few paragraphs about the client, the situation, and then what they claimed they accomplished which is fine, but ask for the data – show me the graph from Google Analytics or the actual search results. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools: make sure the firm is using both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and ask that you be added to both accounts so you can check the numbers for yourself. References: at the end of the day the best way to confirm any seo company’s claim is by talking to a couple of real customers.  Nothing can replace the honesty of an actual customer.

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WordPress 3.5: Using the New Media Library & Photo Gallery Feature

We all heard the buzz that WordPress was rolling out with the new 3.5 version, and now, drum roll please, Elvin is officially here! There are many things to expect with this new version, but I am here to discuss the new media gallery and how to use the updated version. Read here for how to add media in version 3.0.  Adding media to your WordPress posts are essential for high quality, well designed blogs/posts and is strongly encouraged. It makes your post pleasing to the eyes, all while keeping your readers interested. This brings us back to our elementary school days where we only read books that had pictures in it, am I right? Here is an easy step by step guide to bring you up to speed with the new Elvin roll outs.    WordPress Photo Gallery  Galleries are photos grouped together on your post, but when your reader clicks on a photo it becomes zoomed and optimized for a closer viewing pleasure. It can easily be scrolled through like a slideshow. It is a wonderful feature if you have many photos to showcase, but do not want your blog to be cluttered.  Here is a preview of how a gallery works. Click the photos to see the optimized showcase.    Now, adding a gallery is simple.  You would: Hit “Add Media”     On the left hand side select “Create Gallery”     You can then either upload new photos, or scroll through your media library. Individually select each photo you would like for your gallery showcase. You know they are selected when there is a check-mark in the upper right hand corner of the photo.     Hit “Create a new gallery” once you have selected the photos you would like to use. Note: at the bottom you will see a preview of all the photos you have selected. Edit your gallery to the order, link tos, and columns of your liking.  Insert your Gallery.      On the editing side of your WordPress post, you will not be able to see the actual gallery formed. It will show once your post is saved/published on the preview/published page.     Add Media Now I’m sure you have already noticed that even the icon button for “Add Media” looks a little different. Reason being, well, it is different. I have highlighted the “Add Media” option in yellow. The location of the button is in the same spot as it was in the past version.    Drop / Upload Files In order to upload files you can either drag and drop them into this field, or you can simply hit “Select Files.” This will bring you to a dialog box where you select files on your computer you would like to upload.    Media Library Once you have uploaded your photo you will notice that you are immediately brought to your media library. You are no longer brought to the editing page or where you decide how you would like to use it. The new editing field will be on your right hand side.     Here you can edit the name, caption, alternative text, description, alignment, link to, and of course, size. Once you have finalized how you would like your photo to be customized, you can now chose to “Insert into Post.”    Now that we have brought you up to speed on how to simply add your photo to your post, here is the fun part, adding a gallery!  

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13 Digital Marketing resolutions that will make 2013 your best year ever!

It’s tradition at the beginning of a new year to reflect on the past year, make resolutions for what we will do different in the new year and set goals.  The same applies to organizations; new budgets have either been set or are in work, sales goals are being set, and marketing plans are being developed.  Here’s our list of Digital Marketing resolutions and tips to create a great 2013.   Most lists start with Set Goals, we our started list with a SWOT analysis and Analytics, why?  Before setting goals it is imperative that you know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as well as the real numbers for your organization’s performance.  In conducting a frank self assessment and reviewing performance data goals will come to mind and when you set them you will have baseline of actual data to base them on.  13 New Years Digital Marketing Resolutions for 2013 Before you charge off to conquer the world and create a list of how you are going to do it take sometime to reflect on how 2012 turned out, what went well, what didn’t work out so well, and most importantly take a look at the real numbers to see how you really did.  Below we are focused on digital marketing, your website and social media; but you can apply this to the financial and operational side of your business as well.   SWOT Analysis (template here):  Review Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) for your organization.  Be honest in your assessment, don’t sugarcoat it and glaze over your real weaknesses or threats and likewise, don’t sell your self short on strengths and opportunities.  An honest and concise self assessment will make your goal setting in #3 easier and more meaningful.       Analytics and Metrics:  It may be tempting to jump straight to goals, but wait a minute, first you need to have a very clear understanding of what your actual performance was; then you can set goals based on what actually happened and where the organization is actually at.  We have gone into a lot of detail here and it may be more than what many care to review.  We encourage you to at least review the basic top level data so you clearly understand what is really going on with your website and social media.  To fully understand how your website is performing you need to have Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools installed on your site.  Without these too tools you are flying blind.  If you don’t have Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools installed on your site then this is your first To Do for the new year.  If you have it installed but don’t know how to get this data ask your Webmaster or SEO consultant to create a year end report with this data.  Esotech provides bi-weekly metrics to all of our clients, however the list below is  more comprehensive than most monthly reports and is really more of a website analysis-review.  Here are the essential metrics we recommend you review.   Website Traffic Comparison:  We created this simple tool to compare the Alexa and Compete Traffic Rank of your website to your competitors along with the Google Page rank.   Google Analytics:  Traffic Sources Overview: what are your traffic trends, where is your traffic coming from?  Search Engine Optimization Queries: what are the keywords driving traffic to your site? Are they the right ones, are important words/phrases missing?  In Page Analytics: this is a great tool that shows how visitors are interacting on each page and what they are clicking on. In case you are familiar with this tool we wrote a blog on How to Use Google In Page Analytics with examples.   Visitor Flow: Visitor Flow is the companion to In Page Analytics.  This tool shows how users flow through your website and what paths they take.  It is a great way to see how users surf through your site.  We also wrote a blog on How to Use Google Visitor Flow with examples of good flow and poor flow.   Webmaster Tools: This tool is often overlooked in favor of Google Analytics but there is different data here and it provides a lot of insight as to how your website is performing.   Optimization, Content Keywords: This tells you what Google thinks your website is about and what keywords Google thinks are most relevant on your site. This can be very insightful.  Traffic, Search Queries: This shows actual search queries that drove traffic to your site, how many clicks, your CTR (click through ratio) and average position.  This is how people are finding your site in search.   Traffic, Links to Site, more (shows all): This lists the external links to your website along with how many domains are linking to each page shown.  If you want to rank well this is still a vital metric.  Health, Index Status: this shows how many pages have been indexed by Google. If a page is not indexed then as far as Google is concerned it either does not exist or it is not relevant. Content is absolutely vital to the success of your website.   Social Media:  Facebook Insights: from your Facebook Page click on Insights, then See All.  Review the demographics, and Likes trend for your page.  Google Plus: there aren’t really any metrics available for Google Plus yet, so review the following on your personal profile and organization page: Profile/About, posts, Circles, +1’s.    Twitter: Sadly Twitter does not offer any metrics directly unless you are an advertiser. You can get Twitter metrics from third party apps if you are using one. If you don’t have a third party app then take a look at your Friends and Followers, Mentions, and messages and do a self assessment.  LinkedIn: No real meaningful metrics on LinkedIn either, so take a look at your personal profile and company page and do a self assessment of your content, posts, and activity.  Set Goals: Now that you have gone through the painful but enlightening process of the SWOT Analysis and reviewing all that data you are ready to set goals.  Use this handy Digital Marketing Goal Setting Template to get started and change it to suit your needs.  Start a Blog or Improve your Blog: If you don’t have a blog for your organization then this should be at top of your list, ditto if you have a blog and it has been idle and ignored.  Your blog is  Review CTAs (Call to Action):  Review the CTA on your website and subpages, are you asking the visitors to do anything?  Are you providing an easy way for visitors to contact you, order, ask questions, subscribe?  Is your phone number prominent and easy to read and find?  Update Mail Lists and CRM:  Now is a great time to clean up your email list and CRM system.  Review your list; add people that are missing and update records.  Don’t have an email list or CRM, well now is a great time to resolve to set them up!  We recommend and use Constant Contact for our mass email campaign solution.   Social Communities:  Do you have an active presence on the major social networks?  Again, we have a blog to help you develop a n effective social media campaign.  At a minimum you should have company pages on: Facebook Page for your organization Google Plus Page for your organization LinkedIn profile for ALL key staff members  LinkedIn Company Page for your organization (make sure it is complete) Twitter for your organization and possibly for key staffOther Social Networks to Consider: Pinterest Tumblr Squiddo Digg Update Social Networks and Participate – Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn:  In case you skipped over the previous suggestion because you already have a strong social network presence, visit your social pages and make sure they are up to date, consider updating your banners and page graphics, and most importantly make sure your organization is actively involved and participating not just posting and running.  Check out our blog on Simple and Effective Community Management for tips on how to manage your social networks.   Great Content:  Great content is vital to the success of your digital marketing campaign.  Review your website, blog, and social network posts – are you delivering useful and informative content that your users want?  Is your content interesting and engaging or is it a veiled or worse direct sales pitch to hawk your goods and services.  Take an honest look at your content and then resolve to do it bigger and better this year!  Mobile Friendly:  In case you missed the memo, it’s all about mobile now!  Is your site mobile friendly?  Can visitors navigate your site easily on a Droid, iPhone, iPad or tablet?  Take a look for yourself, visit your site via several mobile devices and you decide how the experience is.   Website Face-lift:  When was the last time you updated your website?  Is it time for a new look or new content?  A new website or face-lift for is a great idea, BUT make sure you keep SEO in mind and don’t inadvertently hurt the search rankings you worked so hard for by doing it wrong.   Lead Nurturing:  This is an area most organization fall short, cultivating leads after the initial inquiry.  The most common practice is a single contact or perhaps an automated response and then wait for an order.  Oddly many companies also say they want to improve the lead capture rate.  Lead nurturing involves setting up a stream of follow up emails to deliver useful information and develop a relationship over the long term.  Constant Contact has a Auto-Response feature (poorly named, it is much more that just auto-response if used right) that will deliver a stream of emails (drip campaign) on a predetermined schedule.   Have Fun! – OK this may seem trite, but resolve to have fun and make it fun for everyone, you will get better results, you will enjoy it more and so will your staff and customers. 

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Optimizing your Author Profile in Google+ for better Google Results

Your Google Plus profile is used for much more that just the About page, it is also used by Google as your Author Profile.  This is how Google knows what and where your contribute in the form of blogs, tweets, and other social networks.  You can help Google get it right and find all of your content and correctly attribute to you by adding links and other details to your profile.    Google Plus Profile and Privacy Settings  You can see how your Google+ Profile would look in search results by visiting this link: https://www.google.com/settings/privacy Notice you have 3 links that show up underneath your name.  This is a great way to market yourself or any other links of interest related to you or your company.  However, which 3 links? How does Google choose? Well…it’s sort of cryptic… In Google+ there are 3 groups of links where you can add and edit in your profile: “Other profiles”, “Contributor to” and “Links”.  Google grabs the first 3 of one of these groups links to show up, exactly as formatted, under your Profile.  Mine is shown below: It’s easy to add and edit links to each group, click on the group you want to edit, then just click and move the ones you want visible to the top of the list…but which list? Well apparently Google uses the LAST edited list, besides the one you just saved. So if you move links around and change things in “Links”, it will use “Other profiles”. If you change “Other Profiles”, it will use “Links”. Strange, and I am not sure this is implemented as Google intended but it is a quick way to show relevant websites to your author profile.  To be safe I recommend having the first three links on all 3 of your lists important ones you would want to show up on your profile. Also, don’t forget to make those links public or they wont show up!

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How to Lose a Brand in 43 Days and Rebuild from the Ashes

Imagine spending over 10 years building a brand with a solid website and excellent search rankings for competitive keywords in your market niche from years of SEO; then suddenly one morning your website is gone!  This actually happened to one of our clients, here’s what happened and how you can avoid it.   What Happened  Our client’s domain expired, not a big deal normally, but her credit card on file had expired also.  The domain registrar sent emails notifying her of her domain expiring and that the credit card had expired, but alas, the email on file was not one she regularly checked.   Fast forward 43 days later… our client’s website is gone and someone has put up a temporary page!  After the client called us we did some fast and furious checking, discovered the domain had expired, the grace period for renewal had also expired, and the domain had been purchased that morning at midnight immediately after the grace period expired.   We contacted the domain registrar, but since the domain expired and the grace period had lapsed the domain was gone and there was nothing they could do.  We contacted the Drop Catcher (see below for explanation) that bought the domain and yes they were willing to sell it back, the cost… $8,500!  That’s right, $8,500 to buy back your own domain that this person had bought just hours ago!  We explain Domain Drop Catching below and also steps to protect your domain, but first let’s talk  about how we helped this client rebuild their brand.    How we Rebuilt the Brand Fast and Security Precautions!  At this point the client has no website, customers are going to the old domain name only to find a very spammy temporary landing page, and the domain is being held hostage for $8,500.  We worked with the client to get a new domain name, restored the website to the new domain name, did as many 301 redirects as possible, and then started a SEO and SEM/PPC campaign.   By the way, in losing the domain they also lost their email domain so we also had to set up the new email, post on the new email domain on Facebook and the client sent several mass emails out to their mail list explaining the change. What is really scary about this is that the Drop Catcher could actually set up a catch all email account under their newly acquired domain and grab all emails going to the clients old domain.  This meant that the client had to change login emails on all of their bank accounts, social media accounts, and anything that had an email associated with it.  Lot’s of work that had to be done quickly.   The new website hit the ground running with a lot of highly relevant content and an excellent information architecture along with solid on-site SEO.  We immediately started an aggressive SEO campaign that focused on quality link building.  Rankings started off at zero, but within a few weeks were climbing quickly and are on track to perhaps surpass the old site.   We certainly don’t recommend losing your domain or starting from scratch, but this illustrates that if you must for whatever reason all is not lost, you can rebuild from the ashes.   Domain Drop Catching  When your domain expires there is a mandated Redemption Grace Period for the domain owner to renew it.  The grace period varies from 30 to as long as 90 days, the registrar for our client it was 43 days.  When a popular or well ranking domain expires there is a long list of opportunistic people called Drop Catchers in line to buy it so they can profit from the domain you have built or hold it ransom and sell it back to you at an exorbitant price.  The moment your domain expires and the grace period has lapsed your domain will be instantly snapped up by a Drop Catcher this is what they do for a living, while some may be legitimate many are essentially domain kidnappers waiting for their next victim.   There are serious questions about whether this violates the Cyber Squatting/Domain Squatting law passed by Congress.  Attorneys advised our client that she could take them to arbitration and would likely win as this was an established brand name, however, it would take 60 to 90 days and the cost would be in the $5,000 to $10,000 range with no guarantees of the outcome.  No wonder these guys get away with this.   Drop Catching is big business now, with automated software competing to see who can snatch up a newly expired domain first, milliseconds can be the difference between wining and losing.  Website Magazine published an article Drop Cacthing Domains – Big Business summarizing a CADNA (Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse) study on the fate of expired domains.  The short story; 100% of expiring Dot Coms and Dot Nets are instantly registered after they expire.  87% are used for PPC (Pay Per Click) sites.  They have no interest in the domain other than to turn a quick and short term profit by creating a temporary landing pages for PPC ads and if they are lucky selling the well established and aged domain to someone for thousands of dollars, maybe even the original owner.   There have been discussions at ICANN and other agencies about the abuses and outright scams surrounding Drop Catching.  The initial intentions were good, set up a way to reserve domains when they legitimately expire and the Cyber Squatting law clearly prohibits snatching up a domain for the purpose of holding it hostage, but regardless, it is being abused.  This had been debated since around 2004 or 2005 and there seems to be very little progress being made and frankly it just does not appear to be a priority for any agency or the gov to address.  How to Protect Your Domain and Brand Domain Renewal: make sure you domain always has at least 3 years until expiration.  This is a good precaution to avoid an unexpected expiration and also helps for SEO.  Domains with long term renewals count as a positive factor for search rankings along with domain age.   Domain Registrar Contact Info: keep your contact information up to date with your domain registrar including phone (although they probably won’t call you), email (vital), credit card information, and most certainly set it for auto-renewal.  Remember that auto-renewal is useless if you don’t update your records.  Consider having your webmaster or SEO firm manage your domain: your webmaster or SEO firm can manage your domain registration for you.  We manage dozens of domains for clients (unfortunately in retrospect not this one until now) and consequently we constantly monitor domain registration status and managed domains are on automatic update.  In a sense it is easier to manage dozens of domains when it is part of your business than it is to manage your own single domain that comes up for renewal every few years (easy to lose track of this).  

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Simple and Effective Social Media-Network Community Management for Small Businesses

One of the biggest challenges in implementing a social media campaign for small and mid size businesses is community management.  We constantly here “I don’t have time”, which is often true for small business owners, or “this is going to take too much time”.  This causes to many small business owners to give up on social media sometimes before they even start, or abandoning their social networks and letting it all sit unattended.  If you have not yet developed a social media strategy this should be step one.   Below we have outlined a simple plan for small business owners to manage their own social networks.  For many business owners there simply not enough time in the day to do it all or more than likely your time is spent better doing something else.  While this is true, social media is an important part of your digital marketing campaign and SEO program it still must get done.  For those that do not want to manage their own social media we have outlined how to hire a community manager or outsource it.   Managing Your Communities Social media is all about engagement and interaction and to be successful it is essential that you consistently interact with and contribute to the community.  One way posts and unattended social media accounts are not effective and in fact can even harm your brand.   Mega Brands have must constantly monitor their social networks because there is so much going on for a brand the size of Best Buy, ATT, or Comcast.  Small businesses don’t need to constantly their  networks, which can make their job easier.  For your small business social networks checking in a couple of times a day is adequate, and in fact if you do this you will be better than most, but it is vital that you do monitor your social networks and contribute.  Checking Posts and Responding: develop a daily routine Checking and responding to posts daily is an absolute must.  Once you get the hang of this it goes quickly and only takes a few minutes.  If it takes longer then you have a lot going on and that is great!   Facebook: check comments and respond if required at least daily, twice a day preferred.   Google Plus: check comments and respond if required at least daily, twice a day preferred. Twitter: check @messages (aka mentions) at least twice daily, checking # hashtags for your industry and responding or contributing is a great way to build followers and develop your brand.  Follow back new followers at your discretion.  Posting to Your Communities  Posting content and contributing is perhaps the most important part of community management.  Naturally you will post your own blogs as they are published and perhaps re-share some old ones, however a great social media campaign is not just all about you and your brand.  Curating great content from other sources in your industry delivers information and value to your users and makes your social networks much more interesting.  BUT make sure the content you share is news worthy and interesting, if you have nothing interesting to say then say nothing.   Facebook: 2 to 3 posts per week is great for most B2B and B2C small businesses and you do not want to post more than once a day.  If you are in entertainment this may be different depending on what is going on at the moment.   Google Plus: daily posts are great, you can post more often on Google Plus but we highly advise to only do so if it is interesting content.     Twitter: Twitter is real time so you can post here much more frequently.  Posting relevant industry news is great for Twitter and you can post this several times a day although this is not a must.  LinkedIn: while LinkedIn is still not as active as Facebook with regard to content and sharing, the new format has increased this activity and you definately want to post your content here as a minimum.  We also recommend posting high quality relevant articles on LinkedIn, but do so sparingly, no more that 2 to 3 times per week.   Hire a Community Manager or Firm Another option is to hire a community manager, either a firm or individual, to handle your social media for you.  Social Media has become so integral with our SEO strategy that we now include Community Management with some of our SEO programs.  Below are some suggestions of what to look for in a community manager.   What to look for in a Community Manager or firm Experience: managing Facebook and Google Plus pages.  This is a must, there is a huge difference between chatting with friends on your personal Facebook or Google Plus profile and managing a company’s page from both a technical standpoint and interaction standpoint.  Make sure they have done this before, they know it and they are good at it. Writing Style-Ability: When they post content it will be as your brand so make sure they have good writing skills and a style that is appropriate for your brand. Common Sense: this firm or person will be managing your social network brand identity on your behalf and it is essential that they have good judgement and common sense if something happens.  Communication: it is important to have good communication between you and your community manager.  You need to be able to rely on them  to keep you informed.  Likewise you must keep them informed about what is going on in your business, new and interesting developments, and what you want.  Keep them informed!  Consistency: you must be able to rely on your community manager to consistently check posts, respond and contribute posts on your agreed schedule.  

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Developing an Effective Social Media Campaign for Small-Mid Size Businesses

It is pretty much an accepted fact that every business must have some kind of social media presence.  While all agree that small and mid size businesses (SMBs) should have a social media campaign there is little guidance on exactly what that entails and what it should be. Social media networks are in what is referred to as “the cloud” today which really means that they reside on servers on the internet and are accessible pretty much anywhere there is an internet connection.  Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus are daily destinations for most users and in addition to the personal chatter many use these networks for sharing news, discussions, as well as getting information on brands and products.  Cloud SeedingSM; Planting Your Content in the Right Places Cloud Seedingsm is our SEO and SMO strategy that pushes content into the Cloud and onto social networks.  The idea behind this is to have quality content about your product or service posted on a variety of social networks.  There are two reasons we advocate what we call Cloud Seeding, first and foremost is to reach customers and prospective clients with engaging and useful content and to develop your brand.  Secondly, there is a definite SEO benefit from having quality content in a variety of places. The SEO value of this content varies widely for each network.  For example, Pinterest is hugely popular right now and can drive traffic, BUT Pinterest posts have zero SEO value as all of the links are “No Follow” links which means that Google and Bing spiders will not index these links.  From an SEO standpoint Pinterest links are effectively invisible.  Google Plus remains a fraction of the size of Facebook, but Plus 1’s, shares, and posts on Google Plus are a definite SEO boost.  While Facebook links do not count for link building, most agree that Likes help and have an SEO boost.  So while the direct value of social links may be lower than other links (for now), there is an indirect SEO benefit and a definite traffic and brand building benefit to a social media campaign with rich content. Get your Social Media and Cloud Seeding Campaign rolling! What Content Goes Where Website: content specifically about your products and services. Blog Posts: Your blog is a great place to talk about “how to” use your products, share customer success stories (as long as they deliver value to the reader), and provide insightful content relevant to your industry and area of expertise.  It is vital that your blog provide useful and interesting information and is not a sales pitch. Facebook & Google Plus: Your blog posts should be shared here and in addition share relevant posts from other sources such as news media, industry publications etc. Many users will see your Facebook and G+ posts in their stream so it is important to make your posts interesting, useful, fun, and most of all ZERO spam.  For B2B and most B2C brands we recommend posting no more than once a day, for many posting 2 to 3 times per week is adequate.  Brands in the entertainment sector can post more frequently. Twitter: the stream on Twitter is like a live news feed and the rules are very different here.  Treat Twitter like a real time discussion.  Posting your blogs here is a great idea and in fact you should repost them at different times as those on Twitter at 6PM did not likely see the link to your latest blog you posted at 9:15 AM this morning – but don’t go crazy and spam it.  It’s also great to share information relevant to your industry from a range of other sources.  Don’t assume that your Twitter followers saw today’s post on your Facebook page, they are often different users or may not have seen it. Pinterest: although Pinterest has zero SEO value it drives traffic.  Pinterest is not content driven, it is image driven.  It is basically a digital scrapbook you can share.  If you are going to participate in Pinterest it is vital that you post about several topics and not just about your stuff.  If you have great pictures to share AND you are interested in sharing other pictures then Pitnerest is for you.  You can set up different Boards (categories) that interest you.  Be creative, diverse, and have fun with it. Social Bookmarking, Tumblr, Digg, etc: these social networks are much smaller, but the user bases are very active and share a more than most users.  This is a tougher group to engage. They are very savvy and mediocre content will be outed quickly and spammy content can result in outright rude remarks.  Make sure your content and posts here are very high quality and provide useful information.  How Social Networks Connect-Interact with Your Website Your website is the hub of your Digital Marketing content and your blog (part of your website) is a vital part of that hub.  The first step is to have a website  and blog rich with quality content that is useful and informative. Pay particular attention to the useful and informative part.  No one wants yet another sales pitch or a page of content droning on and on about how you are the leading widget manufacturer or your widgets are the best or the cheapest, save that dribble for TV or radio ads if you still run them. Website Content: this is your repository for product/service information. Make sure you have an Information Architecture that flow well and is easy to navigate. You should have individual pages for each major product or service. Blog: this is where you add detail, updates, and provide editorial insight into you products, organization and industry. Your blog content is pushed out to Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter, as well as your website. Facebook and Google Plus: blog content will get pushed out to Facebook and Google Plus, and posts may link or relate to specific products,events or past blogs. Youtube: if you have video then by all means share it on Youtube and then post it on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and even your blog if it is relevant.  In choosing videos to share make sure that they deliver value to the users and provide either useful information or they are entertaining.  If you have “how to” videos your customers will appreciate these, just make sure you share and post them in the right place and appropriately. Articles and Press Releases: articles are sometimes written for third party sites or blogs and this can be good for SEO if done right. It is vital that the content be unique – it absolutely cannot be duplicate or copied content, and it must be good quality content. These article sites or blogs will link back to your website or blog and in some cases social networks may link to these articles which help with the authority ranking of the articles.

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