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As businesses charge headlong into the social media arena, misunderstandings in the areas of how these platforms actually work and the ethos that brings people to them can result in mistakes that can sidetrack even the best intentioned social media optimization initiatives.
 
These mistakes include:
 
* Going all sales all the time – Businesses that hit the social media scene with advertisement after advertisement may see a little uptake at the outset but will eventually see diminishing returns as their posts slowly take on the status of low value spam. This mistake is typically based on a perception that social media communities exist to be sold to, an error that will lead to varying degrees of failure for the sponsoring business’ efforts.
* All me all the time – Much like people who are only interested in conversations that focus on them, interest will fade for a business that constantly beats its own drum while ignoring the conversations taking place on related topics.
* Assigning social media to the new kid because “He gets it” – Part of the art of implementing a successful social media optimization initiative involves the skill required to carry a thread with valuable information. Tasking an inexperienced new hire with social media work because of a high “friend” count can make a company look bad when the conversation moves to a knowledge level that the kid isn’t prepared for but decides to participate in anyway.
 
While there are many other mistakes that can derail social media optimization initiatives, these are some of the most common. Fortunately, by taking the time to learn the culture of each social media platform and working to develop a credible presence in each community, these mistakes can be avoided.   
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While much of the attention on local search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on text-based keywords, adding optimized images to your site and other online assets can play a major role in improving the visibility of a variety of your web pages on search engine results pages (SERPs). In addition to enhancing the results of your local SEO efforts, numerous studies have concluded that images on web pages lead to greater engagement with readers as well as an increase in the number of social signals such as shares and “likes”.
 
Here are some of the ways in which you can incorporate images to optimize your local SEO efforts:
 
* Incorporate a picture that symbolizes your business – This type of picture can be of your storefront, its interior, or your main products. A high quality picture of the exterior presents another layer of familiarity for your customers who may have seen your storefront before or are looking for it for the first time. Additionally, you can entice customer visits with inviting interior and product images.
* Add “ALT” text for the search engines – Search engines cannot define images, so do it for them. Using ALT text with appropriate keywords to describe your images will enhance web page relevance and supplement your text-based SEO efforts.
* Upload images to social media sites such as Flickr and Facebook – Images on these sites that are optimized with your business name and location will engage viewers and will also score points in the algorithms used by search engines to rank web pages.
 
Many businesses either ignore the power of high quality images or fail to optimize them. By following these measures you can enhance your local SEO efforts while also building your brand with your customer base.
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Digital press releases, which are used extensively by large companies, are often overlooked by small businesses as a viable additional to their online marketing strategies, despite the fact that the format can deliver a number of cost-effective benefits. These benefits include increased visibility with the local customer base, the generation of SEO signals, and having the potential of being picked up for wider distribution through news agencies.

 

Here are 4 steps you can take now to boost your local SEO efforts by issuing digital press releases.

 

* Incorporate your local SEO keywords in your press release – These keywords should include the geographic region for which you’re optimizing (city name, county, etc.) along with your company name, products and/or services.
* Be newsworthy – The main requirement of a newsworthy press release is that it has to be of interest to your audience. For releases targeting a local audience, topics can include the opening of a new location, events, or new product information.
* Include a quote or two from the owners or from management – While the balance of a press release will be written in third person context, quotes can add elements of personality and passion while also familiarizing locals with company personnel.
* Promote press releases through social media – You should be promoting your published content already, so be sure to include your press releases as well. Links to your press releases and your website will generate social signals that play a growing role in the algorithms that search engines use to rank web pages.

 

Your business does not need to be a member of the Fortune 500 to benefit from issuing digital press releases. By generating press releases that are keyword relevant and interesting, your business will benefit by attracting the attention of both your local market and the search engines.

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While reputation management campaigns are typically executed across numerous channels with a focus on controlling the visibility of content on the search engines, business owners need to pay particular attention to the conversations that are taking place on social media platforms. This sharpened focus is necessary due to the fact that, while businesses are virtually required to participate on social media sites to compete, these platforms are often the launching pad for fast-developing reputation management problems.

 

Here are three measures you can implement now to start the process of managing your company’s reputation on social media platforms:

 

* Be a good social media citizen – Position your business to engage with your respective communities as an informative resource while de-emphasizing overt selling practices. Taking an advisory role can build your business’ authority within its industry while increasing trust and credibility with your customer base.
* Create a clear social media policy – Some of the biggest reputation management problems for businesses are created by employees that unknowingly go outside the boundaries of propriety when participating in conversations or posting content. Having a clear social media policy that delineates what can and cannot be posted by employees will greatly reduce the chances of something harmful going viral.
* Develop crisis management plans – Having set protocols in place to handle emerging reputation management issues is far superior to trying to create a plan in the face of an unfolding crisis. While you may not be able to foresee all contingencies, these protocols can be used as a framework for a variety of issues.

 

Social media sites offer both opportunity and danger. By implementing reputation management practices on these platforms now, you’ll be well ahead of the curve should a potential crisis emerge.

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Being seen by your customers when they search online for your business, either by category or by name, can make the difference between having them buy from your business and heading off to do business with a competitor that has higher local visibility. Here are 3 steps you can take now to make sure that your business gets seen when local customers search for your products/services.

 

* Incorporate your location into your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts – Most local inquiries will include the name of a city, county, region, etc. with the product or service that is being searched. For example, people looking for pizza places that are nearest to them in Daytona Beach will use a search term such as “pizza Daytona Beach”. By tailoring your SEO efforts to the most commonly used search terms for your product/service in your local area, your business’ visibility will improve dramatically.
* Claim your listings in local directories – Google’s “Places for Business” and Yahoo’s local directory are two of the major local directories that people use to find local businesses, but there are many others as well. Don’t assume that your business will automatically appear in these listings, even for searches that specify you by name. Claiming your local directory listings and populating them with basic information can usually be accomplished in a couple of minutes, so take the first steps as soon as possible.
* Get social – More people are using social media platforms to find and get recommendations on local businesses. Developing a presence on selected social media sites will raise your business’ visibility and will also contribute to your overall SEO efforts.

 

More of your customers are using local search every day. Help them find your business by taking these three steps today.

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If your business is a “David” competing against the “Goliaths” in your industry, outsourcing your IT requirements can be a significant step that levels the playing field while also lowering the barriers to entry.

 

Here’s how:

* Outsourcing IT enables resources to be focused on competing and generating revenues – Businesses with unlimited resources are few and far between, meaning that most businesses are faced with prioritizing where time and money will be allocated. Outsourcing can free up resources which can then be directed toward revenue generating activities.
* The ability to ramp up projects quickly – In certain circumstances, business opportunities may only be available for a narrow window of time, which can be missed if training in-house staff in advance of ramping up a new project adds costs and delays implementation. These impediments can be eliminated by outsourcing IT to a firm with a broad base of experience and capabilities, resulting projects that start quickly and efficiently.
* Operational efficiencies can lower unit costs – One of the advantages possessed by big companies is the lowering of unit costs due to economies of scale. Small businesses that keep duties such as research, back office work, product development, etc. in-house typically have a larger cost structure which can narrow profit margins and hinder competitive pricing. Outsourcing specific types of IT work can enable small businesses to capitalize on the benefits of economies of scale via their provider.

 

Many of the advantages which were once the sole province of larger companies are now available to smaller competitors. By strategically outsourcing IT duties, small companies can level the playing field with competitive pricing, faster project development and operational efficiencies that can help the “Davids” of the business world to compete against the “Goliaths”.

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If you are planning on the design of an e-commerce site that will eventually require the confidence of and funds from outside investors, one of the biggest challenges will be the separation of your business from other e-commerce sites that are competing for the same investment capital. 
 
Here are 3 building blocks of an e-commerce site that will attract investors:
 
* Dominate a small niche first – The “me too” type of investment proposal that centers on taking a small percentage of a big market has become so common that it now occupies the same status as webspam with investors. Instead, set your focus on succeeding in the smaller niche areas that offer opportunities in your market and then build on those successes to go after sequentially larger pieces of the big pie.
* Set the standard for user experience – Your customers will not be able to touch and see your products, meaning that you’ll need to bridge that gap with clear images and detailed descriptions that bring your products to life. To maintain the momentum of the purchasing process, design your site with clear navigation and fast loading of each page.
* Build relationships with your customers – Don’t make the mistake of patting yourself on the back after a sale and then moving on to the next transaction. Building a loyal customer base by continuing the conversation after the sale can generate repeat business, positive reviews, and recommendations, while also seeding your brand building efforts.
 
Investors will consider a wide variety of factors before committing capital to an e-commerce site, with specific points carrying more weight than others. With a series of successes in small niches, a great user experience on the site, and a growing legion of loyal customers, you will have covered 3 of big points that can play an important role in attracting funding.  
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The level of success in the implementation and acceptance of a customer relationship management (CRM) system is often determined well before the new software is integrated into a business’ operations. The following tips can help you define the best CRM system for your business and then ensure that its potential is optimized by your personnel.

 

* Eliminate the CRM systems that aren’t compatible will your applications and infrastructure – Your CRM system will have to seamlessly interface with a variety of different systems across your business’ infrastructure. Eliminating the systems that aren’t a good fit can narrow the field to those which will offer easy integration and high performance.
* Prioritize basic systems that meet your needs versus those with all the bells and whistles – Buying a system that is loaded with features may seem attractive, but the only applications that really matter are those which will be used in your business.
* Make sure that your new system can scale up for the growth of your business and be customized for future applications – While you don’t want a system that has widgets you’ll never use, you’ll also want to avoid a CRM system that needs to be replaced because your business has outgrown it. Look for a system that offers plenty of flexibility so that it can be modified as your business evolves.
* Offer easy access to tech support for your personnel – By highlighting the advantages and making user adoption easy, your employees will integrate your new CRM system into their daily routine faster and more efficiently.

 

Business owners are often frustrated after purchasing new software due to lack of compatibility and low user engagement. By taking these steps before making your purchase, you’ll be able to avoid these issues and realize the full potential of your CRM system.

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If your business’ website is experiencing high bounce rates and/or a high percentage of visitors that exit the site well before getting close to the beginning of the conversion process, there are several easy steps you can take now to improve your website design. These steps include:
 
* Landing pages that quickly assure visitors that they have come to the right place – Search engine results aren’t perfect, a fact that consumers are well aware of. If your arriving visitors are bouncing off, the most likely reason is that they have made a snap judgment that your website either doesn’t have the information they seek or that it will be too complicated to find it. This can be rectified with a page design that immediately spotlights the keywords that were used in the search to assure visitors that the landing page has relevance.
* Reduce visual stimulation – If you’re trying to convey your message to visitors who are simultaneously focused on obtaining related information, everything else is noise and distraction. Eliminating unnecessary visual stimulation will increase your visitors’ focus and allow your web pages to tell your company’s story without being diluted by needless commotion.
* Simplify your font – In the not-too-distant past a high percentage of your traffic probably viewed your site and read your content on the large screens of their desktops. That has all changed now as screens and the text on them get progressively smaller. Today’s reduced screen sizes make complex fonts less attractive and more of a nuisance.
 
Keeping visitors on your site is the first step toward improving your conversion rates. By incorporating these website design improvements, your visitors will stay longer, thus improving your chances of selling to them.      
 
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While the number of articles calling for the death of SEO at the hands of social media appears to be on an upswing, nothing could be further from the truth in terms of the benefits of having highly visible web pages at the top of search engine ranking for high value keywords. The error in many of these “demise of SEO” articles is that they presume that the process of search engine optimization can be completely abandoned in favor of launching campaigns on a variety of social media sites.
 
It is true that the expanding footprint of social media has led to changes in the algorithmic formulas that the search engines use to rank web pages, but these changes actually reflect the search engines’ acceptance of the growing number of signals that come from social media sites as genuine “votes” for web pages and associated content. The incorporation of genuine social signals and the steady elimination of manipulative SEO practices have made the ranking algorithms far more efficient at surfacing high quality web pages, which has been the objective of search engines from the beginning.
 
The fact of the matter is that while social media can generate signals regarding the relevance and quality of web pages that helps search engines deliver a high quality user experience, these signals are not the primary objective of these platforms, which limits their search functionality. This means that search engines will continue to provide value to users and that SEO, which must incorporate social media to be successful, will remain vitally important for businesses seeking to attract consumers, build their brands, and efficiently grow their revenues. 

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  • User Experience and SEO

    SEO

     

    Prior to Google’s implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm in the second half of 2013, search engine optimization and delivering a positive user experience with published content were distinctly different practices. Despite Google’s mission to surface high value content, its algorithms were easily manipulated with SEO tricks that didn’t necessarily deliver the information that the search engine users were looking for. At the same time, content that delivered relevant information often earned lower rankings than poorly written articles that prioritized packing in keywords over adding value.

     

    Hand it to Google, the search engine has stayed true to its commitment to deliver improved user experiences and is now far less vulnerable to manipulative practices. Its ranking algorithm now factors a variety of signals that result from positive user experiences, including:        

            

            Links from authority sites – Content that contains valuable source material, topic-relevant information or delivers a positive user experience in general can earn links from authority sites to provide additional information or to be cited as a reference. These links carry an increasing amount of weight in the ranking algorithms due to the quasi-vetting process from originating authority sites. This is a completely different ranking methodology than the one which rewarded web pages that had thousands of spammy backlinks purchased for a few pennies each.       

            Social actions – When content is posted to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, user can elect to share that material with their friends and/or followers. Sharing or liking posted content is referred to as a social action, which is an indication that the content delivers a positive user experience, whether it’s entertaining, informative or a combination of the two. Steady and/or increasing social actions with specific web pages can then boost rankings due to the implied legitimacy of independent referrals.    

             Active and positive comment threads – Quality content draws engagement in the form of active commentary threads. Content that is generating shares and likes will also elicit commentary, with the actions reinforcing each other when being weighed by search algorithms. While these reinforcing actions are great for SEO campaigns, they are equally capable of driving higher rankings for negative content, such as news stories.    

     

    In today’s SEO campaigns, manipulating the algorithms has become increasingly difficult. This is due in part to the growing sophistication in algorithm methodology that can detect spammy links and content. It is also due to the evolution in the way people communicate and share information on the web. The paradigm change now forces SEO and content distribution campaigns to focus on the same primary goal; delivering a positive user experience. 

  • One SEO Change to Implement Now

    social-media-marketing

    As the sophistication of search algorithms continues to increase, search engines are improving their understanding of what their users are looking for with their inquiries. Prior to replacing its search methodology with the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, search results typically showed results that had a high percentage of the same keywords included in users’ inquiries. While the pages that were returned based on keyword matches generally reflected some relevance to the search, there were also results that had nothing to do with the nature of the inquiry.

     

    Two of the primary reasons for these unrelated results were black hat techniques that were used to trick the early algorithms into granting high ratings, as well as words that were spelled the same but had different meanings, known as homonyms. An example of a homonym is the word “lead”, which can either be a noun as in the metal or a verb as in “to guide”. An inquiry such as “lead dog” could list sculptures of dogs made of the metal as well as dog teams in the Iditarod race. Refining the search to “what is a lead dog Iditarod” could still return mixed results. With the implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm, searches provided results based on the context of the inquiry, rather than trying to find pages with identical keywords.

     

    The change to contextual search, in addition to providing a higher percentage of relevant results for all users, was also influenced by the more conversational nature of inquiries from mobile device users. When voice commands are used, it’s more natural to ask a question than limiting inquiries to a few key words. As the search phrases became longer, keyword-based algorithms struggled to return listings that answered the questions that were being posed, which required follow-on searches and lead to a less than optimal user experience.

     

    For businesses that have not changed the foundation of their SEO initiatives to the new search methodology, previously high rankings are likely to start falling, if they haven’t already. The key to success in context-based search is to modify content so that it answers the questions posed verbally by mobile users. As a simple example, a searcher may pose the question “Where is a pizza place in Anytown?” Content that answers that question, which would earn a higher search listing, would include something like “Jack’s Pizza is located at 123 Main Street in Anytown.”

     

    As Google and the rest of the search engines try to deliver the best user experience possible, the focus is on eliminating listings that don’t deliver the answers sought by searchers. To that end, the listings that are presented will increasingly address the full context of inquiries with the delivery of specific answers. In this environment the SEO campaigns that are modified to answer questions, rather than match keywords to searches, will deliver website and storefront visits which will drive revenues.  

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