Monday, 27 April 2015

Social Media and SEO

I often hear business owners claiming “I don’t have time for Social Networking”. I also hear “Facebook is for kids”.

The point that these business owners fail to see is that Social Media and Social Networking sites have a great impact on their search results.

Both Google and Bing have publicly admitted that shares on Facebook and Twitter (and now Google+) have a direct impact on ranking results.

Example: You share something relevant to your business on your Facebook Page and Twitter profile.
  • User 1 comes along and “likes” your post
  • User 2 comes along and shares your post (reposts it on their wall and/or re-tweets it on the Twitter profile)
  • User 3 re-tweets user 2’s post
  • Users 4 – 20 see the Facebook post that user 2 shared and visits, likes and reads your Facebook Page.
  • Users 13 – 19 share that same post on their Facebook page
You get the idea. By sharing in the social sphere, you generated a bunch of inbound links and introduced your business to a number of potential buyers who had no prior knowledge of you.
But what about consistency? Does participating in social networking increase your odds of being consistently found at the top of the search engines? Yes it does. Make no mistake, inbound links, authoritative user status (gained by likes and +1 clicks) and content all factor into your rank result.

Once these items are posted, liked, and shared online, they are there forever. Searches garner much more than just web site results. A search result includes pictures, videos, news items, and results from social media sites. So, by simply participating in social media sites, your odds of being found in search have increased exponentially. Google also pays attention to who shares your information. If someone is deemed to be an authoritative user and they like, +1, re-tweet and share your post, your rank just got upped too!

To be truly successful in the social media realm, you have to practice reciprocity. In other words, don’t be there to just post about you. Make sure you share relevant content from other people in your networks. Consider the difference between a link farm (low quality) web site and a content rich, authoritative (high quality) site. Sharing other people’s information in your social networks shows the search engines you are there to provide a rich, authoritative experience to your community and not just tossing out links to generate link bait to your site.

Social Marketing is something every business owner needs to make time for and work. The bottom line is, your SEO plan is incomplete without including a Social

Sunday, 19 April 2015

8 Awesome FREE Social Media Guides to Download

Social media is a helpful tool (some would say a crucial one), but getting a handle on its use can be tricky. We all know how to use it in a social context, but what about in a professional one? Where do you draw the line between social and inappropriate? How do you find the correct tone for your own page? How do you hook followers?

All of these are common questions I hear asked, and there are dozens more. No guide is perfect in explaining everything there is to know about the topic. It is not only a rather large one, after all, but it is also always adapting and evolving into new forms with new uses we had not anticipated. So a basic understanding of the varied foundation principles are necessary to master it.
I usually recommend these eight free guides on social media to anyone who is serious about learning the skill.

1. Your Guide To Social Media Marketing

Your Guide To Social Media Marketing

Mike Nichols of YourZulu wrote this informative ebook for MakeUseOf, which is one of the primary sources for technology related how-to’s. In it, he shows how businesses of any size and age can get into the social media game. Largely based on Facebook (which is probably always going to be the first social media site for any budding campaign), it also lets you know the primary uses of other sites from Twitter to Pinterest.

2. Hubspot Social Media Marketing Kit

Hubspot Social Media Marketing KitHubspot Social Media Marketing KitHubspot Social Media Marketing Kit

This is actually three different guides in one. The Social Media Marketing Kit contains Step-By-Step Guide to New Facebook Business Page Timelines, How to Attract Customers With Twitter, and Learning LinkedIn From The Experts: How To Build a Powerful Business Presence On LinkedIn. While it isn’t comprehensive, it covers three very useful topics that are often overlooked in other guides. All but the Twitter ebook, which is a common subject.

3. Social Media Posting Guide

Social Media Posting Guide

Craig Van Korlaar focuses his attention on social media powerhouses Facebook and Twitter as he explains the process of posting properly on both site. As he says, there is more to it than just posting content, and there is also more than just self promotion. He shows you how to listen to customers/users, plan your content accordingly, and optimize your posts on both Facebook and Twitter.

4. Social Media Etiquette Guide

Social Media Etiquette Guide

Natalie of The Suitcase Entrepreneur has developed her own six week system that she calls Sculpted Social Media. While the program is not free, the guide to social media etiquette she released at the same time is. You simply have to “pay” with a tweet or Facebook mention. The ebook itself is a handy list of do’s and don’ts that will show you how to properly interact with others on the sites.

5. Content


One of the biggest problems in social media is copyright. The law is still ambiguous when it comes to fair use and ownership on the web, especially where websites like Facebook, YouTube and especially Pinterest are involved. Cory Doctorow is an authority on all things online, and is a respected maven in the world of technology. He covers the topic of social media and the implications it has on copyright law. He even proves that he believes in his own principles by publishing the work under Creative Commons licensing for free use.

6. The Future of Reputation

The Future of Reputation

Professor Daniel J Solove of George Washington University Law School wrote this book to address an increasing problem in our technology reliant society: privacy and reputation. We have all heard stories of people who have had their entire lives ruined thanks to a single incident on the web. Teenagers who are tormented by strangers, adults who have their careers shredded thanks to a mistake, businesses that are badly is all part of the changing way our world is shared and assessed. His fascinating work looks at both the societal and legal effects of this change.

7. Free Culture

Free Culture

Harvard University’s Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics Lawrence Lessig has written several incredible books on the topic of social media. I was unsure of which one to post here, as I find all of them must read’s. But my favorite was probably Free Culture, where he looks at big business and how they are using technology to stifle the creative promise once possible on the internet for the sake of their own financial interests. If you want another amazing book, check out his The Future Of Ideas.

8. The Wealth of Networks

Harvard’s Professor Yochai Benkler is probably best known by many for his appearance in Steal This Film, which is a film series in two parts with one special addressing piracy and the freedom to share content. His book The Wealth of Networks is a dry but brilliant academic look at the connection between social networks, and the internet as a whole.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Sell Like a Celebrity: An Insider’s Look at the Gifting Industry


There are two women who can cause websites to crash, phones to ring incessantly, and bidding wars to begin.

Kate Middleton and Michele Obama reign when it comes to driving fashion commerce. The Duchess’s choice in apparel spurred one brand’s reintroduction of an item long gone from the shelves. It’s reported that her style choices have brought $1.5 billion into the British economy. J. Crew devised an entire strategy, including publishing custom web pages and investing in PPC ads, around the First Lady’s appearance on the Tonight Show.
This type of spark is what many brands are looking for when they invest in celebrity marketing and product placement.

Paying for a celebrity endorsement is one route -- a path that could cost anywhere between $750,000 and more than $5 million if the brand is creating a TV or campaign around the endorsement.
The other route is through gifting -- an industry that is tightly controlled by a few public relations professionals who are matching brands with celebrities.

The Oscars Bag and the Rise of Social Media Inspired Gifting

The Everybody Wins at the Oscars bag made headlines this year due to both the contents of the bag and its value -- which came to $168,000.
It included a year’s worth of Silvercar rentals, a $20,000 astrology reading, LED light therapy, an Italian vacation package, and a $1,200 bicycle, among many other products.
Lash Fary, the owner of Distinctive Assets, selects and coordinates with brands for placement in the coveted bag, which has no official affiliation with the Academy Awards. He has being doing this for the past 13 years.

More than 16 years ago, he was bringing apparel and accessories onto TV sets, such as Ally McBeal and Will & Grace. It was on these sets that he began to get requests to do personal shopping and gift selection. Eventually, his taste caught the eye of the organizers of the Grammys, which wanted to create a “thank you” gift bag for nominees.

“In the beginning, it was truly educating the brands on this new concept of placing their product with celebrities, getting press around it, and building marketing and promotional campaigns,” Fary said.
Today, most brands understand the value of gifting, which has led to more and more extravagant items in the bag. This is one reason why the value of the Everybody Wins bag has increased from $48,000 in 2013 to $168,000 this year.
Distinctive Assets worked with Gibson Guitars for the Grammys, which resulted in a photo of LL Cool J backstage with the product.

A brand’s perception of what a valuable product placement is has expanded in recent years, said Fary, and even the definition of a “celebrity” is evolving. Many brands are finding value in catering to people with thousands and even millions of followers on YouTube and Instagram or those with a highly engaged blog audience.
It used to be that getting a placement in the printed edition of InStyle or People magazine was the gold standard. Now, brands are focused on engagement, rather than simply the number of followers, and they often value a photo on Instagram or Twitter more than traditional press placements.

The Master Marketer of Gift Giving

Fary and his team spent almost a year preparing for the Oscars Everybody Wins bag, which is given to nominees who are nominated for but don't win the statue for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, and best director. A bag is also provided to the host of the show. For someone like Meryl Streep (19 nominations and three wins), that's a lot of swag to take home each year.

Each brand whose products appear in the gift bag for the Oscars pays between $4,000 and $20,000 for the placement and then the cost of the gift on top of this. Fary selects many of the brands but is also approached by those that want to capitalize on the press surrounding the Hollywood event.
He said that what goes into the bags also depends on his relationship with the organization. For the Grammys, he works hand-in-hand with the event coordinators, so products included can’t compete with official sponsors, and he is more careful with the types of products he selects.

In the case of the Everybody Wins bag, he has no affiliation with the Academy Awards, so he has free range to include the quirky and even controversial. This year, a $250 vibrator caused a bit of a stir. “People acted like I was handing out nuclear bombs or something in the gift bag,” Fary said.
In the past, a gift of LASIK laser eye surgery caused an uproar.

He also is careful to consider the political views of the brand and if they align with his own, and the other reason he cites for turning down a brand that wants to be included is those that offer a coupon-type deal.
For his Mother’s Day in Hollywood bag, a company who represents a rental property in the Hamptons wanted to offer a $10,000 discount to the celebrity moms.
“The house costs a million and a half to rent for the summer, so you're basically offering them a 1% discount. That's not going to work,” Fary said.

This year’s bag will go to new moms or soon-to-be mothers such as Jennifer Love Hweitt, Zoe Saldana, Molly Sims, Blake Lively, Zooery Deschanel, and Mila Kunis, and it includes Coal and Canary candles, Healing Saint Luminosity Skin Serum, organic and vegan baking mix, a scarf for children, and a Cool Gel N Cap.
Fary has received thank you cards from Oprah, Paris Hilton, and others, but he said that today, “the 2015 version of the thank-you note is an Instagram photo.”

Swag Suites Take Gifting to New Locations

swag-suitesKari Feinstein is another entrepreneur working to pair brands with celebrities. She took the concept of “gifting” as a marketing play and expanded it so that the gifts became the center of the event.
Previously, brands would secure a suite at a hotel near an event, such as the Grammys or the Oscars, and they would invite celebrities to stop by and try on products.
Feinstein, who owns Kari Feinstein Public Relations, decided to rent a larger venue and invite multiple brands and celebrities into these Style Lounges or gifting suites.

Brands pay a sponsorship fee and then the cost of their “gift.” For Feinstein’s upcoming Music Festival Style Lounge, which coincides with Coachella, sponsorship packages cost between $8,500 and $65,000. The later provides the brand with a rep from Feinstein’s team who will assist with social media management during the event.
Feinstein points out that you typically can’t even get a celebrity to take a photo with your product for that price. At these events though, it seems more normal. There is a process and a comfort factor for talent.

But as with any opportunity, it is up to the brand to make the most of the investment.

“If the companies know how to utilize their PR and social media, they can really make it effective,” Feinstein said. “They can turn those photos and the social media posts into brand awareness and sales.”
The Style Lounges are usually a few days before an award show or event at a location near where talent will be staying.

Leading up to the event, the team publishes a deck that outlines sponsorship packages, and begins reaching out to brands they think would be a good fit. They only send invites to celebrities 10 to 14 days in advance, which Feinstein says makes sponsors nervous but is normal. Celebrities don’t typically commit to an event months in advance. The final piece is securing press to cover the event and confirming what talent will actually be there. Usually, her style lounges draw around 60 to 70 celebrities and 30 members of the press.
These events can also be a boost for brands getting into a new market or launching new products. It instantly provides credibility and intrigue.

This was the case with Feinstein’s inclusion of drones at an event.
Feinstein was reading a tech magazine and noticed a small blurb about DJI (Da-Jiang Innovations) and its drones. While the company’s Phantom quadcopter had been outfitted with a GoPro and flown into a volcano, the company had spent little to market itself in the U.S. Feinstein included the drones at her style lounge at the Sundance Festival in January of 2014, bringing a product loved by filmmakers and hobbyists into the influencer sphere. It was perfect timing. DJI brought in $500 million in revenue in 2014, and it was included in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list last year.

“A lot of the brands are seeing direct sales now from participating at these events because social media influencers will post and tag the brands,” Feinstein said.
So what kind of sales can celebrities drive?
Kendall Jenner posted a photo on Instagram of her wearing a Jewelry by Veronique ring. Owner Veronique Vicari saw $3,000 in sales that day.

The Future of Swag

celebrity-gifting-1Like all things, the gift giving industry is also evolving.
The proliferation of award shows has created an abundance of opportunity, which has also made brands more cautious when investing. Influencers with millions of Instagram followers or YouTube channel subscribers are getting the attention of brands that would rather promote their product to a targeted audience. Celebrities are becoming more careful about the swag they pick up as some have experienced a backlash from online followers. And the value of print mentions has declined as online outlets rise in importance. Soon, a disappearing Snapchat might be more valuable than a tweet.

To meet these changes, Feinstein’s company is launching a subsidiary company focused on influencer relations beyond the style lounge called Social Traction. Fary is focusing on organizing and getting sponsors more private events for celebrities. He also works with Chideo, a charity broadcast network.
“The truth is that people, regardless of their means, love gifts,” Fary said. “It’s kind of that child-like thing that happens on Christmas morning. I don’t think you ever really outgrow that.”

Gifting isn’t a low-cost option, but a sprinkle of celebrity stardust might just be worth the investment.

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Pros and Cons of Geo-Targeting in Paid Search


It happens to the best of us.

I remember not too long ago being in a "New York State of Mind." Too bad the campaign I was optimizing was for New Jersey. Whoops! I caught it after only a day, but that didn't reverse the wasted ad spend. I learned my lesson: enter once, check twice.

It’s no secret that geo-targeting has opened many doors for advertisers. Geo-targeting helps focus in on a specific market, resulting in more relevant messaging and a better return.
But sometimes too much of a good thing can be a curse. And in those instances, geo-targeting, well, it isn’t so great.
Here's some pros and cons to your geo-targeting strategy that might help, or hinder, your campaign:

The Advantages of Geo-Targeting


1) You Can Hide Ads from Your Competitors

If you’re testing a new strategy or offer, you don't want your competitors to know, right? Hiding your ads from your competitors is possible with a combination of geotargeting and IP exclusion. With IP exclusion, you prevent people in your competitors' corporate offices from seeing your ads. And with geo-targeting, you can still advertise in their so called backyard. It keeps your strategy safe without removing an entire market from your search strategy.

First, identify your competitors IP addresses. Once identified, you can exclude them from your AdWords Campaigns.To exclude these IP addresses:
  1. Click on the campaign tab
  2. Click settings
  3. Click advanced settings
  4. Click IP exclusions

Here you can enter in the IP addresses you want to drop. Once excluded, users searching from those IP addresses will no longer see your ads.

Why It Works

Remember the saying, “out of sight, out of mind?” Your competitors keep an eye on your marketing efforts, but you don’t need to make it easy for them. But, excluding IP addresses from specific geo-targeted locations isn’t fool proof. It won’t take into account remote users from other locations. And competitors can still use tools like SEM Rush and SpyFu to see what you're doing.
IP exclusion plus geo-targeting is helpful in an aggressive industry such as car insurance. But, if the competition isn't fierce, your time is better spent elsewhere.

2) You'll Become Locally Relevant

In some industries, it pays to be local and relevant. Local restaurants and small businesses with few locations can benefit from localized advertising. But, big businesses do, too. Politicians and real estate companies can reap the benefits of geo-targeting.


For congressional district targeting, use the congressional district code instead of city, state, or zip code.


In real estate, most buyers know what city they want to live in. Real estate companies can target a buyers simple query with localized relevancy.

Why It Works
Targeting congressional districts makes sure ads are only seen by voters in that area. This also means the competition can target areas where they need more voters.
In real estate, people new to the home buying process identify with a trusted source. Weichert Realtors identified itself as a trusted source with its use of ad extensions. By showing seller ratings and Middletown in the results, users will check this company out first.

The Problems With Geo-Targeting


1) You Might Not Optimize Properly

Washington D.C. and Washington state have little in common outside of their name. But, they are quick to be mistaken. It’s likely these Washington D.C. podiatrists want their ads to appear in searches for the D.C. metro area. Yet the map results are for podiatrist practices in Washington state. It’s not very relevant is it?


Geotargting allows you to get granular or broad with your options. Did you know the term “Washington” appears in eight search terms in Google AdWords? This increases the likelihood of human error.

Why It Works

When you’ve optimized, you’ve identified the audience most likely to convert. Someone looking for a podiatrist in Washington state is not going to convert for a podiatrist in Washington D.C..Take a moment to add the area you want to target (Washington D.C.), and exclude the areas you don’t (Washington state). An optimized paid search campaign decreases wasted ad spend and helps increase ROI, too.



2) Hyper Geo-Targeting May Lead to Locations Competing Against Each Other

When segmenting a campaign, you can separate by location or separate by product or service. They both have benefits and drawbacks. But, when you have several locations close together, it can make a big difference in the success of a campaign.
Companies with many locations close together should segment by product or service rather than location.
This image represents four locations of a popular grocer in the Boston metro market. It’s been optimized to target a five mile radius around each location. But you’ll notice there is an overlap of these stores. Each grocery location is competing on the same keyword, increasing the cost-per-click (CPC).


Why It Works

Segmenting by product or service over location is smart if your locations are all bidding on the same keywords. It will keep the CPC lower, increase returns, and better your performance. If separating by product or service is not an option, consider A/B testing. You can test on certain keywords and locations, while being careful not to overlap your targeted area.
Geo-targeting can be helpful and for businesses big and small when used right. It’s important to understand not only how it works but why it works to best optimize a campaign and your success.