Browsing articles in "Online Marketing"

How I Started Blogging. What’s Your Story?

Apr 22, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

While today’s online media are abuzz with the latest and greatest social media tactics and tools, for many of us that have been around a little while, it was blogging that started our social media careers.

It’s funny to think that in 2002 a type of site called “blog” came up on my radar as a possible marketing tool. At the time, many blogs were personal diaries posted anonymously or by people with a little tech savvy and plenty of opinion. Writing personal thoughts on a public web site was absolutely the last thing I would ever consider doing.  However, it was a curious thing and I started a few blogs anonymously to see what it was like. Unfortunately, the excercise was so foreign, poorly executed and without feedback, that I deleted them.

In mid 2003 I began looking for online content outside of forums and started reading several SEO blogs including Search Engine Blog (Peter Da Vanzo), Search Blog (John Battelle) and Search Engine Lowdown (Andy Beal). Interestingly, only Search Blog remains what it was.

In December 2003 after using as a group blog software for a few collaboration projects I finally decided to start a blog under the domain for TopRank Online Marketing, which by then, had been in business about 2 years.

As you can see from my “Hello World” post in Dec 2003, I had humble goals to post news and information related to online marketing.  We had a web site that pulled in a lot of search traffic, why would we need a blog? The reason was simply to see what blogging could do to get the word out about our expertise and to share information.  Blogging was very new territory and there wasn’t anyone to demonstrate best practices, so I set out to find what those were while sharing links, news and resources.

I suspect there are a good number of companies that treat other social media services the same way, whether it’s Twitter, Foursquare or building a social mobile app. It’s new territory and they want to find out whether those applications or sites would make sense in their marketing mix. The problem with that perspective is that it’s about the most inefficient and unproductive way to go about finding the right online marketing channels for a business.

The biggest mistake I made 6 plus years ago when I started blogging was not creating a strategy. As a marketer, I knew better than to chase a tactic, but I had no idea at the time how much of an impact blogging would have on our business. In other words, despite a lack of strategy, we were able to use our marketing savvy, curiosity and interest in connecting with the online marketing community to achieve many of the goals we set out to reach in our business. It just took a lot longer without that strategic plan.

Companies starting down the path of becoming more social in their culture to better connect with customers and to realize the marketing, PR, and customer service benefits from social media participation don’t need to waste that time.  Doing the homework of researching customers, setting goals and developing a strategy are essential steps towards a successful social media marketing experience.

Back to why I started blogging. The SEO community was a lot smaller in 2003 and 2004. Writing a post about anything to do with search engine optimization would be noticed and commented on by the small number of SEO bloggers. There were plenty of cross links and “hat tips” (whatever happened to those?) and openly shared opinions. Blogging even made a number of SEOs very popular, very quickly.

Blogging to get popular is the goal for some people and there certainly is some relationship between notoriety, awareness and credibility with the ability to attract sales.  The key (for me at least) is that creating awareness of oneself is simply a proxy to gaining visibility for your business. It’s not a goal in itself.  As a result, Ive been open about using visibility to help others and make connections.

The turning point for me in blogging was due in part to learning to liveblog at conferences.  Steve Hall of AdRants provided my first opportunity to liveblog at a ad:tech event  - an absolutely humbling experience for anyone that isn’t a natural writer. I met people like Frank Gruber and David Berkowitz at that event  in 2004.  I did some liveblogging for Barry Schwartz and Search Engine Roundtable after that which also provided great exposure and connections. Matt McGowan brought even more exposure opportunity by having Online Marketing Blog as a media sponsor for SES conferences. There’s a huge list of people that have been very helpful over the years, especially our longtime readers.

Since then we’ve published a lot of content and provided a lot of insight into holistic SEO and online marketing topics. During that time I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to find your voice and stick to it. Don’t try to be what you’re not. It simply doesn’t resonate with readers or with the goals you’ve likely set.

Whether it’s blogging or other types of content and networking, I think the real value from online publishing in a social context is of course,  being social.  Blogging has been a great experience in terms of developing relationships with people I would have never connected with otherwise. It has definitely served as a platform for making connections in the industry that have led directly and indirectly, to a lot of new business.

I started blogging personally as an experiment and found a process and strategy along the way that has helped grow our business and the online marketing/sales performance of many of our clients.  Long time blogging provides ample opportunity to make and learn from mistakes. Blogging also allows us to continue to be a resource while sharing our expertise with potential customers, partners and employees.

We’ll be going through yet another evolution with Online Marketing Blog in the next month or two and I wonder about the experiences of our readers that also blog:

If you’re a blogger, why did you start? What’s your blogging story? Did you start as an experiment? Did you start with a strategy? What was your biggest mistake? What have you learned?

© Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
How I Started Blogging. What’s Your Story? |
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Can a Business Utilize the Power of Facebook?

Apr 21, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Facebook, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

By now, most people know what Facebook is. Yes, Facebook is a social utility, but what does that mean? How it works and what it can do for the business person – and this is where its true power lies.

For the business person, it means that your business contacts, your profile, business groups, targeted prospects, social media applications (and many other), can all be under one online roof. It means that through information sharing, you can find more opportunities to network with other business people. Not to mention the opportunity to be a better resource to more people in your market.

Here are 8 more reasons to start using Facebook for business today.

1.   The very nature of Facebook is viral.

Here’s just one example.

Each time you log into Facebook, the home page gives you updates of everything your connections have done that they chose to share since the last time you logged in via their profile. And when people visit yours, your mini-feed at the top of your profile page is one of the first things they’ll see, which contains your own updates.

With this capability, you can virally drive news to your Facebook connections. If they find what you’re doing interesting, and take action on it, those actions are driven to their network as well.

In this way, your news can be driven far beyond your direct reach.

2.   Facebook is the ultimate in social presence marketing.

Social presence marketing is the activity of promoting by participating in the pre-existing conversation around your target market, in a way that enhances and uplifts the dialogue, rather than intruding upon it.

In Facebook, it’s easy to make such contributions to the community, and for people who want to know more to find and contact you. If that wasn’t enough, the audience is often already targeted and organized.

3.   Your target market tells you exactly what it wants, and they’re easy to find.

Each person who joins Facebook has the option of filling out an extensive profile. You can browse or search profiles by keywords, or find groups and events by keywords filled with people who gather in the name of a common interest.

For example, if you had a business that sold weight loss supplements, you could join groups about fitness. Instead of leaving marketing messages, you can relax and be open with your advice. Those who want to learn more, or hire you, will follow you back to your profile, where they can continue to communicate with you, or be led back to your website.

4.   Over half of the people using it, use it daily.

Think of how many subscribers or monthly visitors you have. How many of them, honestly, visit you daily? What if you could increase that number simply by having a presence in a free tool they use daily already.

The opportunity exists in Facebook. Of the 35 million people currently using Facebook, half of them are using it daily. Why do they do this is the key observation here.

There’s no way I can speak for 17 million people, I can only tell you what I see. And what I see is that people who log in daily connect more with the people and information around them. Why can’t that be you, and your information?

5.   Better, stronger online connections.

Facebook goes the extra mile in helping you find a basis for connection to the people you know, or would like to know.

Conversation starters include common interests, status updates, and upcoming birthday reminders. Information sharing is immediate, passive, viral, and costs nothing. You can control the quality of data by controlling the quality of the people you’re connected to, and vice versa. Therefore people who understand Facebook are careful about the quality of their connecting news.

6.   Hard core marketing is out of vogue and declining in effectiveness.

The traditional online sales-letter may continue to work with trusted audiences, but it’s beyond dispute that improvements to this model are changing the way sales take place online with new clients, not to mention how different the lead generation stage has changed with the progression of social media.

In English that means that while the way your present clients buy from you probably doesn’t need as much tweaking, the way new people meet you is shifting every day. All online marketing interactions are becoming more transparent – the visitor doesn’t need to take an expert’s word for it. They can become their own expert, do reputation checking on their favorite guru, and can now search for, and find the majority opinion on their business of choice.

It’s becoming more important to make a better impression on your audience before they actually show up at your site. With Facebook, contributing knowledge and resources to the conversations taking place is what brings more people to you, faster.

7.  Your clients — and your competition’s clients — may already be on Facebook.

With 35 million people registered, and new signers showing up so fast, that by the time you read this, that number will have changed – someone from your desired online demographic is on Facebook.

Why is this different, this time? What does it matter that your clients use Facebook already?

Because with Facebook comes a completely different way for you to build trusting relationships with your clients and prospects. Since they must join your group, or add you as a friend to interact with you, it’s completely opt-in.

You’ll be able to have deeper interactions with them, through photos, videos, private messages, public messages, or through custom applications you can build or use to enhance their experience with your company.

8.    Facebook friends are willing to continue the conversation.

Facebook is for social information sharing and interaction. It makes sense that people who are already in the mode of action would continue interaction with you or even follow you to your site.

The traffic to your site isn’t, by far, the most important benefit of Facebook for business. It’s worth noting, but the real opportunities with Facebook are to get better information, faster, and to have better social connections to both existing and new contacts, be they client, friend, acquaintance, or colleague.

Google is Skynet. Search Suggest Opinions

Apr 21, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

To know what the world is searching for must be amazing. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are in that position but they’re not exactly sharing those insights. Well, except if you do a little guess work and leverage their keyword research or keyword suggest tools. For example, the suggest-as-you-type features that all the major search engines now offer can provide some interesting insight “on the fly” into what people are searching for.

For quick keyword research, Aaron Wall has a Google Suggest tool for keyword suggestions that adds more options and insight.

There’s some entertainment value to this as well of course. Start typing in “my girlfriend” or “my boyfriend” and you’ll see what I mean. Along those lines, let’s see some examples for each major search engine using the syntax, “Google is “:

Google is ...

And what about Yahoo?

Yahoo is ...

Or Bing?

Bing is ...

So, we have “Google is Skynet”, “Yahoo is better than Google” and “Bing is not Google”.   It’s amusing and insightful at the same time. As the clear market dominator, Google queries offer a peek into searchers’ perception of Google as a powerful force that can incite polarizing opinions.  Yahoo as a long standing second in the market brings about more functional phrases and just one indication of passion for the brand. While Bing shows some negativity, the good news is that they are inciting reactions from people. Better to make friends and enemies than for no one to notice you at all.

By the way, Google recently announced the addition of localized search suggest and spelling correction to the suggest features that searchers might find handy.

© Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
Google is Skynet. Search Suggest Opinions |
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Benefits of using Twitter in Business

Apr 20, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Brand Recognition, Online Marketing, Search, Social Media, Twitter  //  No Comments

For businesses, there are a number of benefits to using Twitter. Many of which deal with the real-time gathering of information. Here are some ways that businesses should be leveraging Twitter.

  1. Participating in Industry Conversation – your target audience and/or potential prospects are on Twitter where they may be discussing their frustrations or are communicating positive experiences. Why not be a part of that? Participate in the conversation when it makes sense to do so. Thinking of Twitter as the newest type of social mixer to engage with your industry.
  2. Brand Awareness – businesses can use Twitter to keep their brand top of mind. Whether you are Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) promoting an upcoming Kiss concert in Windsor, Canada or Toys R Us (@ToysRUs) promoting the latest Transformer toys, Twitter allows a business to keep their brand out there for people to engage with.
  3. Use Twitter to gain Competitive Intelligence – hey guess what? Your competitors are on Twitter. As a result you might want to consider monitoring their tweets from time to time to see what they are working on. Perhaps they are preparing to launch a new product or are opening a new branch. Heck maybe they are going through massive layoffs and an opportunity presents itself to acquire them or at least hire some of their laid off employees. Twitter can be a great environment for monitoring what the competition is doing. It can also be a great way just to see how your competition is using Twitter themselves. Perhaps you can pick up a tip or two.
  4. Engage with your target audience – Twitter allows you to interact with potential prospects and your target audience. While you do not want to be "in their face" all of the time, Twitter does allow you to engage with these people by re-tweeting their posts or responding to something that they may have tweeted about, which leads us to …
  5. Online Reputation Management – information on Twitter breaks quickly. The reported death of Michael Jackson on June 25th, was one example of this. Businesses can use Twitter to monitor what is being said about their brand almost in real-time. If someone had a negative experience with your brand, chances are they may tweet about it. If so, work to address the issues and communicate the fact that you are doing so. Remember Twitter is a social environment so transparency and honesty can be a good thing.
  6. Promote your Blog Content – if your company has a corporate blog or various blogs, you can use Twitter to promote your blog content. Heck you can set up a feed to automatically post your blog post URLs directly to Twitter.
  7. Twitter and Mobile – because Twitter is so simple to use and is limited to 140 characters, mobile use with Twitter is also easy. You can both send and receive updates what you and your friends are doing on the go using a simple SMS. Twitter can be a great mobile communication tool. As we know in business, this can be a pretty powerful thing.
  8. Understanding Tool – Businesses can use Twitter as an understanding tool to learn what their desired target demographic is saying and looking for. For example, if you are a brand that targets a younger target market, just by listening to their conversation via Twitter, you can learn what their latest interests are and what’s the next shiny new object that they are looking to latch on to.
  9. Feedback Mechanism – launching a new product? Perhaps you are launching a new website? Businesses can use Twitter to obtain instant feedback on these items and as a result make any necessary changes before the formal launch. This feedback can be invaluable and by using Twitter, it is free!
  10. Promotion – of course you can use Twitter as a promotional tool to announce offline endeavors or upcoming online events (webinars, virtual tradeshows etc). If you are an e-commerce site, perhaps you have a deal of the day where you can promote these deals such as how is currently leveraging Twitter @toysdeals. The fact is you do not want to be too promotional, but Twitter does present the opportunity to promote your products or service and brand to your friends.
  11. SEO Boost – if you have great content on your website and you want to drive additional traffic to this content on your website, you can use Twitter to do so. A quick tweet with the URL can help drive additional traffic to a preferred landing page on your site to help coax the conversion on your site.
  12. Ask Questions Receive Answers - those who do not ask will not receive. As a business, perhaps you are looking for a specific answer to a question that you have. Maybe you are looking for some industry stats. You can use Twitter to pose the question and if the question is engaging and if your friends are remotely interested in the same question, you should receive a response. Twitter is a social community and usually these social communities are tight knit. Someone is bound to answer your question and at least point you in the right direction.
  13. HR Tool – while this may not be the best way to go about your hiring practices, you can tweet about your HR needs and link to relevant job postings on your site via Twitter. You just might receive some additional interest that you may not have otherwise had.
  14. Press Release / News Management – Have a major announcement? Use Twitter to promote your press releases and to communicate company news. Remember our earlier discussion on Internet Speed? News travels fast online, Twitter is another information super-highway that can help communicate news quickly.Internal
  15. Communication Tool – while not many businesses think to do this, but you can use Twitter as an internal communication tool within your business. There are various ways to do this. Of course one of the best examples of this is Zappos, who encourage employees to tweet. Again the timeliness of the information plays a key role in using Twitter as an internal communication tool. While we have instant messaging, using Twitter to communicate internally can also be an effective way of sharing information within. Of course there are pros and cons to this, but use your discretion

Key Questions to Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy

Apr 19, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

I’ve been thinking about how entering the content marketing space is not for the faint of heart. It can be a signifcant undertaking both in terms of resources and a change in an organization’s approach to marketing and sales. Obviously, content marketing is better for some companies and industries than others. Outside help also makes a difference.

While increasing numbers of companies are realizing they  must provide more than product information to satisfy customers, many of those same companies fail by implementing random tactics and missing out on benefits like better search visibility.

In order to take full advantage of the significant gains in search traffic that are available with a content focused marketing effort, it’s essential to answer some key questions:

What do you really know about your customers?

I put customers first before company goals because a social media and content focused marketing effort must emphasize the needs of those you’re trying to reach in order to meet your own. Think of it as, “Give to get”.

Who are you trying to reach? Have you developed Buyer Personas? How well do you understand your customers’ goals? What are your customers preferences when it comes to content discovery, consumption and sharing? What keywords do they associate with your products or services? Who are they influenced by? In what communities do they spend their time on the social web?

What business objectives are you trying to achieve?

What are your goals? What is your social media strategy? What must happen for your customers before you meet your business objectives? What are teh key performance indicators that will help you measure the buyer persona’s path towards conversion? Do you have the measurement tools in place to properly monitor and measure for research and to determine the effectiveness of your marketing efforts?

What does the competitive SERPs landscape look like?

What does the search engine results page look like for the keyword phrases you’re after? The SERPs page is a big part of the competitive landscape for SEO. What types of web sites appear in first page results? Who is linking to them and not linking to you? What type of Universal results are triggered? (News, Blogs, Real-time, Books, Products, Local) What types of media are included in the SERPs for your target phrases? (Images, Video). Will the new Google design have any impact on the SERPs landscape for your target keyword phrases? What other types of search engines should you focus on besides, and

What resources will you need to succeed?

Most companies are not in the publishing business. In order to achieve longevity for an optimized content marketing effort, it’s important to outline the resources available to implement including: content, people, processes.

  • Content. What content do you currently have available for optimization? What content will you need to create according to your keyword glossary and customer needs? Know what digital assets you have available for publishing online and indentify what new media you may need to create, and who will be creating/promoting it.
  • People. Who will create that content in your organization? What in-house content development resources do you normally use? What new content resources, including other departments, could you leverage for SEO? What other groups in your organization will you need to coordinate with in order to execute on promotions?
  • Processes. what is the current content creation and promotion process? Identify how can you make optimization a baked-in part of established content publishing processes. Determin whether manual keyword glossary sharing is applicable or if the content management system can be modified to dynamically pull in keyword options when adding new content.

Can SEO be made part of the corporate identity standards and incorporated into the style guide?

What is the right tactical mix to help you reach your goals?

Based on customer preferences, your goals, the SERPs and resources, what channels will you optimize?

What mix of content creation will be used? Web pages, press releases, white papers, case studies, online newsroom with press releases, articles, video, images, audio, rich media, sharing content on social sharing web sites.  How will you get the content creators within and external to your organization trained on content optimization? What oversight and monitoring methods will you use to ensure quality and avoid unfortunate overwrites?

Also, what link building tactics will be emphasized? How can you leverage existing communications and relationships to increase relevant links? Can you tap into existing dealer networks, affiliates, branch office web sites and marketing partners for quality links? Can you get public relations on board with using links that are more likely to be included in placements? Can links be better optimized for SEO within other online documents such as press releases?

How will you measure success and what tools will you use?

Measurement is the most critical piece of an optimized content marketing program. Measurement with social media monitoring tools up front can be essential in defining the social conversations driving content creation, sharing and consumption that are consistent with your marketing goals. Once a program is implemented, analytics will help measure key performance indicators (KPIs), conversions and anything in between.

There’s a lot you can measure so here are a few examples for SEO, Social Media and Online PR.

SEO related measurement often includes search referrals and keywords that drive traffic to the web site, what search engines send traffic and what the visitors do once they visit. Relative measures of rankings and links can be useful as well. Ultimately, conversions are an idea measurement for SEO, whether it’s a white paper download, webinar signup or an actual product/service sale.

Social media measurement often includes engagement metrics such as fans/friends/followers, comments, brand mentions & sentiment, referred traffic and links. Tracking buzzing topics on the social web can create opportunities for real time content creation/optimization and promotion.

Online PR measurement often depends on determining the effectiveness of press releases distributed via email directly to a short list of journalists or to a newswire service for broader exposure online. Blog and publication mentions (unsolicited) as well as links and sentiment are also important.

Do no underestimate the value and importance of using social monitoring and web analytics to help inform the ongoing content marketing opportunities and the creation of specific types of content in order to attract trending search traffic. Social conversations fuel search traffic. Understand the keywords most often used in social conversations and you may get a leg up on your competition by creating, optimizing and promoting content that’s being discussed and popular.

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Key Questions to Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy |
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Top 5 Search Terms at Online Marketing Blog – Including Pirates

Apr 16, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Search, Social Media  //  No Comments

Here on Online Marketing Blog, we post a tremendous amount of insight on organic  search optimization and content marketing related topics each month. But how about the site search tool on our own blog? Who’s searching for what, and why? And what are they finding?

Mining the site search report from Google Analytics can be very useful since it’s an indication of what our visitors want to read more of. Here are the six most popular site search terms for Online Marketing Blog including our favorite, “pirates”.

1. Facebook

With Facebook taking off as a top channel for social media marketing, it’s no wonder that them comes up as our leading search query. Just consider the recent numbers:

  • Facebook boasts more than 400 million active users
  • 50% of Facebook users log on during any given day
  • More than 20 million Facebook users become fans of pages every day

A quick Online Marketing Blog site search for “Facebook” yields recent posts on tools for sharing microcontent, insight on social media advertising and how to leverage channels like Facebook to take advantage of real-time search.

2. Twitter

Speaking of popular social media marketing channels, Twitter takes to No. 2 spot for most common site searched on Online Marketing blog. Twitter may only have less than 106 million users compared with Facebook’s 400 million. But consider how quickly Twitter is growing and how active its users are:

  • New users sign up at the rate of 300,000 per day
  • 180 million unique visitors visit the site every month
  • Users post an average of 55 million tweets a day

So what can you get with a search for Twitter on Online Marketing Blog? Learn more about the role of news in blended search or find ways to electrify your social network.

3. Books

Who says print is dead? “Books” turns up as our fourth most popular search term.

Here on the Online Marketing Blog, we’ve posted reviews of some of latest most intriguing marketing online marketing books like “The Art of SEO.”

Plus, we’ve conducted exclusive interview with some of the hottest marketing authors out there, such as David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing.” We’ve even polled our readers on the best available books on SEO.

4. Social Media

These days, social media isn’t just a hot topic for B2C marketers looking to connect with consumers on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Social media is equally as relevant in the B2B world. In fact, 91% of business buyers read blogs, watch user generated video and participate in other social media, according to Forrester Research.

A “social media” search on Online Marketing blog pulls up posts on setting and measuring goals for business blogging, which social media sites are the biggest time wasters and the risks of sponsored blog posts.

5. Email Marketing

Contrary to predictions, RSS never did replace Email. Social media and network use and status updates or microblogging haven’t “killed” the popularity of email either. In fact, there have been reports that Email use is actually up. So it certainly makes sense that our readers are looking for more information on email marketing.

A search for “email marketing” reveals some insight posts including, “5 Top Email Marketing Tactics for 2010“, 5 Tips for Effective Email Copywriting” and “How Social Media & Email Marketing Boost Customer Reach“.

And Finally: Pirates!

Few things seem less relevant to Online Marketing Blog than pirates. Yet somehow it’s one of the most searched terms on the blog.

So what do pirates have to do with Internet marketing and Web 2.0? There is an answer in this social media marketing post, we promise. Hint: It has to do with Dave McClure.

Are you analyzing the top search phrases on your web site? Are you using that insight to guide your site content?

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SEO with Feeds & XML

Apr 15, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

SEOMuch of the search engine optimization advice found online at at conferences centers around keywords and links. A lot of the spotlight on internet marketing has focused on content and social media. There’s no question that Online Marketing has been a strong proponent of these tactics, sharing many, many posts on SEO topics

Content and link based SEO relies on the search engine crawlers to find web pages and digital assets on their own. Search engines are far from perfect at this, so the opportunity to provide search engines with structured lists of content via feed, can provide some companies with a competitive advantage.

At SES New York I moderated a session on Pushing Feeds and XML with Brian Ussery, Amanda Watlington and Daron Babin. Much of what we share on SEO is focused on content and links so I thought I’d share some of the rich insights shared in this very useful session with you by asking the panel a few follow up questions.

How much of an advantage can supplying a XML feed offer a site for indexing and search visibility?

Brian: It’s really difficult to quantify in terms of a percentage but, I’d say the larger your site and more images you have the better it is to provide an XML Sitemap.

How important is it for a new site to supply (or make available) a XML sitemap for search engines?

Brian: Sitemaps are one of the best ways I can think of to let engines know about your new pages and images.

Amanda: A new site has no inbound links hence there is no way for a search engine to find the site. A Sitemap not only provide a point of departure for the crawling of a new site, by putting one together a site owner can include the most important pages. This is particularly useful if the site is quite large. The Sitemap can cue to spider to pages that in fact link much deeper into the site. This jump starts the indexing process.

Would you ever advise a company NOT to use sitemaps?

Amanda: There are very rare occasions where I would not use a Sitemap. Those instances are when the contents of the site are very problematic. When there are lots of duplicate content issues that are in the process of being resolved, it makes little sense to urge the search engines to grab a Sitemap that will only bring them to the site’s woes even faster. Once the issues are settled then the Sitemap becomes an important weapon in the SEO’s arsenal.

Brian: If you have pages that you don’t want indexed, it’s probably best not to include those URLs in your XML Sitemap. Other than those kinds of situations though, I’d say Sitemaps are the way to go. I would suggest however, not including XML meta data in Sitemaps unless it’s accurate, correct and up to date.

It was interesting to learn during our session, the variety of feed types that could be used from those associated with web pages to news to video and I recall one for NASA? Do you have any examples that have called for unusual solutions or use of feeds?

Amanda: Structured data such as the Sitemap is fascinating in that it provides so many opportunities to communicate data information in a machine-readable format.

There are two feed types that we did not discuss during the session. First, there are product feeds, such as those used by Google Base and other comparative shopping search engines. These allow merchants to draw product information quickly and efficiently from their databases and submit it to a shopping engine. Once formatted, a site owner can submit thousands of products with little or no intervention.

The second type of feed was just announced this past week. It is now possible to submit image information (to Google). This has been long awaited. I’ve not yet had a chance to use this, but I have been eagerly awaiting image Sitemaps.

Brian: While this kind of XML isn’t my forte, it’s my understanding that the code below is used by NASA to “move” telescopes. This is just one example of the cool stuff you can you can do with XML…

Either way, it’s kind of interesting to see! You can find out more at NASA.

How important is the protocol Pubsubhubbub being promoted by Google? Does it replace the need for autodiscovery?

Brian: Great question Lee, Pubsubhubbub, PuSH or hubbub for short, in case you haven’t heard is an open protocol for turning atom or RSS feeds into streams. Because it requires real feed URLs, autodiscovery isn’t really necessary. So, I don’t see Pubsubhubbub as a replacement for autodiscovery per se, but rather as a more efficient method. Some folks I’m sure will continue to use autodiscovery for their feeds but I think PuSH provides additional advantages that will be favored by most.

Is there a threshold for how many pages/items should be included in a sitemap feed or how often data is updated to determine whether providing a sitemap is worth it?

Amanda: It is difficult to give an across the board threshold for when and how much to include. With retailers, we clearly must look at their seasonality and time the Sitemap submissions to be sure that any new products or category level pages have been spidered and indexed prior to the season’s start. How much to submit is really tied to how complete is the site’s current indexing.

I personally believe that it is possible to strategically manage the process making sure that key pages which direct to deeper pages are included. As I mentioned in the session, Sitemaps are not a blunt object, a club, to be used to batter one’s way into the index, rather they provide a method for strategically informing the search engines of what you want found. I love to fish, salt or fresh water, and I think of Sitemaps with a fishing metaphor. They are bait.

Whether you submit a Sitemap or not, it is important to have a Webmaster Tools account. The Google team that is responsible for developing this resource continues to make it a much richer and more informative. Today, I consider it a powerful resource for knowing just what the most powerful engine is seeing in a site.

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Max Kalehoff on Social Media Advertising, Blogging & the Future of Paid Search

Apr 14, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing  //  No Comments

One of the most insightful voices in the online marketing industry when it comes to advertising is Max Kalehoff of Clickable. I was introduced to Max at a Search Insider Summit conference several years ago with very high regard by David Berkowitz, another intelligent voice in the industry, so I knew immediately he was someone to pay attention to.

Max’s company recently announced the addition of Facebook Advertising to their PPC management platform and he was very kind to take the time to answer several detailed questions about social media advertising on the Clickable platform, the future of the online advertising industry, slimy SEO middlemen, how he stays current and blogging about his Weber grill. :)

1. You have impressive credentials in the interactive marketing industry with your experience working at Jupiter, comScore and Nielsen. How did you come to work with Clickable?

It’s mostly luck. I’ve been fortunate to work with a series of successful startup teams and entrepreneurs that played a key role in shaping the Internet. I came to Clickable from Nielsen, which bought our last startup, BuzzMetrics, the pioneer in social media measurement and research. I admire Nielsen and have many close friends there, but I wanted to build things and innovate again in a startup environment. Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures, a Clickable investor, introduced me to David Kidder and Munish Gandhi, Clickable’s co-founders. I shared their vision for helping businesses succeed by simplifying online advertising. We quickly became friends and colleagues and the rest is history.

What’s behind your passion for building early stage companies?

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been passionate about building things, solving creative problems and exploring new territory. I’ve always tried to live out those passions through education, work, hobbies and family life. With work, entrepreneurial ventures are the best outlets for those passions.

When I was in college, I started two summer businesses. The first was sailboat charter business, and the second was a Web development consultancy. Post college, I spent a few years in the marketing agency business but soon threw myself into technology and Web startup life. There’s nothing more invigorating than working closely with a group of like-minded, passionate people trying to change the world. Big companies have their purpose, but nimble upstarts attract smart people who crave abstract problems, peer-to-peer learning, mastery, self-imposed discipline and persistence. Upstarts also require a lot of risk-taking, serendipity and authentic discovery.

To me, that’s the only way to live. And given the mess our world is in, we need more of these minds and ventures to invent our way to a better future.

For the uninitiated, what is Clickable and what types of companies should be using it?

Clickable is a software-as-a-service platform that makes online advertising simple, instant and profitable. Our tools empower beginners to professionals, and companies of all sizes, to maximize their advertising investment. We have three core products: Our flagship Pro tool is a simple dashboard that empowers marketers to manage online advertising with transformational return on investment. Clickable Pro activates instantly with an intuitive experience that makes it easy to manage performance across all major advertising networks, like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and, now, Facebook.

Clickable Pro is complemented by Clickable Assist, a managed service that delivers agile assistance to maximize online advertising success. Finally, Clickable Platform is a white-label solution for big services companies to rapidly deploy large-scale online advertising programs to their local business customers under their own brands.

We have a simple purpose that ties everything together: to help businesses survive and thrive by simplifying online advertising success. We pursue that purpose by living up to three core values that comprise our DNA:

  • 7:1 – The 7:1 ratio of good to bad acknowledges we’re not perfect. This is a powerful admission that enables us to listen better and constantly improve. This underlies transparency, trust and collaboration with each other and our customers.
  • Simplicity – Our complex world is desperate for simplicity. Simplicity is difficult, yet it creates value, differentiation and opportunity. That’s why we make everything simple and beautiful.
  • And – We are multidimensional. We innovate constantly to perfect our product-to-market fit … And we are a competitive sales culture that closes business. We celebrate both.

Recently the Clickable ad management platform announced the incorporation of Facebook ads.  Being able to track Facebook and search marketing PPC programs side by side seems a significant opportunity for all.  What should advertisers, especially small and medium sized businesses that you serve, expect from social media advertising? What kind of advice do you give to temper expectations? Or do you even need to?

We first removed the complexity that prevented marketers from expanding into search networks besides Google AdWords, by introducing a simple interface that marketers could use to manage all of their search marketing campaigns. It’s become clear that the next place where marketers want a simple, effective solution is on the world’s largest social network: Facebook.

With over 400 million members, Facebook introduces a new way to advertise that complements search marketing. Using extensive demographic targeting criteria, advertisers on Facebook can get out ahead of their customers and create demand that they can later capture with their search campaigns. Marketers can also use Facebook to promote their brands and drive direct sales. Indeed, this is new territory for everyone. We look forward to experimenting with our advertisers to surface best practices and customer profiles that achieve success.

In the course of doing business with many SMBs in conjunction with TopRankSMB, a surprising number of marketers mention having “tried PPC and it didn’t work”.  In most cases it’s due to a lack of knowledge, tools and time to gain the knowledge to run a successful search marketing ad campaign. What advice do you find yourself or your company giving SMBs most often in regard to online advertising? What tips can you give to those just starting out?

Indeed, we found that up to 50% of SMBs that try online advertising don’t succeed, primarily because of complexity. Similarly, a recent study we conducted on SMBs indicated that roughly half don’t properly track conversions. Knowing conversions is the first step in how an advertiser defines success, whether it’s generating a lead, having someone fill in a form or making a sale. Tracking conversions is important in directing your ad investment to the keywords that will drive the greatest return on investment. There’s a lot of talk about efficiency of click-throughs and cost-per-click, but in the end what really matters is the return on your ad spend, and the profitability of your business.

Our most common advice? First, make sure you are tracking your results, and don’t do anything until your analytics are effectively in place. Second, embrace “goal-based advertising” — that is, make investments only toward very specific and realistic business goals. That requires determining the monetary value of your goals, and figuring out which of your services and products have enough potential to justify spend. Finally, invest the time to get educated in PPC and do it right, or hire sometime to do it for you. Otherwise, you will quickly become another statistic in the “tried PPC and it didn’t work” category. That’s a disadvantageous outcome for most businesses.

You really hit a nerve with, Brands: Beware Of Slimy SEO Middlemen Meddling Through Social Media.  The behavior of the SEO account exec you interacted with is strikingly similar to how many media relations people and start-up business owners behave when they pitch us to write about them on Online Marketing Blog. It’s often a bucket of fake suck-uppiness wrapped around a pitch for a single, short term outcome. It’s sad because something far more significant could be achieved if they looked past the one “placement”. Client demands drive a lot of this behavior and agencies of all types (SEO and PR) often comply. What’s your advice on creating a more meaningful connection with bloggers?

My advice for creating a more meaningful connection with bloggers is the same as my advice for success in life: Give more value than you take. If you provide unselfish value, then people will  become attracted to you and they will advocate you. Advocacy may result in links, testimonials, business referrals, constructive feedback, partnership, loyalty and friendship. But calculating relationships purely based on SEO objectives can quickly become a risk to your brand. It’s that simple.

I like that you can switch from “My New Weber Grill” to “Social and Search Advertising“.  As an accomplished and long time blogger, what advice do you have for other interactive and marketing types for blogging over the long haul? How has your own blog affected your career and work?  How satisfied are you with your corporate blogging efforts?

It’s important to acknowledge that despite all the experts and gurus, the Social Media and Interactive bible is far from completion. We’re only in the beginning of the first chapter, and we’re all students. With that in mind, I think more successful blogging and social media efforts have a defined purpose, goals and room for lots of experimentation.

My personal blog is very much me, reflecting the perpetual blur between my professional and home life. They are impossible to separate, and the tension between the two is what makes life interesting. My blog has created an online presence that’s delivered myriad opportunities. It’s led to new business, new friendships, introspection and (in some cases) breaktrhough ideas. I also believe a personal blog is the best laboratory to become fluent and personally vested in interactive technologies. The learning I gained from my personal blogging endeavors directly contributed to some of our more successful interactive marketing strategies at Clickable.

I know we’re already into Q2 but what predictions can you offer on the future of paid search for the rest of 2010?  What are your thoughts on: Microsoft and Yahoo, Mobile PPC, sponsored social content or what’s next for Google and it’s array of advertising opportunities?

Our Q1 2010 analysis of search spending among advertisers on the Clickable Platform reveals that budgets are significantly higher in Q1 versus year-ago, suggesting an economic and advertising rebound. We have seen 75% of our advertisers increase their budgets versus year-ago, while 25% maintained flat or slightly decreased budgets. Based on Q1, we forecast that 2010 full-year search budgets will increase anywhere between 10% and 30% versus 2009. Meanwhile, search budgets are diversifying in terms of network distribution. Microsoft/Bing seems to be gaining ground on Yahoo and Google. Last year, only 5% of customers were using Microsoft/Bing, while currently this percentage is at 9%.

We believe one of the big stories in 2010 will be gains in social-network advertising, particularly Facebook. Inefficiencies and behavioral friction have prevented serious experimental dollars to shift, especially among PPC marketers.  Social advertising will grow dramatically in 2010 as the major social networks surface in third-party management tools, as well as improve their own self-serve dashboards. A lot of advertisers are highly interested in seizing new opportunities to connect with customers. Mobile advertising is picking up speed, but won’t be terribly relevant for most advertisers in 2010.

You blog and write for MediaPost which I recommend people read. How do you stay current yourself? Do you have a short list of industry conferences, blogs, newsletters, Twitter handles or books that you’d recommend?

I read a mix of news aggregators and thinkers in strategy, venture capital, tech and media, including: TechMeme, John HagelFred Wilson, Umaire Haque, Jeff JarvisAll Things Digital, TechCrunchBusinessInsider, NYTimes Bits and (of course) TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog. While I write a weekly opinion column for MediaPost, I believe it’s one of the most thorough and ubiquitous sources of hard news in the interactive advertising industry.

I’m also blessed with a quirky list of friends whom I pay close attention to on Twitter, and they reward me with serendipity, personal tips and reading recommendations. I’ve not read any good business books in years, so I’ve abandoned them for fiction, history and poetry. The market is saturated with conferences and good ones are becoming rare; the best ones tend to be grass roots, niche and local, like many Meetups. We co-founded the New York SEMPO Search Meetup, which now has a passionate following of more than 1,000 members. We also founded and run Interesting Cafe, a discussion series that features some of the greatest living innovators in tech, media, culture and science. Small, passionate gatherings like these have the most profound and positive impact.

Thanks Max!

Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a platform that makes online advertising simple, instant and profitable. He also authors AttentionMax.

© Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
Max Kalehoff on Social Media Advertising, Blogging & the Future of Paid Search |
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Comment Management Tools You Should Know

Apr 13, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

What is Comment Management?  Virtually all blog software offers commenting functionality, so why would you need a 3rd party comment management service?  Many of the comments and “reactions” to content posted on a blog never make it to the blog itself – the source of the conversation.

Comment Management tools provide all the expected features and also pull in mentions & citations of the post as well. That way when someone reads a post on your blog, they can see comments made directly on the post as well as mentions made of of the post on other sites like Twitter.

Should you add a comment manager tool to your blog? It depends how much of your social engagement is happening off your blog and also whether you feel it will add to the user experience to see a collected list of on and off site interactions. For many blogs, citing comment and reaction counts is simply a matter of social proofing and popularity. For others, it’s an attempt to harvest all the conversation about a post at the source.

To help you decide, here are the three main comment management tools to consider:

ECHO from JS-Kit offers a wide array of features. It can be embedded on a blog or static web site and pull in comments from Twitter, Digg, comments from other blogs, FriendFeed and several others. Commenters can choose to promote their comments simultaneously to Twitter, Facebook or Google Friends. Sites like Technorati and Guy Kawasaki use ECHO.  We tried JS-Kit but didn’t like not being able to show comments on top of the off site citations under each post.  JS-Kit ECHO Live is $12/year and ECHO Live white label is $48/year. There is also a PRO version with many other controls and features with costs according to page views ranging from $195 to $1995 per year.

Disqus, as you may have noticed, is the commenting system we are currently using on Online Marketing Blog. Disqus lets readers choose their identity, via: Facebook Connect, OpenID, or Twitter Sign-in, when they leave a comment. Comments can be threaded and the moderation dashboard is easy to use. Off site references to your content on Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, and YouTube are pulled in as “Reactions”. You can sort comments as we do, on top, then show the reactions below. Readers can choose to cross post their comment to other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.   You can edit comment content but not the names of commenters, which is frustrating because some spammers write really useful comment content but spam them hell out of their names and links. The base version of Disqus is free. Disqus VIP offers much hand holding support and analytics. Cost is not disclosed on the site so it must be very expensive.

IntenseDebate was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress and therefore, can be easily added to WordPress blogs as well as TypePad, Tumblr or Blogger blogs. There’s comment threading, notification by email, commenter profiles and points, moderation, cross posting to Twitter and several other features.  IntenseDebate is free.

Which comment management tool is right for you? It depends on your use. If you have a static web site and you’d like to add comment features, then ECHO might be a fit. If you want something that offers all the basics and works natively with WordPress then maybe IntenseDebate is your pick. If you want more features and also don’t want to pay anything, then it’s possible Disqus is the choice for you.

The great thing about these tools is that they are easy to install and test out.

Here are other reviews you might find useful on these comment management systems.

  • Blog Comment System Shootout: Disqus vs. Intense Debate vs. JS-Kit Echo – 40 Tech
  • 3rd Party Comment System Roundup – Dave Mosher’s Blog

Although I pinged Facebook and Twitter connections for examples of other 3rd party comment management tools that pull in off-site citations, I didn’t hear about any. I didn’t find much on Google either. There are other comment management services, tools and plug-ins, just not any (that I’ve found) that automatically pull in 3rd party mentions of your content.

If you know of other comment management systems that pull in comments from other social media sites, please share in the comments. Do you use any of the the tools mentioned above? What has your experience been? What features would you like to see added?

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