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Web.com Small Business Toolkit: HowFindableAreYou.com (Online Findability Tool)

October 5th, 2012 ::


The name of this website says it all: Can your customers find you (and do they even know you exist)? You hope so, but the odds may not be in your favor. Dex’s free online tool to help small businesses uncover their “findability” rating asks a series of five simple questions about your business’s brand, physical location, advertising, online presence and reputation/community. Business owners give honest answers on how they are doing in each category. Then the online tool will assess your marketing strategy, give you articles to help improve in the areas where you need to get better, and follow up with an email from one of the site’s experts to provide additional help.

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Ad Copy

August 13th, 2012 ::


With so many advertising opportunities online – from Facebook to Google and beyond – writing ad copy that gets noticed, read and acted upon is becoming harder and harder. Don’t forget old-school print ads, which, depending on your industry, are still used here and there.

As a copywriter and editor, I write a variety of content for clients that has to cut through all the noise and clutter.  Here are 7 valuable tips I’ve learned along the way that are easy to implement as you write your own ad copy:

1. Know your target market

Unless you thoroughly understand your target market’s demographic makeup, needs and wants, you cannot write copy – ad or otherwise – that will catch their attention.  Do your research so you know your audience inside and out.

2. Be careful with questions

If you ask a question as your ad’s headline, be sure to ask only yes/no questions that will be answered the way you want them answered – or you’ll lose potential customers. Asking “Want to go to a free concert?” will leave your readers asking, “What kind of music?  Who is playing?”  Instead, ask “Want to see Jane’s Addiction for free?”

3. Keep it to the basics

From your headline to your body copy, keep your language basic and to the point.  That doesn’t mean boring, though! Use vivid action words, adjectives and adverbs to evoke emotion and elicit excitement.

4. Be persuasive

Tell your potential customers exactly why they need your product or service in your ad.  What problems do you solve?  How do you make their lives easier?

5. Be convincing

Instead of using wishy-washy-maybe language like “could,” say “will.” Instead of “we think,” say “we know.”

6. Stick to one message per ad

For your ad to be most effective, stay focused on one message targeted to one of your customer segments.  If you have more than one message and more than one segment you want to reach, create multiple ads.

7. Add a call to action

Always use a strong call to action that tells your audience what to do – and if it’s online, make sure the call to action is linked to a landing page so your potential customers can take that action, whether it’s downloading a free demo or accessing a special discount.

What ads have grabbed your attention recently?  What have you done in writing your own ads that has been super effective?  Leave a comment below!

Image courtesy of serc.carleton.edu

Survey Says: Inbound Marketing, Social Media, and Blogs Are Surpassing Traditional Channels

April 9th, 2012 ::

Inbound Marketing

In January, HubSpot surveyed almost 1,000 professionals about their businesses’ marketing strategies. Below are some of the findings, which drive home the fact that inbound marketing, social media, and blogs are the way to go.

Focus on Inbound Marketing

Businesses are tweaking their marketing strategies to focus more on inbound marketing, which involves pulling relevant prospects and customers towards a company and its products using blogging, content publishing, SEO and social media. These channels have the advantage of providing a low-cost alternative to pricier tactics like direct mail and purchased advertising. In fact, companies that focus on inbound marketing experience a cost per lead that is 61% lower than those of outbound-focused companies. Businesses are leveraging this advantage; of the companies surveyed, 89 percent are either maintaining or increasing their inbound marketing efforts.

Traditional Channels Slip

More traditional marketing channels – such as trade shows, direct mail, and telemarketing – are decreasing in value to businesses. HubSpot’s survey showed that 30 percentof respondents judged these channels as less important than newer ones. Not only are these channels becoming less influential in marketing strategies, but they also tend to be more costly than Internet-based forms of marketing.

The Rise of Social

Businesses are becoming more social – they are increasingly using blogs, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to get their message out and to engage with customers. Both the 2012 and the 2009 HubSpot surveys showed increased importance for these social platforms. Company blogs were most cited as the social channel that is “critical” or “important” in both 2012 and 2009. Facebook gained importance by a margin of 15 percent since 2009, and Twitter gained 15 percent. However, other social media channels have decreased in importance, including StumbleUpon and Digg.

The Importance of Blogs

As I mentioned, blogs are holding steady as the most important social media channel. In fact, 25 percent of survey respondents said their blog was “critical” to their business. Blogs offer tremendous SEO value, as fresh content and links are supplied through a steady stream of blogging. Blogs also allow companies to feature new products in detail, highlight upcoming events, and show a more personal side of the company to customers and prospects.

How about you? Has your businesses shifted its marketing efforts to more social channels such as Facebook and Twitter? Are you giving your blog the time and attention it deserves?

Image courtesy of creative design agency Arrae

4 Strategic Ways to Improve Your Blog – and Sell It

February 7th, 2012 ::

Selling a blog

Blogs are big business these days, as the Huffington Post proved when it was acquired by AOL for $315 million.

But, your blog is not HuffPo, you say?  There’s still potential for plenty of blogs to attract corporate buyers.  Want to see how yours stacks up?  Here are four tips on how to improve your blog for a potential sale.

1.  Refine your blog strategy

When companies buy blogs, they aren’t being lazy or suffering from a lack of know-how.  They’re making an investment in their business by acquiring content that has proven to be valuable to readers.  What companies might be interested in your content?  Think about how you can improve your articles by focusing on niche topics, and tighten your writing up to reflect this strategy.

If your blog has the right audience and a winning distribution model, it becomes even more attractive to buyers.  These assets take time to build, and companies are looking for blogs that have already achieved the results they want.  Remember that both factors (audience and distribution model) are part of your blog’s value, so take the time to nurture them by expanding the reach of your content and growing your email list.

2.  Start building trust

Let me preface this tip by stating that building trust with your readers is imperative, regardless of whether you ever plan to sell.  Trust is something that should be built with a desire to connect with your readers and to offer them the very best content you can.

That said, trust also plays a role in the acquisition process.  If your blog is ever purchased, the level of trust you’ve established can dictate how large of a role you’ll play after the acquisition.

Bloggers build trust and keep audiences coming back for more by developing a unique and authentic voice.  If your blog is purchased by a company, it will be much more valuable to them if it can retain your voice.  What this means for you is that you could continue to get an ongoing salary, beyond the initial purchase price of your blog, if you remain actively engaged.  That’s good for your readers and good for you, too!

Be sure to focus on building a trusting relationship with your readers as your blog grows, and protect your readers when and if a company purchases your blog.

3.  Position your blog

Before deciding whether or not to purchase your blog, companies will compare it to competitors.  It’s a good idea to survey the competitive landscape yourself, long before a potential acquisition.

First, compare your blog to others like it, and determine what your competitors are doing really well.  Next, think about what you do well, or what you could do well.  What is your competitive advantage?  You will need to determine a way to differentiate your blog from all the others competing in your industry.  This differentiator will help you stand out so companies can clearly see how your content will reach their audience.

To sell your blog, it will need to fulfill not only the needs of your readers, but also the needs of a buyer.  What makes your blog unique, and how can you position it to be attractive to corporate buyers?

4.  Prepare to monetize

When it comes to monetizing blogs, basically there are two ways to do it.  One way is to sell advertising space, and the other is to advertise the potential buyer’s products or services on your blog.  Either way, being able to show a consistent advertising revenue stream will help convince buyers that your blog is worth the money.

Test different forms of advertising to find out what works best for your blog.  The goal is to convert readers into buyers, so you’ll want to be sure any product or service ads will actually appeal to your readers.  To transition to third-party advertisers, you may want to develop an information product to sell on your site, such as an e-book or webinar, to lay the foundation for future advertising sales.

If you’re thinking about selling your blog, give these tips a try.  Even if your blog doesn’t get acquired, focusing on these tips will help take it to the next level.

Image courtesy of creative design agency Arrae

How to Make the Most of Web Ads

September 23rd, 2011 ::


We all can’t be part of such brilliant (yet ridiculous) Web marketing as Alex Tew’s million dollar homepage, but we can capitalize on cross-channel marketing by experimenting with online ads. Web ads can be used to promote new products, services, promotions, coupons or anything else you want to publicize.  The key to success is ensuring your online ads generate maximum conversions instead of becoming the joke of a generation.

Here are two ways to make the most of your web ads and get the ROI you expect:

1. Spend time fine-tuning your ad copy and graphics.

Web ads have the benefit of not needing to conform to the cookie-cutter space that a magazine or billboard ad does. They can range from banner ads and pop-ups to pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and personalized ads.  If you want to get noticed, get creative with your ad copy and graphics.

Spend time writing copy that is fun and engaging but that also gets your point across quickly.  Use a graphic designer to create professional images that are eye-catching and convey your message.

2. Create landing pages that convert.

Even though designing the ad and buying ad space is the most exciting part, don’t ruin your efforts by neglecting the importance of a landing page that will drive conversions.

Don’t direct a potential customer to your general home page. Instead, send them to a landing page–a page on your website that was created specifically to convert them into a new client.  Use the landing page to convince them that they need your product, service, white paper, eBook or whatever it is you are promoting.

If a customer clicks on an ad selling an umbrella, send them to the page with an umbrella on it.  Something that simple can make the difference between a sale and a lost sale.   Also be sure to add a sense of urgency to the copy on the landing page – you want them to take action now, or you will most likely lose them.

Finally, make it easy for them to take action.  Ask them to fill out a form to download an eBook.  Put a giant button on the page that says “Buy now!” so they can quickly and easily buy that shiny new widget you are selling.

These tips seem pretty obvious, don’t they?  But do these two things right, and your Web ads will deliver you the results you want.

Image by Flickr user Ashifeld Haque (Creative Commons)

Video and Mobile Marketing: Just-Released Stats and What They Mean for Your Business

August 9th, 2011 ::
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Inbound Marketing

People using mobile phonesIn the first of this two-part series, I shared data on inbound marketing and online advertising and how it related to your small business – all based on great marketing statistics in the just published “The Marketing Data Box.”  In this, the second post, we are looking at video marketing and advertising.

If you have thought about producing and sharing videos online as part of your marketing strategy, consider that Americans watch 14 hours of online video each week.  That translates to an average of 179 million Americans watching video each month.

Based on those numbers, it is pretty safe to say that video marketing is a good idea due to its high level of engagement.  It probably comes as no surprise that YouTube is the dominant channel (77% of market share), trailed way behind by Hulu (6%) and Bing (4%).

It is also worthwhile to consider advertising using online video ads, as they reach 45% of the U.S. population an average of 32 times per month.  Obviously, you need to make sure your target market is in the demographic mix of any online video channel before committing.

If they are using Hulu, you might want to advertise there, as that video channel generated the highest number of video ad impressions at nearly 1.1 billion.

What about mobile?  We are all very reliant on our smartphones to do just about anything–well, at least the 31% of us who have a smart phone.  Nielsen found that Americans spend 38.5% of their smartphone usage time on email.  Social networking is a distant second (10.7%), which, quite honestly, surprised me, but only because so many people I know update Facebook constantly while on the go.

If you want to reach smartphone users, think about finding a mobile game developer. Some 44% of US mobile phone users have played a mobile game at least once; 33% of respondents have played a game in the past month; and nearly a quarter (24.6%) have played in the past week, making them  “avid mobile phone gamers.”

“The Marketing Data Box” is a quarterly series published by Watershed Publishing’s Data Insights, based on HubSpot’s data and using graphics supplied by MarketingCharts.com. 

Image by Flickr user garryknight (Creative Commons)

How to be Likeable on Facebook

June 27th, 2011 ::

Aquent and the AMA recently hosted a webinar on how to be likeable on Facebook.  Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media, gave some great tips on how to effectively use Facebook for marketing.  Always nice to learn from an expert, so here are the takeaways:

Focus on your customers

Dave stressed that the key to marketing success on Facebook is to talk about your customers.  Yes, it’s OK to talk about your company and brand, but only once in a while.   Your messaging should focus almost exclusively on your customers.

Work to create conversations with fans, especially the ones that post good things because they are your ambassadors and will spread word about your company to all of their friends and colleagues.

Use the tabs

Swap out your company logo on your page for a profile photo of a specific product or of fans, which you can frequently update.  Then make sure you completely fill out information in the tabs and add photos and links to your website. Use the welcome tab like a landing page and include promos and calls-to-action.  (Only 10% of Facebook fan pages do this, so chances are your competitors don’t.)

Content is king

Share great content every single day so you’ll show up in the news feed.  The five most engaging status updates are photos, video, links, questions and interactive apps (polls, quizzes and virtual gifts), while the best way to attract new fans and comments is to ask questions and actively solicit Likes.  You can also use a Like button for individual products or objects, something I had never thought of before.

To ensure you are publishing great content that your fans will appreciate, put together an editorial calendar so you can plan ahead and stay organized.

Advertise on Facebook

Thanks to detailed demographic information and volume of users, Facebook is the best advertising platform ever.  Hundreds of millions of users have identified their likes, interests, affiliations, job titles, and so on, making it easy to target your ideal customers.

It’s not that expensive, either.  Your ad campaign can be as low as five dollars a day and can be based on a price per impression or per click (Dave recommended per click).


What other tactics have you used successfully on Facebook?  Leave a comment below!

Image Courtesy Facebook

Where to Advertise to Reach Affluent Consumers

June 1st, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you trying to reach affluent consumers with your advertising? And are you wishing you had the budget to advertise on TV? Well, you need not worry. According to a recent survey of affluent Internet users from The Affluence Collaborative, reported by eMarketer, TV is far from the best way to reach affluent consumers.

So where will your advertising reach affluent consumers? Surprisingly, print media is still a big hit with the wealthy set. According to the study, more than 20 percent of those with incomes of $500,000 or above spent 11 or more hours per week reading newspapers. Among affluent individuals with incomes of $200,000 to $500,000, 9.1 percent spent 11 hours or more reading newspapers. Compare this to just 6 percent of the general population.

Magazines were also popular with affluent consumers. The same survey found that 22 percent of affluent internet users earning $500,000 or more read magazines for 11 or more hours per week, compared with 4.5percent of the general population. Slightly more than 7 percent of affluents with incomes of $200,000 to $500,000 said the same. Just 11.5 percent of affluents making over $500,000 said they “rarely or never” read magazines; by comparison, over 30percent of the general population said the same.

When it comes to television, the patterns reverse, with affluents much less likely to watch TV than the general population. Nearly 40 percent of the general population watched TV for 21 or more hours per week, compared with 21.5 percent of the highest-income respondents. More than 40 percent of affluents in both groups watch 10 or fewer hours of television a week, in comparison to 26.5 percent of the general population.

But one area where affluents’ consumption may be shifting is among affluent millenials (age 35 and under). Recent data from the Luxury Institute reported in eMarketer shows that this group is using digital media more than older affluents. Watching online video (78 percent) was more popular among affluent millennials than reading magazines (76 percent) or newspapers (68 percent).

What does this suggest for your ad campaign? If you’re targeting affluent customers, you need to segment further to focus on particular age groups. The good news is that print advertising and online advertising can both be affordable for a small business, enabling you to reach both audiences.

Image Courtesy Karen Axelton

Looking for Upscale, Educated Customers? Advertise in Newspapers

February 24th, 2011 ::

By Karen Axelton

Are you looking to reach educated, affluent customers with money to spend? Then consider advertising with newspapers (in print or online).

With so much focus today on online advertising and social media, you might think advertising in newspapers is old hat. Think again. New research from Scarborough Media shows that newpaper advertising is still an effective way to reach potential customers—especially if your target customer is well-educated and affluent.

Much has been made of the drop in print newspaper ad sales, and comScore reports that between 2005 and 2009 newspapers’ total print ad revenues dropped 47.7 percent from $47.4 billion to $24.8 billion. But online ad revenues grew during the same period—and the good news for you as an advertiser is that online ads are typically cheaper than print ads.

Newspapers are still widely read when you take into account both print and online formats. In the fourth quarter of 2010, 62 percent of all Internet users 18 and up visited a newspaper website. What’s more, newspaper websites attract desirable demographics; comScore found they reach 58 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 73 percent of people in households earning more than $100,000 a year.

Still more recent data from Scarborough Research shows that more than 71 percent of adults, or 165.6 million people, read a newspaper in print or online in the last week. Some 80 percent of adults in households earning $100,000 or more read a newspaper in print or online each week. In an average week:

  • 85 percent of adults who have done post-graduate work or who have advanced degrees read a print newspaper or visited a newspaper website
  • 81 percent of women in a management or professional position with a household income of $100,000 a year or more read a newspaper in print or online; 73 percent read the print product
  • 76 percent of adults who spent more than $500 on fine jewelry in the last year read a newspaper in print or online
  • 80 percent of adults who spent $500 or more on business clothing, the figure is

77 percent for those who spent more than $500 on women’s shoes read a newspaper in print or online.

Who benefits most from newspaper advertising? Local businesses or those with an e-commerce presence that enables customers to shop everywhere. Both online and offline, newspaper advertising has special advantages by allowing you to target consumers very narrowly based on their locations and interests (i.e., which parts of the paper they read). And that’s a smart strategy for any entrepreneur.

Image Courtesy: Karen Axelton

How to Apply Marketing Strategies to Attract the Best and Brightest When You’re Hiring

November 10th, 2010 ::

Though I currently have two superb interns, I know that eventually I will have to write a job description and craft an ad to hire my first employee.  Because I’m a marketing person, why not apply some marketing strategies to attract only top quality applicants?  Why not indeed!  Finding great candidates for a job opening is basically lead generation.  You need to define your target market, position the job and your company in a way that is most attractive to your target market, and promote it through select channels.

Here is how to apply marketing and lead generation strategies to attract the best and brightest candidates when you are hiring:

Define your target market

Write a profile of your ideal candidate, and make it as detailed as possible.  Include:

  • All job experience, education, and certification requirements
  • How much supervision they will need
  • Traits they’ll need to thrive: motivation and energy levels; creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving skills; familiarity with specific technology, tools, and methods; sales and business development skills, etc.

Sell that job!

Write an energetic, attractive, and clear one-page description of the job that lists all responsiblities and expectations.  Action verbs, adverbs, and adjectives are your friends!  Be sure to specify what, if any, job requirements are non-negotiable.

Include a request for a cover letter and portfolio of work, if applicable.  If the job is a creative one and/or requires a great deal of critical thinking or problem solving, create a hypothetical situation and ask all candidates to describe (within a specified number of words) how they would address the situation/solve the problem.

Position your company as a great place to work

If your company is growing; the job is challenging; there is a great opportunity to learn new skills, lead projects, and grow with the company; the work environment is casual; employees can bring their dogs; telecommuting is allowed…mention it!

List all aspects of the company that make it especially attractive.   Start with your location and include information on your office building, qualities of the neighborhood, access to public transportation, and convenience to restaurants and shops.  Discuss salary and benefits in as much detail as you’re comfortable sharing.

Promote the job

Skip the large online job boards.  Post the ad on your website, relevant professional interest listservs, niche job boards, your Facebook page, and industry-specific LinkedIn groups.  (I would avoid Twitter unless you have a very industry-specific following.)  E-mail the ad to clients, business partners, and professional associations; include a note requesting that it be forwarded appropriately.

Image by Flickr user HiredMYWay (Creative Commons)