Google

Algorithms are based literally on hundreds of factors, many of which remain a mystery. However, the algorithm updates released by Google can make a massive impact on your website performance. And what we do know about them is that Google is starting to release them more regularly. Three of the most significant changes to Google’s algorithm updates have occurred in recent months: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Let’s take a closer look at how they work and how you can improve your website performance by understanding Google Logothem better. Panda Updates Launched in February 2011, Panda caused something of a sensation when it was released. Its primary objective was to promote high quality sites and demote the lower quality ones. The biggest culprits that were affected by the updates were those that duplicated or stole content from other websites to help their own search performance. At first glance, most SEO experts thought that Panda was targeting sites with lots of back links but this turned out not to be the case. This Moz.com article summarizes Panda in a few lines:

Google refreshes the Panda algorithm approximately monthly. They used to announce whenever they were refreshing the algorithm, but now they only do this if there is a really big change to the Panda algorithm. What happens when the Panda algorithm refreshes is that Google takes a new look at each site on the web and determines whether or not it looks like a quality site in regards to the criteria that the Panda algorithm looks at.

Penguin Algorithm Updates Rolled out in April 2012, Penguin’s job is to undo the SEO traction gained by websites making use of unnatural back link building. That means sites that have tried to cheat Google by using black hat or unethical SEO practices are penalized. So what should you do if you think you have been hit by Penguin? This Hubspot article provides some useful advice:

Just as you do with local NAP citations, you need to start thinking about branding citations for your SEO campaign. But instead of using your NAP, you need to focus on creating and distributing quality, relevant content on reputable websites with natural backlinks to your site. Some of these links will be follows, some will be no-follows; some will have a keyword in the anchor text, some won’t.

The Hummingbird Algorithm Updates When Hummingbird showed the world its wings, it was amidst Google’s 15th birthday celebrations in September 2013. Many people believe that Hummingbird was solely responsible for the demise of their website performance but the funny thing was that it was later revealed that Hummingbird had been operational for almost a month before it was formally announced, but no one actually noticed it. If you do not know whether you were affected or not, check your Analytics from 04 October 2013. The purpose of Hummingbird was to focus on and reward sites that can match Google users’ intent. The search focuses on location / geography as well as the specifics of the search. According to Amit Singhal, SVP of Search for Google:

The second key objective is the massive shift towards mobile search. As more people ask questions on their mobile phones the algorithm has to evolve to understand these longer, more complex queries. Google will keep reinventing itself to give you all you need for a simple and intuitive experience. At some point, pulling out a smartphone to do a search will feel as archaic as a dial-up modem.

If you’re running a website now, or plan to do so in the future, familiarizing yourself with the updates and what’s relevant to Google, can help you improve your results.

Google +

If you are not yet active on Google+, now would be a good time to start getting involved. Even though there are not that many active users on the platform, which was created back in 2011, it is estimated that approximately 500 million people use and interact with Google products every month. That is a large prospect audience just waiting to be engaged with. And when you start to understand how it works, you will also start to see how this can benefit you.

Why should you get going on Google+? Let us have a look at a number of convincing reasons:

You Can Catch Users’ Attention In Different Ways

Google+ offers a number of features that enable you to make your post stand out. As this Moz.com article points out:

First things first. Unlike other social platforms, Google+ posts act more like mini blog posts, and every post needs a headline. Not only does adding a header help your post stand out, but Google uses the first words of your post in two different ways: They incorporate your headline into the title tag of the post. The headline is typically what displays in Google search results.

Google+ offers the added advantage of allowing you to format your posts too. This means that not only can you attract attention with pictures, but you can use different effects on your text, too. Using the said functionality you can italicize, bold or strike-through fonts. You can also create numbered and bulleted lists, which break your text blocks up and make your words easier to read. In short, you are creating a better user experience for others.

Compared to other social networks out there, it is pretty customizable and you can do a lot more with your posts in terms of functionality.

You Can Increase Engagement And Build Relationships

Google+ allows you to merge the SEO potential of Google the search engine with the familiarity of a community and in so doing allows authors to take credit for the content they publish online. Using Google+ you can claim authorship of your articles and receive credit from the search engines for the content you produce.

You Can Build Networks

With Google+ you can market your content, products and services to your circles and networks. You can take advantage of its collaboration potential and build online communities that know you and endorse your content.

You Can Get SEO credit

Yes, you can also score SEO credit with Google if you are part of the “plus” network. And just how can you do that?

Well, with +1’s, or endorsements on your posts, you basically indicate that you have strong social signals and support- and Google likes it when its users are happy. Hubspot explains it like this:

It is not the +1’s themselves that are causing the high rankings of posts but the fact that most +1’s on a site result in a shared post on Google+, which creates a followed link back to the post. It’s instant organic link building.

Google+ Puts Text And Images On Par

Google+ is one network that values text and image based content. And while the fact that you can format your text makes it more likely to stand out and be shared, images are also highly effective on this platform.

Not only that but the results are also show that original, self photographed images are generally more successful than stock images.

You Have Access To A Very Targeted Network

Google+ prioritizes the connecting the dots and making the important connections between great content and great authors. It also gives people within your circles and networks greater exposure to the content you produce.

Social Media

With plenty of social advertising packages to choose from, some of the spirit that makes social media marketing so different from traditional marketing is getting lost.

If we go back a few years, let us say 10 to 12 years ago, before many of the social platforms had buy in from big businesses, there were clearly defined benefits, that are still obvious and available today. One of the biggest pull factors for a business to hop onto social networks was the fact that they were free. Aside from the time investment any company could get their foot in the door with a bit of creativity.

The other major motivator for businesses to get involved was the fact that social networks enabled people to connect with each other really easily. So the focus changed quite dramatically from not what you knew, to who you knew, and who saw you doing it.

Even though the social landscape has changed in many different ways, and there are innumerable options and possibilities today, there are still businesses using it for its core benefits, and they are doing it pretty well too. Let’s take a look at some really cost-effective strategies and how you can use them to transform your social media results, with minimal advertising spend.

Create Relationships Within Your Networks

Remember, sometimes it is not about what you know, but who you know that can make the difference between success and failure. And there are very few people who can be successful on their own anyway; in most cases, for the best results and to achieve our goals, we need to work in teams.

The most successful social networkers get to know bloggers and social media influencers to help them broaden their networks and build their contact lists. The more brand ambassadors you have out there the greater the potential exposure.

Being “good” at social media is as much about identifying other influencers to move your content along as it is about creating the content itself.

What’s In It For Your Audience?

Remember, if you want to attract an audience’s attention, or get their buy-in, you’ve got to ask: “what’s in it for them?”

Unless a person is particularly passionate about a subject or topic they are not likely to want to comment on or share a post. But tell them they could win the latest fragrance or their favorite brand of sunglasses and suddenly you have a lot more action going on.

Need some ideas? Social Media Examiner took a look at a case study done by Pick Your Plum:

Pick Your Plum is constantly giving their social media followers reasons to share. They often run promotions asking customers to tag a friend and then give away something to both the winner and the friend. Prince reports that their Facebook likes always go up dramatically during these promotions.

Set Simple, Short Term Goals

Search Engine Journal tracked their on social media strategy success by laying down a short term goal strategy. Their goal was to increase their followings on social networks by modest percentages month on month, but they ultimately ended up comparing three-month intervals.

They started out with two channels initially and were therefore able to offer them more focus. Once they became more confident on Twitter and Facebook, they decided to extend their reach to LinkedIn and Google+ and apply their short term goal strategy there too.

Since we’re a media publisher and don’t have as much visual product collateral to share, we focused more on Twitter and Facebook rather than Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re a fashion or food-related company, for example, it may make sense to do the opposite. (And although we don’t place as much focus on Pinterest, our website traffic stemming from there has increased over 500% the last three months.)

Modern Social Media Strategy Requires Recycling Too

Not all the content you produce for your social channels needs to be original, either. This article from Moz.com looks at how the most successful social media marketers today can reuse and repurpose content, as well as leverage content produced by other influencers on a network.

Not every update has to stem from original ideas of yours; you can bounce off the ideas that other people are already posting. Social media relies on conversations, so jump in and be a part of them. You can even look for Twitter chats that are relevant to your brand and dive in. (This is also a good way to get your account and brand more visibility.)

Get Clued Up About Multimedia

Sure, people want to read blogs and share memes but the research shows that the biggest movements are happening in terms of multimedia content. And if you want to adopt a progressive approach to social media marketing, you might want to think in terms of all the different types of content that technology makes available for us today.

According to Reel SEO, if you want to be setting trends, video is where you should be focusing your efforts:

Video is predicted to account for an unprecedented 84% of all Internet traffic by 2018, an increase of 6% over the video’s current slice of the online pie, the equivalent of 4.5 trillion YouTube clips. Cisco estimates that video traffic will equal 37 exabytes (EB) per month, that’s total traffic which includes sites like YouTube, and Buzzfeed Video, alongside VoD services such as Netflix, and Hulu.

Encourage A Two-Way, Mutually Beneficial Relationship

Share, comment on and post contributions and submissions from your fans. Allow them to share their fanaticism and support and then recognize them for it.

Similarly, if you want fans and followers to be more vocal about your material, lead by example. Show people you are not just interested in selling and that you are willing to contribute to the community in some aspects. This is more likely to be met with success than an approach that just expects praise and support and which focuses on self-promotion.

Social Media Examiner has released its latest annual report on social media marketing for the marketing industry. This year’s report is based on the responses of more than 2800 marketers and industry professionals, and reveals that certain practices are still in trends, as well as a few new surprises. The most notable outcome was the emphasis being placed on social media marketing, with 92% of marketers saying that social media marketing was an important driving factor for business. But, as we move deeper into our digital landscape, clear trends and patterns are emerging in the data.

Let’s have a look at some of the key findings from the report and what they mean for your social strategy this year.

1. Blogging Is Back In Fashion

We have come full circle, and as always have come back to the cornerstone of good content: blogging. This year’s report shows that marketers are investing renewed importance in blogging as a means to drive social media strategy. Not only does regular blogging attract readers through interesting content, but it lays the platform for an effective social media strategy that dishes out more of the content that readers want to see on their favorite channels. And that, of course, leads to higher engagement levels.

If you were hoping for a quick fix, on-trend idea to pick up your social media strategy, go back to the drawing board. This year’s most successful campaigns are pegged to be built on content, and blogged content at that.

2. Facebook Is Falling From Grace

No longer the new kid on the block, Facebook is now being outperformed in many respects by other channels that it helped to lay the foundation for a decade ago. As the menu of social channels available has become more diverse, markets are becoming more entrenched in their favorite platforms and less enamored with Facebook.

However Facebook is still the social channel of choice when it comes to marketing directly to consumers. The biggest shift that seems to have occurred is that businesses are looking to invest their resources in other channels. LinkedIn is still the most popular and frequently used social channel for business, followed closely by Twitter.

From a consumer and business point of view, Facebook’s conversion to monetization has not been a smooth transition, as VentureBeat.com states:

In protest of what Facebook has become, thousands of users have installed a new Chrome Extension, “News Feed Eradicator for Facebook,” to silence Facebook’s news feed. And tech-savvy Safari users have opted to eliminate Facebook’s News Feed via a simple CSS tweak.

3. Google + Is Also Building Momentum

No longer wanting to be outdone by its more successful social counterparts, Google + is ramping up its efforts at attracting users. And, not surprisingly, the fact that it is owned by the world’s largest search engine has made this relatively easy. The added optimization benefit to being active on Google + is the extra endorsement you receive within the search results. It is effectively, a higher internal search ranking to other Google+ users, particularly with those in whose circles you find yourself.

Hubspot puts it like this:

This brings me to the first and most important reason to set up a Google+ business page. By setting up a G+ page for your company, you expand its visibility for searchers. In practicality, your company’s profile image, recent posts, and number of followers are eligible to show up on the right-hand side of Google search engine results pages when it is relevant to the searchers query.

And, of course, if you read point one and really do want to be more successful with blogging, Google + is one platform you cannot neglect.

4. Podcasting Is The New Kid On The Block

While podcasting is still gaining traction it is one tactic that marketers are intent on improving their performances in. According to an Entrepreneur.com review of the report:

With 28 percent of marketers wanting to learn more about podcasting, this is a major shift in priorities and, according to Social Media Examiner is likely fueled by: the global adoption of smartphones, the introduction of Apple’s CarPlay (an in-car system to allow the playing of podcasts via car dashboards) major auto manufacturers integrating dashboards with 3rd party apps.

Marketers that want to get ahead and set trends should add podcasting to their tool set this year. 21% of those surveyed said they would be expanding their repertoire to include podcasts in the coming year.

5. Visuals Are Still Of Great Importance

And while text based content does offer search engine optimization benefit, online users are becomingly increasingly attracted to visuals. Graphics and infographics provide information at a glance, without having to ask too much of the reader. And with concentration spans becoming progressively shorter, video and graphic based content is here to stay.

Even Twitter has got in on the video action with their latest hashtag video feature:

We already know that tweets with videos are more likely to get retweeted than text based tweets. We also know (from Twitter’s own data) than hashtag-led tweets are only 16% likely to be retweeted, compared to videos’ 38%. Twitter wants video-sharing to work on the site so they look to be experimenting with a new feature that brings the hashtag and video tweet together in one handy package.

While it isn’t explicitly clear if this will become a permanent feature, it is a clear sign that the trend is being taken seriously and experimented with. And the only way to tell if it will work for you is to try it out.

Now that social media marketing is no longer a new phenomenon, it is up to marketers to experiment with the different tools at their disposal and to find different combinations of what works effectively. Certainly some industries and niches will respond better to certain channels than others, but this latest report shows that high quality content, whether text based or visually founded, is what will lead your strategy going forward.

Now passed by the European Court Of Justice, Google’s “Right to be Forgotten” update to its privacy policy has caused quite a stir. But what does it mean, and how will affect you? Let’s have a look at some of its primary principles and what the changes mean.

Google and the Information It Collects

Google collects certain information about online users. Most personal information are collected when a person sets up a Google account, such as his name, address, telephone number and credit card information.

Google also collects information relating to user behavior, such as the websites you visit, how you respond to adverts, where you are in the world when you interact and what devices you are using to access your account and related products.

And then, of course, there are the search results pertaining to people, companies, products and services which Google can store versions of, even years after they are no longer in use, or if they fall out of the first few pages of search results. It is this latter collection of information, and whether it should be made available to the public, that has caused so much controversy.

How Does ‘The Right To Be Forgotten’ Work?

Under the new ruling users can ask Google to remove links to irrelevant, inadequate or excessive information. After the ruling was passed Google created an online form where users could request to have the links de-categorized and removed from search. If you want links about you to be removed, you need to send the urls through, as well as an explanation of how they concern you. Search Engine Journal says you should prepare the following documentation to support your claim:

You will also be asked for your name, contact email address, and a scan of your photo ID. Once you submit links that you want to have removed, Google will “assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information.

Why Has The Change Been Implemented?

Google made the change because it had too many policies relating to its different products. The purpose behind consolidating the privacy policy is to standardize rules and regulations relating to the collection and use of personal information.

So to clean things up a bit, Google decided to release a new privacy policy that condensed all of those individual policies into one shorter, easier to read document that has been in effect since March 1, 2012. In the policy, Google explains what information they collect and why, how that information is used, how to access and update your information, and with whom that information is shared.

Why The Controversy?

Well for one, some critics believe that the change is tantamount to censorship and infringes on users’ right to know. The biggest concern is that the changes will be used to cover up malicious information. But, Google has assured everyone that all requests will be considered and that a protocol will be followed in assessing whether those who submit their requests have a valid claim, as Business Insider points out:

Google has the power to reject a take-down request if it thinks the information is in the public interest, while media companies including newspapers are insulated from the majority of removal requests as most of what they publish is deemed as being in the public interest.

Google says it will establish whether there is public interest in the matter, for example if the matter concerns the conduct of public officials, financial scams, criminal convictions or malpractice before any links will be erased.

Once upon a time, businesses would need newspapers and magazines to advertise their services. This is a time long gone, one that many of us don’t even remember. Everything is now available online rather than in print and businesses need to catch up with this. Social media is being used more and more intensively, and this is a perfect opportunity for businesses to advertise. However, this has also changed the world of advertising itself, since it isn’t solely about taking beautiful pictures anymore. You actually need to find a way to grab not just someone’s attention, but also their interaction. This isn’t easy, but it is doable and there are ways to make sure internet marketing is a success for you.

Give Away Free Stuff

People love freebies and this is the perfect way to make money by spending money. By giving something away for free, you will attract them to your site and encourage them to make purchases. All businesses should consider handing out freebies.

First off, who doesn’t like free stuff? The phrase “if it’s free, it’s for me” rings true with just about everything for everyone—and that includes internet marketing. One of the simplest things to do is run a contest or promotion for customers.

This will come as a welcome surprise to marketers. It means that you don’t have to give something away for free to every single customer. Instead, you can create a social media post asking people to like, comment and share it and then pick one such person out of those. This will hugely increase your visibility across the entire globe, all at the cost of a single freebie.

Use Google AdWords

The reality is that we still speak of “search engines,” but the only one that really matters is Google. All your efforts should be focused on building yourself up in their rankings. One way to achieve this is by investing in Google AdWords.

Using AdWords enables you to advertise on Google, the most popular search engine, which in turn enables you to get your advertisements in front of the biggest potential audience.

Learning how to get to grips with AdWords can be a bit of a challenge. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there. Google provides quite a lot of explanation about this themselves, and there are also many publications focusing specifically on how to use it to your advantage. Alternatively, you may want to consider hiring a professional to deal with your AdWords campaign, and your other internet marketing efforts.

Set a Fair Budget

Unfortunately, you will not get very far in the world of internet marketing if you don’t have a good budget for it. You must see the money you spend as an investment, and if you spend it right, you can also expect to see a significant return. There are plenty of things you can do that don’t cost too much money, but if you want to share a place at the top with the big boys, then you have to be willing to spend a bit.

On average the survey found that digital marketing represents around 2.5% of the company revenue or approximately 25% of the marketing budget, but this is increasing quickly. As tactics and techniques evolve identifying “pure” digital spend is becoming harder and frankly, less relevant as tactics merge.

Of course, this money has to be spent wisely. Digital and online advertising is a major item to invest in, but so is content creation and management. Another focus is on search marketing and on website maintenance and design. Finally, much of the budget will be spent on email marketing. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is very difficult to see just how you are getting that return on investment. However, doing it right means you should see an increase in revenues.

Listen to Your Customers

A final very important thing is that you need to pay attention to what your customers say. As businesses are developing their social media websites, they must realize that the point of these sites is specifically to be social. Hence, if they post something, they can expect customers to respond, positively and negatively. They must then take the time to actually respond to these comments. Looking at Facebook in particular, the way that posts are shown now depends greatly on the likes, shares and comments on those posts, so if you stop communicating with your customers directly through comments, your posts will also start disappearing from their timelines.

Unfortunately, dealing with customers through social media is very different than what we are used to in customer support.

As with so many areas of social media, the key is: listen first. The temptation – especially when you see the first tweet complaining about your product – is to dive straight in. If your customer service team is already active on social media you might decide that there’s no time like the present. But for most companies, spending some time listening to what customers are saying online almost always pays dividends.

You will also have a lot more negativity to contend with. In the past, when complaints had to be written or passed on via the telephone, people often wouldn’t take the time to mention it. Now, however, they can simply find your site on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (to name but a few) and enter highly negative remarks in an instant. And these remarks will be visible for the rest of the world as well. Clearly, your response to these is incredibly important, as your positive customers will be watching as well. There are a few keys to doing this right.

First of all, you should always acknowledge your responsibility in the issue at hand. This is almost as good as downright apologizing, and customers appreciate it. You should also try as much as possible to see things from their point of view. Hence, if you don’t understand their point of view, ask them plenty of questions.

Google +

Google+ is one of the newest social media websites out there. It is sleek, it is beautiful and it has amazing functionality. For instance, it was recently updated to create automatic hashtags for you. The reality is that most of us have a Google+ account. Those of us who have a gmail or googlemail email address automatically have one, even if you didn’t know it yet. But how many of us actually use it for real? The answer is: very few.

Sure, a new social media network is super exciting, but since we already have Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and Pinterest, and LinkedIn and more, did we really need another one? Do we really need to repeat everything we have already said on those other sites once more on Google+, just so that the same people who have already seen it on our other sites can see it again? It seems that, for all Google+’s amazing beauty, it is not popular at all.

Even if it’s good — even if it’s great — it’s not going to displace Facebook as the world’s primary social network. And most people don’t need a second social network. (Or at least a Facebook-like social network: Twitter, Pinterest and others that don’t take Facebook on directly can and do thrive.)

Google maintains that it is doing well, however, and it is certainly true that it won’t be going anywhere. However, although it keeps telling people that its list of active members is growing, it seems as if there isn’t actually that much truth in this. Some even suggest that the only growth they see in their membership is because people sign up for a gmail address. And in a recent survey by RJMetrics, it seems that the network is on a downward spiral.

30 percent of users who make a public post never make another, with users who make do multiple posts seeing a monthly reduction in the number of public posts on an ongoing basis. According to RJMetrics, “[e]ven after making five public posts, there is a 15% chance that a user will not post publicly again.

The Effects on Businesses

Businesses are in a major pickle. One way for them to get their rankings up is by using Google+ for all of their posts. However, this seems to be a lot of time wasted on a product that will give them very little returns. After all, you can get higher Google rankings without using Google+ as well. And it now seems as if this is exactly what is happening, because the social media site accounts for the smallest percentage of social shares.

The two biggest disappointments are in e-commerce and media/publishing sharing, where Google+ takes 2% respectively. According to the Gigya blog, this trend continues with Consumer Brands (2%), Travel/Hospitality (1%), and Education/Non-Profit (2%). So, all in all, not a lot of sharing going on from Google+ users.

All of this is a real shame, because Google+ has the potential to be as big, if not bigger, as Facebook. However, most people find the two too similar and they are already totally used to Facebook. Interestingly, the two social media sites are actually very different in their usage and how they work, as well as in what they offer, but people still only see the similarities and not the differences. Almost nobody looks up businesses on Google+, preferring instead to stay with Facebook. This is very interesting in the world of internet marketing, since Google+ remains the site to use to increase your page rankings. A real conundrum, in other words.

Google Chrome

Google (Photo credit: thms.nl)

Google has been testing its proposed layout changes on potentially millions of online users for months. Technically, the changes are still in the testing stage and it is not yet known when they will be rolled out officially, but suffice it to say they have been implemented to such an extent that they are quite noticeable now. Both Google’s SERP results and Adwords platforms have been given a face-lift but are still relatively easy to navigate. These are the changes that have been implemented and how we recommend you work around them is discussed here.

Changes To Google’s Search Results Page

The title font of the search results is now a little bigger and is no longer underlined. Perhaps this is to compensate for the slightly smaller URL accompanying search results. Needless to say the end result is a lot more elegant than the previous layout design.

We also notice that the site links are written in larger font and are no longer underlined. We suggest that websites consider making their titles a little shorter to avoid any text being cut off.

Number one search results are also being separated from the rest of the search results by a divider, which is more incentive for you to rank in first place for your targeted keywords.

Changes To Image Vertical Results

The new vertical image format also makes use of the new font from the SERP headlines. It also includes a new link “more images for…”. The vertical divider is used above and below the image results, making them stand out slightly more.

News article results are also making use of the new larger font. The news results have been given divisions on the top and bottom, like images.

Google Adwords Platform

Literally after months of anticipation, Google has implemented its highly sought-after changes to the Adwords platform. As with organic search results, advertisers can expect to see the bigger, more vertically oriented font used in titles without underlining. Ads are no longer hosted on colored backgrounds. However, each sponsored link does get a prominent yellow box that says “ad” next to it. The “Ads related to” text is no longer being used in the layout.

The sponsored links on the right have gone through similar changes, but the right hand side bar only has one yellow “Ad” box for all the ads below it. The increase in vertical space sees the ads take up more space in the SERPS page.

Moz.com says of the changes to the Adwords results at the bottom of the page:

Note that the AdWords block on the bottom of the left-hand column looks very similar to the redesigned top AdWords block. Other SERP elements, including the knowledge panel, answer boxes, paid shopping, and carousels seem to have been unaffected by the redesign (so far).

The launch of the Google watch is expected in June this year, after much fanfare and speculation of its own. LG was put in charge of designing the hardware, while Google handled the software aspect. Additionally, Business Insider tells us:

Previous reports about Google’s smart watch have hinted that it will be integrated with Google Now (a smart, personal assistant that comes with all new Android phones), have a full-color digital display, and act as an Android phone accessory, not a standalone device.

It’s an interesting development for marketers, who are constantly under pressure to integrate online and offline experiences for users. Google’s new consumer product literally offers to do that for them, should the personal assistant be implemented in the new design. We wait with baited breath for the release in the middle of the year.

Online Reputation Management - Duncan Alney

Online Reputation Management – Duncan Alney (Photo credit: y0mbo)

Social media opens up a wealth of opportunities for any business, but it is also potentially treacherous territory if you are not prepared or don’t know what you are doing. Using your social media channels effectively is essential to manage any online reputation which, according to Business Insider:

Is used by a wide range of people and companies, from mom-and-pop shops trying to get good reviews on Yelp to celebrities, politicians, lawyers, and even tech giants like Samsung.

There are plenty of tips and lots of advice for what you should be doing but what about those big mistakes that can undo a lot of your hard work and eat away at your digital marketing budget?

Not Understanding Your Target Audience Properly

The right messaging is crucial to online reputation management. Constantly sending out self promotional material to fans and followers on a social network will not get the desired effect. Not responding to feedback and complaints in time or not monitoring what is being said, how it is being said and who said it, would also get you into trouble.

There is no excuse for not understanding your demographics, no matter how many you have. The insights and metrics available through the social media networks are far superior to what can be obtained through Google and its various products. The personal details and insights users share on social channels mean more metrics and more targeted communications for your business.

Underusing Social Media Channels: LinkedIn Showcase Pages

On LinkedIn showcase pages the content is highly targeted and personalized for the specific audience you are talking to. Upon publication of your content, metrics and analytics are available so you can monitor the progress of any page. If you are not making use of this enhanced feature, you could get left behind. HubSpot tells us:

Showcase Pages are niche pages off of a company page. They allow a company to promote specific products or market to a specific buyer persona. LinkedIn users can follow singular Showcase Pages without following the business or their other Showcase Pages. This allows businesses to promote for and cater to the audience specific to the page.

Underestimating Facebook: Staying Out Of Date With New Research

Are you one of the businesses that isn’t sure if Facebook is the right channel for you? Do you run an e-commerce store? Did you know the majority of Internet users prefer to log into a website using their Facebook credentials? Social Media Examiner informs us:

If you have a website that requires users to register, you should understand the concept of password fatigue. 92 percent of shoppers abandon a website rather than go through the process of recovering a lost or forgotten password. But if a website has a social login option, 65 percent of shoppers are more likely to return.

And, if you are really out of date with the latest, it is also worth knowing that Facebook-owned Instagram is now the most rapidly growing site on a global level. The last six months of 2013 saw the active user base increase by 26 percent. More significantly though: there were 90 million active users in January 2013 – but this figure increased to 180 million in January 2014. Instagram’s major appeal lies in the fact that users can share their photos instantly and take advantage of the platform’s post editing capabilities. If you hadn’t accepted it yet, we are really deeply entrenched into the visual cues provided by social networking, and Instagram is now at the helm.

Underusing The Power Of Twitter

You are probably well aware of Facebook’s suitability as a reputation management tool, but have you ever thought about or used Twitter? New data shows that 59.3 percent of customers’ questions are posted on Twitter whereas only 40.7 percent are being asked via Facebook.

It all goes back to knowing and understanding your target audience and where they like to hang out. If your target audience wants to engage more intimately with your brand, Facebook might be the answer. Not being active, or active enough, on this platform could see your customer relations management neglected and users not receiving timely responses.

Doubting Pinterest Can Work For Your Business

With 70 million users, Pinterest is driving lots of referral traffic. How much is lots? Writing for CopyBlogger, Beth Hayden states that:

Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+… combined. And contrary to popular belief, maybe contrary to even your belief, that traffic is converting… because many pinners use the site specifically for product and content discovery.

Whether your site is used for informational purposes or as an e-commerce tool, this is pretty entertaining news for website owners. It is also worth knowing that the primary demographic, doing this shopping and sourcing on Pinterest, is female.

Forgetting That The Customer Is Always Right

Sure social media channels allow us to be honest, sometimes even opinionated about major issues, but ultimately any negative feedback needs to be taken into account. And you might be serious about repairing a damaged relationship with a disgruntled customer, but it actually goes beyond that because a live complaint is not just restricted to the customer who made it. When it’s on a social media platform everyone else can see it. And, they’re judging you, whether you like it or not. regardless of what is said or the manner in which it is delivered, your brand literally has to save face at every opportunity. And a humble apology really can go a long way.

Not Ensuring Your Social Media Pages Are An Extension Of Your Customer Relations Management

If you are a business that values and invests in customer relations it is something of a disappointment if users’ online experiences do not match their offline engagements with your brand. When customers have been able to click their fingers and have their wishes granted in your store or office and they discover they can’t have this online, you can also run into problems.

web search is a funny business - dscf2162

web search is a funny business – dscf2162 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

Search engine optimization is one way for online marketers to boost their traffic and develop leads for their sales funnels. Arguably, on a superficial level most marketers and website owners have a basic understanding of SEO: they know that it is important to develop high quality content and they know a little about keyword placement. But if you can’t put it all into the bigger picture, it is likely your SEO will only give you an ordinary return.

It’s worth a mention because a lot of businesses that have invested in SEO are either under-impressed with their results, or reeling from the penalties they might have received after Google’s last updates. If you remember nothing else, possibly the best piece of advice you can get about SEO is, it’s not about tricking the search engines or over-doing one particular technique to manipulate your results. It’s about applying the best practices in moderation and to play nice with the search engines so they’ll look favorably on your website.

Let’s have a look at the major factors that influence a website’s visibility on search engines and how they can be optimized even further to take a search query to lead stage.

Understanding The Search Engine And Its Algorithm

To get to grips with SEO you have to know how the search engine works and what affects it. The algorithm is the ranking recipe for the search engine. It is a mathematical formula that “scores” which website is the best match for a particular search query.

Of course, no one actually knows exactly how the algorithms work but Google’s is said to rely on 30% on-page factors (like great content and keyword placement) and 70% off-page factors, like social signals and backlinks.

Developing A Website’s Authority

A website’s authority is the credibility perception it is given. The authority is based on factors such as inbound link quality, social signals and shares, the site’s traffic, the number of subscribers, and the quality of the website’s content.

A Website’s Architecture Is Important For Search Engines And Humans

A website’s architecture is how well it has been put together from an information, technical and functional point of view. The website should be structured in such a way that it is easy for search engines to index. It also needs to be easy to navigate for a user and provide a good user experience. If a search engines deems the site difficult to crawl or index for a spider, it’s going to be difficult for a user to navigate it too. And, search engines like to look after their customers, in much the same way that you like to look after yours. If the experience is poor, you will not rank as well.

Optimized URLs for SEO

URLs are essential to good SEO ranking because they classify a page’s content for a search engine (and for the site’s visitors). Accurate, relevant URLs are required for a site to rank well. They should always be written in lower case, using dashes or hyphens instead of spaces between words. They should also be easy for humans to read and understand, and you should always restrict the use of URL parameters.

On-Page Optimization Techniques

On-page optimization may account for the smaller share of your page rankings, but it is the one element that you have control over. HubSpot defines on-page optimization as:

Focused on making the structure and content of a website both user- and search engine-friendly. It describes the practices used to optimize the factors that can impact the performance of web pages in organic search results – title tags, web copy, Calls-to-Action (CTAs), keyword placement and density, and so on.

Making The Leap From SEO To Hot Lead

Just because a user landed on your site in response to a search query does not necessarily make him or her a hot lead. The user could be doing some preliminary research or price shopping, using you so to speak. If you want to hook the user and convert him or her, you’ll need to tap into their buying process and understand their needs.

That makes your landing page an essential component within your marketing strategy. Writing for Entrepreneur, Eric Siu recommends:

These customers are intrigued by your products and are actively engaged in learning more about your specific offerings or about your market in general. Visitors at this stage are likely to be most interested in the high-level benefits of your product, rather than its exact specifications.

So, rather than inundate the user with all the technical benefits of the product, take a higher level approach and give them a gentle introduction to what you’re offering.

Once you have dished out the first level of product or service information and you feel your user is a little more educated, you can ask them for something back.

Effective Call To Action

So by now, you’ve given a lot to your users. You’ve put thought and work into the process they will follow to find your site and you’ve given them some of the information they need to solve the problem they are looking into. Now you get to ask for something back. It could be to request a call back, to fill out a subscription form or to send an inquiry. It might surprise you to know that more often than not, you actually need to make your call to action prominent in order for it to be noticed. HubSpot is known for its theories on using colors that contrast a website’s design palette or a corporate identity simply because they are more likely to be seen like this. Would you like to get more from your landing pages? Michael Aagaard says landing pages should incorporate the word “get” in order to boost conversions:

It’s not that get has some sort of hypnotic super power. It’s simply the fact that get focuses 100% on what the prospect is going to obtain – in other words, it clearly answers the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ Now try and compare get to a verb like order. See the difference?

“Order” denotes a process that still has to be followed, while get reflects something that is instant. Start testing your pages and making subtle changes to your copy to see which words your target audience responds best to.