Browsing articles in "Industry News"

Setting and Measuring Goals for Business Blogging

Apr 8, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

As companies that realize the value of online marketing understand the need to publish engaging content, one of the most common considerations is a company blog.  Blog software is fundamentally one of the easiest content management software systems to install and use. Of course the software isn’t magic. The content and ability to reach and engage with customers is a big part of what makes a business blog successful.

For those companies that are thinking of starting a blog or reinvesting resources into a company blogging effort that has gone stale, some of the most important questions to ask are:  Have you identified specific goals for the blog? How will you measure success?

In sports you can’t score if there isn’t a goal and it’s no different with business blogging.  There are a variety of reasons why publishing ongoing communications that allow readers to interact adds value to a business. Add to that the distribution via RSS that extends the reach of your message and  it’s easy to see why so many companies start blogging. The failure for many business blogs is centered around not making a connection between business goals, blog specific objectives and most importantly, how meeting customer needs leads to the first two.

Here are three key questions to consider as you design your plan for business blogging success:

Why start a business blog? What end goals or outcomes can you reasonably expect?

There are many good reasons to start a blog. But are those reasons good enough to start and stay blogging for the long haul? Our survey on blogging and SEO showed 90% citing blogging as important, significantly important or a primary SEO tactic. 94% of bloggers reported seeing measurable SEO benefits from blogging within 12 months.

  • Initiate and foster customer engagement
  • Improve coverage by media and bloggers
  • Improve search engine visibility
  • Increase mentions on other blogs, social networking, news, bookmarking and media sites
  • Build thought leadership
  • Provide an informative communication channel
  • Recognize employees, clients, marketing partners and especially brand evangelists

How will you know your blogging efforts are successful according to those goals? How are you measuring blogging success?

We ran a poll last year with our readers that ranked their most important measures of blogging success. Here is the distribution:

  • Engagement: comments, links 36%
  • Improved brand recognition 31%
  • Build thought leadership 31%
  • Search engine rankings 31%
  • Better communicate with customers 30%
  • Traffic to the blog 27%
  • Coverage by media and other blogs 18%
  • Traffic to the corporate web site 16%
  • Sales leads 16%
  • Industry Recognition 13%
  • Sell products 2%
  • Improved customer satisfaction 11%
  • Page views 9%
  • Time on Site 6%
  • Ad revenue on the blog 5%

    What tools are you using to measure blog performance?

    Goals for business and the blog are great but it’s essential to have the right tools in place for analytics. One of the biggest mistakes is to rely on things like Google Alerts.

    • Web analytics (Google Analytics, Woopra, Clicky, etc)
    • Feedburner
    • Social media monitoring tools
    • Link analysis tools
    • Comment tracking tools
    • Clipping services
    • Forum conversation tracking tools

    It’s fundamental, this notion of setting goals, understanding outcomes and the tools needed to measure. But you know the saying, “Common sense is the least common thing on Earth.”  Companies can achieve great return on investment with the right plan and leadership in a blogging effort. The key is to do the baseline work to build a foundation upon which it can grow and succeed.  Stay the course and leverage both listening and engagement tools to guide content. Develop networks and distribution channels to grow readership and reach. Take the time to really understand the impact of data provided by reporting tools and create reports for executives that highlight business goals.

    What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with setting, measuring and reaching business goals through corporate blogging? Have you started a business blog only to shut it down? Have your company blogging efforts been successful beyond expectations?


    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    Setting and Measuring Goals for Business Blogging |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    Losing Time on Social Media

    Apr 7, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

    social mediaSocial media is everyone’s shiny object in the digital marketing world. Personally, professionally and otherwise, millions of people worldwide are switching from other information and entertainment channels (or multitasking) for social destinations online and on the mobile web.

    I know there are a good number of early adopters that read Online Marketing Blog and since you’re probably prone to trying the latest apps and tools, there are undoubtedly certain types of social media sites that have really turned out to be a time suck.

    That assumption leads us to our 60th Reader Poll! (pick up to 3)

    Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

    No, I didn’t include online games of any kind in this poll because, while they can absolutely be social, I consider them to be inherently time wasting. Whereas the sites/tools listed in the poll above have at least the remotest possibility of helping people become more productive.

    If your top time waster isn’t listed, please share in the comments. I’d also like know your preferences on topics for future Reader Polls. If your suggestion is picked, we’ll give you credit and a nice juicy link when the poll is run.


    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    Losing Time on Social Media |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    Landing Page Optimization Deep Dive: Interview with Tim Ash

    Apr 6, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

    Tim Ash is a marketing machine. He writes a blog, contributes to Search Engine Watch, hosts a weekly show on WebmasterRadio.fm, is author of the book “Landing Page Optimization”, speaks at numerous conferences and is the chair of the upcoming Conversion Conference in May. Oh, and he also runs SiteTuners, a successful landing page optimization consulting business and has launched a new tool called AttentionWizard that offers eye tracking “without the eyes”.  Tim has worked with American Express, Sony Music, American Honda, Coach, COMP USA and many other major brands.

    “Landing page testing is the best accelerator of your business that you have available.”

    Tim is a very smart and very nice guy who took a few rare moments of time to answer a few questions about measuring social media ROI, budgets for testing, common mistakes, tips, tools and how he stays current in such a fast paced and changing field.

    Please tell us about your background, your business, and the book?

    I am a recovering technologist. I almost got my PhD in computer science, but dropped out to start my first Internet consulting business. Over the years we have focused on driving traffic. But after a while it became clear that the bigger problem (and business opportunity for us) was to improve the efficiency of that traffic once it landed on the website or landing page. That’s how SiteTuners was born. We offer a range of consulting services to improve conversion, full-service landing page tests in which we guarantee performance improvement, and software such as out cutting-edge TuningEngine testing software, and the AttentionWizard visual attention prediction tool. We work with some of the biggest companies in the Internet universe, as well as scrappy smaller companies.

    I wrote the Landing Page Optimization book a couple of years ago and it has been very well received. Wiley Press has asked me to write a second edition that I am co-authoring with Rich Page and Maura Ginty. It will be out early next year and will have over 150 pages of completely new content.

    There’s a lot of speculation about social media and measuring ROI. Do you have examples where conversions were improved from content on a social network or other social media site as a result of a/b or multivariate testing? What is significantly different about measuring social media marketing efforts versus search marketing where the goals are conversions?

    The fundamental principles are the same – you should be trying to increase the efficiency of conversion actions that have a measurable impact on your business. The only difference is that the conversion actions might not be sales, but rather “micro conversions” such as re-tweets, fan page sign-ups, or visits to blog or content pages that you are trying to promote. So if you can lower your cost-per-acquisition for any of those actions, that is good. What makes testing a bit more tricky to conduct in a social media setting is that you need steady traffic sources over an extended period of time. Unfortunately much of social media happens very quickly and results in one-time traffic spikes that go away.

    The type of social media marketing executed by many SEOs does seem to behave according to the “go hot” principle where content gets voted on and attracts spikes in traffic. However, many companies are building networks on social channels and community participation often drives more steady streams of traffic according to the content publishing schedule of the brand. When it comes to measuring social ROI, are you seeing more social media marketing efforts fall in the first situation versus the second?

    Many social media programs are based on “go hot” kinds of activities. The content is often “perishable” and time-sensitive. But there is also long-term “content farming” activities which continue to add to a pool of general company awareness through creation of new content pages on the website, whitepapers, blog posts, and media placements. This takes a more disciplined approach and a long-term commitment of resources, so in our experience is more rare.

    This is one of those “it depends” questions but let’s give it a shot. Is it your experience that most marketers allocate budget for testing as part of overall web analytics? What percentage of that budget should go towards ongoing testing for say, an ecommerce site? What advice do you have for getting more approved?

    Landing page or conversion rate optimization is not a part of Web analytics. It is a top-line revenue-growing activity. How much would you pay for a 5% increase in volume? 10%? 50%? Landing page testing is the best accelerator of your business that you have available. It should not have a fixed budget. The economically rational thing to do with any marketing activity is to keep spending money on it as long as it produces a positive ROI. Setting fixed budgets is the same kind of silly logic that some companies use when driving traffic. If you have a fixed pay-per-click budget and you could buy more profitable traffic above that threshold, you are just throwing profits away.

    It’s interesting that you say that when it comes to budget allocation, since both concern measuring and improving web site performance. Of course there are many things that make sense to a consultant or service provider that don’t necessarily fit with the reality of how companies forecast their marketing budgets. Have you been successful at winning more budget with the “keep spending money on it as long as it produces a positive ROI” argument or do you only work with companies that have more flexibility with where they spend?

    Technically landing page testing is part of measurement and Web analytics should always be actionable. Unfortunately often it is just looking in the rear-view mirror at things that have happened in the past. My friend Jim Sterne insists that all Web analytics should be forward looking and actionable, otherwise it is useless. But in practice most analysts spend more time on data mining and not on landing page testing. If you have a testing mindset, then the question you continually ask is “Where can I make the biggest impact on our business by tweaking a mission-critical step in our value creation chain?” If you do that, the resulting improvements should make the business a big pile of money and will create psychological momentum inside of your company for further testing and experimentation. Once an organization gets excited and buys into this continual-improvement mentality, the testing budget question often goes away.

    What are some of the most common mistakes experienced search marketers make when it comes to landing pages? Top 5?

    That’s easy – I can give you more than 5. If you have heard my “Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design” presentation, you know that there are seven common types of mistakes on all landing pages: unclear calls-to-action, too many choices, asking for too much information early in the process, too much text, not maintaining continuity with the expectations that were set upstream of the actual landing page, visual clutter and distraction, and lack of trust and credibility.

    What tools do you recommend (in addition to Google Website Optimizer and those at SiteTuners like AttentionWizard) for corporate marketers that are still fairly new to conversion rate improvement? Advanced tools?

    There are a number of tools that have come out in just the last couple of years that make it much easier to diagnose and correct conversion issues. These include ClickTale.com, CrazyEgg.com, UserTesting.com, and CrossBrowserTesting.com.

    How do you stay current with practices? Do you have favorite conferences, books, blogs, newsletters or other resources that you rely on?

    Wow – that’s tough. There is an explosion of resources around landing page optimization. I pay attention to Bryan Eisenberg, Avinash Kaushik, Anne Holland, and try to look for interesting resources through Twitter tags like #lpo, #cro, and #measure. Conferences like Search Engine Strategies, eMetrics, and PubCon always feature solid content on the topic.

    Conversion Conference is coming up soon (May 4-5 in San Jose) with some big names in the conversion and testing space including Bryan Eisenberg, Jakob Nielsen, and yourself. Who is the conference for and why should they come? What prompted you to start it?

    I created the new ConversionConference.com series to give conversion improvement it’s own home. Until now, conversion has been a side topic at conferences that focused on driving traffic. The first event will be in San Jose next month, and then in Washington DC in the fall. There is also a German show in Hamburg, and other international shows on the drawing boards. The San Jose show will feature three dynamic keynotes that you mentioned. There will also be twenty six fast-paced sessions over two days covering all aspects of conversion. The presenters are all top notch. The show is held in parallel with eMetrics and will share the expo hall, lunches, networking events and the Conversion Bash party put on by WebmasterRadio.fm. The top conversion tools and services companies will also be there. If you want to turbocharge your online marketing you should be there.

    By the way, your readers can use an exclusive promo-code “CCW562” for an additional $100 off of the early bird rate if they register by April 15th.

    Thanks Tim. You can connect with Tim Ash on the social web at:

    Twitter
    Facebook
    LinkedIn
    Blog


    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    Landing Page Optimization Deep Dive: Interview with Tim Ash |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    Sponsored Posts – Measure The Risk Carefully

    Apr 5, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

    Sponsored posts have been a hot topic in the blogosphere and among marketers the last few years.

    What exactly is a sponsored post?  The simple answer is:  a company pays a blogger cash to blog about their product or service.  This is different than an advertorial since the blogger is paid cash to write the content as opposed to the sponsor creating the message.

    An entire cottage industry of companies such as IZEA, Smorty and a slew of others have sprung up to offer a variety of methods to pay for sponsored posts.  Some require bloggers to say good things.  Others tell bloggers they are free to write what they wish.  But in either case, there are potential risks involved marketers should be aware of.

    Many digital audiences appear to have an  issue with sponsored posts because they see it as a breach of unwritten editorial rules of the web.  It is for that core reason sponsored posts remain controversial.

    For the purposes of this post, I am just talking about cash for blog posts.  This a different animal than offering sampling, trials or demos of products.

    Let’s dig into why sponsored – aka cash for blog posts – are something you should measure the risk of carefully:

    Sponsored posts may draw the eyes of the engines

    Cash for blog posts could be risky behavior if the sponsored links are follow links.  Matt Cutts at Google has publicly stated that paid posts should not affect search engines.   A simple solution for companies brokering sponsored posts is to require the no-follow attribute added to links within the content.  Some pay-per-post companies offering this service state they require it.  Some bloggers may adhere.  But many bloggers have no idea what a no-follow attribute is and may not follow this guideline.  Additionally, bloggers and marketers engaging in outright cash-for-play are involved in risky behavior even with no-follow links.  This is due to halo effect of linking in the social web, and may walk a thin line with the engines who are paying attention to these campaigns.

    Before engaging in sponsored posts, consider organic outreach

    More than 80% of bloggers are already writing on products and brands.  In other words: be remarkable, have great marketing/PR and you’ll be talked about.  Learn the intersection of social media and PR, begin content marketing and engage in strategies that inspire natural coverage, conversation and influence.  The organic approach yields the highest results: since sponsored posts must have no-follow links, the SEO and PR intersection does not exist.

    Sponsored posts may train audiences to expect cash to write about you

    By engaging in sponsored posts, you may succeed in training audiences to expect a return every time they mention your brand or product.  Instead of growing in an organic fashion, sponsored posts may keep your brand out of the natural conversations and put you on a treadmill of having to pay cash for coverage.  And that’s not a sustainable way to grow a web community.

    May be seen as inauthentic

    Due to FCC rules, all sponsored content must be disclosed.  With this disclosure and transparency, readers see the content was influenced by cash, not the author’s true perception of the product or brand.  This potentially destroys the true power of word of mouth.  It affects the blogger as well:  they may lose the trust of a carefully built audience.  Audiences may not believe a blogger thought a product was great because that blogger was paid to talk about it.

    Sponsored posts are advertising – not social media

    Companies who pay bloggers cash to write about them are engaging in advertising, not social media.  Would you pay someone cash to talk about your company or product at a party?  What would everyone else at the party think?  That’s exactly what happens on the social web when users see bloggers taking cash to write up products.  So if you think it’s a risky play to pay people cash to talk about your brand or product in person, it’s equally so online (perhaps even more so since the web is referential).

    Organic push methods do exist

    Newswires, article submissions, advertorials, syndication products, and other paid methods of gaining exposure amongst web audiences exist.  The social web as a whole has less issues with these services because they are not paying individuals directly to talk about them.  Rather, they are paying to have their messages added to areas they will be found – and then reacted to – without cash going directly to users or leveraging a personal brand for influence.  Communications professionals can use paid tools to cross the editorial line with less risk than directly paying cash to individuals.

    Conclusion

    Forrester research has been touting the positives of sponsored conversations.  Jeremiah Owyang says they are here to stay.  There are companies engaging in this tactic and doing fine.  I’m not ruling the tactic out entirely, but I do wish to caution marketing and PR professionals to weigh the risk carefully.  Sponsored posts may run counter to a social media marketing strategy focused on inspiring organic attention and building a community based on trust.  They do not provide the SEO benefits of organic outreach.  Consider your larger objectives and strategies carefully and ask yourself  if sponsored posts are the tactic for you.

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    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    Sponsored Posts – Measure The Risk Carefully |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    New Google Design & Not Entirely Unlike Jeremiah Owyang

    Apr 3, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

    No this is not linkbait using Jeremiah’s name. Read on to find out what this “not entirely unlike” business from Google is all about and what it has to do with him.

    A while back I wrote about the new design Google is testing (which I like a lot) that adds a third column to search results along the left side.  It’s come and gone a few times since then as I move about the country and as Google reveals it for testing.

    As of this morning, Google is delivering the new design to me again and I noticed something different after doing a search on my name. (Admit it, you Google your own name too!) At the bottom of the new column it shows an unconventionally named, “Not entirely unlike” result.  What kind of label is that? It reminds me of the slang phrase, “it doesn’t suck”.

    With the addition of Google Profiles and real-time search as well as many other sources, it’s interesting that Google is making such a distinction at the individual level. However, it’s not just people being referenced as “Not Entirely Unlike”.

    Jeremiah Owyang SERP - New Google Design

    Here are an interesting set of connections that came up:

    • Lee Odden > Not entirely unlike:  Jeremiah Owyang
    • Jeremiah Owyang > Not entirely unlike: chris brogan, robert scoble, charlene li, om malik, john battelle
    • John Battelle > Not entirely unlike: guy kawasaki, david weinberger, seth godin, robert scoble, om malik
    • Om Malik > Not entirely unlike: marshall kirkpatrick, walt mossberg, kara swisher, robert scoble, john battelle
    • Robert Scoble > Not entirely unlike: dave winer, jason calacanis, jeremiah owyang, steve rubel, guy kawasaki
    • Guy Kawasaki > Not entirely unlike: seth godin, john battelle, robert scoble, clay shirky, lawrence lessig

    And on and on it goes with circular references (except for me, since I hardly belong in a list with these people). The notion that many public figures on the web frequently reference each other or at least cite common concepts and resources may very well be supported by the connections listed above.  Also I would note this is not the same as the “Related searches” that often show at the bottom of the search results.

    Is there anything useful in the “Not entirely unlike” feature for marketers? I’d say it’s about as useful as the Wonder Wheel if you were to use it for keyword brainstorming or research. Besides certain people’s names, it does come up for certain, general phrases too:

    • Internet marketing > Not entirely unlike:  search engine optimization, online marketing, affiliate marketing
    • CRM software >customer relationship management, erp, financial software, crm solution, business software
    • Coffee >espresso, cocoa, orange juice, banana, chocolate

    iPad - New Google Design

    Interestingly, it doesn’t fire for phrases like, “iPad”, “iPhone” or “Apple” but does for “smart phone” and “google phone”.  To test this yourself, Google must have chosen to display the new Google design to you. It doesn’t work with the current form of Google.

    Are you getting the new Google design? What do you think of it? Are there other features you’ve seen that are interesting?

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    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    New Google Design & Not Entirely Unlike Jeremiah Owyang |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    3 Tools to Help You Share Microcontent Online

    Apr 2, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Twitter  //  No Comments

    Over the last few years, the concept of microblogging has gone from zero to hero. Just a few short years ago, the terms “microblogging” and “microcontent” were known only to early adopters.  These days, the only thing “micro” about microblogging and status updates is character count. Consider a few recent statistics:

    • There are nearly 40,000 Tweets a minute, according to TweeSpeed
    • Last year, Tweets grew 1,400%, while traffic to Twitter.com grew around 1,100%
    • More than 60 million Facebook status updates are posted every day

    When it comes to microblogging sites, customers and prospects are either there, or those that influence them are. Microblogging can take on a life of its own – with users making connections, developing relationships and publishing content all from within.

    Are you unsure of how to best leverage microblog connections and microcontent for other online marketing efforts?  One answer: cross-publishing or syndicating microblog content to other channels.

    Fortunately today there are several tools available to help you and here, are three:

    1. @anywhere

    Twitter is in the process of rolling out a new feature, @anywhere, that will allow users to syndicate Twitter content to virtually any online channel without sending visitors back to Twitter.com. Not only that, but the syndication process will be as simple as dropping a few lines of JavaScript.

    Initial participating sites include Amazon, eBay, Digg, Yahoo!, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, You Tube and several others. With @anywhere, visitors to these sites will be able to follow Twitter users, retweet content and search for new Twitter accounts – without ever having to leave the website.

    Here’s what it could someday mean for your organization:

    • Customers reading a blog post written by your CEO could follow him or her on Twitter directly from your site
    • Prospects viewing a video on your website could retweet the content without leaving the webpage

    2. Google Buzz

    Google Buzz

    The latest social media player to enter the game is Google. Its recently launched Google Buzz tool is built into Gmail and enables sharing of updates, photos and videos all from within the inbox. The tool connects with sites already in use, including Twitter, Picasa, Flickr and Google Reader.

    Essentially the tool enables Gmail users to leverage the personal email contacts already made, as well as the entire Gmail community at large, to engage in conversations and share microblogging content.

    Google Buzz goes beyond just status updates, though. It automatically pulls images from links and enables users to respond to content without ever leaving Gmail.  Whether Google Buzz attains the popularity of Facebook or Twitter remains to be seen.

    3. Facebook Connect

    Facebook Connect

    Facebook Connect

    With Facebook Connect, marketers can create more engaging experiences on their websites by allowing site visitors to bring their Facebook life with them. Facebook Connect pulls Facebook users’ profile information, photos, connections and more directly to your website.

    Facebook Connect creates what it calls a “viral sharing loop” on your site by:

    • Making it easy for site visitors to share your content with their Facebook networks
    • Enabling you to show visitors what’s most popular on your site with their Facebook friends
    • Allowing visitors to comment on, review and rate content on your site

    Other tools that make it easy to share microcontent incude: ping.fm, HootSuite or socialoomph.com.

    What tools do you use to cross-publish or syndicate your microblogging content to other channels?

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    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    3 Tools to Help You Share Microcontent Online |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    BIGLIST Update: These SEO Blogs Are No April Fools

    Apr 1, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

    BIGLIST SEO Blogs
    On this fine April Fool’s day BIGLIST foregos the tricks and brings you yet another collection of better than average SEO & SEM blog reviews. Over the past 2 years we’ve reviewed over 1,000 SEO blogs and we offer you 5 more to add to your RSS reader and get search engine smart.

    Think Traffic – This blog by internet entreprenuer Corbett Barr  makes some serious promises: “…teach you the techniques, tools and knowledge you need to build real, sustainable web traffic without a big budget.”  Sounds pretty good to me. Corbett relates his experiences with past projects and growing an audience for Think Traffic to the benefit of readers.  This very new blog offers practical tips and is well designed enough to get our top listing for this week’s review.

    Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg – Best selling author of multiple books, Bryan Eisenberg begged me for months to add his new blog to the BIGLIST. I challenged Bryan to write another best selling book, start a new company, become a keynote speaker at several popular industry conferences and lose at least 30 pounds. (Hey, we set the bar high for the BIGLIST).  Of course, I’m kidding about the challenge (and the begging). Bryan has accomplished all of those things and much more while writing an excellent blog on conversion optimization and internet marketing strategy with his brother Jeffrey, who is also a best selling author, keynote speaker and online marketing strategist for major brands.

    Jeff Bullas’s Blog – Jeff works as a sales and marketing manager at Infinity Technologies and his self-titled blog flavors towards social media – offering examples, case studies, lists of tips posts and insights from setting aside his traditional marketing roots and current focus on building trust and relationships with customers through social media, permission and inbound marketing.

    CanuckSEO – Long time internet marketing veteran Jim Rudnick writes with passion and flair about “Canadian SEO for Google Success!” as well as small business, local SEM and plenty of flavorful opinion posts on a variety of search marketing industry topics. Go for the tips, stay for the story telling and enthusiasm.

    Honorable Mention

    Lip Service – Laura Lippay is an ex-circus performer, SEO pioneer, very classy woman and currently Director of Technical Marketing for Yahoo! Media. Laura teases us all by occasionally writing about life and search marketing on this blog that just isn’t active enough to be added to the full BIGLIST. But the Feb 2010 posts are certainly worth an Honorable Mention.

    Did your SEO or SEM blog make the cut? Share the good news with your readers using the badges page.

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    © Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
    BIGLIST Update: These SEO Blogs Are No April Fools |
    No comment | http://www.toprankblog.com

    Common B2B SEO Mistakes and How to Solve Them

    Mar 31, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

    Working with a variety of companies large and small, local and international, B2B and B2C, on SEO projects over the past 12 years has revealed a variety of common obstacles to success.  For many reasons, B2B marketers often lag behind B2C in terms of tactics and adoption of new marketing technologies.  The customer acquisition and buying cycle are very different for business to business than consumer oriented products and services.

    Since SEO presents the biggest opportunity to generate a high quantity and quality of B2B leads, more B2B marketers are speeding up their ability to test innovative search engine optimization programs. Unfortunately, there are a mix of common mistakes that persist.  Here are 5 common mistakes and how to avoid them.

    1. Using Keywords More Important to You Than Your Customers

    It’s pretty common for some B2B web sites, especially those in the technology space, to over emphasize nomenclature, specifications and in some cases, cleverly named products or categories as attempts to stand out.

    These product and service references are accurate to someone, but often not the buyer. In many B2B SEO programs, one of the most frequent exercises is developing insight into what customers actually think about an industry or a company’s products and services. What a customer might type into a search box on Google, Yahoo or Bing  may very well be different than the language the company uses in it’s own marketing and advertising content.

    Here are a few tips on researching the keywords your customers use to find your products/service:

    • Brainstorm based on solutions & customer needs
    • Identify what concepts are most relevant according to where the customer is in the buying cycle
    • Conduct interviews or survey customers
    • Review current web analytics for referring search traffic
    • Poll sales & customer service staff for phrases used by customers
    • Leverage social media monitoring tools for tags and phrases
    • Review competitor web site content

    Once you’ve created a glossary of key terms, you can organize them by category of the site and add metrics for Popularity, Competition and Relevance to guide in their use for optimizing existing pages and creation of future pages.  A Standard Keyword Glossary can be created based on input to tools like Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery. A Social Keyword Glossary can be created using social media monitoring tools that aggregate keyword clusters.  Looking at both types of glossaries allows SEOs to find Cross-Over Phrases for social media optimization as well as standard SEO.

    2. Content is Not Reachable by Search Bots

    We’ve learned from persona experience and heard from people like Vanessa Fox, creator of Google’s Webmaster Tools, that one of the most common issues with web sites performing poorly in search results has to do with barriers to getting crawled by search engines. Crawling of course, means the process of discovering links and content and then copying that content. If a search engine cannot follow links to your web pages or follow the links between web pages of your site, then it will be difficult for crawlers to find your content.  No content means no presence in the search results.

    Many B2B web sites are created with technological and design prowess that offer a good user experience and even better tools to manage content. But they often ignore the need for search engines to interact with content.  We’ve run into situations where title tags are hard coded exactly the same for all pages of a site, or Ajax or Flash are used to create navigation elements within product categories that are seen as one web page vs 5 or 6. Multiply those missing 5 pages across hundreds of products and that’s a very large portion of content not being able to attract new customers.

    Here are a few ways to avoid crawling issues:

    • Avoid unnecessarily complex URLs & using session ids
    • Do not publish multiple URLs to duplicate content
    • Rather than use temporary redirects (302 or JavaScript) use a 301 redirect to point old pages to new pages
    • Understand that if you site navigation relies on Ajax, Flash or JavaScript, you’ll want to provide an alternative text link navigation method.

    Use Google’s Webmaster Tools or even those offered by Bing to see how their respective bots are interacting with your site. If there are crawling errors, they will be reported along with broken links and a variety of other useful feedback that you can use as a basis for implementing fixes.

    3. Lack of New Content

    If you read Online Marketing Blog with any frequency (and we hope you do) then you’ll know how we feel about content for marketing B2B companies. A longer buying cycle for most B2B products and services requires more content to educate customers, help them evaluate their options, consider choices and ultimately, make purchasing decisions.   Many B2B SEO efforts focus on optimizing existing content without a content marketing strategy that defines and editorial calendar for producing new content.   Blogs have been our tool of choice for managing and promoting B2B marketing content to attract customers via search, links and mentions within social media and networking sites.

    Along with the creation of new content is the issue of site architecture. Managing content along with the interlinking of keywords to pages helps search engines find pages and infer meaning. Fresh, themed content along with a logical site structure using  categories, sub-categories and appropriate links between them can make a tremendous impact on search engine driven customers to a B2B web site.

    Each new web page, or digital asset for that matter, that is optimized, published and included in a search engine’s index can serve as a potential entry point for prospects, customers and even journalists and potential employees.   Many companies in the business to business category publish large numbers of documents in PDF format. Those can be optimized with keywords and links just like any other document. The same goes for whitepapers, archived newsletters, press releases, past webinars, case studies and content used to describe online demos.

    However, do not create and publish content just for the sake of adding more “hooks in the water”. Pages and media should have a purpose and should be mapped out in the keyword glossary and managed with a content editorial guide.  Search performance is greatest when you optimize content for customers first, search engines second.

    4. Keywords Missing in Content and Text Links

    Content alone does not solve SEO challenges, since customers search using keyword phrases. The keyword research conducted in the first recommendation should be used to “optimize” web page content and any other file formats (PDF, DOC, PPT) or media (images, video, audio) that can be found in a search engine. A general guide is to optimize for 1-2 phrases per web page, document or digital asset.

    Here are some basic on-page content optimization tips to guide the usage of keywords:

    • Title tags
    • Headings
    • Paragraph titles
    • Keywords in body copy
    • Anchor text in links
    • Image alt text

    Ideally, the content management system would be modified to prompt users to use keywords in these areas when new pages are being created. Dynamic keyword insertion tactics can also be used to help automate keyword placement in Title tags and the alt text of images, for example.

    We’ve worked with many B2B web sites that have great content, but are missing keywords where customers and search engines need them – especially in links between pages.  Adding keywords to the link tells both web site visitors and search engines the topic of the page being linked to.

    Not good: Click Here for more information.
    Better: Visit our CRM Software Resource Guide for more information.

    As far as links go, one of the most often missed opportunities is to encourage keywords in links from other web sites to B2B content. Many marketers complain that they don’t know where to get incoming links for B2B pages outside of paid directories, link swaps and social news/bookmarking/profile sites.  Basic backlink analysis on sites with active PR, Advertising and Marketing programs will frequently reveal anchor text of incoming links to be the company name.

    The core strategy that we follow whether the site is focused on B2C or B2B customers is to create, package and promote content that’s worth linking to.  However, no one will know to link to great content unless you promote it. One of the most effective ways to do that is by developing social distribution channels.

    Here are a few examples:

    • RSS
    • Twitter
    • Facebook & LinkedIn status
    • Facebook & LinkedIn groups
    • Social News, Networks & Media: Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Flickr, YouTube

    One of the best ways to acquire keyword rich links from other relevant web sites to B2B content is to ask!  For example, when Public Relations staff coordinate the publishing of a contributed article or have secured a media placement mentioning the company, they can also remember to ask the journalist to link back to the company site. The worst the editor can say is no, it’s not our policy to link out.  Press releases are common link building tactics as are guest posts on other industry blogs.  The other best way to acquire B2B links is to create unique and often humorous or compelling content that gets shared and linked to by others.

    Check out this post on the TopRank Marketing site for even more link building ideas, 43 actually!

    5. Not Monitoring KPIs and Ongoing Optimization of Content Marketing

    Each phase in the buying cycle presents different needs for the buyer that’s using search to find information and solutions.  Monitoring key data and interactions that are not necessarily conversion or sales focused can provide helpful insight into what content or link sources are helping to move the needle in the right direction.  Meeting the needs of searchers with the right content can be measured in a variety of ways according to what’s being offered.

    A few KPIs to pay attention to include:

    • Keyword sourced traffic
    • Branded vs non-branded keyword traffic
    • Pages indexed, popular entry pages
    • Crawling errors & Webmaster Tools Reports
    • Rankings relative to your own site over time
    • Inbound links: quantity, quality, longevity
    • Link traffic
    • Social media citations & traffic

    Of course, reaching goal pages & conversions are part of the B2B search marketing feedback loop to guide future optimization as well.  For one of the best resources on the web for measuring web site performance, read Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics Blog.

    Through ongoing monitoring, keyword performance trends, cyclicality and new opportunities will be revealed. Adjusting certain optimization and linking efforts can improve performance and provide new channels of search traffic.

    For an experienced search marketer, these mistakes are very simple and fundamental. In fact, they’re really the tip of the iceberg. However, our agency receives multiple inquiries every day from companies that suffer from these core SEO issues. Every day, week, month and year that goes by presents the same types of issues and until their solutions become as common as the need for a contact form and a home page on a web site, they will continue.  No matter how long that takes, TopRank Marketing is happy to be of help!

    If you’re a business marketer, what are some of the common SEO issues you’ve experienced with B2B web sites?

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    Common B2B SEO Mistakes and How to Solve Them |
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    The Role of News in Blended Search – Observations & Best Practices

    Mar 29, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

    We’re starting this Spring Break week off with a very rare guest post from TopRank Marketing client, Jiyan Wei. Jiyan is Director of Product Management at Vocus, Inc. where he drives product platform strategy and roadmap execution for PRWeb. I’ve presented on panels with Jiyan several times at search marketing conferences, talking about the virtues of search, social media and public relations, finding him to be a very strategic and smart marketer. We’ll be co-presenting at the upcoming MarketingPros B2B Forum in May on Content Optimization and Marketing.

    In this post, Jiyan discusses the progression and importance of news content in blended search:

    Once upon a time, Page 1 had a special meaning for PR practitioners and business owners alike.

    It meant that for one day, they had received the pole position in the consciousness of the consumer, who would hopefully transition from newspaper consumer into business customer. For businesses – both local and global alike – Page 1 either meant an outpouring of business or pending doom.

    With the emergence of search as ubiquitous, Page 1 has begun to take on added meaning. Business owners are still very concerned about Page 1 but now, depending on whom you ask, Page 1 often refers to search and the consequent generation of a limitless stream of business and leads without having to pay for ongoing PR or advertising.

    For many, Page 1 in search has become the new holy grail of business owners and SEO practitioners alike.

    When I’m asked the question, “Will PRWeb get us onto Page 1 of search,” I immediately start shaking my head vigorously while hoping no one from the major engines overheard the question.

    Of course, nothing can guarantee you will be on Page 1 of search. That being said, as part of a broader online marketing strategy, news releases can be an effective tool to facilitate the outward expression of news and information about a business, which over time can result in the creation of online authority in the eyes of search engines.

    Yet with blended search, the picture becomes muddled.

    At some point in the last couple years, Google (and now Bing) decided that users want more than just Web results when they run a query in search and so started offering a front page that contained a broader array of types of content including images, video and news.

    According to some accounts news performs better in blended results than other forms of media and unlike other forms of media in blended search, news has a distinctly temporal slant. After all, news is really just information with a timestamp.

    What this means for business owners, communicators, marketers, etc. is that under some circumstances, news can actually be a viable gateway onto Page 1 of search in a relatively short amount of time by leveraging sites that search engines regard as ‘news sites,’ including news release sites.

    All that being said, here are some specific observations we’ve made about news in blended search:

    1. If a recent news story is relevant to a query, it is more likely to appear somewhere in the results

    This may seem fairly obvious but the devil is in the details. Nailing down ‘relevance’ between a query and results is a tall order but we have found that placing your target keywords in the title, preferably in the first part of the title of your news story, dramatically increase the likelihood that your news story will show up for queries of the target keywords once the crawlers have found the story. As the keywords descend into the story, from left-to-right and top-to-bottom, they become less impactful in terms of helping your story get onto the blended results for your target query.

    2. News results can include thumbnailed images and these can improve click-through rates

    Crawlers like Google look for relevant images to place in connection with news stories in the news block in blended search. They normally extract images from within the body of the story so including these images can result in having a thumbnail placed in connection with the result.

    Who cares?

    Well, everyone has seen the heat maps that show the importance of receiving top billing on page 1.

    What we’ve found from our own internal tests however is that results with image thumbnails can have click-through rates that are similar and sometimes even higher than results that are actually located higher.

    In other words, reader’s eyes are naturally drawn to the thumbnail so even if the news block is located lower down on the blended results page, the inclusion of a thumbnail can mitigate the lower placement to a great extent.

    3. Many types of queries can result in news

    There are some types of queries that seem to have an obvious time slant: current events, sports, celebrities, etc. However, we have seen news show up in blended search results for query types that seem less obviously tied to a date.

    For example, tip sheets and best practice documents can be easily turned into news stories that can have a presence in blended search and drive traffic. With Spring right around the corner, there is a great opportunity to leverage audience demand for content to drive Web site traffic.

    For example, a quick glance at Google insights reveals that queries for ‘Spring decorating’ are on the rise.

    An opportunistic interior designer could use the opportunity to submit a release with a title like ‘Spring decorating tips from leading interior designer,’ that will have a good chance to tap into an upwards trending query in the blended search results.

    4. Individual stories don’t appear in blended search results for long

    Using your news to get Page 1 placement is a short-term proposition. As quickly as the story enters the blended search results, it can disappear. We typically see news stories show up in the blended search results for 24-48 hours. Depending on how dynamic the news landscape is for the query (some queries are going to receive a flood of news stories that may wash your story away in hours), the lifespan of your story may be even shorter.

    Connect with Jiyan on Twitter, his blog or visit PRWeb, TopRank’s favorite press release distribution service.

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    The Role of News in Blended Search – Observations & Best Practices |
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    5 Tips for Better B2B Branding

    Mar 26, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Thought Leadership  //  No Comments

    Think branding only falls in the B2C court? Think again.

    In fact, three of the top 10 brands in 2009, as ranked by Interbrand, generate a sizable amount of revenue from their B2B customers: IBM, Microsoft and GE.

    As a B2B marketer your brand is your most valuable asset.

    B2B branding is less about cool, hip monikers (the Apples and Starbucks of the world) – and more about thought leadership.

    Particularly in down economies, B2B prospects and customers conduct significant research leading up to purchases. That means you as a marketer have to educate them early on, and establish your brand as a trusted resource that gets their problems and has the solution.

    To help your organization be seen as the thought leader it is, we’ve identified five B2B branding tips:

    1. Consistently produce useful, innovative content

    These days, every company is essentially a media company. So it’s easier than ever to provide relevant, informative content for customers and prospects.

    From a company blog to Twitter to YouTube, there is no end to the content channels available. Provide the latest industry news and insight on trends through:

    • Offering a white paper through an email marketing campaign
    • Creating videos and promoting through YouTube and on your web site
    • Conducting interviews with industry influentials and turning into blog posts

    Whatever channels you choose to promote, and whatever types of content you create, these consistent signals prove to customers and prospects that you are a thought leader.

    2. Network digitally and in person

    Nothing communicates a brand more than direct involvement with customers and prospect. In that regard, online social networking has opened a new door. According to a recent eMarketer study, six in 10 B2B marketers planned to up spending on social in 2010.

    Whether your organization integrates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another social network into its B2B branding efforts, the same rules apply:

    • Social media is about engaging in conversations, not just pushing products
    • It’s not about the masses; it’s about your target audience
    • It’s listening and hearing before selling and talking

    That’s not to say that in-person networking is irrelevant. On the contrary, perfect B2B branding combination. Take advantage of opportunities to give keynote speeches, participate in panel discussions or lead breakout sessions at industry events.

    3. Get personal and be real

    B2C marketers seem to have this concept nailed. But humanizing your company for customers and prospects is just as important in B2B branding.

    For one TopRank® Online Marketing client, an industrial part distributor for the bulk powder processing industry, humanizing its image was a top concern.

    The TopRank team created the Powder Doctor, a unique character, to relate to customers and prospects through email marketing campaigns. This humorous cartoon character offers advice – Dear Abby style – for common industry problems. Powder Doctor campaigns have increased sales for Powder-Solutions by 83%.

    4. Position yourself differently than others in the space

    No doubt about it, it’s tough to build personal B2B brand if you’re just like everyone else. You simply can’t be known for what everyone else is.

    Standing out from the crowd is easy when your products or services are truly one-of-a-kind. When products or services are similar to those offered by the competition, it’s more of a challenge to uniquely position yourself.

    For one TopRank client – a staffing software company – that challenge was known all too well. To help the client stand from a large pool of competitors, TopRank developed a copywriting strategy where website copy was written in first person, from the viewpoint of the staffing software (i.e., “why you should hire me to fill your staffing software needs”).

    This strategy has not only helped the company develop a truly distinct B2B brand; the strategy has also achieved increased search traffic, high rankings for terms such as “staffing software” and a trend up in inquiries.

    5. Leverage proof points

    It’s perfectly appropriate – and necessary – to toot your own horn from time to time as part of your B2B branding efforts. Whether it’s an impressive media placement or a web traffic milestone, implement proof points illustrating why your organization is a thought leader into marketing communications.

    Keep in mind that proof points are both analytical and subjective. For example:

    Analytical: website traffic increases, number of retweets of blog posts, number of blog subscribers

    Subjective: media placements, media interviews, mentions on blogs

    Are Your Ready to Take B2B Branding to the Next Level?

    B2B branding through thought leadership is not as easily quantifiable as other marketing efforts. And investments in reputation building might not pay off as immediately as pay-per-click or email marketing.

    But building a recognizable B2B brand pays off in the form of long-term increased referrals, positive brand conversations on both digital and in-person channels, web traffic and sales.

    What methods have you used to build a B2B brand?

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