In light of the many changes in various social media platforms, mostly having to do with making images bigger and better, it emphasizes the well-known notion that we live and thrive in a visual age.
By instinctual nature, humans are naturally sensory beings. As we get deeper into the age of technology and the Internet, we become more and more connected to our electronics: laptops, iPads, Kindles, smartphones…the list of must-have gadgets gets longer and longer. And what is the one out of the five senses that we can most easily stimulate in the world of technology? Right! Vision!
It brings many questions to the forefront of my mind. When we rely heavily on virtual communication and aren’t able to sense the emotion behind the words, what is the impact on human communication?
When we aren’t able to touch and feel, will we over time rely less on this sense or will we be desensitized to touch?
The true impact of technology on human emotions remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the current landscape of one of the most popular human activities, the Internet, continues to feed our voracious appetites for visual stimulation.
Isn’t it interesting…
I collected the following images from Wikimedia and my own personal collection into a slideshow to demonstrate the power of visuals on our emotions. Think about how these images make you feel. That’s the power of an image in marketing!
I know what you may be thinking. “I’m comfortable with Skype. I’m used to it.” When someone first suggested Hangouts to me, I thought the same thing. However, going with the flow of the meeting organizer, I began attending weekly meetings using the Google+ platform. Now that I’m past the resistance to trying something new and the ten minute set-up time is out of the way, I much prefer Google+ Hangouts. Here are a few reasons why you should consider making the switch:
- You can have up to ten people in a video conference. Using Skype, you are required to upgrade to their premium plan in order to chat with more than one person. In my experience, the quality of a Hangout has always been exceptional.
- Google+ now offers Hangouts on Air which not only allows you to broadcast your Hangout to an unlimited number of viewers, but also gives you the option of recording your broadcast. A Google player will be displayed on your Google+ profile homepage as well as your YouTube channel.
- Google+ Hangouts is super easy to use. Once you get the set-up out of the way, Hangouts are a breeze. You can start a Hangout from your Gmail chat or your Google+ account. The interface is even more intuitive than Skype’s particularly Google+’s screensharing feature.
- App integration with Hangouts make the experience even better. There are all kinds of fun apps you can add to your Hangout, but most importantly for business uses, you can collaborate on Google Docs during your video conference.
So overall, I highly recommend checking out Hangouts. The benefits for using it as a business tool are many: meetings, improved customer service, webinars, live broadcasts, technology walk-throughs, the list goes on and on.
What’s your experience with Hangouts?
There are many factors playing into the game of SEO that makes each person’s quest for a top spot in Google search results unique. Some businesses, depending on the industry, will find that top positioning will be more challenging than others. However, regardless of each individual situation, there are basic strategies that everyone should incorporate into their SEO efforts.
Since there is entirely too much knowledge to share on the topic of SEO in the body of one post, I will provide a task list and each action item will be linked to a detailed tutorial on more details and steps to achieve each tip. You may decide that if you want to implement most or all of these strategies, you will work on one or two at a time. That’s my way of warning you that there is A LOT of work that can be done so be careful not to get overwhelmed by taking it on all at once. DIY SEO is a mammoth task best done by scheduling blocks of time dedicated to your ongoing efforts a little bit at a time.
The first place to start with you SEO efforts is on-site optimization which simply means you are structuring your site and its content to be as attractive as possible to search engines while preserving the visitor experience.
Learn how to get the most bang for your titling efforts. A great SEO plugin to use to help you with creating titles, descriptions, and keywords for SEO purposes is the All-in-One SEO pack for WordPress. Steer clear of duplicate titles and using titles over 65 characters. Google only shows 70 characters of a title in search results as of the date of publishing so it’s a good idea to stay under 65 to ensure that your titles are seen.
Crafting the perfect meta description for each page means less to SEO and more to the click-through rate, but at the end of the day, isn’t that our goal…to get someone on our website? The meta description is the blurb that you see in search results that delivers your message in 160 characters or less so make it count! Once again, low-ball it to make sure your message is seen and try to stay under 150 characters. It’s a good idea to use a call-to-action in the meta description, “Call Asheville Marketing Solutions at 828.484.1760 to get yourself found in search results!” Without even clicking through, they have contact info in one glance. This can be very effective for some service related industries.
The Google keyword tool is hands down the best free tool we have at our disposal. Just by inputting what keywords you are using, what you think you should use or even just your website url will return a wealth of keyword suggestions. Google will tell you how many people globally search for each term, how many people locally (U.S. searches) search for each term, and the competition. A good rule of thumb is to choose keyword phrases, that pair the largest searches with the lowest competition. Generally speaking, this will help you have the best chance to get in front of the most people. Once you determine the most effective keywords for all of your content, you can use these in your page and blog titles, content, video descriptions, picture alt text, social media profiles, everywhere!
This is particularly helpful for those who have internet reviews, products, events, and other important uses described in the article linked above. Using microdata helps the search engine spiders best understand your site content and makes the search results stand out from the rest resulting in a higher click-through rate. Schema Creator provides the information and tools to make this happen for you; they even have a handy WordPress plugin to make it even easier.)
This is for anyone who writes blog posts or articles on their website and has a Google+ profile. Completing this step will put a thumbnail profile picture next to the search results once again making it stand out from the rest of the results- see screenshot. (If you don’t yet have a Google+ account, I highly recommend you create one. Don’t stress about having to keep up with another social media outlet, just creating a profile carries many benefits…trust me on this one!) Here is a step-by-step tutorial on becoming a verified Google author.
This is specifically for WordPress users. First make sure, you are using “pretty permalinks” which simply means the url of each page ends with the title of your page versus a string of odd characters. Once you have this set-up, you can go one step further and edit the permalinks to be SEO optimized. Refer to the screenshot for where to find this option in WordPress. This is a good opportunity to tack on a more pointed keyword, potentially your target market city. For example, a good custom permalink for myself might look something like this: http://ashevillemarketingsolutions.com/web-design-asheville. Make sense?
Include social media integration.
Adding social media icons to your website not only gives you a few SEO points by having your links in there, but you are making it easier for your audience to follow your web presence. It’s a win-win situation! And of course, if you are a WordPress user and you do not know how to upload icons and link them to your profiles, there are (surprise!) plugins to help you. Check out Simple Social icons by Studiopress to get you started.
Add social sharing buttons to your site.
This is different from putting your social media icons on your site. The social media integration will only help to bring people to your social media profiles and build your social media audiences. Social sharing will allow people to share your website pages or blog posts with various social media channels. Of course, you can always grab the link from the address bar and share that way, but unless you make it as easy as possible, chances are people will not do it. The +1 is particularly important to encourage the use of as it is naturally interwoven into Google’s search engine functionality. Here is a blog post that offers a list of social sharing plugins for you to pick from.
For the best Google on-site optimization tips, go straight to the source!
Google’s support offers some additional SEO tips you should check out to jump start your efforts.
Phew! There’s certainly more to it, but hopefully this will give you enough to get started and be effective. Stay tuned for the next installment of SEO tips which will focus on off-site SEO strategies. I hope these help, and I would be thrilled to hear any of your SEO tips or success stories so please feel free to share!
A special thanks to Bradley Benner of Big Bamboo Marketing for teaching me most of what I have learned about SEO so that I can pass it on to my readers. It is through the sharing of knowledge that we all become the best we can be and for that I am grateful.
So, you’ve decided that a webinar can really help you to promote a product or service you are excited about sharing with everyone! Do you have questions about where to start and how it all works? Well, fret no more, and get your calendar out to schedule your first webinar because here are the steps to take to get you to showtime:
- Choose your platform. There are dozens of webinar platforms out there to pick from so think about what your needs are for your presentation and audience. How many people do you project will attend? Will you be doing a presentation where screensharing is necessary? Is the platform Mac compatible? (I learned to ask this question the hard way.) I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you are thinking of or planning your first webinar, then any number of free options will serve you just fine. I have had experience with FreeConferenceCall.com which worked okay for meetings until I realized they couldn’t support screensharing on a Mac. (This may have changed by now.) Since then I have gone with AnyMeeting.com and have been pleased with my experience. You can have up to 200 attendees for free, it is extremely easy to use, it has screensharing capabilities, allows you to record, and the quality of the audio and video is more than acceptable. My only qualm with the software is the slight audio delay when using the video and the screensharing, but if you just turn off your video, it runs expeditiously. A few other reputed webinar service providers to check out would be: GoToMeeting, MeetingBurner, and WebEx.
- Design your script or presentation. First and foremost, the goal of your webinar should be to provide enough value to make it well-worth attending while at the same time leaving the audience’s mouths watering for the benefits of the service or product you are promoting. Your product or service should be quenching some burning desire of your market or else, well, it probably just won’t sell. So keeping in mind what benefits you are providing, always start your webinar out with the solution to their struggles. Surely, that’s what draws them to the webinar in the first place; they identify with the problem that you are presenting a solution to. Naturally, it’s important to focus on how you can help solve those problems. Then carefully design a dazzling and valuable tasting of your solution walking the line between making people understand just enough about the process to understand it and want to do it, while not “giving away the farm.”
- You need an opt-in procedure. You need to have a process to promote the webinar that will be promoting your product or service. The best way to do this is to have an opt-in page designed- the simpler, the better. The main elements of an effective opt-in page are a video explaining what people will be getting out of your “free” webinar, the registration form to capture their name and email address, the details of the webinar, and social sharing capabilities. Here is a reference to a guy selling opt-in templates that I found with a quick Google search. I’m sure that you could find free options out there too with a little digging. I host the opt-in pages on our website and upload them through my FTP client, but if you purchase a template, it should come with basic installation instructions. I know the link I mentioned above has said instructions.
- Plan your email marketing. Make sure to have autoresponders set-up so that once you are open for sign-up, your registrants will receive a confirmation email with details about the webinar and social sharing capabilities so people can help you promote. You should also set-up a reminder to go out the morning of the event and one the day after to thank everyone for attending, possibly to include a recording if necessary, and a call-to-action to purchase the product or service. It’s a good idea to create a sense of urgency with the enticement of early bird pricing or a bonus to the first so many people who purchase. Word to the wise: when you are designing your form for your opt-in within your email marketing program, be sure to create a new list for the webinar so people that are already in your database can still sign-up for the event. Many email marketing providers will ping a pop-up stating that the email address provided is already a subscriber preventing them from signing up….not good.
- Promote the event. Now you’re ready to receive registrants so start promoting! It’s a good idea to give yourself at least two weeks leading up to the webinar to promote across your channels. Schedule your social media posts, frequently reminding your audience of the impending event. Write a blog post about it, include it in your newsletters or a solo mailing, mention it at the next networking meeting, plug it in your LinkedIn groups, tell your friends, sing it from the hilltops…just get people excited!
- Get your sales page ready. Here’s what it all comes down to…the sales page. Create a page presenting the product or service with corresponding graphics and even another video would be effective. Give people your spiel, give them the option to buy with the spotlight on the deal or special, and as always, give people the ability of social sharing. As with the opt-in page, there are many templates out there to make this step a breeze.
- Practice, practice, practice. Make sure to have at least one (if possible more) dry run of the presentation just as it will happen on game day. You want to be full sure that the webinar platform is running smoothly on your machine and that you feel comfortable using it. I highly recommend recording your practice sessions to critically assess the areas needed to improve upon. Make sure to invite a couple of friends or family members who you know will provide you with valuable feedback.
- You’re on! You made it this far, there’s no turning back. Start the meeting at least 30 minutes ahead of time to account for any unforeseen last minute snafus with compatibility or computer issues. Ideally, you have a laptop as backup to your desktop or vice versa. Make sure to keep bullet points written down to guide you effortlessly through your presentation, smile (even if they can’t see you), and enjoy yourself. Your attitude is contagious and what sells. Have fun..what your doing is awesome!
Ben Franklin once advised:
Either write about something worth reading or do something worth writing about.
In the modern marketing arena, consumers desire connections- authentic, reciprocal, trustworthy connections. One major way that these connections are bolstered is through writing, through offering valuable content to your audience. Valuable is the keyword. Developing content is of very little use if no one is listening or worse yet, if no one cares. Well, I don’t know about you all, but the biggest stumbling block I run into in the blogging arena is coming up with valuable stuff to write about. I have great ideas for content when I’m driving in the car, taking a shower, or laying in bed about to go to sleep, and as you have most likely already guessed, those thoughts are long gone with hordes of other forgotten ideas that should have been written down.
In searching for inspiration for my own blog post, I ran across this infographic with awesome ideas for generating blog content. This very post is #1 in action thanks to the folks of Copyblogger for putting it together:
Pinterest has undoubtedly become a social media force to be reckoned with and although the buzz seems to have quieted a bit, I suspect Pinterest is in it for the long haul. One challenge is that people are just plain overloaded with social media channels, but many people in the service industry struggle to find the benefits of Pinterest for their industry. Hearing this from various sources, I smelled a challenge, and a challenge to me is like a dangling carrot. So for all you service industry peeps out there, here are a few thoughts on how to rock Pinterest for your business.
Yes, I know social media feeds all over the internet are saturated with photoquotes, but, hey, they’re engaging. And isn’t that the name of the game?! You can very easily put text on photos with factory installed software on your computer or a host of different apps designed for doing just what we’re talking about. Check out Pinstamatic for a really cool Pinterest tool!
Having a “Pin-it to win it” contest can be highly effective in building an audience and encouraging repins which ultimately shares a link to your site every time this is done. Create a simple graphic announcing the sweepstakes prize and instruct people to repin for a chance to win a free service. Another way, Pinstamatic can come in handy! Just make sure to addend to your pins description that the pin is now closed once you have drawn a winner.
Pinterest isn’t just for images. In the service industry, videos can be a great marketing tool. I often create screencast videos to teach someone how to do something with their internet marketing. This video can then be used on my blog, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to create your own videos, you can share any video on YouTube that you fancy and that supports your biz. I would just suggest not using videos that advertise your direct competitors, but you already knew that.
In this age of relationship marketing giving people a bit of insight into your personal interests and activities can be of great value to the overall picture. Sharing can really enforce an authentic connection with clients and prospects in limited amounts.
So, in closing…
You don’t have to spend hours maintaining your Pinterest account, but just create one. A one time 45 minute investment with monthly upkeep of just a few minutes can be great for your social media proof and searchability. And, hey, you might just enjoy it!
With the onset of a new year and renewed energy and optimism for all that the year holds for us, our minds inevitably turn to resolutions. “Lose weight! Eat healthy! Get fit! Save money! Spend money!” Weʼre inundated with countless reminders, and itʼs become a New Yearʼs tradition for many. Somewhat of an obligation brought to the forefront of our minds by the prolific messages pushed out by the media and circles abuzz with their big hopes and plans.
I have lots of goals for the new year, so many in fact, that the difficulty lies in focusing on them individually, and I tend to get lost in overwhelm. Does anyone else have this problem? I suspect Iʼm not the only one, and in the spirit of “tradition” and taking measures to actually achieve my goals, Iʼm bringing to awareness a technique many of you may have already heard of or practiced at some time or another: S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is simply a mnemonic term coined to describe the essential elements of setting goals meaning your objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This method works with all types of goals especially our business goals. In conjunction with writing down your goals or resolutions, make sure to ask yourself the following questions relating to each component of the S.M.A.R.T.
process, and I would bet on a higher success rate for achieving your goals.
Specificity is a fundamental necessity for successful communication, and setting goals is a form of communication we have with ourselves and our business associates. We can easily project a broad goal to make more money in the new year, but a specific goal answers to the what, why, who, where, and which. So getting specific, I might say I want to increase my income to six figures by enlisting help with tasks while focusing on my local and global marketing and continuously tracking progress. Already this goal seems more obtainable with a developing plan of action.
Now letʼs quantify this goal with the how. How much, how many, how will I? Now I might get deeper into the specifics by saying, I need to make X income to pay for Y of budgeted expenses and have Z for ownerʼs draw and the business. I will spend 30-60 minutes weekly assessing the progress of my goal. I know, I know…budgets and projections can be difficult part of our business strategies, but a very necessary part of a successful operations as supported by this style of goal setting.
At this point in the exercise, we can take a look at our answers and decide if our goals are attainable. The thought has probably already crossed your mind by this point, but based on the answers to the questions thus far we can ask ourselves, “Is this a realistic goal?” Or more specifically, “Am I going to be able to achieve this goal in the desired timeframe at the standard that I require it to be achieved?” Be honest with yourself now so as not to be disappointed later.
Set goals that matter, that most support your needs and desires, and that are efficient. Donʼt waste your time getting lost in a sea of distractions from the big picture.
Does this make sense for me? Am I the right person for this goal? Does this support my business as a whole? Is this worthwhile?
Really think about that last one. How many times do we go through the motions only to say in hindsight that there was a more efficient way to accomplish the goal or maybe that it need not have been done at all. Just make sure you delegate when you should and eliminate the superfluous time sucker-upper tasks.
Now we can set deadlines for ourselves. Get out your calendar, and make it all official.
I will draw up my budgets and strategy January 12th. I will schedule 10-11 on Fridays for goal assessments. By March 31st, I should have achieved 25% of my total goal. Once a month I will participate in a local networking event. The first and third Tuesdays of the month, I will send out my newsletters. I will have a promotion ready and scheduled to go out by the first day of each quarter.
Schedule, schedule, schedule, and while youʼre at it donʼt forget to schedule some “you” time as part of your business success strategy. I mean it, it works!
Wow! I donʼt know about you, but I can already see my goals starting to take shape and just creating a strategy makes them feel more real and true to the mnemonic- more attainable! Thoughts become plans become beliefs become practices become reality.
Enjoy the journey to your successful reality!
Would you like to win a website for the new year?
Enter to win a free, 4 page website design! Winner will be drawn and announced on December 25, 2012.
Check out the dropdown menu labeled “more”, and click on “get more applications” down at the bottom. Or if you are logged in to your LinkedIn account try this link. There, you will see a WordPress or Typedpad app that will guide you through the process to linking your blog to your profile.
This is a simple way to drive more traffic to your blog!
Twitter Content Locker is a WordPress plugin that allows you to lock a portion of your page/post’s content so that the reader must share it via Twitter in order to view the rest of the page.
This reminds me of watching VH1′s countdown series. Of course, you’re going to sit through a commercial break to see the #1 World’s Sexiest Man especially after you’ve seen the first 99. Curiosity is a powerful thing!