Are you a Digital Strategist or just a wannabe Online Marketer?

With the surge in popularity of online retail adoption, and online software-as-a-service, the buzz of digital marketing has peaked considerably in the last couple of years. And as with anything that gains popularity every man and his dog are claiming to be digital marketing experts and digital strategist. In this article I will outline why there is an influx of so called online marketing experts and how to differentiate between a real digital strategist from a wannabe online marketer.  A great example of a website that does digital marketing in real estate very well is RealestateMY .

It’s a known fact that information about digital marketing is all over the internet, and if someone were to read everything they would surely go insane from the sheer mass of information overload.

But because of this everybody from your high school drop out, to the 30 year marketing veteran are claiming to be experts in the field of digital marketing. They are using an arsenal of buzz words including seo, social media, mocial and BIG data without have any experience in them except for having read an article about it on mashable (no offence to mashable, they have an awesome blog).

To be a real digital strategist in this day and age, you have to have done more than just read a couple of articles online. Digital marketing is an evolving beast, and the best way to progress up the digital marketing ladder is through trial and error.

Experience and accomplishments are key to being a real digital strategist that has applied a digital strategy, got their hands dirty, and produced a result. Whether good or bad it is still an experience that can be learnt from. This is where you separate the boys from the men.

 

From my experience a good digital strategist would have:

  •  Used data from analytics to understand user behaviour, and used insights from this data to make informed decisions about optimisation.
  • Optimised revenue channels by testing, measuring and scaling strategies that have worked positively.
  • Built business process around the experiences and insights from executing different digital strategies.
  • Have experience with many different tools and technology and have integrated solutions together for overall performance enhancement.
  • Be entrenched in the data and be able to report of all the important metrics that are important for business growth.

The problem with finding good talent these days, is that its hard to differentiate between the real digital strategist and the wannabe online marketers. When searching for your next digital marketing hire, ask about their experience and accomplishments, rather than how much they know about digital marketing.

No matter how  much someone has read about digital marketing, or how many years of traditional marketing experience they have, nothing in any article will ever prepare an individual to be a great digital strategist.

True digital strategist are produced from a variety of experiences and accomplishments, whether it being from experimenting with digital channels or analysing trends in data.

But is saying this everyone needs some place to start, and my advice is to selectively read good articles from accomplish digital strategist and get your hands dirty by experimenting with different strategies with the aim of accomplishing something.

 

How to do a major rebrand and keep your website’s SEO rankings

As many of you may know we recently rebranded mooo.com.au to tinyme.com.au. The reason for the rebrand was quite simple, we were expanding overseas and did not have a mooo.com or mooo.co.uk.

 

So as the head of SEO I was tasked with planning and managing the “SEO” transition from mooo to tinyme. In a nutt shell I successfully (with a lot of sweat) recovered all our SEO rankings in 8 days after the major domain name transition.

 

The first 3 days after the transition our rankings dropped from page 1s to page 7s, which was quite bad seeing as most people don’t browse past the 1st page of search engine results. So as you can imagine it was a very stressful couple of days for me.

 

So I would like to share the steps I took in doing the transition, so anyone thinking of doing a rebrand in the future will have something to refer to. But before you start this process remember to benchmark your current rankings so you have something to refer to after the transition.

 

Step 1

Before you switch your site over, generate an xml site map of your current site.

 

Step 2

Identify all the external links that are going to your current website URL. This is to help you identify links which you can manually change to your new domain URL.

 

Step 3

Using 301 redirects (permanent redirects) make sure every URL from your current domain is redirected to your new domain. This is usually done in the server.

 

Step 4

Using your list of external links to your site, and if possible, contact the site owners who have existing links to your site, and get them to change the links to your new site URL. Its always better to have a direct link to your new site rather than a redirect.

 

Step 5

Revise your robots.txt file to make sure you disallow all pages and folders you do not want crawled by the search engines.

 

Step 6

Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account and add your new domain, then go onto the Bing Webmaster Center and do the same.

 

Step 7

In your current site Google Webmaster Tools site profile, fill out the Change of Address form to tell Google that you have moved to a new site URL.

 

Step 8

With your current xml site map, do a site submission to Google & Bing. This is to tell the search engines to crawl your current site to find all the new redirects.

 

Step 9

Write a post in the Google Groups Webmaster Central forum indicating your move, why it’s being done, and how you hope Google will recognise the domain name transition as legitimate.

 

Step 10

Once your site has been fully transitioned, use Xenu’s Link Sleuth to monitor your new site for broken links. And if you find any broken links, hurry and fix them ASAP.

 

In conclusion, once all this is done remember to keep closely monitor your site over the next couple months and keep up your normal SEO activities.

 

Also keep in mind your rankings will drop initially, no doubt about it, but they should return in a matter of days/weeks. (that’s if there aren’t any other issues with your site)

 

Doing an SEO site transition was definitely one of the biggest and most important projects ive handled and thankfully it all went well. So if you have this task at hand, be very systematic and thorough. And I wish you the best of luck with it!

Integrating Marketing Channels For Enhanced Multi Channel Marketing

 

 

In the past integrating traditional marketing channels has been a pretty difficult task and companies big and small would manage their marketing channels in isolation, creating silos in their marketing departments.

Thanks to the emergence of new digital channels it has become much easier to integrate marketing channels for multi channel and cross channel marketing.

Here are 3 simple reasons why organisations should integrate their marketing channels to compliment each other, rather than manage each channel in isolation.

 

Consumers will interact with more than one marketing channel before they decide to make a purchase.

These days with so many marketing channels easily available to consumers, a customer would interact with multiple marketing channels before actually making a purchase.

Typically before a customer would actually make a buying decision, they would have seen a print ad in a magazine, searched for a product on Google, clicked on a banner ad on a blog, or had a product recommended to them on facebook.

For brands that use a variety of marketing channels, it is very common to have specialised people or teams managing these different marketing channels. But to convey a clear message to the customer, it is important that all these different departments work together and are on the same page.  It is alright for different marketing channels to have different tones, but it is important for them to have the same voice.

 

Integrating marketing channels to test, measure, and amplify!

Compared to traditional marketing channels, digital marketing channels are a lot easier and quicker to test, measure and amplify.

A good example is using SEM (search engine marketing) like Google Adwords to test different advertising promotions.  By A/B split testing two ads with different promotions, you can determine which promotion is most appealing to customers before using it for other channels.

Another good example of testing advertising copy is through emails marketing. You can send out an EDM (electronic direct mail) to your subscriber list, and split test different advertising copy or design visuals. The variation with the best results (opens, clicks & conversions etc) will determine the winning ad copy.

Once you have tested and measured the results, the next step is to amplify the winning selections onto more traditional marketing channels, like print and television.

 

Leveraging marketing channels off each other = double the effectiveness.

The real value in integrating marketing channels is so they can leverage off each other and become more effective then they would be, just operating in isolation.

A simple example is leveraging social media with email marketing. Getting new fans on a new facebook page or twitter account can prove challenging at the start. But if your business has been operational for a while, and you have an existing subscription list of customers that you regularly email, you can leverage off your subscription list by emailing your list and asking your members to join your facebook.

You can also provide them with a share-to-social option to allow them share it with all their friends. Having your customers as fans on your facebook page, will double marketing effectiveness and increase traffic, because of the viral nature of social media networks.

This works in vice versa as well; you can easily build your email subscriber list from your facebook page, by offering incentives to fans for signing up using facebook applications.

 

Conclusion

Ive only outlined a few examples here, but there are many more ways you can integrate marketing channels together for better results. As long as communication between departments are good, and everyone is measuring the correct metrics and working toward the same goals, marketing channels can be easily integrated with each other to produce more effective results.

The importance of having a good SEO person in your company

A couple of months ago I attended the annual Bruce Clay training in Sydney. Now being an SEO for the last 5 years, I’ve heard about Bruce Clay a lot and hes one of the 4 guys I follow in SEO, the other 3 being Rand Fishkin, Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan. So being at the training was abit of a dream come true.

The training was quite pricy, but I was keen on what I could learn and also keen on meeting other SEOs that were at the event to gather their thoughts about the current SEO climate with pandas and penguins jumping all around.

The training went well, and Bruce Clay definitely knows a lot about SEO. From the training I realised that Bruce Clay really understands the algorithm rather than just speculating like most  “SEO experts” do.

Ben Liau - Bruce Clay
Ben Liau - Bruce Clay

 

As an SEO of over 5 years, I still learned alot and got quite a few great tips, and had my curly questions answered by Bruce Clay.

I was also surprised at the attendance at the training, a real mix bag of professionals including, big brands, big agencies, small seo specialist and pure play online retailers.

From chatting with many attendees, and listening to answers about questions from them, it ironically turns out most big agencies don’t know that much about SEO. This is followed by the big brands who basically work with these agencies. ( I don’t mean all of them, just speaking in general). The attendees that I came across that really know SEO were the pure play online retailers and some of the niche SEO specialists.

And another thing that was evidently clear, was that marketing people weren’t friends with IT people in many large companies. Also not surprisingly big brands and agencies work in silos, which seems to have been the case for many years now.

I think there are a few challenges SEOs in big brands face:

1. You have to act as a middle man between stake holders and agencies without learning that much SEO in the process.

2. You have to jump through many hoops to get anything done.

3. You have to work with people from other departments that don’t really want to work with you (IT Department).

Its does seems quite challenging being an SEO in that situation. But one thing big brands should do, is trust their digital marketing managers, and not put them through hoops every time they need something changed or something new implemented. The digital marketing industry is every changing, and if it going to take months to implement something new, big brands will miss the boat on the best time to execute.

I think the best strategy for big brands are to hire digital marketing experts who have had the experience of making smaller brands successful. These are the people who have fought for ROI without having much resources to use. When a person makes something out of nothing, thats when they become truly skilled at what they do, and become thought leaders in their space. These are the people who really know digital marketing and are passionate about it.

Also a good SEO must have a mix of skills. They must understand marketing to manage stake holders, and know how websites work, and abit of coding would be beneficial. They must also understand  IT infrastructure, to be able to talk to and build relationships with the IT department.

Another major quality an SEO must have is the ability to analyse data. There is no point getting an SEO that can just write content and link build, at the end of the day they will need to be able to analyse the data and make strategic decisions before they start optimising the site.

In saying all that finding a good SEO person is not easy. Im lucky, I know a hand full of SEOs that have those very skills. So if you are looking for a good SEO let me know and id be happy to pass on the contacts.

Happy Optimising people.

2012 Online Marketing Conferences And Expos In Australia

Hi everyone,

Here is a current list of online marketing conferences in Australia for 2012.

Australian Marketing Conferences in 2012 Date Location
Online Marketing Summit 2012 13-15 February 2012 Sydney
Schmart Marketing Conference 21-February-2012 Melbourne
Schmart Marketing Conference 23-February-2012 Sydney
Istrategy 21-22 February 2012 Sydney
Ad Tech 14-15 March 2012 Sydney
Ad Tech 28-29 March 2012 Melbourne
Ecommerce & Payments World 30-April-2012 Melbourne
Content Management World 01-May-2012 Melbourne
Cloud Computing World 02-May-2012 Melbourne
Digital Advertising World 30 April – 1 May 2012 Melbourne
Internet Show Melbourne 30 April – 1 May 2012 Melbourne
Social Media World 30 April – 1 May 2012 Melbourne
CEBIT Expo 22-24 May 2012 Sydney
Cebit Web Forward 22-24 May 2012 Sydney
Online Retailer & Ecommerce Conference 17-18 July 2012 Sydney

 

I will keep updating this list as new conferences get announced. So stay tuned!

Feel free to leave a comment if i have left any relevant conferences out, or if you would like more information about each conference, please let me know.


My first speaking opportunity at the Online Retailer Conference

I know its been just over a month since the online retailer conference, but I would like to share my very first speaking experience at the online retailer conference that was held in Sydney on the 26th September 2011.

We arrived in beautiful Sydney at 8am Monday morning for the social media summit, which was the pre conference event day. I had woken up at 3.30am in the same morning as our flight was in Avalon, Victoria which was 1.5 hours drive from where I lived.

As you can imagine the morning started pretty fuzzy. We got to our hotel and checked in, before quickly getting to the Sydney exhibition centre as we were running abit late.

When we got there we had already missed half of the keynote given by Dave Haber from ice.com . But the rest of the presentation was great, and it was good to get an inside look at how ice.com run their social media department. Then we had Nick Lansley from Tesco, who looked like he had just run a marathon prior to coming up on stage. Nick shared some pretty insightful stuff about mobile, also touching on great innovations in some of the Asian countries.

During the break I had a good chat to Dave Haber, about their social media resourcing, as I was looking to grow the moooo marketing team. He mentioned that having someone assist with social media is great, but it was best to ease them into the role, and give them more responsibility as they progress, but also still manage and monitor the metrics from a higher level. At ice.com, Dave runs all the social media marketing with Lauren who helps with the content. Its pretty amazing for just a 2 person team, to pull off such great social media campaigns.

Next we were broken up into 2 tracts mobile and social media. The first social media marketing track looked great, but ended up quite boring. I then moved over to the mobile track, which was Craig Sulliven, who was an ace and a real gun with testing, and definitely great value with insights. I then went to more of the social media track but again, the presentations were not as good.

At the breaks, we had networking sessions and I did meet some interesting people and it was a great day for networking. That night we went over our presentation and were making many tweaks, so it was still very much a work in progress.

The next day, which was the 1st official day of the main conference, the rest of my team rocked up. The 1st day keynote speakers were great, Yona from beyondtherack.com, gave us insight on how they got started and the hurdles they faced when starting, which was very inspirational. Tyler Hoffman from Google, as expected just pushed googles new products.

Gabby from catchoftheday.com.au was quite amusing, doing his usually controversial trolling, while the others were pretty average. We then broke up into the 5 tracks, I moved quite a bit between tracks from stuff on SEO, to SEM to email marketing to website usability. 1 standout was an american guy from Silverpop who gave us some good insights on email marketing and mobile.

After the conference it was time for the ORIAS, we were nominated for 2 awards, best pure play and best use of technology. We lost both to surf stitch . The ORIAS was good, with Vince Sorrenti doing a stand up skit for us, he was pretty funny. Food was just ok. I ended up with chicken while the 2 people next to me at steak, which was quite annoying. Big winners for the night were: style tread, appliances online, dick smith, and surf stitch. After the long day, and night, we went back to the hotel for another practice presentation session, but decided that we were too tired and would do it in the morning. Next morning it was D day for our presentation. We did a final rehearsal, and saved the keynote presentation on a thumb drive to give to Kylie.

The keynotes for the 2nd day were great, with the ex Wallmart SVP, and a great presentation from Jon Kamaluddin from asos.com. The 2nd day of the conference seemed a little better than the 1st day with quite a few stand out presentations including one on website usability from Josh Himwish from diapers.com, and another good one session on split testing from Craig Sullivan.

And then it was our turn to present. This was my very first time in front of such a big crowd and to say I was nervous was an understatement. I walked in and sat next to Mike my co speaker. I asked him if he was ready, and he said he was kinda nervous. So it was time for our big talk, and we were already 5 mins late because of technical issues. I was quite confidant until everyone started coming in and we had a full house, which what I was not expecting.

When I got on stage to start, I was hit with a wall of nervousness. And my co-speaker accidentally stuffed up our initial introductions so I didn’t get a chance to say it was my 1st time and to excuse my nervousness. So basically I was stuck to having to talk for around 15 mins consistently, while all I wanted to do was run off stage. Again it was my first ever time in front of so many people, but I thought to myself, it is now or never. I so just did it. And with all eyes looking at me, I pushed forward.

It didn’t go the way I had practiced, my tones were all wrong, but I didn’t give up I just kept going, trying my best to engage the crowd. As it came to Mikes turn to speak, I could see he was quite nervous, he started going for it, but I think due to the time limit was rushing.Mike started just reading as much as he could, he even went over his spot and started reading over mine. Finally it was wrap up time and I wrapped up to finish things off. At the end I apologised for the nervousness and told them to contact me if they had questions.

On the way out there were a few people who asked for my card which was nice, and a few others smiled at me before they left which was encouraging, I also got some positive twitter mentions which really made my day. Metal note first thing to do is join toast masters to improve my presentation skills. By next year I should be all ready for more speaking events.

A big thanks to the online retailer team for giving me the opportunity.

What It Takes To Become an Effective Link Builder

Good link builders are a special hybrid of SEOs. There are a lot of good SEOs in the industry, but effectively building links is very different from just keyword research, copywriting, or technical analysis. I’ve been thinking alot about what makes a good and effective link builder.

Whether you’re an SEO expert looking to improve your own skills or a marketing manager looking to hire a new link builder, here are the characteristics of a good and effective link builder.

Internet Culture

SEO is one of the few industries where my history as an awesome video game player, an epic geared raiding Wizard, forum admin and hacker supreme became a marketable skill.

I’m an awesome marketer online, not because I have  marketing training, but because I understand online communities properly.

A link builder should read Reddit daily, keep on top of memes, , use StumbleUpon,read Hacker News , and engage on Twitter. They should follow analysis on these communities.

Internet Culture

Real creativity is one of the things that is difficult, maybe impossible, to teach. It can be encouraged through culture, because everyone has a level of creative genius, but creativity is something I would hire for.

Sea, especially link building, is moving closer to being inbound marketing, which is starting to become difficult to distinguish from pure traditional marketing. Creativity is a driver of holistic marketing strategies.

The Search engine optimisation creative process can also be inspired.

At Digital Online Strategy, we have a structures in place which help inspire creativity. It’s important to establish boundaries and kinds of thinking that help creativity. Having the ability the stop,  drink a beer, and invest full mental power allows your brain to free itself up creativity.

Analytical Skills

But creativity isn’t enough for an effective link-builder. Technical skills are also a requirement. Digital online strategy carries resident math, computer science, and computer engineering majors. Before leaving college to pursue a career in SEO, I was studying computer engineering and worked at Vanderbilt where I did pharmacology research and development.

A good link builder should have an understanding of data analysis to conduct competitive link analysis, to dig deep into a website’s information, to perform research, and to bring insights out of large sets of crazy information.

This also includes good skills on using the right tools, such as Excel, and Google Analytics.

Good analytical skills allow a link builder to do 2 things really well:

  1. Readily scale processes by evaluating data effectively.
  2. Recognise changes & trends, which can be reapplied to your digital marketing efforts.

Technical Skills

Although a not so technical link builder can build links through the process of content creation, business development, PR and outreach; they don’t have the ability to develop products or agile tools without leaning on another team.

Technical Skills a Link Builder need to Have

  • Knowledge of (X)HTML/CSS
  • Understanding of at least one modern programming language (no need to code, but hack at least)
  • Knowing how to build agile tools in Google Docs
  • Knowing how to upload files via FTP
  • Knowing how to execute 301 redirects using .htaccess and how to develop robots.txt files
  • Knowledge of sufficient coding skills to “get” tools like Firebug

Sociable Geek

A link builder is not the same as a technical SEO, and must be a social geek. The SEO who loves crawl analysis may absolutely hate talking to people. A link builder must be happy talking and engaging with complete strangers about links.

I do believe being sociable is a skill you can learn. By nature, I’m very introverted, so I find people describing me as a “ personable search marketer” a bit odd. I have improved my skills as a link builder by constantly presenting, facing clients all the time, going to networking events, and talking to strangers on the tram.

Sales Experience

Very few job experiences taught me more about link-building than the 3 months I worked in-house as an internet marketing intern and was placed into the sales department. I worked on a 15 person cold calling sales team and was exposed to their culture during my time working with them.

Recommended Sales Reading for Link Builders

Ingenuity

By ingenuity, I mean something totally different from just creativity.

Ingenuity is intellectual hustle.

Ingenuity allows link builder to develop well thought out, systematic & clever solutions. Ingenuity is seen in careers like developers, scientists, artists, engineers and musicians.

Ingenuity also leads to agile toolsscrapers, and custom search engines. Link building ingenuity leads to building great indexes of the internet & also scalable link building tools. Effective link builders are willing to intellectually hustle to get a solution.

Hustle

A link builder isn’t just putting links on websites, they are building businesses. They’re creating the difference between a good business and its competition. As a link-builder, you should always be bringing hustle to your work all the time. A link builder with hustle can dominate big brands and companies with huge budgets by simply outworking them all.

Extra “Panda” Update Information Starting to Appear..

 

Last Friday, Google posted an update on its Webmaster Central blog titled “Providing More Guidance on Building High-Quality websites“. The blog post expands on much of what Google has said about the infamous Panda update since its first release on February 24th.

In statements about the Panda update, Google has used a number of questions that they’re attempting to answer with an algorithm. “Do you feel comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?” & “Would you take medical advice from this site?” are 2 that have been around since the very beginning. Last Friday’s Webmaster Central post offered up a better list with some of the highlights below:

  • Does the website have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Does the article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine/real interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by trying to guess what might rank well in the search engines?
  • Does the article provide original/real content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its particular topic?
  • Is the content being mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of content creators, or spread across a large network of websites, so that individual pages or websites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Is this the sort of page you would want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of advertising that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Will users complain when they see pages from this site?
  • Will you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Answering the “touchy” Questions

We can conclude how Google can algorithmically answer quite a number of the questions, but what about those “touchy” questions, like the credit card issue question? It’s hard to say, but actually having alot of the questions answered about your website might provide some valuable feedback. If you’re an in-house SEO for a website that has been banned, perhaps one of the following services can be used to help a claim for a re-design or some other change in website philosophy.

UserTesting

User Testing LogoUserTesting is a high-end feedback solution. For $39 you will get a video of a user interacting with your website. UserTesting lets you to ask the user up-to 4 questions after they’ve completed the feedback video, which would be a execellent place to ask some of our Panda questions. 

Other Panda Odds and Ends

NPR did a  long story on Panda’s effect on one company’s struggle since it got Panda-fied: Google’s search new tweaks puts a company at risk

Matt Cutts quote from that  particular story:

“Think about something like an Apple product, when you buy an Apple product you open it up, the box is beautiful, the packaging is beautiful, the entire experience is really wonderful”.

It sounds to me that this particular statement is really just another way of saying “huge amounts of duplicated or bad content on your site can impact the whole domain”.

Reversing the Effects of  the Panda update

Tom Critchlow had this exchange of words with Matt Cutts on Twitter:

@mattcutts assuming a site completely reworks their site/content after panda, how long before they will regain traffic?less than a minute ago via web  Favorite  Retweet  Reply

@tomcritchlow short version is that it’s not data that’s updated daily right now. More like when we re-run the algorithms to regen the data.less than a minute ago via web  Favorite  Retweet  Reply

Moral of this story: Do not expect rankings to come right back after making changes. This is a quite frustrating because webmasters cannot make a change, wait to see if the change actually “worked”, then try something else. It also might explain why there has been so few reports of websites regaining their traffic.

A 3rd Panda Spotted?

Some rumors picked up in early May that a 3rd Panda update may have gone live. Users were reporting wild fluctuations in their rankings and other weird things in the Google cache and site search commands. Considering what Matt Cutts said above, it  actually makes more sense for Panda updates to hit suddenly and all at once, rather than over a longer period of time. Some sources are reporting that their exact match domains took a hit.

So our current Panda timeline now reads:

  1. Feb 24th, 2011: New Panda rollout on Google.com searches
  2. April 11th, 2011: New Panda rollout to all English speaking Google sites. Additional tweaks made to original algorithm
  3. May 3-6th, 2011: Mabe a Third Panda update?

Have you seen any drastic traffic changes during this time frame? Have any of your websites recovered from initially being Panda-fied?

 

Search and Social: Are You Missing Out?

It seems that every so often I’m presented with managing a client’s search engine optimization (SEO) campaign and immediately run into a disconnect: no social media presence! To me, the two logically go together, but to others they may seem mutually exclusive. They’re missing out!

Admittedly, search engines utilize social media factors when determining rankings. How could you not? With sites like Facebook attracting over 500 million users, and Twitter producing 50 million tweets per day, search engines would be remiss if they failed to acknowledge the key signals indicated when users recommend, “Like,” share, tweet, update, or otherwise share information.

If you were a search engine, trying to filter out spam and produce the right results to searchers, wouldn’t you want to make sure you properly “counted” the content/websites that online users really find interesting? That’s where social media comes into play.

Real-time Search

In the recent past, online users have seen search engine’s experimentations with integrating social media factors into their algorithms. The addition of real-time search to Google (and subsequently to Bing) is proof positive that search engines actually care what is said in the social realm.

They’ve made a few adjustments since they started showing the results back in December , but occasionally you’ll see it pop up in the SERPs. Imagine tweeting from your branded account, and having your tweet pop up in a prospective clients search — on the first page of Google.

Rankings

Not only can your social media profile be showcased in real-time search, the profile itself can rank for keywords. For example, for about a week now, a Google search for [holiday gifts] (a term searched an estimated 49,500 times per month) ranked the Twitter account @ number one.

Google SERP Holiday Gifts

Reputation Management

Maybe ranking for specific keywords aren’t your concern with social media, but reputation management is your thing. Social profiles rank high for brand names, especially heavy hitters like Twitter and Facebook.

But don’t forget about niche sites. This list of niche social networking sites is continually updated, reviews are available, and organized by niche. Brands can rank highly using social sites such as LinkedIn, Business Exchange, iCareCafe, and even MySpace.

Be sure to sign up for, and utilize, niche sites. Not only for rankings, but also the simple fact that your prospects might just frequent these sites. If you have a presence and are active, you won’t just be helping your rankings — you’re potentially helping your bottom line and getting direct traffic to your site.

Site Search

It’s time to start thinking of sites like Twitter and Facebook as search engines. Twitter serves up a reported 24 billion searches per month. This, compared to the rough estimates from Bing (4.1 billion) and Yahoo (9.4 billion), is truly monumental. The trend is shifting. Will you be there to take advantage?

Keyword Research

Have you ever used social media for keyword research? You can gain a lot of insight into what your audience is talking about by looking at Twitter searches, and integrating that “jargon” into your SEO campaigns. You’d be surprised what new keywords you can find simply by listening a bit to your audience, and integrating them into your messaging and SEO efforts.

Link Building

In the traditional sense, social sites can be a way for your brand to build links back to your website. Whether it’s a link to your most recent blog post, a link to your services page, or even a keyword in your bio that links back to your website, each can be seen by Google and are given some “credit.” These links are almost always no-follow, but no-follow doesn’t mean they are “unseen” or purposeless.

One way businesses fail to truly optimize their social link building for search engines is in the lack of keyword integration. A few suggestions:

  • Use your keywords in your tweets, and follow it up with a link to your website. Even if you use a short URL, you can optimize your efforts. Many free URL shorteners allow users to customize the URL. Put your keywords in there!
  • Import your blog to your social profile (Facebook allows this, as do many others). If your blog has an internal link to your site (of course hyperlinked to your keywords), it will be transferred to your social profile when posted.
  • Add keywords to the meta title of your social profile. In Twitter the meta title of your profile is the name field and handle. Add some of your keywords in this area (as applicable).
  • Anytime you upload an image to your Flickr page, Facebook, etc., why not add a keyword? Just one more area you can optimize your efforts for search engines.

As you can see, there are many ways in which social merges with search (or search merges with social), and many areas where businesses very well may miss out. So the big question you must answer is: How do you make sure your brand doesn’t miss out on optimizing your social media efforts for search engines?

 

Kaila Strong

13 Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Local SEO Consultant

Just got an inquiry from the millionth small business who had wasted a nice chunk of their budget on an offshore SEO agency that did a grand total of nothing except worthless spammy link building. Here’s an example.

I am not going to bitch about snake-oil salesmen, ethics, how many good SEOs there are, etc. Instead I am going to ask every small biz out there who is reading this to sit up straight, stop mumbling, look me in the eye and pay attention. It’s time to wise up.

Now I know you are no search marketing expert. That’s why you’re looking for help with your SEO right? So I thought it might be useful to put together this list of questions for the next time you take a pitch from your friendly local SEO consultant:

Can you tell me exactlyhow you do what you do? Local SEO is not magic. There is a long list of techniques that are known to work. Some work better than others. While how a SEO campaign is executed can have some proprietary aspects to it, in general a good SEO consultant should have no problem telling you how that are going to go about improving your rankings. In particular you want to make sure they are not using any spammy techniques that could potentially harm your business. If they avoid the question or they don’t seem particularly transparent about their methodology, hang up the phone. It’s not particularly hard to switch out a toilet, but most people would prefer to hire an expert so it gets done right. Your plumber doesn’t have any secrets (at least I think he doesn’t) so why should your SEO consultant?

What are you going to need from me to be successful? While it typically takes some time to analyze the state of a business’ SEO, the consultant likely has a list of tactics they will deploy which they know from the start. Some of these will require input from the client. It’s important for you to understand up front how much of commitment will be required. Knowing how much time, money and human resources you will need to spend will help you determine how profitable this effort will be.

Do I control access to all accounts? Typically local SEO engagements require updating your business’ profiles on a number of sites: Google, Bing, Yahoo, yellow pages sites, etc. I hear from businesses all of the time who can no longer get into their Google Place Page account because their old SEO agency or a former employee created it for them. It is critical that you control admin access to the account for any profile or page created for you by a third party. This can save you a lot of headaches if you part company in the future.

How are the spammers doing it? Most SEOs I know typically work inside of the various search engines’ guidelines to achieve great rankings for their clients. It can be tedious, not-very-glamorous work, but in the long run it pays off. That said, there are a whole host of successful SEOs that use less-than-kosher techniques that can pay off fast and drive a ton of new customers to their clients. While these techniques can be risky, the short term ROI on them can be stellar. I would never recommend that a client go this route, but as I watch the same spammy fake address listing rank #1 for a valuable local query for the third month in a row, I would be hard-pressed to tell a client that it is not worth doing. If you are going to play in this game, you need to know both how to play by the rules and how to break them. If the consultant doesn’t know about these techniques, how are they going to know how to beat them?

What is a typical return on investment for one of your clients? This is always a great question. Depending on the client’s business, a good search marketing consultant should be able to come up with some kind of tangible ROI metric that you can relate to your own business. Instead of “increased traffic 50%” I like stuff like “generated five breast augmentation customers at $1,500 a pop and twenty qualified leads in sixty days.” That one always starts a good conversation with the prospect. 🙂

How do you measure your effectiveness? Pretty simple question. How are you going to prove to me you did what you did and that it worked? Typical answers include: increase in rankings for targeted terms, increased qualified traffic to your site, increased inbound email and phone calls (via a tracking phone number usually), and ultimately increased business.

How do you communicate your effectiveness to me? The consultant should have a system that regularly communicates what they have done, what is going to be done and when.

Who’s my point of contact? You or a 22-year-old? Enough said.

If we part ways, will you remove all your work from my website and the links you have secured? This is why it’s important to understand the consultant’s methodology from the get-go. SEO consultants often rely on networks of sites they control to get links to your site. Then they hold you hostage by threatening to remove those links if you don’t renew a deal. Make sure you understand up front that this is not the case.

Can you show me some representative results? If they can’t show you a company that they have successfully ranked #1 for a variety of competitive terms and give you an idea of how they did it, then say sayonara.

Can you give me some references?

Why do customers leave you? I doubt there is any agency out there that has a perfect record when it comes to performance and customer retention. Customers change their strategies. Consultants don’t hit home runs every time. An honest discussion about challenges the consultant has had with customers and how they are improving things is always a good thing. A good consultant should almost be proud of their mistakes. I like to tell my clients that when I started doing SEO I lost a lot of traffic and learned enough so that you don’t have to.

What sets you apart from other SEO companies? The answer here shouldn’t be “we get you ranked #1.” What you really want to know is why they think they deserve your business vs. the thousands of other guys out there?

 

Andrew Shortland