Monthly Archives: December 2016

Tips to Optimize Your Product Online

If you want to generate consistent sales, you need to optimize your product listings. Here’s how.

Get your customers to refer their friends.

Your customers aren’t going to tell their friends about your business unless there’s a compelling reason. Every sales professional knows the power of getting referrals from paying customers; it’s a good way to find new customers and open a larger market.

Crazy Egg suggests offering referral discounts to boost sales. It notes that both Optimizely and Airbnb have tested similar offers where customers could earn credit by referring a friend. Optimizely was able to increase its engagement by 60 percent just by changing the copy for its button. Airbnb tried a closed-beta program that brought in an additional 2,107 members from its original 2,161. Essentially, for every customer it already had, it brought in another.

So, whether you offer cash credit or a discount, a referral program with these rewards may help you double your results without doubling the money you put into your marketing. The exact amount you offer your customers will depend on how much they’ll be spending with you and on your profit margin.

Build trust and credibility with your website visitors.

According to UX Booth, studies conducted by both McAfee and VeriSign show that ecommerce sites can boost their credibility by 10 percent to 36 percent simply by displaying familiar trustmarks. These include the Better Business Bureau, VeriSign, PayPal and other organizations your visitors are likely familiar with.

Be careful not to display these badges on your site simply because you can; get validated. You can also display the major credit cards you accept, as well as the logos of recognizable brands whose products you sell.

Marketing expert Neil Patel also encourages online sellers to use what he calls “logo porn” to boost credibility. He is referring to notable publications you’ve been mentioned in or awards you’ve received. He says he discovered that removing these logos reduced his conversion rate by 9.9 percent, again showing that third-party recognition helps with credibility.

If your store is still new, and you haven’t gotten any press yet, it may be worth it for you to build an authority blog, network with publications and columnists in your industry, partner with known service providers or vendors or seek out opportunities to get featured in the media using a service like Help A Reporter Out.

Utilize reviews and testimonials.

Reviews and testimonials boost your credibility. According to BigCommerce, product reviews can increase sales by up to 18 percent. It also notes that 40.9 percent of customers believe reviews and testimonials are an important purchasing factor. In addition to your product pages, you might consider using positive feedback on your home page, sidebar or footer. This demonstrates that real people shop with you and enjoy what you offer.

Email is one of the best tools you can use to survey, and get feedback from, your customers. If you haven’t begun building an email list yet, that’s a good place to start. This is because you’ll likely send your customers that SurveyMonkey or GetFeedback survey you’re using through email.

For better or for worse, remember that it’s best not to game the system, especially if you’re selling on Amazon. You could put your business at risk by incentivizing reviews. Instead get real testimonials from real customers — the best way to build trust with your prospects.

Use a service to improve your product listings.

Are your Amazon listings not converting at the rate you expected them to?

According to Asteroid Aim, this may be because your product isn’t adequately optimized for the keyword it should be ranking for. Another common problem is a lack of persuasiveness. The language you’re using on your listings may not be building confidence in those viewing your products.

Asteroid Aim will find keywords on your behalf and tweak your product description to convert more visitors. It even offers unlimited revisions for free.

Even if you aren’t an Amazon seller, keyword and copy optimization is crucial. Tools like SEMrush can help you identify keyword opportunities, and there’s nothing quite like knowing your customer pain pointsto help you put together compelling product descriptions. Do your research.

Brilliant Ways to Use #Hashtags in Social Media Marketing

I was watching the Super Bowl (#GoHawks) when my wife asked me about hashtags. Granted, I was writing down every hashtag that came up on the screen for an analysis I did later that night, but her question surprised me.

“What do you mean ‘what is this?’ It’s a hashtag.” I said, amazed by my wife’s unfamiliarity with the topic (#DoYouLiveUderARock). “You use it to tag your tweets or other social media posts.”

Now, my wife’s social media activity revolves around reading other people’s updates on Facebook and Instagram, so I wasn’t mad or anything, just disappointed when she asked me “Why would you want to tag your posts?”

To be fair, it wasn’t always that obvious that hashtags will change the way we use Twitter and other social media channels.

Hashtags were a user-innovation that was later adopted by Twitter as an actual feature when Twitter decided to hyperlink hashtags to search results. The rest of the socialsphere followed in its own pace, and Facebook, my wife’s go-to social destination, only recently decided to give in and add hashtags as a feature. It’s no surprise that for the masses over the age of 30, hashtags are still a novelty.

So whether you’re in that group, or just want a short social history lessons, here’s the brief history of hashtags. Then we’ll look at a few recent examples of brilliant marketing uses of hashtags.

A Brief History of Hashtags

There seems to be a consensus on the origin of hashtags and most people attribute the proposal to use hashtags in tweets to Chris Messina, through a tweet dating back to August 23, 2007.

But the first time a hashtag was used extensively as a way to categorize tweets and was adopted by the public was during the San Diego fire on October 23, 2007, when Nate Ritter used Twitter to report on the fire and included the hashtag #sandiegofire.

On July 2, 2009, Twitter officially embraced hashtags and hyperlinked them to search results. Tumblr was one of the early adopters of hashtags when it launched hashtags on August 18, 2009. A few months later, on March 30, 2010, in another homepage redesign, Twitter moved Trending Topics to its homepage, formalizing hashtags as a conversation driver on Twitter.

As Twitter users adopted hashtags as a normal part of the Twitter conversation, in a typical fashion to Twitter, hashtags stared in popular culture like TV shows, celebrities’ promotions and mainstream media.

The pop-culture adoption of hashtags helped push hashtags into other social networks. Instagram adopted hashtags on January 27, 2011, Flickr added hashtags on March 17, 2013 and Facebook finally broke and adopted hashtags on June 12, 2013.

Hashtags Adopted as a Marketing Tactic

An analysis of the Interbrand 100 list (the world’s top 100 brands) and their activity on Twitter, reveals that the world’s top brands have adopted the use of hashtags almost completely. In Q4 of last year, 97 percent of the brands posted at least one tweet that included a hashtag. Out of the 34,707 regular tweets (tweets that don’t include an @ reply or a retweet) that the Interbrand 100 companies posted, 45 percent included at least one hashtag and more than 67 percent included one or more hashtags.

1. Drive Engagement: # + Link = More Engagement

These companies have realized that hashtags help drive engagement. When compared to Tweets without a hashtag, tweets with hashtags showed 12 percent more engagement (RT, favorite or @ reply). Tweets that included a link anda hashtag, showed the highest engagement rate of any other type of tweet.

2. Test Your Messaging: #SOTU

During the last State of the Union address (#SOTU), the White House media team prepared content and tested 26 different hashtags.

  1. #SOTU
  2. #StateOfTheUnion
  3. #OutOfManyWeAreOne
  4. #OpportunityForAll
  5. #CollegeOpportunity
  6. #MadeInAmerica
  7. #ActOnClimate
  8. #ActForOurVets
  9. #RebuildAmerica
  10. #ActOnJobs
  11. #InvestInSTEM
  12. #ActOnCIR
  13. #ActOnUI
  14. #ActOnPreK
  15. #ConnectED
  16. #EqualPay
  17. #RaiseTheWage
  18. #ActOnTenTen
  19. #GetCovered
  20. #ACA
  21. #PeopleOverPolitics
  22. #RightToVote
  23. #ActForOurKids
  24. #SaluteOurTroops
  25. #Iran
  26. #TeamUSA
  27. #ActForOurTroops
  28. #SOTUChat

The next day (January 29) the White House focused on only seven of these hashtags and the vast majority of its tweets promoted the top three hashtags:

  1. #OpportunityForAll
  2. #RaiseTheWage
  3. #EqualPay
  4. #ActOnJobs
  5. #ActOnTenTen
  6. #CollegeOpportunity
  7. #MadeInAmerica

5 Social Media Marketing Strategies

Why Use Social Media for Marketing?

As a product of the Mark Zuckerberg generation, it is easy to understand why people are so obsessed with social media; for marketers, the potential to grow their business via these networks is endless. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ – these are some of the prime networks every company, big or small, young or established, needs to have an active presence on. It is now inexcusable for any business that wants to thrive to not be tweeting!

And now we are being exposed to more and more social advertisements. As I complete my morning ritual of sipping coffee and scrolling through my Instagram feed, I now notice sponsored ads appearing in between filtered pictures of scenery and food. It is impossible to visit one’s Facebook news feed without popping into a few compelling ads along the way. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve fallen victim to several of these ads, and been captured and clicked through to their site, sometimes even converting – shameful, I know.

But before diving into paid social ads, it is important to build out your social channels with rockstar content, quality customer service, and eye-catching visuals. Once you optimize your social channels for success, you will not only gain loyal brand promoters, but you will begin capturing leads and converting visitors into customers.

For those of you who have let your social channels develop cobwebs and cockroaches over the past year, here are five key social media strategies to take control of your social channels and give them a much needed facelift this year.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #1: Create a Game Plan & Stick to It

If you have no execution strategy, your content is likely going to fall through the cracks. Set a limit on how many tweets you have to publish per day. This number can be adjusted as needed, but having a number you have to hit, even something as small as four tweets per day, gives you a benchmark and a goal at the very least.

TIP: Investigate how often your competitors are posting and conduct industry research to see the ideal amount of content to publish per day on each channel. You want to be active, but not overly active.

Compile all content in an easy-to-read editorial calendar. Google Excel Docs is a good place to start. Set up a weekly, shareable publishing calendar, then separate by social channel, and provide columns for co-workers within your content team to provide their feedback before posting. Plan ahead, but continue making additions as necessary, for example if a great PR hit is published cover this in a timely manner even it was not on your original posting schedule.

Look into social media management platforms, like Hootsuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck, to help schedule posts ahead of time, monitor and manage your social feeds, and access performance analytics.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #2: Treat each channel as an individual entity

Each social channel needs to be treated as a separate entity. There can be content that is spread across all channels – for example if your business was recently acquired by a global company, this is likely news you want to share across the board, but you should adjust your strategy depending on the audience for that channel.

For example, LinkedIn tends to have a more business-focused audience looking for in-depth, educational content, compared to Instagram, which is likely to have an audience looking for engaging visual content. Pay attention to your follower demographic on each channel to publish content that appeals to them.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #3: Go above & beyond in customer service

If a visitor tweets at your handle or posts on your Facebook page and never receives a response, trust is lost. Due to your lack of communication, the dissatisfied potential lead is now turning to your competitors to seek answers to their questions. On the other hand, when you deliver a thoughtful response in a timely manner that visitor is flattered and intrigued by your brand. It’s humanizing to take the time respond to a personal inquiry, and it builds your authority.

Alexa, a friend of mine who formerly resided in NYC, commented on a picture on Instagram posted by her favorite city dive bar. The social media manager quickly responded by offering her a free T-shirt for the positive feedback. A few weeks, when later Alexa drove six hours from Boston to collect her free shirt (and visit a few friends), the bartender realized, “Wow! Social media does work!” She has in turn become a free promoter for the bar, and encourages her large network that still resides in New York to check out her former go-to spot – essentially free PR for this small, neighborhood bar. And this is one minuscule example – if you haven’t heard the Morton’s Steakhouse story about delivering a joking tweeter a free steak at the airport, I suggest you use this as a prime example of BOMB social media customer service that led to a ridiculous amount of free press.

Negative feedback needs to be addressed as well, preferably with patience and respect. But think of your social channels as an opportunity to display how awesome you treat your customers.

Take these four steps to boost the happiness of your Twitterbirds:

  • Assign a first responder to post and monitor each channel your brand has a profile on.
  • Create a troubleshooting library of common bugs or complaints that arise, and how to handle these issues. This will ensure the issue is addressed properly and in a timely manner. (NOTE: If the issue needs further investigation or requires confidential information, have the user email support, send a private message, or call your help line.)
  • Be creative – use giveaways, personality, and a sense of humor to engage followers and convert them into free brand promoters.
  • DO NOT IGNORE any comment posted to your account on social, whether stellar or critical. No need to create brand detractors!

Social Media Marketing Strategy #4: Embrace mishaps

We are humans, so mistakes are unavoidable. This is especially true when it comes to the fast-paced world of social media. Rather than flat out ignoring these hiccups, embrace them. I am not saying that when a comma is missed in a tweet you should announce this small grammar error, but DO NOT delete the tweet. It has already been published, and followers are more likely to notice if you are continuously re-posting. For larger mistakes, like a product error or multiple overcharges to customer credit cards, you’ll want to proactively respond in an apologetic, actionable manner, and send out content from your social accounts apologizing and addressing how the error is being handled so customers are aware.

But what happens if a BIG, truly embarrassing mistake is made? Personally, I love how Pamela Vaughan, a HubSpot employee, handled her baby bump mishap. Pamela accidently posted a picture of her growing pregnant belly to HubSpot’s company Twitter account, which has close to 350,000 followers. Instead of crawling into a hole of embarrassment, Pamela embraced her faux-pas and created this awesome blog post. The post has received a lot of love, with several shares and comments mostly showing respect for HubSpot’s human element – a key that makes them one of the most loved marketing companies out there.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #5: Track & Talk!

Tracking is often perceived as tedious and time-consuming. It can be, but it only needs to take a few hours each month. Set aside time to review metrics that are important to your business on a monthly basis (preferably the first day of the month). Here are some stats to focus on: number of posts, follower growth, clicks to your site/products, pageviews, post likes or shares, impressions, etc. Look at each channel separately, and compare to your largest competitors to get a sense on how you’re matching up (or how you’re CRUSHING them!).

If you’re crunched for time and analytics is not your thing, invest in software to help track data. A lot can be tracked using free social media tools like bit.ly, Google Analytics, and Hootsuite. Diving in to see which content received the most clicks, shares, etc. will show you what to repurpose in the future. Look for common themes in your analysis, for example if advice posts with numbers in the title perform wonderfully on Facebook then up these on that platform.

Share your results and set monthly strategy meetings with your different marketing forces within your company to plan for the future. Working collaboratively and taking a step back to brainstorm and reevaluate your strategy can drastically improve your social efforts. Also leverage other departments within your business. Various teams like client services and sales might have stellar ideas for social since they are the people who communicate with prospects and customers on a daily basis.

An Open Letter To The New SEO Generation

SEO is almost 20 years old. Can you believe it? There’s some argument about when the practice started, as well as when the term itself was coined, including a failed patent attempt from 2007; but most industry old-timers put the birth of SEO at around 1995.

So, after almost 20 years, what do we have to show for it? SEO has matured in some aspects; it’s now a line item on the budget of most Fortune 500 companies. I’ve been in SEO since 2000, and I am grateful that now when I tell people what I do, I can just use the terms “SEO” or “internet marketer,” and don’t have to rely on my old standby of “I work with computers. I could explain more, but I’d need charts and an easel.”

It always got a laugh but made me feel distinctly out of place. Now at any given gathering, I’m likely to find someone who says “SEO? Oh, we’re seeking a new firm. Do you have a card?”

In other ways, SEO has earned a bad name, with pretty much everyone having been burned by some unscrupulous “SEO” that has promised the moon but delivered an everything bagel (even if you do like these, which I don’t, it’s a far cry from the moon).

If you work with people that have earned penalties, it can be disheartening to see the heavy hand of Google at work. After all, most of these companies simply followed the crowd in the tactics they implemented several years ago, and now they’re being burned at the stake for it.

Many small businesses have simply closed up shop, unable to compete. And larger businesses often find they’re behind the 8-ball with critical integrations like mobile readiness. Without a well-known name or a large, well-respected agency at your back, it can be hard to achieve legitimacy in this industry.

But I’m here to tell you a secret. It’s been 20 years, and the old-timers are getting tired. Lots of them are leaving SEO, including the incomparable Jill Whalen and Jonathan Colman. Some are retiring, having made their fortunes. Others are renaming themselves, trying to leave the name, the limiting factors and the stigma of “SEO” behind. For our purposes, we’ll still call ourselves SEOs.

In my SEO-happy city of Raleigh, NC, you can see this phenomenon playing out, too. Several meetup groups or Google Plus communities are looking for new leaders. The old leaders have been doing it for several years, and they’re tired, ready to try something new, or just so successful that they no longer have the time to devote.

It’s time for the next generation of SEOs to step up and take the helm.

You may be discouraged at first, as you try to become a voice in an increasingly noisy and saturated market, but I’m here to offer you some advice on how to make yourself stand out in the crowd by helping you understand what SEO is really all about.

SEO Is Marketing

The funny thing about SEO is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The tactics shift, the penalties increase, and the blackhats get smarter; but, SEO is still fundamentally just marketing.

Marketing is about being amazing. At the end of the day, make sure you’re building, making, creating and selling something great. Make people happy or help them solve their problems. Make their lives just a little bit easier.

The internet is not a get-rich-quick scheme. That ship sailed back in 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst. You need to have a legitimate product or service that is as well-supported offline as it is online. I’m not saying you have to open a brick and mortar, but your company must have real people behind it to succeed. The days of selling vaporware are over.

SEO Is Relevance

Far beyond getting a certain number or ratio of links or using keywords a certain number of times, your site must be relevant to obtain good positioning on search engines. And to get into the top 10, it’s got to be far more than just “relevant.” There’s a lot of competition out there for virtually every search term, so you need to be outstanding in some way — whether it’s customer loyalty and love, superior product quality or something truly innovative.

Make sure your site is not just readable on mobile, but mobile friendly. Go the extra mile to provide a pleasant experience with your email campaigns, your coupon experiences, your customer service. There is nothing better for SEO than a bunch of happy customers.

SEO Is Strategic

You must think about the future. Wearables like Google Glass and the iWatch are only the beginning. We have already pushed well beyond search engines into Experience Optimization on review sites, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Soon, we will push beyond the limiting edges of websites, too.

SEO is not a series of tactics, or a system you can game.  Studying Google’s algorithms, patents and updates is fun if you’re into data. But if you’re doing it just to reverse-engineer the algorithm, you’re going to fail.

Consider critically how your product or service fits in. How will you leverage new technology in your business or the businesses of your clients? Building these skills and knowledge now will really put you at an advantage over us old-timers, because it’s hard to teach how to “think fourth dimensionally.”

SEO Is Relational

Feel free to scoff at the notion of schema; laugh at the worshippers of FreeBase, and turn your nose up at Wikipedia. Just know that while you’re doing that, they’re laying out the future of how we’ll find things. I hesitate to even call it search, since it won’t be about strings of data, but about understanding things. If you’ve never read the post by Google, Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings, you need to.

The fundamental problem with the way we’ve always searched is that we use language. And language, by definition, is imperfect and ambiguous. As we leave the four corners of websites behind and strive to understand fundamental connections between things, or “entities,” the rush to schema will make more sense.

Whether we have to keep tagging everything ourselves or search engines just get more advanced at discovering the relationships themselves, entities are the future of how we’ll search. It’s nothing new really, but if I hear one more person refer to Hummingbird as an algorithm update or a penalty…

Hummingbird is a fundamental change in the way the Google database is structured — in the way that the algorithm processes information. It’s the largest change to Google since the introduction of PageRank. To optimize in the age of Hummingbird, it is critical that you understand this.

This by the way, is why guest posting is not dead, directory listings are not passé, and reciprocal links aren’t necessarily evil. Too much of any of these things is bad, and doing them for the purpose of gaining links is bad. But in order for people and search engines to understand where you fit into the universe, they need some of these relational cues.

Do any one of those too much and you’ll encounter the Google algorithm’s wrath. Think about what will help your business, and do that instead. If you have the opportunity to post on an industry publication that is well respected, don’t think twice — do it! If you have a business where location is important, get it listed in the online yellow pages!