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Optimizing Your Tweets for Search

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Daniel Page– Enjoy!

Optimizing Your Tweets for Search

photo credit: Flickr

Twitter’s among the most powerful social networks in the world for brand awareness – which is why it’s of the utmost importance that you know how to tap into it.

Twitter’s been around for several years now, and there still appears to be a distressing number of organizations who don’t quite know what to make of it. That’s  rather unfortunate, as those organizations don’t understand enough to know what they’re missing out on. In the right hands, Twitter may well be among the most powerful social networks in the world.

I suspect this is tied to the nature of the social network. Twitter is something people use when they’re in transit. It’s a site they browse when they’re waiting for the train, sitting in the bathroom, or stuck in traffic.  It’s a social network they go to in order to share and discover new content; in order to share their stream of thought with the world.

Connect with a user on here, and they’re bound to spread whatever message you’re putting forward like wildfire.

Make Sure Your Profile Is Optimized First

Before you even think of tweaking any of your tweets, you need to have a look at your profile. Do you have a decent profile picture? Does your tagline flow naturally while still incorporating a few keywords related to your brand? Is your profile named after your brand (or something people would associate with it?)

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you’ve some work to do before going forward.

Tailor Your Tweets To Grab Attention – And Make Sure You Have A Voice

While I don’t deny that each and every tweet should have a headline, and that most should include a link along with a hashtag or two, I nevertheless maintain that your ‘voice’ is the most important part of your Twitter presence. It’s how you present yourself to your peers and followers, after all; just like a sleazy used car salesman is likelier to drive people away from his lot than sell them a Prius, tweets that appear mechanical, spammy, or boring will cause nothing but harm.

Let your personality shine through – keep it professional, but demonstrate that you are a real human being.

Time Your Tweets

There are certain dates and times when a tweet is likeliest to receive attention, but it tends to vary by region and demographic. If you know anything about your target audience, try tracking a few of them down on Twitter. Watch their habits – when are they tweeting, and how often? Working out what time most of their tweets were sent could give you a good idea of when would be the best time to make yourself heard.

Create A Keyword List

Although I’ve always been a proponent of a more organic form of SEO, it could be worthwhile to put together a list of all the major keywords you intend to use on Twitter. Keep them close-by, and don’t be afraid to occasionally drop one or two into one of your tweets (either into the body or as a hashtag).

Use Hashtags Whenever Possible (And Appropriate)

Speaking of hashtags…learn about them. Learn how they work. Learn what makes them tick. The most important thing here is that you don’t overuse them. You should never have more than three in a single tweet, and even then three could be two too many. Never start a tweet with a hashtag.

In order to figure out what hashtags you should be using, simply do a search on terms related to your brand (or to the tweet you’re planning to send). Note the terms that seem to be the most popular; these are your hashtags.

Understand The Concepts of Favorites And Retweets

While you should go out of your way to avoid pestering your fellow users, it can’t hurt to occasionally ask for a retweet when you’re sharing something particularly vital. Don’t forget to retweet a few things yourself, as well, in order to augment your own content.

Tweet Frequently

Last but not least, tweet with some degree of frequency and consistency. You might want to consider using some sort of management tool or setting up a tweet scheduler of some kind. Personally, I use Twuffer, but it’s up to you what you ultimately want to go with.

daniel pageAbout Daniel Page — Daniel is the Director of Business Development for Ahosting, a leading provider in SEO hosting and multiple IP hosting. Follow Ahosting on Twitter at @ahostingdotnet,  Like them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ahostingdotnet, and check out all the services they offer on http://www.ahosting.net/

 

How To Avoid the 3 Most Costly Mistakes When Using Google AdWords

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Adam Lundquist– Enjoy! 

photo credit: Red X  via WikiMedia Commons
photo credit: Red X via WikiMedia Commons

Do you ever feel like your small business would get a better return on investment by literally lighting your money on fire than using Google AdWords?

You began your AdWords campaign for your small business with high hopes and launched it, excited to fulfill orders from your new customers. Except those orders never came.

You attempted to fix it with different keywords, ad copy, and the newest techniques from self-proclaimed “experts”. However, with each new “fix” you spent more of your time and money – but added no new revenue. You are low on advertising budget and even lower on patience.

If this is your experience then you are not alone, almost all small businesses make costly mistakes when they start using AdWords. This is because the AdWords system penalizes you for mistakes you do not even know you are making. Even worse, in some cases AdWords even encourages these mistakes. The more you mistakes you make the more money AdWords earns from extra clicks you don’t want.

This article helps you identify these mistakes – and more importantly learn how to correct them to put you on the path to AdWords profit.

Mistake One: Keywords In Broad Match

AdWords is set by default to have your keywords in broad match, and this causes your keywords to match for a huge variety of searches you never intended.

For example, if you are a pizza store in Philadelphia and use Google AdWords, you might bid on the keyword Pizza delivery in Philadelphia. You assume that a hungry user has to type in the phrase Pizza delivery in Philadelphia into Google to view your ad and order your delicious pie. However, that is not the case and it costs you money!

By default your ads shows for a huge variety of searches that you never intended. If not changed from default, your keyword Pizza delivery in Philadelphia actually signals to Google to show your ad for searches such as how to cook a frozen pizza, and when clicked, you still have to pay for that irrelevant click.

The discrepancy between the searches you intend your ad to show for and the actually searches that trigger your ad is because the AdWords system uses different match types for keywords. There are four main match types: broad, broad match modifier, phrase, and exact. The different match types allow you (the small business advertiser) to match for a broader or narrower range of actual search queries that users type in. Broad is (as it sounds) the most broad in terms of what searches trigger your ad, and it is ALWAYS set by default in Google AdWords. This means that it is at Google’s discretion to decide that a user’s search is “close enough” to your keyword. Since Google gets paid on every click, they have a broad view of what is close enough.

When beginning your account change the match type of your keywords. Make sure your keywords are either in either phrase match or broad match modifier. These match types ensure that the words you use as your keywords have to be the ones the users searched for in Google. Here is a handy chart to visually see the differences as well as the special symbols that change the match type:

photo credit: chart via PPC HERO
photo credit: chart via PPC HERO

Mistake Two: The Wrong Industry For An Immediate Sale

A common mistake when beginning AdWords is to immediately go for the sale. In some industries an immediate sale makes sense, but in many industries users are not ready to make the purchase at first interaction.  In these industries, the user needs to trust your company before they even consider making the purchase. If the user clicks on an ad and is taken to a site where the only option is a sale, if the user isn’t ready to purchase they have no choice but to leave your site without providing your business any valuable data.

Rather than throw money into the AdWords abyss a, try a different approach. A better way to run AdWords in these industries is to think of a longer sales cycle, and change your goal (called a conversion) from getting an immediate sale to getting their contact information. You can use your ads to send users to a page that asks for their contact information in exchange for a small incentive, build trust by marketing to them via the email they provided, and finally sell to them when they are ready to make a purchase and already trust your company. Incentives can include:

  • Free eBooks
  • Samples
  • Free consultations

This approach works best for industries where trust is key, such as an expensive physical product or a long-term service provider.

Mistake Three: Sending Users To The Homepage

Once you decide on your goals in AdWords, you need to send users to a page that matches the users search and makes it as easy as possible for them to convert. All too often I see new AdWords campaigns send users to the home page. The homepage doesn’t match the users search and conversions are unlikely to happen.  A homepage often has a variety of items and is designed for navigation deeper into the site rather than a conversion.

For example, let’s say you are in the right industry for an immediate sale, like a winter clothing retailer that sells winter hats amongst other items. If you are just beginning to use AdWords you may send all of the users to your generic homepage. If you buy the keyword winter hats and the user is sent to the homepage, which is crowded with all of your items, the user has to search to find the specific sales page for winter hats. This means the user had to spend additional mental energy to search more through your website and click again. The majority of users will not expend this mental energy– they leave your page without making a purchase.

You want to make it as easy and friction-less as possible for the user to convert by sending them to specific high-converting sales pages. If the user type in winter hats send them to the exact sales page for winter hats.

What is your biggest AdWords obstacle?

Adam LundquistAdam Lundquist (@adamlundquist) is the CEO of Nerds Do It Better, an Internet advertising agency for small businesses. He has been featured in The Harvard Gazette, Search Engine Journal, KISSmetrics, WordStream, PPC Hero, Certified Knowledge, Mtv, Vh1, Sports Illustrated, and Moz. Visit his site today for a free eBook: Make Internet Advertising Work For Your Small Business. 5 Steps To Find, Cultivate and Market To New Customers.

 

A Visual Guide to Local SEO for Small Business Websites

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Justin Sturges – Enjoy!

How to Build a Perfectly Optimized Local Website by Following the Google Guidelines!

Building a winning local website is no simple task. We need content about our business, a blog, location pages, photos and galleries, contact pages and more! All this can quickly overwhelm budgets and plans.

HannibalSSo in order to help, we’ve built an infographic which attempts to help small business owners, consultants, web designers and local marketers get a better plan.

Anyone a fan of the A-Team? Remember Hannibal Smith, big cigar in his mouth, saying “I love it when a plan comes together”? I loved that.

And the goal here is to help your plan “come together”.

In the process of creating this post, we first attempted to write it in s standard blog text format… we tried hard, but it was B-O-R-I-N-G. Really, boring. Then we got the idea to make it into an infograhic.

We think it worked, it’s a big one, but hopefully you’ll agree it’s the best approach. We hope you’ll save it and use it to guide the development of your website and get the clarity you need as you go.

We’ve combined our experience with extensive research across the local space online. At the bottom of the infographic we site the sources we used in developing the blueprint.

At the bottom of this post we provide a PDF link and embed links at a couple sizes as well.

Here you go:

Local-SEO-Template-Blueprint-Infographic3

This graphic and the systems we use ourselves in-house to build sites following these guidelines are always evolving. If you have questions or further ideas from the trenches we’d love to hear from you.

Share this Image On Your Site

Wrapping up:
The key take aways here are to please read the Google SEO Guidelines, you will be a step ahead if you do. Use the Google guidelines together with this infographic and you will be far ahead of 99% of the folks out there.

Get the PDF version:
Visual-Guide-To-On-Page-Local-SEO.pdf

Justin is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Systemadik Marketing where he and his team work with local businesses to build better online marketing systems.  Justin has been working online since 1994, he is currently working on launching the Systemadik LMS (Local Marketing System) which is a custom WordPress SEO and content solution for local businesses.  He is a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and employs the DTM system to provide strategic support and leading marketing tools to his clients. Justin is a father and husband and enjoys exploring the cenotes and coral reefs of the Yucatan Peninsula with his family.

How to Get More Customers for Free This Week Through Google

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Erik Larson – Enjoy! 

You’re getting frustrated.

You see neighboring businesses, competitors, and everyone else get customers through their door, and you’re getting nothing.

So you ask around, trying to figure out what’s going on.

You keep hearing your friends tell you “My customers keep telling me they ‘saw me on Google’ or they ‘found me through their smartphone’”.

You have a website! That one guy you paid way too much money to put up your website said you would be found on Google! What gives?

So you type your name into Google, and sure enough, there’s your website, right where it was. And you remember that supposedly, you were going to be on the first page of Google for [whatever your industry is, let’s say plumbing]. So you type in plumbing, and you’re nowhere to be found. But you do see this:

PlumbingMaine1Large

‘Wait, how come I’m not on that map?’ You ask. ‘This must be why the other plumbers are crushing me!’

Welcome to Google My Business, a free service provided by Google.

I know it can be frustrating to see your competitors looking really good on Google, and you’re nowhere to be found, I understand that. I also understand the idea of getting your business up on Google can be intimidating, the idea of going through a huge elaborate process, jumping through hoops, and not understanding any of it is scary.

But guess what, it’s surprisingly easy.

Using the built-in Google My Business tutorial, you will usually be able to get setup and going in an hour or less. Anyone that has a basic understanding of how to use the Internet can do this, so by the sole reason that you are reading this blog post, I believe in you.

Let’s get started so we can  get you some more customers, shall we?

First off, there are some important things you need ready and at your fingertips:

  • A Google or Gmail account
  • A nice picture of the front of your building
  • Your address
  • Your logo

Once you have these things ready, go to http://www.google.com/business/, and click on the “Get on Google” button. Follow all the directions exactly, make sure to fill out as much as possible. Once you’ve got your account setup and verified, it could take a couple days to get your business in the results.

Getting the HUGE boost in traffic we talked about

Alright, so now that your account is setup and verified, here’s the tricky part, making your business stand out on the search page.

I typed “Plumbing in Portland, Maine” and I got these results.

PlumbingMaine2Large

Which result do you think gets the most clicks?

As you might have guessed by the lack of reviews on the front page, getting a Google Review can be kind of tough. I’ve seen a lot of companies with Google profiles that have been up for a long time, and still don’t have any reviews.

So, how do we go about getting these elusive reviews?

Here are three really easy steps to getting a Google review:

  1. Type your company name and city into Google. [For example: “Joe’s Plumbing, Baltimore”
  2. Find the “Write a review” link, right click it and copy the link.
  3. Send that link to 30 of your best and favorite customers, and ask them to write a review.

In the email, make sure you thank them for being an amazing customer, and make sure to thank them again after they wrote the review. If you are a customer of theirs as well, you can offer to do the same thing for them.

Once those reviews start rolling in, you’ll likely notice a bump in traffic to your site, your Google+ page, and your business.

Getting even MORE customers

Wait, you want even more customers?

Well, if you have the money, there’s a way to boost the amount of people coming to your website dramatically. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, Google Adwords Express let’s you show up in Google Maps results, and you’ll show up in the yellow bar in Google search. It’s pretty easy to setup, and it’ll run automatically.

If you want to go more in-depth, you could run a campaign in Google AdWords, there are tons of great tutorials out there to help you out.

Now, the next step is to get your business set up in Bing Places, to take advantage of all of the Siri and Windows Phone users out there.

How many of you have used Google My Business? How has it helped your company?

150portraitErik Larson is the founder of RunTheMarket, a small business marketing blog. He is also the SEO specialist for Lendio, a free online tool to find business loans, and writes on small business topics on the Lendio Blog. He can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

 

30 Tips for Great Digital Marketing

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Tara Banda – Enjoy!

Tips-great-digital-marketing-ducttapemarketingA man walks into a bar/restaurant/hotel/car repair shop. Chances are, he found it online. That’s because today’s consumers, 80% according to Google, rely more on the Web to find and choose local businesses.

So how do you make sure that these consumers find and choose your local business? By using a mix of these four strategies for great digital marketing: search advertising, webSite, search engine optimization, and social media. Here are 30 tips to get you going.

 

Search Advertising Tips

1. Identify and follow the rules of Bing, Yahoo!, and Google search ads before running your campaign as all have slightly different formats.

2. Optimize the URL displayed in your search ad so that it’s relevant to the product or service you are promoting.

3. Include target keywords in your headlines and copy that either match or closely match the keywords you bid on in order to boost the chance that your ad appears for those terms.

4. Write strong calls to action for your search ads that directly state what you want consumers to do. For example “Contact for a Free Estimate” or “Get a 50% Coupon.”

5. When using a click-to-call extension, consider using a tracking number so that you can identify and measure which ads perform the best.

6. Don’t spend precious text ad character count on your business name. It should already be in your optimized URL.

7. Do capitalize the first letter of major words in your ad. Don’t (read “NEVER”) go crazy with all caps.

8. Should you use correct punctuation in text ads? Yes! It just makes good sense.

9. Using trademarks in text ad copy is a no-no unless, of course, you own them. You can, however, bid on terms relevant to your business.

10. DUUA (don’t use unknown abbreviations). While it could pique the interest of a few searchers, why take that chance?

Website Tips

11. If you haven’t updated your website since 2010, do it now. A clean, modern design is key in digital marketing, plus it ensures that you meet today’s best practices and Web standards.

12. Make your website mobile-friendly! The 2014 Local Search Study results indicate that nearly 80% of local mobile searches end in a purchase. This is a big audience you shouldn’t ignore.

13. Accurately complete your site’s metadata (title tags, descriptions, alt text, etc.). Not doing so can negatively impact your visibility on SERPs.

14. A business blog is a winning addition to your website. It can help boost your site’s SEO, set you apart from the competition, and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. It’s a win-win situation.

15. In order to get found by local consumers, you need to optimize your site with local information like your address and geo-targeted keywords.

Search Engine Optimization

16. Having a business blog is useless if you don’t regularly create and promote original and sharable content to help prove relevance and therefore rank in search engines.

17. Enable share buttons on your blog so that readers can easily post your content to their social media pages and drive visitors back to your website.

18. Optimize your Google+ Local page to help your business name, phone number, location, and even opening hours show up in Google Maps and Google’s local search results.

19. Much like Google+ Local, Yelp is platform to complete and post information about your business. More importantly, it helps feed Apple Maps with local business results.

20. Include geo-specific keywords, such as your city, neighborhood, and zip codes, in your website, blog, and even social media copy to appear in search results for these terms.

19. Don’t only promote blog posts once. Repurpose them as engaging images, quotes, or questions in order to generate additional views, shares, and subject relativity.

21. Getting backlinks from influencers and other industry-related websites that have already established credibility are great for building your own authority and driving more visits back to your site.

23. Enable Google Authorship to help build your personal brand. By establishing yourself as a subject matter expert, you can share your own content, generate more shares, and drive more website visits.

22. Since positive reviews rank in search engine results, generate positive reviews with high rankings to help persuade consumers to choose your business.

26. Once you receive positive reviews, promote them on your website and social media sites so that consumers who search for you business on social sites or local directories see the great things others say about your business.

25. Images can help sell your business, and they also rank in search engines. Don’t name your images “photo.jpg,” and instead name them more descriptively, add alt text, or captions on your website to help images show up in search results.

Social Media

27. Think, review, and review again before you make a social media post or comment. The ability to easily take screenshots makes it difficult to take back a social media mistake.

28. Since your employees also represent your brand, both in person and online, implement a social media policy that at the least permits them from sharing internal information.

29. Before you jump on a trending hashtag, make sure you know the origin of it. Not doing so can potentially cause social media regrets.

30. Like it or not, you “share” your brand on social media. And since consumers can start good and bad conversations about you, make sure to set up alerts that notify you of new mentions, comments, or messages.

Tara Banda Duct Tape MarketingTara Banda is a brand-builder, copywriter, and social media marketer in Dallas, TX. She has worked with businesses of all sizes — from Fortune 500 companies to local non-profits to startups — to define their voice, promote their brand online through digital marketing, and build lasting relationships with fans and advocates.  Tara is a currently a Content Marketing Manager at ReachLocal. In her spare time, she is obsessed with learning recipes for international cuisines. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

SEO Blended Copy: Dos and Don’ts for Boosting Your Website’s Organic Discoverability

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Maria Orozova – Enjoy!

Duct-tapeThese days, it’s all about organic: organic produce, organic pressed-juice, holistic baby diapers made from all-organic materials – the list goes on. So, it should come as no shock the role that organic SEO plays in your website’s discoverability, even over paid alternatives like pay-per-click. In fact, 70-80% of Internet users ignore paid ads, focusing instead on organic search results.

Intimidating to some, boosting your website’s organic discoverability is easier than you might think. Just remember, if content is king then keywords are the crowned jewels.  The following are a few crucial ‘dos and don’ts’ all businesses need to consider when looking to optimize their organic SEO.

Don’t: Assume the phrase “keyword” translates to “one word.”

Do: Assign natural phrases as your keywords

By strategically assigning keywords to the pages of your website, you are essentially anticipating all of the different search variations that could and should lead users to your website. Don’t make the mistake of taking the term “keywords” literally though. Incorporate a series of natural phrases into your keyword strategy. Ask yourself – How would you search for your site?

Don’t: Randomly sprinkle keywords throughout your website copy.

Do: Utilize targeted keywords.

Unless you’re looking to get on Google’s bad-list, don’t just assign keywords without incorporating them into the various elements of your website. This doesn’t mean sporadically using a keyword here and there. In fact, there are several crucial areas that Google looks at specifically for keyword integration: Page title, page headline, body copy, meta description and links, both internal and external.

Don’t: Overload keywords in your website copy.

Do: Create engaging content and naturally integrate keywords.

There’s an art to determining the appropriate keyword density % of your keyword-blended copy. While there is really no magic number for keyword density, there is one guiding light: Good content will always beat SEO. With that said, it stands to reason that if you drown your copy in keywords at the sake of flow and cohesiveness, your ranking will probably take a tumble. Instead, focus on writing engaging content while seizing opportunities to naturally introduce keywords into your copy.

Keywords alone does not a successful SEO strategy make, however. While it is a large driver of your organic search results, there are other key areas that can further help boost your websites discoverability.

Be Mobile

Mobile-browsing usage is set to bypass desktop browsing within the year so your organization’s website design is more important than ever. Because your SEO relies heavily on your website’s engagement, it’s important to choose a responsive or mobile friendly design that will cater to your mobile audience’s experience.

Get Down with Google

It’s no shock that Google looks favorably upon those who actively use their ancillary services. An easy way to start doing this is to actively use and maintain a Google+ page. Also, if your business has a blog, you’ll want to set up Google Authorship so that your writers’ work can start to help boost your site’s credibility and ultimately, search ranking.

Stay Social

Never underestimate the power of social in you SEO strategy. Your organization’s social pages are a huge source of potential traffic for your website. Create and share engaging, original content as part of your social strategy, and always remember to link back to your website.

mariaorozovamod (2)Maria Orozova is the President and Creative Director of The MOD Studio, a boutique marketing & design agency based in Austin and the powerhouse behind many local and national brands. Together, Maria and the MOD Marketing and Development team build a strategic and dynamic mix of consumer and B2B clients. For more information on building a successful SEO strategy, visit: www.themodstudio.com

 

The Biggest Stereotype About Marketing Automation

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Alexandra Skey – Enjoy! 

It’s not our fault that most of us associate marketing automation with complex campaigns run by advanced marketers in bigger companies.

That’s how it took off in the last decade.

But that stereotype is threatening the future of small businesses…

How It All Began

We know content marketing works.

We also know that more information is being created every 48 hours than the entire amount we made before 2003.

So, every 2 days it becomes harder to create content to engage people, especially those who are interested in what you do and are likely to become your customers.

This is a serious problem.

Roughly 5-7 years ago, a group of companies saw what was happening and did something about it.

They were HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo, among others.

These companies knew it would be almost impossible to succeed at content marketing without streamlining the process. So they started automating tasks their corporate clients needed, and combining them in one place.

That was the birth of marketing automation platforms.

Why They’re “Too Complex”

Since the key with any great campaign is delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time, one of the things the industry became focused on was automating emails. Specially, creating complex trigger scenarios so that you could deliver those messages on an individual basis, ideally converting more customers.

Now we send over 294 billion emails a day.

Unfortunately, that complexity plagues the stereotype of marketing automation. It’s what most people think of when you mention the concept.

Besides the price.

And while it’s certainly useful for businesses with significant traffic, the cost and time involved is prohibitive for many smaller companies.

The Irony

The irony of marketing automation is that it’s viewed as complex and time consuming – yet the goal is to simplify tasks and save you time reaching your most profitable customers.

It’s simply a way of automating mundane tasks, so you can be more effective and reserve those spurts of energy for creative projects.

Due to the rapid adoption of content marketing, and the associated challenges of creating successful inbound campaigns, it will become more crucial than ever for all businesses to start adapting these time saving techniques.

In fact, some may be doing it without even realizing it:

  • When you use an SEO tool like Yoast to optimize your blog, that’s marketing automation – because instead of learning the rules, Yoast shows you what to do.
  • When you use a plugin to automatically share posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social channels, that’s marketing automation.
  • When you schedule your tweets using a service like Hootsuite, Buffer or TweetDeck…
  • When you monitor mentions of your business on the social web using Meshfire or Google…
  • Even when you use canned email responses to answer common questions…

It’s not about saving 1 hour by doing something different.

It’s about streamlining the process, so you save 3 minutes here and 8 minutes there at every step along the way.

With marketing automation, everything counts.

What’s next?

The demand from businesses with smaller budgets and time requirements is growing.

While the first wave of automation platforms was built for enterprise teams and budgets, we’re now seeing companies like ScribeContent, Orbtr, Spokal, Nurture and others designing platforms specifically for smaller teams, making it easier for anyone to create successful content campaigns.

Raab Associates recently showed that over 75% of companies adopting automation platforms in the USA are now small and micro businesses. And B2B Online shows that over 50% have fully integrated automation into their marketing.

 

photo credit: B2B Online

photo credit: B2B Online

 

Here’s the catch.

As it becomes easier for small businesses to leverage tools to make their content better, it will become easier to create better content. This means the quality of content that businesses need to produce to attract potential customers (and nurture them over time) will increase.

This is fantastic news for customers.

And it’s good for small businesses too, because those who can implement time saving techniques into their marketing practices now will have an even better chance of getting ahead of their competition and succeed at doing what they love.

Henry Ford was right.

Automation leads to great things.

AlexandraSkeyAlexandra Skey is the co-founder of Spokal, an award winning marketing automation platform for small businesses, and author of Zero Friction, which explores the future of online retail and will be released in fall 2014.

She lives on the west coast of Canada and is obsessed with customer experiences, horses and kiteboarding. You can connect with her on Twitter.

 

The Future of Small Business SEO (Hint: It’s About Content)

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Phil Singleton – Enjoy!

2013 was an exciting year for small business Internet marketing.  Search engine optimization transformed from a game of link popularity into what it was supposed to be from the beginning: high quality, relevant content from trusted sources.  Make no mistake; quality links pointing to your website are still really important.  It’s just that content marketing and social network participation are (collectively) more important.

volume-backliningAddressing The Content Gap

There is a great line from a Duct Tape Marketing Blog post from last year: “Content is King…Really, we mean it this time.”  As a boutique web design company that creates SEO-friendly web designs, we can report to you with absolute certainty that high quality content is king.  How do we know? We are on the front line of small biz SEO – we have dozens of SEO clients and have seen first-hand how client companies with both active blogs and social media networks handily outperformed their competitors in 2013.  If you are a small business owner and somehow still have high organic search engine rank without a content strategy, let me be the first to tell you that at some point in the near future you will be kissing your organic rank goodbye.

Here are five reasons why small business SEO strategy should focus on content marketing versus volume backlink accumulation:

1. The Fall of Boiler Room Link Building – Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Low cost, high volume offshore link building is not only dead, it’s super risky.  Google dropped the granddaddy of all backlink penalties on October 4th 2013 (Penguin 2.1 aka Penguin 5) – and guess what – more Penguin updates are coming.  If you are using an offshore link building strategy, you may soon find your website flagged with a Manual Action or an Unnatural Link Warning message in your Webmaster Tools account.  Don’t know what a WT account is?  Start Googling and get your account setup today – it’s the best way to check the search engine health of your website or to see if you’ve been hit with any penalties – and probably the best way to keep tabs on your SEO company.

2. Death, Taxes & Google 

Remember Ben Franklin’s famous quote? In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. On the Internet, pretty much everything you put out there is a part of permanent digital record.  This is especially true of your website’s backlink profile.   Even though your site may not yet have been slapped by Mother Google, your website still may be at risk.  Further, today’s white-hat SEO methods may become tomorrow’s prohibited activities – and Google always catches up with short-cut link building techniques.  By focusing on quality content and by creating your own content distribution channel, you can start naturally attracting quality links instead of artificially creating risky links.

3. Social Networking

We’ve been in and around web design and SEO for over ten years.  If you can believe it, we didn’t have a blog or any type of social media account until last year.  Why so late to the party? Because until last year, we could dominate our own online niches with a static website and passive SEO strategies.  Social media is now a critical component of SEO.  Just creating great content is not enough. The search engines need some way to determine if your content is valuable and the best measureable way for them to do this is to calculate the number of social signals (shares, likes, pluses, tweets, links, etc.) pointing back to your content.  So when our agency discusses “content marketing”, part of what we mean is promoting content through your active social media channels.

4. BLOGGING – NOTE THE ALL CAPS

In terms of small business websites, blogging represents both the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge.  Blogging not only helps to establish your company as an authority, but it’s also proven to increase website traffic conversion rates. Most importantly, blogging is the best way to add high quality, relevant content to your website.  The search engines love high quality blog content.  Search engine ranking factors have changed dramatically over the years, however, most SEO industry experts agree that blogging is now critically important.  This is never going to change.  All small businesses that want to achieve and sustain maximum search engine visibility will have to maintain an active blog.  Ideally, company blog posts are written by the business owner or some other experienced employee. If your company does not have an active blog, you should consider making it a priority this year.

5. MORE BLOGGING

We said it: maintaining an active blog is essential. There is more you can do.  Guest blogging is a phenomenal way to get exclusive, relevant, high-quality content on your website.  What’s even better is that the guest author will typically market their guest blog post for you.  That’s right – they will go out and blast your website to their social networking channels and help market the content for you! Supplementing your own blog with a well-executed guest blogging program will get you both great content and coveted social signals…free of charge.

Guest blogging goes both ways.   You also want to target high quality, relevant websites and post on their sites.  Reciprocal guest blogging is a secret weapon for many SEO companies.

content-marketingA Word Of Caution 

Organic search engine rankings are more important than ever.  The ranking factors have shifted from being backlink-centric to being content-centric.  Companies have to be careful to avoid the same types of SEO short-cuts that got webmasters and business owners in trouble in the past.  The search engines are getting really good at filtering out copied and low quality content.  Spammy filler content from domestic and offshore content farms will hurt your rankings.  Google has declared war on all forms of webspam.  In fact, they just recently condemned content stitching and warned against misusing guest blog posts.    In other words, you should only publish unique blog content that is interesting or useful to your audience.  If you try to blog only for the sake of the search engines, chances are you will fail to get any SEO value.  For most businesses, great content is everywhere.  It’s just a matter of extracting stories and lessons from everyday business experience and having the discipline to document and publish them on a regular basis.

phil-singletonPhil Singleton is the owner of Kansas City Web Design®, a web development firm specializing in SEO-friendly WordPress websites and custom website applications, and Kansas City SEO®, a full-service Internet marketing services company that provides organic search engine optimization and other online marketing services.  Contact Phil on his Google+ page.