Grow Smart Business


Search Articles

Author Archive

7 Types of Content That Search Engines Love

May 13th, 2013 ::

LoveOne of my favorite sources of marketing information is MarketingProfs – I learn so much from them. In a recent post, they wrote about the types of content that Google loves the most. I went through the list and pulled out the top 7 types that I thought were most relevant for small businesses – and that you are probably already doing.

Here are the 7 types of content that search engines like and you should be creating (if you’re not already):

1 – Interviews

Search engines like interviews for 4 main reasons: they get read, they get backlinks from the interviewee (bonus if the persons is an expert), backlinks are from trusted sites, and the content is unique.

You don’t need to conduct interviews in person unless you want to tape it and turn it into a video. I conduct most of my interviews via phone, but you can do them via email, too.

2 – Lists

Lists are usually fun, easy to scan, and easy to read – and readers love them. Search engines like them as long as the content is unique, and – bonus for you – they can be really easy to write.  You can do lists of your favorite industry books or blogs, best airports for business travelers, best pieces of advice you ever got, top industry best practices – you get the idea.

3 – Resource Centers

Creating a resource center on your website is a new content marketing trend for small businesses.  Think of it as a library of your content – ebooks, top blog posts by category, products, services, FAQs, etc. Because people share them, link to them, and spend time on them, search engines love them.

4 – Social

Did you know that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks are pulled up when you conduct a search? So, yes, the quality of the content you post on your social media accounts – and the amount of interaction it gets – helps boost your search rankings.

5 – Case Studies

Because case studies built around client success stories are interesting, people read them and share them. Your customers will link back to and share your blog posts, all of which is activity search engines really like – but you know that by now, don’t you?

6 – Predictions

You know the blog posts and articles that always come out around the new year that list industry predictions? People love them, read them, comment on them, and share them, so they tend to great search rankings.

7 – User-Generated Content

Search engines love user-generated content, whether it’s blog posts, images, or videos. Hold a contest that requires entrants to submit original content; if you allow others to comment on and vote for submissions, search engines will go crazy for all of the interaction.

Have you created content that showed up in the top of search results? What drove so much interaction?

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

6 Top Myths of Social Media

May 6th, 2013 ::

mythsDespite the incredible amount of information out there on how to use social media for marketing, a few bad practices still linger. At best, following them makes you look like you’re new to social media, but at worst, you could get flagged for spam.

Here are the top 6 worst practices, or myths, in social media:

1 – You MUST be active on every social media network.

Well, sure, if you want to waste your time, go for it! But it’s highly doubtful your customers are active on every social network. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you really have to do your research to see if your audience uses Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, etc. Some popular social media listening tools include Google Alerts and Social Mention.

2 – Automate all updates to save time.

The first rule of thumb when it comes to social media is to be social. Do you automate texts, emails, and phone calls to your friends? Of course not! You can’t have a conversation that way. You can automate certain things, like blog posts and major news releases to go out, but otherwise, treat social media like a cocktail party and be present.

3 – Auto-DM new Twitter followers.

Automatically sending your new Twitter followers a direct message (DM) is such an impersonal, spammy practice that it will leave a negative impression on your followers and make you look like you have no clue what you’re doing. Instead, send them a short, public note around your area of interest: “@newfollower Thanks for the follow! What aspect of social media are you most frustrated by?”

4 – Auto-publish the same content on every social network.

Again, this will make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, because every social network is different. It’s OK to tweet and pin a few times a day, but it’s not OK to post on Facebook or LinkedIn a few times a day.

5 – Respond to all negative comments.

While it is generally a good idea to respond to negative comments in order to fix a situation, remember that some people are just mean. Instead of getting into a virtual shouting match, do what you can to address the complaint, and then leave it. That person will only look worse, while you’ll look better for taking the high ground.

6 – Just wing it.

If you want to actually generate results, you can’t “wing” social media. You need to have a plan. For starters, you need to know what content you will post where and how often. If you want to learn more, check out one of my recent blog posts, The Online Marketing Project, Part 2.

What other social media practices make businesses look like they don’t know what they’re doing?

Image courtesy of lifehappens.org

Who Is Using Social Media, and Where Are They?

May 2nd, 2013 ::

Social media based on demographicsPew Internet released a short but incredibly useful report earlier this year called The Demographics of Social Media Users – 2012. While it’s imperative to do your own research to uncover where your customers are, use these stats as a general guideline as you plan and refine your social media marketing strategy.

Who is using social media?

By gender, race, and geography

Women tend to use social media a bit more than men – 71% vs. 62% – and Hispanics use social media slightly more than blacks and whites, clocking in at 72% (68% of blacks and 65% of whites use social media). Urbanites and suburbanites are on social media in almost equal numbers (70% vs. 67%), while 61% of those who reside in rural areas use social media.

By age

It comes as absolutely no surprise that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use social media. A full 83% of those between 18 and 29 use social media, while only 32% of those over 65 use it.

By education and income

When you look at social media usage based on education and household income, there is very little difference in usage rates. In fact, the biggest users had some college and the lowest household incomes. I am curious: Do those two stats taken together represent college and university students? Are they the biggest social media users overall? Unfortunately, the study doesn’t say.

What social media sites do they use?

In sum, this study confirms what we already pretty much know: Facebook is king, and young adults are on social media a lot.

  • Facebook: 67% use Facebook; the biggest users are young women, ages 18-29.
  • Twitter: 16% use Twitter; the biggest users are also ages 18-29, live in an urban area and tend to be African-American.
  • Pinterest: 15% use Pinterest; users tend to be white adult women under 50 with some college education.
  • Instagram: 13% use Instagram; again, it’s popular with young adults ages 18-29, but Instagram tends to be used the most by African-Americans, Latinos, and women who live in an urban area.
  • Tumblr: The smallest user base (with 6%) is used mostly by those ages 18-29.

Will these statistics change the way you use social media?

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

The Future of Marketing: 3 Big Changes That Are Already Here

May 1st, 2013 ::

The Future of MarketingEach January, experts from every industry publish blog posts and articles that list their predictions of what’s going to happen over the next 12 months and how those changes will affect the industry.

This is not one of those posts – and not just because it’s May. We all know that marketing has shifted from offline to online, from analog to digital, and that marketing has become more personal.

Based on my research, there are 3 big changes that are already here but will continue to affect marketing over the next few years as they become more widespread.

1. Web and mobile sites will use responsive design to focus on the user experience

Responsive design means designing your website, tablet site, and smartphone site from one platform to keep the user experience consistent while taking advantage of each platform’s unique features.

Think about how you access the Web on each device. You navigate websites from a computer with a cursor, but you move around tablet sites by tapping and swiping. On your smartphone, you navigate a mobile site by tapping on a small screen.

What this means for you: With the explosion of tablet and smartphone use, especially when accessing email and the Web, it is critical that you have mobile and tablet sites that provide a great user experience.

2. Marketing will go beyond real-time

Ever hear of an Anticipatory Computer Engine? It will allow your smartphone to offer you relevant news, information, and recommendations based on where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re talking about.

A San Francisco-based company called Expect Labs is developing a MindMeld iPad app, which will capture ambient audio, visual, and location-based information to interpret “meaning and intent from multiple different streams of sensor data.”

What this means for you: Yes, it’s kind of creepy, but think of it this way: one day, we will no longer have to search for information. The information we want will come to us, and, conversely, the information you are sharing online about your service will be delivered automatically to someone who is just sort of thinking about it.

3. Data will drive marketing

Analyzing and using big data for a variety of purposes will continue, but for now, there are quite a few tools at the small business owner’s disposal:

  1. Ad retargeting: Ads that appear in your browser after you leave a website without taking action (maybe you put 5 items in your Gap shopping cart but left the site without buying them).
  2. Predictive recommendations: Tailored recommendations based on products you have looked at or purchased (after you buy a book at Amazon.com, you always get recommendations for other books).
  3. Location-based social and mobile marketing: Mobile ads that appear from local retailers and merchants depending on your location (an offer from the pizza place you are about to walk by at 6pm).

What this means for you: Understanding someone’s behavior and interests helps you deliver tailored offers and messages when they are most receptive. In other words, you are marketing to people who are already qualified leads.

Are you already using some of the above technology? How has it improved your marketing?

Image courtesy of civilsociety.co.uk

How to Find the Best Keywords for Your Business

April 25th, 2013 ::

Typing on a keyboardI was recently tweaking my website, and one thing I did was make sure I had the right keywords integrated throughout the site. That little exercise got me thinking about how to identify the best keywords for a business, especially one that is in a highly competitive industry or market.

Let’s back up real quick. For those who don’t know what a keyword is, Google defines it as “any word or short phrase that describes a website topic or page. The more a keyword is used by searchers and websites, the more attraction power it has.”

Keywords are important. If you want to rank high on a search list, you need to do two basic things: create new content to keep your site fresh and use strong keywords throughout your content and Web pages.

Here’s how to audit your website and identify what keywords to use:

Give each Web page a purpose

Look through your website and make a list of each page: name, category (product page, about page, etc.) purpose. By defining your pages, you will have a clearer idea of what keywords to research and which keywords to use on which pages.

Brainstorm keywords for each page

Go back to your page list. Quickly think of the keywords that are most likely to be used when conducting a search on that topic. If keywords overlap from one page to another, that is perfectly OK. No need to edit – yet!

Check your list against the Google Keyword Tool

This tool sets the standard when it comes to keyword research – webmasters and SEO experts rely on it.  Simply type in a word or phrase, and you’ll get a list of similar keywords with a count of how often each word is searched, along with info on which words advertisers think have most value.

Keep in mind that the more competitive (valuable) a keyword is, the harder it will be to rank high in search results for that keyword. Revisit your list, and throw those out. Don’t be tempted to use keywords that rank super low; no one uses them. Your best bet is to go for medium-values.

Consider using long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are entire phrases – like “non-toxic ways to get rid of ants” rather than “pest control.” They are less competitive, but they work very well for SEO purposes, and they convey user intent, which is great for lead conversion purposes.

Do some competitive analysis

Use the keywords you chose to conduct searches. As your competitors pop up, take a look at their sites. What meta-titles are they using (those appear at the very top of the browser window)? Next, conduct a keyword search for your competitors’ sites using semrush.com (handy little tool, isn’t it?) to understand what they’re being found for.

Finalize your list

Now that you have done all that research, plug your almost-final list of keywords back into the Google Keyword Tool to make sure they’re not too competitive, but that they do deliver results. Finalize your list, integrate them on your website, and you’re good to go!

Have you ever done in-depth keyword research? What did you learn?

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

8 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Client

April 23rd, 2013 ::

Buh-byeIn a recent blog post, I wrote about how to turn difficult clients into customer success stories. Sometimes, though, despite your best efforts, it is just not working.

Here are 8 signs it’s time to fire a client:

1 – Your client undoes all of your work

Have you ever delivered a project to a client, only to have them dismantle it piece by piece and then rearrange it so that it makes no sense? For me, this is a sign that they don’t recognize or appreciate your expertise and have decided that they are the true expert. If that’s the case, well, good luck to them!

2 – Your client is never available

If your client is very slow to respond to emails and voicemails – or doesn’t even bother to respond – and is constantly cancelling and rescheduling meetings, then the project you are working on is not a priority for them.

3 – Your client withholds information

At the beginning of your project, you told your client what resources and information you need from them in order to do your job and meet their goals. If they withhold that information, it might be literally impossible for you to complete the project.

4 – Your client does stuff behind your back

This is always a fun one to deal with: clients who hire another consultant without telling you, shift strategies, or ignore your recommendations (for a graphics firm, manufacturer, etc.) and go with someone else instead (who turns out to be, oh, not very good).

5 – Your client asks you do something unethical

Thankfully, I have never had a client ask me to do this, but I did work for a company in which the CEO asked a colleague to do a whole list of unethical things. Going to jail for someone else’s hubris is not a good idea.

6 – Your client doesn’t pay

I just got paid for a small project 8 months after the work was complete. This client had the audacity to brush it off and then ask me to work on another project with him. Um, no.

A corollary to this is if a client balks at the price and tries to negotiate it down or push it back. You might never get paid (this happened to me on a big project).

7 – Your client constantly changes scope of work

Changing the scope of a project happens often, and it is usually not a big deal. What is a big deal is when the client expects you to do more work for free.

8 – Your client is never satisfied

Some people are literally impossible to please. Maybe they ask for one tweak after another, thus dragging out the project. Maybe they take one look at what you did and say they hate it – and refuse to pay. The stress of trying to please a negative Nelly is just not worth it. Save your sanity, and say good-bye.

Have you ever fired a client? Why?

Image courtesy of zainjoyce.com

5 Easy Social Media Marketing Tips From the Experts

April 22nd, 2013 ::

Ask an expert!I am constantly scanning blog posts and online articles for new social media marketing tips. So many people have great ideas that I have never considered – especially the experts who live, breathe, and sleep social media.

In a recent post from Social Media Examiner, I was inspired by the following advice from 5 social media marketing experts:

1 – Try Facebook Offers

Facebook Offers are different from ads, as they appear in your news feed. According to Amy Porterfield, a social media strategist, they’re a “triple threat” – 1), they can get up to six times as much engagement as an ad; 2), when a user clicks on your offer, they get an email in their personal email account; and 3), they can be hyper-targeted.

2 – Don’t ask for a follow without explaining why

Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur, made this point, and it’s something I have been pushing around content for a long time – always explain the benefit when you are asking someone to say “yes.” When it comes to social media, tell people what they will get from following you on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.

3 – Become a Q&A site

No matter what your business does, people have questions about it. Where do they go when they have a question? A search engine. Marcus Sheridan, the Sales Lion, pointed out that the more questions you can answer via social media and on your site, the better your search rankings will be. You will also turn yourself into a go-to source of information on that topic.

4 – Take a two-step approach to content sharing

Freely sharing content with your audience is something I advocate for all the time. John Jantsch of DuctTape Marketing likes a two-tiered approach in order to encourage more social followers. Share some content with no restrictions, but then share other, highly valuable content only with those who like your Facebook page or visit a landing page and submit contact info.

5 – Think of social media as a cocktail party

I really love this analogy from business coach and strategist Sarah Robinson. When you are at a cocktail party, do you just stand there with a megaphone talking about yourself nonstop? Of course not! The same holds true for social media. Talking about yourself a little is OK, but having a two-way conversation is the way to go. Tell stories, share resources, and solve problems, and you’ll be golden.

What is your favorite social media marketing tip? Do you have your own to share?

Image courtesy of ruziomedia.com

6 Must-Have Elements for a Winning Presentation

April 18th, 2013 ::

Travis KalanickThe best presentation I ever encountered was at a startup conference in DC almost 2 years ago. The presentation was given by Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber, who was entertaining and had everyone laughing while he shared the story of how he persevered and started Uber despite a hostile regulatory environment.

Travis’s presentation stuck with me to this day. I am sure a lot of other people remember it too, because he got a big reaction. After the conference, he was mobbed with people who wanted to chat with him.

Because being boring – and being bored to death – is something I avoid like the plague, I decided to make a list of all the reasons Travis’s presentation was so darn good. Here’s how to be like Travis:

1 – Love your subject

The more passionate you are about your subject, the more energy you will bring to your presentation. Your knowledge of – and love for – your subject will just pour out of you and wash over the audience. You will engage your audience and really pull them in. In turn, your audience will believe in you.

2 – Understand your audience

The presentation Travis made to a bunch of startup founders was peppered with jargon the community understands and full of curse words. I doubt he’d give the same presentation to potential investors. Instead, he’d focus on numbers – revenue, profit, and loss projections – and use financial terms.

3 – Have a conversation

All of the best presentations I have ever sat through, watched, or listened to included this very important element. I like to be talked to and feel like the speaker is conversing with me. I don’t like to be talked at, which, for me, feels like a lecture. Which do you prefer?

4 – Know your stuff

The more you practice your presentation, the more comfortable you will be with the material and the better your delivery. Travis didn’t have notes. He walked around the stage, telling his story. He knew the points he wanted to make and how to make them.

5 – Be visual

The most remarkable thing about Travis’s presentation was his PowerPoint deck, which contained zero words. It was all images – images that related to the points he was making. This is a brilliant idea, as you want people to pay attention to what you’re saying, not what is written on a slide.

6 – Practice timing

Watching Travis was like watching a seasoned standup comedian who knows exactly how and when to say something to elicit the biggest reaction. Practice your timing – where you should pause, how to deliver a punch line, and the most powerful way to make a point.

Do you have any other tips for an awesome, engaging, and fun presentation?

Image courtesy of washingtonian.com

10 Online Marketing Mistakes That Are Damaging Your Reputation, Part 2

April 16th, 2013 ::
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series 10 Online Marketing Mistakes

Damaged!Your online reputation includes your website, blog, downloadable content, and social media accounts. Because they are always “on” and ready to make a good first impression, you want them to do you proud and accurately represent the quality of you and your work.

If you missed my first post on mistakes 1-5, you can find it here. Here are the final 5 most common online marketing mistakes that, if you’re making them, are damaging your reputation:

6 – Focusing on sales over relationships

While I am sure that you, your company, your products, and your services are all great, don’t talk about you, it, or them. That’s sales, and I have never met anyone who said, “I love to be sold to!” Instead, show how great you are by sharing your knowledge and helping others. That’s how you build relationships, and relationships drive sales.

7 – Writing vague blog posts

This is probably my biggest pet peeve. Rambling blog posts that circle around a topic and never make a point or reach a conclusion are a complete and total waste of time. Make your point up front, and then write a blog post that supports your point.

8 – Not proofing content

The is my second biggest pet peeve. Keep your spell check and grammar check turned on. In the digital age, you literally have no excuse for spelling and grammatical errors. As for punctuation errors, learn what dashes, colons, and semi-colons are for, and learn how and when to use a comma. If your content is sloppy, what will prospects think about your work?

9 – Not editing content

This is different from proofing content, which is more mechanical. Editing means checking your content for clarity and length. Is your language clear? Can you tighten up sentences or paragraphs and still get your point across? Does your content flow nicely from one point to the next?

10 – Forgetting about your mobile site

How many of you have a smartphone? How many of you read email? How many of you look up a business on Yelp before heading there? Exactly – most of us do. Just last weekend, my husband looked up a restaurant on his iPhone. Their site was not mobile-friendly and was thus impossible to navigate. We decided to dine elsewhere. So, do you have an optimized mobile site yet?

What do you do to make sure your online reputation shines?

Image courtesy of timelineimages.com

10 Online Marketing Mistakes That Are Damaging Your Reputation, Part 1

April 15th, 2013 ::
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series 10 Online Marketing Mistakes

Damaged - ouch!The online reputation you have can make or break your brand. You can only physically be in one place at a time, but online, you are in several places at once and accessible 24/7. Your website, blog, downloadable content, social media accounts – they are always “on” and ready to make a good first impression – or are they?

Here are the first 5 (out of 10) common online marketing mistakes that, if you’re making them, are damaging your reputation:

1 – Not updating or maintaining your website

Because your website is your digital calling card, it is incredibly important to make a strong first impression. Keep your website fresh with new information – new projects, clients, testimonials, press mentions, maybe a Twitter feed.

Web design and development best practices and must-have elements have changed a lot in the past couple of years. If your website includes Flash or is more than a few years old, consider having it redesigned.

2 – Using auto-play video

If you have a video on your website that automatically plays as soon as someone lands on your site (or Web page), for the love of all that is good in the marketing world, please turn it off. It is annoying, and it definitely will not win you any friends.

3 – Neglecting your social presence

Once you start a blog and make your presence known on Facebook, Twitter, etc., don’t stop. The whole point of “going social” is to be social – to have conversations, answer questions, help solve problems, provide resources, and ultimately build a community. You can’t build something by taking frequent and extended vacations.

4 – Over-communicating

This can be interpreted in two ways: sharing too much, and sharing too often.

By sharing too much, I mean sharing personal information that is totally irrelevant and inappropriate or sharing professional information that is angry in nature (like complaining about a bad client).

By sharing too often, I mean posting company-focused news/updates on Facebook and Twitter more than once a day. I have noticed that a social media marketing professional whose brand I “like” on Facebook does this every day – she sends out at least 3 posts on Facebook back-to-back every evening. Hello, un-follow button!

5 – Over-automating social media

When Twitter was first adapted by the business community, it was popular to auto-send a Direct Message to new followers. Amazingly enough, people and brands still do that, even though the practice is highly frowned upon. Do you automate your phone calls to your spouse, mom, or kids? Of course not – you’re not a robot. Well, you shouldn’t do it to your social media followers either.

Do you see these mistakes being made? Which one bugs you the most – and why?

Image courtesy of timelineimages.com